Notre Dame Football gets less respect than Rodney Dangerfield lately.
The first ever Playoff game in the history of Notre Dame football hasn’t exactly been a long time coming considering that the College Football Playoff has only been around for five years prior to this season. After all, it’s also just 6 seasons since Notre Dame played for the National Championship against Alabama. But after a recent series of near-misses, it certainly feels like much longer than that.
In 2015, Notre Dame was four points away from going to the Playoff. A heartbreaking loss to Clemson in a near monsoon — one that included a 21-3 fourth quarter deficit — closed the book on that run. Not to make things worse, but an early fourth quarter failed two-point conversion lead to another failed try with seven seconds to go.
Had Notre Dame kicked both extra points, the game would have went to overtime.
There was also a brutal loss to end the season at Stanford, one that featured multiple lead changes and a walkoff Stanford field goal. A win in either of those games would have certainly changed Notre Dame’s fortunes.
Last year, the Irish were in the race until November, when a crushing loss at Miami unofficially ended their chances. Miami went on to a disappointing finish to the season. But it was an 18-point loss to Stanford at the end of the season that sealed the deal for Notre Dame.
All three of these years have something in common: people have doubted Notre Dame, and questioned if they truly belong in the elite of college football.
Each time Notre Dame has lost a high profile game (especially with Miami last year) people were eager to jump up and proclaim “Notre Dame is a fraud! They can’t hang with the big boys!” We’re still hearing that same sentiment this season, but there’s one major difference: there’s nothing to back it up.
Yes, there’s been close calls: Ball State, Vanderbilt and Pitt weren’t exactly shining moments of the season, but there isn’t a single loss on the schedule. An early season win over Michigan wasn’t enough to change people’s minds, because as we all know by now, teams aren’t the same in November as they are in September.
In fact, that argument right there was the basis for certain fan bases, websites and networks as to why Notre Dame making the playoff isn’t a lock. Some even thought Michigan (who at the time only had one loss) should get in over Notre Dame.
Then the talk came that Georgia is one of the four best teams in the country (which they very well may be) but that they should make the Playoff over Notre Dame.
Meanwhile, all Notre Dame has done all season is win. Wins over every team on their schedule, good or bad. That’s something only three other teams can say.
But still, the questions are there.
A win over Clemson would absolutely change the narrative for Notre Dame Football. Sure, there will definitely be some spin somewhere that Clemson was overrated, and how all of their wins were from a weak ACC and weak schedule overall.
Wait, where have we heard that before?
Clemson’s been there, done that. Four Playoff appearances, 3 wins, one title and a legendary trilogy with Alabama. After Alabama, Clemson has basically been the gold standard in college football for the last four seasons.
An Irish victory would lead to bigger and better things on and off the field. No doubt, it would once and for all prove that Notre Dame does belong with the college football heavyweights. From there, anything is possible.
And that includes the College Football Playoff National Championship.