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Leftovers & Links: The future of Notre Dame’s home (and ACC) success

Doug Flutie and Mike Tirico dissect Notre Dame's Senior Day win, 40-7 over Boston College, using big performances from Ian Book, Chris Finke and the defense.

Not to get too far ahead — Notre Dame still has to go to Stanford this weekend, where it has not won since 2007 — but the 18-game home winning streak the Irish extended this past weekend should reach 22 before its next great challenge.

Looking ahead like that is a bit more acceptable when Notre Dame hasn’t lost to an unranked opponent since 2016 or to anyone at home since the second week of 2017. Even going unbeaten at home for two straight years had not been done since 1987-89, when the Irish rattled off an eventual 19 consecutive home victories.

“Obviously, that’s really special,” junior tight end Cole Kmet said after Saturday’s 40-7 dismissal of Boston College. “You always want to stay undefeated at home, so that’s a big deal to us. Winning on Senior Day was icing on the cake for it.”

Notre Dame should be favored at home next year until Clemson arrives on Nov. 7, with four games between now and then. (That does not count facing Wisconsin at Lambeau Field, for obvious reasons, though the Irish could be favored then, as well.) If Notre Dame tops Trevor Lawrence and Clemson in the final month of his collegiate career, then the record of 28 straight wins at Notre Dame Stadium (1942-50) could conceivably fall in 2021.

One of those four home games pre-Clemson is against ACC foes, as are two road trips. It warrants mentioning the Irish are 14-1 against the ACC in the regular season in the last three years. This season, it could be argued Notre Dame beat the second-, third- and fourth-best ACC teams in Virginia, No. 23 Virginia Tech and Louisville, respectively.

Sophomore receiver Kevin Austin has not been seen in action this season. Some version of a suspension has sidelined him on Saturdays and left him on the scout team during the week. That has at least given the Irish defensive coaches distinct impressions of Austin.

“He’s been outstanding,” head coach Brian Kelly said Sunday. “Our defensive coaches feel like he’s the best player over there and he’s been outstanding in everything that we’ve asked him to, every challenge that has been put in front of him.”

Austin will not play for Notre Dame this year, but every indication suggests he will be a force to be reckoned with for the Irish next season. Senior receiver Chase Claypool sang Austin’s praises a week ago, something that may foreshadow Austin stepping in where Claypool stepped in for Miles Boykin.

“[Austin has] had numerous, and I repeat numerous, challenges placed in front of him,” Kelly said. “He has succeeded at each one of those challenges. Good things on the horizon for him.”

Senior right guard Tommy Kraemer will not play in any bowl game, per Kelly on Monday, as he recovers from an MCL sprain suffered at Michigan. Previously, a return in the postseason was considered possible, if unlikely.

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