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.
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
Jesse J. @TheShamRap
Huh? Did you really think I was going that route?
While Justin Brent’s Fall Break social media
shenanigans were an interesting filler to an otherwise
exhausting bye-week following “crabby flag-gate”,
there’s only one message to be taken from that;
Ok, now that that has been addressed, on to stuff that matters…
Playoffs? Playoffs?! We are ranked 10th and you wanna talk about playoffs?!
So we’re ranked 10th in the inaugural Playoff Committee Poll.
Did you REALLY think a close loss to Crabby Patty U
was gonna be enough to keep us in the mix for the
playoff action?! Hell no. These assholes don’t respect
And why should they? Our biggest win is a loss, and our 2nd biggest win is to Stanford, who until hopefully
this week vs. Oregon, hasn’t done us any favors with their play.
In fact, non of the teams that were supposed to give us
a chance to show our might have done us any favors
as far a S.O.S.
We can hope Louisville at least has a strong showing
We can pray that ASU crushes Utah before our showdown in Tempe.
We can half-heartedly put our hatred aside for USC,
and hope they close the season out impressively.
WE CAN WATCH AS THE REST OF THESE CONFERENCES
You may have heard how Keenan Reynolds is a
dynamic play-maker for Navy, and we should be wary.
Stop it. Right now.
I’m not gonna kill you with a page full of seamen stats,
so I’m gonna make it simple…
Navy is TERRIBLE this year.
This is not even in the same class as any Midshipmen squad we’ve faced over the last decade. Not even as good as the Navy team we beat 50-10 in Ireland to open the 2012 campaign.
This is the PERFECT game to start playing ANGRY.
I’m not even going to waste anymore time talking about Navy.
We win 56-13. Game over.
It’s not time to hit panic mode yet folks!!!
A lot of football yet to be played!
That’s my 2 cents. PEACE, I’M OUTTA HERE!
I was going to make this post yesterday, but decided to wait until after the official playoff committee rankings announcement. I wish I hadn’t. I was expecting the rankings to resemble something similar to the AP/USA Today polls. I was wrong. Just like many of you on twitter, I was disheartened when I saw the Irish come in at 10. However, I wasn’t outraged.
Let’s be honest with ourselves. Despite coming into the season with one of the toughest schedules in the nation, Notre Dame’s opponents have not held up their end of the bargain. Based on the preseason polls, the Irish had 5 top 25 teams on their schedule (FSU, Stanford, ASU, USC, UNC). They also were to play 4 teams that received votes (Michigan, Navy, Louisville, Northwestern). It’s not exactly the SEC schedule, but top to bottom, that’s a pretty solid slate of games. All that remain ranked are FSU, who beat us, albeit probably shouldn’t, have and ASU, who we have a game with in a few weeks. USC and Louisville still received some votes, with L’ville coming in at 25 in one of the polls.
The only quality win the Irish have/had was Stanford, but the Cardinal are proving to be no where near as good as people thought they were in August. So the Irish really have an uphill battle to climb. They need to go into Arizona State and dominate them. This will be their statement win. You couple this with the way the FSU game played out, and then the Irish can at least maintain some respectability in the eyes of the playoff committee.
Just a little background on how the committee comes up with it’s rankings. It will be based on several factors including strength of schedule, team records, head-to-head match ups, weather and injuries. The major polls will not be used in coming up with the rankings. The most weight will be placed on a team’s strength of schedule. So as I noted earlier, Notre Dame is hurt by the teams they play having down years. So as fun as it is to root for Michigan and USC to lose every Saturday, we as fans should be rooting hard for our rivals each week, as painful as it may be.
So now I’m going to list all 9 teams ahead of the Irish, and their key remaining match ups. Since the AP and USA Today polls aren’t accounted for in the playoff rankings, I’m not going to waste my time by listing them on here. We are going straight off the committee rankings.
1. Mississippi State – 7-0 – SEC
Key games: 11/15 – Alabama, 11/29 Ole Miss, SEC Championship
Like I noted last week, The best case scenario is for Mississippi St. to win out and hand both Alabama and Ole Miss their second losses.
2. Florida State – 7-0 – ACC
Key games: 10/30 – at Louisville, ACC Championship
This is a common opponent with ND, so it’ll be another tool used to gauge how the Irish stack up
3. Auburn – 6-1 – SEC
Key games: 11/1 @ Ole Miss, 11/15, @ Georgia, 11/29 @ Alabama, SEC Championship
Auburn controls their own destiny with this schedule. If they get thru it, they earned their way in. Can’t do anything about that.
4. Ole Miss – 7-1 – SEC
Key games: 11/1 Auburn, 11/29 Miss St., SEC Championship
The biggest problem I had with the rankings was that there were 3 SEC teams in the top 4. Not to take anything away from Ole Miss, but I thought the whole point of the playoff was to make it fair for everyone else.
5. Oregon – 7-1 – Pac 12
Key games: 11/8 @ Utah, 11/29 @ Oregon State., Pac 12 Championship
I thought Oregon should be #4 just for balance purposes. They have quality wins over Michigan state and UCLA to help their resume.
6. Alabama – 7-1 – SEC
Key games: 11/8 @ LSU, 11/15 Miss St., 11/29 Auburn, SEC Championship
Plenty of chances for them to get knocked off. They’re playing much better lately though,
7. Texas Christian University – 6-1 – Big 12
Key games: 11/1 @ West Virginia, 11/8 Kansas State, Big 12 Championship
This team can score and have a legit shot to get into the final 4. They have quality wins over Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, and a nailbiter loss to Baylor.
