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College football's wild season was not so wild this past weekend. There were no major shifts at the top of the BCS rankings as there were the week before. That's mainly because Notre Dame beat the University of Southern California on Saturday and maintained its number one ranking.
And no, you are not caught in a time warp back to the last century when the Fighting Irish often ruled college football. This is indeed 2012. NPR Sports Correspondent Tom Goldman is here to tell us what on earth is going on.
Tom, good morning.
TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Hi, Steve.
INSKEEP: OK. Sports Illustrated calls it the Notre Dame miracle. Why such a big deal here?
GOLDMAN: Well, you consider where they started the season. They weren't even listed in the Associated Press preseason top 25. And then they rise all the way to number one. They get this berth in the BCS title game. They're the only bowl-eligible team that's undefeated.
But of course this surge this season has played out against Notre Dame's place in our culture as both revered and detested football program. You know, it goes back to the legendary head coach Knute Rockne, the win one for the Gipper speech. There's the powerful mix of football and religion. For generations, Catholic football fans have considered Notre Dame their team.
And then, of course, for over two decades NBC has had this exclusive contract with Notre Dame that's ensured that Fighting Irish football has a unique place in the TV landscape.
INSKEEP: And so we're heading now for the bowl season and the BCS title game on January 7th. Notre Dame and who?
GOLDMAN: Who? Yeah. Most likely the winner of this weekend's Southeastern Conference championship game between Alabama and Georgia. Those two teams are ranked 2 and 3. This game is really considered a national championship semi-final game. And it guarantees that an SEC team will have a chance to win the BCS title for a seventh year in a row.
INSKEEP: OK. Tom, I know you do this for a living, so of course you watch all the bowl games beginning to end because it's an obligation. But is there or two that you would watch for pleasure because you think they just matter that much?
GOLDMAN: No. No. I don't watch any for pleasure. But I'll tell you the ones that matter. It's the other BCS bowl games because they're so lucrative. The Rose Bowl, Sugar Bowl, Orange Bowl, Fiesta Bowl - $17 million payout per team. And that money goes to the team's conference. That's where all the jockeying will be going on for the next week to get into those games.
The most surprising entrant could be from the small Mid-American Conference. Friday night, number 17-ranked Kent State plays number 21 Northern Illinois in the MAC championship game. If the winner of that game ends up ranked in the top 16, they get to play in a BCS bowl. Something no MAC team has ever done.
INSKEEP: You're also following the New York Jets I understand. And you're deeply wounded by some news that they've had over the weekend.
GOLDMAN: Fireman Ed is leaving. He's the former New York City fireman who has for years led fans in the J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets chant at home games, which I'm sure you may have uttered if you've ever gone. He wore a fireman's helmet and a Jets jersey.
He says he's quitting that role not because the J-E-T-S S-T-I-N-K, which they D-O. It's because he's been wearing a number 6 Mark Sanchez jersey this season. Sanchez is the embattled starting quarterback. Fireman Ed says he's been encountering too many confrontational fans critical of Sanchez and the jersey, and he doesn't want to deal with that anymore.
He penned a goodbye note and it said: The confrontations are an indication of how society has lost and is continuing to lose respect for one another. Fireman Ed was so upset by these run-ins that he left the stadium during the first half this past Thursday, as the Jets were being eviscerated by New England, 49-19. And as USA Today writes: His departure before halftime sounds insulting until you remember that no one on the Jets showed up at all.
INSKEEP: Well, do the Jets have another fan who can spell Jets? I guess that's the important question now.
GOLDMAN: I think they better spell T-E-B-O-W, Tebow.
INSKEEP: Oh, my goodness. OK. Tom, thanks very much.
GOLDMAN: You're welcome.
INSKEEP: That's NPR's T-O-M Goldman.
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