Notre Dame Hangover – Florida State Edition

Tyler -

There simply is no way to sugarcoat it: Saturday night’s loss to Florida State was just brutal. With that said, debating whether or not the offensive pass-interference call at the end of the game was the correct call (it wasn’t) is really irrelevant because no matter what the replay tells us, it doesn’t change the outcome of the game. That’s not really that bad, though. Notre Dame is still 6-1 after 8 weeks of college football and ranked #7 in the AP poll with a legitimate opportunity to land a spot in the inaugural college football playoff. So rather than sulk about a gut wrenching loss, Notre Dame fans should focus more on what lies ahead: Notre Dame is among the elite again, and now everyone knows it.

Roughly 13.2 million people tuned in to watch the Notre Dame – Florida State match-up on Saturday night, meaning that 13.2 million people watched Notre Dame go toe-to-toe for 60 minutes with the defending national champions and the reigning Heisman Trophy winner. Not even the most notorious of Notre Dame haters could spin it negatively. Jameis Winston played lights-out in the second half, and despite his stellar performance, Florida State was still on the ropes for nearly all of the game. There was no fluke, no crazy stroke of luck, just outstanding football being played by both teams for the entire game.

I can recall times during the Weis era and even the first two years of the Brian Kelly era when I would watch teams like Alabama, LSU, and Stanford play and find myself saying “Wow, Notre Dame isn’t even close to that level of play.” And for a long time, this was true. Notre Dame scraped the surface of the elite in 2012, but they were pummeled back down to reality in the National Championship game against Alabama. A year and a half later, Notre Dame had their first real opportunity since the 2012 National Championship game to prove their prominence amongst the college football elite and this time, they delivered.

This game goes beyond the scope of the 2014 season, and Notre Dame will feel the impact of this game for years to come despite what the final score says. Recruits from across the country were tuned in to last Saturday’s match-up and Notre Dame caught the eye of a lot of the recruits who once doubted Notre Dame’s staying power. Don’t believe me? Check out Tom Loy’s page from 24/7, there you will find a plethora of positive reactions from recruits that hadn’t always showed the most interest in Notre Dame. In addition to recruits, the belief within the program that they belong amongst the elite is just going to be fueled after this loss. The players and coachers were eager to prove something again after the National Championship and while they did prove a lot, the fact that they did not bring back a win from Tallahassee is going to prevent the players from becoming content and this will continue to drive them moving forward.

Initially, the takeaway from this game from nearly every Notre Dame fan was anger and resentment against the referees. But after the hangover of the loss goes away, I’m confident that Notre Dame fans will really start to embrace the positives that came away from the team’s loss to Florida State. If nothing else, the fact that Notre Dame fans are pissed off about this loss is something in and of itself. For the first time in a very long time, Notre Dame fans aren’t just satisfied with keeping it close or almost winning. It’s no longer considered irrational for Notre Dame fans to expect a win in every single game. It’s clear after Saturday night’s game that Brian Kelly has nearly the entire fan base believing in him and the direction of this program, and that might just be the most impressive thing the head coach has done so far in his time here at Notre Dame.

For more, follow me on twitter @Twoj7.

Notre Dame’s Road to the Playoffs – Week 9

-Tom

We are merely a week away from the first ever release of the NCAA Playoff Committee’s Rankings.  The Irish hit a bump in the road this week, however, seemed to gain the respect of the pollsters even after a loss.  Notre Dame fell to #7 (AP) & #8 (USA Today) in this weeks voting.  However, it’s not a terrible drop.  They’re still in good position to secure one of the 4 spots. Granted they will need a little help, but as long as they win out, they will be strongly considered. 

I don’t know how this new system will work.  Obviously it’s at the discretion of the voters.  So just because ND is on the outside looking in with the major polls, next week they could be in the top 4, depending on how they’re viewed in those persons eyes.  Under the assumption that the Irish have a few hills to climb, I’m going to look over those teams ahead of us and figure out their road to the final 4 also.

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Notre Dame has a pretty favorable schedule remaining, in terms of quality of opponents and of winnable games.  As of now, two remaining opponants are in the top 25 (at Arizona State, at USC).  They also have a home game against a 6-2 Louisville team.  Louisville’s next opponent happens to be Florida State at home.  Hopefully they give a good showing, maybe pull off an upset.

