Tag Archives: Oregon

Rumble in the Desert – A Weekend Preview

-GoIrishGlory

Sun Devils

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.

folston navy

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.

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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.

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Prediction 

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

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

Irish win one for the Seniors. A weekend in review

– Sgt Shamrock

Notre Dame vs. Brigham Young

In what was one of the coldest games to ever be played in the Notre Dame Stadium, the Irish were able to play with a spark and pulled out a 23-13 win over the BYU Cougars to improve their record to 8-3. While the snow was falling and the temperatures were dropping, the Irish played the type of football that Brian Kelly said they should be playing every single week. And I agree. It was one of the few times this season that the Irish played well in all aspects of the game. Well maybe not the special teams but lets just forget about that. The defense made big plays when they needed too and the Irish offense moved the ball effectively and did their job of keeping BYU off the field and limiting their scoring chances.

The Irish defense set the tone early against the Cougars and really stood out to me during the entire game. BYU was coming into this game as one of the hottest offenses in the country, yet the Irish defense only allowed one touchdown and 13 total points. Dan Fox led the team with 9 tackles and the Irish front seven played inspired, even with out the big man Louis Nix who is out for the remainder of the season. What really impressed me with the defense however, is how they responded following a horrible loss to Pitt. Following the loss, a lot of people, including me, were concerned how the team would respond after their goal of a BCS Bowl game appearance was dashed. The defense played one of their worst games of the season against Pitt and I honestly did not know how they would respond. The defense responded by having one of its best performances of the season.

BYU came into the game against the Irish as one of the toughest defenses in the country led by superstar Kyle Van-Noy, but on Saturday afternoon the Irish offense amassed almost 500 yards of total offense including over 200 yards on the ground. As I stated in my preview for the game, the Irish needed to establish a steady and effective running game to open up the passing game and provide balance to the offense. Notre Dame did just that. On their first offensive series, ran multiple running plays in a row before Tommy Rees went play action and hit Davaris Daniels deep for a touchdown. The running game was effective throughout the entire game thanks to the tough running from Cam McDaniel and some ridiculously shifty moves from Tarean Folston, who continues to get me excited about his potential. Folston is clearly the most athletic running back on the Irish roster and his ability to make defenders miss is something Irish fans have been waiting to see out of the backfield. On multiple occasions in the stadium you could hear the excitement and awe in the moves that Folston was able to make to shake Cougar defenders.

As Saturday was Senior Day, I was really happy to see many of the seniors play very well in their final home game. Tommy Rees finished his career in Notre Dame Stadium the way he deserved. Being one of the most polarizing figures for Notre Dame football in recent memory, Rees was able to win his final game at home. While he did throw yet another awful red zone touchdown, Rees played an otherwise good game. Rees made multiple nice throws to TJ Jones, and minus the interception, made good decisions through out the game. Jones finished the game with 95 yards receiving and Dan Fox and Carlo Calbrese played very well making multiple key tackles and keeping the BYU offense in check. Austin Collinsworth was able to haul in an interception on the final play of the first half and Zack Martin helped anchor an offensive line that allowed zero sacks, and opened running lanes that led to over 200 yards on the ground.

Overall it was one of the most complete games the Irish has played all season. While the offense did leave some points on the field, they still played a very good game and the defense stepped up and took over allowing the Irish to pull out the victory. With the win, Notre Dame clinched a fourth straight eight win season under Brian Kelly with the chance this year to win 10 games. With the losses this team had on defense due to the NFL draft and injury this year, and playing with a backup quarterback due to Everett Golson being suspended from school, Id have to say the Irish did more than people expected of them. Even so its easy to look at the losses to Michigan and Pitt and wonder how much better it could have been if the Irish had been able to pull out those victories. One final game remains before the bowl season begins as the Irish travel to Stanford this Saturday.

Other Observations

– The field conditions were again abysmal and embarrassing. I really think the turf led the game in tackles and Im surprised more players were not injured as we say against Navy. I even heard some of the older crowd, who normally are reluctant to call for change, calling for field turf. Its time Notre Dame. Make this happen. If I were you I would start installing it Monday morning.

