Blue and Gold Illustrated

March 2024

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

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Page 21 of 91

22 MARCH 2024 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY TYLER HORKA M arcus Freeman was all about national championships, na- tional championships, na- tional championships in the months leading up to his first season as Notre Dame's head coach. He backed off that rhetoric after a 9-4 season. Fast forward a year, and the Irish were hardly any closer to winning it all with a 10-3 record. Freeman didn't say those two words nearly as much as he did before. But if he were to say them now, people might actually buy in. Notre Dame has a strong coordina- tor combo, a coveted quarterback and a stout defense. Freeman is only getting older and wiser as the years go on. He's not going to fire back up the natty nar- rative if he knows what's good for him, and clearly he has demonstrated that on this front he most certainly does, but if his Irish can get by a tough test at Texas A&M in the season opener there will be really good odds of Notre Dame being undefeated heading into November. The following five storylines are some of the biggest for Notre Dame that will either make or break the Irish's chances of running the table into the final month of the regular season. NEW-LOOK LINEBACKERS Notre Dame's defensive line returns three of four starters. The one defection, Javontae Jean-Baptiste, is being replaced by someone who might as well be his clone physically and by way of the player Freeman has a chance to put it all together and lead the Fighting Irish to the expanded College Football Playoff in 2024. PHOTO BY CHAD WEAVER THIRD TIME'S A CHARM Marcus Freeman hit speed bumps in his first two seasons at Notre Dame, but it could be smoother sailing in Year 3

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