No conference championship to play for and already carrying one loss, Notre Dame weren’t fighting difficult odds to make the first ever College Football playoff. A 55-31 loss to Arizona State in a clash between two top 10 teams ended those remaining hopes.
The Sun Devils have full control of the South division in the Pac-12 with one loss to their name. They have a tricky game on the road against Oregon State remaining, followed by playing at home against Washington State. Then there’s the big finish in Arizona in what promises to be the biggest game between the two teams in a very long time. Winning five games in a row, it’s hard to find anyone hotter in the division and more deserving of making the Pac-12 championship game.
Turnovers were always going to be the key to this game, and Notre Dame blew it big time. Everett Golson has had trouble avoiding interceptions for the last couple of months, and once again made too many mistakes, throwing four of them before trying to lead his team on the comeback trail. After falling behind 34-3, Notre Dame managed to narrow things down to only three points (31-34) with 6:37 left in the fourth quarter, but the Sun Devils scored on the next drive before Golson threw another interception, one which there was no return from.
Taylor Kelly continued to look shaky, like in all of his performances since coming back from injury. He also threw an interception, but that was the only turnover for the Sun Devils in the game. He also threw three touchdown passes while D.J. Foster ran for 120 yards on 21 carries. Two interceptions by Golson were returned by Damarious Randall and Lloyd Carrington for touchdowns. The offense didn’t have a whole lot to do or need to look very impressive in order to walk away with the win.
This was the worst game in Golson’s career, turning the ball over five times. He was also sacked seven times, posting a career-worst total QBR of 26.8. Not being able to protect the quarterback was bad enough, but this was also the most points Notre Dame have given up since losing to Miami 58-7 in 1985. They made more of a game of it this time, but it didn’t matter, as the results to their aspirations this season were equally devastating.
Notre Dame don’t have hope waiting over the horizon. They might still end this season with just two losses, but playing against Northwestern, Louisville and USC isn’t going to put them back in the top 10 or into a major bowl game. They need too many teams to lose along the way, and with all the possible combination available above of them, this is going to be another good season, but far from special or memorable.