– Lost in the spotlight of Senior Day, Jarron Jones played an outstanding game filling in for Louis Nix making multiple tackles around the line of scrimmage and also blocked a field goal late in the game that helped preserve the Irish victory. While many, including myself, are concerned about depth on the defensive line its nice to see Jarron Jones start coming into his own.

Oh you silly Pollsters

Notre Dame gets back into the AP Top 25 this week placing 25th. Yet again its another week its another instance of a team that Notre Dame beat ranked ahead of the Irish. USC has the same amount of losses as the Irish and yet are ranked two spots ahead of the Irish at 23rd. Sure that makes sense. USC lost to Washington State, Arizona State (another team Notre Dame beat) and of course Notre Dame.

Louisiana-Lafayette is ranked 21st this week in the AP. Wait what? Yes this is not a typo. I really have no idea what the pollsters are thinking here. The Cajuns have not beaten a single ranked team this year and have two losses. They play in the Sun Belt. Plain and simple this is not a top 25 team.

Arizona State is ranked 13th this week while Oregon is ranked twelve. This needs to be switched. The Sun Devils are going to the Pac 12 title game and the Ducks are not. That alone should place ASU over Oregon.

Three loss LSU is ranked 15th this week. Why I have no idea. They are ranked ahead of an undefeated Northern Illinois and Fresno State. I don’t care if you play in the SEC or not, three losses are three losses and that does not make you worthy of a top 15 ranking.

What is Texas A&M still doing ranked? They got blown out by LSU this weekend and now have three losses. The Aggies have not beaten a ranked team all season long.

Heisman Rannkings

1. Jameis Winston (Barring an arrest)

2. Jordan Lynch

3. Derek Carr

4. Kadeem Carey

Irish go Panther hunting. A Pittsburgh Preview

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By Sgt. Shamrock

Another college football weekend is upon us. This week Notre Dame travels to play the Pitt Panthers at Heinz Field Saturday night. But don’t tell Pitt that, since they are oddly treating this game like it’s being played at Notre Dame. Confused? Don’t worry, if you missed Pittsburgh and their ultimate derpness I’ll catch you up. To start things off, Pitt TE JP Holtz said this gem to the media,

“I don’t like Notre Dame at all…I just think they’re really cocky and their coaches are really cocky. It’s awesome up there, but just not somewhere I would want to go to school.”

So somebody says they don’t like Notre Dame. IM SO SHOCKED!!! What I find really hilarious is that Pitt is going to need a lot of help from the Irish to win so they really had to hope that Notre Dame would come out flat in this game. Safe to say these comments won’t help their case there. Thanks buddy. Now I know what this kid said was probably pretty stupid, but what Pitt did next really takes the cake. During practice this week, the Panthers, were actually blaring the Notre Dame Fight Song over loud speakers during their practice AND had a student manager dress up as the leprechaun. You can’t make this stuff up. Not only is this game at Pitt, but the Irish band isn’t even traveling for the game! To quote ESPN 8 the ocho dodgeball announcer Pepper Brooks, “It’s a bold strategy Cotton, let’s see if it pays off for ’em.”

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The Irish are coming off of a very sloppy win over Navy last week where the defense played their worst game of the season against the triple option. With the triple option behind them and a hopefully healthy defensive line, I expect the Irish defense to have a much better game against Pitt which ranks 103rd in the nation in total offense. I guess you could say that the Panther passing attack, lead by quarterback Tom Savage, is the strength of the Pitt offense, but that only ranks 70th in the nation while the running game is an abysmal 104th nationally. This bodes well for the Irish as they matchup well with the Panthers passing game with the 23rd ranked passing defense. The Irish defense has struggled against the run last week against the triple option but that’s a completely different animal than most teams rushing attacks. With Louis Nix, Stephon Tuitt, and Sheldon Day all expected to play together on the D-line, the Irish defense should start looking like it did against USC again.

The Irish offense however could be in for a tougher road. While Pitt may being having an bad year on the offensive side of the ball, their defense has played pretty well at times. Their defense is ranked 34th in total defense and is anchored by stud defensive lineman Aaron Donald, who Brian Kelly called a “one man wrecking crew”. The Panther defense specializes in defending the pass, ranking 18th nationally, while having trouble defending the rush ranking in the bottom half of the country at 63rd. The Irish running attack, led by Cam McDaniel and Tarean Folston, had a breakout game last week with the help of tremendous offensive line play, so look for the coaching staff to again work to running game on the road early and often.

