1 – Searching for Satisfaction: There are myriad theories regarding what makes for a successful season for Notre Dame football. Considering the expectation that 13 games will be played, I think it’s fair to say 10 wins is not only acceptable, but a minimum number, as a 9-4 finish equates to college football purgatory.
As longtime Notre Dame football chronicler Lou Somogyi has offered, annually finishing undefeated at home is certainly a reasonable goal. I’d submit so too is winning a game as an underdog, as the opportunity presents in nearly every campaign including all of them dating back to 1992 when Lou Holtz’s 10-1-1 Irish were favored in all 12 contests.
I have at least a half-dozen more criteria to ultimately define a season as successful or otherwise. Included are such elements as winning rivalry games, never being out of a game until the final whistle, going undefeated in September, winning a marquee night game, etc.
But in terms of simply being a fan and enjoying the product on the field, consider this for the recent past and future:
If Notre Dame is in the running for the college football playoffs entering November, i.e., undefeated or with a loss but ranked in or near the Top 10, the season is generally enjoyable for the majority of the fan base.
In the last 30 years, the following seasons fit: 1987, 88, 89, 90, 91, 92, 93, 98, 2000, 2002, 2005, 2006, 2012, 2014, and 2015. Only ’87, ’02, and ’14 ended in an unacceptable manner.
If Notre Dame is 8-0 (of course) or 7-1 entering a soft November slate, the 2016 season will likely have been enjoyed by the Irish masses.
2 – Searching for Symbiosis: I can’t shake the belief that if Notre Dame is to be “special” in 2016, head coach Brian Kelly must find a way to harness and utilize the talents of both DeShone Kizer and Malik Zaire on a weekly (or close to it) basis. They’re two of the 10 most talented players on a roster that needs its offense to carry the day.
I know the oft-referenced Music City Bowl was a one-off situation, and that massaging the egos and emotions of proud triggermen such as Kizer and Zaire won’t be easy, but wasting one of them on clipboard duty does not seem prudent.
I know the pitfalls of a two quarterback system, but I also know that Notre Dame Football 2016 is headed for nine-win purgatory if Kelly can’t pull off a quarterback-coaching coup.
And look at it this way: one of the Kizer/Zaire combo won’t play in South Bend in 2017 anyway. So no hard(er) feelings…
3 – Home is Where the Hardship Is: Speaking of Kelly, kudos to the coach for restoring a modicum of order in South Bend.
Though two undefeated home football seasons over six years isn’t great, it’s far better than anything the TWENTY SEASONS preceding his hiring offered, a two-decade span in which only Bob Davie (1998) managed to turn the trick and win all of his games in the House that Rockne Built (that includes the final seven seasons of the Holtz era if you’re scoring at home).
To do so this season, Kelly will have to win the following:
-- Two true toss-ups: Michigan State and Stanford, and both serve as modern era archrivals.
-- Two tough outs: Miami and Virginia Tech. Talent and quality coaching abounds on both sides of the field in these matchups.
-- An obvious trap: Or to quote my son Declan, “A tricky trap.” Duke – a program with an identical W-L record to Notre Dame dating back to and including 2012 – looms.
-- One break in the action (Nevada).
That’s not an easy 6-0 for many Irish teams in recent memory.
4 – Way-too-early predictions: Four Horseman Lounge subscriber “ILoveCleveland” offered fun off-season fodder for the message board this week: (Click here).
I’ve offered my preliminary answers to such questions as “I hope I’m wrong, but…” and “the best player nobody is talking about is…” You can do the same by clicking the link above.
As an aside, if ILoveCleveland thinks no one is talking about Shaun Crawford, he needs to read more Irish Illustrated…
5 – Forfeiture of Veto Power? My wife Christy rappelled down a mountain during a wilderness vacation last week. One of my life’s desires (I wouldn’t call it a goal, but something I’ve always wanted to try) is to parachute out of an airplane.
Since our first child was born in 2010, my wife has attempted to exercise veto power over any parachuting event. But I think her presence on the side of a mountain last week negates that voice.
What say you?
6 – Official Prediction of the Week: If you’re scoring at home, here are the summer’s first four installments:
|The Team’s TD Leader|
|Defensive Big Play Makers|
|Close and Late|
-- Today’s prediction: Notre Dame’s longest winning streak this fall will be…five games.
Last season’s official prediction of a six-game winning streak actually hit. Let’s hope more than one five-game winning streak presents in ‘16.
7 – Game 7, that is: I’ve offered a few NBA Playoff-centric musings over the last month, from “take the Cav’s to win it all” to “Steph Curry is better at his job than anyone else is at anything” to “Watch OKC/Golden State and you’ll love (playoff) pro basketball again.”
I can’t stress that last one enough. Tune in tonight at 9pm ET for the most exciting game situation of the last 15 NBA seasons. And of course, a prediction:
The reeling Thunder will come to play but fall short in the final three minutes.
8 – The Best of the Best: I think reasonable Notre Dame football minds can agree on the following Kelly Era top dogs:
QB – Everett Golson 2012 or DeShone Kizer 2015
WR – Will Fuller or Mike Floyd
TE – Tyler Eifert
RB – C.J. Prosise 2015, Jonas Gray 2011
OT – Zack Martin 2010-13
OG – Chris Watt 2011-13
C – Nick Martin 2015
DE – Stephon Tuitt 2012
DT/NT – Louis Nix 2012
MLB – Manti Te’o 2012
WLB/OLB – Jaylon Smith 2015
Cat/Rush End: Prince Shembo 2012
S – Harrison Smith 2010-11 or Zeke Motta 2012
CB – Robert Blanton 2011 (it’s not close, by the way)
Why is the above relevant?
Who, other than perhaps the quarterback of choice, do you see on the 2016 Irish infiltrating that select group?
Until next week, Irish fans…