The SteveWire

Lackluster "Notre Dame" Football Limps Into 2021, Allows Unranked Opponent Coming Off Three Losing Seasons to Take Them Into Over-Time; "Notre Dame" Ground Game Averaged 1.9 yards per carry

Overrated "Notre Dame" Football stumbled into its 2021 rebuilding year with a hyperinflated preseason ranking and a lackluster performance in Tallahassee.

Unranked Florida State was coming off three straight losing seasons, yet "Notre Dame" allowed that losing program to take them into overtime. A missed field goal by Florida State from 37 yards was the final difference in the game, with "Notre Dame" edging out their unranked opponent by only three points, 41-38.

The "Notre Dame" running game was anemic, if not comatose, likely among the worst in the country, averaging only 1.9 yards per carry.

Now, let this next part sink in. With regard to play-calling, the "Notre Dame" offense was actually balanced, with 35 passing plays and 35 running plays (perhaps slightly distorted by sacks). Those 35 running plays gained a net of 65 yards.

The rebuilding offensive line, which, back in the day, had been a backbone of the program when it was still an elite program a quarter-century ago, gave up 4 sacks and 9 tackles for loss, to complement the lack of a ground attack.

"Notre Dame's" defense was burned for multiple long touchdowns and big plays, surrendering 442 yards total. Indeed, unranked Florida State, coming off three losing seasons in a row, outgained "Notre Dame" 442 yards to 431.

That included giving up 264 yards on the ground at 5.5 yards per carry.

On the long touchdown plays "Notre Dame" gave up, they looked a bit like a junior high team sleewalking through a practice scrimmage. That is, while any long play has the potential to look dramatic on a highlight, those plays simply looked like they were executed somewhat cleanly, with the defense a bit "slow on the uptake," lacking sufficient effort or sufficient directed talent.

The graduate transfer quarterback from Wisconsin, Jack Coan, did prevent a complete meltdown for "Notre Dame," by going 26 of 35 for 366 yards and 4 touchdowns, with 1 interception. However, his play also was inconsistent and spotty at times. (Also concerning is that apparently the reason he is at "Notre Dame" is because he could not beat out the quarterback at Wisconsin, who, himself, is no world-beater, judging from his poor play losing to Penn State.)

On defense, "Notre Dame" also had some scattered big plays, including three interceptions and five sacks, two interceptions by heavily hyped, big safety Kyle Hamilton.

One big question is whether the "Notre Dame"-Florida State contest was a barometer for the current state of the program, and how the poor showing will impact rankings down the line. For example, there is the question of whether "Notre Dame" might end up being unranked by mid-October.

The initial impact does not seem harmful, perhaps due to college football politics and name recognition, with "Notre Dame" rising slightly in the rankings.

However, "Notre Dame" will not have much basis other than inertia to substantiate their ranking against unranked Toledo and Purdue, before heading into games against top-10 Wisconsin at a neutral site, top-10 Cincinnati, and dangerous Virginia Tech. The Hokies just knocked off then-top-10 North Carolina and will have comfortable warm-up games and a bye before welcoming "Notre Dame" into Blacksburg, a tough venue for the visiting team.

If "Notre Dame" does pick up losses later, weak performances early on against unranked opponents might retroactively come to mind.

Add to that the ridiculous situation of playing Florida State on a Sunday, with only six days before their game against Toledo, a team that has had a winning record across most of the past decade.

The Florida State game was, of course, a long-distance night game, undoubtedly followed by a red-eye flight, "Notre Dame's" usual custom. With the bioindicators of sleep deprivation apparently believed to persist for days, it seems unlikely "Notre Dame" had any full practices before Toledo at which they would have been fully optimal.

If all those details, including "Notre Dame" being overrated while rebuilding, translate into a dogfight with Toledo, watch out for what happens down the line.

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