Blue and Gold Illustrated

Preseason 2018

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

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82 PRESEASON 2018 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED I t seems unfathomable that 30 years ago this same col- umn in the preseason edi- tion explored "The Power of 3" as the theme of the 1988 Notre Dame football campaign. Head coach Lou Holtz was beginning his third season, and his Fighting Irish were coming off a three-game losing streak from the previous year. Entering 1988, Notre Dame was on a school-record seven- year streak of not having fin- ished in the Associated Press top 10, and placed in the top 20 only once (No. 17 in 1987). Nevertheless, three was sup- posed to be the magic num- ber for Holtz because prede- cessors Knute Rockne, Frank Leahy, Ara Parseghian and Dan Devine all broke through with na- tional titles and or/unbeaten seasons in year three of their reign. Indeed, out of the blue (and gold), Holtz and Co., captured what at the time was considered an unlikely na- tional title. What seemed even more improbable at the end of it was that 30 years later the football program would be still waiting for its next such achievement. So 30 years hence, or 10 times three, it would seem apropos to return to the theme of threes in 2018. Ninth-year — or three times three — head coach Brian Kelly has a long line of success every third season since 2003 (see page 17), and 2018 is "on schedule" to be next. Three is the number that will be much discussed during Notre Dame's 2018 football campaign, and highly influential in its success. • It begins with the opener ver- sus Michigan — which enters with a three-game losing streak (like Notre Dame did in 1988). Plus, head coach Jim Harbaugh is 0-3 versus top rival Ohio State, but is seeking his third straight win versus Notre Dame and the unique trifecta of winning in Notre Dame Stadium as a quarter- back (1986) and a head coach at two different schools (the first at Stanford in 2010). Meanwhile, Kelly will try to avoid becoming the first Fighting Irish coach ever to lose three openers, hav- ing previously done so versus South Florida in 2011 and at Texas in 2016. • Next, we come to the last game in the opening month of the season, hosting Stanford on Sept. 29. The Cardinal has a 7-2 record against the Irish in the last nine meet- ings, and boast a current three-game winning streak from 2015-17. The 2019 Notre Dame senior class gradu- ating with a 0-4 record against the Cardinal is unacceptable. Stanford also won three in a row versus the Irish from 2009-11. That ended with a memorable Notre Dame goal-line stand in 2012 that helped put it into the national title contest — in year three under Kelly. • One week later, Notre Dame trav- els to Virginia Tech. Since becoming a partial football member in the ACC in 2014, Notre Dame is 0-3 in the three "marquee" night road games in the league. The No. 5 Irish lost a controversial 31-27 decision at No. 2 Florida State in 2014. In 2015 as the No. 9-ranked team, it fell at No. 11 Clemson (24-22). And last year as the No. 3 team in the country, Notre Dame was crushed 41-8 at No. 7 Miami. It has not been revealed when the kickoff will be in Blacksburg, but his- tory shows it likely will be at night. The Hokies in 2018 probably are not in the same class as the aforemen- tioned ACC trio was. Nev- ertheless, this is another test for the Irish at a hostile venue in its league. It's another 0-3 mark that must be snapped if they are to contend for a College Football Playoff spot. • Believe it or not, North- western on Nov. 3 will be vying for its third straight victory against Notre Dame, having previously v an - quished the Irish on the road in 1995 (17-15) and 2014 (43-40 in overtime). • One week later (Nov. 10), Florida State invades Notre Dame Stadium with a three- game winning streak versus the Irish. This included the gut- wrenching 31-27 loss in 2014 and the 18-14 defeat in the 2011 Champs Sports Bowl after the Irish had built a 14-0 lead in the second half. Hosting a warm-weather team in November on Senior Night is a rare opportunity upon which Notre Dame needs to capitalize. • Kelly won his first two games in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum versus USC (2010 and 2012), but he and the Irish will attempt to avoid a third straight road loss at Southern Cal Nov. 24 after falling 49-14 in 2014 (the same score Notre Dame won by last year) and 45-27 in 2016. Let us also not forget the Irish cur- rently have a school-record five con- secutive losses in regular-season fi- nales since 2013, either at Stanford or USC. Not allowing it to reach six — or two times three — is needed to re- main in CFP mode. It would also be significant to avoid having a minimum of three losses for the 24th time the past 25 years. The phrase "bad luck comes in threes" has deep roots, from religion to even striking a match. In 2018, good fortune will have to occur again via the threes. ✦ Ending A Series of Threes THE FIFTH QUARTER LOU SOMOGYI Senior Editor Lou Somogyi has been at Blue & Gold Illustrated since July 1985. He can be reached at Brian Kelly and the Irish will try to end or avoid several three-game streaks this season, including a trio of consecutive losses to Stanford and Florida State, and on the road at marquee ACC opponents. PHOTO BY JOE RAYMOND

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