SOUTH BEND – It’s become a common question for teams during the Brian Kelly era: Is this year’s Irish team good enough to make a College Football Playoff?
The head coach has had a few close calls since the new system began in 2014. In the second season, Notre Dame went into their last game against Stanford with a legitimate chance to clinch one of the top four playoff spots. A last-second loss to the Cardinal ended that opportunity.
In 2017 Notre Dame entered November ranked No. 3 in the CFP poll, but a blowout loss to Miami on the road ended their hopes.
Coming into this season, the common question for the Irish came up again. As the weeks have gone by, many have gone back-and-forth on whether this Top 10 Notre Dame team was for real. The last two weeks, the question has been answered a bit more in the affirmative, thanks to the efforts of a few.
One of those is a Tinley Park native who has been key in the Irish’s transition from quarterback Brandon Wimbush to Ian Book. Miles Boykin has tripled his amount of catches over the past two weeks, emerging as the leading receiver for Notre Dame, and has been key to wins over then No. 7 Stanford and No. 24 Virginia Tech.
At Lane Stadium on Saturday, Boykin caught a team-high eight passes for 117 yards and two second-half touchdowns to help the Irish to a 45-23 win over the Hokies. This follows up a career-high 11 catch performance the week before against the Cardinal, one in which he gained 144 yards along with a touchdown.
Boykin’s touchdown catch in that contest gave the Irish a 14-point lead and they never looked back in a decisive win. His scores against Virginia Tech served the same purpose, putting some distance between the Irish and the Hokies, a victory that helped Notre Dame crack the Top 5 of the Associated Press poll for the first time in 2018.
Through six games, Boykin leads the Irish in catches (28), yards (428), and receiving touchdown (3).
This continues the ascent of the former Providence Catholic star and former WGN-TV/Chicago Tribune Prep Athlete of the Year. He saw his first action in 2016, catching six passes for 81 yards and a touchdown in a limited role. That playing time increased in 2017, but Boykin still didn’t get his first start till the Citrus Bowl against LSU – and it was there that he made a name for himself.
A one-handed catch and run for a touchdown was one of the plays of the bowl season and helped the Irish to their first New Year’s Day bowl wins since the 1994 Cotton Bowl.
He’s continued that pace for the Irish this season, emerging as one of the leaders in a surging Notre Dame offense finally hoping to earn their spot in the College Football Playoff.