The Notre Dame Fighting Irish have officially shed their label of “irrelevant” and become one of the most relevant teams in all of sports. The Irish defeated USC on Saturday night and remained number one overall in the BCS rankings ahead of Alabama and Georgia after they went 12-0 in their regular season, beating some very good teams along the way.
Notre Dame’s season was no fluke. We saw them take on arguably the best player in the country in Marqise Lee at USC, they took down a potential first round pick in Landry Jones and the Oklahoma Sooners, and they gutted out tough wins against Michigan and Michigan State. They survived two overtime games, including a three overtime battle with the Pitt Panthers and a long, hard fought bout with the Stanford Cardinal.
Let’s face it–love or hate Notre Dame, they deserve to be where they are. Are they the best team in the country? Maybe not, but the Irish are going to get a chance to prove it on a national stage.
The Irish faithful can thank dominant season by middle linebacker Manti Te’o–who finished with 103 tackles and seven interceptions–as well as a stellar finish to the season by former wide receiver turned game breaking running back Theo Riddick.
The play of Riddick at the running back position has been nothing short of a shock for me, even though I’ve seen throughout his career just how good of an athlete he is capable of being. He has shown power, toughness, speed, and agility, and potentially could be raising his NFL Draft stock this year more than any other prospect on Notre Dame’s roster.
Riddick needs just 120 yards in the National Championship game (will be easier said than done) to crack 1,000 on the season, and we obviously know he’s a good pass catcher out of the backfield. He can line up in the slot as well, and at 5’11” 200 pounds, he knows how to get yardage after the catch.
There have been a lot of other keys to Notre Dame getting where they are today, but Manti Te’o and Theo Riddick certainly deserve a ton of credit.