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Kirk Herbstreit not sold on Notre Dame through four games

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish are currently No. 3 in the Top 25 polls, but there are still some questions this team needs to answer. Coming off a pedestrian 12-7 over Louisville on Saturday, ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit thinks the Irish may only have one game to prove themselves this fall.

Four games into the 2020 season, Notre Dame sits at 4-0, but not everyone is ready to sign off on the team as a true national title contender. That’s especially true after the Fighting Irish put up just 12 points on a Louisville team that is giving up just shy of 30 points per game. Herbstreit explained that hesitation on the latest episode of ‘The CFB Podcast with Herbstreit and Pollack.’

Notre Dame has some convincing wins under its belt, but they didn’t necessarily come against quality opponents. Because of the conference they’re in this year, and the way the schedule sets up, the Irish won’t have many chances to make a statement. That will change on the first Saturday of November, though.

“I think nobody is really sold on Notre Dame yet because of who they’ve played,” Herbstreit said. “They started with Duke and they had USF and they were postponed against Wake. The Florida State game, they won 42-26 but it didn’t feel like everybody walked away from that game thinking ‘wow.’ … The Louisville game, 12-7, I think that left even more questions about where Notre Dame is. But it’s so different with Notre Dame in the ACC because they aren’t going to get challenged, truly. I mean, they go to Pitt and the way they’re playing, that could be a good game. But I don’t think you’re going to have an opportunity to earn respect on a national level until they play Clemson. That’s the game, Nov. 7.”

The good news for Notre Dame is that they will very much be in the running for an ACC Championship berth throughout the regular season. The team’s Nov. 27 road game against North Carolina will be key in that race as well.

In his postgame press conference on Saturday, Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly pushed back against the idea that it was an ugly win for the Irish. He thought his team played well but struggled to finish when it got the opportunity to score points.

“I don’t even know if it aesthetically looked bad,” Kelly said. “We controlled the line of scrimmage. We controlled the time of possession. We had, I think, one or two penalties. We didn’t turn the football over. I’ve coached a lot of games over 30 years and I don’t know that I’ve been in one quite like this. I’ve been in a 12-7 game when it was a stinker and you’re like, “ew.” This game was a little different. It was hard fought. It was, from our perspective, it was the the inability to cash in in the red zone and then a couple of plays that we need to make. We’ve got to make a catch in the end zone. We got to make a third down stop. That’s kind of the difference in this ballgame or it looks a little bit different at the end.

“I just reminded them that their preparation was outstanding. Their mindset was great. When you’re a top five team in the country, you’re going to get the opposition’s best game, period. That was not a 1-3 football team we played today. That was a team that played their absolute best.”They took care of the football. They were -8 coming into the game and they did not turn the football over. So, hats off to Louisville.”

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