The good, the bad, the ugly: Notre Dame vs. North Carolina

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That the Irish took the Tar Heels’ best shot and still ended up victorious is worth something. Just what that something is might be defined as the games roll on.

If the Irish continue to win, the victory over North Carolina will be one of the speed bumps on the road to a special season. If Notre Dame struggles this weekend against Florida State and stumbles again, it’ll serve as a harbinger of things to come.

But that’s life in football. You’re only as good as your next game, and every datapoint will be used for or against you, depending on the argument.

With a date in Tallahassee set for Saturday, there’s little time to look back and dwell on a closer-than-necessary victory. But let’s do it anyway.

Here’s the good, bad and ugly from Notre Dame’s 50-43 victory.

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THE GOOD

Tarean Folston. It sure was nice seeing a running back take over a football game. Folston was just what the doctor ordered, especially considering Golson’s not-so-steady presence with the football.

That Folston was able to get the ground game going when everybody in the stadium knew it was coming is a good sign. While I was less than impressed early by the work the offensive line did, Folston meshed well with the front five when crunch time came around, and when the ground game needed it they came through.

My favorite part of Saturday? Check the play-by-play for Folston’s impressive work icing the game after the questionable roughing the snapper penalty.

Drive One: Three carries for 21 yards. Two catches for 13 yards and a touchdown.
Drive Two: Seven carries for 43 yards and a touchdown.

With 71 yards in the air and 98 on the ground, Folston was well deserving of the game ball.

 

Will Fuller. Against a defense that’s one of the worst statistical units in the country, you had to expect a big day from Notre Dame’s big-play receiver. And Fuller delivered, making seven catches for 133 yards and two touchdowns.

With the sophomore the team’s No. 1 receiver without DaVaris Daniels, Fuller even paid tribute to his missing teammate with Daniels’ three-fingered salute, straight from The Hunger Games.

Through six games, Fuller has 504 receiving yards and seven touchdowns. It doesn’t take a math major to see that he’s just on pace for a 1,000 yard regular season with prolific touchdown numbers as well. When asked if Fuller has what it takes to be the team’s No. 1 receiver, Brian Kelly explained that he’s capable of being dynamic, though still a work in progress.

“I think right now he’s kind of emerging as that big play guy,” Kelly said. “I think we’re looking toward him a lot more. But we have other pieces that really complement him as well. I don’t think he can stand out there by himself, you know what I mean?  I don’t think you could say that’s just one guy, but he definitely possesses the skills that have put him in the position that he is right now.”

 

Cole Luke. Just a few days after KeiVarae Russell made it official that he wouldn’t play a down with this football team, Cole Luke went out and made another huge play. His critical interception flipped the momentum of the game and was the one bad play North Carolina quarterback Marquis Williams seemed to make.

 

Notre Dame’s Special Teams. With one of college football’s most dangerous return men on the docket, the Irish shut Ryan Switzer down, holding him to -13 yards on three returns. Add to that six touchbacks on eight kickoffs for Kyle Brindza, a gigantic blocked extra point by Jarron Jones and a great two-point conversion play to Ben Koyack and it was a heckuva day.

 

The Red Zone. Want to know why Notre Dame came away with a victory? It’s because it cashed in every scoring opportunity for a touchdown. After struggling the past couple weeks in the red zone, the Irish were lethal. A six for six afternoon was needed, and it’s the big reason why Notre Dame was capable of closing the early gap.

It’s nice to see some balance in the red zone, with Greg Bryant, Cam McDaniel and Folston getting rushing touchdowns while the Irish also cashed in with Fuller and Folston in the air as well. A prolific afternoon inside the 20 helped the Irish escape 6-0.

 

Quick Hits: 

* How fun is it to see the Jet Sweep start to get some love in the Notre Dame playbook? After watching C.J. Prosise break a big one against Stanford, Prosise and Amir Carlisle both picked up a dozen yards an attempt. It’s good to see the slot receiver continue to make plays of importance.

