A big victory on Saturday night against #24 Virginia Tech once again proved to the nation that Notre Dame is not messing around in 2018. With wins over Michigan to begin the season, now two consecutive weeks topping Stanford and Virginia Tech, the Fighting Irish have set themselves up very nicely to make a run for glory this coming January.
Judge a Book by His Rushers
Since taking over the reigns of the offense three weeks ago against vs. Wake Forest, Ian Book has accumulated 887 yards, 9 touchdowns and only thrown one interception, which came in last night’s victory over the Hokies.
Pair Book’s successes with a strong ground attack from Dexter Williams, Jafar Armstrong and Tony Jones Jr, the offense for the Irish is finally something to brag about. Fifteen rushing touchdowns from Book and company on the season including three from Williams on Saturday, and now a balanced attack has given this team the needed boost to achieve a 6-0 start.
South Bend… Don’t Break
Then add in a solid defensive crew that stopped Stanford dead in their tracks last week, made a close Michigan game never seem out of control for Notre Dame, and has forced as many turnovers as touchdowns they’ve allowed. Seven picks, four fumble recoveries, five passing touchdowns allowed and six on the ground.
Juniors Julian Love, Troy Pride Jr. and Jalen Elliott have the secondary locked down, and Jerry Tillery and Khalid Kareem have shredded offensive lines, combining for 10.5 sacks. That creates an easy job for linebackers like Drue Tranquill and Te’von Coney to wreak havoc on their assignments. Whether it’s making their presence felt in the backfield or in coverage, it’s Notre Dame football: of course their defense is their strong suit.
Well, They Can’t Go 4-8
A 6-0 start has created a buzz in South Bend. We’re two years removed from Brian Kelly’s colossal failure in 2016, failing to appear in a bowl game for the first time in his tenure at Notre Dame. Considering that Kelly can literally get away with murder and keep his job, it’s no surprise he was able to keep his job after just one bad year.
So just how far can this team go? It’s an assumed cakewalk of a schedule for the Irish the rest of the way unless you grew up an ND fan and are prepared to the heartbreak at the hands of Navy or USC. Hell, even a terrible Pitt team has the chance to create some magic next weekend if you understand the luck that’s associated with Notre Dame football.
But it’s the stretch of three games between Navy and USC when the Irish take on Northwestern, Florida State and Syracuse. Surprisingly, Florida State is probably the weakest of the three, but all contain massive upset potential. Northwestern took down Michigan State yesterday morning and Syracuse slipped and fell last weekend against Clemson late.
They CAN Go 12-0
What happens then? If Notre Dame has the same success in the second half of the season as they did through the first six games, then yes, the Fighting Irish will represent the first non-Power Five school to make the College Football Playoff.
If the committee loves anything more than the SEC, it’s tradition and with the opportunity to place one of the most historic programs under the brightest lights, they’ll eat. it. up. Even without a conference championship for the Independents, they’ll be a-okay.