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 look back at yesterdays loss to Florida State and discuss the Irish’s playoff potential.
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
– 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
– Sgt Shamrock
In what was one of the coldest games to ever be played in the Notre Dame Stadium, the Irish were able to play with a spark and pulled out a 23-13 win over the BYU Cougars to improve their record to 8-3. While the snow was falling and the temperatures were dropping, the Irish played the type of football that Brian Kelly said they should be playing every single week. And I agree. It was one of the few times this season that the Irish played well in all aspects of the game. Well maybe not the special teams but lets just forget about that. The defense made big plays when they needed too and the Irish offense moved the ball effectively and did their job of keeping BYU off the field and limiting their scoring chances.
The Irish defense set the tone early against the Cougars and really stood out to me during the entire game. BYU was coming into this game as one of the hottest offenses in the country, yet the Irish defense only allowed one touchdown and 13 total points. Dan Fox led the team with 9 tackles and the Irish front seven played inspired, even with out the big man Louis Nix who is out for the remainder of the season. What really impressed me with the defense however, is how they responded following a horrible loss to Pitt. Following the loss, a lot of people, including me, were concerned how the team would respond after their goal of a BCS Bowl game appearance was dashed. The defense played one of their worst games of the season against Pitt and I honestly did not know how they would respond. The defense responded by having one of its best performances of the season.
BYU came into the game against the Irish as one of the toughest defenses in the country led by superstar Kyle Van-Noy, but on Saturday afternoon the Irish offense amassed almost 500 yards of total offense including over 200 yards on the ground. As I stated in my preview for the game, the Irish needed to establish a steady and effective running game to open up the passing game and provide balance to the offense. Notre Dame did just that. On their first offensive series, ran multiple running plays in a row before Tommy Rees went play action and hit Davaris Daniels deep for a touchdown. The running game was effective throughout the entire game thanks to the tough running from Cam McDaniel and some ridiculously shifty moves from Tarean Folston, who continues to get me excited about his potential. Folston is clearly the most athletic running back on the Irish roster and his ability to make defenders miss is something Irish fans have been waiting to see out of the backfield. On multiple occasions in the stadium you could hear the excitement and awe in the moves that Folston was able to make to shake Cougar defenders.
As Saturday was Senior Day, I was really happy to see many of the seniors play very well in their final home game. Tommy Rees finished his career in Notre Dame Stadium the way he deserved. Being one of the most polarizing figures for Notre Dame football in recent memory, Rees was able to win his final game at home. While he did throw yet another awful red zone touchdown, Rees played an otherwise good game. Rees made multiple nice throws to TJ Jones, and minus the interception, made good decisions through out the game. Jones finished the game with 95 yards receiving and Dan Fox and Carlo Calbrese played very well making multiple key tackles and keeping the BYU offense in check. Austin Collinsworth was able to haul in an interception on the final play of the first half and Zack Martin helped anchor an offensive line that allowed zero sacks, and opened running lanes that led to over 200 yards on the ground.
Overall it was one of the most complete games the Irish has played all season. While the offense did leave some points on the field, they still played a very good game and the defense stepped up and took over allowing the Irish to pull out the victory. With the win, Notre Dame clinched a fourth straight eight win season under Brian Kelly with the chance this year to win 10 games. With the losses this team had on defense due to the NFL draft and injury this year, and playing with a backup quarterback due to Everett Golson being suspended from school, Id have to say the Irish did more than people expected of them. Even so its easy to look at the losses to Michigan and Pitt and wonder how much better it could have been if the Irish had been able to pull out those victories. One final game remains before the bowl season begins as the Irish travel to Stanford this Saturday.
– The field conditions were again abysmal and embarrassing. I really think the turf led the game in tackles and Im surprised more players were not injured as we say against Navy. I even heard some of the older crowd, who normally are reluctant to call for change, calling for field turf. Its time Notre Dame. Make this happen. If I were you I would start installing it Monday morning.
– Lost in the spotlight of Senior Day, Jarron Jones played an outstanding game filling in for Louis Nix making multiple tackles around the line of scrimmage and also blocked a field goal late in the game that helped preserve the Irish victory. While many, including myself, are concerned about depth on the defensive line its nice to see Jarron Jones start coming into his own.
Oh you silly Pollsters
Notre Dame gets back into the AP Top 25 this week placing 25th. Yet again its another week its another instance of a team that Notre Dame beat ranked ahead of the Irish. USC has the same amount of losses as the Irish and yet are ranked two spots ahead of the Irish at 23rd. Sure that makes sense. USC lost to Washington State, Arizona State (another team Notre Dame beat) and of course Notre Dame.
