Tag Archives: Alabama

Rumble in the Desert – A Weekend Preview

-GoIrishGlory

Sun Devils

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.

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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.

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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.

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Prediction 

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

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

Championship Weekend Preview.

– Sgt Shamrock

Notre Dame is not playing this weekend, but there are some really good games to watch this weekend as we all wait to see where the Irish will play their bowl game. Its conference championship week and there are some really good games that have huge implications on the National Championship game as well as the other BCS bowl games. What makes the games this weekend even more interesting, is that there is a very real possibility that when its all said and done, there will be NOT be an SEC team in the championship game which will make everyone not living in the southeast very happy.

20 Duke vs. 1 Florida State- Duke has been one of the surprise stories in college football this season. For a school that is known as a basketball school, the Blue Devils were able to win 10 games and earn a spot in the ACC championship game. That’s the good news. The bad news is that Duke has to play Florida State. The Seminoles are playing for a spot in the National Championship and will have Heisman favorite Jameis Winston as news broke today that he will not charged in the sexual assault case. Florida State has an insane amount of talent on both sides of the ball. Their offense has been rolling for the majority of the season and its not going to stop this weekend. Florida State 45 Duke 14

10 Michigan State vs. 2 Ohio State- Besides the SEC championship game, the Big 10 title game is one of the best games on the slate for this weekend. Its a game that puts Michigan State’s top notch defense against the Buckeye’s explosive offense. Ohio State has one of the best rushing attacks in the nation behind Carlos Hyde and Braxton Miller but they are going to have a tough challenge running on the Spartans front 7 who have been outstanding against the run all season long. This is going to be a very close game and probably low scoring but Michigan State’s offense has been the weak part of this team all year and this weekend it will cost them again as Ohio State will pullout a victory en route to the Nation Championship. Ohio State 21 Michigan State 17  

5 Missouri vs. 3 Auburn- After two straight miracle games, Auburn finds themselves in the SEC championship game, only one season removed from a 3-9 season and the firing of Gene Chizik who lead Auburn to a National Championship. Auburn has found their success in running an offense that is very similar to the Cam Newton days. The Tigers are one of the nations best rushing teams and were able to continue their success in rushing the football against Alabama’s stout defense last weekend. Missouri is going to be another tough opponent for Auburn. Mizzou’s only loss came to South Carolina without their starting quarterback James Franklin, who was out with a shoulder injury. Mizzou also has a tough defensive front, however I don’t think they are better than Alabama. If Auburn runs the ball well again, they should win. Auburn 31 Missouri 21

17 Oklahoma vs. 6 Oklahoma State If not for a very bizarre loss to a horrid West Virginia team, Oklahoma State would be playing for a shot at the National Championship. The Cowboys have been known for their high octane offense under Mike Gundy and this year is no different. The defense for the Cowboys has also played above expectations this season, with their best game being against Baylor. Oklahoma has switched from Blake Bell to Trevor Knight at quarterback and have had trouble finding an offensive identity this season. The Cowboys are playing for the Big 12 championship and a trip to the Fiesta bowl. They should have no trouble this weekend. Oklahoma State 38 Oklahoma 24

11 Arizona State vs. 7 Stanford- Another example of where good defense meets good offense in this years PAC 12 Championship. Arizona State has an outstanding offense that is led by their quarterback. Since the Sun Devils lost to Notre Dame, they have bounced back and gotten their offense clicking on all cylinders. Stanford brings a tough defense to this matchup, however they seem to have some issues against the passing game, which is not a good weakness to have against a team like Arizona State. Arizona State 30 Stanford 24    

Irish go Panther hunting. A Pittsburgh Preview

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By Sgt. Shamrock

Another college football weekend is upon us. This week Notre Dame travels to play the Pitt Panthers at Heinz Field Saturday night. But don’t tell Pitt that, since they are oddly treating this game like it’s being played at Notre Dame. Confused? Don’t worry, if you missed Pittsburgh and their ultimate derpness I’ll catch you up. To start things off, Pitt TE JP Holtz said this gem to the media,

“I don’t like Notre Dame at all…I just think they’re really cocky and their coaches are really cocky. It’s awesome up there, but just not somewhere I would want to go to school.”

