While the loss to Clemson in the College Football Playoff semifinal was a rough final game, Notre Dame had a very successful 2018.
Perhaps most importantly, Notre Dame proved that it could make the four-team field without being in a conference.
That’s good news for the traditionalists who want to see ND hold on to its status as an independent power.
Of course, as we saw with the gap between the 2012 BCS title game and this year’s playoff, it is not every year that Notre Dame has a championship caliber squad.
Both of those teams rode an elite defense into the post-season, and the 2019 team has a lot to replace on that side of the ball.
ESPN recently outlined the biggest concerns for the Top 25 teams heading into 2019, and for Notre Dame, it is defensive star power.
The Fighting Irish lose a number of huge players to the NFL Draft and graduation.
From ESPN‘s Adam Rittenberg:
Notre Dame loses standouts at all three levels, from All-America cornerback Julian Love to linebackers Drue Tranquill and Te’von Coney to disruptive lineman Jerry Tillery. Clark Lea took the unit from good to great in his first year as coordinator, but his toughest work lies ahead. Notre Dame’s pass rush should be excellent with Khalid Kareem, Julian Okwara, Daelin Hayes and others, but there are potential trouble spots elsewhere.
After games against Louisville and New Mexico, Notre Dame travels to Georgia for a Week 3 showdown of recent College Football Playoff teams.
We’ll find out a lot about next year’s Notre Dame team early on with that trip to Athens.