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 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.
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 BeyondTheBets.com — 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: