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Thursday, 9 October 2014

Is Notre Dame Living 2012 All Over Again In 2014?

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish, one of the nation’s most beloved and hated teams, are once again in the midst of what appears to be a magical season. The Irish went 12-0 in 2012 and reached the national title game for the first time in two decades. Here we are midway through the 2014 season and once again it appears that Notre Dame is repeating history from just two years ago.

The Fighting Irish went through the drama of having to dismiss star quarterback Everett Golson in 2013 because of academic issues. The year without Golson was an average one at best, but the Irish still managed to go 9-4 and win a bowl game.

This year with Golson back, so have the dreams of a national title run once again in 2014. The question is whether or not this if fool’s gold or if the Irish are a legit title contender in the first year of the College Football Playoff.

The Irish are currently 5-0 and just came off an incredible victory over a top 15 Stanford team at the time. Notre Dame now has to face an underachieving North Carolina team in South Bend this Saturday. This is a trap game for the Irish because of the fact the Tar Heels are not living up to expectations and even more so because the Irish have to go face the number one Florida State Seminoles the following weekend.

The Irish have been a threat to be taken serious ever since Brian Kelly took over five years ago. He has changed this program back to a respectable one and got them back to a national title level long before most expected him to.

He was defeated 42-14 in that national title game in 2012 to Alabama, but the fact they made it to the game with the schedule they had that season was amazing in itself. This year Notre Dame seems to be taken more serious and people realize 2012 wasn’t just a one year fluke situation.

Don’t get me wrong, I still don’t believe they compare to the top teams in the SEC West, but they are certainly on that next level right below them. So, will Notre Dame have what it takes to make the 2014 College Football Playoff?

Let’s take a look at their schedule for a minute.

They have seven games remaining entering this week seven and as I mentioned earlier the first two of those seven are North Carolina at home and then on the road against Florida State.

I believe they win against North Carolina and even have a shot at defeating a Florida State that has been less than impressive this year. The issue is the game is in Tallahassee and that could be the difference as it is in most of these big time games in college football.

They then close the season with Navy, @ Arizona State, home to Northwestern and Louisville, then close the season out at Southern California. This schedule is tougher than most in the country because of the fact Notre Dame is an independent.

You can say what you want to about Notre Dame, but they always have a tough schedule every year and I respect that to the upmost.

I believe the Irish lose at least one, if not two of these games, the remainder of the season. The question will be if they happen to go through this schedule finishing 11-1 could they still get a bid to the playoff. If you would have asked me before the season I wouldn’t have said yes, but after all the crazy upsets we saw last week I believe it is very possible it could happen.

We are only in week seven and basically every serious contender to make the playoffs this year already has a loss. The Irish have that strength of schedule component on their side more than 95% of the teams in FBS college football. It will be a tough grind navigating through that schedule, but if they do get by with only one loss it will reap huge benefits come season’s end.

So, the Irish are certainly a contender to make the final four and at this point it's a realistic possibility. It is still early in terms of their huge games remaining, but with Golson they have a shot at getting through this tough road with little damage.

The returns are still early on Notre Dame, but once again they appear to be on a magic carpet ride that could eventually land them in the first annual College Football Playoff. The journey is well underway and for Notre Dame Fans everywhere, it is a return back to the future once again.


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