Tag Archives: Stanford

It’s Time to Stop Playing Navy

-Kevin

Its time to take Navy off the schedule. There I said it. I have felt this way for a couple years now but after seeing the release of the first college football playoff rankings earlier tonight it finally sealed the deal for me. Before you start crying a foul, yes I know all about the history between Notre Dame and Navy. Yes I know that Navy made Notre Dame a training ground during World War Two and provided enough money to keep the university afloat. I know all about it. Its reiterated every single year when we play the Naval Academy. Ill always have a great deal of respect for the Naval Academy and what they did for Notre Dame to help it stay open in a time when many thought the school would close. But that was over 70 years ago. I know Notre Dame “owed” Navy for all their help but that debt has been paid back and than some.

Here is the thing. There is absolutely nothing gained by playing Navy anymore for Notre Dame nothing. Its actually a lose-lose situation for the Irish. As we saw tonight in the first college football playoff rankings, the selection committee was not kidding around about strength of schedule being a huge factor in who gets selected into the playoff and having Navy on the schedule is doing the Irish no favors. If Notre Dame wins, it means nothing for the season as everyone expects Notre Dame to beat Navy easily each and every season. If Notre Dame loses, its a crippling blow and in the new college football playoff system it would almost always knock Notre Dame out of the playoff picture immediately.

Now every season there are teams that are supposed to be good teams that end up not panning out which never does favors for Notre Dame. So far this season Stanford and North Carolina would easily fit the bill. Prior to the season every pundit in the country had Notre Dame’s schedule as one of the toughest in the nation. Now it looks to be the exact opposite with the Irish sitting at 6-1 but having zero wins over a top 25 win. But you can’t really blame Notre Dame for that as how other teams do is completely out of their control. Its part of college football. Perceived good teams turn out to be bad and teams that were viewed as awful turn out to be really good. However there is a huge difference between teams like Stanford, Michigan, and North Carolina and a team like Navy. The Stanford’s, Michigan’s, and North Carolina’s may have their down years or not live up to expectations that people had for them in the preseason but they normally end up bouncing back and being good teams. Take Stanford for instance. They have been very good the past few years and this season and while they have taken a step back this year, they will undoubtedly rebound in the next year or two and contend in the PAC-12. Teams like Navy however are never good and are not expected to ever be good. Sure they will pull an upset now and again or finish a season with more wins that predicted but in football terms, nobody ever views Navy as a “quality win”.

I completely understand the need to not play an entire schedule of top 25 teams. Its just not feasible or sensible to have your team run through the gauntlet. I understand the need to have “lesser teams” on the schedule. Every team does it. Its part of football. But in the new world of the College Football Playoff strength of schedule is a huge factor and there is going to be a new trend of teams adding tougher opponents in lieu of the normal “cupcakes”. Notre Dame has been known as one of those teams who doesn’t schedule FCS schools and rarely plays a full on “cupcake” team but Navy is about as close as you can get. Add in the factor of Navy’s style of play and the large amounts of injuries that it causes for their opponents defenses and there is absolutely no upside to playing Navy in the modern college football world. I’ll always be grateful for what the Naval Academy did to keep Notre Dame afloat. However whatever Notre Dame owed Navy for that gratitude has been paid back two fold. Its time to move on.

You can follow me on twitter @GoIrishGlory

Carolina on the Minds of the Irish – A Weekend Preview

-Kevin

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

The Down The Tunnel Radio Show – North Carolina Edition

-Kevin

The Down the Tunnel radio show is back. This week we discussed the ongoing academic investigation, look back at the Irish’s comeback win against Stanford, and look ahead to North Carolina. We were also joined by Douglas Farmer from Blue and Gold Illustrated.

http://tobtr.com/s/6986267

Irish Chop Down the Trees – A Weekend Review

– Kevin

BVG Thumbs up

In a day that was filled heavy rain, cold winds, and sloppy conditions, Notre Dame was able to overcome adversity and swing their axes to chop down the trees of Stanford in the final minute of the game to complete a thrilling 17-14 come from behind win. Even while Everett Golson didn’t play his best (and apparently had the flu according to Coach Kelly), he was still able to complete the game winning pass to Ben Koyack in the corner of the end zone on 4th and 11 with only 1:06 left on the clock to seal the Irish victory. Statistically, the Notre Dame offense dominated Stanford all game long and really should have won this game by more points than they did. Stanford’s defense was viewed as one of the best in the nation, and the Irish offense racked up 370 yards of total offense including 129 yards rushing in horrific weather conditions. However its points and not yards that win football games and Notre Dame had trouble putting up points on the scoreboard only scoring 17 points. For the second week in a row, turnovers were an issue for Everett Golson, fumbling and throwing an interception in the red zone which took away chances at points for the Irish. Throughout most of the game, and even on some of the plays in the final drive, Golson looked a bit out of sync, throwing behind his receivers on multiple occassions and holding on to the ball too long.

