What happened to Notre Dame?
Just like that, major College Football Playoff contenders were dropped by the bushel this week. Former #1 Georgia surprisingly lost to Auburn. Notre Dame got blown out by former Miami, dropping them out of the CFB picture. Oklahoma beat TCU, effectively eliminating them from the playoff. It was certainly a busy weekend for the committee, as the playoff picture becomes easier to picture. So, what happened to Notre Dame?
There were a few issues that were out of the control for the Irish, so let’s begin with those. First off, injuries began to take their tole once again. Josh Adams (although insistent he is okay and didn’t go under concussion protocol) didn’t look like himself. He averaged just over 2 yards per carry after averaging almost ten throughout the rest of the season. Brandon Wimbush also looked a bit roughed up. Noted early in the game, Wimbush had to wear a padded glove on his non-throwing arm for the game – something he has never done – due to a hand injury from the week before. Of course, just two injuries wouldn’t lose a team the game, but losing your two best runners and offensive tools certainly doesn’t help.
Secondly, where did the offensive line go? The strength of the roster for the entire season suddenly disappeared against a smothering Miami defense. I don’t know if it’s that turnover chain, or how much faster paced the Miami defense was against the Irish, but the line simply couldn’t hold them. Miami forced four turnovers against a team who relied on good ball control to win games. Notre Dame was never built to win from behind, and they never even had a chance to start off well as their first possession ended in a punt. Miami scored off their first possession and never let Notre Dame catch up.
One could say that Miami won this game, and someone else could say that Notre Dame lost it, but it was both. An utter manhandling at the hands of the Hurricanes has fans yelling that the “U is back” – which looks to be the case. Miami had possession of the ball for more than 7 minutes longer than the Irish, which wasn’t even their biggest strength. The defense fed off the turnovers and capitalized when they could. Miami has the fourth most turnovers in the country and has now forced 4+ turnovers in four straight games – A first for FBS teams.
Essentially, the offensive line never gave Wimbush or Adams a chance, and forced 3 bad and overthrown passes leading to interceptions. The tenacity of the Miami defense pushed the offensive line over the edge and showed they were stronger than them. The Irish defense never had a chance as they were left on the field for long periods of time and the line could not hold the running game of the Miami offense.
Miami now has their work cut out for them on their way to the playoff. They play unranked Virginia and Pitt before going to Clemson for the ultimate test. If they win out the schedule they’re a playoff lock, but if they lose to Clemson then they’re on the fence to get in.
Notre Dame faces a 6-3 Navy team next week and are 17-point opening favorites to win. They then go to #21 Stanford for a final ranked matchup in the hopes the cards fall perfectly to get them into the playoff. The road is certainly tough for them.