Notre Dame Football has already had its season affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. But what if the pandemic never happened?
Change is occurring — and rapidly — for the Notre Dame football program and other college football programs around the country. With announcements from the Big Ten and the PAC-12 (with other power-five conference likely to follow suit) that schools will be playing in-conference games only, Notre Dame’s plans have been turned upside down.
The Irish, of course, will readjust. If there is a season played in 2020, Notre Dame will likely be able to fill out its schedule with more ACC teams and perhaps other independents like BYU and Army.
But usually, around this time of year, it’s projection season. In other words, many like to project how teams and players will do based on reports of spring football and fall camp. This year, that’s nearly impossible, given the questions surrounding the college football season.
But what if the pandemic never happened? What would we be saying about this Notre Dame football team ahead of their 2020 season?
First of all, I’ve continued to be impressed the way that Brian Kelly and his coaching staff have re-tooled the program following an unacceptable and forgettable 2016 season. The additions of talented position coaches and good recruiting has been, without a doubt, a large reason for Notre Dame’s resurgence after it looked like Kelly was on his way out of town.
I’ve also said before that Notre Dame has been building talented depth in a way they simply hadn’t in recent years. One such example is the defensive line, as the Irish lost NFL talents Julian Okwara and Khalid Kareem, but it looks as though that group will pick up right where they left off.
It’s even reasonable to expect that players who haven’t produced large numbers can step in and have monster seasons — just as Miles Boykin and Chase Claypool, who both flashed at times, but really capitalized as the main men in their respective senior seasons.
Couple that with the fact that the Irish bring back a talented quarterback who is familiar with the system and has a close relationship with the Offensive Coordinator, Tommy Rees, and there was a lot of reason to think that Notre Dame would be in and around contention for the College Football Playoff.
Certainly, there still is a monkey that Notre Dame needs to get off its back, and that’s winning in prime-time matchups. But with Clemson on its way to Notre Dame in November, the Irish had a golden opportunity to do just that.
Notre Dame’s program continues to take steps in the right direction. Talent, depth, and development continue to improve. Whether or not that will be displayed in whatever happens to the college football season in 2020 remains to be seen.