Yahoo Sports’ Dan Wetzel, and Sports Illustrated’s Pat Forde and Ross Dellenger discuss Notre Dame’s huge win over Clemson on Saturday, and evaluate how Marcus Freeman has been able to turn the Irish’s season around after an extremely rocky start.
DAN WETZEL: I am going to posit that Clemson's done. And I think Notre Dame did everybody a favor Saturday night, including probably Clemson. I know it's probably hard to admit that as a Clemson fan, that you didn't want to get to the playoff. But this just isn't a great Clemson team. Quickly, Marcus Freeman, rough start, rough start to the season.
Could not get out of there, lost the first two, Marshall, the Stanford loss. They were the games they could have won, and they'd be in great shape. But this isn't a great team. But it was very like, all right, we're going to give him time. He's 35, he's a first time head coach, but a little scary.
This was his night, as Brian Kelly's having his down there. This had to be the night that really settled a lot of nerves and got a lot of excitement because the scene in South Bend was, they're never going to be as wild in South Bend as they are in Baton Rouge. But South Bend standards, really, really good, and I know they had a million recruits up on that thing. Pat, what do you think of Marcus Freeman's moment here?
PAT FORDE: Huge, huge. He needed it, especially as Brian Kelly has continued to ascend at LSU. I mean, I know there's a lot of Notre Dame fans that are viewing Brian Kelly the same way Oklahoma fans are viewing Lincoln Riley. They're pissed at him. They hate him. And they want him to flop. And he's not flopping, and it's making them despair. And meanwhile, their guy, their replacement guy isn't doing very well.
But now Marcus Freeman has a flag-planting win. You beat a top five opponent, a team that was in the playoff bracket on the first night of the rankings. That's huge for them. And you not just beat them, you beat them down. So there's no underestimating, I think, just what that does, what you said, Dan, settles nerves, gets people more energized. Like, OK, this is our guy. We're going to be fine for the long haul. Let's go. If you can back that up by winning at USC at the end of the year, people are going to be really excited coming out of this season.
ROSS DELENGER: Yeah, we talked about Notre Dame quite a bit on here about the "Jekyll and Hyde," right? It's like three or four straight weeks now we've brought it up. And we're wondering who's going to show up. And boy, yeah, the good one showed on Saturday.
It's just again, I've talked about probably beating a dead horse here. But it's just incredible, their schedule. I don't I don't recall-- I don't recall losses and wins like this in any team in recent memory. I don't recall a team losing to arguably the worst Power Five team at home, Stanford, one of the worst teams, probably, in FBS in Marshall at home, and then beating-- beating on the road, North Carolina, beating on the road a top 20 Syracuse team, BYU in a neutral field, and then top 10 Clemson. It's just-- it's wild. It's a yo-yo. And it's probably a lot of first year coach kind of finding his way sort of thing.
I remember talking after the Stanford loss. I remember talking to athletic director Jack Swarbrick at the CFP meetings. And I think it was just a few days after the Stanford loss. And I was like, what is going on with the Irish, I asked him. And he said-- I asked him about the response, I guess, he's seen in his football coach.
And he just-- he wouldn't stop talking about it. He's like, his message to the team, what he's saying to them, the morale on the team, the culture, it's there. He can see it. I see it in the locker room. I see it at practice. It's there. The messaging has been great. He's been awesome.
And of course, I'm a skeptical journalist thinking, come on. They just lost to Stanford at home. But lo and behold, they win three straight in some really big games. And clearly, the messaging-- Jack was right. The messaging is there. And he's finding his way in his first year.
DAN WETZEL: He's a charismatic guy. And you watch him win the game. And it's hard not to be like, you know what, good for this guy.
PAT FORDE: Yeah.
DAN WETZEL: I don't know. The way he just-- the way he interacts with the players, the way he celebrates. He's young. It's like, I got this Notre Dame thing. Maybe I'm ready, maybe I'm not. Here we go. And it's just-- it's some cool visuals. I think this helps keep the recruiting class together, which was a massive concern, and pushes things forward. We'll see. It's one game. It doesn't mean you're-- don't give him the-- don't give him the Charlie Weis deal, now.