Gould Headshot squareOne of the perils of remaining steadfastly independent, as Notre Dame insists on doing, is the Big Question: What are the Irish playing for when the ultimate goal—the national championship—is off the table.

Of course, there are still lesser rungs of success: A New Year’s Day bowl, the next best bowl, compiling the best won-lost record possible etc. But they aren’t as easily quantifiable as they are for schools that are in conferences.

In addition, when Notre Dame, which takes pride in its national reach, has its wings clipped early, those who follow the Irish—whether they root for or against them—see the season as a failure much more quickly because ND lacks the lesser objectives found in conference play.

And the Irish certainly have had their wings clipped this fall. The rest of this article is available to subscribers only – to become a subscriber click here.