Irish Rebuttal

The Notre Dame football players are constantly hearing it on television. They are reading it online and in the newspapers. They are even hearing it from their own head coach when practicing this week in preparation for the Sugar Bowl and No. 4 LSU.

What they're hearing or reading goes something like this.

Notre Dame doesn't have the speed to play with the upper-echelon teams in the country. Notre Dame doesn't have the talent to hang with the likes of LSU. The Irish are overrated. They haven't beaten anybody.

Two straight Bowl Championship Series appearances, is just not enough to quiet the banter. Anytime the team has a chance to prove its worth, it takes a crushing defeat at the hands of a top-five program.

So while the Irish have had a solid ranking in every BCS poll the last two years, there is nothing they can really say to trump the argument that they're overrated.

"There's nothing really to be said," stated safety Tom Zbikowski. "I mean, the only time as a player that you can really prove it is on the field, so we'll have to show up for that game.

That game meaning the Sugar Bowl. One win could turn it all around.

If the 11th-ranked Irish can find a way to beat LSU in New Orleans, Jan. 3, players and coaches shouldn't hear or read about how just because they're Notre Dame, they get special treatment.

"I get tired of hearing how bad we are," Irish quarterback Brady Quinn said. "I mean, that's all people seem to be saying sometimes. Again, Notre Dame is one of those universities where it's kind of like either you love it or you hate it. It's tough because you've got to deal with criticism all the time. So if we win a big game against a great team like that, you can't really say a whole lot back.

"So this presents a great opportunity for us to really kind of put all those comments and everything to sleep."

Call it the Irish Rebuttal if they can knock off the Tigers.

If the Irish hope to lay all this chatter to rest, they need to stay awake in the first quarter. In the 26-point loss to No. 3 Michigan, and the 20-point defeat against No. 5 USC, Notre Dame was outscored by a combined score of 34-10. LSU on the other hand is outscoring its opponents 122-20 over the first 15 minutes.

"Again, I think looking at the two losses, a lot of people who understand football understand a couple of those games really weren't that out of hand," Quinn explained. "The score looks worse than it was.

"I mean, again, we got beat, there's no doubt about it. But when you're attempting to come back and win in some of those games, you've got to take some risks, you've got to try and make some plays, and in doing that it's going to hurt you and it's going to put you in some bad positions sometimes if you're not converting on 4th downs offensively, or again, at least a possibility of a big play for the other team.

"So really, we just have to get off to a fast start. That's the biggest key for us. I think if we play the way we're capable of in all three facets of the game, people are going to really see how good this team can be."

The critics will be waiting, that's for sure.

So while the Irish players are trying to prove themselves, they will also be trying to end an eight-game bowl losing streak at the same time. That is something else they'll be hearing a tad of from their head coach.

"I mean, I've had a great time here at Notre Dame, and things obviously never go as well as you'd like them to. But I'm hoping with a win in this bowl game, I think you could put kind of somewhat of a happy ending to the end of my career here at least, or in my mind it would be."

"I don't think in four years we've finished with a win in the last game," Zbikowski said. "It always makes the off-season a little easier and you've always got that momentum when you finish with a win, especially a BCS game."

"That's all we're working for is to win, otherwise there's no point in going down there if there's any doubt in your mind you're not going to be able to win," linebacker Travis Thomas said. "It would definitely be the icing on the cake."

It would also be the end of a negative discussion.


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