Talking the embarrassing performance by Notre Dame yesterday and who was to blame. Lots of great callers.
Talking the embarrassing performance by Notre Dame yesterday and who was to blame. Lots of great callers.
The Down the Tunnel Radio show returns as we look back at the devastating loss to Arizona State and where the Irish go from here. We also talk about the Down the Tunnel Tailgate that will take place this weekend for the Northwestern game.
Its elimination weekend in college football as there are multiple marquee games around the country between playoff contending teams. Among those games is Notre Dame traveling to take on Arizona State in a high profile top 10 matchup that will help dictate the rest of the season for both teams. Both the Irish and the Sun Devils enter the contest ranked 10th and 9th respectively. Each team only has one loss on their record with the Irish losing a close game at Florida State, while Arizona State got absolutely steamrolled by UCLA earlier this season. Both teams are desperate for a marquee win to add to their resume. Arizona State’s best win so far this season is against 17th ranked Utah while Notre Dame has yet to defeat a top 25 team yet this season and whose “best” win came against a four loss Stanford team. Both teams need no extra motivation for this one. Its pretty simple what lies ahead. The winner stays alive in the College Football Playoff picture. The loser is eliminated. Brian Kelly has a history of getting his team ready to play in big games away from Notre Dame (except Alabama but lets just forget that happened) and a win against Arizona State on the road would be a huge boost the Notre Dame’s playoff hopes.
Notre Dame’s offense is firing on all cylinders right now. While the game against Navy was much closer than most had expected or hoped, it was not due to a lack of production on offense. Since going on a three game streak of having huge turnover problems earlier in the season, Everett Golson is taking much better care of the football having thrown only two interceptions in the last two games. The key for the Irish offense against the Sun Devils this weekend is getting the running game going early to set up the play action pass to attack downfield and take advantage of the stable of athletes that Notre Dame has at the wide receiver position. Arizona State’s defense utilizes their safeties heavily in the running game so if the Irish are able to successfully run the ball and continue to suck in the safeties to play the run, they can then beat them over the top with the play action pass that is such a vital part of the Irish offense. Tarean Folson has burst onto the scene for the Irish in the past three games and he should be able to continue his success against the Sun Devil run defense that is giving up over 180 yards on the ground per game ranking 88th nationally.
Somewhat similarly to the Irish defensive scheme, Arizona State loves to bring pressure and blitz the quarterback early and often. The Sun Devils send five or more pass rushers on 55 percent of their plays which is second nationally. Everett Golson has gotten much better in noticing and adjusting to defenses blitzes and it will be vital this week against a very aggressive defense that will do their best to force turnovers. Golson is the best quarterback the Sun Devils have faced so far this season however and he should be able to move the ball effectively. UCLA’s Brett Hundley shredded Arizona State for 355 yards passing and four touchdowns with zero interceptions in their blowout win earlier this season and I see no reason why Golson can not have the same success. The Irish offensive line has really come together since the Florida State game and is playing their best football of the season. If Notre Dame can protect Golson like they have in recent weeks, he should have plenty of time to find Will Fuller, Corey Robinson, or CJ Prosise for big plays. With Fuller, Robinson, and Prosise all being dangerous threats, the Sun Devils are not able to put their focus on just one which will leave a lot of one-on-one match ups down the field. Simply put, with how successful the offense has been for the Irish, they should have no problem scoring a lot of points.
