In this seemingly interminable week between the end of bowl season and the title game all college football fans eagerly await, taking a day or two away from football is understandable, but make no mistake, when Monday night rolls around, Notre Dame fans should cheer for Clemson.
Not just because the Tigers are underdogs against LSU and Clemson winning would likely produce a more-enthralling season finale, but also because this space will relish 10 months of writing “two-time defending national champions” when discussing the premiere 2020 Irish opponent. And because Notre Dame should want to be the one to snap what could then be a 38-game winning streak come early November.
That became even truer in the last week when two of the other tough foes on the 2020 Irish slate lost their stars, Wake Forest quarterback Jamie Newman opting to transfer and Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor unsurprisingly heading to the NFL. That will not doom either season outright, but it will dampen their expectations and presumably any perception to be gained by beating them.
Of course, Newman had to win a preseason position battle just to get the chance to star this season, and when Sam Hartman played, he played well. By no means will the Demon Deacons be entirely adrift. Similarly, only a fool would dismiss the Badgers’ ground game outright no matter who the running back is; freshman Nakia Watson averaged 4.47 yards per rush this season in the rare moments Taylor took to the sideline.
Such is the cyclical nature of college football.
With last week’s run of personnel decisions, Notre Dame has a better idea of how that cycle will befall it this offseason. In place of safety Alohi Gilman, the Irish will turn to Kyle Hamilton and Ohio State graduate transfer Isaiah Pryor. With Tony Jones capping his career with a grown man’s stiff arm, Notre Dame will rely on, well, that position competition may last past the August trip to Dublin.
And with tight end Cole Kmet capitalizing on his status as possibly the best tight end in April’s NFL draft, the Irish could need a freshman to step forward. Heading into Saturday’s All-American Bowl, this space argued, “the skill players may be the key to recognizing the possible heights Notre Dame could reach in 2020.” Michael Mayer did nothing to disabuse those thoughts …
Michael Mayer shows what he's been doing here all week with a 37-yard touchdown from Clemson signee DJ Uiagalelei. pic.twitter.com/oJ8OVJTxUr
— Carter Karels (@CarterKarels) January 4, 2020
Admittedly, that was not the most impressive touchdown by a past, present or future Irish tight end over the weekend …
— The Fighting Irish (@FightingIrish) January 6, 2020
A QUICK CORRECTION
As 2019 became 2020, an evolving spreadsheet tracking Notre Dame’s roster counted a player twice. Thus, the running scholarship count included with each personnel decision was off by one. Those have since been corrected.
The correct count: The Irish roster currently expects 88 scholarship players in the fall.
The player that was double-counted? Incoming freshman long snapper Alex Peitsch, of course.
Sitting three players above the NCAA maximum should not set off any alarms. Outgoing transfers alone may take care of that excess, before even getting to the usual summer concerns.
SPEAKING OF SPECIAL TEAMS
One last note from Notre Dame’s 33-9 Camping World Bowl victory that has neither been emphasized enough nor set aside for any planned future articles …
Junior kicker Jonathan Doerer went 17-of-20 on field goals this season, a preseason fret becoming an inarguable strength. Two of his three misses came from more than 40 yards. Without Doerer, the USC victory (3-for-3) and the Iowa State win (4-for-4) would have been much more worrisome for the Irish.
These national rankings will adjust slightly as bowl season wraps, but as it stands, Notre Dame defense ranks:
Yards Per Play Allowed: 9th
Turnovers Forced: 4th
Pass Eff. Defense: 5th
Chunk plays allowed (20+ yards): 10th.
— Pete Sampson (@PeteSampson_) December 30, 2019
INSIDE THE IRISH READING
— Notre Dame strips Iowa State of Camping World upset hopes
— Things We Learned: Notre Dame won the ‘no-win’ narrative, raising the bar for the future
— Ian Book announces return for fifth season, third as starter
— Alohi Gilman and Tony Jones both unsurprisingly head to the NFL
— Bennett Skowronek brings size and experience to WRs lacking both
— Notre Dame and CBs coach Todd Lyght part ways after five seasons
— Cole Kmet jumps to the NFL, with good reason
— All-American Bowl features Notre Dame’s near future
— CB Temitope Agoro In Transfer Portal
— Ranking all 130 college football offensive line situations
— Top 10: A dozen contenders for a finite number of spots ($)
— How 40 years of college football history would have been different with a playoff
— Minnesota hiring Mike Sanford Jr. to be offensive coordinator
— How Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence delivered in his biggest test yet ($)
✅ Chapter 13
— Notre Dame Football (@NDFootball) January 2, 2020