Lost in the loss that was Georgia, were some of the various takes and discussions on twitter: “Notre Dame played well”, “Notre Dame was impressive” (Kirk Herbstreit), “Notre Dame could still make the playoff”, was the fact that at three weeks into this season some have failed to recognize this Notre Dame team has some major flaws.
Look, I get it – injuries at the running back position, tough road game, etc., etc., etc, but the fact remains Notre Dame didn’t play very well. 12 penalties, a lost turnover battle, and an inability to run the ball is nothing to celebrate. How many times is Notre Dame going to come up small under big lights? Alabama, Miami, Georgia (Twice) now, Ohio State, Clemson. Yes this game was closer, but the fact remains Notre Dame struggles against elite competition.
I’m a huge Notre Dame fan, and while it pains me to say that – it is a true statement. I still think the Irish will probably go 10-2 and maybe even 11-1. However, I don’t think 11-1 gets this team to the playoff. USC and Michigan will likely have multiple losses as will Stanford. There just isn’t a signature win left on this schedule.
The Flip Side
I think some of the elation with Notre Dame among fans – was that the Irish were not blown out. That is disheartening, but perhaps a new normal among the fans. Maybe for some, simply competing with the elite teams is “good enough”. Another tired comment I heard was how crowded the stadium was in red, this was a reference to the number of Notre Dame fans that sold their tickets when Georgia played at Notre Dame. One thing to consider, look at the cost of season tickets to Alabama and Georgia vs. Notre Dame.
There are some ND fans “average joes” who sell a marquee game to offset the cost of a season ticket which is significantly higher than many other college football programs. In fact, at some major programs a season ticket is half of the cost of what Notre Dame charges. By the way, plenty of Georgia people also sold their tickets all you had to do was examine the secondary market to see that.
So here we are at 2-1 and facing a Virginia team that is really good. The biggest challenge for Notre Dame will be to refocus quickly, eliminate cost penalties, and find a semblance of a running game. Virginia is 4-0 with wins over Pitt and Florida State. They are the prohibitive favorite at this point to meet Clemson in the ACC Championship game. They also feature a good run defense and a very good coaching staff.
Notre Dame should absolutely be on upset alert on Saturday. My biggest question going forward is how will Notre Dame and Georgia move forward? I wonder if in November we will discuss two teams that met in September and were both overrated at the time? That is my suspicion as the calendar pushes towards October.