* Let’s give credit to Marquise Williams here. After splitting series with highly-touted youngster Mitch Trubisky, Williams took every snap — and will likely keep it that way — after lighting up the Irish both on the ground and through the air. How good was Williams? He threw for 303 yards and two touchdowns, ran for 132 yards and a touchdown and caught a 23-yard touchdown pass as well.

Heckuva day in a losing effort.

* Max Redfield & Elijah Shumate combined for 18 tackles on the afternoon. That’s a productive day for two guys who will have a lot of attention heaped on them with Austin Collinsworth likely lost for quite some time.

* Sheldon Day showed up in the stat sheet as only having one assisted tackle. But he was an absolute maniac in the trenches, getting held at least a half-dozen times on plays that should’ve drawn flags.

* A big forced fumble to go along with Joe Schmidt‘s career-high 11 tackles. He might have missed a few uncharacteristically, but that’s because Schmidt should’ve been on a ventilator after playing nearly 90 plays.

 

THE BAD

Up-tempo defense. The Irish looked lost at times against North Carolina’s up-tempo attack. It was a matchup that worried Brian Kelly and it didn’t take long for us to figure out why.

Kelly spoke quite candidly about the challenges that were presented and what went wrong.

“We’re inexperienced in a number of areas, and if the circumstances played out, we could be put into that kind of situation,” Kelly said, when asked about the defensive struggles after being so stout for the season’s first five games. “Here are the ingredients for that. A team that runs an up‑tempo offense that can run up to 100 plays. I think they had 91. We’re very thin on the back end, as evidenced late in the game. We were tired and tackled poorly. That’s something that concerns us.

“Playing very fast with some young kids, not being able to get off the field on third down with our base personnel. We weren’t able to situational substitute, so we weren’t as good on third down, another key ingredient with playing a team like North Carolina.”

 

Tackling defense. This comes with being on the football field for over 80 plays (Brian Kelly charted 91, the official books have it as 84). Either way, Notre Dame was sloppy tackling, missed more than its fair share of tackles-for-loss, and failed to contain a quarterback that everybody knew was going to be a runner just as much as a passer.

Jaylon Smith missed his share of stops. So did Joe Schmidt. Matthias Farley, after looking very locked in this season, reverted back to some sloppy habits.

Let’s not make this into something bigger than it is, but heading into a game against an elite athletic unit, the Irish are going to need to sharpen up.

 

Losing third down on defense. At this point it feels a little bit like we’re dragging the defense through the mud, but the failure for the Irish to win third down after putting the Tar Heels into third-and-long situations was what kept North Carolina in the football game.

Without having the time to bring sub-packages in, the Irish were forced to use their base defense to play on third down. It was likely a big reason why North Carolina’s mediocre offensive line was able to keep Notre Dame from getting a single sack on Williams.

 

Everett Golson’s turnovers. He knows it. We know it. The coaches know it. Golson just cannot keep this pace of inconsistency up, and the three turnovers turned into 21 North Carolina points.

When asked if this was a trend, Kelly talked about the specifics of how the team deals with mistakes like these.

“Let’s look at each one of them,” Kelly said. “The first one he’s stepping up in the pocket and it’s a little bit of everything. The route is too deep.  The route should be broke at 12, it broke at 15, so he has to hitch again.  He hitches again, he gets the ball batted, it’s a fumble, turnover.

“The second one, the box is emptied out, it’s probably a mistake that Everett doesn’t normally make, pick six. Third one he’s going down, ball gets batted out, hand on the ball.

“Every single one of them is analyzed, overanalyzed, and we look at them and we go back to work and find ways to secure the football and do a better job.  We don’t take any of them for granted.  We look at ways to improve each time and look at each one of them as opportunities to eradicate them.”

There were some fans online that seemed ready to give Malik Zaire an opportunity to show what he can do. That’s ridiculous. Golson is the school’s most prolific winner, has thrown 16 touchdowns to just four interceptions, and is still the Irish’s best offensive player.

But he needs to stop making critical mistakes and get back to being himself.

 

Austin Collinsworth’s injury. The veteran safety will get an MRI, but is likely lost for an extended amount of time, leaving the safety position in a difficult spot. Already pronounced out for Saturday in Tallahassee, there’s a chance Collinsworth has played his last snap in South Bend.

(Though there’s also a chance he could be eligible for a sixth-year of competition.)

We tackled what the safety position will look like without Collinsworth during Saturday’s Five Things, but the depth at safety is very thin and it’s going to be on the shoulders of Elijah Shumate and Max Redfield to get it done.

 

THE UGLY

Winning bad. The 43-points Notre Dame gave up are the most in a victory in school history, passing the 42 Lou Holtz’s 1991 squad gave up to Hawaii. But for as frustrating as it seemed to be, five years into the program, the Irish were able to right the ship and come out with a win.

“I think where we’re at right now is that we’ve won 35 of our last 43 games,” Kelly said. “I think that just says it right there.  I mean, these guys believe they’re going to win. When you have that built into your program, guys believe they’re going to find ways to win. We were down 14 points, there’s no panic. We’re down late.  I think these last two games we were down in the fourth quarter, and we won the football game. We don’t want that to happen, but I think the difference is they believe they’re going to win, and that’s something that you build into your program.”

Well said, coach.

Now get it done in Tallahassee, and nobody will remember you struggled with North Carolina.

The lull of National Signing Day underscores need to move the early signing period

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The early-morning chaos of today’s National Signing Day did not disappear with the implementation of the December “early” signing period in the 2018 recruiting cycle. It just moved six weeks earlier.

In 2014, waking up at 6:45 a.m. ET to be logged on and publishing at 7 a.m. led to noticing one expected recruit had not yet signed with Notre Dame by 8 a.m. Pointing that out and reminding the world Michigan State was making a late push led to an Irish media relations staffer reaching out to quietly say something to the extent of, “Just letting the young man have his moment at school.”

In 2017, less than two weeks after taking over this gig, waking up at 3 a.m. CT to churn through 2,000 words before signings could begin becoming official eventually led to napping through Brian Kelly’s Signing Day press conference.

Nothing changed 10 months later. That December, the afternoon of Dec. 22, the Friday before Christmas, was spent waiting for receiver Braden Lenzy to officially choose Notre Dame over Oregon. Sitting at your parents’ kitchen table not helping your niece make a gingerbread house because recruiting-obsessed fans harassed a player through two de-commitments is not a strong way to conjure up holiday spirit.

Coaches across the country advocated for the earlier signing period, claiming it would allow high-school seniors to make their collegiate decisions official earlier on in their senior years, particularly when the prospects had already made up their minds on where to play football at the next level. That was all optics, if even that.

These high schoolers now make their decision official just six weeks earlier. In the preps football calendar, those six weeks are meaningless. Both the December signing period and today, the traditional National Signing Day, come well after the high-school seasons have ended.

The truth was, coaches across the country did not want to tend to their solid commitments over Christmas and New Year’s, particularly not amid bowl prep. It was self-serving at best and short-sighted at worst.

First of all, when the December signing period became reality in 2017, one-time transfers were not yet allowed without losing eligibility the following season. Secondly, no one predicted the early signing period would lead to the coaching carousel beginning earlier and earlier in the season. September firings used to be the result of only off-field scandals, not outright expected from half a dozen programs each fall. Athletic directors now want that headstart on hiring a new coach so he can have time before the December signing period commences.

Exhibit A: Notre Dame may have ended up with Marcus Freeman as its head coach after Brian Kelly’s abrupt departure following the 2021 season, but if the primary signing date had not been lingering just a few weeks away, Kelly likely would not have jumped to LSU before the College Football Playoff field was set, and Irish director of athletics Jack Swarbrick would have taken more time in choosing his next head coach, more than the 48 hours he used last December. After all, Swarbrick took 10 days in hiring Kelly in 2009.

