Tag Archives: Michigan State

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

One Last time. A Michigan Preview

-Sgt Shamrock

Even with as much as its been talked about leading up to this game, its still hard to believe that this weekend’s matchup between Notre Dame and Michigan will be the last one for the foreseeable future. Notre Dame has played Michigan almost every single year that I have been alive to watch Irish football and while they are not our BIGGEST rival (that is Southern Cal and if you don’t think so you may want your head examined) I always views them as a big rival and a big time game. But here we are, the last game in the series upon us and per usual it is a big game for both teams. Fresh off their demolishment of Rice last Saturday, the Irish welcome the hated Michigan Wolverines (who I will refer to as Skunkbears from here on out) into Notre Dame Stadium for a early season, marquee matchup that will shape the outcome of the entire season for the Irish. While Brian Kelly has been very successful at Notre Dame since his arrival in 2010, he is only 1-3 against Michigan with his only win coming in the 2012 season. This is the last crack at the Skunkbears for Brian Kelly and while he may not publicly come out and say it, you can tell my his body language and rhetoric this week that beating Michigan in the final meeting is very important to him and the Notre Dame Football program.

The Skunkbears come into this game fresh off their own season opening thrashing of Appalachian State. Devin Gardner looked pretty good passing the ball and their running attack was gaining yards by the handful. But lets be honest. It was Appalachian State, a program that is in its first year in FBS and has nowhere near the amount of talent of the 2007 squad that pulled off the historic upset that we all remember so clearly. Bottom line is that Appalachian State is not a very good team and is going to really struggle this season to win three or four games. Now I can hear Notre Dame and for that matter Michigan fans screaming, “But Notre Dame played Rice! Its the same thing as playing Appalachian State!”. My response is this. NO ITS NOT. It really isn’t anything alike. The only thing similar between the two teams was that they were both supposed to get blown out in their first game of the season (which they did). Other than that they could not be more different. Rice was the Conference USA Champion last season and while they did lost a lot of starters, they still had talented players on the roster and will be in the mix to repeat in Conference USA this year. Appalachian State on the other hand is a brand new FBS program that will be lucky to win a few games this year. But hey don’t tell Skunkbear fans that. They are convinced that they will beat Notre Dame this weekend handily. Let them think that. It will just make all the Skunkbear tears taste that much sweeter this weekend. The bottom line is that Notre Dame has superior talent at the key positions and, baring a complete collapse, should win this game. 

Offense:

Everett Golson looked fantastic last week in his return to the field for the Irish. Actually the entire offense looked fantastic last week as it was clicking on all cylinders. While the Skunkbears defense will be a more formidable unit than the one that the Irish faced last week against Rice, I don’t think it is anything to be scared about either. Over the last few years the Skunkbear defense has been nothing to write home about and that could spell trouble to Brady Hoke this season. Golson will be one of the best quarterbacks that the Skunkbear defense will face all season. As we all saw last weekend, the receiving corps is loaded down with speed. Hot, nasty speed. It was glorious to watch. However part of the reason why the Irish receivers were able to get down the field so quickly was due to Rice’s odd game plan of playing off of the Irish wideouts. I fully believe that the Skunkbears will not make this mistake and play tight and physical on the line of scrimmage. A huge key to this game is going to be if the Irish receivers can break the press coverage. If they can its going to be a long day for the Skunkbear defense as there are so many weapons in the Irish passing attack. The Irish running game also had a big game last week and all three backs played well. However Greg Bryant really stood out to me as a type of back that is truly a game changer. I expect him to get a few more touches this week and I fully expect him to take advantage of them. Bottom line about the offense is that if they continue to play clean and mistake free football like they did last week, than they should be able to drop a lot of points on the Skunkbear defense. 

Defense:

While there were a few instances of miscommunication in the secondary last week, the defense as a whole played really well in their first game in a completely new defensive scheme. Add in the fact that the unit was missing some key defensive starters due to the ongoing academic investigation (Russell and Williams) and another to injury (Austin Collinsworth) only makes the effort even more impressive. Brian Kelly’s game plan was not to really to rush the passer but to keep him in the pocket and to make him throw. The defensive line played pretty well and were able to get some pressure throughout the game. However this week the defensive line is going to really need to step up and take advantage of a Skunkbear offensive line that is full of new faces and that also is missing some depth. Devin Gardner has never played well or made good decisions with the football when he is under pressure and I don’t see that changing in this game or even this entire season. He is an average quarterback at best who really only has one true offensive weapon to throw to, Devin Funchess. Its going to be up to the secondary to contain Funchess Saturday. Looking back at last week, the Skunkbears seemed to really like the “just toss it up to Funchess” strategy in the passing game. The key is for the front seven to put pressure on Gardner and force him to make bad throws. Its really hard to judge the Skunkbear rushing attack because of just how bad the defensive line was that they played against last week. They were literally pushing back the defensive line 5-10 yards on almost every play. However the Skunkbears will not have the same fortune this week against an Irish D-line that while young, is very talented and showed some promise last week.

