Notre Dame is coming off its worst season in nine years. Georgia is coming off what equaled its worst record in six years. So consider this: You have to go all the way back to 1963 to find a year where Georgia and Notre Dame combined for a losing record.*
The Fighting Irish coach that pitiful year was Hugh Devore, and only that pitiful year, as he was fired and replaced by Ara Parseghian. The Bulldogs’ coach in 1963 was Johnny Griffith, who was fired and replaced by Vince Dooley. In hindsight, both schools seem to have made the right hires.
This time around, the coaches are both back. But how good are the players?
It’s not a foolproof measure, but one way to gauge it is the recruiting rankings. Here’s a look at how each team has recruited over the past five years, using the yearly recruiting rankings on the 247Sports Composite:
2017: 10th in the nation. Five-stars: 0. Four-stars: 10. Three-stars: 10.
2016: 15th in the nation. Five-stars: 0. Four-stars: 10. Three-stars: 13.
2015: 13th in the nation. Five-stars: 0. Four-stars: 14. Three-stars: 9.
2014: 11th in the nation. Five-stars: 0. Four-stars: 16. Three-stars: 6.
2013: 5th in the nation. Five-stars: 2. Four-stars: 17. Three-stars: 4.
Average signing class rank: 10.8
2017: 3rd in the nation. Five-stars: 2. Four-stars: 17. Three-stars: 6.
2016: 8th in the nation. Five-stars: 3. Four-stars: 10. Three-stars: 9.
2015: 5th in the nation. Five-stars: 2. Four-stars: 12. Three-stars: 16.
2014: 8th in the nation. Five-stars: 3. Four-stars: 10. Three-stars: 8.
2013: 12th in the nation. Five-stars: 0. Four-stars: 15. Three-stars: 18.
Average signing class rank: 7.2.
Diving a bit deeper:
Notre Dame had that strong class in 2013, but the three top-ranked players and eight of the top nine in that class are no longer on the team. Offensive lineman Hunter Bivin, the fourth-ranked member of that class, will be a fifth-year senior this year, as will be massive offensive lineman Mike McGlinchey.
But six of the top seven members of the 2014 class are still on the roster, including the top two: Inside linebacker Nyles Morgan and offensive lineman Quenton Nelson.
The top-ranked member of the 2015 class was Brandon Wimbush, a dual-threat quarterback who is expected to be Notre Dame’s starting quarterback this year. In fact the top 14 members of the Irish class that year are all still on the roster.
One other quick takeaway: Notre Dame seemed to recruit well on the offensive line, as O-linemen kept popping up among the higher-ranked members of each class. That would portend a good match-up with Georgia’s front seven, which is also loaded.
Obviously, all this only tells part of the story. How else is the talent distributed? How much other attrition has occurred? How has the talent developed?
Well, there’s nearly four months until the game, so don’t worry, there will be plenty of more stories delving into all that and more.
*-Georgia (8-5) and Notre Dame (4-8) combined for a losing record, though with the Irish doing the heavy lifting there. The same went for 1963, when Notre Dame went 2-9 and Georgia was 5-6-1. There have also been two seasons in which Georgia and Notre Dame combined for 12 wins. That was 1994 (when Notre Dame was 6-5-1 and Georgia was 6-4-1) and 1985 (when Notre Dame was 5-6 and Georgia was 7-3-2.)