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CHRIS DUFRESNE / ON COLLEGE FOOTBALL

Notre Dame prevents BCS bedlam

By defeating USC on Saturday, the top-ranked Irish rescued the Bowl Championship Series from a possible mess involving one-loss teams.

November 24, 2012|Chris Dufresne
  • Notre Dame running back Cierre Wood picks up yardage before USC safety Jawanza Starling (29) and linebacker Lamar Dawson (55) can tackle him.
Notre Dame running back Cierre Wood picks up yardage before USC safety Jawanza… (Harry How / Getty Images )

Notre Dame is a religious school with a storied history of priests, playbooks, prayer books and spiritual advisors.

No one in the Coliseum press box could actually recall, though, the Irish saving a season.

That changed Saturday night when Notre Dame defeated USC, 22-13, and rescued this year's Bowl Championship Series from a humongous one-loss egg scramble.

Notre Dame's defeat would have left a giant mess that could have led some people to think the 14-year-old system is actually flawed.

Thank you, Notre Dame, for kicking five field goals and playing great defense.

Thank you Irish, for that magnificent goal-line stand in the final minutes. And thank you, USC Coach Lane Kiffin, for the play-calling that also made it possible.

"They do that to everybody," Kiffin said afterward.

Praise you, Notre Dame, for winning the game and making this a clear-cut national-title election.

Notre Dame, with its glorious victory, finished the regular season 12-0 and will play in its first BCS title game Jan. 7 in South Florida.

The Irish will face the winner of next week's Southeastern Conference title game between Alabama and Georgia.

How simple is that?

Had Notre Dame lost, gulp, next week's SEC winner would have faced the survivor of an ugly BCS bake-off pitting one-loss Oregon and Florida. Neither of those schools even won its own division of its own conference.

Thank goodness that's a high-calorie story line none of us will have to pen.

Never mind how Notre Dame got here or how unnerving it was at times. Everything, in the end, fell into place.

If Knute Rockne were alive today, he'd say of this season, "The breaks actually never went against these boys."

It doesn't matter that the Irish beat Purdue by only three and needed overtime and instant replay to defeat Stanford.

Never mind that the Irish had two players wearing No. 2 on the game-winning field-goal attempt Pittsburgh missed in overtime.

The referees didn't see it, so it doesn't matter.

Notre Dame doesn't mind playing close games — in fact it tries to lure opponents into them.

The Irish have won five games this year by a touchdown or less — including two in overtime.

All that matters now is they were all wins.

After Alabama and Georgia scored victories over inferior opponents Saturday, there were only two remaining scenarios: clean or messy.

Clean: Notre Dame wins and seamlessly solves this year's BCS puzzle as the Irish advance to the title game against the Alabama-Georgia winner next week in Atlanta.

Messy: Notre Dame loses and leaves the one-loss SEC champion to play some other one-loss school.

The debate would have embroiled Florida and Oregon.

Both schools posted impressive road performances Saturday with Florida winning at Florida State while Oregon convincingly defeated Oregon State in Corvallis.

Florida got boxed out of the SEC East title by Georgia while Oregon surrendered the Pac-12 North on Saturday with Stanford's win over UCLA.

Non-division winners have advanced to the title game in the past.

Nebraska got to the 2001 final at the Rose Bowl without winning the Big 12 North.

Last season Alabama advanced to the national title game without winning the SEC West.

Oregon is ranked ahead of Florida in both BCS polls but trails Florida in the BCS computers and the standings.

You talk about a possible deja duck. In 2001, Oregon was No. 2 in both polls but finished fourth in the BCS standings.

Could you have imagined the screaming in Eugene had Oregon been left out so the SEC could have another two-team BCS party?

Everything seems to go around and come around in the BCS, but it's usually repeating on a nightmarish film loop.

It was only fitting to have Urban Meyer chiming in Saturday after his Ohio State Buckeyes capped a 12-0 season with a win over Michigan.

In 2006, then-Florida coach Meyer launched a massive last-weekend campaign in favor of his Gators getting the second BCS spot instead of Michigan.

Meyer said Michigan had its chance against Ohio State, losing a close regular-season game in Columbus, and that Florida deserved to play the Buckeyes for the national title.

The sentiment helped push Florida (narrowly) past Michigan for the second BCS spot. The Gators proved their worthiness by winning the title.

Small world, isn't it?

Six years later, Meyer is now coaching Ohio State — and he was back on the stump again.

"The quote I'd like out there is . . . this team could play and compete with any team in the United States of America as of now," Meyer said.

Meyer couldn't talk his team into this year's BCS title because Ohio State entered the year knowing it was ineligible for postseason play because of NCAA sanctions.

That didn't stop the school from honoring former coach Jim Tressel, whose violations led to the sanctions, before Saturday's game. Tressel received a rousing reception.

Strange world, isn't it?

Ohio State, the only team guaranteed to finish the season undefeated, is still eligible to win the Associated Press championship.

The AP is not a part of the BCS process and does allow teams on probation in its poll.

The AP crowned USC No. 1 in 2003 even though Louisiana State won the BCS title, and the AP did not strip the Trojans of their 2004 title after it was ordered vacated by the BCS.

The NCAA took care of Ohio State making this a possible pairing of undefeated schools.

Saturday night, Notre Dame took care of the rest.

chris.dufresne@latimes.com

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