Blue and Gold Illustrated

Preseason 2018

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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30 PRESEASON 2018 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY LOU SOMOGYI T he last three Notre Dame head coaches and immortal legends to reach year nine during their tenure experienced one of their most miserable campaigns ever that season. • Four-time national champion Frank Leahy finished unranked a second straight year in 1951, and went through his worst margin of defeat in his career, 35-0 at Michigan State. He also lost at home to an SMU team that would finish 3-6-1. • For the first time in his Notre Dame tenure, Ara Parseghian in 1972 lost three games in a season, likewise capped by his largest point spread in a loss, 40-6 to Nebraska in the Or- ange Bowl. The Fighting Irish also were upset at home by four-touch- down underdog Missouri and saw Anthony Davis score six touchdowns for USC during a 45-23 setback. • Finally, Lou Holtz in 1994, fol- lowing a six-year stretch that saw his Irish notch a 64-9-1 record (5-1 in ma- jor bowls), one national title and two near misses, plummeted to 6-5-1. It was the beginning of a downward trajectory in the football program that is now entering the quarter-century mark. Now that Brian Kelly is embarking upon his ninth season, not enough coaching equity at Notre Dame has been built up by him to remain pa- tient with the kind of slippage that Leahy, Parseghian and Holtz under- went in their respective ninth years. The chips likely were used up two years ago with a mind-boggling 4-8 finish in which Kelly acknowledged he had fallen asleep at the wheel. On the up side, last year's 10-3 re- bound provided some evidence that potentially the football team had re- Avoiding History Brian Kelly doesn't want to repeat the ninth-season woes of past ND coaches In four of the last six seasons under Kelly, the Fighting Irish have entered the month of November with a legitimate chance to contend for the national championship. PHOTO BY ANGELA DRISKELL PRESEASON ASSOCIATED PRESS TOP 25 The Associated Press' preseason No. 12 ranking of Notre Dame is the third highest in head coach Brian Kelly's nine seasons, behind only No. 10 in 2016 (a 4-8 finish) and No. 11 in 2015, which is where the Fighting Irish finished with a 10-3 outcome. The poll was released Aug. 20, and five Notre Dame opponents this year are also ranked: Stanford (No. 13), Michigan (No. 14), USC (No. 15), Florida State (No. 19) and Virginia Tech (No. 20). Only Michi- gan matches that volume of ranked foes among the 25 teams in the preseason poll. In the 24 seasons since 1994, the Fighting Irish have been ranked in the season's first AP poll 15 times. Not once in those 15 years did they finish higher than the preseason rating — although in 1998 and 2015 they placed at the same spot that they started, 22nd and 11th, respectively. Meanwhile, in the nine other seasons Notre Dame was not ranked in the preseason by the AP, it placed in the top 25 five times — including making a major bowl as a top-10 team in three of them (2000, 2005 and 2012). The Irish also started 10-1 in 2002 and finished No. 11 last year. — Lou Somogyi

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