The Irish running game still struggled this week against a tough defensive front. While the stat line says that Notre Dame rushed for 129 yards, the running backs only accounted for 69 of those yards while the remainder came from a 33 yard run by Golson and a 26 yard run on a jet sweep by CJ Prosise. Now nobody was anticipating a breakout game for the Irish running attack against Stanford but there are still some issues that need to be addressed as Notre Dame gets into the meat of the schedule. The offensive line is still not being as physical as expected before the season began. While the production has improved since Brian Kelly shuffled around some players along the line after the game against Purdue, they still are struggling at times in run blocking. Greg Bryant has been a player that everyone has been expecting to breakout but in the last few games he has really had trouble running North and South and finished with only 14 yards on 6 carries against Stanford. Tarean Folston was hurt during the game and only finished with 14 yards on 3 carries. That left Cam McDaniel to lead the team with 41 yards on 15 carries. At this point in the season I have no problem saying that Notre Dame’s strength on offense is their passing game. However in order to maintain the success that the Irish have had through the first five games, they will need to improve their running game with games at Florida State and USC still left this season.

While Golson’s game winning pass at the end of the game was the highlight of the game, it was not the main reason why Notre Dame was victorious against Stanford. That honor goes to the defense, which has continued to impress every week after looking to a be a weak point of the team at the beginning of the season. The Irish defense dominated Stanford from the start of the game to the final play holding the Cardinal to 205 TOTAL YARDS. Thats not a typo. Even more impressive is the fact that the defense held a Stanford running attack, which has been the staple of their offense, to only 47 yards rushing. Thats right, 47 yards. Stanford had not been held to that few rushing yards since 2006. The ability of the defense to shut down the run really set up the Irish for success forcing David Shaw to change his stratagy from his normal two tight end sets to more of a spread attack which played right into what Notre Dame wanted to do defensively. With the running game shut down the Cardinal was forced to pass more than they had planned for and the Irish defense responded. Kevin Hogan went 18-36 for 158 yards and two interceptions, both by Cole Luke, who probably played his best game of the season. Brian VanGorder kept Stanford guessing the entire game with his defensive game plan and never allowed the Cardinal to get in any sort of rhythm. Notre Dame’s third down defense impressed again only allowing Stanford to convert 5 of 14 third down attempts. Had it not been for Everett Golson’s fumble deep in the redone in the first quarter, it is safe to assume that the Cardinal may have only scored 7 points. Stanford’s score in the fourth quarter was the only drive that was able to move down the field against the Irish. In a game where Stanford’s defense was supposed to be the elite unit, Notre Dame’s defense out played the Cardinal and made a loud and definitive statement to the rest of the college football world.

Notre Dame won the game sure but they really should have won the game by much more than they did. They left a lot of points on the field and played a pretty sloppy game in the grand scheme of things. And to me thats what makes this win over Stanford even more impressive. The Irish made their fair share of mistakes, had players playing with the flu, and had to deal with awful weather conditions and they were still able to beat a Stanford team that most predicted to come into South Bend and win. Notre Dame still needs to clean up some things on both sides of the ball but their potential for an outstanding season is through the roof. This team’s play has already exceeded what I expected for this season and if they are able to fix some of the issues they still have they will be hard for anyone to beat.

Tuesday’s With Brian Kelly – Stanford Week

-SSG Shamrock

Brian Kelly met with the media for his weekly Tuesday press conference as the Irish prepare to take on Stanford on Saturday at Notre Dame Stadium. Down the Tunnel was there and sifts through the coach speak to provide you the key tidbits.