So somebody says they don’t like Notre Dame. IM SO SHOCKED!!! What I find really hilarious is that Pitt is going to need a lot of help from the Irish to win so they really had to hope that Notre Dame would come out flat in this game. Safe to say these comments won’t help their case there. Thanks buddy. Now I know what this kid said was probably pretty stupid, but what Pitt did next really takes the cake. During practice this week, the Panthers, were actually blaring the Notre Dame Fight Song over loud speakers during their practice AND had a student manager dress up as the leprechaun. You can’t make this stuff up. Not only is this game at Pitt, but the Irish band isn’t even traveling for the game! To quote ESPN 8 the ocho dodgeball announcer Pepper Brooks, “It’s a bold strategy Cotton, let’s see if it pays off for ’em.”

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The Irish are coming off of a very sloppy win over Navy last week where the defense played their worst game of the season against the triple option. With the triple option behind them and a hopefully healthy defensive line, I expect the Irish defense to have a much better game against Pitt which ranks 103rd in the nation in total offense. I guess you could say that the Panther passing attack, lead by quarterback Tom Savage, is the strength of the Pitt offense, but that only ranks 70th in the nation while the running game is an abysmal 104th nationally. This bodes well for the Irish as they matchup well with the Panthers passing game with the 23rd ranked passing defense. The Irish defense has struggled against the run last week against the triple option but that’s a completely different animal than most teams rushing attacks. With Louis Nix, Stephon Tuitt, and Sheldon Day all expected to play together on the D-line, the Irish defense should start looking like it did against USC again.

The Irish offense however could be in for a tougher road. While Pitt may being having an bad year on the offensive side of the ball, their defense has played pretty well at times. Their defense is ranked 34th in total defense and is anchored by stud defensive lineman Aaron Donald, who Brian Kelly called a “one man wrecking crew”. The Panther defense specializes in defending the pass, ranking 18th nationally, while having trouble defending the rush ranking in the bottom half of the country at 63rd. The Irish running attack, led by Cam McDaniel and Tarean Folston, had a breakout game last week with the help of tremendous offensive line play, so look for the coaching staff to again work to running game on the road early and often.

Overall Notre Dame SHOULD win this game by a pretty good margin. There is just too big a talent gap and to be quite frank Pittsburgh is just not a very good team. They are coming into this game at 4-4 and riding a two game losing streak including a loss to Navy. The Panthers best win this season would be over Duke (yes Duke), 58-55 earlier in the season. The two best teams they have played to date have been Florida State and Virginia Tech, which were both losses. But as I do recall, I said a lot of the same things last week about Navy, and we all know how that turned out. Pittsburgh has always played Brian Kelly coached teams very well. Since losing to Pitt while coaching at Cincinnati in 2007, Brian Kelly has beaten Pitt five straight times but all by 7 points or less including last years 3OT thriller in South Bend. Pittsburgh always plays Notre Dame very well, and this year will be no different. However, no matter how many times Mark May picks Pitt this week, Notre Dame will be too much for the Panthers.

Players to Watch

Offense- After facing two straight defensive lines that were undersized, the Irish offensive line gets back to going against a more normal sized front seven. The offensive line played very well last week and contributed to the breakout game for the Irish rushing attack and I am eager to see some consistency this week against a much tougher defensive line.

Defense- With the recent injuries to the defensive line, Jarron Jones found himself on the two deep for the Irish this week. A former 5 star recruit, Jones was recruited as defensive lineman but many believed he would play offensive line at Notre Dame. He will get a sufficient amount of snaps this week and I am very eager how he plays.

