Notre Dame. Notre Dame. Noe-turr Day-mm. Those words slide off the tongues of the B1G faithful like an unctuous sludge. They are more spat out than spoken. The mere mention of that wretched name fans embers of spite into a wildfire of contempt from sea to shining sea, with the exception of one detestable Indiana town.
O, the tradition! O, the pageantry! O, the Catholic splendor! Behold the most storied program in college football! Bask in the majesty of Touchdown Jesus! Drain deep the chalice of calculated myth and cultural stereotypes! I can hear your blood simmering already, one shamrock shy of a rolling boil. I know this because the landscape of college football is neatly cleft between two irreconcilable parties: the good, moral, god-fearing people of the United States and Notre Dame fans.
Those who love Notre Dame are a special breed. They live in the past in a way that makes our long-standing B1G trope of the back-harking Michigan fan seem quaint. After all, "storied program" is the polite way to say a team was great in the span between Herbert Hoover moving into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and Richard Nixon moving out swiftly, and rarely (if ever) since. Notre Dame fandom bears this truth out in casual mentions of the Four Horsemen, Knute Rockne, and one of the four "Games of the Century" they played in the 20th century. The black and white era is to Notre Dame what WWII was to the Soviets. "Never mind what's happening now, folks. Let's chat about the 1940s!"
Certainly fans young and less young in the Big Ten have no special love for Ohio State. Nor should they. This isn't the University of Big Ten. Save that pandering, faux-hatred for the network of cousins that stretches from Florida to Missouri. You may hate the Buckeyes for regularly clowning your team, or for winning more B1G titles in a decade than your team has won period. That's well and good, because you have every right. I also bet you hate Notre Dame more, as you surely should. But in case you've forgotten, here are...
A Few Good Reasons to Hate Notre Dame
1. Brian Kelly. Aside from being an absolute red-faced, spittle-spewing, vulgarity-shrieking asshole, he got a kid killed.You know who didn't put a student on a scissor lift that windy day? Your team's coach.
2. The Rivals. At least half the teams Notre Dame plays in any one season are "historic rivals." If you've played the Irish more than once, congratulations. Welcome to a rivalry.
3. Subway* Alumni. An older Jewish gentleman with whom I'm acquainted introduced me to this term. Though he grew up in Brooklyn caring little for college football, even he can't abide the legions of fans who cheer for the Irish simply because they're Catholic. He's a happy Gopher fan, which shows you how little football riles him up...until you mention Notre Dame.
*In B1G country, I suppose this would be known as Sidewalk Alumni, or El Train alumni. Or other terms you can certainly conjure up.
4. Rudy. Did you know Rudy is a real guy? I met him in junior high when he came as a motivational speaker. Not only was the movie version of Rudy a fraud, but the real Rudy is, too. He was fined nearly $400k by the Feds for defrauding investors in a pump-and-dump stock scheme centered around his juice company.
5. Jimmy Clausen. Has there ever been a more annoying quarterback?
6. Manti Te'o. National sympathy over a dying girlfriend turned into national head-scratching when the most recent Greatest Notre Dame Player Ever (undersize/high motor/solid fundamentals/gym rat/etc.) admitted that he may have never actually met his girlfriend. Or seen her. Or confirmed in any way that she existed. Now about that Heisman...
7. All the reasons people hate Duke basketball, minus the relevant national championships.
8. Charlie Weis's "decided schematic advantage." To be fair, this is also one of the best Schadenfreude quotes in the history of college football. It ranks right up there with everything Mike Hart ever said into a microphone.
9. The most punchable mascot in college football. Nay, in any sport.
10. Touchdown Jesus. Because the most benevolent and powerful being in the universe favors Notre Dame above all others. Just ask them.
What: The Battlefrog Fiesta Bowl.
That's right, folks. The Tostitos fortune has fallen on hard time it seems, outgunned for the only sponsorship pairing that made actual, logical sense by a company that apparently puts on mud races for college kids. At least my alma mater claimed the title this year.
Where: University of Phoenix** Stadium in Glendale, AZ
**Neither a real university nor actually in Phoenix.
When: New Year's Day
1:00 PM on Commie time, 12:00 PM on God's time, 11:00 AM local time, and 1800Z for you military types.
What's at Stake
The fate of the universe and the soul of college football...and of course the potential enjoyment of seeing how fast Notre Dame fans can reverse their jackets.
This game will feature two depleted defenses in a way that amounts to a battle of unit depth. Ohio State first lost star DT Adolphous Washington when he gave in to "the thirst" and offered money in exchange for certain services best left to your capable imaginations. Shortly thereafter, DT Tommy Schutt went down to a broken foot. This turn of events leaves OSU woefully depleted in the middle of the defensive front. Sam Hubbard should get a lot more playing time, with Joey Bosa perhaps shifting over to a 3-tech position in many situations. Schutt's injury is less damning, if only because the defense is accustomed to playing with Joel Hale and/or Michael Hill in his spot thanks to the starter's broken wrist a few months back. Related: someone get Schutt some milk.
Notre Dame faces similar complications. Starting safety Max Redfield was sent home earlier this week for a violation of team rules, and starting cornerback Devin Butler suffered the same fate as Schuttâa broken foot in practice.
I want to pick OSU so badly in this one. I really do. The problem is three-fold. One, the Buckeye defense has been very susceptible to inside power runs at times this season, and there's almost no chance that Brian Kelly doesn't lean on that fact tomorrow. Secondly, Tim Beck is still somehow involved with this offense. The man who makes sundials out of Swiss watch parts found zero consistently effective uses for Braxton Miller this season. At times, it seemed like Miller wasn't even on the team. The two-deep lists him as the starting H-back. Perhaps Beck will remember Braxton exists--an area that Zeke will tell you is not Beck's strong suit.
Thirdly, I've only ever attended one OSU bowl game--the 1997 ('98) Sugar Bowl in which OSU got hammered by a Bobby Bowden FSU team. This does not bode well.
I'm envisioning a day much like the Orange Bowl two years ago. OSU will remain right on the edge of victory, but it will slip through their fingers on the back of inept playcalling and an inability to stop the run inside or third-down throws to the speedy WR Will Fuller. Oh, yeah and extra thirdly...Co-DC Chris Ash decided to throw his career away on Rutgers.