Yahoo Sports’ Dan Wetzel and Pete Thamel, and Sports Illustrated’s Pat Forde discuss the showdown in South Bend on Saturday between the No. 1 Clemson Tigers and the No. 4 Notre Dame Fighting Irish, as well as, how much it would mean to Brian Kelly’s legacy if Notre Dame were to win.
DAN WETZEL: The big one is number one, Clemson, at number four, Notre Dame, I believe they are.
DAN WETZEL: Irish have not beaten a top five team since 1993. This has been the blemish on an otherwise stellar run at Notre Dame for Brian Kelly. He can beat really good teams, if they're Michigan, or Michigan State, or USC, or Stanford, or, periodically whoever they come up with. But when they get to these big dogs in the Southeast, it ain't happening.
Can this be different? And I'll start with you, Pete. How important is it for Brian Kelly to get one of these wins against the true elite, that's just eluded him in, otherwise, building Notre Dame back to a really, really good program, just not a truly elite program?
PETE THAMEL: Yeah, it's interesting, Dan, because you can take it from two perspectives, right. Like I was there in the sputtering embers of the Charlie Weis era. So, you know, if you had told Notre Dame fans, the next coach is going to build up over time to a program where you are consistently going to be ranked in the top 10, top 15, you are going to occasionally be able to punch in the top three, top five space, like everybody would've signed up. Because the previous 20 years, like can Notre Dame be elite? Can they compete?
Can they do all that? Those questions, obviously, dogged that program. So here we are. They are right on the cusp of like super elite. People feel like this Notre Dame program right now where it is, especially on their lines, especially on the offensive line, but also on the defensive line, and definitely with their tight ends, people feel like Notre Dame is kind of there.
So I-- I can't sit here and say that it's this like huge black mark against Brian Kelly because they hadn't done it for so long. That said, like they know it. And it's been interesting to hear Kelly be a little defensive about it, you know, pointing out, we have a 22-game home winning streak, 12-game winning streak. Like Notre Dame's-- all signs are really good.
And they need that one sort of marquee victory to flip the switch. And I think they have a really good chance. And more importantly, coaches who are way smarter than me think they have a really good chance of getting it on Saturday.
PAT FORDE: Yeah, it was interesting listening to Kelly's Zoom call on Monday because there was a little bit of defensiveness, defending of the record. He brought up several times that they are 29 and 3 over the last 32 games. And they have won 12 in a row. And those are great things. I mean, that puts you among the elite in the sport.
But from Brian Kelly's standpoint of, what's the one thing I need on my resume, it is to win games like this. And Clemson comes to town. You have a decent chance here.
This is one where I think they definitely feel some urgency to win. I think Brian Kelly's felt some urgency about it. He thinks this team's really good.
DAN WETZEL: Well, they certainly have had their moments when they're really good. They've got the talent. They've got the experienced quarterback and all that. I am completely with you, both of you. I mean, I remember, there was decades of Notre Dame will never be good again.
Notre Dame still thinks it's black and white TV and all that. And Notre Dame has to join the Big Ten. And I always was like, no, once you get the right guy, you're good. That's true about any program. I mean, Ohio State struggled, Texas.
There's times you go, how the hell could you not be good at Texas? Well, give them time. Alabama wasn't that good till Nick Saban came along.
So you get it, you use that thing. I mean, Notre Dame fan that's angry at Brian Kelly is crazy. They will miss Brian Kelly when he eventually--
PAT FORDE: Yeah, for sure.
DAN WETZEL: I mean, he gets good players. He occasionally gets a great one. You know, it's Notre Dame. You're not-- you just-- really hard to recruit at that Clemson, Georgia, Alabama level. But it's been frustrating.
They've been blown out and they've come close. They just haven't quite got it. So, certainly, I don't think it's a referendum on it.
I think Brian Kelly's done an amazing job. I think he's probably maxed out what you can do at Notre Dame. But a win over Clemson like this, another playoff appearance, something like that would-- would certainly be a big thing.