Blue and Gold Illustrated

February 2019

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

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26 FEBRUARY 2019 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY LOU SOMOGYI From a jaded perspective, Notre Dame's 2018 football season that ended in a 30-3 defeat to Clemson in the College Football Playoff Dec. 29 was more of the same. Another year without a major bowl win, which last occurred Jan. 1, 1994, thus extending the streak to a full quarter century. Another year without a national title, now an even 30 seasons — after having accumulated 13 recognized ones by the NCAA in the 70 years from 1919-88 (or one every 5.4 years). Next year marks the 100-year anni- versary of the first title, and to many longtime Fighting Irish faithful, wait- ing for that next one might seem like a century. However, beyond the disappoint- ment of not ending those droughts, the 2018 campaign is one that can be viewed from a prism of continuing to build Notre Dame as now a second- tier program in college football. That might sound like a back- handed compliment, but the reality is that since the turn into the 21st century, the Fighting Irish couldn't even be categorized as a consistent tier three outfit — which we would define as a top-25 program. Tier one has been clear the past decade: Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State, although with five national ti- tles from 2009-17, the Crimson Tide can be classified in its own stratum. Tier two, which is top-10 echelon, is more fluid. Oklahoma and Georgia would be the ones most comfortably slotted there right now, especially based on how the Bulldogs have been recruiting, signing an astound- ing eight five-star prospects last year after losing in overtime to Alabama in the national title game. Florida State and Oregon were there earlier this decade — tier one even — as were Stanford, Michigan State and Auburn, but all have be- come more roller-coaster like. Meanwhile, with a third 10-win season in four years, Notre Dame has inched into that tier two discussion — similar to the University of Wash- The Next Tier Notre Dame checked a lot boxes in 2018 to move into the group of programs behind the top level led by Alabama and Clemson While the 30-3 loss to Clemson in the Cotton Bowl in Notre Dame's debut appearance in the College Football Playoff was a disappointment, the program took another step forward in its overall growth the past two years. PHOTO BY BILL PANZICA

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