A regular-season meeting between Notre Dame and a representative of the SEC is about as rare as peace in our time. It just doesn’t happen. Since 2010, when Brian Kelly assumed coaching and editorial control over the myth of Fighting Irish football, Notre Dame has met Alabama and LSU in the postseason. And gone 1-1, the loss a 42-14 humbling by the Crimson Tide in the 2012 national championship.
So, a great tingle seems to be developing in advance of Georgia’s game there Saturday. I’m hearing reports of a mass migration from Georgia to the greater Chicago/South Bend area of those hoping to experience at least the vibe of both Georgia-Notre Dame and Falcons-Bears for one glorious weekend. Last one out of town turn off the Centennial Park fountains.
Tickets? Who needs stinkin’ tickets? Nobody can loiter around the edges of a big event like we can. Never let a prime drinking opportunity pass over little detail like no admission.
But shouldn’t Notre Dame be pretty excited, too? Shouldn’t the Irish feel blessed to have an opponent with the cachet and curiosity value of Georgia?
The College Football News does a little thing in which it takes the final AP rankings of teams, assigns a point value and then ranks them by decade as a way of determining dominance.
To recap some recent results:
Thus far in the 2010s – Georgia No. 19; Notre Dame No. 20.
The first decade of the 2000s – Georgia No. 7; Notre Dame not in the top 25.
The 1990s – Notre Dame No. 12; Georgia No. 17.
The 1980s – Georgia No. 9; Notre Dame No. 19.
The Bulldogs more than hold their own in such a bottom-line comparison. Certainly, with its 11 national championships and its many legends and its sweetheart deal with NBC, Notre Dame owns the prestige. But the fact is, as a program, it has been nothing more special than Georgia since the two teams met in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 1, 1981.
National championships from that date: One each (Notre Dame’s in 1988).
Heisman Trophy winners since: One each (Herschel Walker and Tim Brown).
First-round NFL draft picks since 1981: Notre Dame 25, Georgia 24.
Location of the College Football Hall of Fame: Atlanta, an easy drive from Athens the one hour each day when traffic isn’t a problem. (The previous location was South Bend).
Don’t get me wrong. Notre Dame is a college football treasure. The scenery on campus is fantastic. The sense of history there is palpable. Touchdown Jesus never disappoints.
It’s just that Notre Dame really needs to refresh its legend, to colorize its glory. A trip to Notre Dame Stadium shouldn’t feel so totally like a day at the museum.
The truth is, the echoes are a lot fainter at Notre Dame than they used to be.
There would be no reason, then, for the Bulldogs as a team to approach Saturday with a paralyzing sense of awe. Those young players don’t know George Gipp from George Stephanopoulos. Notre Dame’s history holds no relevance to them.
Just as there is no reason for the Bulldogs’ fan base to pack a sense of inferiority for the trip.