Temple, Anyone?

O'Malley attempts to make sense of Notre Dame football's last five months…and fails. Miserably. Is it September yet?

None of this is fair to Conor Cavalaris.

Cavalaris, a productive student-athlete who, after toiling for two seasons as the Notre Dame varsity's punching bag, made the play of the calendar year (so far) for his football program.

And what does he get for his efforts?

Overlooked. Disregarded. Ignored. Erroneously included in a national joke that doesn't pertain to him.

You see, Notre Dame's 2013 calendar year hasn't been all bad. And that national joke Irish fans suffer through, that, "playing the BCS Championship game was great for the program…until the opening kickoff" -- well that's wholly inaccurate.

Cavalaris's open-field tackle of Alabama's former five-star Christion Jones (I didn't verify that he was a five-star, I just assumed because they all play that way in Tuscaloosa) on the game's opening kickoff at the Tide 18-yard line was a thing of beauty. It was one of two tackles the then sophomore walk-on made in the game, or if you're scoring at home, two less than the combined total of the team's outside linebackers that evening.

It was a game-opening hit that should have set an early tone, and indeed, not since January 2, 1989 had Notre Dame been so close to wearing the national crown.

But thereafter it went downhill. And it won't…stop…going.

The game's four-touchdown final margin, followed by the decorated head coach's ill-advised flirtation (excuse me, natural curiosity) with the machinations of the Philadelphia Eagles, followed by an undead fictional female that won't die, followed by 12 stars worth of spring transfers, followed by a stunning expulsion for classroom transgressions, and finally, we hope, a jilting at the alter by a five-star future necessity.

2012 Season Grade: A+

2013 off-season grade to date: Triple F Minus.

News You Can Barely Use

In loosely related news, Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly named senior Tommy Rees his starter at an otherwise innocuous speaking engagement in Grand Rapids, Mich., Wednesday. The college is Kelly's former championship stomping grounds, and one at which he's enshrined in its Hall of Fame.

He probably didn't mean to name Rees officially, but hey, it's out there, and though it surprised exactly no one that knows anything about Notre Dame football, it's Notre Dame, and it's a quarterback, and Kelly said it, and there's this Internet fad, so its news.

What will be actual relevant football news is if Rees bucks a near-decade-long Kelly trend, starts each of the season's 13 games, and Notre Dame claims its first BCS Bowl victory in the ill-conceived system's final season thereafter.

There was never a doubt that in good health, or barring another John Goodman house party, Rees would start the season opener vs. Temple. He's earned it, and rest-assured, he will re-earn that right in August camp. Further, Irish fans should not want a rookie, whether it be senior Andrew Hendrix or freshman Malik Zaire, taking the lion's share of snaps during prime time in Ann Arbor a week later.

Thereafter? I can't imagine three quarterbacks not making the position whole. Hendrix's legs and strength, Zaire's moxie and quickness, Rees' knowledge, experience, and coolness under pressure.

(Find some downfield accuracy in the mix and you have a heck of a three-headed science experiment at quarterback.)

Last year, Rees was Kelly's closer and as it turned out, his season-saver. This year he's either the starter, placeholder, or season-saver/savior yet again. He can't and won't do it alone, but he's the logical choice to get the ball rolling.

Team captaincy seems imminent for the four-season contributing senior.

The Rear-View Awaits

I understand why Kelly didn't want Rees' status made semi-official -- the auspices of off-season competition at the position is now gone before the summer semester commences. At least this time Kelly was the media leak.

And I have no idea why it was a big deal, but it's doubtless par for the course in this off-season from hell.

But take heed Irish fans -- aside from the loss of Everett Golson, nothing that's happened since Alabama proved to be the top dog matters. Not Kelly's dalliance, not Te'o's saga, not the transfer of three backups, and certainly not the stance of Eddie Vanderdoes to stay away.

What matters is Notre Dame enters the actual 2013 football season -- not this annoyance of nine months in between -- with a clean slate.

No one predicted 12-0 last season (if you did, you always predict 12-0, so you don't count).

No one will predict it for 2013, either.

What matters is the Irish will have a chance to win every Saturday through Thanksgiving weekend. If they win most, their off-season of discontent will be but a memory.

To the Notre Dame football program, one that earned on-field relevance via a No. 1 ranking at season's end: Bring on Temple. Bring on football.

Stop the nonsense and play. Please. It's what you do best.

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