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Can Brian Kelly overturn Notre-Dame’s terrible record against top-ranked teams?

Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly was once again asked about the big game when he was available in the media ahead of Friday’s college football playoff semifinals against the No.1 Alabama.

“I mean, we knock on the door every year playing some really good teams and great opponents,” Kelly replied. “There are some elite football teams. I don’t know why this story keeps popping up when we are still in the games.”

Kelly then answered the question about this story himself.

“We haven’t won a national championship, that’s right. I’m not changing the record,” he said. “But we’re here every year and we’re doing like everyone else. And only one team can celebrate at the end of the year.”

Notre-Dame won its last national championship in 1988, and the narrative exists because of the missed opportunities for big games since. Sporting News takes a closer look at those missed opportunities against the top five teams ahead of the next opportunity against the Crimson Tide.

Pre-BCS reputation (1989-1997)

The Irish won their last national championship in 1988 under Lou Holtz, and they maintained a renowned big game reputation throughout his final season in 1996.

From 1989 to 1996, Notre-Dame compiled a 7-5 record against the top five teams, including a 4-3 record in the first five regular season clashes and a 2-3 record in bowl games. . The highlight was the victory over Florida State in Game of the Century in 1993.

A look at these confrontations (* denotes a bowl game)

SEASONWINNERGOALLOSINGGOAL
1989N ° 1 Notre Dame24# 2 Michigan19
1989 *No. 1 Colorado21N ° 4 Notre Dame6
1990N ° 1 Notre Dame28# 4 Michigan24
1990 *No. 1 ColoradotenN ° 5 Notre Dame9
1991# 3 Michigan24N ° 7 Notre Dame14
1991 *N ° 18 Notre Dame39No 3 Florida28
1992 *N ° 5 Notre Dame28# 4 Texas A&M3
1993N ° 11 Notre Dame27# 3 Michigan23
1993N ° 2 Notre Dame31Florida State # 124
1994 *# 4 Colorado41our Lady24
1995N ° 17 Notre Dame38No. 5 USCten
1996# 4 Ohio State29N ° 5 Notre Dame16

It’s a consistent record of success against the top five competitions. The loss to Ohio State in 1996, however, foreshadowed the slippage that would come in the BCS era.

BCS before Brian Kelly (1998-2009)

The Irish sifted through three coaches during the BCS era, Bob Davie, Tyrone Willingham and Charlie Weis, and that’s where the successes of the big game appeared.

From 1997 to 2009, Notre Dame went 2-14 against the top five teams. Both victories came against Michigan’s top five teams in the regular season. Five of those losses involved USC, and that included the game “Bush Push” in 2005.

A look at these confrontations (* denotes a bowl game)

SEASONWINNERGOALLOSINGGOAL
1998N ° 22 Notre Dame36# 5 Michigan20
1999# 3 Tennessee38N ° 24 Notre Dame14
2009# 1 Nebraska27N ° 23 Notre Dame24
2000 *# 5 State of Oregon41N ° 10 Notre Dame9
2001# 5 Nebraska27N ° 17 Notre Dame17
2003# 5 Michigan38N ° 15 Notre Dame0
2003No. 5 USC45our Lady14
2003Florida State # 537our Lady0
2004No. 1 USC41our Ladyten
2005N ° 20 Notre Dame17# 3 Michiganten
2005No. 1 USC34N ° 9 Notre Dame31
2005 *# 4 Ohio State34N ° 5 Notre Dame20
2006No. 3 USC44N ° 6 Notre Dame24
2006 *No. 4 LSU41N ° 11 Notre Dame14
2007No 5 Boston College27our Lady14
2008No. 5 USC38our Lady3

The only top-five encounter in that streak was the Fiesta Bowl loss to Ohio State on January 2, 2006. The Irish also suffered BCS bowl losses to Oregon State and LSU. in this sequence.

Brian Kelly’s record against the top five teams

The Irish beat No.1 Clemson 47-40 on November 7 this season, but it marked the first victory over a top five team under Kelly, who took over in 2010.

Kelly is right about the opponents. Notre Dame has faced seven of the top five opponents since Kelly took over, and the Irish have been ranked in the top five in five of those games.

The results, however, followed a similar pattern (* denotes the BCS Championship, ** denotes the CFP semi-final, *** denotes the ACC Championship).

SEASONWINNERGOALLOSINGGOAL
2011No. 4 Stanford28N ° 22 Notre Dame11
2012 *# 2 Alabama42N ° 1 Notre Dame14
2014Florida State # 231N ° 5 Notre Dame27
2018 **No. 2 Clemson30No 3 Notre Dame3
2019No 3 Georgia23N ° 7 Notre Dame17
2020N ° 4 Notre Dame47No.1 Clemson40
2020 ***No.4 Clemson34N ° 2 Notre Dameten

Widening it further, Kelly is 3-8 against top 10 ranked opponents at Notre Dame. Five of the eight losses were 14 points or more, including that 28-point loss to Alabama in 2012 – the last time Notre Dame played for a national championship.

And after?

Add up these numbers since the BCS era, and it’s easy to see why the Notre Dame big game story exists.

Notre Dame is 3-20 against the top five teams, including a 0-5 against those teams in bowl matches. Alabama’s resounding victory in the 2013 BCS Championship game has not been forgotten, and it was the benchmark of the game that sparked Kelly’s reaction in the first place.

“We’re going to keep coming back here, and that’s our job,” he said. “It’s our challenge every year is to compete for a national championship, and we will continue to do so.”

A win over Alabama would be a good start.




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