Photo by Rick Kimball/ISD
Notre Dame Football

From The Cheap Seats

November 14, 2017

*Kudos to Miami and their fans for having the type of Saturday night I was sure ND and its fans were going to have on Saturday night. That stunk, but credit to the group who got it done in every way.

*Here is what I simply do no understand: Notre Dame earned every bit of its 8-1 start and #3 ranking. There were no smoke and mirrors, unlike 2012. This performance makes absolutely zero sense to me. The more I observe the college football landscape, the majority of the answer seems to simply be that this is a game played by kids. Iowa and Michigan State are similar teams (MSU beat Iowa at home in a close contest). How can you explain Ohio State's 76-point swing between the loss at Iowa and the home demolition of Michigan State? That Miami squad was in deep trouble at North Carolina just two weeks prior.

USC was not nearly as bad as they were against Notre Dame, and Notre Dame not nearly as good as it appeared. Why do teams get absolutely torched? Is it something in the current players' culture whereby if things aren't going their way, they mail it in? How can Washington get waxed by that California team?

I do know this also, however, and that is that I don't want the playoff field to expand. Weeks like the ones leading into the Miami game (and the Georgia, USC and NC State games) would disappear. ND played its way into and then out of the playoff race. I hate that they are out, but man did the ride along the way to last night feel awesome!

*This Irish team has a ton to play for still, and while it is much more than I ever thought possible coming into the season, it still feels like a kick in the gut. Often, we Irish fans proclaim our apathy as a way to make ourselves feel better. If you don't care, and 9-3 is the best season we can expect, we can't get hurt. True, but the way wrong answer! I could not have had any more joy for the few weeks whereby the Irish were in the rankings near the top. I wanted to puke last night. That will never change for me. I love this school and this team. I can't turn my feelings into apathy/indifference and throw my hands up in the air and give up. I can't. I won't.

*My annual rite of passage once ND eliminates itself from title contention is to peak ahead to the roster and the schedule as it lines up for the proverbial "wait until next" year. I took a wait-and-see approach following the hideous season of 2016. Losing the left side of the offensive line will be a problem, as will likely be the loss of Josh Adams. I think the the schedule is as favorable as a Notre Dame schedule can be. Next year's "Clemson, FSU or Miami" ACC road test is Virginia Tech. A tough place to play, but a step down for the first three years' triumvirate. A Southern team (FSU) and an indoor team (Syracuse) travel to South Bend in November. If the Irish get by Michigan in the opener, the rest of the schedule sets up extremely nicely. Which means that...

*The single-most important "to-do" for this Irish team between last night and September 1st, 2018, when Michigan comes calling is getting Brandon Wimbush right. He has not improved one iota this season. This is a huge problem. What he does best he was able to do since he was probably 15 years old. He needs to hit wide open TD passes. That is not a huge "ask" over the next 10 months. He is so far inside of his own head right now and his mechanics are awful to the untrained, naked eye.

I never know enough about teaching the game of football to call for assistant coaches' jobs, but the QB and the receiver teaching/coaching needs to improve in a hurry. Kelly took some tough steps in 2016 after the whole season disaster, and he might need to take a few more.

*Georgia and Notre Dame have been discussed in the same sentence all season since they met during the season's second week, and they probably will be again this season. Georgia showed some chinks in the armor last week at home versus South Carolina before being dominated on the road by a team against which being blown out looked impossible in mid-October. ND the same but with Wake and Miami.

*Great catch, Alize Mack. Could this have been the quietest coming out party in the history of humanity? That would be one good thing to come out of that debacle.

*As far as predicting things, if I didn't watch the game and heard that the final score was 41-8, I would have no doubt that the Irish won the game. Yikes.

*This is the wrong week for Navy to be coming into town from a Notre Dame defensive perspective, but probably the right week from the offensive perspective. The Irish defense might get right against the option, or they might be reluctant to be aggressive against the cut-blocking. The offensive line will have its way, though, and the running game should look very good again. 

*Finishing 10-2 is extremely important for this team. I am upset and disgusted by the program's performance Saturday night, but the ability to bounce back from an embarrassing loss is vital in the growth of this team, because the residue of 4-8 is not off of this squad. Last night, this team looked like a team that doesn't truly believe in itself and its coaching staff. The doubt overcame them. Last year's team would lose or barely beat Navy this week. What will this team do? That might be the real legacy of Nelson and McGlinchey.

I guess there is a reason that 4-8 doesn't turn into a playoff season. You have to incur some of the baby steps along the way, and some large steps backward. This is an enormous step in the wrong direction, but in terms of significance for this season, it is the same as a 1-point loss. Huge, embarrassing losses are now part of the college football landscape, and is therefore forgotten/forgiven much faster than it used to be.

*As we approach Thanksgiving and the time begins to hit overdrive in how fast it gets away from us, I want to say that I am very thankful for Mike and his staff and for all readers of this column. It is such a pleasure!

*Go Irish!

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