Notre Dame’s 2020 Triple Threat
There are at least three current Notre Dame winning streaks entering the 2020 college football season that merit respect, even though they might be easily taken for granted.
The first is the 18-game winning streak at home, the third longest since the opening of Notre Dame Stadium 90 years ago in Knute Rockne’s final season (1930).
If football through this September comes to fruition, anticipated victories over Arkansas (Sept. 12) — which was 2-10 each of the past two seasons, and 0-16 in the SEC — and Western Michigan (Sept. 19) would increase the streak to 20, and earn second place on the all-time chart.
Only the 28 straight from 1942-50 would eclipse it.
Second is defeating 24 consecutive foes who were unranked entering the contest, which might sound like the ultimate backhanded compliment. On the surface it is akin to becoming the all-time home-run leader in the minor leagues, a reference to the 1988 movie “Bull Durham.” It sounds impressive, but not when it comes at the cost of an inability to advance to the Major Leagues.
Yet, upon closer inspection, only one other Football Bowl Subdivision school boasts a longer such current winning string: Alabama, which has not been vanquished by an unranked opponent since 2007.
If Notre Dame achieves it a fourth year in a row in 2020, chances are it will break the school record of 29 held by head coach Lou Holtz’s 1990-94 units. Such contests might not be viewed as “big ones” by the average fan — until you lose them.
Finally, there is the third streak: nine victories in a row by Notre Dame in the month of November after finishing 5-0 last season and 4-0 in 2018.
This is particularly significant because in the previous five years from 2013-17, head coach Brian Kelly’s Irish faltered badly while producing a 9-12 output in November. Prior to the 2018 season it was earmarked as the foremost issue to improve.
Last year marked the first 5-0 November for Notre Dame since 1930, which resulted in a national title for Rockne’s final team.
The unbeaten back-to-back Novembers were the first by the program since 1972 (3-0) and 1973 (3-0) — although the 1972 team did lose the regular-season finale at No. 1 USC on Dec. 2 (45-23).
The current nine-game winning streak in the month of November actually is the longest since the nine in a row from 1972-74 (again excluding the December game at USC in 1972). The school record is 16 from 1946-50, which began after the scoreless tie with No. 1 Army in 1946 and ended with a tie versus Iowa in 1950. Notre Dame has not had three straight unbeaten Novembers since 1947-49. (The 1948 tie at USC was in December.)
The longest November/December regular-season winning streak since the current one was 10 consecutive from 1953-55.
If indeed this unique college football season in 2020 reaches November without further snafus related to COVID-19, keeping that streak alive would be a remarkable feat.
• On Nov. 7, Notre Dame would host the consensus preseason No. 1 Clemson Tigers. The Irish have not toppled a top-five team at the time of the game since a victory at No. 3 Michigan in September 2005.
• Next they would then face a potential letdown by traveling to Atlanta the next week to face Georgia Tech, although the rebuilding Ramblin’ Wreck finished only 3-9 last year.
• Senior Day would be on Nov. 21 versus an improving Louisville program that finished 8-5 last season under first-year head coach Scott Satterfield. What will be unique about the preparation that week is because the academic calendar has been altered, final exams will be held Nov. 16-20, or all week before the game. No games were ever scheduled for winter sports during final exams weeks when they had been held in December.
• Finally, the finale would be at USC on Nov. 28, if the Pac-12 does not opt to go with only a conference-only slate. Favored in some circles to win the Pac-12 South, the Trojans want to avoid becoming the first four-year class to be swept by Notre Dame since the class of ’94 from 1990-93.