Senior College Football Columnist

A not-so-scientific explanation why Notre Dame will win the BCS title


SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- In some kind of supernatural, cosmic, karmic way Notre Dame is owed this national championship. Ted Mandell has done the research.

"I can't even fathom the season ending any other way than us winning," said the associate professional specialist at Notre Dame's Department of Film, Television and Theatre. "It's like you're watching a movie and you know what the ending is going to be. We're not going to lose at the end."

It's hard to tell whether Mandell is a fan or professional first. Maybe it doesn't matter. He is the embodiment of every long-suffering Irish fan in this third decade sans title. Need proof? His class of '86 endured four of the five Gerry Faust years.

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It's Notre Dame, the Irish are No. 1 and a program steeped in sometimes otherworldly football fortune probably needs a shaman at this point. Theodore Mandell, 48, doting father, accomplished faculty member, sees and feels things about Notre Dame's chances against Alabama.

While teaching film and video production, in a parallel hell Mandell has witnessed years of mediocrity, decided schematic advantages and eight straight losses to USC. His office is near the Regis Philbin Studio Theatre, named after the entertainer and ultimate Irish honk.

It is at this point, Mandell cannot help himself -- 19 days before the BCS title game and a quarter century since Notre Dame's last national championship. He must spew that research. To you, it may be nothing more than trivia, hopeful indicators that Notre Dame is going to win. To Mandell, they are signs from, well, above ...

From There-To-Here link: Louis Holtz and Brian Kelly both have 10 letters in their names. They are the only two Irish coaches to go 12-0. They both played linebacker in college. Holtz is the last Irish coach to win a title. Kelly is one game away.

Here comes the Sun: Notre Dame won the 1988 national championship at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Arizona. Notre Dame will play the 2012 BCS Championship game at Sun Life Stadium in Miami, Florida.

There are exactly five letters in the host city names (Tempe, Miami) seven letters in the state names (Arizona, Florida) of those two locations.

Someone call the Mayans. Wait, Mandell is just getting started.

Do you know the significance of Jimmy Johnson and Nick Saban in this discussion? In that last championship year of 1988, Notre Dame beat Johnson's No. 1 Miami 31-30. If the Irish beat No. 2 Alabama, Saban and JJ will have the exact same career winning percentage at their schools after losing to Notre Dame -- .827.

That Miami game also spawned the infamous "Catholics vs. Convicts" T-shirts. The Alabama game has "inspired" "Catholics vs. Cousins."

OK, that last nugget was mine, but I'm starting to get into this.

Back to the ...

Michigan State-ment: In both 1988 and 2012, Notre Dame won at Michigan State 20-3.

Road raging: In both 1988 and 2012, Notre Dame defeated its highest-ranked road opponent by 17 points -- USC in '88, Oklahoma in '12.

Getting chills yet?

Mandell is. This is a guy who says he was sitting in the same seat for two fateful field goal attempts against the Irish 19 years apart. Boston College's David Gordon knocked off then-No. 1 Notre Dame with a game-winning kick in 1993. This season, Mandell watched in agony as Pittsburgh's Kevin Harper lined up for a potential game-winning 33-yard field goal in the second overtime.

"I looked at my kids and said, 'I'm not even watching this. I've seen this story 150 times in the last 25 years ...,'" Mandell said. "I watched the ball go up in the air and put my head down. It was weird. There was a shriek, kind of like a horror film."

Wide right. The Irish eventually won 29-26. That's scary.

"Then you're starting to think, 'It's definitely karma,'" Mandell added. "I had four years of Gerry Faust."

More than enough. Mandell grew up near Faust's Cincinnati Moeller High School and was drawn to Notre Dame by the usual suspects -– the academics and the legends. He has directed a sports documentary on Lou Holtz' last game –- a 2009 exhibition game in Japan. Mandell also has produced a multi-media book on the greatest college football finishes since 1970. The reviled (at least here) Bush Push is on the cover.

Maybe it's time to cue that karma. Notre Dame pushed back last month with that series of goal-line stands against the Trojans.

This semester Mandell and a cadre of students have shot video and produced content for Notre Dame's website. Page views have tripled to six million. Even in cyberspace they can hear you scream -- after each epic win.

This season, Mandell says, has unfolded "like a three-act play."

 One in which Southern California quarterback Matt Barkley was injured a week before the Notre Dame game on a hit by UCLA's's Anthony Barr, son of former Irish running back Tony Brooks.

 One in which Kelly turned 51, the same number of years Holtz has been married.

 One in which Holtz and Kelly have identical records after their first three years at Notre Dame, 28-10.

 Their combined ages at the beginning of the season added up to 125 -- the same number of years Notre Dame has been playing football. Guess who had the idea to post an Irish moment-in-time on the website for 125 days during the season? Mandell is up to Day No. 110, having churned out 80 video vignettes for the segments.

"I teach my students it's all about emotion," he said. "This season has been such an emotional ride. It all ebbs and flows just like you're watching a movie, which means something seriously dramatic has to happen like Manti Te'o is going to break his leg and come back. Or the Chicken Soup Game and Joe Montana."

And with that, Mandell is back riffing.

Beating the best: In 1988 and 2012, Notre Dame will have played the defending champions (Miami then, Alabama now) -- each of which had won two titles in the previous five years.

Dueling Ls: In Holtz's first two seasons, Notre Dame lost 10 games by a total of 90 points. In Kelly's first two seasons, Notre Dame lost 10 games by 88 points.

The magic of XXIV: Kelly and Holtz were born 24 years apart. Their first seasons at Notre Dame were 24 years apart. It's been 24 years since the Irish won their last national championship ...

"When I was just 24 years old," Mandell said.

Only the Irish themselves will have a better view on the night of Jan. 7. Mandell will be part of a crew on the sidelines filming for the website. He doesn't have to ask the Mayans the outcome.

"There is going to be some kind of poetic justice," he said.

Mandell already has done the research.

Anyone in need of a credential from all the BCS title games? Dennis Dodd has them. In three decades in the business, he's covered everything from the Olympics to Stanley Cup to conference realignment. Just get him on campus in a press box in the fall. His heart lies with college football.

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