Notre Dame Football Stock Report: 12-0 Edition

In a win that wasn’t as aesthetically pleasing as many had wished, the Notre Dame football team completed their regular season undefeated and in prime position to capture their first ever playoff berth since it was introduced in 2014. They have been included in the top four on two other occasions during the regular season (2015 and 2017), but poor Novembers dashed those dreams both times. The Fighting Irish were able to avoid defeat in 2018, and solidify their place in the final four, barring some chicanery that is too dubious to discuss in a serious way. For all intents and purposes, they are in.

Even if they didn’t win the crowd, as the saying goes, they were required to win so they won. That is enough. Are you not entertained?

S&P+ Statistical Update

  • The Irish finish their regular season 6th in the overall rankings, 29th on offense, 3rd on defense, 58th in special teams. Recently Bill Connelly, the creator of the S&P+ formula, penned an article about where the Irish would rank offensively if Ian Book had been the starter from day one. He speculated they would be 8th. So, significantly better.
  • The Irish defeated the 5th (Michigan), 27th (Stanford), 40th (USC), and 44th (Syracuse) ranked teams to make up their top four wins according to the formula.
  • They currently stand a 100% chance of finishing the regular season 12-0.
  • Michigan has a 100% chance of missing the playoffs. (This isn’t an S&P number, but it is very funny, so I’m keeping it in.)


Brian Kelly

He’s 22-3 over the last 25 contests since he was retained controversially by AD Jack Swarbrick following the 2016 season. He has a pretty decent chance of being voted as the coach of the year for the second time. He is about to lead the school to its first ever playoff appearance. It’s notable to me how confident Kelly was in this team in the beginning of the season, even prior to Michigan when looking back on it, he would have been absolutely justified in not being confident at all.

Heading into the season opener, Kelly’s starting running back was a wide receiver the season before and had never played in a real game. His third team running back was a quarterback the season before and had never played in a real game. The offensive line was re-tooled after losing two top 10 picks, and they were down their top two receivers from the previous season. He stated they needed to start Wimbush at quarterback because they wouldn’t have had much of a running game otherwise. He was, in fact, the teams leading rusher that night. That’s a whole lot of not so great things heading into that contest, but he expected to win and had his team ready to win. And they did.

And that pretty much sums up this season for Kelly, his staff, and his team. They were prepared to win every single week and they went out and did it.

Related: Brian Kelly Proved His Doubters, Including Frankie V, Very Wrong

Matt Balis 

The Notre Dame strength and conditioning coordinator was awarded the game ball following the game last night. Novembers have been famously difficult for Brian Kelly teams and his squad came out of it with wins by 10, 29, 33, and 7. When Kelly switched coordinators following 2016, it was met with fanfare and skepticism. Of course the new strength guy is the bees knees, they always are, until the losses start piling up. But Balis appears to have lived up to the hype. The players clearly like him, and he has clearly done a good job. Just take a look at what he did for a player like Dexter Williams, who couldn’t stay healthy on 40 carries a year.

In the 8th game of his season, Williams went for 21 touches and 151 yards. Williams went over 20 touches five times on the final eight games, and showed no worse for wear. Balis has earned the accolades and the players showed him love following the game.

The Program Overall

Last night could have been referred to in the business as a program win. Notre Dame didn’t have their best stuff on a big night. The defense was on its heels and the quarterback was flustered. Nothing was really going well. But, the team kept playing and kept playing, and eventually they found a way to turn the tide in their favor. And that’s what winning programs do, they find ways to win when it isn’t entirely clear how it’s going to happen.

Book is the poster boy of this, because I think he, more than any other player, was feeling the moment. He was frustrated and he didn’t try to hide it. He screamed at himself following poor decisions and showed the body language of someone who was aware he was scuffling. He knew exactly what was happening. But, Long kept giving him chances and eventually he found his path. He ran over a USC defender in the first half on third and long before throwing a perfect corner route to Finke for their first score. He had another third down conversion later in the game, juking a USC corner in the open field and stretching for the sticks. And obviously the game winner to Jones, a perfect ball in the face of the blitz, as calm as you like.

Now they are going to the playoffs, where new challenges await, bigger challenges, and the chance to take the program a step further. In any event, it’s been a great ride so far. Are you not entertained?

