It didn’t take long for fans and media alike to start throwing gasoline on what some might consider the “dumpster fire” that Notre Dame’s 2014 season has become. There are no shortage of opinions on who or what is to blame for this 7-3 record with 3 of the last 4 games being losses and the other being a mediocre performance against Navy.
While many want to start throwing blame at Brian Kelly or Everett Golson or whoever else they cussed at through the TV screen these past few weeks, the real answers are much deeper, and much more transparent once you figure out the Code of 85 (which I’ll get into in just a moment). Don’t get me wrong, there has been plenty of horrible fuck ups this season by both coaches and players alike, and they should be held accountable, but I understand why, at least some of this, is happening.
The Code of 85 is a simple concept. The closer a team’s roster is to the 85 scholarship limit, the better the team. (When in comparison to itself. Obviously an 85 man Eastern Michigan team is still going to suck ass against a 70 man Alabama team). Why is that exactly? Well, the two most obvious answers are depth and preparation.
I’m not sure what the exact scholarship count is for the Irish right now, but it’s in the neighborhood of 75 0r 76 guys (this excludes the Frozen 5). Now, start adding up the walking wounded like Jarrett Grace and Tony Springman and Nicky Baratti and Joe Schmidt and others and this team is desperately thin at a time in the season and on this schedule, where depth and leadership are vital to the weekly grind.
Right now, Notre Dame is basically operating like they have NCAA sanctions. The roster is just decimated, and as the injuries pile up, it is only getting worse. How effective is practice throughout the week when the numbers are that low? Not great. The risk of more injuries alone causes the “competition” part of the practice to basically be some type of phantom puppet show.
The roster is hurting and Notre Dame doesn’t go the route of the Alabama’s of the world and not just oversign, but weed out the less productive players by not renewing a scholarship. It’s a tough spot to be in.
Just think for a moment about the names NOT on this roster: Russell, Daniels, Hardy, Niklas, Tuitt, Williams, Vanderdoes, Shepard, and Greenberry. Suspensions, recruiting fuck ups, and early NFL Draft guys. Now think of the injured: Grace, Schmidt, Riggs, Springman, Baratti, and others. The reason for a late season decline is simple. It’s the numbers.
There’s no easy way to fix this, and it’s certainly not going to happen this year. The best we can hope for is the best that we can hope for- 2 more wins and a bowl win against someone somewhere. It’s been a bad luck kind of a deal.
Now, this doesn’t explain or excuse Golson’s turnover madness, or Brian Kelly’s controversial calls. That’s two games possibly back in the win column, which would mean that we would be having an entirely different conversation. It does, however, explain some of the sloppy play that comes along with a depleted roster late in the season that has it’s depth chart covered with underclassmen.
There is a cause and effect for everything and in Notre Dame’s case, their late season plunge has causes all over it with effects that are laying waste to a season that looked so promising just a month ago. None of this is easy, and the pitchforks are locked and loaded- but this is what happens to thin teams.
Follow that Code of 85, and you will find more truth than bullshit- and bullshit is what we mostly have right now.