Last Monday, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish beat the Louisville Cardinals 35-17 in their season opener. Although the Irish pulled away in the second half, they struggled to execute against an extremely poor Louisville team, which is projected by some to finish dead last in the ACC. Notre Dame’s many flaws were on full display, leading many to question whether they are worth enough to be ranked in the top 10 teams in the nation.
Seemingly every year, the same question is asked revolving Notre Dame football. “Are they overrated?” This season, that question may hold more value than it has before. The truth is that Notre Dame is overrated this year and nowhere near the team they were during their playoff run in 2018.
Notre Dame is still a very solid all-around football team. They have the talent and as of now, deserve to be ranked in the top-25. Wide receiver Chase Claypool and quarterback Ian Book, accompanied by a trio of skillful running backs and a stellar offensive line will be successful this season.
Edge rusher Julian Okwara will continue to impress on the defensive end as well. However, the team as a whole is not worthy of being ranked eighth in the country and has no shot at returning to the College Football Playoff this year.
In 2018, Notre Dame had one of the nation’s top defenses, allowing only 18.2 points per game. Fast forward one year, and it has gotten much worse. Linebackers Te’von Coney and Drue Tranquill have moved on to the NFL and will leave a big hole in their defense. Jerry Tillery was a massive force at defensive tackle, recording eight sacks last year. He was drafted in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft by the Chargers.
Julian Love, Notre Dame’s only All-American in 2018, was drafted in the fourth round of the draft in April. The Irish have lost arguably their four best defensive players from last year. These impactful departures should not be underestimated.
Notre Dame has also gotten weaker offensively. Starting center Sam Mustipher and starting guard Alex Bars have graduated. Last year’s leading rusher Dex Williams and starting tight end Alize Mack were drafted a few months ago. Most importantly, Miles Boykin, Notre Dame’s leading receiver, has also moved on to the pros. Boykin (eight), Williams (13), and Mack (three) accounted for almost half of the entire team’s touchdowns last year. Without Boykin’s ability to stretch the field and his red-zone dominance, the Irish will not be as explosive and clinical offensively in 2019.
To be clear, I am not saying that Notre Dame does not have a good offense and defense this season. I’m simply pointing out the fact that they lost their best players on both sides of the ball, and their replacements are not capable of fully filling in their shoes. Not many teams can have six players drafted and remain a genuine top-10 team the following year. Notre Dame is no different.
Even though it may be an overreaction to call Notre Dame overrated after one game, it cannot be denied that the team played awful against Louisville. For the first 25 minutes, the Irish were outclassed, outsmarted, and outhustled by a team that was lucky to suit up on the field opposite them. When they are up against better teams like Virginia, Syracuse, Georgia, Michigan, and USC, they will not have the opportunity to start out slow. A competent team would’ve buried Notre Dame on Monday night.
The Louisville game simply serves as a reality check for the committee, the poll voters, Notre Dame fans, and really anyone who thinks this team is really one of the top-eight teams in the country. I personally see the major losses being too much for Notre Dame and the team finishing outside of the top-15 with an 8-4 record at best.