2019 Notre Dame Football Preview

Digital Edition

Blue & Gold Illustrated: 2019 Notre Dame Football Preview

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Page 21 of 163

20 ✦ BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED 2019 FOOTBALL PREVIEW I n three of the last four football seasons, Notre Dame has finished anywhere from No. 5 (2018) to No. 11 (2015 and 2017) in the final Associated Press poll. That is the best stretch of a four-year graduating class at the school since 1990-93, when Notre Dame placed in the top 15 all four seasons: No. 6 in 1990, No. 13 in 1991, No. 4 in 1992 and No. 2 in 1993. The four-year span from 2015-18 was also the first time since 1990-93 the Fighting Irish placed in the final top 15 more than twice over a four-year stretch. The consensus early expectations from national media outlets proj- ect that will expand to four out of five this year (see pages 130-131). Last season marked the first time since 1991-93 Notre Dame was able to generate at least 10 victories in consecutive seasons. The Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) demarcation has been clear the past five years. Alabama and Clemson clearly have the penthouse view after splitting the last four College Football Playoff titles, while the second-tier, high-rent district is comprised mainly of Georgia, Ohio State and Oklahoma. The Bulldogs assembled premier recruiting classes the past two seasons and took Alabama to the brink in 2017 and 2018 champion- ship settings. Can they finish? The Buckeyes won the first CFP in 2014, returned there in 2016, and are a remarkable 86-9 (.905 winning percentage) since 2012. Can they sustain such excellence sans former head coach Urban Meyer? The Sooners have earned their way into the CFP three of the last four seasons, third only to the Crimson Tide and Tigers. In the same manner that the Georgia-Ohio State-Oklahoma trium- virate has been knocking on the door to join the first tier, Notre Dame and Washington have been teetering on cracking that second tier. Stanford definitely ranked there as well from 2010-16, but faltered some the past two years while losing nine games. Michigan and LSU also have hovered on that second-tier level. However, unlike Washington, which has won two of the last three Pac-12 crowns and Notre Dame, which has vanquished both the Wolverines and Tigers each of the last two seasons, Michigan and LSU need to prove themselves much more when the stakes are raised. And so must Notre Dame when it visits Georgia Sept. 21, travels to Ann Arbor for a clash with the Wolverines Oct. 26 and attempts also to break a dry spell at Stanford Nov. 30. Those three outings will in great part determine if Notre Dame can now be a regular in the high-rent district of college football — and maybe even some day reach that penthouse suite. 2019 SEASON PREVIEW Climb Continuation Notre Dame aims to build on the program's best four-year stretch in a quarter century BY LOU SOMOGYI AND BRYAN DRISKELL The Fighting Irish have had plenty to celebrate the past four years, finishing anywhere from No. 5 (2018) to No. 11 (2015 and 2017) in the final Associated Press poll, and are focused on raising the bar even higher in 2019. PHOTO BY ANGELA DRISKELL

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