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
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
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.
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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The Down the Tunnel radio show is back as we talked about Notre Dame’s win over North Carolina, talked about Everett Golson’s continuing turnover problems, and the defensive woes seen against the Tar Heels.
Notre Dame looks to remain undefeated this weekend as the welcome the Tar Heels of North Carolina to South Bend Saturday in the second of four games against ACC opponents this season. Fresh off an excited comeback win over Stanford last weekend in the cold and rain, the Irish will look to avoid a letdown against a North Carolina team that has underperformed preseason expectations. North Carolina comes into the matchup with Notre Dame with a 2-3 record and having dropped their last three games by a combined score of 154 to 93 and allowing 70 points to East Carolina University. Meanwhile the Irish are 5-0 and are continuing to exceed the expectations that many people had for the 2014 Notre Dame Football team prior to the season, and that was before five Irish players were suspended for academic fraud. The main task for the Irish this weekend is to make sure they are not looking past this game to next week when Notre Dame travels to play top ranked Florida State in Tallahassee. While North Carolina has not played well this season, they do have weapons on offense and have the ability to score points. As most have come to know from past experiences, opposing teams that come to Notre Dame Stadium tend to play their best games of the season against the Irish and it will be key for Notre Dame to stay focused on the task at hand.
If there was ever a defense that a team would want to play the week before playing the number one team in the nation, North Carolina’s defensive unit would be at the top of the wish list. Simply put, North Carolina’s defense is just flat out bad. The Tar Heels rank 121st in the nation in scoring defense allowing an average of 42 points per game and rank 117th in total defense giving up an average of 505.8 yards per game. Everett Golson and the entire Notre Dame offense has to be salivating at their chance to carve up a defense that really has no strengths to speak of. The Tar Heels are 92nd nationally in rushing defense allowing 186.2 yards per game on the ground and 121st nationally in passing defense allowing 319.6 yards per game through the air. With the Irish offense struggling a bit last week against Stanford (the weather didn’t help either), this is the perfect matchup to get the Irish offense firing on all cylinders before the big game with FSU next weekend. Look for the Irish to turn to the running game early and often in an effort to get a rushing attack going early, something that Notre Dame has had trouble with all season long. The offensive line looked much better in the second half against Stanford last weekend and if they can build off of their success against a tough and physical Stanford front and replicate that this week, not only will the running backs have lanes to run through but Everett Golson will has plenty of time to stand in the pocket and make throws downfield. Notre Dame’s passing offense, which is averaging 276.6 yards per game and is ranked 36th nationally, is the most dangerous part of the Irish offense and I fully expect Golson to have plenty of time to throw and pick apart the Tar Heel defense.
Notre Dame’s defense has really been the surprise of the season so far. While it was know that the unit had a lot of pure talent, it was also seen to be a young an inexperienced unit that would have growing pains throughout the season. After last weeks performance against Stanford, it sure looks like the Notre Dame defense, which ranks 3rd nationally in scoring defense allowing only 12 points per game, has matured much faster than anyone could have expected and has shown to be one of the elite defenses in the country. Cole Luke has really stood out in relieve of suspended All American corner Keivarae Russell and young players like Andrew Trumbetti and Kolin Hill are thriving in Brian VanGorder’s defensive scheme that the players describe as “really fun”. The rejuvenated Irish defense will face their toughest challenge of the season going up against a North Carolina offense that is very capable of scoring points in bunches. The Tar Heels are 33rd nationally in scoring offense averaging 36 points per game and get most of the their offense by means of their passing attack. Quarterback Marquise Williams has show the ability to make big plays in the passing game and he also leads the Tar Heel’s offense in rushing. The outcome of this game is really going to depend on Notre Dame’s ability to contain North Carolina’s passing game. Like Notre Dame, North Carolina has had trouble running the ball this season, averaging 138.6 yards per game putting them 89th nationally. The Irish running defense has been outstanding all season long ranking 9th nationally allowing only 95.8 yards per game. So basically if North Carolina is going to try to run the football, they are going to have a very tough time moving the football against the Irish defense. We have all been waiting to see if the defense will relax a bit after gaining tons of confidence over the first 5 games of the season and if they don’t play their best, North Carolina will be able to throw the ball and put some points on the board. However if the defense comes out with the same intensity it has shown all season long it should be a long day for the Tar Heels.
