The Fighting Irish are coming off their first appearance in the College Football Playoff, which gave Notre Dame a chance at its first national championship since 1988.
That didn’t happen.
A 30-3 loss to Clemson left the Irish’s dreams of a title battered and beaten and crushed into the turf of AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, site of the Cotton Bowl. Clemson went on to defeat Alabama in the CFP Championship game, and Notre Dame fans were left to wonder if this was a replay of the BCS Championship game in January 2013, when the Irish lost to Bama 42-14.
How well Notre Dame recovers from the loss to Clemson may hinge on three key games, and this one at Sanford Stadium is the first of the group. (The others are at Michigan on Oct. 26 and at Stanford on Nov. 30.)
Quarterback Ian Book. A 6-foot-1, 208-pound senior from El Dorado Hills, Calif., Book became the Notre Dame starter in the fourth game of last season. From there he helped lead the Fighting Irish to their berth in the College Football Playoff. Book completed 68.2 percent of his passes (214-of-314) for 2,628 yards. He threw for 19 touchdowns and seven interceptions.
Defensive end Julian Okwara. Okwara recorded 12.5 tackles for loss and eight sacks last season. A 6-5, 240-pound senior from Charlotte, Okwara has 17 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks in his career.
Safety Alohi Gilman. Gilman recorded 95 tackles last season. That ranked second on the team and ranks first among returning players. His 95 tackles included three for a loss. He also intercepted two passes and was credited with five pass break-ups.
» The Fighting Irish are 22-4 in the past two seasons, aided by a 12-1 record last season. Their .846 winning percentage is greater than Georgia’s in that span. Notre Dame is 81-35 in Kelly’s nine seasons as head coach. The blight on his record is a 4-8 mark three years ago.
» Coach Brian Kelly is the fifth coach at Notre Dame to reach 10 seasons as head coach. The others are Knute Rockne, Frank Leahy, Ara Parseghian and Lou Holtz. The common thread among that group is that each won a national championship. That’s something Kelly still seeks.
Georgians on the Notre Dame roster
Fighting Irish tight end Tommy Tremble of Johns Creek and The Wesleyan School has strong ties to UGA. His dad, Greg, played defensive back for the Bulldogs in 1992 and 1993 before he played two seasons in the NFL. Other Georgians on the team: walk-on RB Mick Assaf (Atlanta/Pace Academy), LB J.D. Bertrand (Roswell/Blessed Trinity), RB C’Bo Flemister (Williamson/Pike County HS), DB Kyle Hamilton (Atlanta/Marist) and DB Kyle Wallace (Atlanta/Lovett).
Before the Fighting Irish face the Bulldogs
Notre Dame open the season at Louisville on Labor Day night – and then quickly have a bye week. After that, the Irish play New Mexico on Sept. 14 in their first home game of the season.
The last time against Georgia
Bulldogs freshman quarterback Jake Fromm made a memorable first career start when the teams met in South Bend on Sept. 9, 2017, a game that Georgia won 20-19. Rodrigo Blankenship provided the margin of victory with his 30-yard field goal with 3:34 to play in the fourth quarter. Fromm completed 16 of 29 passes for 141 yards.
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