Blue and Gold Illustrated

Nov. 26, 2018

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

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6 NOV. 26, 2018 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY LOU SOMOGYI T hroughout history and in contem- porary culture, 10 has been the ideal round number as a starting point. One is hopefully born with 10 fingers and 10 toes to begin life's journey. In elementary mathematics, the 100-bead abacus works with a base of 10 wires with 10 beads on each wire. The 10 Commandments are the groundwork of morality. Top 10 countdowns are popular in various areas of business and enter- tainment, and exterior beauty also has been measured by a 10 (a la Bo Derek). And in college football, reaching 10 victories today consistently consti- tutes a barometer of at least reaching a "program" status. "It marks a stability in your pro- gram that everybody wants to work towards," head coach Brian Kelly summarized. For the first time since 1991-93, Notre Dame has recorded consecu- tive 10-win campaigns, finishing 10-3 last year and starting 10-0 prior to last weekend's game versus No. 12 Syracuse. As with anything, context is vital. In the first 100 years of Notre Dame football from 1887-1987, the Irish posted only eight 10-win campaigns — but regular-season schedules only had 10 games (or less) through 1950, and the Irish did not participate in any bowl games from 1925-68. The 1947 national champs were 9-0, and the 1966 team that finished No. 1 was 9-0-1. In fact, the Irish were one of the last teams to expand to an 11-game regular season back in 1974, then- head coach Ara Parseghian's final campaign. Today, 12-game regular seasons are the norm, and with conference cham- pionship games and bowls, it's not unusual to play 13 or more contests, which slightly devalues the 10-win total that was a form of a college foot- ball Holy Grail 20 years ago. Be that as it may, the 2018 Notre Dame unit became only the sixth one since 1994 to reach the mark (2002, 2006, 2015 and 2017 were all 10-3, while the 2012 crew was 12-1 and this year is yet to be determined). Since 2010, Brian Kelly's first sea- son as the Irish head coach, approxi- mately 20-24 teams achieve 10 vic- tories each year, which constitutes about 16 percent of the Football Bowl Subdivision. Twenty of the final Associated Press top 25 achieved it back in 2010, and all of the first 22 teams in the final AP poll did so in 2011. In 2012, while the Irish made their run toward the 12-0 regular season, 20 other teams posted at least 10 wins, including No. 25 Nebraska at 10-4. The 10-3 Irish in 2015 were one of 22 teams in the final AP poll to reach double-digit victories with the top wins coming versus 11-2 Navy and 10-4 Temple — which didn't even finish in the final rankings. Ten victories overall don't mean what they used to in the overall pic- ture. It's like saying Tyrone Willing- ham had the "best" first season in Notre Dame history because he won the most games (10-3). The reality is Frank Leahy in 1941 (8-0-1), Terry Brennan in 1954 (9-1) and Parseghian in 1964 (9-1) all had better debuts. Now that the Fighting Irish have reached at least 10 wins two straight years, and three of the last four, the bar will be inevitably raised to reach the highest tier. From 2010-17, Alabama averaged 12.4 wins, Ohio State 11.4, Clemson 11.0 and Oklahoma 10.6. Onward and upward. ✦ UNDER THE DOME HANGING 10 Ten wins aren't what they used to be, but they are still a benchmark Under the leadership of head coach Lou Holtz, Notre Dame won at least 10 games three straight years in 1991 (10-3), 1992 (10-1-1) and also in 1993 (11-1). PHOTO COURTESY NOTRE DAME MEDIA RELATIONS Back-to-Back Here are the seasons where Notre Dame has won 10 games at least two years in a row since returning to the bowl scene 50 years ago in 1969. 1. 1973 (11-0) and 1974 (10-2) Each time the Irish defeated 11-0 Alabama in a bowl game, the former for the national title. 2. 1988 (12-0) and 1989 (12-1) The school-record 23-game winning was accomplished while defeating seven teams that finished in the top 10. The Irish were No. 1 in 1988 and No. 2 the following year. 3. 1991 (10-3), 1992 (10-1-1) and 1993 (11-1) A 17-game winning streak was achieved the last two years, with a debatable No. 2 finish in '93. 4. 2017 (10-3) & (10-0)* * Prior to Syracuse (Nov. 17), USC (Nov. 24) and the postseason.

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