2019 Notre Dame Football Preview

Digital Edition

Blue & Gold Illustrated: 2019 Notre Dame Football Preview

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Page 144 of 163

BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED 2019 FOOTBALL PREVIEW ✦ 143 official national champion in both the AP and coaches poll. In 1966, Notre Dame became the last na- tional champion in college football history without going to a bowl game. Third-year head coach Ara Parseghian's team finished 9-0-1, with the tie occurring at No. 2 Michigan State (10-10) Nov. 19 after the Irish had fallen behind 10-0 while play- ing without its top quarterback, running back and center. Once again, it was irrelevant that No. 3 Alabama finished 11-0 following a 34-7 defeat of Nebraska in the Sugar Bowl. The Change In 1968, the AP finally decided that it would be better to cast the final ballot after the 11 bowl games were concluded, with Jan. 1 becoming the new holy day of obliga- tion for college football aficionados, much like the Super Bowl — which began in 1967 — in the NFL. The Notre Dame administration rolled with the changes in 1969 because there was a confluence of three factors. First, the academic calendar under school president Rev. Theodore Hesburgh changed. It used to be that the first semester at Notre Dame didn't end until January. That meant that students had to use the Christmas/New Year "break" from school to study for up- coming final exams. In 1969, the first semester ended Dec. 16, and Christmas break lasted through Jan. 5. That made practicing for a Jan. 1 bowl much more feasible rather than getting bogged down studying for final exams. Next, there was an opportunity to reap a financial reward by going to a major bowl, and it was estimated at around $340,000 in 1969. That might cover a small section of a weight room in today's world, but back then it was an attractive potential windfall, provided travel costs to the bowl wouldn't cut too much into the profit. Hesburgh also mandated that the money gained be used to help fund minority scholarships. Finally … Notre Dame could no longer win a national title without playing in a bowl game (although it wasn't until 1974 that the coaches poll also would decide to wait after the bowls to declare a national champion). Parseghian had never been to a bowl game in his 20 years as a head coach, and even started calling other schools about the logis- tics involved with bowl preparation, includ- ing whether administrators and wives are also included on such a trip. On Nov. 17, 1969, Notre Dame officially accepted a bid to the Cotton Bowl to play the Southwest Conference champ, either No. 2 Texas or No. 4 Arkansas, both of which were undefeated prior to meeting Dec. 6. 1969-93 Notre Dame posted a 10-5 (.667) record in the five major bowl games: Cotton, Orange, Rose, Sugar or Fiesta. The 10 victories represented the most by any team in that 25-year span. In second place was a three-way tie among Oklahoma (8-4), USC (8-4) and Penn State (8-4). At the end of the 1993 season, Notre Dame was 13-6 all time in bowl games, a .684 winning percentage that was the best in major college football among teams that played in at least 15 postseason contests. Notre Dame faced the No. 1 team and/or an unbeaten opponent in a bowl game 10 times, and recorded a 7-3 mark. Texas and Alabama were victimized twice apiece while West Virginia, Colorado and Texas A&M rounded out the other three. 3 national titles, with 12 Associated Press top-10 finishes, a .480 percentage over 25 years. 215-71-4 record (.748 winning percentage). 1994-2018 The Fighting Irish were 0-8 in major bowl games, with the average margin of defeat by 21 points while averaging only 17.2 points. Furthermore, in the 360 minutes played in the last six such out- ings, it had the lead for only 2:57 — 7-0 in the first quarter of the 2006 Fiesta Bowl. From 1994 until the end of the 2008 season, Notre Dame lost an NCAA-record nine consecu- tive bowl games. Overall in this time it was 5-13 in postseason action, practically an inverse of the previous 13-6 prosperity. The Fighting Irish did not play a No. 1-ranked team in a bowl, but did line up against No. 2 twice: a 42-14 defeat to Alabama in the 2013 BCS Na- tional Championship Game and a 30-3 setback versus Clemson in last year's Cotton Bowl, which was also a College Football Playoff semifinal. 0 national titles, with three AP top-10 finishes, or a .120 percentage. 195-114-1 record (.631). Tale Of Two Quarter Centuries Once upon a time, Notre Dame was the most successful, popular and dangerous bowl team in the country. After the school's self-imposed bowl ban in the 44 years from 1925-68, the Fighting Irish made up for lost time from its absence in postseason action with an amazing 25-year run that began following the 1969 regular season. This year's 50th anniversary of Notre Dame ending its bowl moratorium inspires reflection on the remarkable 25-year demarcation and dichotomy between where the program was in the 25 years from 1969-93, and then where it fell to in the next quarter century from 1994-2018. Nowhere is it better manifested than in the bowl scene: All that matters now is where it can ascend back to in the next 25-year cycle from 2019-43. — Lou Somogyi With last year's 30-3 defeat at the hands of eventual national champion Clemson in the Cotton Bowl, Notre Dame dropped to 0-8 in major bowl games since 1994. PHOTO BY BILL PANZICA

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