In southern California on Saturday, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish took on an average USC Trojan team, in hope of securing their spot in the College Football Playoff.
The battle for the Jeweled Shillelagh is a historic one and produces a spectacular game every time these two teams face each other. The Fighting Irish took home the W this time around by defeating the Trojans 24-17. There were many things that we learned from this game. Here are three key takeaways from Saturday’s win:
1. Notre Dame tends to play to the level of their opponent
I have noticed this all season long but last Saturday’s game locked down my thoughts on it. It was understood before the game that USC would give Notre Dame a run for their money. It is like that every year they play each other. However, I believe that the Irish are much better than they showed and should have defeated USC by a greater margin.
All season long, Notre Dame has played to the level of their opponent. They play very well against the top schools, such as Syracuse, Stanford, and Michigan. If they have a bad game, it came against lower level opponents such as Ball State or Pittsburgh. They did indeed annihilate Wake Forest and Florida State but it would have been nice to also destroy Ball State or Pittsburgh. Just to save ourselves from high blood pressure during those games.
2. It is tough to see Notre Dame missing the College Football Playoff
Yes, people want to say that Notre Dame should not make it because they are not in a conference, subsequently, not playing a conference championship. Sure, an undefeated UCF team will likely miss the playoff, although they are undefeated. However, Notre Dame has quality wins over Michigan, Stanford, and Syracuse. I should not forget to mention that they have also beat the ACC Coastal champion Pittsburgh. When it comes to UCF, they play in a weak conference and have a much weaker schedule than Notre Dame. Notre Dame is essentially a shoo-in for the CFP.
3. Quarterback Ian Book is good
Book tossed for 352 yards and 2 touchdowns against USC, along with completing 56.4% (22/39) of his passes. He made the plays when it mattered most, even on a night when not everything was going his way. Only up one score in the closing minutes of the 4th quarter? Boom! He dishes a 51 yard catch and run to Tony Jones Jr. Although this play was mainly Jones Jr, Book did a great job of finding the open target to set them up for success.
Ian Book still has a completion percentage of 70.4% this year and has 2,468 passing yards with a rating of 162.5. He may not be in the Heisman conversation, but he is definitely a good enough player to lead the Irish to victory in the big games.
The Irish have to wait a week before they know who they will take on in the CFP, but I am almost certain they will receive the number 3 spot, in which they will face the Clemson Tigers. If they don’t place 3rd, then they will move to number 4 and face the Alabama Crimson Tide.