Louisiana-Lafayette is ranked 21st this week in the AP. Wait what? Yes this is not a typo. I really have no idea what the pollsters are thinking here. The Cajuns have not beaten a single ranked team this year and have two losses. They play in the Sun Belt. Plain and simple this is not a top 25 team.
Arizona State is ranked 13th this week while Oregon is ranked twelve. This needs to be switched. The Sun Devils are going to the Pac 12 title game and the Ducks are not. That alone should place ASU over Oregon.
Three loss LSU is ranked 15th this week. Why I have no idea. They are ranked ahead of an undefeated Northern Illinois and Fresno State. I don’t care if you play in the SEC or not, three losses are three losses and that does not make you worthy of a top 15 ranking.
What is Texas A&M still doing ranked? They got blown out by LSU this weekend and now have three losses. The Aggies have not beaten a ranked team all season long.
1. Jameis Winston (Barring an arrest)
2. Jordan Lynch
3. Derek Carr
4. Kadeem Carey
It felt a lot like 2010 yesterday at Notre Dame stadium. Navy sailed into town to play a game that most believed wouldn’t be close. The Irish were coming off a 45-10 win over Air Force and seemed to have figured out how to defend the option. Tommy Rees was playing possibly his best football of his Irish career and the defense had seemed to have found its swagger after some early season struggles. The Irish just seemed to have started to put everything together just in time for November, when playing your best football is key. Notre Dame was primed for another blowout victory as they continued to play for a BCS berth at the end of the season. Instead what they got was an unexpected shootout with the Midshipmen, a slew of injuries, and a lot of questions as to exactly how Navy was able to almost pull off a win in South Bend.
Navy came to play. Notre Dame’s defense didn’t. That’s really the only reason I can think of how Navy was able to run up and down the field seemingly at will. The Midshipmen rushed for 331 yards and converted 10 of 16 third down attempts against the Irish defense who, even though playing Air Force’s option attack last week, looked like they have never seen the option before. Navy was averaging 4.7 yards per carry. The key to defending the option is to play assignment football and make tackles. The Irish did neither for a good portion of the game, looking confused and making it very easy for Navy to move the ball down the field. Even when Notre Dame was able to put Navy in third and long and knock their offense off schedule, the Midshipmen still seemed to convert every third down attempt they faced. Everything seemed to be going perfect for the Navy offense. Even their passing game, which only attempted nine passes all game, was working for the Mids going for 88 yards including a 34 yard touchdown pass from Keanan Reynolds to Matt Aiken which gave Navy a 34-31 lead with 8:55 left to go in the 4th quarter. Navy was clicking, but in the end it was not enough.
Notre Dame’s offense was the reason the Irish won this unexpected shootout. While the Irish defense could not keep Navy off the scoreboard, the Irish offense kept pace which heavily utilized the running game which was a site for sore eyes. Notre Dame racked up 506 total yards on offense which included 264 yards on the ground. Tarean Folston stole the show Saturday, having a breakout performance running for 140 yards on 18 carries and the game winning touchdown. Folston showed why he was such a valuable recruit for the Irish, showing off his speed, power, and field vision. Multiple times he made moves on defenders that were just silly. Cam McDaniel and George Atkinson split time as the number two back each receiving 7 carries and running for 72 and 54 yards respectively. Moving forward you would have to think Folston will be the number one back for the Irish. His play deserves it. Tommy Rees threw for two touchdowns and 264 yards but also threw two interceptions, which helped Navy keep the game close. Tommy’s first interception could be blamed partially on the horrific field conditions. Tommy was targeting TJ Jones, who looked open on the play, when he slipped on the grass allowing a Navy defender to intercept the pass. The second interception however was all on Tommy as he overthrew a deep ball to Davaris Daniels. Daniels could have fought for the ball but the pass was bad.
After being embarrassed all game long by the Navy rushing attack, the defense finally came up with the stop it needed. Navy faced a 4th down inside Notre Dame territory with a minute and a half left in the game down four. Jaylon Smith showed off his amazing speed running across the field to make the tackle to stop Navy short and put the game on ice for the Irish. The defense played bad all game but when the game was on the line, they stepped up and avoided an embarrassing upset loss. Notre Dame moves to 7-2 on the season and still control their own destiny in their chase for a BCS Bowl berth.
