After dismantling a pretty solid N.C. State team the Irish stood at 8-1 with a ranking worthy of college football playoff consideration. Brian Kelly was reborn.
Notre Dame fans everywhere were putting yoga mats on their Christmas lists. #33Trucking was talking about delivering a Heisman. Mike Elko was lauded as genius.
But now, with a November, that at least from my standpoint, came out of nowhere, the Irish stand at 9-3.
Instead of playoff reservations, questions are swirling among the Notre Dame faithful. I have to be honest, I had my share of negative comments Saturday like “Brian Kelly…at 9-3. Seen this movie.” and “Another big ND meltdown.”
Fortunately, some much-needed rest has altered my perspective. Even if the Notre Dame administration thought about making change, could we guarantee it would be any better? Remember, the Michigan “Dream Hire” Jim Harbaugh? Michigan will finish the regular season unranked and he is exactly 0-3 against his biggest rival Ohio State. He also has yet to reach a Big 10 Championship game.
So if you are going that route, who are you going to bring in? Further, consider a winning the upcoming bowl game will give Brian Kelly his 3rd season of 10 or more victories.
For me at least, what makes this ending so frustrating is I can’t and likely will never be able to figure out how it happened. We don’t have the advantage of being at practice everyday. We don’t see the day-to-day preparation.
I heard various talking heads weigh in. Notre Dame was too predictable vs. Miami. Miami Head Coach, Mark Richt, even took a subtle swipe at the Irish by admitting as much. Ok, yeah I get it. People knew Notre Dame was going to run the ball. Too predictable, blah, blah, blah.
Funny…I wonder if USC knew the Irish would run it a bunch? Sure didn’t seem to matter in that game.
There seemingly weren’t any major injuries. Sure the Irish had some guys banged up, but everyone does by the time you get to November.
I refuse to believe the standard reply of “the Coaches didn’t have them ready”. After charging to an 8-1 start and having your team ready to play, the coaches just mailed in November? I don’t think so.
If there is any answer to me it is the schedule. The Irish banged heads with 10 teams that will be playing in bowl games this post-season. If anything, Notre Dame seemed physically and maybe mentally sapped down the stretch.
I’m going to say this now, and I’ve suggested this before, you cannot play this schedule in this day and age and consistently go 11-1 or 12-0. This type of schedule leaves exactly no margin for error and no breathing room.
Look at next year: Michigan, Stanford, at Virginia Tech, Pitt, at Northwestern, Florida State, and at USC. That doesn’t even include the yearly match-up with Navy.
I know people will blow me up…..”Duh, we’ve always played a tough schedule”. Yes, and people used to use outhouses too, so what. Play a tough schedule not one that borders on ridiculous. Otherwise, we all better start viewing 9-3 finishes differently.
- Restoring Faith in College Athletics - April 3, 2018
- Notre Dame and the Citrus Bowl…Heck Yeah! - December 6, 2017
- Looking for Answers in Another November Meltdown - November 27, 2017
I look at the season as a whole (Note: 4-8 in 2016 is never a benchmark for this program).
We beat 3 teams we must always beat: Temple, Miami OH, and a 3-9 UNC squad. You don’t get high marks here.
Next: 3 wins against quality ACC teams (Wake, NC State, BC), with only NCSU finishing better than 7-5. ND has to expect to win these games. They aren’t bottom-tier “guarantees”, but you aren’t telling your grandkids about these someday. We beat Navy. BFD. If that’s your measure of a successful ND season…phew. I’ll leave it at that.
That’s 7 wins in 7 games ND should win. Wins that can help make a solid season. 7 games that need to be the absolute floor of expectations, and maybe is too low at that. But to evaluate the whole season and where we stand, it’s the rest of the games that matter most.
Top tier: played 5 teams in the Top 25 after the regular season. We went 2-3. I guess that’s “OK.” We went 1-1 at home, 1-2 on the road. It feels like…”meh.” We won 7 games that we (always) should, and went 2-3 when it mattered most. The midseason success showed this team’s ceiling, punctuated by the fall from that ceiling.
Here’s the real problem: a 9-3 record made up of this schedule has become our program’s ceiling (2012 the lone outlier probably dating back to 1993).
2016: 4-8 disaster
2015: 10-3 and quite a fun ride. But at season’s end, we went 1-3 against the final top 25, with the lone win being against #18 Navy. That was our best win from that memorable year.
2014: 8-5 and unranked at year’s end, despite the bowl win. (0-4 against final top 25)
2013: 9-4, finished #24, 3-2 v. Top 25. Road losses to Pitt, Michigan really hurt with wins against MSU, USC, ASU.
2012: the anomaly
2011: 8-5. 1-4 v. Top 25 (also lost at home to USF).