Lastly, with a 12-team Playoff coming in 2025, December will become only more hectic.

Those head coaches who wanted a little less stress over the holidays will then have to deal with, in chronological order:

— Keeping their own jobs.
— Securing their recruiting classes in the days immediately preceding Christmas.
— Preparing their teams for bowl games.
— Preparing their teams for up to four games if in the Playoff.
— Re-recruiting any players considering entering the transfer portal before the winter window closes.
— Winning a bowl game.
— Retaining their coaching staffs.
— Oh, and celebrate the holidays with their families, as was their want when they hollered for the early signing period.

Most of those tasks are immutable and inherent to the sport.

But one can move. It already has once.

The logic is too clear. Nothing was gained in moving up the primary signing date by six weeks. And sanity was lost.

This is, of course, a sport that prefers to ignore logic, but usually that is charming. A mustard bottle on the field is quirky; lacking a worthwhile voice of authority is stubbornly stupid.

So the early signing period may not move as soon as it should (now), but it will move. There are no anti-trust worries tied to it, fortunately.

And aside from the logic, cramming more content into December costs the media, too. Spreading out that context through the vacuum of mid-January to mid-March will be much appreciated.

Leftovers & Links: An early look at Notre Dame’s seven commits in the class of 2024, including QB CJ Carr

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The traditional National Signing Day is this Wednesday, and for yet another year, Notre Dame has no intentions of inking any high-school recruits on the first Wednesday of February. The recruiting calendar has so changed that the Irish have not signed a recruit in February since 2021, when running back Logan Diggs pondered a late LSU push before doubling down on his Notre Dame commitment. Before that, not since 2019, when defensive end Isaiah Foskey publicly did so in order to be a part of his high school’s ceremonies.

Notre Dame turned its focus entirely onto the class of 2024 following December’s early signing period, when it inked a class of 24 players that ranks No. 9 in the country, per rivals.com.

Now with nearly 10 months to go before the next decision day to influence the narrative around Irish head coach Marcus Freeman’s recruiting focus, he already has pledges from seven players in the class of 2024. Class rankings this early in the cycle are rather meaningless, but for the sake of thoroughness, the Notre Dame class of 2024 is currently ranked No. 2 in the country, behind only Georgia with nine recruits pledged to date.

One player stands out among the early Irish seven. He stands out to such a degree this space broke from usual form when he committed in early June. To pull from that opening,

“This space has a general rule to not report on recruiting developments classes ahead of time. Worrying about the thoughts of high school seniors is enough of an oddity; focusing on juniors and underclassmen is outright absurd.

“But exceptions exist to prove rules, and Notre Dame landing the commitment of the No. 3 quarterback in the class of 2024 — prospects entering their junior years of high school — is such an exception.”

Consensus four-star quarterback CJ Carr is now only the No. 4 pro-style quarterback in the class and the No. 14 recruit overall, but he is the kind of key piece to a recruiting class that the Irish lacked in 2023, despite Freeman’s continued excellence hauling in defensive prospects. Carr has been an active and vocal recruiter on his own for Notre Dame, not an unusual occurrence from an early commit but a habit the Irish have not garnered out of a quarterback in quite some time. Even Tyler Buchner, due to both the pandemic and his own soft-spoken nature, was not the loudest campaigner among his peers.

RELATED READING: Notre Dame beats out Michigan for Lloyd Carr’s grandson, QB CJ Carr

At 6-foot-3, Carr looks the part of a prototypical quarterback, and his arm strength fits in line with that thought. He has downfield touch that would open up Notre Dame’s playbook in a way entirely unseen in 2022.

