Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Notre Dame Among Four Teams Left in BCS Title Hunt

Now sitting at #3 in the BCS poll with four games remaining, Notre Dame can realistically be playing in the BCS Title game. After beating Oklahoma convincingly, they now take a small glimpse of what their future will look like. They play three ACC teams if you count Pittsburgh who like Notre Dame will soon join the ACC.

The combined record of Pittsburgh, Boston College, and Wake Forest is 10-14. Therefore, the Fighting Irish will be heavy favorites in three games that lead up to USC. That can be a little scary in a sense that these are the kind of games where it is easy to let your guard down.

Notre Dame has to contend with the polls more than the other three teams since they don't play any of them.
The computers have been kind to Notre Dame because of their schedule. That may change since the schedule is a little softer.

That is not the case for the other contenders.

Alabama Crimson Tide

The defending champs are still #1, but their schedule is about to get tougher. This week they have the epic rematch of last year's BCS title game with LSU who not only want revenge, but also know that they would be back in the title picture with a win. The Tigers are currently #5. If Alabama gets by LSU, they will have no time to rest as another tough SEC opponent in Texas A & M will be next up for them. The Aggies are currently 6-2.  

It will then get a little easier for the Crimson Tide when they face an FCS team in Western Carolina. They end with their annual in state showdown with Auburn. This should not be one to remember in this storied rivalry as the Tigers have struggled to a record of 1-7. The SEC Championship game would be next and it will be another tough game whether it is Florida, Georgia, or South Carolina.

With a schedule like this, Alabama will be in the title game with an undefeated season. What is interesting though is that the SEC is regarded as the toughest conference. Therefore, can a one loss SEC champ get in the title game over not one but potentially two undefeated teams. That is a interesting question.

Kansas State Wildcats

I do take a bit of an issue with Kansas State being ranked ahead of Notre Dame. They have played two common opponents. The first was Miami where the Wildcats beat the Hurricanes by 39 and the Irish beat them by 38. That is not much of a difference. The other one was road games at Oklahoma. If not for mistakes the Sooners might have beat the Wildcats and they were still one play away from a win. The Irish just beat them very impressively.

Nonetheless, Kansas State does have impressive victories over West Virginia and Texas Tech. It won't get any easier for them either as their remaining schedule only has one team with a losing record in Baylor. The other three teams (Oklahoma State, TCU, and Texas) all have winning records and will be tough tests for the Wildcats.

Oregon Ducks

For the Ducks, it is real simple. They are an impressive 8-0 but the toughest part of their schedule is still ahead of them. Like Notre Dame, they have to play at USC who would love nothing more than to spoil the plans for both the Ducks and the Irish. Oregon might actually have to see them twice if in the title game. The Ducks also still have to play Stanford and in state rival Oregon State who are both tough opponents.

Unlike Alabama, Kansas State, and Oregon, the toughest part of Notre Dame's schedule other than USC is behind them. That can be good or bad depending on how things play out. The last month will be very exciting for sure.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

At 8-0, Notre Dame is For Real

Nobody can deny it now. After holding one of the best offenses in the country to 13 points, Notre Dame is for real and in the conversation for a national title. When they were 7-0, many people still doubted the team they were. They hadn't really "played anybody" was the argument. The Big Ten is weak and Stanford is not as good as they used to be. They barely beat BYU.

After going into Norman and beating Oklahoma in a convincing fashion, all of that is out the window. What is most special about it is that many Notre Dame fans including myself had doubts that The Fighting Irish would come out on top. In fact, when Oklahoma tied it at 13 in the middle of the fourth quarter, I was saying, "Great job Notre Dame! You fought hard."

I thought Oklahoma would then take over and win. Little did I know that Everett Golson would hit Freshman  Chris Brown on a beautiful 50 yard bomb. That would set up Golson to take it in to regain the lead with just four minutes to go.

Manti Te'o would make another big interception like he has done all year. That led to a field goal to seal the game. Theo Riddick added a late touchdown.

