Notre Dame 14, Alabama 42
The Crimson Tide summarily dismissed a Fighting Irish team that was over matched from the coin toss in all three phases of the game. At no point was the outcome in question, as Eddie Lacy, AJ McCarron, TJ Yeldon and the entire offensive line asserted their will and the first half was pretty much Wednesday practice against a scout team. A resounding narrative unraveling on twitter was that Manti Te’o was costing himself millions with every missed tackle, which brought into clearer focus a larger problem surrounding college football: high school recruiting.
Every year, rabid fan bases scoop up magazines, stalk high school fields, and more recently bombard undecided recruits via social media, all based on the hopes that these 17 and 18 year old young men will not only choose their school (alma mater or otherwise) but will carry their school to the hallowed halls of champions. Because this cottage industry of predictions and prognostication regarding the futures of these young men is generating millions upon millions of dollars (while the subjects receive no compensation for the use of their names and likenesses), the aim of the industry shifts from accurately appraising talent, and more about the almighty dollar. Year in and year out, Notre Dame and Michigan (among others) bring in what is touted as ‘top’ recruiting classes, mostly because their voracious supporters will snap up anything that has their team on the cover/front page. While this is somewhat stymied by regional covers, which is more likely to be purchased by a fan of a nation wide brand; one that has the team you support with a top 3 recruiting class, or one that has them with a top 20 recruiting class? Keep in mind, these are often unvetted sources working off of highlight films and local sources, who are in turn paid for their services. Following the money so far? Because these rabid national brands have started affecting preseason polling and in turn, in season rankings.
There is an even bigger smoking gun regarding these doctored recruiting numbers: shifting rankings. Due to the national signing day, we’ve been conditioned to think that these player rankings are gospel, when in actuality, they remain fluid. Often, you will see a player who commits early and does not waver vanish from some rankings, or drop in others. This is to artificially hype up signing day, or do you really think every great player waits until the last second to decide where to go? An easy, enlightening thought experiment is to track 25 players across different recruiting services (try to go with free ones, as this is NOT intended to drive them traffic or money), and watch the rankings or number of stars or number of smiley faces or whatever for one calendar year. See who commits early, and where they are mentioned in certain services. See who is left, and gets ‘late boosts’ ascribed to extra scouting. I attended a football camp at FSU when I was headed into my senior year of high school, and Bobby Bowden said, “If you are good enough to start at a high school in America, you can play college football at some level, somewhere across this country.” I submit there aren’t enough scouts in the world to properly appraise even a significant percentage of these players.
A quick Google search of Notre Dame Recruiting Class shows these past 10 years have been reported as healthy, to say the least, for the Golden Domers. But, could the moving standards of these recruiting rankings be at play? Well, I just watched consensus 5 star recruit, and all-everything linebacker Manti Te’o struggle to get off blocks in the run game, miss at least 7 tackles when he did get off those blocks, and get handled one-on-one by running backs on blitzes. Could the services have been so far off on him? Probably not that far off, but it would appear that his pre-collegeic mystique is at least partly responsible for how touted he was against what can be cautiously called not the strongest schedule where he collected 103 total tackles. Comparatively, Luke Kuechly currently middle linebacker for the Carolina Panthers, recorded 191 tackles for Boston College last year. But, let’s look at this from a more macro perspective: as I noted, the touted recruits have poured into South Bend for years, but since 2001, Notre Dame is 0-4 in BCS Bowls, with a combined score of 158-87. The Fighting Irish haven’t won a bowl game against a ranked team since 1994, and have only won 2 bowl games at all from 1994 until tonight’s mollywopping by Alabama. Either EVERY coach they have shipped to South Bend in recent memory (and there have been a bunch) have been drastically mismanaging the tremendous amounts of talent that they are gifted with, or the players weren’t as good as everyone thought in the first place. The common argument from Notre Dame fans is that they have ANOTHER number one recruiting class. If you think Alabama doesn’t have the top recruiting class every year, you have a concerted rooting interest in another region/school, you’re a time traveler from 1960, or you’re a liar
In closing, circle button.