Blue and Gold Illustrated

February 2020

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

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Page 26 of 47 FEBRUARY 2020 27 BY LOU SOMOGYI I n the January 2020 edition of Blue & Gold Illustrated, we assembled our Notre Dame All-Decade Team for 2010-19, comprised of an 11- man starting offense, 11-man starting defense, kicker, punter and utility player. This month, we review some of the topics strictly on the field that defined a decade which had its share of elation and misery. WHICH TEAM WAS THE BEST? If you could have only one Notre Dame team to represent the school in a 2010-19 College Football Playoff, which would it be? • The 2012 edition that played in the BCS National Championship Game had the best defense, led by linebacker Manti Te'o. The 12.77 points allowed per game was the best at Notre Dame since 1980 (10.7, including the bowl). However, the offense was only 78th while producing the lowest scoring output of the decade at 25.77. • The 2017 unit became the first at Notre Dame since 2002 to defeat four teams that finished in the As- sociated Press top 25: No. 12 USC, No. 15 Michigan State, No. 18 LSU and No. 23 NC State. It was so domi- nant with its 8-1 start that it rose to No. 3 in the CFP rankings. But then it lost 41-8 at Miami and fell in two of its last three regular- season games. • The 2018 squad that finished the regular season 12-0 was more pro- lific on offense than in 2012 with a 31.3 scoring average, and defeated three teams that finished in the top 25 (No. 14 Michigan, No. 15 Syra- cuse and No. 21 Northwestern), but wasn't quite as dominant while struggling to home wins versus lesser foes such as Ball State (24-16), Vanderbilt (22-17) and Pitt (19-14). If we were to engage in "fantasy football," however, the single most talented team might have been the 2015 outfit that finished 10-3. The two regular-season losses were last-second heartbreakers on the road to the teams that finished No. 2 (24-22 at Clemson) and No. 3 (38-36 at Stanford), plus in the Fiesta Bowl to No. 4 Ohio State (44-28). That 2015 offense featured a line with three first-round picks (Ron- nie Stanley, Mike McGlinchey and Quenton Nelson) and one in the second (Nick Martin), a first-round game breaker at wide receiver (Will Fuller), a second-round quarterback (DeShone Kizer) and three running backs (C.J. Prosise, Josh Adams and Dexter Williams) who stepped in for an injured Tarean Folston and later played in the NFL, as did tight ends Durham Smythe and Alizé Mack. The defense was headlined by Butkus Award winner Jaylon Smith at linebacker to go with eight other starters who would play in the NFL, including currently the entire line with Sheldon Day, Isaac Rochell, Ro- meo Okwara and first-round pick Jerry Tillery. Our "fantasy league" would in- clude 2018-19 defensive coordinator Clark Lea instructing the 2015 de- fense, a best of both worlds. REMEMBERING 2010-19 The decade had its share of drama on both ends of the spectrum Linebacker Manti Te'o led the best Irish defense of the decade to a 30-13 win at Oklahoma in 2012, earning BGI recognition as the Top Win of the Decade. PHOTO BY BILL PANZICA

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