Wednesday, January 7, 2015
And so the drama starts. Earlier this week there was a report that Everett Golson was interested in transferring to LSU. As it always goes, Golson and his people denied it. But there will be rumors like this all offseason. Golson along with Ohio State's Braxton Miller could be the missing piece for a team that is otherwise looking ready for a title run. LSU certainly fits that profile as they have arguably the best defense in the SEC and an outstanding young runner in Leonard Fournette. But they are weak at the quarterback position. It's no wonder that both Golson and Miller have been rumored to go there.
With all the schools out there, the odds of him ending up at LSU are probably slim. But let's just humor ourselves for a little bit. I can certainly see why LSU would be interested in Golson. He made some big passes in the Music City Bowl despite limited playing time. He is on the one who engineered the late drive that led to the game winning field goal. That was after taking a vicious hit that required a shot at halftime.
I can also certainly see why Golson would be interested in LSU. He will have a great line which will help with the turnover problem. He will have a great defense and an explosive back. The Tigers would immediately be set up to be a contender in the SEC and also for the playoff. The only problem is that they would be set up for one year as that is all Golson has left. That would require Golson to learn a new offense in a very short time. That is not easy.
It would also place a lot of attention on Notre Dame and Brian Kelly. Although Malik Zaire was very impressive in the Music City Bowl with the plays he made, he really was more of a running threat than he was passing. He had less than 100 yards passing and most of his throws were safe. Kelly would be letting a big name like Golson get away for a prospect who has a lot of potential. Zaire certainly has potential but potential means you have done nothing yet. That is definitely a risk.
Can you imagine if LSU makes the Playoff with Golson and Notre Dame is in another Music City or Pinstripe Bowl? Kelly would certainly have a lot to answer for there. At the same time, if Golson were to struggle at LSU and Notre Dame made the Playoff or even New Year's Six with Zaire, Kelly would look like a genius.
Golson to LSU probably will not become a reality, but it certainly would create drama if it did.
Sunday, January 4, 2015
One of the most interesting stories for the offseason not only for Notre Dame but all of college football will be the decision of Everett Golson. After the Music City Bowl, he stated that his immediate plans are to return to Notre Dame for the spring semester in which he will graduate in May. After that he is unsure. He basically has three options. He can remain at Notre Dame, transfer, or enter the NFL Draft. It will not be an easy choice for him as each one has risk and reward. Let's look at those choices.
Option #1-Stay at Notre Dame
As a Notre Dame fan, I hope he picks this one. After watching that Music City Bowl, it appears to many that Coach Brian Kelly has decided to give the ball to Malik Zaire as the regular quarterback. However, Kelly can never be predicted and I am not sure that it is as set in stone as it would appear. Zaire did get most of the snaps in the Music City Bowl, but I am not sure that would have been the case if Golson hadn't taken that vicious hit in the second quarter. He had to take a halftime shot for that.
Also, Zaire had less than 100 yards throwing and most of his passes were short and safe. It was Golson who hit most of the deep passes and especially on that critical last drive. So I am not convinced at all that Kelly has it set in his mind that Zaire is the main guy going forward.
I do think that Kelly wants to use more of a two quarterback system with the two. While the old adage is that if you have two you have none, there are exceptions and this is one of them. Golson is the veteran but only has a year left. Zaire has a lot of skill but is still raw. Each is different. When Golson is in, it seems like he is trying to do everything himself where as when Zaire is in, it appears like you have 11 guys working together.
Golson does need to learn that being a leader doesn't mean doing everything himself. Kelly said that two years ago he was riding the bus but driving it this year. Well, he looked like a good driver at times, other times he looked afraid to get behind the wheel, and other times he looked like he was driving drunk. Consistency is an issue but that gets back to using your teammates.
Maybe with a two quarterback system he will be more relaxed.
Option #2-NFL Draft
I still haven't heard his draft grade, but I only advise quarterbacks to come out early if they are a likely first day pick. With Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston out there, I am not seeing it. I really think the turnovers would rub the NFL teams the wrong way. They want to see him clean that up first.
Earlier I said as a Notre Dame fan, I hope he stays. But if I were advising him, I am not sure if that is in his best interests. I have no doubt that the two quarterback system can work. I am not questioning that at all. What I am questioning is whether Golson should want anything to do with it. Transferring in his last season did wonders for Russell Wilson. NFL teams will scratch their heads though on a guy who split time his senior year. So being that he is graduating and will not have to sit, it might be smart to look at this.
