Following the ACC Championship game loss to Clemson, Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly made a comment about freshman running back Chris Tyree that outlined a philosophical problem that continues to hold the Irish program back.
In the latest Irish Breakdown podcast I share that comment from Kelly and break down why I believe it is so flawed, and keeps Notre Dame from developing the kind of explosive offense needed to truly compete for championships.
Now, to add some context to the podcast ....
The four playoff teams are giving up 17.5 (Clemson), 18.6 (Notre Dame), 19.5 (Alabama) and 21.0 (Ohio State) points per game. Clearly there is a lot of similarities in those numbers. On offense, however, one team stands out, and not in a good way.
Alabama averages 49.7 points per game, Clemson scores 44.9 points per game and Ohio State scores 42.0 points per game. Notre Dame heads into the College Football Playoff scoring 35.2 points per game. The Irish have scored under 35 points five times in 11 games, and the number would be six without overtime against Clemson.
The other three playoff teams have scored under 35 points a combined three times.
Clearly Notre Dame isn't anywhere near where it needs to be on offense, and without a change in philosophy it will continue to be a problem. The issue of playing freshmen is a big part of that philosophy, but it's not just about the freshmen per se. It's about the type of offense Kelly wants, and how that style of offense makes it harder to get the best players on the field, and how it fails to see the changes in the game that the best offenses have adopted.
Look, Kelly has done some amazing things in South Bend, on and off the field, but at Notre Dame the end game is and should always be championships.
The Fighting Irish were an average program for 20 years before Kelly arrived, of that there can be no debate. From 1997 to 2009, a span of 13 seasons prior to Kelly's arrival, Notre Dame had just two seasons of 10+ wins. In Kelly's 11 seasons, Notre Dame has had a pair of undefeated regular seasons and six seasons of 10 or more wins.
But two things have eluded Kelly, a resume filled with the kind of big wins that made Lou Holtz a Hall of Famer, and the national championship that made him a legend.
I feel the need to say all of that because it seems in this climate you cannot be critical of Kelly and his lack of a championship without first admitting that he's clearly a far, far superior coach to Bob Davie, Ty Willingham and Charlie Weis.
There are plenty of Notre Dame fans and others involved with Notre Dame who have convinced themselves that the program can no longer truly compete for championships. I reject that, and I believe that for all the good things Kelly has done, there are still a few very, very important areas where his stubbornness continues to hold him and the program back and keeps them from taking that final step.
Until that changes then what we saw against Clemson in the ACC title game, and in the College Football Playoff, and against Miami in 2018, and against Georgia, and against Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl, and against Alabama in the 2012 title game will continue to happen.
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