Now the rest of the field

1) Mississippi State – 6-0 – AP – 1, USA Today – 1

at Kentucky
Arkansas
UT Martin
at #4 Alabama
Vanderbilt
at #3 Ole Miss
SEC Championship

The Bulldogs have 2 games against teams ranked higher then the Irish.  This bodes well for us.  If I had to cchoose, I’d rather they win out.  This will give Alabama their second loss and Ole Miss their first loss, assuming neither team loses along the way

#2 Florida State – 7-0 – AP – 2, USA Today – 2

at Louisville
Virginia
at Miami
Boston College
Florida
ACC Championship

Aside for Louisville, FSU has a pretty easy schedule.  I’m torn over this. Logically it makes sense to want the Seminoles to win out because it looks better for the Irish’s strength of schedule. It also leaves a chance for an epic rematch.

#3 Ole Miss – 7-0, AP -3, USA Today – 3

at #24 LSU
#5 Auburn
Presbyterian
at Arkansas
#1 Mississippi State
SEC Championship

Aside from a cupcake game insterted into the schedule, Ole Miss probably has to run a gauntlet to get to the final four.  If they get through this, they earned their playoff spot.  They have a phenomenal defense. Their rise to prominence makes the SEC even stronger than it was, which is scary.

#4 Alabama, 6-1, AP – 4, USA Today – 4

at Tennessee
at #24 LSU
#1 Mississippi State
Western Carolina
#5 Auburn
SEC Championship

Alabama doesn’t have a very easy road to the dance either. Although this isn’t the dominant Alabama team of the past few years, they have arguably the best coach in the nation and will be tough for whomever they play against.  Since they are one of the 1-loss teams, it would serve ND best if they lose along the way.

#5 Michigan State, 6-1, AP – 8, USA Today – 5

Michigan
#13 Ohio State
at Maryland
Rutgers
at Penn State
B1G Championship

I gotta be honest, I don’t get how the Spartans made such a leap.  It’s also odd to see such a difference in the two polls, with them being 8th in the AP and 5th in USA Today.  Also, they jumped Oregon, who rolled over them earlier in the season.  They have a rather easy schedule remaining, except for Ohio State. Problem there is that if OSU knocks them off, it will draw the Buckeyes into the playoff picture.

#6 Auburn, 5-1, AP – 5, USA Today – 6

South Carolina
at #3 Ole Miss
Texas A&M
at #9 Georgia
Samford
at #4 Alabama
SEC Championship

I can’t see Auburn getting through this stretch unblemished.  3 top 10 teams and A&M, they have their work cut out for them.  They’re battle tested though, coming off an appearance in last years title game. 

#7 Oregon, 6-1, AP – 6, USA Today – 7

at Cal
Stanford
at #19 Utah
Colorado
at Oregon State
PAC-12 Championship

Year in and year out, Oregon is consistently at the top but fails to get over the hump.  They tend to get exposed and fold in big games.  They had a bad lost agaisnt Arizona at home.  The road game against Utah and the Civil War game on the road against Oregon State are the biggest tests remaining. 

ESPN.com currently has the 4 playoff teams as Mississippi State, Florida State, Ole Miss and Alabama.  ND is 7th.  The one issue thats going to come into play is whats the point of having a playoff if there’s going to be 3 SEC teams in it.  As far as I’m concerned, if you can’t win your conference, you shouldn’t play for a national championship.  Obviously I don’t make the rules, and when it comes down to it, I can see why you’d want it more open.  SEC teams can’t help that the SEC is so damn good.  This is just one of the many questions that will start to be answered next week

Depending on how you look at it, the Irish are either at an advantage or a disadvantage in that they don’t play a conference championship.  The championship games are just another opportunity for teams to get knocked out.  On the other hand, they’re also an opportunity for bubble teams to pick up a quality win, especially in regards to the SEC. The lack of a championship game didn’t hurt Notre Dame in 2012.  But this year is a whole new ball game

There’s plenty of other teams in the picture, such as Georgia, Ohio State, Kansas State and Baylor.  I’m going to leave them out today because they’re all still behind the Irish in the polls.  Weekly I will update all of this based on how Notre Dame is standing.  Next week should be very interesting when the new rankings come out.  I’m sure there will be a lot of discussions, and as always, a lot of contreversy.  The Irish can only control what they do.  Hopefully the boys can win out, and look good while doing it, and let the people in charge do what they have to do.