  • Coach Kelly talked about the challenge Stanford will present this weekend. He praised their veteran players including quarterback Kevin Hogan and receiver Ty Montgomery. He also called Stanford’s defense the best in the country
  • In discussing some of the turnovers from the Syracuse game Coach Kelly talked about the fumble on the direct snap when Golson was trying to spike the ball at the end of the first half. Kelly said that Golson heard the whistle blow and he stopped playing which is the way he was taught.
  • Coach Kelly also talked about the play of the receiving corps through the first four games of the season. He was very impressed with the entire group and praised their perimeter blocking. Coach mentioned that Will Fuller is getting more and more confident every week.
  • Everett Golson was the FBS Independent Offensive Player of the week however when Coach Kelly told Golson he wasn’t all that excited about it and maybe felt that he didn’t deserve it.
  • Ben Council will be a part of the defensive rotation this weekend against Stanford
  • Amir Carlise is clear for all activities and should be good to go this weekend. Austin Collinsworth should also be able to contribute this weekend.
  • Jared Grace is continuing to make progress everyday but its unclear when he will have that “break through day”
  • Coach Kelly stated that he has no idea what the process is this week with the academic hearings and also does not know when the decisions of the hears will be completed.
  • Kelly make it clear that Notre Dame is going to need to get big chunk plays on offense if they expect to beat Stanford. Coming into the game Stanford has only allowed four plays of 20 yards or more all season long.
  • In the most bizarre question of the day, someone actually asked Coach Kelly if he had any thoughts of inserting Malik Zaire into the game against Syracuse. Not joking. And to be expected Kelly stated the thought never crossed his mind.
  • Kelly praised CJ Prosise’s skill set of having a burst, he can catch the football, and he can block very well. He still needs to work on route running and tracking he deep ball but Kelly is pleased with his play so far.

Tuesday Chat with Brian Kelly – Syracuse Week

-SSG Shamrock

Brian Kelly met with the media today to discuss this weekend’s contest with the Syracuse Orangemen as well provide some new information on the ongoing academic investigation. Down the Tunnel was there and has all the pertinent information from Coach Kelly’s weekly press conference.

Key Information 

  • On the weekly depth chart release there was a significant shake up on the offensive line. The revamped offensive line has Ronnie Stanley at LT, Nick Martin at LG, Matt Hegarty at Center, Steve Elmer at RG, and Christian Lombard at RT. Coach Kelly did make sure to note that this may not be the exact offensive line that starts on Saturday and that Connor Hanratty and Mike McGlinchey will also receive first team reps this week.
  • Amir Carlise is OUT this week against Syracuse and is should be seen as questionable for next week against Stanford. Coach Kelly said that Carlise has been responding well to his PRP treatments and will start moving him around at the end of the week.
  • Torii Hunter is slated to make his Notre Dame debut this weekend and will get work with CJ Prosise in the slot.
  • Austin Collinsworth will be back in the lineup this weekend after missing the first three games with an MCL sprain.
  • Brian Kelly said that he was informed last Friday that the academic committee had been official formed and that if all goes well the hearings should be concluded by the end of NEXT week. Kelly also made it clear he was not a spokesman of the administration and that when a student is notified of a violation, only the student is notified and not the parents.
  • Coach Kelly stated that there is still not a “go to number one” running back in the backfield. Greg Bryant has been doing a very good job of understanding schemes but he has to unseat two players in Tarean Folston and Cam McDaniel that have played a lot of football game. Bryant has only played in three college games and still has work to do.
  • Kelly talked about the ACC conference alignment and how the main factors that went into the decision was ensuring high quality bowl tie-ins as well as a conference that made geographic sense for Notre Dame.
  • Kelly said that Malik Zaire is getting 60% of the reps in practice on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and 40% of the reps on Thursday. The amount of reps that Zaire gets just shows how confident the staff is in Golson as the quarterback. Kelly said there is no temptation to play Zaire at all.
  • Kelly gave credit to Paul Longo and Brian VanGorder for having so many freshman ready to play and contribute on the defensive side of the ball. Kelly also said they knew before the season that the staff knew they were going to have to play freshman but they didn’t know exactly who would emerge.

Check back all week long for all your Notre Dame coverage of this weekends matchup against Syracuse and dont forget to tune into the first broadcast of the Down the Tunnel Radio show on Thursday night. We will be taking your calls live!

One Last time. A Michigan Preview

-Sgt Shamrock

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

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

Offense:

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

Defense:

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

Prediction:

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

Other Games This Weekend:

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

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

Championship Weekend Preview.

– Sgt Shamrock

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.