The way the game started, it didn't look like Notre Dame would once again dominate defensively. Oklahoma moved the ball right down the field on the first drive before a poor snap put them in 2nd and 19. They never recovered.

The next drive went down for a field goal. That didn't matter as Cierre Wood answered quickly with a 62 yard run.

For Notre Dame's defense to be able to hold this offense to 13 points is truly an accomplishment. However, the offense is also beginning to come along nicely as well. The combination of Riddick, Wood, and Golson rushed for a combined 215 rushing yards. Golson was 13 of 25 for 177 yards. Tommy Rees showed once again his value as he only completed one pass but it was a big one. It was an 11 yard strike to Tyler Eifert on third down that led to a field goal.

With four games left, Notre Dame is one of four teams still talking National title.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Everett Golson Needs to Have a Breakout Game Against Oklahoma

This Saturday, Notre Dame will play in it's biggest game since the 2007 Sugar Bowl. Being ranked #5 in the BCS is quite an accomplishment for this program that has had many mediocre seasons since that Sugar Bowl.

However, Notre Dame is not satisfied with where they are. There are five games left with Oklahoma and USC being the key games. Oklahoma has been putting up 50+ points quite regularly. However, they have not faced a defense like Notre Dame's who has only given up five touchdowns all year and none on the ground.

Who will win that battle will be interesting. Will the Sooners continue to light up the scoreboard or will the Fighting Irish dominate defensively once again. The truth will probably be somewhere in the middle. Oklahoma will probably not put up 50 but Notre Dame will probably not be able to keep them under 20.

That means that the offense will have to keep pace if the Irish are to remain unbeaten. It was funny that last week so many thought that Tommy Rees should be the starter. Many of them quickly turned on Rees after he had an up and down performance. My position remains what it always was that Rees should not be the starter but he is a very valuable backup.

Everett Golson has also been inconsistent all year as well but he is growing each week as a quarterback. After his struggles against Michigan, he responded with a great game against Miami. He struggled against Stanford early but he did respond after his fumble in the endzone was recovered for a touchdown. Fans only remember that Rees came in for the save, they forget that it was Golson who hit Tyler Eifert to pull within three and that the drive that got the game tying field goal started with Golson. So Rees only came in due to injury, not performance.

Having said that, Golson is going to have to step up his game like never before. It was evident last week that as tough as Rees is, the offense is just too limited with him in there. Golson has to be the guy to lead this team to victory. The trio of running backs (Cierre Wood, Theo Riddick, and George Atkinson) will likely be the focal point for the Sooner defense.

If Notre Dame is to pull of this win, Golson needs to lead this team to at least 25 points.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Notre Dame Still #5 in BCS Poll

To Nobody's surprise, Notre Dame did not move up or down in the BCS poll. No team ahead of them lost so they should not expect to. Kansas State and Florida both turned what was supposed to be tough conference match ups into blow outs. Oregon and Alabama continued to win impressively.

There is no need for the Irish to worry all that much yet. They still play at Oklahoma and USC. Wins over them will be impressive. Either Alabama or Florida will lose in the SEC title game assuming neither lose prior to then.

Oregon still has the tough part of their schedule as they still play USC (possibly twice), Stanford, and Oregon State. A loss is definitely possible. However, if it is Oregon State that beats them, then they could jump way up in the rankings since the Beavers are also unbeaten.

Kansas State's remaining schedule is tough also. It starts this week as they host Texas Tech.  Then they host Oklahoma State before taking road trips to TCU and Baylor. They end by hosting Texas. That is pretty brutal.

Notre Dame can only control how they prepare each week. Therefore, if they continue to go one game at a time take care of business. All that other stuff will take care of itself.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

An Ugly Win is Still Good Enough for 7-0

One of Notre Dame's games that would be highlighted going into the season when the schedule came out was Oklahoma. Now if you told any Fighting Irish fan that they would be 7-0 going into that game, anybody would take it.  Well here they are 7-0 with a trip to Norman next weekend.

