(repost from late 2020)
Notre Dame Head Coach Brian Kelly is just now three wins behind Knute Rockne for the most all time by a Fighting Irish mentor. So an ACC title game win tomorrow (game preview at this link), plus two College Football Playoff victories and he would end the 2020 season knotted up with the patriarch of ND Football.
In a case of very strange coincidence, or perhaps just the circle of life, Rockne’s first season in charge was 1918.
And as you might have read about online, or seen on the news, 1918 and 2020 have something in common, so how strange it would be if Kelly can tie the mark this season.
As we now head into one of the biggest games in recent ND history, let’s take a look back at the Brian Kelly era, and remember some of the biggest highs and lows of that decade, season by season. Part 1, covering 2010-2013, can be found at this link.
We now present part 3, 2017-present.
2017, 10-3, #11, 21-17 Citrus Bowl win over LSU
This team responded from an early season one point loss at home ot Georgia to roll USC and NC State, both of whom were ranked in the top 15 at the time.
Of their first eight wins, seven were by a margin of 20+ points, so they were every bit deserving of the highest ranking that they held on the season, No. 3, when they went to Miami on Nov. 11
Once again in the 2010s however, a nationally televised night game at Joe Robbie/Dolphins/Hard Rock/Pro Player/whoops, I think venue changed its name yet again while I was writing this Stadium ended in total disaster.
Notre Dame’s national title hopes crashed and burned that evening with a 41-8 whalloping, and that changed the complexion of the rest of the season. However, it was still a fine turnaround from the awful campaign the previous year.
It also accomplished the first New Year’s Day bowl game win for the program since 1994. They were arguably, for most of the term, the nation’s best power running team.
2018, 12-1, #5, Cotton Bowl College Football Playoff Semifinal Loss to Clemson 30-3
This team was definitely better than the 2012 edition, and I’ll have words with any individual who says otherwise. They beat four ranked teams, half of which quite convincingly, as part of their undefeated regular season.
However, this campaign will be remembered for the big picture, and how much it mirrored 2012- ND has a dominant regular season, then goes down south and gets whomped by a superior program from The South. It’s a narrative we’re all thinking about heading into tomorrow. The Irish were somewhat competitive, at least one on side of the ball, with Clemson, until star cornerback Julian Love got hurt and left the game.
However, it might not have made that much difference in the ND offense vs Clemson defense match-up, where the Tigers were having their way.
At least the Irish kept it closer, by one whole point, than Alabama did in the national title game. On the plus side, ND’s wins over Northwestern, Virginia Tech, Stanford, Michigan and Syracuse were impressive that season.
2019, 11-2, No. 11 Camping World Bowl win over Iowa State 33-9
For once, Notre Dame actually got shafted in their bowl placement, something that almost never happens, but you can thank Virginia and ACC bowl tie-ins for that. Notre Dame once again overcame an early season loss to Georgia to get back into the national title conversation (at least on the outskirts) until once again, getting throttled, on the road in a rainy night game (at Michigan) put the kibosh on it.
Only two wins this season came against ranked teams.
2020 ?? TBC
This year, so far, has been all about QB Ian Book. He’s led the Irish to a perfect 10-0 record, the most impressive of which being the double overtime clash at home versus then #1 Clemson.
Occurring on the same day that Trump was officially defeated in the Presidential election, it was certainly a Saturday for joyous celebration on many levels. It was the first win over a #1 team for the program since 1993 (Florida State, also an ACC team).
This year saw Book become the all-time winningest quarterback in Notre Dame history. He boasts a 30-3 (.909) record as a starter, one of just two FBS quarterbacks with a win rate above .900, even as Book ranks 11th overall in total QB career starts (33).
He has completed 181 passes for 2,382 yards and 15 touchdowns, with just two interceptions in 2020, and has rushed for 465 yards and eight touchdowns on the season. He ranks third among all Power 5 quarterbacks in season rushing touchdowns.
We’ll see tomorrow what the next chapter holds
Paul M. Banks is the owner/manager of The Bank (TheSportsBank.Net) and author of “Transatlantic Passage: How the English Premier League Redefined Soccer in America,” as well as “No, I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry.”Follow paulmbanks