I know, I know. My life would be far less stressful if I stopped watching/reading ESPN. But, much like a horrific train wreck, I can't pry my eyes away from the computer screen.
Far another little glimpse into the bias of ESPN (which is even worse, believe it or not, than the bias at Fox News...), check out this little nugget from Ivan Maisel:
"...only No. 11 Notre Dame resembled a candidate for a national championship. The Irish did so because they played Navy, a team long on guts and precision and short and light in categories like height and weight."
Fill in the blank: __________ has 4 wins in Div. I-A, a win over a Div. I-AA opponent, and only one of their three losses was to an unranked team.
Choices: Navy, Oregon State
Actually, its a trick question. Either team could fill in that blank. However, Navy's lone loss was to 7-1 Tulsa, who is just barely unranked, clocking in as the highest vote getter outside the top 25 in both polls. Oregon State's unranked loss was to Washington State, who got no votes in the AP poll, and has only half the votes that Tulsa does in the ESPN poll.
But somehow, a loss to Oregon State looked better to the pollsters this week than a 24-point win over the Midshipmen.
Now, the media is also painting the Irish into a corner that they can't get out of, and it has nothing to do with their play on the field:
"Given that the Irish's three opponents in the interim -- North Carolina, Air Force and Army -- are a combined 7-17, a potential USC victory is all Notre Dame had going for it."
Now, I understand that strength of schedule is a great way to separate the wheat from the chaff among 1-loss teams, but the strength of schedule manipulation that is going on in the media is ridiculous. A loss to #11 Michigan is somehow bad because it is early in the season, but people are saying now that the Buckeyes could lose to the Wolverines and still be in the championship. Last week, the Irish were contenders to get into the championship with a big win over Southern Cal, but this week, through no fault of Notre Dame, beating the hell out of Southern Cal isn't going to be good enough. Forget that the pollsters still have them ranked #9. Also, strength of schedule wasn't even mentioned during the first half of the season, when the Irish played the toughest schedule in the country. But now, when the Irish are playing the weaker part of their schedule, it becomes a big issue.
Also, when the Irish put together this schedule, it looked like a tough schedule. Michigan, Penn State, Southern Cal, Georgia Tech, Michigan State, Purdue, and Stanford were all BCS teams that are often ranked - indeed, Michigan and Southern Cal are perennially expected to be top 10 teams. And in many ways, the schedule has lived up to its billing. Michigan is #2. USC is #9. Georgia Tech is currently #20, and had been ranked as high as #13. Penn State is hovering just outside the top 25, and had been ranked as high as #19. By the end of the year, we will have played 8 bowl teams, and probably 3 BCS participants. But because the next three weeks we play Army, North Carolina, and Air Force, our schedule is considered "weak." Forget that North Carolina is a BCS conference team, and that Air Force is leading the Mountain West conference. Only Army is clearly a weak team, but with three wins, they are doing better this year than many BCS conference teams, including Duke, Northwestern, Mississippi, and Mississipi State.
Here is another thing that bugs me. Somehow, conference games are considered to be tough, even against the lowly teams in the conference (see: Auburn - Ole Miss). But because Notre Dame doesn't have a conference per se, their annual opponents (Navy, Purdue, Michigan State, Southern Cal, Michigan, Stanford) aren't considered the same way that "tough" conference games are in the Big 12. When Southern Cal plays Stanford, that will be a tough conference game, but when we do, we are scheduling weak opponents. We play Stanford just as often, the familiarity is the same. And the pundits speak as if Notre Dame schedules them each year so they play a patsy. That just isn't true. For example, Notre Dame schedules Navy each year because Navy saved the University during World War II, and at the time the series was made permanent, the service academies were THE powers in college football. But in this day and age of "what have you done for me lately," the integrity displayed by both schools in the continuance of the tradition, Notre Dame takes a hit for "dumbing down" its schedule.
So, I'm conceding (reluctantly) our chance of playing in the Championship game. We could stomp all over Southern Cal, be the one-loss team with the toughest schedule in the country, having lost only to the top-ranked team, and some pansy from the SEC will get in because they had a "tough" conference schedule.