The other six early commitments to the Irish in the class of 2024 …

Consensus four-star running back Aneyas Williams (Hannibal High School; Mo.), ranked as the No. 1 all-purpose running back and No. 106 recruit in the class, per rivals.com: There will be many comparisons to former Notre Dame running back Kyren Williams when Aneyas Williams arrives on campus, and though they are from the same state, there is no relation. The younger Williams can do a bit of everything while his 5-foot-10 frame carries plenty of punch. He lacks truly elite speed, as Kyren did, but obviously that did not kept the elder Williams from cracking 1,000 yards in back-to-back seasons.

Consensus four-star receiver Cam Williams (Glenbard South H.S.; Glen Ellyn, Ill.), ranked as the No. 11 receiver and No. 102 recruit in the class: The Chicagoland product visited Iowa a handful of times and took looks at Michigan and Wisconsin, seemingly intent on staying in the Midwest. Williams has all the fundamentals wanted of a receiver, 6-foot-2 size combined with a comfort catching the ball. Time will reveal what part of his game, if any, develops into his specialty.

Consensus four-star tight end Jack Larsen (Charlotte Catholic; N.C.), ranked as the No. 7 tight end and No. 187 recruit in the class: Whether Larsen will be the next piece of “Tight End U” or not is a premature thought, but at 6-foot-3 and an ability to snag passes downfield over defenders, Larsen already looks the part. Credit a basketball background for that aerial ability.

Four-star offensive guard Peter Jones (Malvern Prep; Penn.), ranked as the No. 4 offensive guard and No. 99 recruit in the class: Jones plays tackle in high school, nearly an absolute requirement for any offensive line prospect chased by Irish offensive line coach Harry Hiestand, but his playing style suggests a future on the inside of the line.

Consensus four-star defensive tackle Owen Wafle (Hun School; Princeton, N.J.), ranked as the No. 10 defensive tackle in the class: Pronounced like playful, not waffle, Wafle should add weight to his 6-foot-3, 235-pound frame as he grows from a high-school junior into a college player. That may seem obvious, but the quality of that weight he adds in the next 20 months will be what most determines how quickly he can contribute in South Bend.

Consensus three-star cornerback Karson Hobbs (Archbishop Moeller; Cincinnati): Anyone committed right now has made a decision relatively early in the recruiting cycle, yet Hobbs was committed to South Carolina for three months before he flipped to Notre Dame in early November. Seeking out a committed three-star more than a year before he can officially sign may strike one as foolish, but Irish cornerbacks coach Mike Mickens has earned some leeway in his evaluations, given the early impacts of Benjamin Morrison and Jaden Mickey in 2022.

INSIDE THE IRISH
Ohio State, Clemson & Pittsburgh hurt most by early NFL draft entrants among Notre Dame’s opponents
40 Preseason Predictions Revisited, part I: Notre Dame’s rushing offense hid many early struggles
Part II: Notre Dame’s upset losses should have been expected from a first-year head coach
Part III: Notre Dame’s November far from the expected disappointment
Part IV: Notre Dame’s 2022 ended where it was always expected to

OUTSIDE READING
How QB Sam Hartman found trouble with turnovers in 2022
College QB Austin Reed got transfer portal offers comparable to late-round NFL draft picks
I requested my Notre Dame admissions file
Boston College, offensive coordinator John McNulty parting ways after 2022 struggles
Hamlin’s injury highlights precarious position of many young N.F.L. players
On the Broncos’ head-coaching finalists
Bally Sports RSNs headed for bankruptcy
Auditor: LSU overpaid Brian Kelly by more than $1M in 2022

40 Preseason Predictions Revisited, part IV: Notre Dame’s 2022 ended where it was always expected to

TaxSlayer Gator Bowl - Notre Dame v South Carolina
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Notre Dame did not get there in any way expected, but the Irish season ended about where anticipated in the preseason. Psychological studies could spend hours disagreeing if it would have been better for Notre Dame to go 10-3 with its three losses coming to three top-10 teams or if a 9-4 season with a top-10 upset is better for Marcus Freeman’s program in the long-term.

