Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports
Yes, this hangover hurts, Notre Dame. But you don't get hangovers without going to a party first, and you had a pretty good one this year.
1. Ditch the pleasantries. I don't like you, you don't like me, and we don't like each other, Notre Dame. I really don't like you for a number of reasons, most of them petty, and some of them not as much. Mostly I don't like you because of this hangover I got celebrating your public demolition last night. But there's other reasons, and not all of them involve this bourbon barbed wire halo I'm wearing today.
2. The first reason I don't like you is that you did something right. You took the bid to the national title game because you had no choice in the matter, because hell, you have to take a national title shot if you can get it, and you have to think that yes, you can come out and compete, fight, and even win against the greatest dynasty in modern college football history. You have to think those things because you are a football team made up of football players, competitive people who embrace the possible no matter the situation. You did the right thing, and it led to reason No. 2 and the resulting hair-ache this morning.
3. The second reason I don't like you is that right situation led to this splitting bourbon headache, because oh my god was it fun watching you embrace the only possibility Alabama allowed you: getting thrown into an ice chipper for three hours. Louis Nix said that Notre Dame was not dominated by Alabama. Notre Dame was losing by four touchdowns at the half. The English language is a marvelous thing, that we can have the same word, and yet have it mean two entirely different things, Louis. I've seen Alabama do the same thing to my team on multiple occasions. Dominate is the most polite word for what that looked like, with other options being unprintable or banned by the Geneva Conventions.*
*You should have known you were dead when Nick Saban took the team to see Zero Dark Thirty the night before. Nick Saban is a fan of torture scenes.
4. So the grudge I'm holding against you at this point is between my ears, and likely won't get evicted until sometime after lunchtime. The hangover for you will be longer, but really shouldn't take too much longer if you're rational about it. (Not that you have to be, because SPORTS, but it might help to try it just for the hell of it.)
5. You lost one game this season, to our Mongol overlords from the Yellowhammer State, Alabama, the best college football dynasty since at least Nebraska. You lost not at one position, but at every single position on the field, and in lopsided fashion. Even the misses were evidence of Alabama's superiority, like the overthrown ball to a wide open Amari Cooper splitting Notre Dame's safeties like so many waddling penguins struggling to keep up with a loping retriever. There's a brutal comfort in knowing that the chances of survival were so small that hope, painful as it may have been, was also total folly.
6. You also had what is otherwise a great season, and took this machine to the very limits of its capabilities. An unranked team with a redshirt freshman quarterback and a difficult schedule went undefeated, beat all of its historical rivals, and made the national title game. On an individual level, Notre Dame also accomplished something equally astonishing: injecting a linebacker's name into the Heisman race, and paving the way for a defender to win the trophy sometime sooner than we all believed possible. Manti Te'o is a pioneer in that sense, albeit one that didn't make it all the way down the proverbial Oregon Trail.
7. Please rewind to the part about doing this with a redshirt freshman at quarterback. Everett Golson still has no idea what he's doing relative to his peers who have years of starting experience, and there he stood on the extremely green grass of SunLife Stadium with a chance (a chance!) to win the national title. There is only one redshirt freshman who did better this year, and he finished the season spinning donuts around the Oklahoma Sooners. Golson is not a Manziel, but they only make one of those every 10 years, and most of them are seized by the government and used as assassins. TAMU got theirs as a favor from former Secretary of Defense and lifelong Aggie fan Robert Gates. I may or may not be making this up, but the part about Golson only growing as a player is real and verifiable.
8. Finally, there are the very sound bones of this program, which in the local sense has nothing to be pessimistic about whatsoever. Brian Kelly has the consensus No. 1 Rivals class inbound to South Bend. The program will likely hold on to its superb staff, and carry the significant momentum of 2012 into the new year. These aren't comforting message board bromides: they're facts, and the Irish have an even better chance to go undefeated next year with Oklahoma and USC coming to South Bend. Oh, and NBC is still writing checks. That's nice, particularly when you stand to get paid twice with a new ACC membership on the horizon.
9. In terms of stability, talent, and potential, there is only one ceiling for Notre Dame, the same one every other team in college football has: beating Alabama. The impending playoff might help with this, but beating Alabama is going to be a pretty rare thing for a while, and in a one game scenario like the BCS, rarer still. This is not a Notre Dame problem. This is a 2013 problem whose only solution will be the passing of time, the winnowing away of Nick Saban's staff, and everyone else catching up to whatever Alabama is doing and turning a present tyrant into a fearsome memory.
10. That won't happen anytime soon, and that is the bad news for you and anyone not prone to using, "Roll Tide," as a greeting, adjective, interjection, or legal term. The good news is that the same program that lost to Syracuse at home under Charlie Weis now has the best college football first-world problem of all: a loss in the final game of the season to the best team college football has produced since the Tom Osborne's Agricultural Death Machine of the 1990s.
11. Meanwhile, USC lost to Georgia Tech in the Sun Bowl. If I say shut your spoiled mouth and pass the aspirin, well, it's because you only get hangovers from parties, and you've had a pretty nice one this year, Notre Dame, painful mornings after and all. There's no pity here for you, and only the cold but invigorating optimism you can only have after the first cup of post-binge black coffee in the morning.
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