Last week Notre Dame exorcised some demons that had been tormenting them for the last few years by finally delivering a complete performance against Stanford and knocking down the Cardinal. Notre Dame has another similar opportunity tonight when they make their first appearance in Lane Stadium for a road test against a ranked opponent – a situation in which the Irish are just 1-8 in their last 9 games.
Playing away from Notre Dame Stadium has not been kind to Notre Dame the last six years. Since beating Oklahoma on the road in 2012, the Irish have won just one game in which both they and their opponents were ranked while playing a true road game. In that span they have lost eight.
The lone win in that timespan was to Temple in 2015 when the Owls had one of the best seasons in program history. Think about that for a second. In the last 5+ years, the only ranked opponent Notre Dame has beat on the road since that Oklahoma game is Temple. That is the recent history that Notre Dame is up against tonight.
Now, if you want to count neutral site games, we can give Notre Dame two more wins (2017 Citrus Bowl and 2013 Shamrock Series game against Arizona State in Jerry World) and add another two losses (2012 BCS Title game and 2015 Fiesta Bowl to Ohio State).
Still, among the eight true road game losses in this span are:
- 2013: Michigan, Stanford
- 2014: Florida State, Arizona State
- 2015: Stanford, Clemson
- 2016: None
- 2017: Miami, Stanford
Of those games, Notre Dame has had several chances for statement games too, but fell short in each. Florida State 2014, Clemson 2015, Stanford 2015 and 2017, and Miami 2017 specifically. Of those games, most were highly competitive and entertaining except one. That Miami disaster.
While Notre Dame did win on the road last year against Michigan State, the Spartans were unranked at the time. The Irish dispatched ranked opponents USC and NC State with ease at home too. That Miami debacle though, is what everyone remembers and what every Notre Dame detractor is pointing to right now. Yeah, but remember Miami….
Virginia Tech is only ranked 24th right now and the stink from their embarrassing loss to Old Dominion is still pretty fresh. It’s not completely gone, but like the office jerk who reheats fish in the microwave, its stench is still lingering three weeks later. So even if Notre Dame were to win tonight, it really wouldn’t be a huge statement, but it would at the very least be a chance for the Irish to exorcise some of the demons from their own embarrassing loss from a season ago in Miami.
Until Notre Dame goes into hostile environments and wins a few games, their own road game stench will still linger. Just like the Irish were able to wash some of the years of regret from Stanford games past last week though, Notre Dame can begin to rewrite the narrative later tonight.
Lane Stadium will be rocking tonight after the Hokies upset of Duke last week (reminder we are still talking about football) and Chris Fowler has been hinting for days that the Enter Sandman intro for Virginia Tech will have some sort of new wrinkle tonight to make the place even more electric. Side note: my guess is that wrinkle is Metallica performing it remotely from Austin where they are performing this weekend.
With all of that in mind, this will be every bit of a test of Notre Dame’s resolve and reveal how much they learned from that Hard Rock Stadium experience last year. The moment was way too big for the 2017 Fighting Irish. Notre Dame looked like deers in headlights as that damn turnover chain kept coming out again and again and got all of those fair weather Miami fans that have by now forgotten there is even a team for them to cheer for whipped into a frenzy.
We’ve heard for months about “chaos” situations and how Notre Dame has been working to prepare for moments just like this. Well, now is the time that we find out if it was all lip service or if this Notre Dame team is ready to chance the narrative of the Irish being unable to win on the road in tough environments. You can practice with loud music and beach balls all you want, but until you walk into a stadium that is going crazy and shut up the hometown crowd, it’s all just talk.
If Notre Dame comes out cool, calm, and collected at the start and doesn’t let the environment throw them off their game, they should win this game and they should be firmly in the playoff discussion. If they let the stage be too big for themselves again though, their playoff dreams could very well drift off to never never land in Lane Stadium.