How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Camping World Bowl

Come across some real bad takes lately. Real bad. Too many people posting cringe on the timeline during the holiday season, I’ll tell you that much. If you ever find yourself thinking “why does the whole of college football fandom hate Notre Dame so much,” well, buddy, here’s at least part of the answer. Simply take a look at Tyler James’ replies here (or any other beat reporter’s, probably) and tell me this is a functioning, level-headed community. It can’t be done!

First off, I recommend considering that we are not special in the “won a bunch of games and missed out on a prestigious bowl” regard. A 10-win Alabama (you know, that Alabama, with Nick Saban and the recent run of championships and whatnot) team that lost to the numbers 1 and 12 teams is headed to a non-New Year’s Six bowl too! Argue all you want about how the Irish played five ranked opponents, but they got clobbered by one of them, and choosing to die on a hill for Southern Cal and Virginia and Navy is a head-scratcher. Those are good wins! They absolutely are. But they’re not great wins. Search your feelings, you know it to be true. We’re simply lying in the bed we made.

I’m not going to link to the post I just saw about how the school should decline the bowl invite because a) it’s from B*rstool dot com and b) it offers no cogent reasoning to support its own argument, just that Notre Dame has “earned” a “right” to a New Year’s Day bowl because it has a “national fanbase and brand.” I should probably not even give that drivel the time of day but it does contain the sentence “one of my favorite things that Notre Dame does is decline invitations” and that’s one of the funniest things imaginable to me. One of your favorite things about Notre Dame football is when it doesn’t play football. Sure, man, my favorite part of the new Kanye album is when I’m not listening to it…because I don’t think it sounds good, and it annoys me.

If ND doesn’t short circuit in the Ann Arbor rain and temporarily lose their ability to play coherent football— even if it still ended with an L, but a close one— this is a different story. And it’s a shame that they didn’t win that game and test the hypothesis that a one-loss Notre Dame team can’t make the playoff, because a team with a sole close loss to Georgia, compared to the resume Oklahoma brought to the table, could have easily tilted the scales favorably. Playing LSU doesn’t sound all that fun, but making the playoffs is, of course, always a net good.

What we’re faced with is a chance for a good-not-great Notre Dame team to pick up an eleventh win against an unlucky but underrated Iowa State team that came up an aggregate of four points shy of the numbers 4, 7, and 16 teams in the playoff rankings. Does it suck that the Irish won’t get a ton of credit for beating a 7-5 team? Sure. Yes. It’s a bit of a Navy redux. I get it.

But perception only gets you so far, and three seasons with 10, 12, and 11 wins speak for themselves on the recruiting trail. Getting here isn’t a success in and of itself, but seriously, what is the point in working yourself up about bowl placement in a year with a logjam of comparable two- and three-loss teams. I’m just here to say that it isn’t worth it. Beating good football teams is sort of its own reward anyway, and here’s a chance to beat a good football team. There’s a reason the Irish only opened as a field goal favorite, so by no means is this a guaranteed win. But I’m in for another good, entertaining game of football.

You’re not required to be excited about ND’s bowl destination, but everyone should probably double check to make sure they aren’t being a whiny mess either. It isn’t a cute look. Be sure not to think you’re speaking for the players, who might hate or tolerate or love a winter trip down south. I don’t know. But why not look forward to one more go-round with this group? Is there any downside? Notre Dame football Saturdays are a renewable but precious resource, one that is only available for twelve to fourteen days a year.

I shouldn’t have to tell you that the practices that Brian Kelly and crew are able to hold are also a precious resource. It’s a chance for Kevin Austin to ramp up for a potential breakout season next year. It’s a chance for Ian Book to build on his November momentum. It’s a chance for the young cornerbacks to flash and give the coaching staff an idea of how to handle a position that’s going to be on shaky ground to start 2020. It doesn’t guarantee a win against Clemson or a smoother offseason or anything like that. But every bit helps. I don’t care if that sounds too rosy or not rosy enough. Just trust the process, baby.

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