He will have to learn a new system quick so it might be advisable to pick a school that he has some familiar faces. One school that immediately stands out is Miami of Ohio. He is familiar with Chuck Martin. Although the team was not good, Andrew Hendirx had a good year throwing for them. There is no reason to believe that Golson can't do really well there. Another choice that makes since is Connecticut. He knows Bob Diaco and I am sure the OC is someone he is familiar with. Another choice might be Northwestern as Tommy Rees who was a good mentor to Golson is there now.
Those are his options and it will be interesting to see what he decides.
Friday, January 2, 2015
When Notre Dame made the decision to play LSU in the Music City Bowl, I am sure that starting a streak of losses for the SEC West was the last thing they were worried about. After a season that began so strong but ended in a big collapse, ending on a positive note was the only thing the Fighting Irish was worried about.
Nonetheless, Notre Dame and their fans have had to deal with what all other college football teams and their fans have to deal with. That is constantly listening to ESPN talk about how great the SEC is. Nobody can deny the impressive run they have had. However, I find it especially irritating that they schedule lots of FCS team and are never held accountable for it. That is especially true for the SEC West. The SEC East at least has end of season rivals with the ACC.
For years the conference has gotten away with that and we still hear how their schedules are so tough. This season was a little different as there was the perception that the SEC West had actually separated itself from the SEC East and was dominant in all of college football. The Playoff committee clearly showed SEC West bias in the early polls before they ultimately did get it right.
Notre Dame and all college football fans grew tired of hearing about the "mighty SEC West." Ironically when the bowl season began it looked like the entire SEC would just dominate once again. South Carolina from the East defeated Miami in the Independence Bowl. Texas A & M from the West defeated West Virginia in the Liberty Bowl. That same day Arkansas from the West destroyed Texas in the Texas Bowl.
Next game Notre Dame's great win over LSU. That did not look like a streak would be created though because that same day Georgia from the East crushed Louisville in the Belk Bowl. At that point, the conference as a whole was looking good as they were 4-1. The East was 2-0 and the mighty West was 2-1.
Ironically since then the East picked up another victory via Missouri over Minnesota in the Citrus Bowl. The SEC East is 3-0 so far with a chance for their division to go unbeaten. Tennessee will be favored over Iowa in the Taxslayer Bowl and Florida can end on a positive note against ECU in the Birmingham Bowl. But for the supposed superior West, the Notre Dame win created a streak that let's just say has made it a bad three days for the "best division in all of college football."
TCU crushed Ole Miss in the Peach Bowl.
Georgia Tech kept in going against Mississippi State in the Orange Bowl.
Wisconsin shocked Auburn in the Outback Bowl.
But the biggest blow of all was Ohio State over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl/Playoff Semifinal.
So although they didn't plan it that way, Notre Dame began something big. The SEC West had a belief that they were just better than the rest of college football, but the rest of college football would have none of it. It kind of reminded me when Hitler had this belief that Germans were the master race but Jessie Owens came in and won all those Gold medals and blew his theory out the door. What these wins showed is that the SEC West is simply not superior to anybody in college football. They lost to the Big 10, ACC, Big 12, and the Independent that started it all. Maybe next year the committee won't show such bias in the early polls.
Tuesday, December 30, 2014
I am not sure where to start on this one. I have never been more happy to be wrong. Going into this, I really was not excited to watch. I thought that it was a mistake to accept this match up. I thought that it would be ugly and look bad for Notre Dame. Well as it turns out, this just might be the biggest win in Coach Kelly's tenure.
One of my biggest concerns was the defense. With the injuries and Brian VanGorder's tendency to non-stop blitz, I thought the Tigers would run all over them. It was a good surprise to see that the Irish got back to a simple front with good tackling and not allowing the big play. Only twice did they allow a big play. Both were touchdowns, but for them to only give up three scores to an SEC team is pretty impressive. I was very impressed with the fact that the defense gave up nothing in the 4th quarter. Bend but don't break defense may not be as fun or as exciting, but it is better fundamental defense. I hope VanGorder learned something.
Now getting to the story of the game. Kelly made a bold and risky decision to start Malik Zaire over Everett Golson. Make no mistake about it, Zaire looked really good. He threw a touchdown on his first drive and also ran another one in. He showed his mobility by adding 96 yards running. The ESPN commentators made sound as if the team is moving on from Golson.