This game showed me a lot of things that need to be addressed both on and off the field. First things first. I know its already been talked about but Notre Dame needs field turf and they need it now. The condition of the field is a complete embarrassment and the fact that it has gotten this bad could warrant someone getting fired. Notre Dame is one of the most prestigious college football teams in the country and yet we seem to be ok with playing on a playing surface that is worse than some high school programs. This needs to be fixed. Having a field in that bad of condition is dangerous and puts all the player on the field at greater risk for injury. I have heard from many people, including my father, that they prefer the natural grass because it slows down our opponents. What an awful reason to keep natural grass. Do these people not realize that this would also mean that it limited the speed of the Irish players as well? Brian Kelly has done an outstanding job bringing more speed to both sides of the ball. Its time to realize Notre Dame has speed and instead of trying to limit other teams speed at Notre Dame, the Irish need to utilize their speed.
The second thing might not be a popular sentiment with a lot of Notre Dame fans but for me it has to be said and should be addressed in the offseason. Bob Diaco needs to go. What happened against Navy is a complete embarrassment. This same Navy team only scored seven points against Duke and Western Kentucky. There is no excuse as to how the defense can allow 34 points and over 300 yards rushing. Notre Dame should never be in close games with a team like that. Ever. I’m tired of the conservative play calling. I’m tired of the defense under achieving with the amount of talent and skill it possesses. I’m tired of continuing to allow inferior teams to hang around because the defense cant get off the field. Last year was great but Diaco has been here for four years now and even last year there were games that the defense just didn’t step up. There is no consistency. Last week the Irish faced an option attack on the road and only gave up 10 points, yet this week at home they faced an almost identical option attack and gave up 34 points. There is no excuse for this. Its time to move on.
This weeks polls
Notre Dame finally cracks the AP poll and comes in 24th. The Irish remain 25th in the coaches poll.
Oh look Arizona State is ranked ahead of Notre Dame yet again in the AP poll. This makes no sense. Notre Dame beat ASU on a neutral field head to head and hold the exact same record. Michigan State moves up to 18 in the AP poll ahead of Notre Dame but with the Spartans only having one loss compared to the Irish’s two, this is no surprise.
More SEC garbage in this weeks polls. The AP has two loss Texas A&M and two loss LSU ahead of one loss Oklahoma. Uh what? Again it makes no sense. LSU has yet to beat anyone of merit and Texas A&M’s best win is Vanderbilt? Having these teams ahead of the Sooners is a complete joke.
How the hell is Miami still in the top 15? Miami is still overrated even after being embarrassed by Florida State and exposed as a pretender instead of a contender. Other than the loss to FSU, Miami has yet to play a team of any merit. No guys Florida is not a quality win. Just because they are in the SEC does not mean anything. They are awful. Miami doesn’t belong in the top 15 and is a borderline top 20 team especially with Duke Johnson now out for the season.
Get Texas Tech out of the polls. They have lost their last two games, which were the only two games they have played against quality opponents. This team cant stop the run and are not a top 25 team. They have not beaten anyone worth while.
Observations from around the country
It was a pretty dull weekend of games with not many good matchups but here goes:
Florida State is really good but Miami was very over rated. I am not doubting that FSU is one of the best teams in the country or that they can contend for the National Championship. I’m just not ready to claim the win over Miami as a huge win. Miami was ranked way to high to start with. Second Florida State was the first half decent team that Miami had played. No Florida is not a half decent team. They are awful. Florida State is defiantly one of the top teams in the country this year but their weak schedule could come back to haunt them. What’s even worse for FSU is they will probably play this same Miami team in the ACC Championship in a few weeks and the result will probably be even worse for Miami.
That Michigan State win earlier this season is starting to look pretty good now isn’t it? Michigan State dismantled Michigan this weekend using their elite defense to smother the Shunkbear offense. Michigan State moved to 8-1 on the season with their lone loss being to the Irish and look to be headed to the Big Ten Championship game against Ohio State.
Texas Tech is doing exactly what I expected. The Red Raiders benefited from a ridiculously easy schedule to get to 7-0 but have now lost two straight games to ranked opponents last week to Oklahoma and this week to Oklahoma State. They have fallen out of the Big 12 race and don’t be surprised to see them lost one or even two more games this season.
