Notre Dame may become the first independent football program to crack the College Football Playoff. BYU Football could benefit from that.
As BYU football has struggled to a 5-5 record, some are clamoring once again for a return to a Group of Five conference. They’ve lost sight of why the choice was made six years ago to become an independent, and they want to jump ship right when things are getting exciting.
These fans don’t understand the choice to go back to a G5 would mean a lot more than what they might think. It signifies a retreat from their battle to remain in the upper tier of college football and a surrendering to the establishment. It concedes the notion that BYU Football has acknowledged its acceptance of a role as “little brother” to all the P5 teams, including their rivals to the north, Utah.
Though many shout for the likes of the Mountain West, or even the American as destinations for salvation from irrelevance and meaninglessness, there is another part of the fanbase that refuses to give up just yet. Greg Wrubel once referred to this group as “the lawless republic nestled in the heartland of Cougar Nation.”
These fans laugh at the idea that BYU football doesn’t have anything to play for because it doesn’t belong to a conference. They recognized that the true definition of “meaningless” is a trophy case filled with irrelevant championships and a legacy of mediocrity. They watch eagerly as a team blazes a trail that will revolutionize their possibilities forever.
No. 3 Notre Dame is currently voyaging in the same unchartered waters as a college football independent. For the first time in the College Football Playoff’s short history, a team not from a Power Five conference is poised to get in. Though many analysts said it couldn’t happen, the Irish are just two wins away from proving them wrong.
They will do it with a fierce regular season schedule, despite not playing for a conference title or in a league championship game. Wins over teams that were ranked at the time include No. 14 Michigan, No. 7 Stanford, and No. 24 Virginia Tech. This Saturday they’ll face No. 12 Syracuse.
If their selection into the playoff takes place it will set the stage for all of the independents that choose to schedule like the Irish do. Though easier said than done, the path to the College Football Playoff for the Cougars will be paved.
As the Irish are selected, those that oppose them will claim that a team that does not play in a P5 conference is not worthy of such an honor. They’ll assure that it is unfair that a team could do it without running a gauntlet of conference opponents. Some may even argue that the route of an independent is easier than that of a P5 member.
In terms of a G5 member, such allegations are reasonable. Yet, when it comes to the independents, this judgement entirely depends on the current schedule. To say that Notre Dame’s schedule doesn’t merit inclusion is lunacy.
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In fact, to those programs that dare make such accusations, the independents invite you to come and join in this life of ease. Come and partake of this landscape, even better, trade places with them. Not everyone is cut out for independence.
The Irish, on the other hand, are. Sure, they’ve taken their lumps. But the program and its fans keep faith in a system that is tried and true, and has yielded both positive and negative results.
Some forget that just two short years ago, the Irish recorded a losing season after having played for a BCS title in 2014. With schedules like theirs, Notre Dame understands that things like that are bound to happen. But this doesn’t sour their followers because they know good times are on their way.
Cougar Nation would be wise to learn this lesson from their independent predecessors. Keep fighting and don’t give up just yet. The present and future schedules are comparable to the Golden Domers.
All that’s left to do is win.
Sometimes things seem to be worse than they really are. As bad as this year seems, in reality, BYU football is just nine points away from being 7-2 and probably ranked.
So, stay the course, and one more thing. Keep your fingers crossed for the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame!