Blue and Gold Illustrated

Oct. 12, 2019

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

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8 OCT. 12, 2019 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED UNDER THE DOME The CFP Is Gone Because Of Independent Status By Todd D. Burlage Boy, this really has become a feel-good story for Notre Dame supporters in re- cent weeks — a breathtaking six-point loss at No. 3 Georgia, a solid win against untested No. 18 Virginia, then a cakewalk over Bowling Green, arguably the worst team in the Football Bowl Subdivision. This three-game stretch, even with a loss, resurrected the P-word around campus, with much of Notre Dame's fandom theorizing that if the Fighting Irish win out and their lone defeat is a close one at Georgia, Notre Dame will be playoff worthy. Sorry folks, this is one of those years that independence is not on Notre Dame's side when it comes to College Football Playoff pursuits. With no conference championship game and no marquee matchups left on the Irish schedule to catch the attention of the selection committee, Notre Dame's playoff path is already closed. In November, when playoff berths are earned and lost, Notre Dame's schedule looks like this, per ratings taken from CBS Sports' 1-thru-300 Poll before last weekend: Virginia Tech (No. 86), Duke (No. 49), Navy (No. 67), Boston College (No. 82) and Stanford (No. 84). Hardly a mur- derer's row upon which to pin one's hopes. Notre Dame is not to blame for its ho-hum opposition this season. The intent to schedule strong is always there, and most of these games were booked years in advance. But when there is little or no power on a schedule, especially late in the season when signature wins are a must, there is no room for even one loss as an independent this season. Unlikely Without A League Title, But It's Still Possible By Lou Somogyi Heading into last weekend's game versus Bowling Green, Notre Dame was given a 15 percent chance in the analytics of the Allstate Playoff Predictor to make this year's four-team College Football Playoff. Yes, the chances are marginal, but also keep in mind that after a 20-19 loss to Georgia in 2017, the 1-1 Fighting Irish weren't even ranked in the top 25 — yet in the first half of November were No. 3. This year after another close loss to the No. 3 Bulldogs, Notre Dame was still No. 9 at the end of September. Many of the eight opponents ahead of them play each other, and there also is this thing called an "upset" that has been preva- lent in the game's 150-year history. What hurts most right now is both upcoming opponents, USC and Michigan, would not be the needle-moving victo- ries as they would have been in the past, although both still are fully capable of defeating the Irish. Provided Notre Dame wins both of those contests and then if the Trojans can at least win the South division of the Pac-12 (quite possible with its win over Utah) while Michigan pulls off a long-awaited win versus the Buckeyes, then Notre Dame could for the sixth time in the last eight seasons enter November with realistic hopes of vying for a spot in the championship field. The Fighting Irish do not control their destiny like last year, and other programs behind them could leapfrog them with more marquee victories in November. However, to say it's not possible would not be accurate. Point ✦ Counterpoint: CAN A ONE-LOSS NOTRE DAME TEAM STILL REACH THE COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF IN 2019? Junior wide receiver Michael Young dutifully worked and waited for a starting opportunity dur- ing his first two years at Notre Dame. Patience paid off during spring ball this year when Young secured the starting open-field wide receiver spot opposite senior Chase Claypool on the boundary side. Roadmap paved, Young's path to a breakout season was temporarily detoured when he suf- fered a broken collarbone two weeks before the season opener. The setback cost Young about six weeks of practice, prep and play. Recovered, returned and ready, Young talks about his time on the mend, and making his season debut against Virginia with three receptions and 19 yards. BGI: You hear broken collarbone, what went through your mind? Young: "It was definitely demoralizing when I first got the news. I've never been severely injured, so the first thing I thought was if I was going to play for the rest of the season. "My mind was going a mile a minute." BGI: How much nervousness did you feel when returning to the lineup after that idle time? Young: "You didn't want to go out there and look like you've been out for five and half weeks. Confidence was always there. Confidence is there even more because now I'm really in the routine with things. "I feel like that was the first stepping stone into just getting back into the swing of things." BGI: You were an improved and more confident player during spring ball and through training camp, then the injury. What was your reaction? Young: "The thing I was doing the most is just having fun, not taking things too seriously. So, when I got hurt, it was taken away from me. "It wasn't so much thinking that I was having a great camp. The one thing that stuck with me when I was injured was that it really made me appreciate the game." BGI: What was the toughest part of being knocked out of action? Young: "I got injured in high school, the same thing happened. But I knew I was coming here [to Notre Dame], I was going onto bigger and better. "And then, being with the guys. I think that's what hurt the most, just sitting on the sideline and you're watching your guys kill it every day." BGI: So, what was your level of satisfaction get- ting back onto the field against Virginia? Young: "You go through the spring process, spring practices, and then you go through fall camp. You work your way through all of that grind for that moment trying to play, so you get back out there. "Great is an understatement. I was so over- whelmed, but I was in the moment. It was great, I can't explain it." — Todd D. Burlage Five Questions With … JUNIOR WIDE RECEIVER MICHAEL YOUNG After being out for six weeks with a broken collarbone, Young made his 2019 season debut against Virginia and finished with three recep- tions for 19 yards. PHOTO BY MIKE MILLER

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