There’s no sugar coating this one Irish fans:
Notre Dame has lost three consecutive *true road games and a stunning six of its last eight in enemy stadiums dating back to the outset of the 2013 season.
To rub salt in that gaping wound, the two teams Notre Dame has beaten since exiting the Los Angeles Coliseum turf at 12-0 in November 2012 are a 1-11 Purdue squad and and 2-10 Air Force team from 2013.
(*The Irish posted a 6-0 neutral site record over the last two seasons.)
What happened to Kelly’s merciless road warriors of 2012?
The program’s diminishing road returns are a surprise to most – or at least to me – but there’s a silver lining, at least one contained within this column:
That is, the Irish will right their road ship this fall, which brings us to Prediction No. 12 in our summer series – Notre Dame will finish 4-1 on the road in 2015.
TURNING THE TIDE?
Kelly’s not alone in his recent road woes as Notre Dame head coach. Only seven Irish squads since Ara Parseghian’s national title team of 1973 have escaped a season’s road slate unscathed:
Joining Kelly’s 2012 Irish on this too-short list are Gerry Faust’s 7-5 squad of 1984 (curiously 4-0 in true road games), Lou Holtz’s 1988, 1990, 1992, and 1993 edition Irish (aggregate overall record an absurd 45-3-1!), and Charlie Weis’ initial squad of 2005 that finished 9-3.
Kelly’s true road results to date are as follows:
2010 (2-1): Wins over Boston College and USC followed the infamous Little Giants loss in overtime at Michigan State. The Irish also finished 2-1 in neutral site games during Kelly’s debut season, beating Army and Miami while losing to Navy.
2011 (3-2): Winning at Pittsburgh, Purdue, and Wake Forest while losing at Michigan and Stanford. The squad finished 1-1 in neutral site outings, beating Maryland and losing Florida State.
2012 (4-0): The sterling season featured three epic season-changing road wins against Michigan State, Oklahoma, and USC plus a business-like November victory at Boston College. The Irish finished 2-1 in neutral games, destroying Navy and Miami and feeling the wrath of Alabama.
Kelly’s road effort in 2012 is unmatched at the program dating back to least 1990 when Holtz’s Irish won at #24 Michigan State (the Immaculate Deflection), Pittsburgh in prime time, #9 Tennessee, and #18 USC.
2013 (2-3): Road losses include trips to Michigan, Pittsburgh, and Stanford with a road escape at an awful Purdue team and a bundling of Air Force. The Irish were 2-0 in neutral site games including a quality win over Arizona State.
2014 (0-3): Notre Dame’s first true road game occurred in mid October in Tallahassee. That disputed defeat was far different than a pair of ensuing road humblings at the hands of Arizona State and USC. The Irish finished 4-0 in neutral site contests last fall.
Add it up and Kelly’s true road record is 11-9 with an 11-3 mark in neutral contests (23-8 in South Bend).
A November 21 matchup with Boston College in Fenway Park is considered a Notre Dame home game at a neutral site. The Irish will don a (gaudy) version of their home uniforms four miles the Eagles campus in Chestnut Hill.
Thus, on tap for 2015 are road trips to Virginia, Clemson (holy cow), Temple, Pittsburgh, and Stanford.
The Irish have never set foot in Charlottesville’s Scott Stadium, haven’t visited Death Valley since a 1978 triumph, will make their first visit to Temple’s “home” stadium, Lincoln Financial Field, are 1-2 in their last three trips to Heinz Field, and haven’t won on The Farm since 2007.
They’ll be listed as solid favorites, slight underdogs, solid favorites, slight favorites, and slight underdogs, respectively.
Can Kelly’s Irish finish 5-0 after a 0-3 performance in 2014? It seems unlikely, but 4-1 might suffice, at least if the Irish can protect the House that Rockne Built.
I’m unsure if an undefeated mark will be part of Notre Dame’s home or road slate in 2015 – if pressed to make a decision, I doubt it – but I do expect the Irish to turn around their recent road woes, finishing a strong 4-1 after struggling mightily in enemy territory over the last two seasons.
Prediction #11 – Avoiding the Double Dip?
Prediction #10 – Will They Protect This House?
Prediction #9 – Let’s Go Streaking
Prediction #8 – The Annual Slugfest
Prediction #7 – Light ‘Em Up
Prediction #6 – The Stubbed Toe
Prediction #5 – Sophomore Sacker
Prediction #4 – Close and Late
Prediction #3 – When September Ends
Prediction #2 – Where There’s a Will
Prediction #1 – The Playmaker