My Heisman rankings
1. Marcus Mariotta
2. Jameis Winston
3. Johnny Field Goal
4. Derek Carr
5. Bryce Petty
After sobering up from yesterday’s drunk fest and finally getting some sleep after college football kept me awake until around 3 am, I was finally able to really delve into the 45-10 win for the Irish over the Air Force Falcons. There were a lot of good things to take away from the win but one really stood out to me and should have caught everyone’s attention. The Irish freshman playmakers are really good. Both Corey Robinson and Will Fuller scored their first career touchdowns and did so in an impressive fashion. Corey Robinson opened up the scoring for the Irish, hauling in a 35 yard pass from Tommy Rees that I’m sure made everyone cringe. I sure as hell know I did. Tommy boy threw the ball off of his back foot and screamed interception until the Little Admiral grabbed it out of the air to tie the game. Will Fuller scored on a beautifully thrown pass by Tommy Rees. Fuller ran a strait seem route and flat out burned his defender, showing some serious speed that we have all been waiting to see.
Fuller and Robinson were not the only freshman to show some skill yesterday. Steve Elmer, who was making his first career start, played very well along an offensive line that only gave 1 sack and gave Tommy Rees all sorts of time to slice and dice the thin Falcons secondary. Jaylon Smith played like a beast. This is nothing new for Irish fans who have been watching him play this season. The speed he has for a linebacker is just remarkable and he is starting to make his presence felt more and more each week. He should have had his first career touchdown yesterday if not for the officials blowing the whistle way to early on an Air Force fumble. Both Cole Luke and Devin Butler got some serious playing time in the Irish secondary. Tarean Folston didn’t get as many carries as I thought he would early in the game, but I was very pleased to see Brian Kelly give him a ton of snaps with the first team offense before more of the backups came into close out the game. He showed some serious vision and speed that we all heard about during his recruitment.
What does this all mean? Yes they played well and the Irish won the game. That’s looking at in the short term. What has me very very excited is that this Irish team will continue to get better every year. Brian Kelly is one hell of a recruiter and he knows what kind of talent he wants. Tim Calhoun, the Air Force head coach, said something interesting yesterday in his post game press conference. He said that this may been the best receiving corps that Notre Dame has ever had. While I don’t know if its the best receiving corps EVER, I do agree its the best we have seen in a long while and they have the chance to be the best ever. And most of the receiving corps is still very young. The future for the Irish offense and the team overall is very bright and everyone should be very excited about what it means for the future of Notre Dame football.
This weeks polls
I have had about enough with these polls and the voters and coaches. It aggravates me so much. Notre Dame finally cracked the coaches poll this week checking in at 25 but the writers didn’t see it that way leaving the Irish on the outside looking in. That’s already bad enough put when look at the two team that checked in at 24 and 25 you will want to punch something. Michigan State and Arizona State. Yes both of those teams were beaten by the Irish. It makes no sense. Especially Arizona state who has the exact same record as Notre Dame.
Raise your hand if your not surprised about this one. An SEC team who loses doesn’t fall nearly as far as they should. Missouri who lost to number 21 South Carolina at home yesterday after blowing at 17 point fourth quarter lead fell from number 5 to number 10. How that team stays in the top 10 is beyond me but hey they are in the SEC so I guess its ok. Oh and that South Carolina team that just beat them? Ranked 14th. Yea that makes sense.
I’m not surprised that Texas A&M is ranked 12th even with two loses. Should they be ranked 12th? Absolutely not. Their defense is awful and the only good teams they have played have beaten them. But they have Johnny Field Goal and the media’s love affair with the SEC so that explains that.
What in the world is UCLA still doing in the top 20? They have now lost two games in a row and just got flat out embarrassed by the Oregon Ducks. Their best win this season? At Utah. They are just not that good.
Miami is one of the most over rated teams in America this season. Yes they are 7-0. They have played NOBODY. The best team they have played is Florida and they are awful. Not only that, but Miami has now almost lost to two straight unranked teams. But don’t worry folks they wont be up there at 7 for very long. They have the pleasure of getting waxed on national TV this weekend by Florida State. Its going to be murder.
Stanford is beatable. They really are. Yes their defense is very good as always but the offense is not as dangerous as it has been in the past especially through the air. Their dangerous tight ends have moved onto the NFL and Kevin Hogan has looked mediocre to say the least. It will be a tough game for the Irish but a win is not out of the question.
Don’t worry about Fresno State and Northern Illinois busting the BCS. Both of these teams will lose. Fresno State got lucky last night and will find a lose on their remaining schedule. I really believe Northern Illinois will end up losing to Ball State. Mark it down
1. Jameis Winston
2. Marcus Mariotta
3. Bryce Petty
4. Johnny Field Goal