The play of the Notre Dame defense will dictate whether or not Notre Dame wins or loses this game. After looking like one of the best defenses in the country early on in the season, shaky performances against North Carolina and Navy have brought expectations for the defensive unit down a bit. Add the loss of starting middle linebacker and leader of the defense Joe Schmidt into the mix and it can be very understandable why many are nervous about how the defense will perform against one of the nations most potent offenses. Arizona State is 38th nationally in scoring averaging 34.4 points per game largely in part to their success throwing the football. The Sun Devils are 23rd in passing offense averaging 291 yards through the air per game. The big play threat for Arizona State is star receiver Jalen Strong who already this season has 57 receptions for 821 yards and 8 touchdowns. It is paramount for Notre Dame to not let Strong beat them as he is by far their best player on offense. Quarterback Taylor Kelly has not played particularly well in his last two games since returning from injury and has been sacked eleven times in the last two games. Sheldon Day and Jarron Jones have been doing a great job on the defensive line getting pressure on opposing quarterbacks and that should continue this week. Brian VanGorder will bring pressure early and often to rattle Kelly which has spelled trouble for Arizona State all season. Turnovers have been a big problem for the Sun Devils and its no secret that the Irish will do their best to force Kelly to make bad decisions which lead to take aways. Nyles Morgan will be making his first start at middle linebacker for the Irish and he will be responsible for all of the defensive calls. He played well last week when Schmidt went down and it will be interesting to see how he performs in his first full game on such a big stage. It is not reasonable to expect the Irish defense to completely shut down Arizona State. However they should be able to slow down the Sun Devil’s, who have struggled in the last two weeks against tough defenses.
Get your guns ready folks because this one is going to be a shootout. Both of these offenses are very good units that are filled with skill players. What the game will come down too is which team makes the least amount of mistakes and which team is able to make just enough defensive stops. In the last few weeks Notre Dame’s offensive line has been playing their best football while Arizona State’s offensive line has struggled protecting Taylor Kelly. This will be the difference in the game. The young but aggressive defense of Notre Dame will play like they did against Florida State a few weeks ago and wreck havoc on Taylor Kelly making him make bad decisions. The defense will give up some big plays but overall they play an overall solid game. Golson and company continue to perform at a high level on offense and lead the Irish to victory. Notre Dame 38 Arizona State 30
Other Games Around the Country
5 Alabama at 16 LSU – LSU has already done Notre Dame one favor this season, handing Ole Miss their first loss of the season, and they will be looking to do it again. After looking pretty bad early in the season the Tigers are playing really good physical football and have been winning with good defense and a very physical running game. While Alabama gets all the respect from the talking heads because they are Alabama, when you look at who they have played they have not been all that impressive. Death Valley is a really tough place to play especially at night. LSU helps out Notre Dame yet again. LSU 23 Alabama 20
4 Oregon at 17 Utah- The Utes are fresh off a tough loss to Arizona State last week but their defense played one of their better games of the season holding the Sun Devils to only 19 points. They face another tough challenge this week as Marcus Mariotta and the Oregon Ducks come to town. Utah will play well and keep it close for a while but I just don’t see their offense scoring enough points to win. Oregon 37 Utah 24
7 Kansas State at 6 TCU – TCU is fresh off a tough game against West Virginia last week and looks to put another win over a tough opponent on their resume. Treyvon Boykin has played very well this season but struggled a bit last week against a West Virginia defense that has not been very good this season. Kansas State is one of the better defenses in the Big 12 which will provide for another tough challenge for TCU. Notre Dame fans are really pulling for Kansas State to win here. The Wildcats helped Notre Dame out in 2012 by losing and this season will again help out the Irish by winning. Kansas State 31 TCU 30
After a poor performance by the Irish defense against Navy last night, there is more bad news for Notre Dame. Brian Kelly announced during his weekly Sunday teleconference that Linebacker Joe Schmidt is out for the season with a fractured ankle that was suffered last night. Schmidt was spotted on the sidelines last night in a boot and on crutches after suffering the injury. Nyles Morgan came in to replace Schmidt last night and showed some flashes that got fans excited but losing Joe Schmidt is a huge loss for the Irish and can not be understated. Joe Schmidt was not only the leading tackler for the Irish defense but was also the leader on the defense, making sure the unit was lined up in the correct calls.
This really hurts for Notre Dame and the timing could not be worse with the Irish traveling to Tempe to take on Arizona State who is know for their high octane offense. Nyles Morgan will be the first man in to fill the void left by the injured Schmidt. Morgan was a highly touted recruit last year and had Irish fans thinking he would start on day one before the emergence of Joe Schmidt. Its the Nyles Morgan show now. His athletic ability is not questioned but the issue is going to be how quickly can Morgan take in Brian VanGorder’s defense. Next week should be interesting to say the least.