Prediction

Notre Dame 31 Pittsburgh 21

Other games around the country

2 Oregon at 5 Stanford- This is a battle of two completely different styles of football. Stanford plays a hard nosed old school brand of football based on a strong running game and tough physical defense while Oregon spreads the field and uses their speed. Stanford won the matchup last year but this years Oregon team is better on both sides of the ball. Oregon 35 Stanford 20

10 Oklahoma at 6 Baylor- This is Baylor’s first big test of the year and it comes at home on Thursday night. Bryce Petty has placed himself in the Heisman race and could be looking at a possible invite to New York at the end of the season. Baylor has not had much luck against the Sooners in the past but this time they pull it off. Baylor 41 Oklahoma 28

13 LSU at 1 Alabama- Pretty much the first big test for Bama this season unless you count their win over an overrated Texas A&M team that lacks defense. LSU will be a much stiffer challenge and while most don’t give them a chance, I do. LSU 20 Alabama 17

Upset Special

Virginia Tech at 11 Miami- Miami came crashing down to earth after being embarrassed by Florida State. Even worse for the Canes, star running back Duke Johnson was lost for the season. Virginia Tech is coming into this game following an awful loss to Boston College and will be eager to get back on track and their defense will help them do it. Virginia Tech 21 Miami 20

BCS is ALWAYS the goal for the Irish

So this week has been a pretty slow week of work so far and thanks to technology I’ve been able to peruse the usual ND message boards to kill time. After what I saw, I really wish I hadn’t. There are actually people, and more than just a few, that actually prefer going 10-2 and NOT going to a BCS game to avoid getting blown out. That’s not a typo. Fans would actually rather the Irish go and play in some low tier Maxipad Bowl to try and get an easy win instead of playing on the national stage against a quality opponent. This is wrong. Very wrong.

Part of what makes Notre Dame what it is, is that the Irish always play one of the toughest schedules year in and year out all over the country. To put it simply, Notre Dame is never afraid to play anyone, anywhere. It’s always been that way and it damn well better stay that way. It’s part of the Notre Dame way.

Now don’t get me wrong, watching the Irish get destroyed on national TV is never fun. It sucks and I know over the last two decades fans have seen their fair share of it. I’ll never forget having to watch LSU and Jamarcus Russell, NFL bust of the century, destroy Notre Dame in the 2007 Sugar Bowl as I watched on a small TV in a government paid for hotel room the night before leaving for basic training. And watching the Irish get clocked in the mouth by Alabama in last years national championship game while watching in Afghanistan this past January was pretty damn awful too. But in no way shape or form do I ever regret playing in those games because you never know what can happen. It’s why you play the game.

Last season Louisville played Florida in the Sugar Bowl. Obviously Florida is in the SEC and obviously everyone thought they would roll over Louisville, who played in the lowly and now disbanded Big East Conference. In 2007 Boise State played Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl which projected to be a blowout win for the Sooners. Both of the underdogs, which nobody gave any chance to win, won their respective games shocking the college football world. Underdogs always have a chance, especially during bowl season.

Make no mistake, getting destroyed by Alabama was horrible. I couldn’t stand to watch and it made me sick. But in the darkness there is also light. Brian Kelly, his staff, learned that they had to have a different approach than what they had against Alabama. That loss, as bad as it was, showed the staff that changes needed to be made and a new plan for big post season games was needed. I’m not saying that Notre Dame will not ever lose a bowl game ever again, because that is not realistic. But I will say that I don’t think we will see a defeat of that margin again while Brian Kelly is the football coach at Notre Dame.

So to all Irish fans out there, who would rather play in a measly no nothing bowl instead of one last shot at a BCS bowl win, grow a pair. We are not the Big Ten, we are not the MAC, or any of these other lower tier teams and conferences. We are Notre Dame and to be the best you have to beat the best. Not by playing teams beneath you and declaring it a moral victory. The path to greatness is never easy but the taste of victory at the end is that much sweeter. Have some faith ND fans. You may just be pleasantly surprised.

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HE’S ALIVE!! Golson speaks to SI

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An interview with estranged Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson was released today by Sports Illustrated. In the interview Andy Staples asks Golson about what led him to being dismissed from Notre Dame. Golson pretty much admits to have cheated but maintained using the phrase “it was a test thing”. Golson, who led the Irish to the 2012 BCS title game against Alabama, has been in California working with renowned quarterback guru George Whitfield and maintains that he will return to Notre Dame this spring. We forgive you Everett and miss you. Hurry back. Your team and fans are eager to see you play again. You can watch the interview here. http://on.si.com/Ht7g1T