Prediction:

Notre Dame is favored in this game and they should be. They have the better quarterback, better receiving corps, and more talented backfield. The Irish also have the best defender between both teams in Jaylon Smith. In the past the game with the Skunkbears has always had funny bounces and the Irish have been unlucky. That will not be the case this season. Notre Dame is flat out more talented than the Skunkbears and it will show on the field on Saturday night. Notre Dame 34 Skunkbears 21

Other Games This Weekend:

7 Michigan State at 3 Oregon- A lot of people think that Sparty has a good shot in this game since they play a similar brand of football that Stanford plays and Stanford has had success against Oregon in recent years. However I am not one of those people. Oregon is dangerous on offense and the Michigan State defense lost some key players from last years team. Michigan State is going to need to score points and they wont score nearly enough. Oregon 38 Michigan State 17

14 USC at 13 Stanford- Speaking of Stanford, they continue to play the brand of football that they have become known for in the last decade. They take on a USC team that beat up on Fresno State last week. While it may have looked pretty on TV the Trojans are up for a much tougher challenge as Stanford is going to be way more physical on both sides of the ball. The lack of depth will end up being the killer for USC Stanford 31 USC 24

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    

Take a staND? More like take a seat.

– Sgt Shamrock

Notre dame stadium - Notre Dame Stadium

Notre Dame Stadium, the home of the Fighting Irish. One of the most iconic and revered venues in all of sports. One would think that a venue rich with such tradition and history of success would also be one of the most difficult places for opponents to play. But as many Irish fans know, that is not the case. For years Notre Dame has held the reputation for being hospitable and welcoming to visiting teams and fans instead of being an intimidating environment that opponents fear. I was sick of people telling me how much they enjoyed coming to Notre Dame, and how often teams who had no business even being on the same field as the Irish were able to come away with a victory in South Bend. I was sick of being yelled at and scorned by “fans” to sit down while trying to cheer on the Irish. So when Notre Dame announced the beginning of the “Take A StaND” campaign at the beginning of last season, I was excited at the possibility of change in the culture and I know other fans were too. However after two full football seasons of the “Take a StaND” campaign, I am sad to say that that excitement was very premature.

Notre Dame announced the unveiling of the “Take a StaND” campaign prior to the first home game of the season against Purdue last year. On the official Notre Dame blog, senior associate athletic director John Heisler wrote the following,

Notre Dame Stadium, its ushers and other University ambassadors have had a long history of extending hospitality to visiting teams. It’s common, particularly when an opponent plays in Notre Dame Stadium for the first time, for visiting fans to remark on the welcoming atmosphere they find.

Swarbrick would like to see that welcome end once the opening kickoff is in the air. He’d like to see a change to the 17-16 home record Irish teams have recorded over the last five seasons combined.

If you’re paying attention this weekend and in the weeks to come, you are likely to come across the phrase “Take A StaND.” It’s a subtle, yet pointed, way of encouraging fans at all Irish events to become more participatory.

Notre Dame students have participated in a long tradition of standing throughout the entire football game at Notre Dame Stadium—and that group generally makes its share of noise. However, students make up only about 10,000 fans out of Notre Dame Stadium’s 80,795 capacity. So there’s plenty of room for assistance in the decibel category.

Midway through the 2011 season, Notre Dame introduced recorded music (mostly on opponent third downs) to the in-game experience at Notre Dame Stadium. Expect that to continue this fall, with the Irish marketing staff tweaking the plan with three 2011 home games of experience now under its belt.

The 2012 also season marks a celebration of 125 years of football at the University of Notre Dame. You’ll see the logo marking that celebration just about everywhere. That means there are 125 years worth of reasons to throw a season-long party.

Long-time rival Purdue visits Notre Dame Stadium today to open the 2012 Irish home season. The Boilermakers won here in 2004, but, prior to that game, you have to go all the way back to 1974 to find a Purdue win in Notre Dame Stadium.

By Swarbrick’s tastes, that’s more like it.

So, any time you have a chance today, take a staND and cheer for the Irish. It just might make a difference.

Seems pretty simple right? Stand up and be loud. That’s what the initiative calls for. I also emailed the Notre Dame Game day folks trying to get some more information on the initiative but I did not receive a response. Now while its just flat out sad that one of the premier college football programs in the country has to even consider starting an initiative like this to increase fan participation, its good that the university FINALLY realized that it was a problem and began to work to fix it. I still remember when LSU coach Les Miles described Death Valley as “A place where opponents dreams come to die” and hoping that one day Notre Dame Stadium would have the same effect on opponents. I thought the “Take a StaND” campaign was the first step towards fixing the problem of the game day atmosphere. The problem, however, has not only not been fixed, its actually seemingly getting worse with each passing home game.

