I'm tempted to say that many three-loss teams would probably have walloped Notre Dame in a bowl game this year.
Pounder, I'm glad that you didn't give in to that temptation. ;D
I'm sure that many, many fans would agree that many 3-loss teams would have walloped Notre Dame in a bowl game. That would seem to be the conventional wisdom this year.
For the life of me, I can't fathom why people would think that would be the case once they stop to think about it. I guess they just got tired of a team with such high expectations looking so inept against other top teams.
The frustrating thing about Notre Dame is that once they got out of the Top Ten, they beat everyone else they played - including ranked teams. Which is why people had the high expectations of them that they did. After all, they were a 1-loss team going into the last game of the regular season.
Was it such a disgrace for them to lose that last game to USC by 20 points? Apparently so. Yet, Arkansas lost to USC by 36 & people continued to think they were a pretty good team even with 4 losses. Michigan lost to USC almost as badly as ND - by 14 - & they were ranked in the Top Ten. Cal also lost to USC by 14, so I guess USC was capable of making top teams besides ND look bad.
How about Notre Dame's two other losses by 26 & 27 to Michigan & LSU respectively. Pretty bad. But then Michigan beat Wisconsin by 14 & Wisconsin was ranked in the Top Ten anyway.
LSU didn't blow out any other top teams, so maybe the Irish should be ashamed of this loss.But LSU's strength was defense, so they didn't run up big offensive numbers against the best teams on their schedule. Charlie Weis decided for the high risk/high reward strategy in the first half against LSU. He gambled & he lost. LSU got at least one extra touchdown in the first half as a result, helping to make the final margin of victory greater than it would have been. LSU also had home field advantage in that bowl game. It was the first time all year that they had home field advantage against a top team. By a quirk of the schedule, they played all of their best opponents on the road. This helped hold down the LSU margin of victory in these games or maybe they would have blown out someon else.
So, losses by wide margins can happen even to very good teams when they go up against elite opponents. Somehow, people seem to notice it more when it happens to Notre Dame & to hold it against them more severely.
So, do these bad losses to 3 Top Ten teams mean that ND would have been walloped by a lot of 3-loss teams? Is there any basis for this in the record of these teams?
There weren't a lot of 3-loss teams to begin with. There were six from BCS conferences. Let's see how they compared to Notre Dame.
- They took their turn at getting blown out (by 18 to #13 Texas), but they did something ND didn't do - lost to an unranked team. Their third loss was to Boise State. I watched that game & as plucky as Boise was, they were physically overmatched. It doesn't speak well for Oklahoma that they lost that game. They didn't beat a single ranked team all year - much less blow one out. So, what makes anyone think they would blow out ND? They & ND had no common opponents.
- Like ND, they lost badly when they came up against a Top Ten team - 17-point loss to Ohio State. They beat up on Oklahoma by 18 - the only other ranked team they played. However, they also lost to two unranked teams - Kansas State & Texas A&M - something that ND didn't do. Only the Oklahoma win offers evidence that they could have walloped ND while the 3 losses were all bad, suggesting that they weren't any better than ND, who also was able to come up with a win over a ranked team once they got out of the top Ten. Two of their losses were worse than any ND suffered. No common opponents.
- Beaten up by #25 Tennessee in a 17-point loss in contrast to ND's 24-point win over #24 Penn State. They also lost to unranked Arizona. No unranked losses for ND. Against common opponents, they both lost to USC - Cal by 14 - & they both beat UCLA & Stanford - ND by a combined 25 points, Cal by 23. In Cal's favor, they beat #23 Oregon State by 28, so they were capable of blowing out a ranked team. The question is which Cal team would show up if they played ND - the one that blew out OSU or the one that lost to Arizona & was itself blown out by Tennessee?
#17/18 Wake Forest
- To their credit, kept it close for most of the game vs #6 Louisville before they lost by 11. Something ND couldn't do against a Top Ten team. However, they also showed that they could be blown out by a lower ranked team when they lost to #18 Virginia Tech by 21. Even worse, they lost to unranked Clemson by 10. Against common opponents, they beat Georgia Tech in a close game, just as ND had, but they also kept it close against North Carolina in a 7-point win - a team that ND blew out by 19. Notre dame had problems against teams when they were physically mismatched. Wake had great coaching & won with guile, but they didn't have great physical talent. I can't see ND losing to these guys.
#18/19 Virginia Tech
- Blew out #17 Wake by 21, much as ND blew out #24 Penn State by 24. So, they were capable of a blow out against a ranked team. However, against the other two ranked teams they played, they lost by 19 to #20 BC & by 7 to #23 Georgia. Against common opponents, they lost to unranked Georgia Tech at home by 11 - a team ND had beaten on the road by 4 & like ND, they blew out North Carolina. Virginia Tech was an underachieving team that overwhelmed Wake with superior physical talent, but who failed just about every other test put to them - & failed against teams that were not nearly as good as the teams ND lost to.
#20 Boston College
- Demolished Virginia Tech by 19, but lost to Wake, the other ranked team they played, & they lost to NC State. There are 2 things to know about this BC team. With the conference title on the line, they choked in the big game for the second time in 3 years against a team they should have beaten. Two years ago, it was Syracuse in the big East; this time it was Miami. The other thing to know is that they have a long history of losing to Miami, a team they consider a rival, but they couldn't take advantage of a Miami team that was down & out. Well, BC has a long history of mostly losing to ND, a team they consider a rival. Consider as well that BC had to coome from behind in the fourth quarter to steal a win from Navy by 1-point in their bowl match-up. ND beat Navy by 24. There is no way this BC teamwould have beaten ND this particular year.
Notre Dame might
have lost to one of these teams, but for the most part they were all flawed teams - just as Notre Dame was. To my eyes, they were all flawed worse than Notre Dame & I don't think that ND would have lost many games to this group - if any. And I certainly wouldn't have expected any of them to win in a blow out. I'm not saying it wouldn't have happened because some of them were capable of it, I just think a whoopin' would have been unexpected. Getting blown out by USC, LSU, & Michigan doesn't make you dog meat against the next tier of teams out there.