Associated Press Photo
By Scott Haynes, Senior College Football Editor
PHILADELPHIA, Pa. (Sports Network) - Pointing out flaws in others is what we have grown accustomed to doing as Americans. Perhaps it is what makes us feel better about ourselves.
That certainly carries over to sports, none more so than football in South Bend and the love/hate relationship the country seems to have with Notre Dame.
The Fighting Irish have ascended the FBS mountain and sit atop the top 25 for the first time since 1993 and the BCS rankings for the first time ever. They have done it with staunch defensive play and a solid running game and while it hasn't always been pretty, they have played 11 games and won them all.
Has luck played a part in their season? Certainly. However, you have to be in a position to win lucky, and Notre Dame has done just that at least three times in their 11 wins.
There is a large portion of the college football world that for whatever reason, will never view the Irish as a legitimate No. 1 regardless of the mounting evidence that points to the contrary.
There is one question I would like answered by those who see Brian Kelly's squad as second-fiddle to teams like Alabama, Oregon, Kansas State and even Georgia.
Where does your hatred for the Irish come from?
Is it the fact that the program portrays itself as a "holier than thou" entity that can do no wrong? Or the fact, that we as a nation are force-fed Notre Dame football, with its television package with NBC and the media's constant coverage of the program?
I can almost buy either argument as to how someone winds up with a jaded view of the school or football program. That however, should not cloud the fact that Notre Dame is sitting at the apex of the college football world and deserves it.
With Alabama's loss at home to Texas A&M, it looked like the SEC's stranglehold on the BCS Championship was finally broken a couple of weeks ago. Still, even with the Crimson Tide all but out of the picture, the reality was that Notre Dame still needed a lot of help to move into the title game despite their flawless record, as Oregon and Kansas State seemed on a collision course for Miami. Of course, the Ducks and Wildcats failed to take care of their business on the field last weekend and those two programs are now on the outside looking in.
Notre Dame has moved into the top spot, but is being labeled the second-best team in the country by a lot of people behind a one-loss Alabama squad.
Where exactly is the thinking there? If there was ever a case of SEC bias, it is with that rationale. The Crimson Tide are the defending champions and may actually be considered the favorite in a showdown with the Irish, but that shouldn't detract from what the Irish have earned up to this point.
If it is strictly a resume thing, Notre Dame wins hands down.
Despite playing in the "nation's toughest conference" where exactly are Alabama's "quality" wins this season?. If you count the victory over Michigan in the season-opener, you have to also count the Irish's win over the same Wolverines. The rest of Alabama's non-conference slate consists of a pair of Sun Belt foes (Western Kentucky and Florida Atlantic) and last week's FCS opponent Western Carolina. The Tide also beat up on bad Arkansas, Missouri and Tennessee programs that have a combined 13 wins between them and they will close out against rival Auburn which has just three wins on the year and none in SEC play.
Alabama does have a marquee win at LSU (21-17), but that's it.
Meanwhile, Notre Dame's slate includes wins over Michigan, Stanford and Oklahoma. In fact, the Irish's strength of schedule ranks 9th in the FBS, while Alabama's comes in a distant 20th, according to the popular Congrove Computer Rankings. Kansas State is the closest to Notre Dame in terms of strength of schedule with a ranking of 13, while Georgia ranks 40th and Oregon ranks 59th. Even Ohio State, which ranks fourth in the top-25 despite being ineligible for postseason play, comes in at 25th on the list.
Does any of that suggest that Notre Dame would win head to head against any of those teams with the national title on the line? No. However, that isn't what is in question here. It is rather, Notre Dame's legitimacy as the best team in the country.
Brian Kelly's squad still has some unfinished business to take care of at the LA Coliseum this weekend, with the regular-season finale against USC and it looks like the top-ranked team in the country to start the season can still factor into the national title picture if the Trojans are able to do what no one else has done this season and beat Notre Dame.
The bottom line is that Notre Dame football is back as the number one team in the land and no matter how much some people have a problem with it, the Irish aren't going away anytime soon.