Sure, sure he can recruit, his family is beyond adorable, the players love him and he has put together a top not staff. In fact, Marcus Freeman has pushed nearly all the right buttons since he ascended to the role of head coach last December.
But can he coach?
To put a sharper point on it, how will he perform on gameday and can he win the big game? A one game preview of what he was capable of in the Fiesta bowl last January didn’t end well. So it’s a valid question.
Can he coach?
Brian Kelly left ND last year as its all-time winningest coach. He took the Irish to the College football playoffs three times. He had a solid reputation as gameday coach. That is a pretty impressive resume.
But Kelly couldn’t win the big game. Against teams ranked in the top 10, he was an anemic 4-9. He never won a major Bowl game, and in three playoff tries, he was 0-3.
Kelly matched up against this week’s opponent, Ohio State once in 2015, and lost 44-28.
But make no mistake, Marcus Freeman inherited a program on solid footing, certainly in the top handful of programs nationwide. Kelly left Freeman a culture of winning and a load of talent.
This week in the “Big Horseshoe” the Buckeyes are flying high with a #2 ranking, and that gives Marcus Freeman and the #5 ranked Irish, a chance to scratch a few itches that have plagued Irish fandom for ohhh, about the last 35 years.
Beat a top opponent in a big game. Those kinds of wins have been rare. On the road they have been virtually non-existent.
And what a win that would be, after all the Irish are 17 1/2-point underdogs.
So, Prove it Marcus Freeman. You have shown that do a lot of things well.
But can you Coach?
The eyes of the football world are on Columbus, Ohio this week as the Irish kickoff season 134. And Marcus Freeman has something to prove.