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  1. ND Football just completed a 12-0 season…..without any of the benefits of a competent head coach, but all the cost.

    Kudos to all involved. Impressive.

  2. Wow , what a great season –12-0 and in the playoffs. “Fighting Irish” is exactly who they are. Fought they did to go undefeated ! It wasn’t easy from the get go starting with high ranked Michigan. Being out of town for Thanksgiving and weighing in here late — not much to add here from articles/poster comments about great season and win over USC. I will add some nice props to Chris Finke though. He’s been a “safety valve” to QB Book when Boykin , Claypool are not open. The 5′ 10″ 180 lb kid has been crucial in 1st downs needed throughout the season. They don;t make the big headlines–but the kid kept drives going. Well , my memories of USC game to end up undefeated in 2018 — will always be Chris Finke 7 catches in the 1st half and 4 of those came in the drive that culminated in him making spectacular catch for a touchdown before 1st half ended. A spark sorely needed– that Irish took into the 2nd half. Go Irish.

  3. I think Notre Dame will do a much better job preparing for the playoffs this year than they did preparing for Alabama after the 2012 season. The team is better, the coaching staff is much better and now Brian Kelly has the previous horrible experience to fall back on. In addition, there shouldn’t be any extraneous distractions like Manti Te’o’s “girlfriend” or Kelly’s dalliance with the Eagles. I hope they go on a holy, single-minded mission to win in the playoffs

    1. I also think the team will get better through practice and the healing of injuries in the month before the first playoff game. This should help ND more than the other playoff teams, which have probably already maxed out in performance.

  4. I’m amazed to see special teams ranked as high as it is. Offense and defense are right were I’d expect them to be.

    I think the defense in 2012 was probably more elite then this years defense, at least until the NC game. But this year’s defense gets the job done. When it comes to winning the game they get the job done. I said twice now I was most impressed with their attitude after Book threw the interception. Showed me this was a “team”. They went out and got the ball back for Book and put truth to the name ‘Fightin Irish’.

    One key difference this year is this offense is better then 2012 by far. In 2012 the offense needed the defense to bail them out, though they did just enough. This year the offense is a much better product. It’s not elite like Alabama or Clemson’s offense, but they’re definitely a good unit.

    And thankfully no season ending injuries at USC. They should have the same players available for the playoffs barring some practice injury.

    They’ll have some time for R&R, but they’ll have some work to do if they want a chance at winning number 12. I think all roads will go through Alabama and they have a lot of work to do if they want to reach that next level.

    And one thing that cracks me up about the Meatchickens–Their season was ruined by bookended losses to the 2 teams they hate most, ND and OSU. I don’t have any great love for OSU, but I like Michigan less.

  5. I am MOST ALWAYS, ALWAYS, good at the beginning of the season predicting Notre Dame. My best year of reference was 2007. I looked at that schedule, saw we were running and ALL freshmen team and said we could lose the first 8 games. Everyone laughed at me. We won 1 of those first 8. My worst year was 2016. I looked at the schedule and said, ND could run the table. Had nothing to do with us, had everything to do with the schedule because EVERYONE was down that year. I was very correct about the schedule, but ND was obviously even worse than that. Yuck. Fast forward again to this year, and I said, “NOTRE DAME is going to be damn good, I mean damn good. How good I don’t know, I’m not predicting wins this year, but darn darn good. Mark my words, so good it will be unexpected.”. This was even unexpected to me. I thought 10-11 wins. But after NW, I saw we had a shot. Syracuse and USC still scared the crap out of me, but we handled business. We have been dominate most of the year, and we will give Clemson, Georgia, Alabama, Ohio State, Oklahoma, any of them a run for their money. Would not guarantee any type of victory, but this is the BEST NOTRE DAME TEAM I have ever seen, I’m 38, and first game I ever got excited for was 93 fsu. (We should claim that Natty). But this team would smoke even that one. GO IRISH!!!!

  6. Total TEAM effort by Notre Dame. The likes of which we may not see for quite a while, going undefeated. The momentum the Irish have attained has struck fear in opponents. I am especially happy for Coach Brian Kelly. About 9 years ago after my Dad died from a stroke we got a hand signed letter of condolence from Him.

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