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Gazzolo: College football better when Irish matter

Last Modified: Monday, November 26, 2012 8:02 PM

By Jim Gazzolo / American Press

Love them or hate them, it really doesn’t matter, they are good for college football.

Say what you want about Notre Dame — and everybody seems to have an opinion — the game is better when the Irish matter.

Call them overrated, say they used to win too much, that they have a national television network backing them, they are too rich, too cocky.

Hey wait, that sounds a lot like what the rest of the country is saying about the SEC.

It’s been a long time since the Irish were relevant, even longer since they won a national crown. After beating USC they could end up doing both.

One of Notre Dame’s former head coaches is on television after, for some unknown reason, trying to win at South Carolina.

He is just as disliked on the SEC Network, I mean ESPN, by those who hated him on the Irish sidelines. But they watch.

And, just like old Lou Holtz, the football program he guided to the national titles sells.

We may love the underdog, but we watch the big fellas.

Hate the Yankees, perhaps, but when they are in the World Series the television ratings are a boom. Same with the Cowboys, the Lakers and yes, even the Irish.

You may not root for Touchdown Jesus every Saturday, but you are interested. Those who despise the program may even watch with more intensity.

Notre Dame is back atop the college football world, ranked No. 1 in the BCS, where they will stay until at least the first week of the new year.

Likely waiting them in the title game is another group of folks just as despised throughout the land, an SEC team. If it is Alabama, you half want to watch the game in black and white, definitely not on cable and with no such thing as high definition.

This will be a pair of old schoolers holding a reunion in front of a new generation.

It is somewhat refreshing.

There will be no spread offense, even if Georgia wins and represents the SEC.

Defenses will dominate, just hopefully both teams will find the end zone unlike last year’s BCS championship tilt.

The youngsters out there may wonder where the wild-looking Oregon uniforms went or what happened to the five-receiver, empty backfield formations. Some of us a little longer in the tooth will be comforted by the double tight end, run-it-down your throat attacks.

If for no other reason, so we can get to bed at a reasonable time.

Notre Dame-Alabama, it just makes you think all is right in college football.

Sure, many a fan will be upset with such a game, but I know one group that won’t be, that’s the executives at ABC, which holds the rights to the championship. They are loving every minute of this.

Notre Dame is of course the big draw. Getting the Irish to try to wrestle the national title not only from the defending champion Tide but also the rest of the SEC is just plain fun.

While each side will have its supporters, a good portion of the nation will be forced to choose to support the lesser of two evils, just like we do far too often in presidential campaigns.

While Brian Kelly and Nick Saban will be the ones stalking the sidelines, the game will take us back to a time when Bear Bryant and his hat would face off against Ara Parseghian and his Notre Dame sweater, long before the internet and cell phones.

That’s not a bad thing either, at least for a night.

There is something comforting about reliving the past, even if you don’t like either side.

• • •

Jim Gazzolo is managing sports editor. Email him at jgazzolo@americanpress.com




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