If the conference-only schedules, reported on and speculated about last week, hold for the 2020 season Notre Dame may look like a full ACC member in the fall.
The Irish return a lot of talent from their 10-win team from last season and could make a solid case for the College Football Playoff with Clemson as the only team in their way. Notre Dame has a stout schedule in the works but that all looks to change given the news from last week.
Pending the chaos that may ensue with rescheduling, Notre Dame will host the Tigers on Nov. 7 in South Bend for the first time since 1977 as it looks for its first win over Clemson since that game, which it won 21-17.
Head coach Brian Kelly spoke glowingly about this year’s team last December and he certainly returns one of the most prolific offenses in college football. The Irish are led by veteran quarterback Ian Book, who has completed greater than 60 percent of his passes each of the past three seasons and passed for 34 touchdowns and just six interceptions last year.
Book benefits from six returners on the offensive line and a host of developing skill players at wide receiver like Kevin Austin, Braden Lenzy and Lawrence Keys III. One question mark is new offensive coordinator and former Irish quarterback Tommy Rees and what he will do to jettison an inconsistent group of running backs.
On the other side of the ball, Notre Dame has some work to do after losing the vast majority of its production. But, a high-powered offense will allow the defense to find its feet in the first chunk of the season.
The NFL gained a host of tacklers from the Irish on the defensive line that produced 14 sacks and 22.5 tackles for loss. They return two of their top linebackers in Drew White and Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah but lose superstars in the secondary in Alohi Gilman and Troy Pride.
Shaun Crawford will have a breakout season at corner and nickel and NC State transfer Nick McCloud should help.
Notre Dame only participated in spring practice before the NCAA shut down team activities due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Irish are back on campus participating in voluntary workouts in groups of ten that are drafted by the unit captains, while meeting virtually as much as possible.
They are one of just a few teams that have benefited from having zero players test positive for the virus which has allowed more time to work out and make up for the missed time this spring.
The big COVID-19 question mark for Notre Dame is if it could play in the ACC in a conference-only football scenario in the fall. But it is very likely the conference would allow the Irish to participate despite partial membership in the ACC.
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