Tag Archives: Ohio State

The 2014 Campaign Begins. A Rice Preview.

-Sgt Shamrock

After a long awaited wait, the 2014 season is FINALLY upon us as Notre Dame begins their journey to gain a berth in the first ever College Football Playoff. Its time to put fall camp and the academic investigation behind us and get excited for some Notre Dame Football. First up on the chopping block is the Rice Owls. David Bailiffs Owls squad is coming of a 10 win season last year but most people remember them for there effort against Texas A&M to begin their 2013 season. Notre Dame and Rice have meet on 4 other occasions with Notre Dame winning every contest. However some look at Rice’s record last season as well as being the Conference USA Champion as a reason to worry about this matchup for the Irish. I don’t see it that way at all and here is why. Sure Rice won ten games last season. But has anyone looked at who they played? Besides playing Texas A&M on the road to start the season, Rice’s second most difficult opponent was Mississippi State in the Liberty bowl and Rice got run off the field in that game losing 44-7. After that Rice’s opponents were awful. So yes they won 10 games but the only two quality teams they played, Texas A&M and Mississippi State, they lost too. Speaking of Texas A&M, many people point to how well Rice played in that game as another reason that Notre Dame could be in for a tough game. But did Rice REALLY play well in that game? Not only did Johnny Manziel sit out the entire first half, but the Aggies defense was absolutely abysmal. I mean really really bad and to compound on how bad it was they were also missing 5 starters on their defensive unit. So basically what I am saying is don’t let the numbers fool you on Rice.

This years Rice team is also very different than last season. They are returning only about half of their starters and have been hit pretty hard by pre-season injuries. Their starting tight end Connor Cella is out 4-6 weeks with an injury and their star receiver Jordan Taylor is dealing with a foot injury that may hold him out against the Irish. Bottom line here is that Rice looked better on paper last season than they really were AND this years team doesn’t have the same amount of talent that that team did. So what can we expect out of Notre Dame against Rice to start the season? Lets find out.

Offense

Obviously the highlight of the offense for the first game and maybe even the entire season is the return of Everett Golson. It has been over 600 days since his last game against Alabama in the 2012 National Championship game. Reports out of fall camp are that Golson has matured as a leader, has grown physically, and has really taken the next step forward in the playbook. That spells success to me and while he may shake off some rust early on, I don’t see it lasting more than one or maybe two drives. With Davaris Daniels still in limbo regarding his “suspension” the only receiver to have ever caught a pass from Golson in a game is Chris Brown with his memorable catch against Oklahoma during the 2012 season. This season he will have a whole new receiving corps to throw the ball too that is not lacking in talent. Corey Robinson presents a pretty sizable mismatch for most defensive backs and Will Fuller’s speed that we saw glimpses of last season should be more up front and center especially against a Rice secondary that normally does not play against that type of speed. The Irish come into this game with a healthy and very talented offensive line led by newly named captain Nick Martin, which should not only give Golson plenty of time to throw the ball, but open running lanes for the three headed monster at running back with Bryant, Folston, and McDaniel. All three backs will present a challenge for the Rice defense led by their star defensive lineman Christian Covington, and they should be able to rack up a large chunk of rushing yards.

Defense

The recent academic investigation has really left the defense short handed with KeiVarae Russell, Ishaq Williams, Kendal Moore, and Eliar Hardy all set to be missing the Rice game this weekend for sure and who knows how much longer after that. There is not a lack of talent to fill in those positions however. Cole Luke, who played last year and very well in my opinion, will take Russell’s spot on the field opposite of Cody Riggs. Williams role will be replaced by using multiple underclassmen to help generate a pass rush. Obviously Jaylon Smith is the superstar of the defense and with him now anchoring the middle of the defense this season he really has the ability to be even better this season. Going into Rice the Irish defense’s main goal needs to be to force Rice quarterback Driphus Jackson to try and beat them with his arm. He is a dual threat guy with the ability to run. With VanGorders new scheme being tested in its first game at Notre Dame I fully expect the Irish to put pressure on the quarterback early and often to try to rattle a quarterback who is going to be playing in front of the largest crowd he will face all season. While the depth of the Irish defensive line is a concern throughout the season, I don’t see it playing to much of a factor into this game as Rice’s offensive line is going to have a handful dealing with Sheldon Day who looks to be in line to have a monster season.

Prediction

I am sure most people have either read or seen some of the Harry Potter books/movies. Remember that owl named Heddwig? Now picture that owl. And picture someone picking it up and stabbing it mercilessly to death. Thats exactly what this game is going to be like. Its going to be a bloodbath. I don’t want to hear the whole “Well Notre Dame doesn’t play well in season openers” argument. 2012 Navy says hello. Notre Dame is by far the better team on the field in every aspect of the game and its not even close. Rice is going to put up a good fight early but it will be all for not. Golson will play brilliant in his first game back from his exile, the running game runs the ball at will, and the young defense will play much better than many folks anticipate.

Notre Dame 45 Rice 17

 

Other Games Around the Country

1 Florida State at Oklahoma State (Arlington, TX)- The defending national champs and defending Heisman trophy winner open the season taking on a Oklahoma State team that doesn’t seem like it will be as competitive as years past under Mike Gundy. The offense should still do pretty well in the Big 12 but they won’t fare all that well against that FSU defense. This game may still be close at halftime but it wont end that way. Florida State 41 Oklahoma State 24

16 Clemson at 12 Georgia- In probably the best matchup of the weekend, we get to see how Clemson and Georgia respond with new quarterbacks at the helm with Taji Boyd and Aaron Murray both gone to the NFL. Georgia still has a very strong stable of running backs with Todd Gurley and Keith Marshal and that will be the difference in this game. Georgia 28 Clemson 21

14 Wisconsin at 13 LSU (Houston, TX)- If any team outside the SEC has the scheme and skill set to play with and beat LSU it would be Wisconsin. The Badgers love to run the ball and have a couple of very talented backs. But playing them the first game of the season is tough and LSU’s defense should be even tougher. LSU 24 Wisconsin 17

UPSET SPECIAL

5 Ohio State at Navy- With the loss of Braxton Miller at quarterback the offense for the Buckeyes, that was already replacing a huge chunk of their offensive line, is going to be under a large amount of pressure to score a lot of points. Carlos Hyde is gone to the NFL so the ability of a running back to step up and fill that void is very important. Navy is a running machine and Keenan Reynolds runs the triple option attack to perfection. The Buckeyes defense wasn’t great last year and they lost some key playmakers. Ohio State realizes very quickly that life without Braxton Miller will not be a good one. Navy 31 Ohio State 30

 

Championship Weekend Preview.

– Sgt Shamrock

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

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

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

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

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

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

Irish 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