On this weeks show we talk about the newly released College Football Playoff Rankings and what Notre Dame needs for the playoff. We also previewed the game with Navy this weekend as well as other key games that have implications for the Irish.
Its finally time to get back to actual football. Since the heart breaking and gut wrenching last second loss to Florida State two weeks ago, Irish fans have been without Notre Dame football and instead had to deal with the incessant talk about polls for a playoff that are still over two months away as well as Justin Brent’s encounter with porn star Lisa Ann over fall break. Enough of all that. Its time to get back to the game played on the field. Notre Dame travels to Maryland this week to take on the Midshipmen of the Naval Academy at FedEx Field. The Irish enter the contest with a 6-1 record and ranked 10th in the College Football Playoff Rankings while Navy brings in a 4-4 record and a two game winning streak. Notre Dame will look to put the loss to Florida State in the rear view mirror and turn their focus to the remaining five games on the schedule as they try remain in the playoff picture. The Irish are by far the better team in this matchup with Navy, but as we all know the Naval Academy has played very well against Notre Dame in the last few years and the triple option attack used by Navy is tough for any defense.
When Brian Kelly first arrived at Notre Dame, everyone was excited about the offense that he would bring with him to South Bend after his success at Cincinnati. However in his first couple seasons, the offense did not live up to the expectations for a variety of reasons, most importantly the quarterback position. This season the offense is FINALLY playing to level we all expected. After looking very impressive during the first half of the season, the offense looked like it had put it all together against Florida State and the task now is to maintain that level of play. The Irish should be able to continue to build on their continued success on offense this week with Everett Golson at the helm going against a Navy defense that has struggled this season giving up 27.6 points per game ranking them 75th in the nation in scoring defense. Navy also ranks 75th nationally in rushing defense, giving up 170.9 yards per game on the ground which should allow for the Irish’s newly minted “feature back”, Tarean Folston, to continue to shine. Since Notre Dame went to Folston as the feature back the Irish are averaging 186.5 yards on the ground per game which is 25 yards more than their season average of 162.4. The Irish should be able to continue to have success on the ground this week.
Navy’s passing defense is not much better than their mediocre at best rushing defense. The Midshipmen are giving up 242.9 yards through the air per game and they have not played an offense with a passing attack anywhere near as dynamic as they will see against the Irish on Saturday night. The Irish are averaging 285.1 passing yards per game ranking 29th nationally. Everett Golson played arguable the best game of his career against Florida State and he should have a field day throwing to wide open receivers all game long. Will Fuller speed is going to be very difficult for Navy to slow down, and Corey Robinson is quickly becoming a huge part of the Irish offense. Expect both to have great games as the Navy secondary will be unable to slow them down.
The biggest challenge for this game is for the Irish defense as they go up against the dreaded triple option attack that we have all grown to despise. Navy is bringing the nation’s leading rushing attack into this matchup averaging over 350 yards per game on the ground. However the Midshipmen rushing game will face their toughest test against the Irish, which is only allowing 102.7 yards per game ranking 12th nationally in rushing defense. The Irish front seven has continued to improve all season long with stellar performances by Jarron Jones, Issac Rochell, and Andrew Trumbeti along the defensive line and Joe Schmidt and Jaylon Smith in the linebacking corps. While Navy’s rushing stats look impressive on paper, it is important to point out that at least one reason why their yards per game is so high is because running the ball is the only thing the Navy offense does. The Midshipmen rank second to last in passying offense averaging only 91.6 yards per game. The Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds is really just another running back in their offensive attack and anytime that the Irish can force him to throw is a win for the defense. It will be interesting to see Brian VanGorder’s game plan against the option as he has admitted to not having face the option for years. Notre Dame is bigger, stronger, and faster than Navy and as long as the Irish defenders maintain their assignments, they should be able to slow down the triple option and force a few turnovers.
This is probably one of the worst Navy teams that Notre Dame will have faced during Brian Kelly’s tenure, including their 2012 team that lost 50-10 to Notre Dame in Ireland. Keenan Reynolds is a very good player however they are missing the talent at fullback and tailback that they have had in the past. Teams like Air Force have been able to hold Navy to 21 points this season, so their is no doubt in my mind that the Irish defense will be able to stop the triple option. Notre Dame needs to start blowing out the remaining teams on the schedule this season in order to stay in the playoff discussion and that starts this weekend. Irish fire the torpedo’s and sink Navy. Notre Dame 49 Navy 17
Other Games Around the Country
3 Auburn at 4 Ole Miss- This game is a playoff eliminator. Both teams enter the contest with a loss and I highly doubt that a two loss team will be making the playoff. Ole Miss is strangely ranked 4th in the playoff rankings after losing to a mediocre LSU team last week and it looks as if the Rebels were exposed in Death Valley. While they may have a very good defense, their offense is not that good. Auburn is an overall better team with a better coach. The dream in Oxford ends this weekend. Auburn 28 Ole Miss 21
7 TCU at 20 West Virginia- TCU completely embarrasses a really bad Texas Tech team last week dropping 82 points on the Red Raiders. The Horned Frogs have looked very impressive all season minus the 4th quarter against Baylor. West Virginia however has also played very well as of late with the Clint Tricket to Kevin White connection. TCU has looked really bad on defense at times this season and playing in Morgantown is no easy task. For the second time this season, it will be couch burning time for the Mountaineers. West Virginia 45 TCU 41
Its time to take Navy off the schedule. There I said it. I have felt this way for a couple years now but after seeing the release of the first college football playoff rankings earlier tonight it finally sealed the deal for me. Before you start crying a foul, yes I know all about the history between Notre Dame and Navy. Yes I know that Navy made Notre Dame a training ground during World War Two and provided enough money to keep the university afloat. I know all about it. Its reiterated every single year when we play the Naval Academy. Ill always have a great deal of respect for the Naval Academy and what they did for Notre Dame to help it stay open in a time when many thought the school would close. But that was over 70 years ago. I know Notre Dame “owed” Navy for all their help but that debt has been paid back and than some.
Here is the thing. There is absolutely nothing gained by playing Navy anymore for Notre Dame nothing. Its actually a lose-lose situation for the Irish. As we saw tonight in the first college football playoff rankings, the selection committee was not kidding around about strength of schedule being a huge factor in who gets selected into the playoff and having Navy on the schedule is doing the Irish no favors. If Notre Dame wins, it means nothing for the season as everyone expects Notre Dame to beat Navy easily each and every season. If Notre Dame loses, its a crippling blow and in the new college football playoff system it would almost always knock Notre Dame out of the playoff picture immediately.
Now every season there are teams that are supposed to be good teams that end up not panning out which never does favors for Notre Dame. So far this season Stanford and North Carolina would easily fit the bill. Prior to the season every pundit in the country had Notre Dame’s schedule as one of the toughest in the nation. Now it looks to be the exact opposite with the Irish sitting at 6-1 but having zero wins over a top 25 win. But you can’t really blame Notre Dame for that as how other teams do is completely out of their control. Its part of college football. Perceived good teams turn out to be bad and teams that were viewed as awful turn out to be really good. However there is a huge difference between teams like Stanford, Michigan, and North Carolina and a team like Navy. The Stanford’s, Michigan’s, and North Carolina’s may have their down years or not live up to expectations that people had for them in the preseason but they normally end up bouncing back and being good teams. Take Stanford for instance. They have been very good the past few years and this season and while they have taken a step back this year, they will undoubtedly rebound in the next year or two and contend in the PAC-12. Teams like Navy however are never good and are not expected to ever be good. Sure they will pull an upset now and again or finish a season with more wins that predicted but in football terms, nobody ever views Navy as a “quality win”.
