The Bizarro College Football Mirror of Erised
People see what they want to see when it comes to Notre Dame. They are a real-life college football version of the Mirror of Erised from Harry Potter (a magical mirror which would show a person what they desired to see most).
Preseason the Irish were ranked 23rd based on what? What people wanted to see in the team and certainly not on what the team has accomplished in recent history.
Notre Dame beat Nevada 35-0 to start the season. Fans of the team see the offensive production and start thinking maybe Lou Holtz is right and this team could compete for a national title. People who hate Notre Dame (and it seem people really do fall into either camp - nobody who follows college football seems neutral on the subject) say - it was just Nevada. Well Nevada is now 0-3 - so in hindsight what did this game really prove?
Next was Rich Rodriguez and the Michigan Wolverines up in Ann Arbor. ND lost the game when Michigan QB Tate Forcier threw a TD with just 11 seconds left in the game. The final was 38-34. The fans of the Irish said that their team was jobbed by the referees (and if you watched the game - this is a pretty valid point). Fans of Michigan said that beating ND showed that Michigan was back in the big-time (and this win did propel Michigan into the top 25). Fans of Michigan gave ND more credit than was maybe due because it served their desire to see their team back in the highlife. Yesterday Michigan just got past Indiana 36-33 on a very suspect interception (another gift from the referees in a home game in Ann Arbor?). I wish that Michigan was to play Ohio State next week instead of the last game of the season because Michigan's bubble will be burst by reality sometime soon and I'd like a good shot at making some money off an overinflated betting line before that happens (and yes - I had bought into the Michigan hype myself but now my eyes can see).
The third game of the season was a tilt against nemesis Michigan State - a team that seems to have Notre Dame's number the same way Iowa has Penn State's. The Irish were given a gift win when a last minute interception allowed them a 33-30 victory. Never mind the fact that Michigan State had lost to Central Michigan and is now just 1-3 on the season. The Irish fans rejoiced in vanquishing the traditional foe!
Last night was the cherry on the top. A last minute 24-21 victory over a questionable Purdue team was a complete gift. Charlie Weis went into a four-corners offense in the 3rd quarter when up by just 10 points against a team that wasn't stopping their run. The ND defense allows 2 late TD's and it was only the awful coaching job by Purdue's Danny Hope that allowed the last minute game-winning TD (calling a time out with 26 seconds when the clock was running and the Irish were out of time-outs - gack!). Purdue fans will look at this game and comfort themselves with the thought that even though they lost a squeaker and are now just 1-3 - they are in the same class as Notre Dame (conveniently forgetting they were completely outclassed by Northern Illinois). OK that last bit of snark may be harsh seeing how Purdue was able to hang with Oregon out in Oregon.
ND fans will point to their 3-1 record and in their heads they'll think "Hey that's the same record as Ohio State and USC!" Realists will look at the remaining schedule and think that a 1-7 record the rest of the way is not out of the question. People will continue to look at Notre Dame and see what they desire to see.