Notre Dame’s Best Card To Play

Notre Dame has a ton of things going in its favor as the Irish head into the BCS National Championship Game vs Alabama.

We have an absolutely dominant front seven, particularly in goal-to-go situations.

We have two very good running backs behind a solid offensive line.

We have a tight end with ridiculously good hands.

…oh, and then there’s this guy.

I’m here to tell you that there’s a force that will be in that locker room (in favor of Notre Dame) that is far greater than anything that those stars bring to the table: the underdog card.

We’re all familiar with it — essentially “it’s why we watch the game”. Sports aren’t about the favorites winning all of the time — it’s about giving every team a fair and equal chance to push perception aside and let the play on the field do the talking. And generally nobody is more motivated than the underdog — the team that hears it is way outclassed, that it would finish seventh in the SEC, that it has virtually no chance at all.

Everyone loves a good underdog story.


No matter how many times we have seen it before, it still works. Players buy into it, and the proverbial chip on the shoulder can do quite a bit of damage. This should certainly work in favor of the Irish on January 7th. I was reading bowl previews the other day and read this, which I find to be a perfect fit (it was actually referencing Georgia’s bowl game, funnily enough):

We’ve all seen this story before: The overconfident double-digit favorite spends a month hearing — and thinking — about how it will trounce its overmatched opponent in its bowl game. But by halftime, the would-be bully is scrambling just to keep pace with the underdog.

Most books in Vegas originally had the Irish as 11-point underdogs against Alabama. The lines have dropped a tiny bit, but we are still double-digit underdogs across the board:

Here are a couple of stats on big underdogs in bowl games:

– Since the 1998 season, 16 of the 53 teams favored by 10 points or more in their bowl game have lost, according to — that’s just over 30% — not a small number when you consider how large of a spread that is for a bowl game. But more importantly,

– Only two national championship games in the past have had double-digit spreads — Ohio State was a huge underdog to Miami in 2002 and Oklahoma was supposed to get crushed by Florida State in 2000 — in both instances, the underdog won the game.

This by no means means that Notre Dame will win this game (although we will, obviously), but it certainly means that the Irish players likely have more desire to prove doubters wrong, as the world certainly gives Alabama an edge in this game.

Our players have been eating up the haters all year, and I expect nothing else in the final three weeks.

What I do expect, though, is seeing more of this:

Powered by
  • NDtex

    We also have some precedence from this season. ND was a 13-plus underdog to OU. Not only did they win, but they did what I dub a “double cover” and beat OU by 17.

  • Big Red

    I think this team has been feeding on the underdog mentality all year. Pundits will write it off as a team “happy to be here” running into the juggernaut of a confident, well-oiled Alabama machine, but I don’t buy it. Maybe that’s the mentality for the fans, maybe it’s how the team felt after wins over Stanford (BYU letdown) and Oklahoma (Pitt letdown), but it is simply impossible that a Brian Kelly-coached team that has been the underdog all season, that has found itself in terrible holes to bad teams yet found the will to win, will not be singularly focused on the Alabama team that stands as the only obstacle between Notre Dame and that crystal football. They’ll be ready, they’ll be primed and prepared, and they’ll be hungry for a National Championship.

  • Bobby Kool

    No Respect – we have seen and heard it all season, from the sportswriters, from the AP poll and coaches poll seven games into the season. We were no higher than 5th!! Mark May, Herbstreit and Corso- still No Respect!! We beat Standford, USC on road, still NO Respect, we go to BCS National Title Bowl rated #1, still no respect buy the point spreaders?? I see 9, 9.5 and 10pt underdogs, and I ask say to myself, boy all those haters out there are gonna be sorry, when Kelly’s Heroes take the field on Jan. 7th, after they hear the pre-game speech by Lou as heard in the 2009 Japan Ole Timers bowl, “Men you will remember this game for the rest of your lives, you will tell your children about it, don’t go out there without leaving 100% effort on the field , and don’t go out with anything else but to DOMINATE”!!! Final score ND 23 Crimson Cryer’s 17

  • Terry

    What is our best card? We have not seen ND’s best game. We’ve seen Alabama’s best and it’s pretty damn good, but we have NOT seen ND’s best, so we don’t know how good it is.

    We’ll find out in 3 weeks.

    Favor to ask – can we just drop that odious word ‘haters’ until at least after Christmas? We’re talking about a football game here.

  • D’Omer 79

    Has anyone really thought about how this benefits when we ask the “haters” for 10 points? Hard for them to say “no.”

    Like talking candy from a baby.

  • Don Sullivan

    I remember the days before the 1973 Sugar Bowl game. We were a heavy underdog to Alabama and a really dumb article appeared in the Times Picayune that talked about one of the Alabama lineman who had this persistent desire to stand on railroad tracks and take on a train. Well, in a way he did. We overcame those huge odds and won the game. The win was so big that it doesn’t even appear in Winston Groom’s wonderful book about Alabama football. This game won’t be in his next book either!