Since the “Take a StaND” campaign started I have been to home games against Michigan, Stanford last season, and Michigan State, Navy, and BYU this season. Minus the Navy game (I was fortunate enough to be able to sit in the student section) I have been asked by multiple people and ushers on multiple occasions to sit down. In each instance, I was told by ushers that I was not be courteous to others sitting around me, and by other fans that they could not see because they did not want to stand. This is just inexcusable and it aggravated me more and more each time it happened. For people who claimed to be fans of Notre Dame, they sure didn’t act like it. And its not like the games were blowouts either. Every single one of those games was close until the clock hit zero. I could not believe that even after the university made a distinct effort to help solve this problem, that fans still were getting told by ushers in the stadium to sit down. This weekend I finally hit my breaking point. And it was not just because of what happened to me, but more so because what I had heard was happening to others.

I had always seen complains from other people on twitter complaining about being told to sit but I never really got any details. So following the game against BYU, I invited anyone who had a story of being told to sit down at games by either ushers or fans to email me so I would be able to see just how big of a problem this really was. The results were astonishing. The first email I received was by far the worse. Michelle, who also attended the BYU game this past weekend, was actually kicked out of the game because she refused to sit down when asked by ushers. When she asked the ushers what she had done wrong, they told her that she had done nothing wrong but they needed to keep the peace. This is appalling. The university comes out with an initiative to try and get fans to stand and be loud, and than the ushers in the stadium kick someone out for doing just that.

I received another email from a man who son regularly attends games with his friends. Every game last season, a group of older fans told the group to sit down every time they stood to cheer even if it was for a third down or when the Irish scored. The older groups of “fans” would always get the ushers involved and each time the ushers would tell the group to sit down. This season the older group moved to a different section but that did not cause the problems to stop. At the Michigan State game, a couple sitting behind the group launched right into them, saying “We sure hope you don’t plan on standing during the game!”Some Michigan State fans were sitting nearby and jumped into the discussion telling the couple to “Shut up at least they are real fans” and “They can stand all the want, isn’t this is what  fans are supposed to do?”. I’m sorry but the fact that visiting fans are doing more to stick up for Notre Dame fans and students than the ushers are is flat out embarrassing.

Another fan named Stan was able to provide even more saddening details. During the Wake Forest game last year, some fans that were sitting near him were escorted out of the stadium by police following a verbal exchange because they refused to sit down. On multiple other occasions, after Stan was told to sit down by ushers, he tried to show them that tweets using the hashtag #TakeAStaND and asked them if they knew what the university was trying to do. The ushers did not know the rules and continued to tell Stan to sit down. Even other fans seemed to be lacking knowledge on the campaign. One group of fans even tried to tell Stan that the “Take a StaND” didn’t even exist anymore.

Reading all of the testimonials of other fans and their experiences since the “Take a StaND” campaign was started, just reaffirms by belief that the entire campaign has been a complete failure. The ushers inside the stadium are as clueless in supporting the initiative as officials in college football are at correctly calling the targeting rule. While the ushers are volunteers, they still represent the University of Notre Dame. The fact that they are unable to help enforce a program that the University itself created is a complete embarrassment and needs to be addressed by the not only Jack Swarbrick, but the entire university as well. The university needs to get together all the ushers that work in Notre Dame Stadium and educate them on “Take a StaND” and what exactly what it means. Notre Dame has some of the most passionate and loyal fans in the world but until the University of Notre Dame takes a long hard look at the “Take a StaND” initiative and the major problems that have been identified with it, the home field advantage that Notre Dame is trying so hard to create will never become a reality. The game day atmosphere in Notre Dame Stadium has been a problem for far too long. I challenge the University of Notre Dame to find a real fix to this problem instead of  just an initiative with a catchy name and no enforcement. Its time that the Notre Dame Football team that we all love, gets the home field advantage that it deserves.

