Notre Dame One Of Five Programs With The Best Chance To Win A Title

Bryan Driskell

There have been 28 seasons since 1992, which CBS Sports writer Tom Fornelli calls the “modern” era of college football. During that stretch, 14 teams have combined to win those 28 national championships, and Notre Dame is not among those programs.

Fornelli noted that only 10.8% of the programs at the FBS level in college football have won a title in the last almost three decades. In a recent article, Fornelli broke down five programs on the verge of winning a title, and the Fighting Irish were listed in that breakdown.

Here’s what Fornelli wrote about the Irish possibly winning a title over the next decade.

“Notre Dame may not be a member of a Power Five conference, but it is still a Power Five program. Plus, considering its scheduling agreement with the ACC, one could argue that the Irish are the second-best team in the league. Like Georgia, Notre Dame has already reached the College Football Playoff. Unlike Georgia, it did not reach the title game but was instead crushed by the same Clemson squad that steamrolled Alabama in the CFP National Championship that year.

“As for Notre Dame's ability to get back there, its independence is a two-edged sword. Notre Dame has to go undefeated to have a realistic shot of making the playoff; however, after starting a season 12-0, it doesn't have to go 13-0 since it has no conference championship to play in. Thanks to its ACC schedule agreement and its national rivalries, it will always have a strong enough schedule to boost its resume should it go 12-0. The Irish recruit well enough -- their classes sometimes crack the top 10 and are usually within the top 15 -- to ensure that they remain a viable option.”

My first issue with Fornelli’s analysis, which is mostly fair, is the aspect of Notre Dame needing to go undefeated to make the College Football Playoff. This is yet another media driven narrative that isn’t grounded in reality. In 2016 and 2017 a non-conference winner with a loss made the College Football Playoff, and neither was named Notre Dame.

Had Notre Dame defeated Miami and Stanford to end the 2017 season, does anyone think the one-loss Irish would have dropped down from the No. 3 ranking in the CFP poll, which is where they were prior to the Miami loss?

Of course not. Whether or not Notre Dame needs to be undefeated depends on Notre Dame’s schedule, and whether or not the CFB season ends up more like 2018 and 2019, when three undefeated teams made the playoff, or more like the 2017 season when no one entered the post-season undefeated.

I would also take issue with his notion that Notre Dame has recruited well enough to win a national championship. That has been true of past teams, but Notre Dame’s overall recruiting efforts in recent seasons have not been good enough to compete for a title.

There are positions where the Irish have flourished, but the coach responsible for much of that is now gone, and Notre Dame’s overall defensive recruiting in recent seasons hasn’t been quite as good as it needs to be.

Georgia, Oregon, Penn State and Texas A&M were the other four programs to make this list.

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Comments (16)
No. 1-7

Penn State? Georgia, Oregon, ND, A&M and UF sounds about right to me. UF because of Dan Mullen, recruiting and being in the SEC East.


I don’t think Notre Dame has to go undefeated to make the playoffs, but I don’t believe the one loss can be to Clemson and us make it. Just like last year I didn’t believe we could make it if we lost to Georgia.

For Notre Dame to make the playoffs at 11-1 it needs to have marquee wins. We would have had them in 2015 (Stanford) and 2017 (USC & Miami) if we had gone 11-1. I still believe our best chance at getting in at 11-1 is if the loss comes against Pitt or Louisville.


I dont think we are on the verge of winning a title. How can we be when every single time we get on the big stage we lose? Right when we think we are getting close we get humbled by someone and that comes down to talent and talent always comes down to recruiting. Look where we have finished in recruiting the last 5 years and you will quickly see why we keep coming up short.

2016: 13th
2017: 13th
2018: 11th
2019: 14th
2020: 22nd

Those rankings I am sure are great at some schools. At Notre Dame it's not close to being good enough. We are trending the wrong way in recruiting and no one seems to have a answer as to what can be done to fix it. The last time we had a top 10 recruiting class was in 2013. That's close to a decade and that shouldn't happen at Notre Dame. I get it's a little harder for Notre Dame to recruit but all that means is as a staff you and your assistant coaches have to work harder. Kelly knows he needs to recruit better but there is no sense of urgency from him.


I absolutely think ND is right in this stack of contenders and with a very effective QB in Book---a very powerful OL---and a very disciplined and talented Defense that generates turnovers...they can have a shot.

Team like OSU-Bama-Clemson have an edge in playoff/ Final Four game experience---and well stocked rosters they've built over a longer period of time---but ND's 2 Deep Top Players are not too far off from them.

This was shaping up to be one of Kelly's best teams and getting four good Transfers and a refresh on the Offensive play calling and game planning could be the extra secret sauce they need to surprise teams who aren't following ND closely until game week. ND is tough to handle with 4-5 days of practice time to get ready.

Kelly hiring McNulty and Mickens is going to help sharpen some key areas like run blocking and DB coverages too that weren't on the game tapes from 2019.

Holtz's 1988 team made some shifts from their previous season and they were much improved before people realized it.

PSU and Oregon and maybe USC if they get their mojo back are all teams like ND.
Georgia has lots of talent but a new QB and they play some tough teams so they have some challenges.

Bama has had some discontinuity of OC and DC staff guys changing out and some players who act entitled---Clemson lost some great experience and talent to NFL and a WR injury---maybe ND can close the gap this Fall.


I don't see us winning a title under Kelly, with one exception: This year. This is setting up to be a strange year--spring practice cut short for many schools, quarantines, etc. Additionally, I think Kelly will scale back the offense as he has a lot of young skill talent. Finally, I think the presence of Chris Watt as an OL coach will help the line with run blocking. If he pulls it off, I hope Kelly rides off into the sunset. He simply doesn't have the fire to win one otherwise. He wants to win if he can do it with a comfortable staff and without having to work too hard on the recruiting trail. I can't see him winning it in 2021 or 2022, that's for sure.


I completely disagree with ND having a chance with those teams. While some people are saying this crazy situation benefits ND this season i think it actually will be a huge negative. In a season where one week you could lose your starting QB or other star player due to Covid, you will need a deep roster with guys who can step in and make plays.

Brian Kelly has repeatedly shown that he is unwilling and unable to prepare young players to step in and make plays. They don't even see the field. This year you'll need back up QBs, young guys and other playmakers to step up in certain weeks when other people are down and ND has not built that depth.


I agree. (with whoever) It DOES come-down to recruiting. Stop and think: You're a high school kid. You're a top-notch college prospect with luxurious offers from state schools. Why would you choose the rigors of NotAdame (I'm from Boston-ish) when you can bask in partying at other schools? It's hard to recruit to NotAdame.