8. Michigan State – 7-1 – Big Ten
Key games: 11/8 Ohio State, Big Ten Championship
I have real issues with the Spartans being ranked over the Irish. They don’t play a great schedule, and got smacked around by Oregon. Their quality win is a 5 point victory over Nebraska. They have 2 common opponenets with Notre Dame (Michigan & Purdue) ND had more imppressive victories against both teams.
9. Kansas State – 6-1 – Big 12
Key games: 11/1 Oklahoma State, 11/8 @ TCU, 11/20 @ West Virginia, 11/6 @ Baylor, Big 12 Championship
K-State doesn’t have an easy road to the final 4. Personally I don’t think they will remain in the top 10 by seasons end. They have a quality win against Oklahoma and lost early in the year in a close one ot Auburn.
So that is that. It’s not easy. The Irish still have a chance. Obviously they need help. The one thing they have going for them is that a lot of the teams ahead of them have to play each other. You can only hope that they all knock each other off evenly. If we can hope for anything, it’s Mississippi State to run the table and take out Ole Miss and Alabama. Otherwise, the rest will have to play out week by week. All the Irish can do is play the games they have left and win football games.
Reach me on Twitter @GetsThruBuckner
Here is your woman’s perspective of the game coming up this weekend. So, I don’t know anything about Notre Dame/Navy football (and I don’t plan rapping about it like an idiot), but what I do know is…
I don’t like Navy’s head coach. He’s a whiner and a crybaby. You would think him and that sissy, David Shaw, were brothers from another mother. They always have something to complain about. You are a part of the Navy! Man up! We know David Shaw pouts like a 3 year old who needs a nap, but that does not mean you have to act like one, too. Seriously, I have cramps three times as bad as Navy’s football team and I don’t whine as much as….as…I don’t even know how to say his last name. It’s like a damn Seeing Eye chart at the DMV. Seriously, I couldn’t pass that eye test sober (Which I’m not right now…). Look for yourself… His name does have LOL in it which makes it much easier for me to make fun of him.
While on the topic of cramps, I wonder what color Gatorade Brian Kelly will have at the podium for his press conference Navy week. I kinda hope he ditches the Gatorade all together and just drinks goat’s blood. It’s close enough to Halloween to work.
When I think of Navy and Notre Dame that the most important thing that comes to mind are the fight songs. I love to “Shake down the thunder from the sky” and “Marching to victory,” but it’s hard to compete with the disco hit “In The Navy.” Seriously, who wouldn’t want to sail the 7-seas or put your mind at ease? It sounds like a wonderful vacation, which is pretty much what the Navy football team has been on. The last time they were ranked in the top-25 after the season was in 2004 and they were only ranked 24th. Their highest ranking ever was 2nd in both polls, which performed slightly better than their fight song which came in at #3 on the Billboard 100 in 1979. It was actually #1 on the Canadian RPM Top Singles list, but I’m pretty sure once you convert that from the metric system to ‘Merica system it comes out to #3 again. Looking over iTunes, the Notre Dame fight song is the song with the staying power and is ranked WAY higher than “In the navy” right now.
Staying on the number 3, let’s talk about the triple option: Vodka, Tequila and Beer. A formidable trio of awesomeness that makes any game enjoyable. If you drink enough, you might find Navy’s head coach cute…or you might mistake him for the goat mascot. I know I have a few times. It’s not that I have anything against Navy and I appreciate what they do for everyone, but let’s face it, the Notre Dame players are cuter and the type of guys you would want to have a real triple option with (Hey-Yo!). This game will basically be the SNL version of Chris Farly (Navy) vs. Patrick Swayze (Notre Dame). We got the moves, the looks and the skills to win this game.
Well, that’s a woman’s perspective of the Navy/Notre Dame game. I have no doubt College Gameday will be at this epic match up. If you tally up all the above categories, pretty sure Notre Dame is going to win by 17. By pretty sure, I’d put David Shaw’s Midol on it… I’m that confident. Go Irish!
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.
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 #4 Alabama
at #3 Ole Miss
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
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
#1 Mississippi State
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 #24 LSU
#1 Mississippi State
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
#13 Ohio State
at Penn State
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
at #3 Ole Miss
at #9 Georgia
at #4 Alabama
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 #19 Utah
at Oregon State
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
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
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
Multiple media outlets are reporting that suspended Notre Dame cornerback KeiVarae Russell was notified yesterday by the Honor Committee and informed his teammates that he will not be allowed to play for the Irish during the 2014 football season. Russell however also stated that he plans to return to Notre Dame to play for the Irish next season. This news comes after rapid speculation that all five of the Irish players that have been under investigation for academic fraud would not play for Notre Dame this season and their fates with the university still unclear.
While Russell has always made it very clear that he wanted to play in the NFL, I am not surprised that he plans to return to Notre Dame next season. Russell has the skills and the athletic ability to be a very good player in the NFL however with him not playing for an entire football season, it was very likely that his draft stock would have fallen from a possible first round pick to a mid to later round pick. Notre Dame was already looking at the possibility of returning 10 starters on defense for next season and if Russell does indeed return to Notre Dame that would make 11 returning starters for next years defensive squad.
Keivarae Russell posted on his Instagram account that he will not play this season but will return for 2015.