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Salvaging the Season? What Notre Dame's Victory over Rival Trojans Meant for 2023 Outlook

By Liam Farrell|Senior Staff Writer|Twitter/X: @LiamFarrell_IT

Via Notre Dame Football


SOUTH BEND, Ind. - After the most disappointing loss that buried the team's shot at the College Football Playoff, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish put together their best performance of the year against their most hated rival. Following the Louisville loss, the morale of the fanbase was at an all-time low. The backbreaking loss against Ohio State, the heart attack victory against Duke, and the letdown in Louisville had fans exhausted, and unaware the next step this team could take. The Irish could've easily been exhausted after three straight primetime night games against undefeated teams, and went belly up against former a Heisman winner who embarrassed them last season. Instead, the Irish put together a gutsy performance to completely redirect the outlook and direction of the 2023 season. Let's take a deep dive about the importance of the win against the USC Trojans.


One Year of Hartman

Via Notre Dame Football


Much of the buzz at the start of the season was surrounding the fact that Notre Dame actually had an elite level quarterback in Sam Hartman. Hartman was going to be the missing key that was finally going to elevate the Irish into a national championship status. After the Louisville loss, I personally thought that Notre Dame completely wasted this special season with Hartman. However, by demolishing USC, a New Year's Six Bowl is still an obtainable goal for this team to strive for. Hartman has been one of the most charismatic personas in recent Notre Dame history, and has completely changed the way the national media perceives the Fighting Irish. It's disappointing that Notre Dame only got one year of Hartman, which makes it a stressor to capitalize on any chance you get with the talented quarterback.


Down the road, the Notre Dame schedule is rather light. The Irish get a much needed BYE week before getting Pittsburgh in South Bend. Following the Pitt game, the Irish travel to Clemson in a game that will still be difficult, but not as important as it was originally billed at the beginning of the season; then, to finish off the year Notre Dame faces Wake Forest at home and then travels out west to Palo Alto to finish the year against the Stanford Cardinal. Notre Dame will be presumably favored in all of these games, and if the Irish can take care of business and finish the season at 10-2; it will be a very nice consolation prize for not making the playoff.


A Second Year Coaching Starting to Figure it Out

Via 247Sports


If, and only if the Irish take care of the last four games of the season, Marcus Freeman would show great improvement from year 1 to year 2. Fans must remember that this is only his second year of head coaching, ever. The man is a great recruiter and has given Notre Dame a new connotation. This is no longer the Brian Kelly era at Notre Dame where things would be done on a certain schedule, and be all business. Freeman knows how to revolutionize the ways things are brought about to tailor them to the likes of his new players. As Freeman is learning things along the way as it pertains to in-game coaching, he is doing so at an extremely fast pace. He does a great job getting the most out of his players for big games, something that surely didn't happen with the last head coach, and he knows how to get big name talents to South Bend, which was another weak spot during the last coach's tenure. I'm not a Philadelphia sports fan, but the Irish have to "Trust the Process" through some of the natural growing pains of a young, inexperienced head coach. The times ahead are incredibly bright, and it will take a little more time, but Notre Dame is slowly returning to its glory days.


Closing the Talent Gap


The question now flips to whether or not this can be considered a successful season. While many people's mindset is playoff or bust, I cannot help but think this year has been an overall win. The close game versus Ohio State and the blowout victory against the Trojans display that the talent gap is getting smaller and smaller between Notre Dame and the top dogs of college football. As this gap begins to get smaller and smaller, the Fighting Irish have the opportunity to finally crack the upper echelon of the sport, a feat no real Notre Dame team has done since Lou Holtz was the head coach. With increased recruiting efforts and elevated on-field performance, the 2023 Notre Dame football team could be the stepping stone, bringing the Irish one step closer to being a national championship-caliber team.


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