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Notre Dame football: Bruising Irish offer Spread Age’s missing element

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — College football has eras just like the Earth itself.

You know this place was once all covered in ice. The Ice Age, they called it. The dinosaurs roamed the globe during the Jurassic Age. The Pleistocene Age came about some 300,000 years ago, when modern humans began to evolve in Africa.

But enough history, let’s get back to college football. It’s why you’re here and it’s why I’m here too. College football once had an era without passing and face guards. We’ll call it the Bloodied Age, because most players never left a game without blood somewhere—gushing from their arm, stained on their pants, matted in their hair. The sport then shifted heavily toward a specific ground-and-pound scheme: the Option Age. And don’t forget the days of the I-formation Age (one of my favorites).

For the last decade or so, college football—and football in general—has found a new system of offense, one that includes five receivers, relentless shotgun snaps, no huddles and bonanzas of points and yards.

The Spread Age has changed the game forever. It has changed defenses, too. And it has recently made the game’s greatest active coach, Nick Saban, a defensive guru himself, acknowledge that a great defense can no longer beat a great offense.

And then there’s Notre Dame. They run the ball, they play great defense and they’re undefeated.

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