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Notre Dame Football

Frank Commentary

November 28, 2020
9,459

2020 has been quite a year for everyone, and it’s been quite a year for Notre Dame football as well.  Thinking back to the start of this 2020 season, I think we all felt that Notre Dame might have a chance to get into the playoff if they played solid football and had one magical game in November against Clemson, but did many of us truly believe they’d have a chance to win it all?  Do you now?  

The injuries are starting to amount and they’re costly for Notre Dame, no question.  Zeke Correll did a fantastic job in Saturday’s game in his first start for the Irish, but can he hold up against Clemson and Bama?  I don’t know if he can, but I won’t count him out, nor will I count out this team.  

The reason I won’t count out this team is because I truly believe this is the best “team” in college football.  There are more talented teams, but Notre Dame plays the best in the country as a “team.”  They don’t beat themselves.  They don’t have a lot of penalties or turnovers.  They don’t have a lot of mental breakdowns.  They are just one mentally and physically tough football team, and that gives you a puncher’s chance in any game.

I honestly think if you’d ask all the coaches in college football which team they didn’t want to play right now and if Notre Dame wasn’t No. 1, they’d absolutely be No. 2, and probably No. 1 for a lot of coaches if they’re being honest.  

I don’t think there is any doubt that Notre Dame is gaining respect amongst college football watchers as well.  They may not want to admit it, but they know Notre Dame is a force to be reckoned with.  

Where does this go?  How does this finish?  I don’t know, but I can’t remember a time since 1993 where I felt this excited about Notre Dame football, and I will tell you why this is different than the two previous times Brian Kelly’s teams have made a run.  

Depth!

Depth is on display with this Irish team.  North Carolina came into Saturday’s game averaging over 250 yards rushing per game, and the Irish held them to just 88 yards on the ground, and they did that without their two backup interior players in Jayson Ademilola and Jacob Lacey.  Think about that…

Kyle Hamilton gets disqualified in the first half due to a targeting penalty and the Irish are facing the best receiving corps they’ve faced all season…not a single point scored in the second half.  Just 58 total yards for North Carolina in the second half.  

The Irish without two starters along the offensive line, and another playing banged up, they still rush for 200 yards and finish the game on a masterful drive.  Everyone in the building knew what Notre Dame was going to do and they still were able to pound the football for another convincing win and statement.  

I’m not just excited about the depth for this year’s team, but I’m excited about the health and strength of the Notre Dame football program overall.  Great teams reload.  The Irish appear to be getting very close to being able to reload every year.

It comes from great scouting, and Dave Peloquin and Bill Rees have obviously done a fantastic job of evaluating Notre Dame’s roster.  I seriously cannot emphasize how important this is, especially at a place like Notre Dame.  The Irish can’t accept everyone, and a lot of top players won’t be interested in  ND for a lot of reasons, so Peloquin and Rees need to find players who fit the scheme, have the right work ethic and mentality, can make it through academically, and are a good personality fit for the program.  Notre Dame’s job here is far more difficult than most places, and these two really deserve a lot of credit for building the ND roster.  

It also comes from great teaching and development, and we’ve seen that across the board!  

We were worried about Notre Dame’s offensive line.  Is Jeff Quinn really the guy?  Will they finally take that next big step?  I think we know the answer to that question.

We were concerned about Notre Dame’s wide receivers.  Who is going to become a playmaker?  The two most talented players aren’t even playing and this Irish receiving corps is playing at an extremely high level.  

Notre Dame’s secondary was a big question mark heading into this season.  They certainly bent against Clemson, but there is no question they’re playing about as well as anyone could hope for.

Can Notre Dame get after the passer?  They’re playing the best they have all season getting after the QB.  

What about Notre Dame’s linebackers?  They sure looked like a big problem early, but they’re playing their top level right now.  

Irish tight ends had underperformed in recent years.  That is certainly not the case right now.  

Good, well-coached teams get better as the season goes along.  I’ve never seen a Notre Dame team develop this much during the season under Brian Kelly, or really any coach since Lou Holtz, and that’s a big, positive sign of great culture, great coaching, and great strength and conditioning.  

We cannot forget about the Strength and Conditioning piece, and Notre Dame looks as fresh as any team in the country right now.  

And that is what is so exciting about Notre Dame football right now.  The whole entire program is in fantastic shape, and that is all a credit to Brian Kelly.  

You have to feel good for Brian Kelly.  While the beginning was rocky at times, and he’s made some mistakes along the way, the true competitor in Kelly has climbed the mountain, just like his football team has.  They have a few more games before they get to play “King of the Mountain,” but if/when that battles kicks off, I wouldn’t count out Kelly.  They might not be the most athletically gifted or strongest, but I think they’re the most mentally tough, and that’s hard to overcome.  He and the Irish may not get it done this year, but they’ve built this thing the right way, and I bet they’re back there sooner than people realize if they don’t win it all.  They’ll be back because he’s built this the right way.  

Final Thoughts

We’re now into week whatever it is in the college football season, and it certainly has been an enjoyable one to watch, especially if your team is playing well like the Irish.  

I was talking to my best friend last night while watching the Oregon State Beavers take down Oregon and he has had a really tough year as a Husker fan, but he brought up a point that I don’t think many people remember.  

We were laughing and celebrating as we love the Oregon/Oregon State game and have watched it every year,  long before either team was good because it was always so much fun to watch.  After all our celebrating was over he said: “I really think the only reason we’re able to watch all of this right now is because of Notre Dame.”

He said if Notre Dame and Jack Swarbrick hadn’t pushed as hard as they did for this football season, none of this would’ve happened, and I absolutely think he’s right.  Can you imagine the misery that last four months would’ve been without college football?  

Notre Dame used to be THE leader in college football, and I’m not sure they’ll ever be that again, but it’s certainly possible and more probable than it’s been in a very long time.  It sure feels nice to be so influential and relevant again!

 

 
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