What if that was the real headline at the end of the season? I know. Too optimistic, right? It’s highly unlikely.
The odds are Notre Dame will be lucky to finish the season 6-6. Some are saying they’ll be lucky to even beat Army. However, if this prediction comes true, I will be known as the smartest man alive.
For this reason, I’m going to play the role of devil’s advocate. Or in this case, Touchdown Jesus’ advocate.
The Fighting Irish’s lackluster season is rapidly coming to an end. In Brian Kelly’s first season at Notre Dame they have failed to show the change that he promised, or even given hope to the Irish faithful that this change is coming.
Injuries and lack of talent got in the way. Maybe the expectations were too high to begin with. Notre Dame has shown, on occasion, that they can play with better teams, as was the case against Michigan State. They’ve also shown, on occasion, that they cannot. It appeared against Stanford and Navy that ND wasn’t even in the same league.
Poor production and poor coaching strategy on multiple occasions have halted hope that the Irish will finish the season with any respect. It is still the hope of all Golden Domers that with only three games remaining, Kelly and the Irish have learned from these mistakes and will show their true ability.
One game at a time.
That is how ND must play the remainder of their schedule. Don’t look back. They can’t do anything about the losses to lesser teams, or the poor play calls or strategy of the past season. All they can do is their best to show some discipline and that they’ve learned something from this less than average season.
Some would say that is too much to ask, and they are done for the season. Too many issues. Too many injuries. Too many times to get our hopes up, just to get let down.
Maybe the deep routed tradition has blinded me to the fact that this team isn’t very good. Or maybe I’ve just tried to take a pragmatic view of the season as a whole.
Minor play calls and major changes in coaching strategy would have altered the outcome of multiple games. Coming close does not give you victories, but it gives hope that a positive change can still be made.
Test one of three will come on Saturday as the Utes come to South Bend to face ND on senior day.
I give Utah credit for the season they’ve had so far. They have a high scoring team and had some impressive margins of victory. But who have they played? They play one of the weakest schedules of any ranked team.
Some are predicting that Utah will bounce back and come out with something to prove after a humiliating loss against TCU. A couple weeks ago I predicted the opposite. I said that Utah would come in to this Saturday’s game completely beat up and worn down. The first time they play a good team all year and they get dominated.
Test two will come against Army at a neutral site in New York.
Many are uneasy about this game due to Army running a similar offense as Navy. This isn’t the same team. Army is improving, but they haven’t come close to perfecting this offense. Although ND made Navy look like football Gods a few weeks ago, they shouldn’t have lost the way they did. One can only hope that Kelly and team have a better grasp of how to defend this type of offense the second time around.
And then there is USC. The Trojans have definitely had ND’s number for the past decade. Some of the biggest Irish victories were actually losses to USC.
I think this game will be much harder than the one coming this weekend against Utah.
I think a big deciding factor to the Irish finishing the season with a victory will come this weekend.
If Notre Dame chooses to stink it up against the Utes, it doesn’t leave much hope for a victory against a much better USC team. Luckily for the Irish, this is a down season for USC. With three losses already, and potentially another one coming this weekend against Arizona, this hasn’t been USC’s year.
This will surely be a test for the Irish to show what kind of intestinal fortitude they have left in the tank.
With every game that goes by, the uncertainty grows. With every loss, the burden of change becomes greater.
This season hasn’t gone the way of the Irish.
The questions are still unanswered and Irish eyes will be watching this weekend—possibly with one hand over them—to see if they will have anything to cheer about.
This advocate of Touchdown Jesus can only wait to see the headlines.