The Notre Dame Fighting Irish are 6-0 for the first time since 2012 after going on the road and beating the Virginia Tech Hokies, 45-23. Despite the 22 point victory, it was a tough win for the Irish. They proved a lot to the country and to themselves, and in the process they have reset what can be expected in terms of a college football playoff run.
Your hangover can’t focus, and as such, it provides a much more macro view of the results from Saturday night.
BRIAN KELLY IS A PHOENIX
Look... about this time two years ago, I was absolutely done with Brian Kelly. Notre Dame wasn’t just losing, but they were losing in ridiculous fashion. The “Hurricane game” was the last straw, and after that game I was fully in the “Fire Kelly” camp. How you you not be?
Without giving a full-throated slaying of what Kelly had done at Notre Dame in his first 7 years on the job, I’ll just say that once it was clear that Kelly was going to return in 2017 — I decided to just roll with it.
Unless you’re Nick Saban, or Dabo Sweeney, or Jimbo Fisher or [insert national championship coach] going 4-8 with a ridiculous amount of talent is a fireable offense. Kelly wasn’t fired, and since then end of the 2016 season, Notre Dame is 16-3 with wins over USC, Michigan, Stanford, LSU, Michigan State, and now Virginia Tech.
That’s a .842 winning percentage. If Notre Dame does what many expect, and win out the regular season, that would make the Irish 22-3 over the last 25 games for a .880 winning percentage.
It hasn’t been perfect, but Brian kelly has risen from the ashes of the 2016 season and has totally reshaped the Notre Dame football program. It finally looks more like something from our last real return to glory instead of some weird knock-off. There’s still a long way to go this season, but Brian Kelly has a chance to completely change his legacy at Notre Dame — and would be the first to ever have done so.
THE DYNAMIC DUO OF IAN BOOK AND DEXTER WILLIAMS
Much has been made about what Ian Book has done for the Irish since he became the starter at quarterback. Obviously the Notre Dame offense is far more efficient in its last three games as opposed to its first three games. The style and direction of the offense has changed dramatically as well, and instead of waiting on a big play to happen — plays just keep happening.
Another difference in the offense, is the return of Dexter Williams. For most of the offseason I kept saying that Notre Dame just needs to survive its first four games, and then they will be able to go full throttle with its most explosive offensive weapon.
In his first two games, Dexter has ran for an average of 170 yards and 2 touchdowns a game. Those performances came against Top 25 teams — not some random MAC team or whatever.
As good as Ian Book is, Dexter Williams makes him that much better by being on the field. Without Williams, who knows what happens in Blacksburg. That 97 yard touchdown run was the spark that lit the fire for Notre Dame, and I’m not sure there is anyone else on the roster that could do something like that.
A 5 CENT PART TO FIX A 100 DOLLAR PROBLEM
Perhaps the biggest problem from Saturday night was the way Virginia Tech was able to exploit Notre Dame’s defense in the passing game. On a lot of downs that should have saw a nickel back come in for Asmar Bilal, Notre Dame kept its base defense in play. In doing so, the Hokies created some mismatches that they capitalized on numerous times.
The loss of Shaun Crawford in the preseason was met with mostly a dull sound from fans. I, on the other hand, got extremely worried about what Notre Dame would be able to do without its best (and only really) nickel back.
Nick Coleman hasn’t been the answer, and neither has freshman Houston Griffith. Notre Dame’s best option so far has been moving Julian Love to the nickel with Donte Vaughn taking his spot at corner, and that hasn’t worked that great either.
The defense has been incredible, and is still allowing less than 20 points a game so I can understand people not being overly concerned. Asmar Bilal has also been really good this season too, so don’t get confused with the message here. The truth, however, is that the pressure is only going to get worse each week, and teams like Syracuse and USC could potentially exploit this weakness (the nickel) further. If the offense goes a bit cold on the same day — we could be in for a heart attack.