But either scenario was going to end with the Irish in the Gator Bowl, a likelihood as far back as August.

To finish this recap of 40 preseason predictions

32) “A freshman defensive back will intercept a pass this season, becoming just the second freshman to do so” since 2017. Notre Dame’s defensive backfields have been far from liabilities during this resurgence since the 2016 faceplant, but they have lacked young playmakers, Kyle Hamilton aside.

Enter Benjamin Morrison and not one, not two, not three … but six interceptions in his freshman season. Unfortunately for your prognosticator, that does not equal six correct predictions. (15.5/32)

33) “The spread when the Irish visit the Trojans will be more than a field goal but less than a touchdown.” And indeed, USC was favored by four when Notre Dame visited the weekend after Thanksgiving, in what may have been the last visit the weekend after Thanksgiving. Logic says the Irish and Trojans will continue playing regularly, but USC’s joining the Big Ten in 2024 could change the timing of the meetings, and NCAA rule changes have removed Notre Dame’s want to be on the West Coast that particular week.

The Irish used to disperse their coaches from Washington to Arizona to recruit the Pacific time zone immediately after the season-ending game in California. In a literal sense, it saved those coaches 12-24 hours to not have to travel to Seattle or Phoenix from South Bend, particularly vital in a crucial recruiting window.

But now, the days after Thanksgiving are a dead period, so the coaches cannot make those visits. They flew back with the team this year.

Combine that with the Big Ten flux and perhaps Notre Dame starts heading to USC at a different point in the calendar in 2024. (16.5/33)

34) “USC will not make the College Football Playoff.”

Between this, suggesting Ohio State would make the Playoff and mistakenly thinking Clemson would, as well, these preseason predictions accurately predicted the season conclusions for two of the three biggest Irish opponents in 2022. Already suspect the 2023 version will include none of the three making the Playoff. (17.5/34)

35) Sophomore receiver Lorenzo Styles’ disappointing 2022 — 30 catches for 340 yards and one touchdown — cost him any semblance of NFL draft buzz a year before he is eligible for the draft. A breakout 2023 would obviously change that, but that was not the prediction. (17.5/35)

36) Blake Grupe fell two makes short of the predicted 80 percent field-goal rate, finishing at 73.7 percent on 14-of-19. A career 74.4 percent kicker before he arrived at Notre Dame, the Arkansas State graduate transfer’s 2022 fell in line with his career. (17.5/36)

37) Arguing Notre Dame would score fewer than 32.8 points per game in 2022 was based on the lack of depth at receiver, subsequently underscored by Styles’ struggles. Expecting the Irish to slow things down made a lower-scoring season a strong thought, though perhaps not as low as the 31.4 scored per game in 2018, the low of the last six years.

Notre Dame threaded that needle with 31.8 points per game, a number buoyed, though not shockingly, by the punt-block unit and Morrison’s contributions. (18.5/37)

38) The Irish had gone 54-10 in Brian Kelly’s final five years in South Bend, winning at least 10 games each year. Predicting a sixth season of double-digit wins was a mistake largely thanks to Audric Estimé’s fumble in the fourth quarter against Stanford. (18.5/38)

39) This final stretch of predictions focused on hitting a few tight windows. The spread against USC, the exact scoring average and … where Notre Dame would play in a bowl game.

“Notre Dame will play in Florida before New Year’s.”

As complicated as bowl scenarios get during the season and then even the week of selections with the Holiday Bowl in San Diego reportedly campaigning hard for the Irish, sticking with initial expectations would have been a smart travel-planning strategy. (19.5/39)

40) 

(20.5/40)

40 Preseason Predictions Revisited, part I: Notre Dame’s rushing offense hid many early struggles
Part II: Notre Dame’s upset losses should have been expected from a first-year head coach
Part III: Notre Dame’s November far from the expected disappointment

40 Preseason Predictions Revisited, part III: Notre Dame’s November far from the expected disappointment

Clemson v Notre Dame
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Recapping these preseason predictions bit by bit has emphasized how much of a see-saw Notre Dame’s 2022 was. They expected decent Irish success at Ohio State to open the season, which was realized. They then plainly assumed Notre Dame would continue to wallop overmatched opponents as Brian Kelly made the default.

