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.