Follow me on twitter @GetsThruBuckner

Chef James Tailgate Special – Florida State Edition

Triple Threat Tailgate Grub

This week I’m tripling up friends. I was down last week, but back with a vengeance this week. I thought, Florida? Lets do Cubano sandwiches. Nope, not practical. Besides, how many people bring what is, essentially, a panini press to a tailgate? Better yet, how many of you even own one. Fact is, it’s an essential part of the process, so I scrubbed it. We’re doing two side dishes this week, and a flat out awesome cookie recipe, that is also simple, and fast. I’ve cooked for quite a few tailgates, and the side dish game at most of them is weak, to say the least. I’m of course, not referring to the Harlow/DTT tailgate that can be found, EASILY, because of its epic proportion, and people, in front of Legends at ND. So here we go……

Three bean casserole.
Baked Three Bean Casserole with Crispy Bacon
INGREDIENTS

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

5 garlic cloves, minced

1 green bell pepper, chopped

1 medium onion, coarsely chopped

1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger

Kosher salt

2 cups Sweet and Sticky Cola Barbecue Sauce mixed with 1/2 cup water

Two 15 1/2-ounce cans baked beans

One 19-ounce can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed

One 19-ounce can pinto beans, drained and rinsed

6 slices lean bacon

Preheat the oven to 375°. Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add the garlic, green pepper, onion, ginger and 1 teaspoon of salt and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are softened, about 8 minutes. Add the diluted Sweet and Sticky Barbecue Sauce and all of the beans and simmer over low heat for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Transfer the beans to a 9-by-13-inch baking dish and arrange the bacon strips on top. Bake the beans for 45 minutes or until bubbling and the bacon is crisp. Let cool for 15 minutes before serving.

Cola BBQ Sauce

Ingredients

4 cloves garlic, peeled

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, plus a generous pinch for the garlic

3 Dr. Pepper

1 1/2 cups ketchup

1/4 cup cider vinegar

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

1 slightly heaping tablespoon chili powder

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus additional for seasoning

1/2 teaspoon hot sauce, plus additional for seasoning

1/4 teaspoon old bay

1 1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice

Smash the garlic cloves, sprinkle with a generous pinch of salt, and, with the flat side of a large knife, mash and smear mixture to a coarse paste.

Stir garlic paste, the 1/4 teaspoon salt, cola, ketchup, vinegar, Worcestershire, chili powder, 1 teaspoon black pepper, 1/2 teaspoon hot sauce, and allspice together in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until thickened, about 45 minutes. Allow to cool slightly, stir in the lime juice, and season with black pepper and hot sauce, to taste.
Next up, who doesn’t love cornbead? This is a “kicked up” version, obviously because of the cayenne and chipotle, but you can bring it down by adding less, or none at all. It really doesn’t affect the cooking process. This can be done the night before, and unlike most baked goods, this actually tastes better the next day……
Ingredients

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus butter for baking dish

1 cup cornmeal

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

½ tsp. Cayenne

1 tsp. Dried chipotle powder

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

1 1/2 cups buttermilk

Green onion and paprika for garnish

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Lightly grease an 8-inch baking dish.

In a large bowl, mix together the cornmeal, flour, cayenne, chipotle powder, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

In a separate bowl, mix together the eggs, buttermilk, and butter. Pour the buttermilk mixture into the cornmeal mixture and fold together until there are no dry spots (the batter will still be lumpy). Pour the batter into the prepared baking dish.

Bake until the top is golden brown and tester inserted into the middle of the corn bread comes out clean, about 20 to 25 minutes.

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Lastly, it’s dessert. Another thing that, at some tailgates is missing. Fact is, some of you consider cocktails and beer the dessert of the tailgate, but I’m going to throw this at you anyway. These cookies are ridiculously easy, and crazy good. White chocolate oatmeal…..

Ingredients

1 cup of butter, softened

1 cup brown sugar

½ cup of white sugar

1 tbs. Vanilla extract

2 eggs

1 ¼ cup all purpose flour

½ tsp. Baking soda

3 cups of fast cooking rolled oats

2 cups of white chocolate chips

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350

In a stand mixer, or mixing bowl with a hand mixer, cream together the sugars, butter, and eggs. Add the vanilla, then bring in the dry ingredients. Once it’s thoroughly combined, add the oats and chips a little at a time until they’re thoroughly combined. Use a tablespoon or ice cream scoop to portion out whatever size cookies you like on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet, and bake for 8-10 minutes. It’s just that easy.

Enjoy! And of course, Go Irish!!! Beat FSU!!!

