Coming out of the weekend, there are two divergent takes on the dominant topic:
Notre Dame? Ugh.
Notre Dame? Nice!
I would say there is a third way, otherwise known as "How I Learned To Stop Resenting Notre Dame And Begrudgingly Embrace Their Spot In The National Title Game."
Naturally, the rationalization came by way of my native feeling of SEC exceptionalism. In the end, this ND team is built like a great SEC team -- exceptionally stingy D, punishing run-based offense.
Do I think that Notre Dame will lose to Alabama (or, I suppose, Georgia)? Yes, absolutely. This isn't 2002 Ohio State against 2002 Miami, although that is probably the right comp if you like ND.
And yet: Do I think that the team acquits itself well among the recent wannabes who turn out to fold in the face of SEC reality? Yes, absolutely. This isn't Ohio State '06 or Oklahoma '08 or Texas '09.
Let's go back to college football's most fundamental piece of exceptionalism: The sport is better with a nationally competitive Notre Dame.
More power to 'em.
*NFL Team of the Week: NY Giants, who reminded us that they are every bit the Super Bowl contender they were last year -- maybe even more so this year.
(Meanwhile: At some point, the close calls will catch up to Atlanta, and here's betting it happens in the playoffs.)
*NFL Player of the Week: Colin Kaepernick. Is it Kap? Is it Harbaugh's system? Is it simply that ridiculous 49ers D? Who cares -- love this story and love the energy of the soph QB.
*NFL Tonight: Panthers-Eagles. In a lost season for Carolina (and a VERY lost season for Philly), is it too much to ask for Cam Newton to put on a show on national TV?
*NFL Would-Be Controversy: Peyton's head. That the Broncos' (and NFL's?) concussion "test" works right up until it impacts a big star like Peyton Manning, who shrugged it off -- and kept playing.
*CFB, Cont'd: The best story in the sport is that Kent State is on the verge of stealing a BCS bowl slot for the non-BCS leagues, both because KSU is a win over Northern Illinois (itself no slouch) from cracking the Top 16 and because the Big East and ACC are a shambles. And you wonder why the momentum is toward four super-conferences.... (Still: Kent State. Amazing.)
*NBA: Knicks-Nets in their long-awaited Battle for New York. The Knicks are playing well. The Nets are playing better than expected (and quite well in their new home). The game means nothing, and yet -- in a fashion worthy of the city -- it apparently means everything.
*College Hoops: Cal Poly beats UCLA, and that is about as good as it gets for mid-major fans (and people who enjoy UCLA schadenfreude). Hard to believe that a team with the Bruins' talent can't get it together.
*Jobs: Chizik out at Auburn, leading a bevy of open jobs including Arkansas, Tennessee, Colorado, Cal, NC State, Boston College -- hell, even Kentucky is a halfway-decent gig. And that doesn't even consider Oregon if Chip Kelly goes to the NFL. Or the carousel effect if/when Charlie Strong leaves Louisville. You're picking your landing spot if you're Sonny Dykes at Louisiana Tech. Or Alabama assistant Kirby Smart. Feels like there aren't enough good coaches to fill the good spots.
*Fireman Ed quits: Meh. What kind of super-fan bails on a team during its nadir? I appreciate that he is getting into problems with some jerky fans and he just doesn't think it's worth it anymore. But stick it out -- or at least pass it on to an heir.