It came like a blur, an orange and purple clad fireball that destroyed the dreams of Notre Dame fans far and wide. I in no way, saw this one coming. The Cotton Bowl was supposed to be yet another rebirth of the Irish, and it ended with another 30-3 meltdown under the bright lights of the College Football Playoff.
Christmas came and what does Santa or perhaps the wife get any middle-aged man who has about everything he needs. To my delight I open boxes that feature a Cotton Bowl T-Shirt, an undefeated regular season T-Shirt, and an Under Armor box featuring a pair of beautiful green shoes complete with shamrocks. No need to worry about “shooting my eye out” with these. I’m ecstatic, and this feeling grows when my Commemorative Edition of the South Bend Tribune arrives. Later in the week, my daughter receives an autograph through the mail from a player. She is 6 but, it is hard to tell who is more excited.
3-3 at the end of the first quarter I feel pretty good. I’m concerned though, as the breaks do not seem to be aligning for the Irish (the fumble) and more importantly they simply cannot run the ball with any real consistency. My fears grow ten-fold when Julian Love leaves the game in the second quarter with a “mysterious” injury. In a flash it is 23-3 and the game is essentially over. The second half features more of the same, as Notre Dame moves the ball with difficulty but cannot finish drives. The season and the dreams of the Notre Dame faithful die a painful death as Clemson prevails 30-3.
The twitter comments are brutal and I briefly consider shutting down my page. I also have to be wary of how I respond which I don’t like, thus I simply to choose to ignore the negativity. This much I’m sure of. The NCAA picked the four most deserving teams based off of the criteria they use. I’m not sure that the NCAA picked the four best teams though, and this bothers me. However, I’m bolstered by the rest of the Bowls. UCF loses to a three loss LSU team that whipped Georgia. Ohio State has to hold off a three loss Washington team that won a really weak Pac-12 conference. Finally, in the surprise of the bowl season Kirby Smart’s two loss but otherwise” invincible” George Bulldogs lose the Sugar Bowl to a four loss Texas team. Notre Dame belonged in the playoff – end of story.
Alabama and Clemson
I’m convinced at this point and for this season, that college football consists of Alabama and Clemson and then everyone else in no particular order. Could Notre Dame give one of these two teams a game on the right day under perfect circumstances? Maybe? However, it is very likely that they would be just as easily blown out like they were in the Cotton Bowl. I believe this is true for everyone in the Top-10. Sobering.
You had me at Depth
At this point, I’m convinced that Notre Dame has nowhere near the depth to compete with Alabama or Clemson. Clemson lost an All-American defensive lineman for an entire game and seemingly did not miss a beat. Notre Dame on the other hand, lost Julian Love for a quarter and the wheels in the secondary fell off. Looking back, if Drue Tranquill had been out for the season after being hurt versus Navy, does this team even get to the Cotton Bowl? What if Dexter Williams had missed the entire season rather than four games?
Can Notre Dame Win a Title?
It isn’t Brian Kelly or what he has built. There is no doubt the players and the staff gave everything they had and probably more. Maybe the landscape of college football, in 2019 has changed too much for Notre Dame to ever be a contender year in and year out. Could Notre Dame win the title, maybe if everything broke perfectly. For example, in this season a win over Clemson and Oklahoma upsets Alabama. The Irish could probably match Oklahoma in a title game. However, for the Irish to win a National Championship in this day and age the scenario would have to be unlikely and perfect. Quite Sobering.