Good enough to make it to the big game but not good enough to compete. That has been the narrative that has plagued Notre Dame after getting blown out in all of their BCS NY6 bowl games. Losing them by an average of 24 points ad their closest game was a 14 point loss. So is this the best Notre Dame can be? Is this Notre Dame’s ceiling?
Notre Dame recruits very well and their last few classes were 13, 13, 11, 11. Top 15 classes are what every coach wants but Notre Dame is trying to play with the best in the country. Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State pull in top five classes year after year. Notre Dame can’t seem to snag the five star stud players that the rest of the elite teams get year after year.
Coaching can help a player develop and grow to be elite, but getting the best players in the country speed up that process. Brian Kelly has struggled during his entire career to entice the five star players to go to Notre Dame. Until Notre Dame can pull in a few top five classes, this is what they are destined to be.
I have long been a defender of Brian Kelly. The 4-8 year was tough to swallow but he has bounced back. Kelly pulled off three, 10 win seasons since then. But as much as I defend him, he does have his flaws and it typically is the big games throughout his career. This season I think he has grown as a coach for a few reasons but still can’t get over the hump.
The Clemson game was bad but Notre Dame gets two bad breaks and totally changed the outcome. Getting the fumble overturned and losing Julian Love for almost a half were a killer to Notre Dame. I’m not saying they would have won but that takes it from a blowout to Notre Dame losing a close game to a great team. Everyone said all year that it was Alabama and Clemson, then there was everyone else. Now Notre Dame loses to what everyone claims is a team head and shoulders above the rest and Notre Dame gets dragged. The loss was bad, the team and Kelly choked but also look at Clemson and remember what they were going into this game.
Brian Kelly is a high end coach when looking at college football. Of the 130 teams, he has the Fighting Irish competitive and usually ranked yearly. He also beat LSU the last two times they played in bowl games. Kelly deserves blame for the reason Notre Dame isn’t winning National Championships but he also makes Notre Dame fun. How many teams can say they have made a playoff and had multiple 10 win seasons over the last few years?
This is Likely the Ceiling and That is Fine
Everyone wants wins and National Championships. For what Notre Dame is and with Kelly running this team, a National Championship is unlikely. I hate watching other teams win while Notre Dame is on the sideline. But I do enjoy watching a team that is in the mix year after year. Notre Dame doesn’t pull in the recruiting classes and they struggle to compete with the top end talent. This isn’t 1988 anymore and Notre Dame doesn’t have the same kind of power. Everyone gets on TV now so the NBC deal isn’t as big as it once was. You also try to sell kids on history and legacy but none of them are old enough to remember it. Most of these recruits grew up during the Charlie Weis era. The days when Nick Saban and Urban Meyer were ruling college football. Notre Dame also makes you go to class. Imagine Alabama suspending Tua over a midterm.
Notre Dame is a special school with a storied past. But just like Nebraska or Michigan, they can’t recapture that magic. This is Notre Dame’s ceiling. It doesn’t mean they will be stuck in irrelevancy for ever, but dreams of a title are unlikely. At the end of the day, it could be a lot worse. Notre Dame’s ceiling is 10+ win seasons and big bowl games. Kelly just needs to find a way to win one.
Started Saturday Tailgate in 2018. Covering all things college football and talking Notre Dame on Twitter.