Commentary: Fighting Irish resemble 2002 Buckeyes
Published: Tuesday, December 4, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, December 5, 2012 00:12
Ohio State and Notre Dame football fans don’t always get along, but when comparing the 2002 Buckeyes and the 2012 Fighting Irish, silver and gold might have more in common than they would like to admit.
For starters, defense seems to have been a pillar for both squads’ success.
The 2002 Buckeye defense allowed an average of 13 points per game during the run and they held five of their opponents to seven points or less.
This years, Notre Dame has given up 10.3 points per game and held five of their opponents to seven points or less.
The greatest challenge for OSU’s 2002 team was their final game against the Miami Hurricanes offense that averaged almost 42 points per game during the regular season.
Likewise, Notre Dame will try to tackle an Alabama team that has put up 38.5 points per game this season in the BCS National Championship Game on Jan. 7.
For the 2002 Buckeyes and 2012 Fighting Irish, their defenses were stout enough to will them through some tight contests.
This year, Notre Dame has won five of their games by seven points or less including two games (Stanford on Oct. 13 and Pittsburgh on Nov. 3) which went into overtime. The latter contest, which was the closest to ending the Fighting Irish’s perfect season, ended, 29-26, in triple overtime.
Seven of OSU’s 14 games during the 2002 season were decided by seven points or less. Perhaps the most memorable of those games was the 10-6 victory against Purdue when a former OSU quarterback Craig Krenzel completed a 37-yard game-winning touchdown pass to former wide receiver Michael Jenkins with less than two minutes left in the game.
In his first full season as a starter, Krenzel did not put up outrageous video game-like numbers. Then a junior, he threw for 2,110 yards passing, 12 touchdowns, seven interceptions and a 59.4 completion percentage.
Plenty of other quarterbacks around the country put up more impressive stats, but it likely did not matter to Buckeyes fans because of the season he put together.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Everett Golson has shared time under center with junior Tommy Rees in his first season playing for Notre Dame, but he is without question the starting quarterback of his team now after strong performances down the stretch.
Much like Krenzel, his stats will not wow any avid sports fan that looks at them a decade from now.
In 11 games played, Golson has a 58.9 completion percentage and thrown for 2,135 yards, 11 touchdowns and five interceptions. He ranks 79th in the FBS among quarterbacks in passing yards but if he leads the Irish to a win on Jan. 7, Golson might live in the same lore as Krenzel.
Coming into the 2002 National Championship Game the Buckeyes were an 11.5-point underdog against the dominant Hurricanes.
OSU was taking on the defending national champions, which were riding a 34-game win streak and held a 54-8 record since the beginning of the 1998 season.
A similar task awaits the Irish.
As of Dec. 3, Notre Dame is listed as a nine-point underdog against the Crimson Tide, this season’s defending national champions, but also have a 60-7 record over the past five seasons.
Like the Scarlet and Gray of 2002, the Fighting Irish might need to inspiring football to overcome such odds. But don’t be surprised if Golson and Notre Dame are raising up a crystal football at the conclusion of the national championship game.