review & Prediction: Notre Dame vs. Toledo, No. 8 Notre Dame against.
No. 8 Notre Dame’s Saturday isn’t about Toledo, which is the favorite to win the MAC and a dark horse to make a New Year’s Six bowls.
Even as they attempt to solidify their offensive line and running game while also establishing defensive stability, it’s not all about the Irish (1-0).
More than ever, Notre Dame’s 2021 home opening is all about the fans.
For the first time in over two years, Notre Dame Stadium will be packed with nearly 78,000 fans.
They’ll be lining the streets as the Irish come into the stadium. Soon before kickoff, they’ll roar during a flyby (confirmed by the test flights around campus Friday evening).
College football’s vitality, its je ne sais quoi, comes from the fans.
(Somewhere here, there’s a mix of Notre Dame and je ne sais quoi that’d be perfect.) Is it Notre Dame’s “I don’t know what”?
In college football, fans rarely affect the outcome, far less often than the fixation with home-field advantage would have you believe, but they do provide the atmosphere. College football, like the Canadian Football League, the defunct Alliance of American Football, and the latest incarnation of the XFL, is only marginally different without supporters.
The quality of competitiveness in college football is better than any of those, but otherwise, a fanless football game is an exercise in existential sporting musings.
Those other leagues are all shams attempting to cash in on a sport’s best features. Either football must be played by the best (NFL), or it must be surrounded by emotion and energy, which in turn fuels on-field drama and folly.
The overwhelming excitement of a college football fan is comparable to that of a European soccer enthusiast.
Notre Dame football
Joy’s on-field antics are reminiscent of professional wrestling.
When you combine them, the result is rock and roll, seven in a row, chocolate, and peanut butter.
In 2020, there was still turmoil at Notre Dame, although it was short-lived. The euphoria of beating No. 1 Clemson in overtime while surrounded by 11,000 students charging the field was quickly countered by Irish players attempting to avoid the throng and avoid the worry of a mass of bodies during the pandemic’s peak.
There is no version of beating Toledo that will have fans rushing the field at Notre Dame Stadium, but it’s a safe bet that the players will be so taken with the energy of the fans, le je ne sais quoi de Notre Dame, that they’ll join those fans in the stands during or after the game to sing the “Alma Mater.”
There will be no worry at that time, thanks in part to the fact that both the players and the students in the front row will know there is a higher than 95 percent probability each party has been vaccinated, but there will be a warm welcome back of the fan base.
Community, cathartic, and caring are all words that come to mind when I think about catharsis raucous, unruly, and ecstatic.
The force that inspires the moments that make us adore this sport is passionate and irrational.
Notre Dame football
TV, TIME: At 2:30 ET, let’s hope the passion comes across on the screen. It almost always has.
But even before then, the hype may begin to build, and the Countdown to Kickoff pregame show on Peacock, hosted by former Irish receivers Corey Robinson and Jac Collinsworth, may catch part of it.
The pregame show will begin at 1:30 p.m. ET and will include the following:
— Head coach Brian Kelly is featured in an exclusive “Mic’d Up” section.
— Kyle Hamilton, a predicted top-10 NFL Draft pick, is profiled in-depth.
— A discussion about Notre Dame and collegiate athletics between Notre Dame director of athletics Jack Swarbrick and NBC’s Mike Tirico.
Mike Tirico and NBC Sports analyst Drew Brees discuss the college football season.
On Peacock, Robinson and Collinsworth will host a postgame show featuring Kelly’s postgame press conference.