And now Marcus Freeman gets a chance to do something in his first game as a head coach that Brian Kelly could not accomplish in 12 years, something Notre Dame has not done in 28 seasons.
Notre Dame missed the College Football Playoff on Sunday after failing to get the right results on Saturday, finishing No. 5 in the final rankings, which sent the Irish to the Fiesta Bowl to take on Oklahoma State on Jan. 1. As much as the sport has created a Playoff-or-nothing narrative, the Irish have not won a major bowl game since Lou Holtz’s last great team beat Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl after the 1993 season.
“We will see what happens after this weekend, but to me, no committee, no ranking can really justify how good this team is,” Freeman said during an interview on NBCSN on Friday night. “I can’t wait to get with them and play one, two, however games they give us an opportunity to play. That’s what I look forward to.”
Championship Saturday began with some hope for Notre Dame when Baylor upset Oklahoma State with a fourth-down stop at the goal line. The Irish needed one more result to go their way to have a chance to make the field, but hope faded in the late afternoon window as Alabama routed Georgia and Cincinnati held serve against Houston to lock up three of the four spots in the semifinals.
Michigan’s dominant 42-3 win over Iowa in the Big Ten championship game ended Notre Dame’s shot at making the Playoff for the third time in four seasons. Even if the Irish had joined the ACC and beaten Wake Forest or Pittsburgh in Charlotte, it wouldn’t have been enough to elevate Notre Dame into the field.