Overall Notre Dame SHOULD win this game by a pretty good margin. There is just too big a talent gap and to be quite frank Pittsburgh is just not a very good team. They are coming into this game at 4-4 and riding a two game losing streak including a loss to Navy. The Panthers best win this season would be over Duke (yes Duke), 58-55 earlier in the season. The two best teams they have played to date have been Florida State and Virginia Tech, which were both losses. But as I do recall, I said a lot of the same things last week about Navy, and we all know how that turned out. Pittsburgh has always played Brian Kelly coached teams very well. Since losing to Pitt while coaching at Cincinnati in 2007, Brian Kelly has beaten Pitt five straight times but all by 7 points or less including last years 3OT thriller in South Bend. Pittsburgh always plays Notre Dame very well, and this year will be no different. However, no matter how many times Mark May picks Pitt this week, Notre Dame will be too much for the Panthers.

Players to Watch

Offense- After facing two straight defensive lines that were undersized, the Irish offensive line gets back to going against a more normal sized front seven. The offensive line played very well last week and contributed to the breakout game for the Irish rushing attack and I am eager to see some consistency this week against a much tougher defensive line.

Defense- With the recent injuries to the defensive line, Jarron Jones found himself on the two deep for the Irish this week. A former 5 star recruit, Jones was recruited as defensive lineman but many believed he would play offensive line at Notre Dame. He will get a sufficient amount of snaps this week and I am very eager how he plays.

Prediction

Notre Dame 31 Pittsburgh 21

Other games around the country

2 Oregon at 5 Stanford- This is a battle of two completely different styles of football. Stanford plays a hard nosed old school brand of football based on a strong running game and tough physical defense while Oregon spreads the field and uses their speed. Stanford won the matchup last year but this years Oregon team is better on both sides of the ball. Oregon 35 Stanford 20

10 Oklahoma at 6 Baylor- This is Baylor’s first big test of the year and it comes at home on Thursday night. Bryce Petty has placed himself in the Heisman race and could be looking at a possible invite to New York at the end of the season. Baylor has not had much luck against the Sooners in the past but this time they pull it off. Baylor 41 Oklahoma 28

13 LSU at 1 Alabama- Pretty much the first big test for Bama this season unless you count their win over an overrated Texas A&M team that lacks defense. LSU will be a much stiffer challenge and while most don’t give them a chance, I do. LSU 20 Alabama 17

Upset Special

Virginia Tech at 11 Miami- Miami came crashing down to earth after being embarrassed by Florida State. Even worse for the Canes, star running back Duke Johnson was lost for the season. Virginia Tech is coming into this game following an awful loss to Boston College and will be eager to get back on track and their defense will help them do it. Virginia Tech 21 Miami 20

Irish crack the BCS rankings

Notre Dame comes in at 25th in the latest BCS rankings released earlier tonight after beating Air Force 45-10 making it the first time being ranked in the BCS this season. The Irish, who were ranked 25th in the coaches poll and unranked in the AP poll, are looking to make a BCS bowl in the final season of the BCS system before the 4 team playoff system begins in 2014. Four teams on Notre Dames schedule were also ranked in the BCS top 25, with the marquee team being Stanford ranked at number 5. The Irish will play the Cardinal in Palo Alto to finish the season in what may be the deciding factor in making a BCS bowl this season. Notre Dame needs to have at least 9 wins and ranked in the top 14 of the BCS rankings to be considered for a BCS bowl, however its fairly clear that anything less than 10-2 will not be enough. The Irish will need to win out to get an at large bid for the BCS.

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

Leprechaun’s, Falcons, and lighting blots!!! Oh My!! An Air Force Preview

Well folks, it’s already Thursday and we are inching closer to this weekends matchup between The low flying Air Force Falcons and the Fighting Irish. The Irish travel out to Colorado Springs, Colorado where the temperature is cold and Brian Kelly’s nipples are sure to be front and center depend how many layers coach actually wears. The week after a huge win over your rival is always a letdown alert however I think the burning of Troy was just the beginning of a successful second half of the season.

