Analogies Between 2018 and 2012 Notre Dame Have Significant Limitations


#3 Notre Dame got routed by #2 Clemson 30-3 in the 83rd Cotton Bowl Classic today, dropping the Fighting Irish to 0-6 all time in BCS and New Year’s Six bowl games. In a battle of undefeated teams, only the Tigers looked like a 12-0 squad pulling away early in the second quarter of this national semifinal, and never looking back.

The final margin of victory, 27, was just one point less than the last time Notre Dame played in a game with national championship implications- the 2012 BCS Title Game. The Fighting Irish lost to Alabama by 28 (42-14) that night, and just like on this day, the final score doesn’t really reflect just how one-sided the affair truly was.

Clemson out-gained ND today 538-248, while Bama finished with a 529-302 yardage advantage on January 7, 2013. So in that sense this game was more lopsided, and it led to social media users analogizing both games ad nauseam. Brian Kelly and Notre Dame were top trending terms on Twitter today and most of it was schadenfreude and criticism.

While the big picture end result is a mirror image, the analogies are somewhat limited because these are two completely different rosters. Only two individuals are linked between 2012 and 2018 Notre Dame- Kelly and current QB coach/back-up quarterback on the ’12 team Tommy Rees. In that lopsided loss in the Miami suburbs that night, Rees didn’t even play.

In the six years that have passed, the entire roster has changed over and then some. Notre Dame Stadium has received a massive upgrade; as have the practice facilities.

Asked if this loss feels different from the defeat six years ago, Kelly responded: “I do, absolutely. I left that game feeling like there was so much work to be done from the inside out, so much development, so much recruiting.”

“This felt so much different, like we gave up four big plays that we characteristically don’t give up. And very capable of moving the football and doing the things necessary to beat this football team.

“I feel like this football team is on the brink. Where, when I left that game, it was, “Boy, do we have a lot of work to do.”

The real commonality here isn’t between 2012 and 2018 Notre Dame, but in the College Football Playoff semi-finals. In the 13 playoff games that have been staged, eight have been decided by 17 or more points. And in the 14th playoff game, Alabama got off to a 14 point lead very quickly.

Bama seems to be in their own class these days, and if anybody comes close to reaching their rarified air, it’s Clemson. Then there’s a significant drop-off to everybody else; or so it seems.

brian kelly notre dame

“I almost have to go like — I mean, they should play the (Chicago) Bears after playing that game against Alabama,” Kelly said of Clemson after the game.

“This is a totally different feeling.”

It’s also worth noting that the very first question Kelly received at Media Day on Thursday was: “How big of a win will it be to put 2012 to rest?”

The Notre Dame coach responded: “I put that to rest the next day. That’s why we’re back here, building our football team, to get an opportunity to compete for a national championship. We put that behind us because you can’t move forward unless you are building your football team.”

“Our goal has been to win a national championship and get back to that.”

Today brought another game that they will have to put in the past, while at the same time also try to use as a building block for the future. Even in a really lopsided loss such as this there are potentially some positives that can be extracted.

“We’re in here licking our wounds after being one of the four teams,” said Kelly.

“That’s a good place to kind of take restock and get stronger from it. We’ll get better because of this. Losing gives you a perspective. It’s not great. No one ever likes to go through losing to gain perspective. Our guys saw that they could win a game like this, and we’ll go to work on that.”

We’ll have our way too early 2019 Notre Dame season preview posted by the end of the week.

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports, which is partnered with News Now. Banks, a former writer for NBC and Chicago, regularly appears as a guest pundit on WGN CLTV and co-hosts the “Let’s Get Weird, Sports” podcast on SB Nation. 

He also contributes sociopolitical essays to Chicago NowFollow him on Twitter and Instagram. The content of his cat’s Instagram account is unquestionably superior to his.

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