A few years back, I spoke with future Hall of Famer John Smoltz -- a starting pitcher, then a closer, then a starter again -- about the ninth inning of a baseball game and how difficult those final three outs are to get.
He told me, as you'd suspect, that they're so dramatically different than the previous 24. The pressure is so much higher that every pitch and result is magnified, causing a player -- often the pitcher, if his emotions aren't in check -- to overthrow or miss his target entirely.
The best closers in baseball, like Smoltz in those years when he pitched the ninth, are mechanical, robotic. They're consistent.
All right, this isn't Buster Olney or Keith Law's blog, so let's relate it to football and the closing stretch for the three undefeated teams. The Kansas State Wildcats, Oregon Ducks and Notre Dame Fighting Irish are feeling things that probably weren't previously a part of their psyches, certainly not in August and maybe not even a few weeks ago.
• BCS No. 1 Kansas State finishes with a trip to Baylor on Saturday and Texas at home in two weeks.
• No. 2 Oregon has Stanford this weekend, goes to Oregon State next week and closes with the Pac-12 title game at Autzen Stadium (depending on how those first two games go).
• No. 3 Notre Dame plays Wake Forest on Saturday and travels next week to USC.
Independent of anything on the big-picture scale, which is how the teams' coaches will attempt to have their players approach these games, there are inherent dangers with those opponents.
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