Immediate Overreactions: Notre Dame Might Have Played Itself Out of Playoffs

The one thing Notre Dame couldn’t do today to miss out on the College Football Playoffs was get blown. Then Notre Dame got its doors blown off it by Clemon in a rematch that was pretty much over before halftime. The aftermath of which leaves Notre Dame’s playoff future in doubt, but after the way the Irish played today, whether or not they make the Playoffs might not matter as much. They left very little hope that they can do much if they get there. So much went wrong for Notre Dame today that multiple articles will be needed to unpack this one, but here are some initial thoughts.

Everything Notre Dame needed to do, they didn’t do

Notre Dame needed to get pressure on Trevor Lawrence, they needed to run the ball, they needed to win 3rd downs, they needed to be efficient in the redzone. They did none of those things today. Notre Dame actually had a chance to take a 10-0 lead early, but instead, they wasted a trip inside the Clemson 10 yard-line and then missed the field goal.

Everything Notre Dame did in the first game between these two did; they didn’t do well today. They shut down Travis Etienne last time. This time he ran all over them. They killed Clemson on 3rd down in November. Today they couldn’t convert one to save their lives because they were always in 3rd and long.

It looks like Notre Dame still needs to be perfect in these games

Notre Dame was so bad today that even if they did take that 10-0 lead, it might not have made a difference. This isn’t going to be one of those “if Notre Dame just did x, y, z, they could have won” articles because Clemson was flat out dominant today. Notre Dame did, however, have the chance to take an early lead that they botched.

Notre Dame had a chance to cut into Clemson’s early lead in the second quarter when Avery Davis dropped what should have been a relatively easy 4th down conversion. The Irish didn’t reach Clemson territory again until the 4th quarter.

I thought we were past Notre Dame needing to be perfect in these types of games, but it looks like we aren’t. Notre Dame made some strides this year, but today the gulf between Clemson and Notre Dame from a talent perspective was on full display.

The defense was bad, the offense was AWFUL

It’s easy to pick on the Notre Dame defense in this one because Trevor Lawrence and the Clemson offense made so many big plays, but the Tigers scored exactly one more point in regulation today than they did on November 7. So yeah, the defense could have tackled better and made a few stops in the first half, but at the end of the day, the defense played almost like it did in Notre Dame’s double-overtime win.

Did Clark Lea’s courtship by Vanderbilt impact the defense at all? Maybe, but again they gave up one more point in regulation than they did to Clemson when they didn’t have Trevor Lawrence. We know Clemson would score points.

The big difference today was that the Notre Dame offense couldn’t put points on the board. Ian Book was not comfortable in the pocket, Kyren Williams couldn’t find room to run, the Irish receivers didn’t make catches down the field like they did last time.

Chris Tyree scored Notre Dame’s lone touchdown in the 4th quarter shortly after touching the ball for the first time in the game. Why did Notre Dame’s speedster not touch the ball until then? That’s one of about a hundred questions Notre Dame will be trying to answer over the next few weeks.

Last time around, Tommy Rees had luck scheming up opportunities for the Irish. This time around, Brent Venables was able to keep Book and the Irish offense off-balance all day long.

Does this leave Notre Dame outside the playoff mix?

Pundits seem split on whether Notre Dame will be one of the top 4 teams announced tomorrow at noon. If they aren’t, they don’t have anyone to blame themselves but themselves. It will be hard to get upset if Notre Dame gets left out of the playoffs after a 24 point loss on a neutral field.

The final spot will likely come down to Notre Dame and Texas A&M even though Ohio State is less deserving than both, but the committee seems set on the Buckeyes, making it despite playing just over half the games of other schools.

Notre Dame’s resume is still relatively strong compared to other 1-loss teams, but coming off a 24-point blowout loss, the Irish are at the mercy of the committee right now. I could make an argument for the Irish, but coming off such a bad loss, it just doesn’t feel like a very valid argument.

