If it isn’t Notre Dame, then who’s it?
Reply that query earlier than launching the compulsory spherical of Irish criticism that’s certain to return after the most recent playoff failure.
No. 1 Alabama routed No. 4 Notre Dame 31-14 within the relocated Rose Bowl Recreation at AT&T Stadium on Friday. The Irish personal a combined record of 0-7 in BCS bowls and Faculty Soccer Playoff semifinals.
Notre Dame (10-2) nonetheless seems to be a great distance from its first nationwide championship since 1988. A novel 2020 season through which the Irish completed unbeaten within the common season by means of a one-year lease as an ACC convention member led to the identical uncomfortable territory: double-barrel losses to Clemson (10-1) within the ACC championship recreation and Alabama (12-0) within the Faculty Soccer Playoff semifinal.
Goal Notre Dame as a big-game fraud if that is your factor. The Crimson Tide beat Notre Dame 42-14 within the 2013 BCS championship recreation, and the Tigers beat the Irish 30-3 within the Cotton Bowl semifinal in 2018. These are high-visibility losses on the game’s greatest stage. Notre Dame stays one of the polarizing manufacturers within the sport, and the simplest one to tag as overrated.
The identical tag might apply for any program not named Alabama, Clemson or Ohio State. That is the issue: The Crimson Tide, Tigers and Buckeyes have mixed for a 108-7 document since 2018.
Notre Dame is 33-5 in the identical stretch. That is the fourth-best document within the FBS amongst Energy 5 faculties. Oklahoma (33-6), Georgia (31-7) and LSU (30-8) — which upset the institution with a magical CFP championship outdoors these three groups final season — are the opposite Energy 5 faculties with at the least 30 wins in that stretch.
Appalachian State (33-6) and Cincinnati (31-6) — which had a legit Playoff argument however lost to Georgia in the Peach Bowl on Friday — are the Group of 5 faculties with 30 or extra wins. They will not be within the CFP until there’s an eight-team setup.
None of these applications is a fraud. Notre Dame, like everyone else, merely is not on the extent of Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State. The Irish cannot be solely blamed when there wasn’t a superb reply at No. 4 in 2020.
That is the irritating problem for Irish coach Brian Kelly, who is not incorrect when he says the Irish are constructing a mannequin that is better-designed to problem the superstore applications. Notre Dame is a authentic top-five program in a three-team sport.
The Irish made progress towards that purpose in 2020. They beat Clemson 47-40 in a double-overtime thriller in November, albeit with out Clemson star quarterback Trevor Lawrence taking part in for the Tigers. Ian Guide leaves Notre Dame as the varsity’s all-time chief in wins. Working again Kyren Williams and tight finish Michael Mayer are among the many NFL-ready items the following quarterback can construct round. The All-Americans are there on the entrance seven on either side now.
The Irish have a gifted workforce, however that is not sufficient.
Alabama made that clear with landing drives on three of their 4 first-half possessions. They got here with an exhibition of flawless execution on offense. Mac Jones hit 12 of his first 13 passes. DeVonta Smith scored twice earlier than halftime. By the point Najee Harris landed from his hurdle of Notre Dame defensive back Nick McCloud, you knew how this was going to prove.
The Irish did not have an opportunity. However, severely, what about everyone else?
LSU gained it final 12 months with a one-of-kind season from Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow, however the Tigers completed 5-5 this season and took a self-imposed bowl ban.
Oklahoma, subsequent 12 months’s challenger-in-waiting, is 0-4 in semifinal matchups.
Oregon is the one Pac-12 that has gained a semifinal recreation, and that was in opposition to Florida State within the inaugural Playoff recreation. Cincinnati misplaced within the Peach Bowl to two-loss Georgia, a program nonetheless on the lookout for its first nationwide championship since 1980.
Neither the Bearcats nor Bulldogs would have crushed Alabama on this stage, or a quarterfinal stage. No. 5 Texas A&M, the primary ream out, misplaced 52-24 to Alabama within the common season. USC, Penn State, Michigan, Florida and Auburn aren’t there but. both.
There may be your reply: The issue is Notre Dame is the perfect challenger, even if you wish to label them a fraud.
The Irish stay the perfect reply because the fourth-best program in faculty soccer — they usually will not make that leap till they’ll beat Ohio State, Clemson or Alabama in a bowl recreation. Together with this 12 months’s ACC championship recreation, Notre Dame is 0-6 in opposition to these faculties within the postseason because the begin of the BCS period.
Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State have created a expertise hole from everybody else, one that will not be solved instantly by enlargement to eight groups. It will likely be solved by means of recruiting, and an extended recreation of catch-up. Kelly continues to be taking part in that lengthy recreation, and he sees it for what it’s.
In that sense, consider it or not, the Irish are forward of the competitors.