Irish sink Navy late. A weekend in review

 

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

Familiar Foe sails to town. A Navy Preview

The first football weekend of November is upon us, and with it brings a visit from longtime rivals from the Naval Academy. The Notre Dame vs. Navy matchup, which began in 1927, is the longest uninterrupted rivalry game in the country. This will be the 87th consecutive meeting between these two schools in what has been as lopsided a matchup as they come. Notre Dame leads the overall series 71-12-1 and held the longest winning streak over an opponent at 43 games before the 2007 overtime loss. Brian Kelly has lost to Navy once in his short career, the 2010 disaster that all of us would like to forget. However since that loss Brian Kelly and his staff seemed to have altered the game plan and  figured out the option attack and have not lost since winning the remaining matchups to date by a large margin. Notre Dame is coming into this matchup off of a shellacking of Air Force last week in Colorado Springs 45-10. All aspects of the Irish team played well last week  and its safe to expect the same against the Midshipmen

Last week I really thought the Irish were going to take advantage of the weak Air Force rushing defense to establish the running game, something the Irish really need to improve on if they want to make a run at the BCS. I did think that Tommy Rees would have a good game but I did not expect him to throw 5 touchdowns and play a practically flawless football. I have been very critical of Rees in the past and very outspoken about his limitations, but he is playing the best football of his career right now and its happening at the best time of the year as we head into November. Coming into the weekend Tommy Rees has throw for 20 TD’s only 6 interceptions and 1944 passing yards, which is 25th in all of FBS schools. However his greatest improvements are the intangibles. His pocket presence, his ball placement, and decision making have all improved vastly and are a key factor to his success. What may be the biggest improvement to me though, is his ability to distribute the ball evenly to different receivers. Last season and in 2011, Tommy Rees had the tendency to lock into his favorite targets of Michael Floyd and Tyler Eifert. This season Rees has been throwing to all of his receivers which makes the passing attack that much more lethal.

Unlike Air Force however, Navy had a pretty good passing defense giving up only 204.4 passing yards per game which ranks 21st nationally. The rushing defense is a different story. Navy is giving up 187.9 yards per game ranking 89th in all FBS schools which provides yet another chance for the Irish to get their running game going against a poor rushing defense. The Irish need to find the running game this week to get some much needed improvement before playing the stout defense of BYU and Stanford later in the season. A healthy dose of Cam “Blue Steel” McDaniel and Tarean Folston would be the ideal situation, since George Atkinson III and Amir Carlise have not been getting the job done.

The Irish defense has an almost identical matchup as they did a week ago. Its the staple of triple options teams. They run the ball very well and cant pass to save their life. This week is no different. Navy ranks near the bottom of the barrel in passing offense at 120th nationally averaging only 103.9 yards through the air per game. The strength of the Navy academy has been and continues to be their triple option rushing attack. The Midshipmen are averaging 292.1 yards on the ground putting them as the 10th best rushing attack in the nation. The Irish defense looks to face a bit more or a physical running attack than they did against Air Force but I expect more of the same and should have no problems stopping Navy from scoring.

Overall I expect Notre Dame to dominate this game as they should. Good teams do not lose to teams like this and good teams don’t even let teams like this hang around. Expect this game to be over by half time with Tommy Rees playing well again at home and the rushing attack to add some much needed balance before heading into a tough stretch to end the season. Navy will come out fired up like they always do, but Notre Dame is just a flat out better team in all aspects of the game.

Players to watch

Offense- Will Fuller caught is first touchdown pass of his young career last week against Air Force, showing off some serious speed as well. With the offense air attack getting hot at the right time of the season, I really see Fuller starting to get a bigger role. Im looking forward to seeing some of that speed this weekend.

Defense- Kavaire Russell played outstanding last week sealing the edge and making some key tackles. Facing another triple option team this week should be another chance for Russell to show his versatility on defense. After an outstanding rookie season last year, Russell seemed to have some sophomore struggles early in the season but over the last few weeks he has started playing at the level we expect from him

Prediction

Notre Dame 49 Navy 13

Other games around the country

7 Miami at 3 Florida State- This may be the most lopsided top 10 matchup of the season. Miami, in my opinion, is one of the most over rated teams in the country and its going to show this weekend. Miami has played one of the weakest schedules of any of the top 20 teams in the country and have needed two straight 4th quarter comebacks to avoid the upset. Florida State is one of the hottest teams in the country and is oozing with NFL talent. Florida State is going to embarrass Miami this weekend. Florida State 41 Miami 17

21 Michigan at 22 Michigan State- Michigan State boasts one of the toughest defenses in the country this year. Michigan has had its struggles after beating the Irish earlier in the season. Michigan is going to have a tough time with that defense of the Spartans and Devin Gardner will probably continue to be a turnover machine. Michigan State 24 Michigan 21

18 Oklahoma State at 15 Texas Tech- Texas Tech has benefited from playing a very week schedule and finally lost when they played a good team in Oklahoma. Both Oklahoma State and Texas Tech rely on their offense to win but the Cowboys will bring a few more bullets to this shootout.  Oklahoma State 45 Texas Tech 41

Irish future stars shine. A week 9 recap.

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. Notre Dame Air Force Football

Notre Dame Air Force Football

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.

Notre Dame Air Force Football

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.

Other observations

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

Heisman Watch

1. Jameis Winston

2. Marcus Mariotta

3. Bryce Petty

4. Johnny Field Goal