Instead, Marcus Freeman stubbed his toe twice as first-year head coaches are wont to do, rendering that stretch of predictions largely flawed.

Now, the predictions tilt into early November, expecting little from the Irish. Of course, that was exactly when Freeman delivered the defining moment of his debut campaign.

21) “Notre Dame will top last year’s 41 sacks, which was a Kelly Era high. The Ademilola twins, junior defensive end Rylie Mills and at least one linebacker will each make at least three sacks.”

The first part of that fell inarguably short, 38 clearly less than 41. But the next sentence held more merit. Defensive end Justin Ademiloa and twin brother tackle Jayson Ademilola each had three sacks while Mills added 3.5. No linebacker reached three unless willing to still count Jordan Botelho as a linebacker with his 4.5 sacks. Given two of those came in the Gator Bowl when Botelho was clearly a defensive end, that would be generous grading. Instead, this entire prediction should be considered wrong, alas. (12/21)

22) Did this space continue publishing as planned after the Minnesota Timberwolves home opener? The running content calendar says a “Leftovers & Links” column ran on Oct. 20, the day after. Take the wins where you can find them, especially as a Timberwolves fan. (13/22)

23) The Irish had won 25 straight regular-season games against ACC opponents entering the season. Predicting that would reach 27 meant predicting Notre Dame would beat North Carolina and Syracuse. Check and check. (14/23)

24) That did not push the Irish into the top 10 of the initial College Football Playoff rankings, as predicted, thanks to the mishaps against Marshall and Stanford. (14/24)

25) And here comes a stretch of predictions predicated in pessimism, focused on how Notre Dame would fare against Clemson. The Irish had won 16 straight games in November entering the 2022 season. Suggesting that would end at 16 was suggesting Notre Dame would lose to Clemson on the first weekend of November.

Rather, that was the win in Freeman’s first season that will be long remembered. (14/25)

26) That expected loss was based on Clemson’s defensive front holding Notre Dame’s ground game in check. There was no expectation the Irish would dominate there with 264 rushing yards on 46 carries after adjusting for a single one-yard sack. Logan Diggs ran for 114 yards on 17 carries while Audric Estimé took 18 rushes for 104 yards. (14/26)

27) That loss did not knock Clemson out of the College Football Playoff. The Tigers messing around and finding out against South Carolina did that. But regardless, predicting Clemson would return to the Playoff was ill-fated. (14/27)

28) Notre Dame was 30-1 in its last 31 home games entering the season. Predicting that would reach 35-2 in step with suggesting the Irish would lose to the Tigers was wrong in all sorts of ways, most notably in that the stretch is now 34-3 after Notre Dame went just 4-2 at home last season. Again, Marshall and Stanford. (14/28)

29) Boston College receiver Zay Flowers did not have the predicted 40-yard catch on Senior Day at Notre Dame Stadium. He had a long of 39 yards on a snow-covered field playing with a backup quarterback.

The spirit of the prognostication was valid, but alas. (14/29)

30) Former Irish tight end George Takacs did not catch a touchdown in his return with the Eagles. No one did. (14/30)

31) And former Notre Dame quarterback Phil Jurkovec did not have a “perfectly adequate day in his return to South Bend, not dramatic enough in any regard to confirm or deny anyone’s expectations for him that day.”

Jurkovec did not play at all, so let’s call this wager a push. He did, however, make some headlines from the sideline.

There is a strong chance this prediction is rerun in its entirety in 2023 with Jurkovec and Pittsburgh heading to South Bend on Oct. 28. (14.5/31)