Playing an option team like Airforce is always a headache for both sides of the ball. The defense must watch for the fullback dive, the quarterback keep, or the pitch to the running back. The offense must take advantage of every possession, as option teams tend to win the time of possession battle due to a heavy running game. This matchup will be different from the past few games for the Irish who will now face a run heavy option attack instead of the drop back pro style quarterback in USC or the spread offense of Arizona State. While defending the option is always a tough task, the Irish have a huge advantage in one of the key areas in this game. In the trenches.

To get an effective running game going the offensive line must get a good push off the line of scrimmage and open running lanes. Air Force has been able to run the ball against their opponents very well so far this season averaging 268.6 yards per game with ranks 12th in the FBS. Notre Dame on the other hand is allowing only 123.3 yards per game which is 25th in the FBS. That’s not good force Air Force. What’s even worse is the Irish defensive line is a man amount boys compared to the Falcons. The Irish defensive line has an average of 323 pounds while Air Force is averaging a measly 261 pounds. It shouldn’t be all that surprising since all the players will be serving in the Air Force upon graduation and therefore being a big boy is not encouraged. Can you imagine Big Lou or Tuitt trying to fit in a cockpit of a fighter jet? That would not end well. The defensive line is one of the best in the nation and they will look to disrupt the Falcons rushing attack and force them to throw, which is something they desperately need to avoid as they have one of the worst passing attacks in the nation averaging only 102.3 yards per game.

What I’m really looking forward to this week is to see how well the Irish are able to run the ball against the horrific Falcons defense which ranks 113th in scoring defense giving up 37 touchdowns already this year, 111th in rushing defense giving up a whooping 221.3 yards per game, and a passing defense which ranks 102 giving up 267.4 yards to game. To put it simply the Falcons defense is god awful. They can’t stop anyone and it’s a large reason as to why their only win this season has been against Colgate. The Irish running game, which is only averaging 136.6 yards per game, struggled to begin the season but has played better in the last few outings. This week they can really break out and should have no problem running at will. The Irish offensive line weights an average of 311.4 pounds while the Air Force defensive line weights only an average of 256.7 pounds. Simply put the Irish should own the line of scrimmage and open huge running lanes all game long.

Overall the Irish should win this game with ease. Air Force has lost 5 games in a row and are really just a bad team. Expect the Irish to lean on the running game as they are careful with Tommy Rees as he comes back from a strained neck injury suffered against USC. Notre Dame should have their way with the Falcons and move to 6-2 on the season.

Players to watch

Offense: I’m really looking to see Tarean Folston this week. He showed a glimpse of brilliance with a long run against the Sooners but since then has been nursing an injury and has not seen much of the field. I expect all the Irish running backs to have good days but in especially interested to see how well this kid ca play.

Defense: We all know that Jaylon Smith is a stud. However I have my eye on him this week. This will be his first time playing against an option team and it’s a lot different especially for a true freshman. I’m eager to see how he handles his assignments.

Prediction: Notre Dame 41 Air Force 13

Other games to watch

12 UCLA at 3 Oregon – Oregon has been playing lights out again this season on offense under quarterback Marcus Mariotta and the defense has been outstanding and forcing turnovers. UCLA has been playing well under Brett Hundley at quarterback but they will be playing 3 freshmen on the offense line on the road. Yikes. Oregon 56 UCLA 31

10 Texas Tech at 15 Oklahoma – The Red Raiders are going fairly unnoticed despite their top ten ranking. Since the win at Notre Dame, Oklahoma has looked sloppy causing Irish fans to wonder where this Oklahoma team was when they were in South Bend. Texas Tech 35 Oklahoma 28

21 South Carolina at 5 Missouri – Missouri has been one of the surprise teams in the country this year and I’m pulling for them since it causes chaos in the SEC East. Matty Mauk has played well in the absence of injured QB James Franklin. South Carolina is on the road playing a backup QB with Connor Shaw out with an injury. Missouri 28 South Carolina 21

Upset Special

6 Stanford at 25 Oregon State – Since losing the season opener to FCS opponent Eastern Washington, the Beavers have won 6 in a row under the leadership of Sean Mannion who leads the nation in passing touchdowns. Not many people are giving the Beav’s a shot against the Stanford defense but I am. Oregon State 31 Stanford 30