Blue and Gold Illustrated

Preseason 2020

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

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Page 65 of 67

66 PRESEASON 2020 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED T hrough my 35 years and more t h a n 7 0 0 i s s u e s / y e a r b o o k s published at Blue & Gold Illus- trated, this 2020 preseason edition was perhaps the most challenging to produce. For starters, we didn't want to use the word "overview" in any headline or subhead — mainly because there was extremely little to "view." Whereas in the decades past at least a handful of practices were open in August to the media to pro- vide some clarity on personnel and progress, the presence of COVID-19 understandably shut out the fourth estate from any contact with players or the coaching staff. No way was there going to be a "media day" with the coaching staff and eight to 10 prime players. A few practice/highlight clips, plus some photos, were made available by Notre Dame's media relations office, and access was limited to a couple of Zoom conferences with head coach Brian Kelly in which questions also had to be submitted beforehand for evaluation on whether they should be asked or not. Consequently, the depth charts listed in this edition have their share of educated guesses at a number of spots. The majority of starters or co- starters are common sense that any close follower of the team — which we believe subscribers to BGI are — can figure out. What we don't know is how many of the limited amount of student- athletes who tested positive for the coronavirus, or were placed under quarantine, have affected individual or position group status (never mind a normal amount of injuries). That is confidential information not meant for public consumption. As a kid, I remember reading a "Dennis The Menace" comic strip in which Dennis' mother chides him for taking the labels off the canned foods in the cupboard so that the family can have "a surprise dinner." At times I wonder if there will be a "surprise lineup" with the 2020 Fighting Irish team on different weekends. When we submitted this edition for print on Aug. 25, there was still some paranoia on my part about whether the Sept. 12 Duke opener would be played or moved back — and whether an 11th game would be announced as a non-conference opponent for the Sept. 19 open date (Irish Illustrated reported hosting USF, but nothing had been made of- ficial publicly as of Aug. 25). It seemed surreal during the week- end of Aug. 22 when Indiana high school football opened without any significant hitches — while also rec- ognizing that border states Michigan and Ohio won't have such activity this autumn. As much as I don't want to ad- mit it, not having the Big Ten or Pac-12 participate in college football this fall gives me an almost artifi- cial sense about a college football campaign that for nearly six months has appeared to be on a form of life support. Limiting stadium attendance to about 20 percent capacity — if that — no band or cheerleaders, no tail- gating … From a strictly selfish standpoint, so much about college football in- volves the tradition and pageantry that take us back to cherished days of yore and reliving them. For the stu- dent-athletes, it's only about having the chance to perform what they've worked for all their lives. If the season does indeed com- mence soon and proceeds without too many glitches, maybe the antici- pation and excitement for each new weekend eventually resurfaces, par- ticularly if the Fighting Irish become viable College Football Playoff con- tenders as expected. Start stringing together some wins and a place in the top five in October, and suddenly that Nov. 7 game with Clemson takes on even more vibrancy, maybe even rebirth. If nothing else, the opportunity to earn a bid to the ACC title game in December provides a needed long- term outlook to the season. In 50 years of following the Notre Dame football program, the 2020 regular-season schedule is one of the two or three most favorable — on paper — I've seen for the Fighting Irish when it comes to making a run at the national title (see pages 64-65 on why). That's not even yet includ- ing the potential game against South Florida (4-8 last year). It will be a unique season in the sport's history, much like 1918 when Notre Dame played only six games because the October slate was canceled because of the influ- enza epidemic. Or how about during World War II when 60 universities abandoned football at some point — including seven SEC teams, Alabama among them, in 1943. Notre Dame finished No. 1 that year by defeating the teams that fin- ished No. 2 (Iowa Pre-Flight, a war- time unit), No. 3 (Michigan), No. 4 (Navy), No. 9 (Northwestern), No. 11 (Army) and No. 13 (Georgia Tech, the SEC champ that year in which only 26,497 were in attendance in Notre Dame Stadium). There was no "asterisk" placed by Notre Dame's national title that year. All you can do is play what's placed in front of you. Hopefully, that will be the case in 2020 as well. ✦ 2020 College Football Has An Artificial Reality THE FIFTH QUARTER LOU SOMOGYI Senior Editor Lou Somogyi has been at Blue & Gold Illustrated since July 1985. He can be reached at This August, Brian Kelly and all of college foot- ball gave the term "masking team concerns" a whole new meaning. Despite some setbacks, Notre Dame is moving forward with hopes of playing a full and fulfilling season. PHOTO COURTESY NOTRE DAME ATHLETICS

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