But I am not so sure about that and here is why. Zaire only had 96 passing yards and most of his throws were very safe. The play calling in the second half was very conservative. When the team needed to throw downfield, Golson was brought in. With the game one the line and the team needing a long drive to get the field goal, it was Golson who was brought in to complete those big passes. In very limited duty Golson did a very nice job and had 90 big yards passing. It was clear that in spite of all the turnovers, Kelly still had more confidence in Golson with the game on the line.
Even in his post game interview, Kelly said that Zaire did a nice job of what they asked him to do. That means that who will be the quarterback next season is not as clear cut as ESPN was making it sound. It will be an interesting spring and this year's Blue-Gold game might be the biggest one ever.
One thing I really liked about Zaire is that he didn't try to do everything himself. He realized he has 10 other guys out there. The line played better with him in there and the offense as a unit looked more like a unit rather than just one guy trying to do everything. Maybe that could be a learning point for Golson that he doesn't have to do everything.
It will also be interesting to see what Golson decides to do. He clearly will not have the same role with the team next year. At the very least, he will have to split time. Can a two quarterback system work? Absolutely! It worked in the bowl game and Kelly made it work at Cincinnati. The better question is will Golson want any part of that?
Sharing time will affect his numbers and that cannot help his NFL prospects. He might want to transfer. Miami of Ohio could be an attractive place. Chuck Martin is there and Andrew Hendrix had a great year there even though the team did not. The next few weeks will be interesting.
Regardless of who is playing quarterback next season, I definitely feel a lot better now. All the injured and suspended players will return. That can only make the defense more deep. I can't wait for next season.
In closing, I just want to congratulate Tommy Rees on getting a job at Northwestern. I know he will be a great coach there.
Monday, December 29, 2014
Predicting a bowl game is never easy. The regular season has been over for a month and it is hard to see how a team will respond after the layoff. It is especially true when you have two teams who play in a game that was much lower than expectations at the beginning of the season. So how Notre Dame and LSU come out in this game will be interesting to see. For Notre Dame, it will be especially interesting to see who all is even healthy on the defensive side of the side after a season that saw 14 injuries.
The media is saying that both teams had roller coaster seasons. For Notre Dame the only ride I can think of that would fit would be the Demon Drop at Cedar Point. It is one where a cart goes all the way up to the top and then just like that it is a free fall. That is clearly what the Irish season was. They were sitting at 7-1 with their only loss to Florida State in a very controversial fashion. Then came the disaster in the desert, an embarrassment to Northwestern, and ugly games to Louisville and USC.
For LSU, it was more of a traditional roller coaster as they began the year with a dramatic win against Wisconsin. Then they blew out two cupcakes because well the SEC schedules cupcakes. Then they had a set back against Mississippi State before blowing out another cupcake. Next they got blown out by Auburn and then barely beat an underwhelming Florida team. The Tigers appeared to have righted the ship after impressive wins over Kentucky and Ole Miss. They took Alabama to overtime. But then like Notre Dame, they folded down the stretch by losing to Arkansas and barely beating Texas A & M.
The thing that is similar is that both teams had a loss to a playoff team that could have gone the other way. That means that there is ability on both teams. We all know what Everett Golson can do when he is on with all the receiving weapons he has. Golson will have to split time in the game with Malik Zaire. But who is playing quarterback is inconsequential if the defense doesn't do better than how they ended. Again, how healthy they are will be huge. The Tigers have a tough runner in Freshman Leonard Fournette who gained 891 yards with 8 touchdowns. Sophomore quarterback Anthony Jennings had just 10 touchdown passes with 7 interceptions. Their best receiver is sophomore Travin Dural who only had 37 catches for 758 yards and just 7 touchdowns. Compare that to Will Fuller who had 71 catches for 1037 yards and 14 touchdowns. It is clear that stopping the run will be key.
This bowl is between two big name programs who underachieved. It will be interesting to see how each team comes out.
Saturday, December 20, 2014
Earlier this week, some Notre Dame fans but not me got excited to hear that Jimmy Clausen will get a second chance as a starter in the NFL. When he was at Notre Dame, there were only two occasions when he got me excited. The first was the Hawaii Bowl in which he had his best college game and I was there. I was so excited that I was convinced the Irish would contend for the BCS the next season. But after another disappointing 6-6 season he excited me for the second time when he announced he was leaving. I knew the team would be better once he left.