The Down the Tunnel Radio Show – Florida State Throw down Edition

-Kevin

The Down the Tunnel Radio show is back as we preview the big game against Florida State this weekend in Tallahassee. Had a great group of callers this week. We will be back on the air on Sunday night to review the outcome of Notre Dame and Florida State.

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I Want Jameis Winston To Play This Week

There’s an old saying in sports.  It is “In order to be the best, you have to beat the best.”  These are words this Notre Dame football program will have to live by in order to be serious championship contenders.  So, as much as you’d like to see any opponent be at a disadvantage, it would serve no purpose to the Irish to play Florida State this week without Jameis Winston under center.

I’m going to save debating the moral issues behind Winston’s off field situation for another day.  Whether he should or shouldn’t be playing isn’t for me to decide.  However, it can alter my opinion of my team.  Coming into the season, I wasn’t expecting much from this Irish team.  I felt like they were an 8 win team, which isn’t bad, but it’s not where you want to be, especially in Kelly’s 5th season at ND.  What I think you’re seeing from this team this year though is a full squad of Kelly recruits in his system playing in a way tailored to his coaching style.  I think that’s part of the reason they came into the year a little under the radar.  They’re more athletic then any Irish team we have seen in a while. Kelly finally has his team.

If you look back to 2012, they had a great run.  Kelly was able to guide them to the title game with a team of mostly Charlie Weis’ recruits.  He dumbed down his offense and relied mostly on a physically dominating defense.  But let’s be honest with ourselves here.  The Irish caught plenty of breaks that year to get them to Miami.  When they finally played in the BCS Championship, they were overmatched.  It was like men against boys out there. Whenever you saw Kelly onm camera, he looked like he saw a ghost.  He didn’t know what hit them.  It was a real wake up call for the program.  Kelly saw that in order to compete with the teams from the south, you have to change the type of team you put on the field, which includes being faster and more explosive. Also, in order to do that and draw recruits, you have to play those teams, which you can see they are scheduling games against.

That brings me to this weeks game.  I want to play the defending national champions with the reigning Heisman trophy winner playing.  This game will show how far this program has come, and how much further they need to go.  If Jameis winds up suspended, and ND beats the Seminoles, it doesn’t really guage where this team stands in regards to playing with the big boys. Don’t get me wrong.  It is still impressive to beat Florida State without Winston.  He’s not the whole team.  But if they beat the  Seminoles at full strength in Tallahassee, It will make a statement that this program is back to being elite, and it can play with anyone.

This post seems pretty negative.  I’m not trying to be.  Consider me cautiosly optimistic.  But going into the game it’s hard to not think about that title game in 2012. If they beat a Winstonless FSU, they’ll probably win out and wind up in the playoffs. Then it’s a crapshoot.  There’s still uncertainty about where this team stands. The last thing I want to see though is them get the floor wiped with them by teams that are more superior. 

Winston or no Winston, I think the Irish will do alright this weekend.  I think the -12 point spread is a little much.  Florida State isn’t as good as they were last year.  It’s a winable game. They went into Oklahoma two years ago as big underdogs and pretty much dominated them.  This team is battle tested.  Kelly is a great strategist and will be prepared for the game.  I expect them to compete.  There’s no shame in losing a close game under those circumstances.  Win or lose, the Irish are better off if either result comes with Florida State’s best player on the field.

Talk Irish football with me on Twitter.  @GetsThruBuckner  -Tom

Ishaq Williams Will Not Play This Season. Hopes to Return in 2015

- Kevin

Brian Kelly announced today during his press conference that Notre Dame defensive end Ishaq Williams will not play for the Irish this season due to the findings of the academic fraud investigation that has been going on since before the start of the season. This news comes on the same day that Davaris Daniels announced that he too will not play for Notre Dame this season.

Ishaq Williams was a big time recruit when he arrived at Notre Dame but his performance never quite matched the expectations that went with his talent. There was a large amount of excitement for Williams to move back to defensive end in Coach Brian VanGorder’s new defensive scheme for the Irish but fans will have to wait until next season to see if the new scheme would allow Williams to finally live up to the big expectations that he brought to South Bend. It should be no surprise that Williams is planning on returning to Notre Dame next season. Williams wants to play in the NFL however his production has not warranted a realistic goal of being drafted. While he may not play this season having Williams return to Notre Dame next season along with KeiVarae Russell, who also stated he plans to return for next season, has got to have Irish fans excited about a defense that could possibly return 11 starts from this years team that has started 6-0 and played much better than people had anticipated.