The question for me this week is not whether Notre Dame will win this week but by how much they will win by. I do not see any excuse for Notre Dame to not score at least 40 points against this abysmal North Carolina defense and anything less than 40 points will be a disappointment in my mind. The bottom line is that Notre Dame has far to many playmakers on offense to score points at will. The North Carolina defense is so bad that I will be a bit disappointed if Notre Dame punts more than one time on Saturday. The main thing I will be watching for this weekend is the intensity level of the defense to see if they may be looking ahead a bit to Florida State. While the players have been saying all the right things, it has got to be difficult to not at least think about it throughout the week with the amount of attention the matchup is already receiving. Notre Dame should take control of this game early on and never look back. The defense plays well again but gives up some points later in the game after the offense has already provided a large lead. Notre Dame 51 North Carolina 20
Other Games Around the Country
2 Auburn at 3 Mississippi State- After a big win against Texas A&M last weekend Mississippi State hopes to keep the momentum going as they welcome Auburn to town. While beating Texas A&M was a good win for the Bulldogs, the Aggies are not the same Aggies we are used to seeing. Their big win over South Carolina looks less impressive by the day and they were very close to losing to an unranked Arkansas team. The party ends this weekend in Starkville. Auburn 34 Mississippi State 24
3 Ole Miss at 14 Texas A&M- Speaking of Texas A&M, the Aggies will look to rebound this weekend after getting beat down by Mississippi State last week. Texas A&M has the ability to score bunches of points in a hurry and Ole Miss may still be riding a bit high after beating Alabama. Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace is always due to have a bad game or two and this weekend will be one of them. Texas A&M 31 Ole Miss 27
9 TCU at 5 Baylor- I rode with TCU last week against Oklahoma and it paid off. This week TCU travels to take on Baylor who has an outstanding offense yet again this season. However Baylor hasn’t played any team that is even close to respectable this season and TCU will be their first test of the season. Baylor’s offense didn’t look as good as it has been against a bad Texas team last week which doesn’t bode well going against a much much better TCU squad. TCU 28 Baylor 24
As Notre Dame continues to prepare for their matchup with the North Carolina Tar Heels this weekend, now is as good a time as any to look into some of the history between the Irish and the Tar Heels. Notre Dame leads the series with North Carolina 16-2 and Notre Dame’s .889 winning percentage against the Tar Heels is the third best in Notre Dame football history only behind Wabash and Illinois. Notre Dame first met North Carolina in Yankee Stadium on November 12th, 1949 and the top ranked Irish won 42-6 en route to the National Championship. The Irish won the first ten meetings over the Tar Heels before North Carolina finally defeated Notre Dame 12-7 in Chapel Hill.
North Carolina comes to South Bend with a tough task ahead and history is not on their side. The Tar Heels are 0-11 when playing in Notre Dame Stadium and have only been able to defeat the Irish on two occasions, 1960 and 2008, both of which took place in Chapel Hill. North Carolina is also 0-11 against Notre Dame when the Irish are the higher ranked team which is the case yet again this weekend. Notre Dame’s defense has risen to the challenge against North Carolina throughout the series, holding the Tar Heels to single digits in 9 of the 18 meetings including three shutouts. The Irish offense has also played well against North Carolina throughout the series history. Over their 18 meetings Notre Dame has outscored North Carolina by an average of 26.2 to 11.2 points. With North Carolina’s defense being one of the worst in the country this season it is safe to assume that this trend will continue.
Notre Dame and North Carolina also have some more recent connections that go beyond their series history. Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson grew up in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and was originally committed to North Carolina before he switched his commitment to Notre Dame. On the flip side, North Carolina running back Elijah Hood, who is the second leading rusher behind quarterback Marquise, was originally committed to Notre Dame in last years recruiting class before switching his commitment to the Tar Heels. North Carolina’s Athletic Director Bubba Cunningham earned his bachelors and masters degrees from Notre Dame and UNC sophomore Jon Heck is the son of Andy Heck, who was an All American at Notre Dame and played twelve seasons in the NFL. Notre Dame has had success recruiting in North Carolina in recent years and the Irish currently have six players on the roster from North Carolina: Ben Council, Mathias Farley, Mark Harrell, Greer Martini, Romeo Okwara, and Kendall Moore (still suspended).