Greason: Forget UCF, Notre Dame continues to prove it is the real deal
Elizabeth Greason | Saturday, November 17, 2018
This week, University of Central Florida junior quarterback McKenzie Milton said, “You can’t tell me Notre Dame is a better team than us.”
Well, after watching the No. 3 Irish (11-0) absolutely trounce the No. 12 Orange on Saturday, I can say that I definitively believe Notre Dame is a markedly better team than the Knights (11-0).
It’s not often that opposing coaches spend the majority of their postgame press conferences complimenting their opponents. But after the Irish shut out the Orange for 59 minutes and 50 seconds, Syracuse head coach Dino Babers spent about as much time praising Notre Dame’s skills as he did lamenting his team’s inability to perform inside Yankee Stadium on Saturday.
“There’s no doubt that that is a fantastic football team. That’s a very complete win over a team that, over our football team that I think is at least a good team. But there is no misjudging what was going on there from an offensive, defensive standpoint, they handled us very well,” Babers said in his opening statement after the game. “And my hat’s off to the job that the coaches and their players did and good luck in their last game. And if they play the way they played us they will probably have an opportunity to play for a national championship.”
Babers went on to say that after losing to both Notre Dame and No. 2 Clemson, he feels they both belong in the top four.
Although the Orange (8-3, 5-2 ACC) lost their starting quarterback in the first quarter when senior Eric Dungey left the game with an upper body injury, the Irish defense proved Saturday it is the real deal. Clark Lea’s unit is the best Notre Dame defense we have seen since 2012, when the Irish had the nation’s top red zone defense and made the national championship game, before being dismantled by Alabama.
But honestly, in watching this season’s Irish defense, it may be the case that it’s even better. This squad is deeper — having the ability to rotate eight to 10 players in on the defensive line is nearly unheard of — and more complete. Its secondary has been extremely successful, and the unit as a whole has had success from end zone to end zone, compared to 2012’s version, which excelled in the red zone.
The Irish have played and beaten five teams that either were ranked or are currently ranked this season — notably No. 4 Michigan. UCF has played one.
I don’t particularly care that Milton thinks his team is better than Notre Dame. I disagree with his reasoning — that UCF’s margin of victory over Pitt was significantly larger than that of Notre Dame’s — but because of that, I don’t think his comments are worth too much additional thought.
However, as Irish junior cornerback Julian Love discussed after the game Saturday, the Irish have tuned out the noise and let their play do the talking for much of the season. Saturday’s win over the Orange was just another example of that. Many people thought that if the Irish were going to lose a game throughout the remaining games in the regular season, it would certainly be to Syracuse. But Notre Dame came out and never left the door open for the Orange, not even a crack. While the Irish need to stay focused and remain buckled down for next week’s game against USC, if they play to the level of the talent they have, they should not have an issue with the Trojans (5-6, 4-5 Pac-12).
No matter how the next week plays out, the Irish will have at least one postseason game to perform in. And this Irish team has proven time and again this season it is the real deal, on both sides of the ball.
In the words of Dino Babers, “Notre Dame is better than what people think they are.”
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.