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Notre Dame Football

Tuesday Thoughts | Notre Dame, Alabama, Ohio State & More

January 12, 2021
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"When they're on the perimeter, nobody has shut them down. Tell me who has tackled those guys. Everybody has the same problem that I do. It's tackling those guys and getting them down. And it's the same issue.

"I don't have a unique problem at Notre Dame. I think you need to look at the scores that everybody played against Alabama and Clemson. Everybody's got the same issue."

Notre Dame football coach Brian Kelly stated the obvious following the 31-14 Rose Bowl loss to Alabama. The comment was accurate as the Irish had become one of the many victims to fall to the Crimson Tide, but it might have fallen on deaf ears as most chalked it off to a salty head coach following a loss. 

Fast forward 10 days and the almighty Ohio State Buckeyes looked worse than Kelly's Fighting Irish with a loaded defense of four and five-star talent. Alabama is just that good and very similar to LSU in 2019. Offense is king, but you better have guys who can tackle and make plays in the red zone on defense to have a shot. 

It's also interesting to read the Ohio State sites following the loss. I think the Notre Dame beat was reasonable following the Rose Bowl as Notre Dame simply didn't have the horse to keep up and were a few players short of competing with Alabama. Recruiting misses shined bright and while come criticized the game plan, I think we saw trying to win a shoot out with Alabama wasn't the right move either. 

Most Ohio State sites highlight the injuries, COVID and bad luck for the 52-24 beat down, which was the same score Texas A&M lost to Nick Saban's squad. 

This is a piece from What We Learned: Alabama 54 Ohio State 24 from Bucknuts.com on the 247 sports network. 

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Did we watch the same game? No question that injuries impact teams as I'm sure Notre Dame would have loved to have been at full strength against Alabama. 

However, I'm not sure two starters being out on the defensive line would have stopped Kerry Coombs from trying to cover Devonta Smith with a linebacker (lol). I mean, Smith had 12 catches for 215 yards and three touchdowns in one half. That's not an "Oh, we were missing two starters on defense problem." 

Ohio State gave up 621 total yards of offense and had fewer total yards than Notre Dame. 🤷🏽‍♂️ 🤷🏽‍♂️Probably not what the Big Ten had in mind when they changed the rules (twice) to get the Buckeyes into the playoffs.

Anyway, I hope you guys keep coming back to ISD for rational analysis. 

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The gap is still there, but I may have a different outlook after watching last night's beat down. Notre Dame isn't to the point of Alabama or Clemson, where a College Football Playoff appearance is a sure thing every year. Notre Dame can make a run every other year and the program is built for it. In the words of Mike Brey, "You get old and stay old." 

Maybe not what Notre Dame fans want to hear, but the older the team, the better. That said, Notre Dame is building for a National Title run every other year or so, it seems like the cream of the crop is building to compete for the best college football team of all-time. 

In the last three years, you could have very made a case for that. 

2018: Clemson's defense was as good as it gets with a defensive line that gave offensive coordinators a headache just thinking about combined with a great secondary and some guy named Isaiah Simmons running around. Trevor Lawrence was a freshman, but he was throwing to Tee Higgins, Justyn Ross, Amari Rodgers and had a decent running back in Travis Etienne. 

That team beat Alabama 44-16. 

2019: LSU's offense was simply incredible. Joe Burrow had endless weapons at receiver. Ja'Marr Chase had 1,780 yards and 20 touchdowns. Justin Jefferson had 111 receptions for 1,540 yards and 18 touchdowns. Terrace Marshall only had 46 catches for 671 yards and 13 touchdowns. Thaddeus Moss had 570 yards receiving from the tight end position. And yes, Clyde Edwards-Helaire ran for 1,414 yards and 16 touchdowns while also adding 453 yards receiving. 

Like what? If Notre Dame had a receiver put up Justin Jefferson's stats, he'd have statue talk. Yet, Jefferson's season wasn't even the best on the team. Or CEH putting up also 2,000 yards of total offense...sheesh.

LSU was special. 

Then in 2020, Alabama had an offense that rivaled LSU. I'll give the edge to LSU because of the pure absurdity of the stat book, but the Crimson Tide might have been close to it if Jaylen Waddle hadn't gotten hurt. 

Devonta Smith is a special player similar to Chase. Steve Sarkisian (Texas is back by the way) deserves a ton of credit as he somehow managed to keep getting the Heisman Trophy winner open. Scratch that...wide open for walk-in touchdowns. Not sure how it happened, but if there was ever an example of playing chess while everyone else is playing checkers...

Sark, Joe Brady and the LSU staff deserve a ton of credit for creating schemes teams hadn't seen before, but that's why recruiting matters. When you have three queens on the field, it's easier to take down castles and pawns. 

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The final AP Poll came out and Notre Dame checked in at No. 5 behind Texas A&M, Clemson and Ohio State. Notre Dame and Clemson are the only two-loss programs in the top five, but I was a little surprised the Aggies jumped the Irish. 

Texas A&M sure didn't look great against North Carolina, who was missing two 1,000-yard rushers, a 1,000-yard receiver and its best linebacker. 

Sure, Notre Dame didn't look great by any means against Alabama or Clemson, but I'd say those programs are a little better than Mack Brown's team missing its best players. 

Alabama 52 Ohio State 24
Alabama 52 Texas A&M 24
Alabama 31 Notre Dame 14

The Fighting Irish got blown out in another big game. It wasn't close. It probably wasn't as close as 31-14, but the final score could have also been 31-21. Like Ohio State, Notre Dame could have made it a game in the third quarter, but failed to capitalize. 

I think the difference for me is that Notre Dame didn't roll over and die like Ohio State and Texas A&M. While overmatched, the Irish still brought physicality and didn't die. Ohio State rolled over on Monday night and quit. 

If I had vote, I'd probably have Notre Dame at No. 4 and kept everything else the same as the College Football Playoff. I think it's fair at the end of the day as the Irish do have two losses at the end of the day to two programs ahead of them. It's hard to put Clemson ahead of Ohio State as the Tigers weren't competitive, or I'd stick Ohio State at No. 4. I know, weird statement. 

Overall, Notre Dame has much to do to get to the point of Alabama, but it's clear everyone else had the same issue this fall. 

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And thank you to all the student-athletes, coaches and staffers who made this season possible. I've said it before, but despite all the craziness in the world, it was good to cover college football and watch it as a fan.

I think it was clear every team minus Ohio State lived in a bubble and tried to be responsible since June. Not ideal and while some believe it was an easy sacrifice, I can assure you if you speak to any player, it wasn't easy. Moving housing locations multiple times, testing and the unknown aren't easy to go through. 

For example, Notre Dame had a position group that wasn't hit hard with COVID and made living adjustments early in the year. As the season went on and continued to be negative, it scared the staff and players even more, so they moved again and further isolated from teammates and friends. That's not easy. An undefeated season at Notre Dame is supposed to be fun, but these kids were stuck in isolation because they did everything right. 

Crazy times, but one hell of a season. 

 
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