Notre Dame Fighting Irish fans have been holding on to the hope that a National Championship will be coming to the Irish soon. 2012 and 2018 were steps in the right direction, but it was clear that the Irish weren’t there yet....Enter the 2020 season. Things are different and there are factors outside of just talent that work in Notre Dame’s favor... things that can actually bridge that talent gap. I am not predicting a National Championship, but outlining WHY 2020 is the best chance they’ve had in a while, and could be the best chance they have for a while.
Reason 1: ACC Schedule
Moving to the ACC temporarily gives them an immediately easier schedule. They lose an always dangerous USC and competitive Stanford. They also don’t face Wisconsin in a marquee matchup or another competent big 10 foe. Most importantly, they keep their biggest game of the year, Clemson Tigers, and could have the opportunity for redemption later in the year should they lose in South Bend. That redemption could come in the form of the ACC title game, which they may never have again. Joining the ACC eliminates the argument of “no conference championship” which personally is total BS. I generally view it as a competitive game as opposed to scheduling Little Sisters of the Poor in Oct... but please tell me why Clemson beating the Virginia Cavaliers 62-17 or Ohio State beating Northwestern is so grand.
Reason 2: Stable Coaching Staff
Without Spring, a stable coaching staff and an existing system in place is critical for 2020. I can’t imagine trying to install a new offense or defense under these conditions. Brian Kelly, Tom(my) Rees, and Clark Lea have been around the program and seem to have a good pulse on their team. They also have been supportive of their players wanting to play and outspoken regarding their social justice actions. The ability to listen, empathize, and act with your players during these times is instrumental, and brings teams closer amidst struggle. Finally, this coaching staff may not be together much longer with Lea being one of the hottest coordinators in the country.
Reason 3: Ian Book and the Offensive Line
Having a veteran team is important, but returning your entire offensive line and third year starting quarterback is INSANE. That isn’t just for this wild year, but any year. Notre Dame isn’t returning a line that was garbage a year ago that you hope may improve, but a group who should be in the top 3 in the country. Ian Book has the experience, leadership, and should have the confidence to not be good, but a top 5 QB in the country. His level of play plus the speed around him should be better than ever. The offense has at least 5 guys off the top of my head that can take a slant 75 yards to the house, which is something Book has never had. (Chris Tyree, Braden Lenzy, Lawrence Keys III, Kevin Austin, Avery Davis). Experience is key and speed kills.
Reason 4: No Ohio State or (Insert Random Pac 12 Team)
The Ohio State Buckeyes are elite and there is no doubt about it. They have been recruiting and playing at an exceptional level and will be in contention for a playoff spot for the foreseeable future. I don’t think the Pac-12 will have a chance to win it all (unless USC gets their shit together), but they will always try to claim a spot in the playoff. With it just a numbers game, eliminating the Pac 12 and removing Ohio State provides a rare opportunity for the Irish. That on top of the SEC beating up on each other this year leaves the door open....
Reason 5: Rona
Obviously, all of this is because of the coronavirus. However, I think Notre Dame has proven that they are disciplined as a team. They also don’t go to a school that is the size of an SEC school and (don’t get mad at me here) generally doesn’t party like those schools. ND is a highly academic school and yes, college kids are college kids, but I don’t see the campus partying like Florida State, Auburn, Ole Miss etc.....All the other teams could be just as disciplined as the Irish, but the student body will also play a role this year, which is fascinating. Lastly, some top programs have top guys sitting out, which makes the road easier as Notre Dame doesn’t have any guys opting out so far.
Reason 6: Kyle Hamilton
Threw this in here because our friend Greg Flammang would point it out if we didn’t. But regardless, Kyle Hamilton is good... like really, really good you guys.
Reason 7: It’s Crisp Outside Today
There is a fall crisp in the air today and I woke up feeling good. Football is almost here. As always, Go Irish!