There may not have been one play that illustrated Ian Book had his mojo back more than the throw he made to Lawrence Keys in the third quarter Saturday against Navy.

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Three weeks ago, people were asking for Brian Kelly to be fired and Ian Book to be benched. Three wins and two dominating performances later, those people have been silenced.

Heading into last year’s game against Navy, Drew White wasn’t listed on the depth chart. By the end of the game, he was a critical part of a win that put Notre Dame one step closer to the College Football Playoff.

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At the beginning of the 2019 Notre Dame football season, the Fighting Irish were expected to have a three-headed monster of Julian Okwara, Daelin Hayes and Khalid Kareem on the defensive line. Okwara and Kareem were even voted team captains in August.

Notre Dame entered the 2019 season with two featured running backs: redshirt junior Tony Jones and redshirt sophomore Jafar Armstrong, the latter of which was listed as the starter for the season opener against Louisville.

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The College Football Playoff is no longer an option for Notre Dame. A New Year’s Six bowl game also appears to be a long shot. So, what do the No. 16 Fighting Irish have to play for this weekend against Virginia Tech?

The No. 8 Fighting Irish (5-1) players and coaches can talk about how Saturday’s opponent, No. 19 Michigan (5-2), is another “faceless” opponent, but they all know Saturday night’s game in Ann Arbor (7:30 p.m., ABC) is more than just another football game.

One of the biggest question marks coming into the 2019 season for Notre Dame football was the kicker situation. The Fighting Irish were tasked with replacing Justin Yoon, who graduated as the program’s all-time leading scorer with 364 points.

Ian Book could feel it as the offense took over with 10:27 left in the fourth quarter Saturday, leading USC 23-20. Cole Kmet could feel it, too. Tony Jones as well.

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