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Take 5: College Football Playoff, Michael Mayer, Game Prediction

My five takes about Notre Dame football as it prepares for its final game of the regular season

My five takes about Notre Dame football as it prepares for its final game of the regular season.

1. A few weeks ago, I wanted to write that there was no way Notre Dame was going to make the College Football Playoffs. I was stopped thankfully by my editor, who clearly has a more informed longer view of how this winding road can go. About a week ago, I wrote that it was better for the Irish not to play in the playoffs because it couldn’t compete with Georgia. I’m backtracking again because why not? The number of elite players on this team, like Michael Mayer, Kyren Williams, Isaiah Foskey, JD Bertrand, and Kyle Hamilton (if he plays) deserves the biggest stage possible. That’s just a partial list, too. Also, playing this year in the CFP isn’t just about this team. The Irish are poised to be even better next year. Get the experience. And yes, there is a good chance it will happen.

2. I’m not worried about Notre Dame defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman leaving for a head coaching job. Of course, it’d be great to have Freeman around for another season or two but the reality of the situation is that Freeman is going to be gone sooner rather than later. And if it happens after this season, so be it. Except for Brian VanGorder, Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly has made solid hires for this position. It’s worth noting that Freeman, who will have his own stable of high-level talent in place starting next season, is winning with Clark Lea’s players. The other coordinators were Bob Diaco, who was in charge of a very good 2012 defense, Mike Elko, who bolted for Texas A & M after the 2017 season, and Lea, who is now coaching Vanderbilt. I’m sure Kelly has his shortlist of candidates to replace Freeman, if it comes up, on speed dial.

3. My favorite stat from the Notre Dame media relations department is that the Irish defense has outscored its opponents 14-9 in the last three games. Some other by the numbers stuff. Notre Dame has 21 turnovers, which is tied for 13th in the country. Last year, the Irish finished with 17. Notre Dame has won 35 straight games when allowing less than 20 points. The Irish have 15 interceptions, which is the most it’s had since 2014 when it finished with 14. Notre Dame’s 55-0 shutout over Georgia Tech was the biggest shutout since it beat Rutgers 62-0 in 1996.

4. As someone who had about 50 sleepless nights putting together an area football and basketball team for 40 high schools we covered at my old job for 25 years, I have empathy for a committee that has to pick the three best. The anxiety for me was getting it wrong, which happened all the time at some level. I’ll make this short, though. The nominees aren’t always the three best tight ends or running backs if it’s the Doak Walker Award. It’s just the three best, according to the committee. I don’t believe there are three better tight ends than Michael Mayer but it’s not an egregious oversight if you follow the golden rule of screening out candidates. The rule is a tie always goes to the upperclassmen. Colorado State’s Trey McBride, Iowa State’s Charlie Kolar, and Texas A&M’s Jalen Wydermyer are all upperclassmen. It’s doubtful that any return next year. All of them, including Mayer, have off-the-chart stats. If Mayer, who is a sophomore, is healthy next year, he’ll be on the list. And I’d put good money on him to win.

5. Notre Dame runs all over a porous Stanford defense and Brian Kelly doesn’t let up with one last chance to impress the College Football Playoff Committee in a 48-17 victory on Saturday. In the highlight department, Kyren Williams rushes for over 100 yards and Isaiah Foskey gets another sack.

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