Notre Dame beat USC, 22-13 Saturday night, in what may prove to have been a best-case scenario for me: the #1-ranked Irish are headed for the BCS championship game in Miami, and USC’s Lane Kiffin might have gotten himself fired — Pat Haden’s previous assurances notwithstanding — thanks to a pair of utterly catastrophic goal-line sequences that cost the Trojans their chance at a fourth-quarter comeback.
More on Kiffin in a moment. But first: WOOOOO!!!! NOTRE DAME!!!!! WOW!!!!!
If you’d told me before the season that Notre Dame would go 12-0 and play for the national title, I would have been utterly flabbergasted. Just like lifelong ND fan and Solid Verbal podcast co-host Ty Hildenbrandt, I thought the very idea of Notre Dame going unbeaten was laughable. I looked at this team’s schedule and figured 9-3 was a stretch, let alone 12-0. So what they’ve done is simply amazing. Unbelievable. What though the odds be great or small…
And for those of you who will now proclaim that the Irish have no chance — zero, zilch, nada — of beating the SEC champion, I suggest you have a chat with 2002-03 Ohio State (given no chance of beating Miami), 2005-06 Texas (an afterthought to questions of whether USC was the best team in history), and 2006-07 Florida (no possible way they could beat those dominant Buckeyes) about predictive overconfidence in a sport where we know far less than we think about the top teams. For that matter, talk to Boise State and Utah and West Virginia and other huge-surprise winners of BCS bowls over the years. Or, hell, talk to Baylor about last week, or Texas A&M about two weeks ago. The point is, upsets can and do happen in college football, all the time, including title games, and including matchups where the very notion of an upset is considered absurd according to the conventional wisdom. Moreover, if you really drill down into their resumes instead of just chanting “S-E-C, S-E-C” over and over, it’s unclear how much Alabama and Georgia have really proven on the field, this year. Notre Dame may very well lose, but you’re a damn fool if you’re talk about that outcome like it’s pre-ordained.
Anyway… I did ultimately decide to root for the Irish tonight, for the reasons I discussed earlier. Once Florida had beaten Florida State — making an all-SEC national title game highly likely in the event of a USC win, and eliminating any possibility of Notre Dame back-dooring into the title game despite a loss — that was the final straw that caused me to stop dancing around the issue and pushed me into the pro-ND camp.
It was very, very weird, though, rooting against the men in cardinal & gold, regardless of the unique circumstances. It felt unnatural. I hope to never do it again.
But I’m very happy for the Irish. What an awesome accomplishment. GOOOO IRISH, BEEEEAT AN S-E-C TEAM TO BE NAMED LATER!!!
Now, about Kiffykins…
The ending of the game was unbelievably disastrous for him. First, he called a late “ice his own quarterback” timeout that appeared cost his team a touchdown (they got a field goal instead). Then, far more catastrophically, a noxious/glorious combination of horrible clock management, unbelievably bad play-calling, and indefensibly poor awareness of the game situation (and, of course, great defense by the Irish) caused USC to somehow turn a situation where they had the ball at the Irish 2-yard line, down 9, with well over 5 minutes left — which was causing ND fans everywhere to #PANIC — into a situation where, after nine shots at the end zone and zero points, they turned it over on downs with 2:33 left, and a Notre Dame victory was assured.
Kiffin, in other words, did not merely lose a second game to an archrival in a week, capping off a 7-5 season for a team that started off ranked #1 in the country. He managed to do so in a manner that drew all the attention to himself, highlighting his glaring weaknesses in the most humiliating manner possible. The alumni pressure to oust him will be intense and unrelenting. He’ll be gone by Tuesday.
If I’m right, like I said, that’s pretty much the best-case scenario for me:
If, the one time I root against USC, it’s the loss that gets Lane Kiffin fired, I’ll feel a lot better about that. #FireLaneKiffin
— Brendan Loy (@brendanloy) November 25, 2012
After the jump, for posterity, the complete Storify history of my USC-ND tweeting today: