Notre Dame bids a fond farewell to Michigan this weekend … for now at least. With the Wolverines set to visit Notre Dame for the final time, the Irish Blogger Gathering has convened to share our thoughts on the series ending, the importance of this year’s contest (aside from bragging rights), and whether or not Everett Golson should be in the Heisman race already.
For those unfamiliar, each week each Notre Dame blogger involved in the IBG (Her Loyal Sons, ND Blog, ND Nation, Subway Domer) poses a question to the group. We then answer every question but the one we present to the group. For those responses, visit each of the blogs involved which are linked below.
We’ll start off with my question: What must the Notre Dame defense do on Saturday to prevent Devin Garnder from having another career performance against Notre Dame similar to what we’ve seen happen in the past with both Gardner (last year) and Denard Robinson (2010, 2011) before him?
Subway Domer: Regardless to any historical or personal interest in this game, rate the level of importance this Saturday night’s matchup has for this season. What will define this season more, a win or a loss?
I don’t think there is any question that a loss here could define the season for Notre Dame. With Stanford, Florida State, Arizona State, and USC all still remaining on the schedule, a loss to Michigan does not bode well for Notre Dame’s chances in 2014. Simply put, this is a game that Notre Dame has to win in order to have any chance at a playoff run.
A win on the other hand won’t be as season defining for the Irish. With those previously mentioned tough games remaining, those are Notre Dame’s chances at a season defining win in 2014 similar to the 2012. When Notre Dame beat Michigan it was big because Notre Dame had lost three straight to the Wolverines, but by the end of the season Stanford and Oklahoma were both MUCH bigger victories.
I am upset to see the series end because of the history involved here, but at the same time, I cannot wait to make some trips out to Notre Dame for some of the upcoming marquee games like Georgia and Texas. The ACC requirement that played a major role in the decision to opt of the series early also sets up Notre Dame with much better bowl options than they’ve had in the past so it’s tough to be too mad that the series is ending.
At some point in the future, I would like to see Notre Dame add Michigan back on the schedule but I wouldn’t say that it would be at the top of my priority list if I were filling out Notre Dame’s future schedules either. A healthy break in the action should help the animosity between the programs grow even more so that when the two do meet again the disdain in the air will be palpable.
It’s never too early to dream. Heck at this point last year who had Jameis Winston on their Heisman radar? And who had Johnny Football on their Heisman Watch list in September in 2012? Golson’s five touchdown performance, combined with his stature of being the quarterback at Notre Dame is naturally going to get him some Heisman attention if he keeps up the pace.
That said, I think it’s premature to place Golson in the race just yet. Now, if Golson turns in another performance against Michigan like eh did last week, then we can start to whisper his name as a contender. If he exits September and Notre Dame is 4-0 and he has something like 15 combined touchdowns, then he’s in the race no question.
ND Blog: Let’s compare two games during the Brian Kelly era – the USF game and the Rice game. Does the way that the Irish systematically blew out the Owls show how far the Program has come since Kelly took over? What has he done to create a consistent winning environment? What does he still need to do?
Whoa, a three parter. Ok, let’s tackle this one at a time. The biggest difference between South Florida and Rice was simple. Notre Dame had a playmaker at quarterback vs Rice and didn’t versus South Florida. For many reasons, Brian Kelly hasn’t had the quarterback he’s needed to really run his offense until this season. He’s either had quarterbacks that were too young (Golson 2012), didn’t have the physical capabilities (Timmy Rees), or just couldn’t transfer what they did in practice to what they did in a game environment (Crist).
As for part two, I think it depends on your definition of a consistent winning environment. I think Kelly has done an outstanding job of delivering some stability to the program where we don’t have to worry about 6 win or worse seasons, but he still only has just one 10+ win season as he enters his 5th season so there is still plenty to do.
As is, I think Kelly deserves a lot of credit for systemically fixing an Irish program that has fallen behind the times. Remember, Notre Dame didn’t even have a training table when Kelly got to Notre Dame. He has improved almost every facet of the football program since taking over and is now at the point where he can start to produce consistent winning seasons.
Bonus: Michigan hate rant or favorite series memory
I’ll go with Reggie Brooks’ unconscious run in 1992. That was right around the time I became a truly obsessive Notre Dame fan at age 10 and really knew all of the players and started to live and die with Notre Dame football on Saturdays. That run in particular stands out with a few others from my formative Notre Dame fandom years – Irv Smith’s rumble vs. Indiana, Ray Zellars bulldozer vs. Purdue, and the Snow Bowl area couple others. Every know and then I’ll still break out Collinsworth’s “the most spectacular run that you will ever see” all the time when a Notre Dame back breaks some sort of crazy run.