I already know I am going to have so many try to convince me how great he was. That of course is based on nothing but his stats his junior year. That alone is a silly way to judge a quarterback. The stats are a big factor but that is not how quarterbacks are ultimately graded. They are looked at by how far they take a team. He had a career record of 16-19 and that Hawaii Bowl was the farthest they went.
When you company that with the fact that Clausen made his announcement at the Hall of Fame and then showed up on campus in a hummer holding up 4 fingers, that is the definition of a disappointment. That is a disappointment in capital letters. If you needed a picture for the word disappointment, you can use Clausen.
I know. I know. I know. Spare me the nonsense about his stats and how bad the defense was. Yes the defense was slightly better than this years defense, but look at the game film of the 6 losses that year and pay close attention to Clausen with the ball in his hands with the game on the line. He choked regularly.
If you want to know how he had such great stats, a good place to look is at the other sideline this Sunday and you will see Golden Tate who consistently bailed him out on balls that were thrown into traffic.
Although Notre Dame fans may not see this but NFL teams did as he was not taken on the first day. Carolina gave up on him after one season. Make no mistake of it. He is not starting now because he earned it but because Jay Cutler lost it. Expect the Detroit Lions to make an example of him and show just how overrated he really was.
Tuesday, December 9, 2014
We all know the history of Notre Dame and Navy. We know how World War II put Notre Dame in a huge financial strain. One that the school would not have survived if not for the actions of the Naval Academy. We hear that story every year when Notre Dame and Navy play each other. This has traditionally been one of my personal favorite games.
That is until recently. Lately, it seems that every year when the Irish and Midshipmen play each other, Notre Dame suffers more injuries than it needs and has suffered embarrassing losses the following week to teams like Tulsa and Pittsburgh. Even in the 12-0 year, the team barely beat a physically inferior Purdue team the week after Navy. This year, that game hit Notre Dame harder than ever. That was when the injury problems really started. The worst loss that game was Joe Schmidt.
After the Navy game, Notre Dame was 7-1 and very much alive in the discussion for the playoff. But the injury problems on defense continued and 4 straight losses followed.
Looking ahead to next season, I cringe at the idea of this game being right before USC. I also notice that Georgia Tech is on the schedule just a couple games earlier. They have Navy's old coach so it is almost like a double whammy sort of speak. The potential fallout could be devastating once again.
That has led many Notre Dame fans to wonder if keeping this game is in the school's best interests. There are those who say Notre Dame gains nothing by playing this game. A win over Navy will not boost their ranking. It is a no win especially with all the injuries that occur.
There are also those who say that the Irish owe to Navy to keep them on the schedule. My response to that is this. Suppose you own a home in Hawaii but you are going through financial difficulty and are in risk of losing it. A rich man decides to help you out and you save your home. In return you allow him to stay there anytime he wants to go to Hawaii. It goes on for years and all is well. You both pass away, but your kid honors the deal with his kid. His kid is a bit of a slob and throws crazy parties. He leaves the place trashed. There is no way you would continue to honor that agreement.
World War II ended in 1945 and it is now 2014. That is 69 years. Whatever debt Notre Dame owed to Navy is paid for and then some. Notre Dame is basically doing the Naval Academy a favor at this point. The fact is that every year we see that Navy players diving right toward the knees. I saw the same thing the other night when Georgia Tech played Florida State. Anybody who has coached football at any level knows that that is "Bush League." If Notre Dame would have done that to Alabama two years ago, it would have been all over ESPN. But Navy gets away with it because they are the ones who risk their lives every day/ Criticizing a service academy kind of looks bad, so they will not call a spade a spade.
Notre Dame cannot just ignore this. They can start by sending a letter to Navy and tell them clearly that this game will be removed from the schedule if that cut-blocking stuff doesn't stop.
If they still want to honor the World War II memories, the schools can make a new arrangement and play in basketball.
Another option would be to make a new agreement with the service academies that Notre Dame will only play one each year. That game will be either at home or the Shamrock Series. Also, make it on Championship Saturday so Notre Dame is playing that day even though it is not in a conference championship. Air Force would have to keep that weekend open though because they might have to play in the Mountain West Championship. So on their year, Notre Dame would have to play them earlier. The advantage to this is that the team would not have a game for a few weeks which should be enough time to heal.
If not that weekend, maybe they could open the season with the service academy game and have a bye immediately following. That would be early enough to where the team can heal without having too much of a negative impact. Also, having an early bye would enable Notre Dame to schedule a game that Championship Saturday possibly with BYU.
The Navy game is not a game I want to see go away, but at some point Notre Dame has to be practical.