Notre Dame is sitting in a great position coming off the bye week and having Ohio State fall. Without playing a game they moved up to number three in the polls and strengthen their grip on a playoff spot. Looking at the rest of their games, the Irish will be a favorite in each one and seem primed for their first playoff appearance.
With another National Championship run seeming plausible, I thought I would look at the comparisons with the 2012 team. While some things stayed consistent, others couldn’t be more different.
The 2012 season was one that was surprising to say the least. Going into Kelly’s third year, Notre Dame started the season unranked and had Everett Golson playing QB, getting his first start in Ireland week one against Navy.
The Irish were led by Manti Teo and had the number one ranked defense in the country only allowing 10 points per game. Golson was a game manager with a few bright spots while the rushing attack led the way. The combination of Theo Riddick, Geroge Atkinson and Cierre Wood led a strong ground game and is where they made up most of their yards that season.
Notre Dame has surprised most of the country but I think most fans could see this coming. After a strong season last year, it wasn’t unthinkable that the Irish would be undefeated at this point.
Notre Dame currently has the 21st ranked defense allowing 18 points per game and they’re led by a strong defensive line. The defense as a whole has been one of the best in the country and Notre Dame has leaned on them all season to get to where they are.
On offense it has become the Ian Book show with Dexter Williams added in. They also have running backs Jafar Armstrong and Tony Jones getting reps when they have been healthy. Book has been incredibly efficient and shown when he struggles, he can build off it and make adjustments in game.
Every Notre Dame fan remembers 2012 and has been watching this season. The point of the quick recap was to show that while things have changed, they haven’t really changed.
Notre Dame still has a rotation of running back and a strong defense to lead the way. Most of the games are low scoring and grind them out wins that Brian Kelly seems to love so much. But while there are a lot of similarities, it is a few key differences that make this 2018 team special.
Ian Book is better then Everett Golson was, not even a debate. Golson was incredibly similar to Wimbush in his ability to be mobile but struggled with decision making and throwing the ball. Book is a far superior thrower and not nearly as mobile, but he can run when needed. While the 2012 team was a run first and second team, in 2018 the run complements the pass. Book is able to move the ball through the air and keep the offense humming.
We have seen when the passing attack seems to struggle, the rushing attack can pick up the slack and keep the offense going in the right direction. The offense still seems to disappear at times but this is a team with a running back, QB and an offensive lineman that weren’t starters a few weeks ago. The offense will continue to improve as the season moves along.
With that said, these two offenses really are not to similar. In 2018, the Irish offense is superior as a group but lacks the star power. There is no Zack Martin or Tyler Eifert helping lead the way. This 2018 group works as a unit a lot better to make up for the household names. With Alex Bars done for the year, it is tough to point out a clear cut stud on this offense.
While the offense may be better in 2018, the defense doesn’t quite match up. Again the defense doesn’t quite have the star power as the 2012 team was loaded all over the field. Manti Teo, Stephan Tuitt, Prince Shembo, Matthis Farley and Kapron Lewis-Moore were all household names and had some time in the NFL. 2018 Notre Dame has a good core with Julian Love and Jerry Tillery but they don’t quite have the same talent. Even the stats are better in 2012 and that Irish team played three ranked opponents by week 7, five total on the year.
While the defense isn’t as good and having a better offense, it seems fair to say that 2018 is a better team as a whole. The offense can get the job done and are more reliable with Ian Book at QB. They don’t have the big names but they do have a defensive line that may be the best in the country. Add in the fact that the linebacking core is also an incredibly talented unit and its the makings of a great defense. I’ll also toss in that the 2012 special teams were atrocious.
Top to bottom this looks like Kelly’s best team since he arrived in South Bend. Some spots are not as strong as in years past but he has this team playing confident and winning in big spots. Since his 4-8 season he has made massive strides to turn it all around. He deserves credit for putting this team together and giving them a real shot at a National Championship.
Let us know what you think below. Is this team better then 2012? Do they have a real shot at beating Alabama at seasons end?
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.