CAMPUS CHECK-IN: Notre Dame eyes perfection – in South Bend

SOUTH BEND, INDIANA - NOVEMBER 16: The Notre Dame Fighting Irish take the field before the game against the Navy Midshipmen at Notre Dame Stadium on November 16, 2019 in South Bend, Indiana. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)

SOUTH BEND – When they take the field at home on Saturday, they know that one streak will for sure be continued.

For a 31-straight year, Notre Dame will not win a national championship. With two losses on the season, they are practically eliminated from contention for the College Football Playoff, meaning the Irish’s last title remains the undefeated 1988 season under Lou Holtz.

Yet there are still achievements that can be reached for the 2019 Notre Dame football team. For a third-straight season, the Irish can reach ten wins, something that hasn’t happened since the 1991, 1992, and 1993 seasons.

There’s also another achievement that’s in reach – perfection at home for a second-straight season. If the Irish can knock off Boston College on Saturday, they’ll finish with a 7-0 home record after they went 6-0 at Notre Dame Stadium in 2018.

Their overall 17-game winning streak is the third-longest in the history of Notre Dame Stadium and the longest since they won 19-straight from 1987-1990.

“Yeah, our players take great pride in protecting their house, if you will. It’s been a big source of pride in terms of our summer workouts. It’s clearly a goal of ours,” said Kelly of the home streak. “Winning at home is important. It sets up your schedule. You’re generally playing six, seven games at home. It sets up your year.

“Yeah, we take a great deal of pride and have a great student following. We love playing in front of our students and our fans and it’s a great atmosphere.”

ILLINOIS: Bye at the right time?

CHAMPAIGN – Already the season is quite a success, even more than people would have thought just a month-and-a-half ago.

A four-game winning streak has Illinois bowl eligible for the first time in five years, which was the main goal entering Lovie Smith’s fourth season.

The Illini still has two games left in the season as they now to attempt to improve their bowl destination, starting with the toughest one this weekend in Iowa City.

Following a bye week, Smith takes his red-hot Illini to Iowa to face the 17th-ranked Hawkeyes after they scored an upset win over Minnesota last week. If they do so, it’s their first road win over a ranked opponent since the upset of No. 1 Ohio State in November of 2007.

Illinois comes into this match-up off the bye week, which was preceded by a school-record 25-point comeback win over Michigan State on November 9th. Knowing how well his team was playing before the break, was it a disadvantage to have the bye at this time?

“Bye week never comes at a bad time, of course it seemed like it was a perfect time for us. Had a chance to heal up a little bit more, so hopefully we will have most of our guys ready to go this week,” said Smith. “Also a good time to get a bit of recruiting in. And then to just be a fan a little bit, watch football on the weekend, which i was able to do. We realized where we are with our program.

“We realized how big of a game it is for us each week. The games do get a little bigger, and that’s exactly where we wanna be in November. It’s taken an awful lot to get us fired up, and we are anxious to play this game.”

NORTHWESTERN: Yet another QB switch

EVANSTON¬† – In eight days, Northwestern will close a very difficult season against the Illini in Champaign, and who will be the signal-caller for that contest is anyone’s guess.

That’s because the Wildcats had yet another setback when it comes to the position before they face No. 10 Minnesota in their final game in Evanston.

Quarterback Aidan Smith is doubtful for the last home game at Ryan Field this year, leaving sophomore Andrew Marty as the starter against the Gophers.

He’s played in three games this season with only two pass attempts, one of which was intercepted against Ohio State.

NORTHERN ILLINOIS: No bowl in ’19

DEKALB – It’s not a typical place for the Huskies to be as they enter the final stretch of their season, but that’s where the program is in 2019.

After a 45-17 loss to Eastern Michigan Tuesday night in DeKalb, Northern Illinois was eliminated from bowl contention. It’s only the second time in the last 12 years that the Huskies haven’t qualified for the postseason as they currently sit with a 4-7 record on the season.

In 2016, the Huskies went 5-7 to miss out on a bowl game.

Thomas Hammock’s first season will come to an end next Tuesday when the team hosts Western Michigan at Huskie Stadium.

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