Notre Dame

Nov 16, 2010 7:01 AM

Whoa! Hold on a minute. Was that a typographical error in the headline over an Associated Press story that read, "Irish Upend Utah, Pulling Closer to Bowl Bid?"

Of course not. We are talking about Notre Dame, whose magic appeal - and ceaseless self-promoting - makes it a bowl possibility even though the Irish are not rated in the nation's top 25 teams.

There currently are four major undefeated teams - Oregon, Auburn, Texas Christian and Boise State, plus eight others with records of 9-1. That's enough for six bowl games without counting six other teams that are 8-2.

Notre Dame currently is 5-5. Where, except in the box office appeal of the Fighting Irish, Knute Rockne and the Win One for the Gipper, does that qualify Notre Dame for a bowl game?

Bucks, of course.

College football is not all purity, as the current howl over its best player, Auburn quarterback Cam Newton, indicates, and despite what South Bend would like you to believe. Notre Dame's handling of the death of the young cinematographer who fell with his flimsy platform during a windstorm recently while taping speaks for itself.

Speaking Newton - all 6 feet 6 inches and 245 pounds of him, along with his amazing balance and agility and power and throwing skills - we probably are talking about the Heisman trophy winner, unless the "for sale" sign kills his chances.

That certainly won't affect his future as a pro in the NFL.

Without trying to adjudicate the furor over whether his father did or did not try to negotiate a contract for him - of questionable significance in a world growing seemingly more crass and cravenly crooked at all levels day by day - his worth to the pros will make the college fuss seem minuscule.

We are not in the morality business, although we abhor the doping of athletes, human or equine, for their health damage to both and their devastating negative impact on the lives of young people. But on a scale of importance in the order of world turmoil these days, Newton's father and his alleged attempted salesmanship of and for his son fades into insignificance.

As for Notre Dame, while not ranked among the top 25 in football, it is first among college sports publicity departments. That juggernaut began grinding out releases after the Fighting Irish beat Utah, which a week earlier had lost to TCU in Salt Lake City 47-7, after winning its first eight games in the minor leagues.

There could be shakeups at the top, although not likely. Oregon is ripe for an upset loss against either Arizona or, less probable, its traditional rival Oregon State. Auburn still has to get by Alabama Nov. 26 and South Carolina Dec. 4, with or -- heaven forbid -- without Newton.

TCU did not look like world beaters in sliding by unranked San Diego State. Boise State tried to cement its lofty undefeated standing Saturday by cremating outclassed Idaho, 52-14.

Wisconsin, not usually mentioned in the headlines although 9-1 overall against some tough opponents, including Ohio State -- who the Badgers beat 31-18, poured it on Indiana 83-20 last Saturday. UW may be the best college team in the country right now.

The Badgers play Michigan this week, and a rematch with Ohio State, now 10-1, probably would make the best bowl matchup of all. The winner would be a deserving national champion.

It isn't going to happen, but we would love to see the student athletes of Stanford - where you have to be good to get in and even better to stay - play for a title. They too are 9-1 and it is cool to see the Cardinal thinking their way to the top.

We'll take brains over brawn any time, and the Cardinal quarterback, Andrew Luck, comes across as what one would hope for and expect from a standout college leader.

Stanford's coach, Jim Harbaugh, is a semifinalist for the first Joe Paterno award, honoring a college coach for success on the field, in the classroom and community involvement, three qualities embodied in the man whom it honors, Penn State's exemplary head coach.

Harbaugh's closest rival among the 14 other coaches in the running would seem to be Jim Tressel of Ohio State. Both are impassive masters of their craft.

Come to think of it, that wouldn't make a bad bowl match either.