Blue and Gold Illustrated

December 2015 Issue

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

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Page 91 of 92

THE FIFTH QUARTER LOU SOMOGYI M uch of the conversation and discourse during Notre Dame's preparation for the regular-sea- son finale at Stanford understandably revolved around the four-team College Football Playoff. How much would Notre Dame have to win by to impress the 12-person com- mittee enough to vault into the top four? Does it make sense to stay independent when champions in the Power Five con- ferences seem to have a better trump card? Was there a conspiracy to keep Notre Dame out because of the way it dropped from No. 4 to No. 6 after barely defeating Boston College Nov. 21? All these became moot following the heartbreaking 38-36 loss at No. 9 Stan- ford (per the College Football Playoff committee rankings). A 10-2 regular-season mark after los- ing more than a dozen major performers for some to all of the season merits plau- dits that the makings of a top-10 pro- gram are in place for head coach Brian Kelly and his staff. I realistically like to see Notre Dame in the national title conversation — which I define as being a legitimate contender entering the final week of the regular season — once per five years, and it's been done twice now in the last four. That doesn't mean the program has "arrived," just that it is in far sounder shape than five years ago. There are three overriding factors that have to be overcome now and in the future: 1. KILLER INSTINCT/STYLE POINTS Scheduling this year wasn't at fault because the "intent" was there. Notre Dame couldn't help it that Texas had an- other losing season, 2014 Orange Bowl champ Georgia Tech imploded to 3-9 or even dark horse, national-title contender USC lost three league games. Of Killer Instincts, Red Zones & Defense Junior linebacker Jaylon Smith and the Irish defense were able to contain Stanford running back Christian McCaffery, but failed to produce any turnovers — a common theme throughout this season. PHOTO BY BILL PANZICA

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