Conclusion: 9-3 in 2017 was a “good” or “OK” Notre Dame season. That’s not the problem. The problem is that it’s become our ceiling, but you all know that.
On the schedule: don’t we need it to separate us from the conference pack? We played more top teams than anyone so far, and we don’t play any garbage which helps the SOS (ranked #3 by Sagarin) The CFP has awarded that all year and punished others.
Of Jeff Sagarin’s current Top 30, here’s those teams # of top 30 opponents:
7 top 30’s: ND
6: Iowa, MSU
5: Clemson, Auburn, PSU, OSU, Okla, ISU, Tex
4: TCU, Stan, Ok State, USC, NW, Miss St, Mich, NCSU, Wake
3: ‘Bama, Wisc, UGA, LSU, L’ville, WSU
2: Wash, Miami, Va Tech
1: UCF, Memphis
Clemson, Auburn, OSU, Okla will all gain a 6th top 30 foe this weekend.
My conclusion: the schedule isn’t the problem. That 7th quality team barely separates us from soon to be 6 other Power 5 schools. It’s necessary to retain independence and compete for the national title.
You said it in your last part independence. The thing no one wants to touch. Wisky or Bucky will be in final 4. Who did they play? Aside from Ohio State loss to Oklahoma, they have no great claim. No wants to join a league, so as I said you can’t play that schedule and compete for titles consistently.
I strongly disagree with everything you said here. There is no reason for us to fall flat on our face in November due to a tough schedule. Is our schedule the toughest in the country? No. Tough but not the toughest. We don’t play a 13th game due to not being in a conference and we were getting the benefit of the doubt from playoff committee due to the tough schedule. We were the highest ranked 1 loss team in all the committee rankings! Kelly falls apart when the chips are down. Cant win on the road in a big game, especially in November. In Miami everyone looked scared. At Stanford they choke. Against Navy they play down to their level. Why is this great O line unable to push Navy around? We outweigh them by 50 pounds a man! Why did the defense get lazy against Wake forest? We aren’t injured, Kelly aint ready for primetime.
Simply offered my thoughts on what caused this meltdown.
Is it that hard to accept that dumb mistakes cost us? Turnovers – singular events, caused huge swings in all three losses. You can’t directly prevent mental lapses as a coach.
Only one reason for the outcome – poor coach prep of a key position -QB. The offense had no balance from day 1 – no rreason for any team to respect our ability to pass the ball did us in. The coaching must understand what true div 1 speed is in a halfback and understand that they need the receivers and QB to pass the ball 1st then run if you must to have a true div 1 offense.
Do you really think the coaches (some of which played Division I football don’t understand what true speed is?
Not sure? But I can tell you I would not have Williams on the bench at all – unless very very injured. I also see that this team did not have an answer for a true “slot” receiver who have great quickness – or to provide an open space receiver that may be a threat. They have this kid that collects kickoffs who should have been trained from day 1 as a true slot as he is the only one with the quickness (can’t learn that) to do that job. The staff just did not get these kids ready – most on the QB and receiver side – but also used their backs like teams in the 1960’s. Just stupid to the max.
I think the team did not make adjustments. GA figured out how to defend the Irish. The other teams did not have the speed on D to keep up until Miami. The wheels came off the D during that game too and has stayed off on the whole team. Mike Vorel of the SBT had a great article about the game indicating that this team is not strong in any area and thus has no identity. Even though the QBs can’t pass, at least they can do some misdirection and counters. They also diddle in the backfield and that gives the opposing D time to get into ND’s backfield. I don’t see much improvement next year either.
Tough to say, the schedule is brutal next year.
Its the way they lost if Miami was a close game fine again another meltdown late vs Stanford. Winbush did not get any better as the season went along.
I totally agree with premise of this story. Every year we hear the ND football schedule is ‘Brutal”. ND is the Only D1 school who always proclaims to have a brutal schedule. Not a tough one but, a “brutal” one ? Why is this always so ? It shouldn’t be this way going into 2018. I checked over some of the SEC teams schedule . They play teams like Mercer, Samford, Ga. Southern, The Citadel, Louisiana-Monroe, Kent St. When has ND ever played these type of schools ? NEVER ! Plus, the SEC
has perennial losing teams in Vandy and Kentucky. Now i hear that Harbaugh is brining in 2-3 top flight recruits from Ole Miss. The QB Patterson may be starting for Michigan in 2018. Who is ND first opponent- Michigan. I’m not sure joining a conference is the answer but, a new schedule mind set needs to be adopted. There is no reason to play Mich, Mich St, and Stanford every year. I would keep USC and Navy every year and rotate Stanford and the southern schools around every 4-5 years. There is no pressure relief on the team from the schedule. I believe the relentless pressure contributes greatly to the Nov meltdowns experienced over the years.