At the start of the season I picked Notre Dame to win the national championship. And while last Saturday probably knocked them out regardless of what happens the rest of the way, I was ready to write it off as just a bad day against a good team that was thirsty to make a statement. But the alarm bells about the Irish defense have to be going off, even for those of us who have been favorably disposed to them. Yes, Michigan State is a very good offense. I personally believe Drew Stanton to be the conference's best quarterback. Yes, the Spartans were at home. And yes, they are the kind of team who can show up as one of the best in the country at any given time. Factor all that in, and it can't explain away 37 points in a game that the ND season was riding on. Add to that the fact that the impressive performance Weis' defense put on against Penn State is starting to look a little more like Lion ineptitude then Irish excellence.
I don't mean to take away credit from the comeback Brady Quinn and his crew put on. Rallying like they did showed a lot of heart, and the Irish are in position to win out until Southern Cal now. If they do that, they're a lock for a second straight BCS bid, regardless of what happens in Los Angeles. But teams that play defense like this generally cough a game up they shouldn't. Notre Dame hosts Purdue on Saturday, and the Boilermakers aren't known to have problems in the point department. The Purdue coaches also feel good about the progress their secondary has made, as they face the first big test of '06. Win or lose, the Notre Dame secondary coaches better be feeling the same way by dinnertime Saturday, or they might be free for New Year's.
As to Michigan State, we'll have to see how they respond to this devastating loss. Shannon Shelton of The Detroit Free Press writes that no one could have been shocked at the second half collapse. And anyone who has followed this up-and-down program over the years won't be shocked if the rest of the season slips away at East Lansing. John L. Smith has a home game with Illinois coming up to try and rally his troops and prevent that from happening.