*Note: There is no teleconference with Brian Kelly today.
The Final Chapter
This storybook season started with a never-in-doubt home win over Michigan.
The next two weeks were shaky, in which the Notre Dame Fighting Irish struggled mightily to overcome lesser opponents in the Ball State Cardinals and the Vanderbilt Commodores. A combined score of 46-33 in those two games left a sour taste in the mouth of the Irish collective.
Enter: Ian Book. The new starting quarterback would lead the Irish to three straight victories over Wake Forest, Stanford, and Virginia Tech. The average score of these three games was 46-22, as opposed to the 22-17 average over the first three games.
The Irish would cool off a bit over the next two games - against Pitt (19-14) and Navy (44-22). These were not a pair of games that instilled confidence, but they were games that kept the ship moving in the right direction, so to speak.
The next three games included a 31-21 victory over #19 Northwestern and a 36-3 shellacking of #20 Syracuse, with a thorough domination of Florida State (in which Brandon Wimbush took over) sandwiched in between.
Then, it was USC week. A 24-17 victory, after trailing 10-0, is a positive. It wasn’t a win that instills confidence, per se, but it was one that nearly guarantees the Irish will be in the playoffs. Not to mention it was a victory over the USC Trojans, which is always welcome.
This season has come in many chapters.
Started wonderfully, it took a winding road - both literally and figuratively - to reach this point.
Brian Kelly managed his second undefeated season in the last six as the head coach at Notre Dame. While he has been far from perfect, this is a huge accomplishment and a massive step in the right direction for a program so popularly deemed “irrelevant” and “outdated” by outsiders.
But the job is not finished for Brian Kelly and his team.
The story is not complete.
One last chapter awaits this football team.
Ian Book will likely lead this team into a Playoff Semifinal, and the popular narrative will be Brian Kelly’s shortcomings in big games. The regular season tilts with the Clemson Tigers in 2015 or Georgia and Miami in 2017, the Fiesta Bowl against Ohio State in 2015, and the National Championship versus the Alabama Crimson Tide in 2013.
This will be the mantra of the doubters.
If the Irish are to make this a true storybook season, they must silence the critics with their performance. But until then, we will just have to wait.
On to the final chapter.