Notre Dame was unranked in the preseason AP poll. USC was No. 1.
Funny that it’s the Trojans in the spoiler role this week.
Even if you’ve grown up hating Notre Dame, you have to admit this is a pretty cool story.
Notre Dame, an independent that hasn’t been a big part of the national title conversation in almost 20 years, has survived many close calls this season. In Week 2, a jet-lagged team that started the season in Ireland beat Purdue with seven seconds to go. Notre Dame needed a controversial call to get past Stanford in overtime. There were dramatic comeback victories against BYU and Pitt, the latter coming in three overtimes after Notre Dame trailed 20-6 in the fourth quarter and Pitt blew a field goal in the second overtime.
And then, when it looked like Notre Dame was going to finish undefeated and out of the BCS title race, it got two upset losses by Oregon and Kansas State last week to move up to No. 1 in the BCS standings.
We don’t think of Notre Dame as an underdog, based on it being a college football superpower before anyone had heard of the internet, but the 2012 Notre Dame team is one of the best underdog stories in college football in years. The AP voters didn’t figure Notre Dame to be one of the 25 best teams in college football before the season, and even when an undefeated season became possible, the Irish faced getting shut out of the ol’ boys BCS title game, just like TCU and Utah in years before it. The Irish kept pulling off miracles to get to 11-0, got some breaks it needed when teams above them lost and climbed to No. 1 in the BCS standings.
Strip away the Notre Dame mystique that is decades old, and you have a tale that rivals “Rudy.” Of course, it can come to a screeching halt this weekend.