Brian Kelly finally got the monkey off his back and pulled off a win in Stanford. He also wrapped up another 10 win season making it three in a row. A great stretch that any fan base should be proud of, but has anything changed?
Kelly in year 10
Brian Kelly is one of the many things the fan base doesn’t agree on. If you look back at some of my earlier articles you’ll see I have defended Brian Kelly. That is starting to change.
It seems strange to be upset with another 10 win season and continued recruiting success . It wasn’t that long ago we were in a fan hell watching Charlie Weis run this program into the ground. Notre Dame is nationally relevant again and Brian Kelly is consistently keeping them in the top 15. With that said, the more things continue to change the more they stay the same.
Big game Struggles
Notre Dame played two top 15 teams and lost to both. The Georgia loss was a tough loss and Notre Dame had a chance to win the game at the end. However, the season lost it’s luster once Michigan ran them off the field in October.
This was yet another example of a Brian Kelly team failing to show up in a major game. Blame it on the weather, being an away game, or say Michigan was a better team; that was a game Notre Dame was fully capable of winning.
Notre Dame was in play for another playoff appearance or at the very least a NY6 bowl game. Now the Fighting Irish are looking forward to a likely Camping World Bowl.
Good teams come out flat all the time in college football. Getting 18-22 year old kids mentally and physically prepared over an entire season is tough to do. Notre Dame also plays very few cupcakes so it’s tough getting them at peak performance and healthy every week. Experiencing the highs and lows of a season are expected. Unfortunately, with Brian Kelly you can bet the house that Notre Dame will fail to show up in a big game. A ranked team at night and on the road is almost a guaranteed loss. 10 wins is a great achievement but maybe asking Notre Dame to beat opponents of equal talent is to much to ask. Or maybe after 10 years we can ask for the next step.
Failure to Develop a QB
I know plenty of you will scoff at this one but you have to look past the initial stat line. On the surface, Ian Book had a solid season and even some huge games. 16 touchdowns over his last four games is another great stat to point out. That is until you look at his play against better opponents.
|169.5 yards a game||1||.5|
|213 yards a game||1.7||.57|
There is nothing special about those numbers. This was also a Notre Dame team that couldn’t run the ball consistently most of the season and needed to rely more on the passing game. Just to show why his stats at the surface look solid, here is his stats against teams with a losing record.
|259 yards a game||4.2||.4|
The first argument against this would be stats will drop against better teams. Obviously that is true and needs to be taken into consideration. However a dip is expected, a massive drop off is not.
Book had 73 yards passing against Michigan and had only 165 yards passing in both USC and Virginia. He didn’t see a dip in stats, he disappeared. So who is to blame?
You can put blame on Book or maybe point to Tommy Rees, both probably deserve some. Maybe even Chip Long should get some blame but one thing has stayed constant over Brian Kelly’s tenure. Brian Kelly has remained the only constant and Ian Book is just in a long line of quarterbacks failing to develop in year two.
Talented quarterbacks keep coming to Notre Dame and they end up leaving with disappointing careers and what could have been. Maybe a hot take, but Notre Dame was better than Clemson last season. The one area that Clemson was far greater was QB. If you flipped the quarterbacks during that game Notre Dame would have won. The Fighting Irish were able to find running lanes and move the ball. Julian Love went down and the offense couldn’t score then everything fell apart.
Golson, Zaire, Kizer, Wimbush and Book. The list is growing and a new crop of potential talent is coming in. Notre Dame keeps getting better except in big games and developing their QB. this is the best it can get.
10 years and we continue on with the same results. Kelly deserves praise for the way he pulled Notre Dame back into being relevant. He also has a proven track record that he won’t take the next step.
I know questions arise with asking what direction Notre Dame should go. You can’t just fire a coach coming off three straight 10+ win seasons. Except you can.
Georgia fired Mark Richt after a decade plus of only one losing season and multiple 10+ win seasons. Richt had Georgia in the mix and relevant. Kirby Smart was able to go a step further and get to the playoff and a championship game.
Pushing Kelly out the door for someone like PJ Fleck would end in disaster. But a few big names are available with the history of winning and this job is a lot more appealing versus 10 years ago.
Firing Kelly without an answer would start this process all over again. That would just turn Notre Dame into Nebraska after firing Bo Pelini. Finding a right fit would be the only way Notre Dame could pull a similar move to Georgia with Mark Richt. The right guy’s are out there but Notre Dame will play it safe as they stay very good instead of being great.
Started Saturday Tailgate in 2018. I have covered college football since 2017, wrote for Saturday Tailgate and Fansided. Covering all things Big 12 from recruiting to opinions on the best conference in college football.