I completely understand the need to not play an entire schedule of top 25 teams. Its just not feasible or sensible to have your team run through the gauntlet. I understand the need to have “lesser teams” on the schedule. Every team does it. Its part of football. But in the new world of the College Football Playoff strength of schedule is a huge factor and there is going to be a new trend of teams adding tougher opponents in lieu of the normal “cupcakes”. Notre Dame has been known as one of those teams who doesn’t schedule FCS schools and rarely plays a full on “cupcake” team but Navy is about as close as you can get. Add in the factor of Navy’s style of play and the large amounts of injuries that it causes for their opponents defenses and there is absolutely no upside to playing Navy in the modern college football world. I’ll always be grateful for what the Naval Academy did to keep Notre Dame afloat. However whatever Notre Dame owed Navy for that gratitude has been paid back two fold. Its time to move on.
You can follow me on twitter @GoIrishGlory
Here is your woman’s perspective of the game coming up this weekend. So, I don’t know anything about Notre Dame/Navy football (and I don’t plan rapping about it like an idiot), but what I do know is…
I don’t like Navy’s head coach. He’s a whiner and a crybaby. You would think him and that sissy, David Shaw, were brothers from another mother. They always have something to complain about. You are a part of the Navy! Man up! We know David Shaw pouts like a 3 year old who needs a nap, but that does not mean you have to act like one, too. Seriously, I have cramps three times as bad as Navy’s football team and I don’t whine as much as….as…I don’t even know how to say his last name. It’s like a damn Seeing Eye chart at the DMV. Seriously, I couldn’t pass that eye test sober (Which I’m not right now…). Look for yourself… His name does have LOL in it which makes it much easier for me to make fun of him.
While on the topic of cramps, I wonder what color Gatorade Brian Kelly will have at the podium for his press conference Navy week. I kinda hope he ditches the Gatorade all together and just drinks goat’s blood. It’s close enough to Halloween to work.
When I think of Navy and Notre Dame that the most important thing that comes to mind are the fight songs. I love to “Shake down the thunder from the sky” and “Marching to victory,” but it’s hard to compete with the disco hit “In The Navy.” Seriously, who wouldn’t want to sail the 7-seas or put your mind at ease? It sounds like a wonderful vacation, which is pretty much what the Navy football team has been on. The last time they were ranked in the top-25 after the season was in 2004 and they were only ranked 24th. Their highest ranking ever was 2nd in both polls, which performed slightly better than their fight song which came in at #3 on the Billboard 100 in 1979. It was actually #1 on the Canadian RPM Top Singles list, but I’m pretty sure once you convert that from the metric system to ‘Merica system it comes out to #3 again. Looking over iTunes, the Notre Dame fight song is the song with the staying power and is ranked WAY higher than “In the navy” right now.
Staying on the number 3, let’s talk about the triple option: Vodka, Tequila and Beer. A formidable trio of awesomeness that makes any game enjoyable. If you drink enough, you might find Navy’s head coach cute…or you might mistake him for the goat mascot. I know I have a few times. It’s not that I have anything against Navy and I appreciate what they do for everyone, but let’s face it, the Notre Dame players are cuter and the type of guys you would want to have a real triple option with (Hey-Yo!). This game will basically be the SNL version of Chris Farly (Navy) vs. Patrick Swayze (Notre Dame). We got the moves, the looks and the skills to win this game.
Well, that’s a woman’s perspective of the Navy/Notre Dame game. I have no doubt College Gameday will be at this epic match up. If you tally up all the above categories, pretty sure Notre Dame is going to win by 17. By pretty sure, I’d put David Shaw’s Midol on it… I’m that confident. Go Irish!
The Down the Tunnel Radio show is back as we enjoy the bye week for the Irish. This week we looked at the first half of the season and what to expect for the Irish in the second half of the year. We also discussed some Notre Dame recruiting and Justin Brent dating a porn star.
The Down the Tunnel Radio show is back as we look back at yesterdays loss to Florida State and discuss the Irish’s playoff potential.