If the Irish are named to the final four tomorrow, I’ll watch them in the first round against Alabama and be praying for the miracle upset, but after today, everyone’s expectations for this team – and the program as a whole – came crashing back down to earth.

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  1. I think the difference in this game was QB and OC. Defense didn’t play great but this is the world we live in. Have to score to win games. Defense and ball control don’t cut it at this level. Alabama has a good defense and gave up 46 to Florida.

  2. Their preparation, top to bottom, was abysmal.
    No, no more high visibility games, please. Team is/should be demoralized.
    Committee, give us a break, drop us to 6th behind TA&M and Cincy. Let us play in say a Dec 28th game, then go quietly into the night.

  3. I, too, wondered why we didn’t get Tyree the ball earlier and give C’Bo more touches. Not only that, why didn’t we call better plays for them and Kyren? That game was winnable. The Irish can take solace in that. They may have played themselves out of the play-offs, but will still get a top 6 bowl game. Let’s hope they learn from yet another epic loss. This hurts because of the historic nature of the game. But its done. Stick to the 24-hour rule, then prepare lights out for the next game (prepare like Clemson did). The Irish need to be smarter in play-calling and personnel rotations. Be much more physical and fast. Book needs to work on getting rid of the ball faster and go downfield more. And, don’t get away from the running game from the pocket. Red zone issues need immediate attention. Is the field goal kicker okay? I thought the O-Line looked shaky. The defense on the back-end needs to tighten up and play better. Lot’s of talent on the bench that can play. Put them to use. A convincing bowl win against a worthy opponent will go a long way towards getting over this loss.

  4. Agree Pete . Where’s the speed to compete with elite ? ND should hire Matt Damon and Christian Bale. Playoffs ? Would love to see Irish get in over Jimbo and THE half a season team.

  5. Clemson is very good but I really thought this notredame team could go toe to toe with anybody this year. Its seems to me when Notredame lost Patterson the line took a step backwards. The pass protection wasn’t as good nor the line blocking for the run game. Secondary is weak outside of Hamilton. I also think Del Alexander needs to go. We have too many receivers that are highly rated but dont produce. Lenzy, Keys Jordan Johnson, Austin. I know injuries and off the field issues but when they have played I’ve seen very little production.

  6. I cant imagine the committee would grant ND a place in the PO’s. What i see in Today’s game is the ability to SCORE POINTS. You need to be able to OUT SCORE teams in order to win. Florida gave Bama a tussle by having an offense that can move the ball. They have 4-5 star players at the skilled positions.
    ND needs to recruit 5 star QB’s, RB’s and WR’s. ND just doesn’t have those type of weapons. Not sure ND can attract those type of players. They need to pass the academics along w/ showing up for class. Far too many of the top flight talent at Bama, Ohio St, Clemson could get academically qualified. ND can beat a lot of teams. They just don’t have the talent level to stay with the ELITE teams.

  7. Just Watch….(One bad week, during a Unprecedented Disaster Pandemic, does not make a Teams Season), Wait For It, And You Will See A Blue & Gold Championship Team Play Like A Champion In The Playoffs….

  8. After today I don’t think ND should be in the playoffs this year. But it would be ok to miss the playoffs if, say, the Irish were matched against Southern Cal in the Orange Bowl.

  9. No POs dear God! ND couldn’t beat Bama if they fielded their C team!

    Hopefully ND gets a favorable bowl matchup and doesn’t shit the bed again!

    BK will never be able to get a team to play up on a neutral or away game against a top-tier opponent. He’s about as over-rated as his teams. Plain and simple.

  10. The Irish best Clemson’s B team on home field. Be honest, the team they beat in South Bend was NOT Clemson.
    Once again, the Irish do not stack up with the big boys in speed or explosion at skill positions. WRs are big but lumbering and their OL is big, strong, but not all that athletic. Today, we saw the real deal and again, they humiliated us. I hope our season is over.

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