Having said that, Notre Dame played it's worse game of the year against BYU. I know many Irish fans will want to put it on Tommy Rees, but it is not on him. For the record, I was never one who was calling for him to start over Everett Golson. My previous write ups will show that. However, I also know that Rees has done a really good job this season in his new role.

Not only that he is now 14-4 in his career as a starter. That is often forgotten as many only want to point to turnovers. The interception today was not on him. It should have have caught by Davaris Daniels. His numbers weren't great (7-16 for 117 yards with 1 TD and 1 INT). However, he made some big throws early to All American Tyler Eifert who had 4 catches for 73 yards and a touchdown in the first quarter.

Yes, he only had one completion in the second half, but it was a big one. He hit TJ Jones for 31 yards. That play started the winning touchdown drive.

Rees was not the main problem at all. The part of the game that was ugliest was honestly the defense in the second quarter. They gave up two touchdowns within about three minutes. That was after not giving up one since the Purdue game. The part that was most disturbing was that all year Notre Dame had been a good tackling team and didn't commit bad penalties. Unfortunately, those were huge problems in the second quarter and the result was two touchdowns.

The defense was much better in the second half as they did not surrender a point and tackled better. Kaeperon Lewis-Moore did have a facemask on a third and long, but it looked to be a hussle mistake rather than a mental one. We can live with that.

On a positive note, the Irish rushing attack was dominant in the second half. They totaled 270 yards on the ground. Theo Riddick had a career day rushing for 143 yards on 15 carries. His longest run of 55 yards was one where he should have been stopped for a loss on third down, but he showed his heart by staying up and breaking tackles. That play was arguably the one that brought life back to Notre Dame.

Cierre Wood also had a big day gaining 114 yards on 18 carries. George Atkinson didn't have a big day but he did get that big score on a reverse where Riddick was the decoy.

Here's the bottom line, Rees wasn't great but he got the win. There were plenty of other parts of the game that was uglier. Even still, Notre Dame is 7-0 heading into Oklahoma who is involved in a trap game of their own against our old friends Charlie Weis and Dayne Crist along with the rest of the Kansas Jayhawks.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

What Makes BYU Dangerous

When looking at the schedule, Notre Dame fans look at BYU as another tough opponent but a winnable game. Looking at the Cougars season, they are 4-3 against a schedule that doesn't compare to Notre Dame's.

They opened with wins over Washington State and Weber State. Neither are worth sticking your chest out too far. Then they had heartbreaking losses to Utah and Boise State. Both of whom have had down years. The Utes are 2-4 and the Broncos are not as good as their 5-1 record.

BYU then did blow out Hawaii, but that is like an NFL team beating the Jets. It doesn't count. Then they edged out Utah State in a defensive struggle 6-3, before being blown out by Oregon State.

Not only have they struggled to a mediocre record against an inferior schedule, but both quarterbacks Riley Nelson and Taysom Hill have had injuries. Based on that, Notre Dame should beat BYU as long as they keep doing what they have been doing.

So why then would any Notre Dame fan even be worried about a team like this? I have two words, "Trap Game." After coming off an emotional and controversial win against Stanford in overtime, the Irish became 6-0. That is good enough for bowl eligibility and #5 in the first BCS poll.

On the same day, Oklahoma put up an impressive 63 points against arch-rival Texas. Ordinarily that would not be relevant to Notre Dame, but the Fighting Irish will travel to Norman next week for a game that is setting up to have major BCS and national title implications.

As much as we say one game at a time, it is humanly impossible not to at least take a glance if not look ahead entirely. To be honest, the same thing can happen to Oklahoma as they face a struggling Kansas team that features our old friends Dayne Crist, Charlie Weis, and Mike Ragone.

I have seen this happen way too many times when a team is sandwiched between two really big games and they pull off an upset. Brian Kelly has done a great job of keeping the team focused on the task at hand. This may be the week where that is needed more than ever.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Irish Need to Find a Role for Andrew Hendrix

When Andrew Hendrix came to Notre Dame three years ago, he had visions of one day leading the team through the tunnel and on the field as the team's starting quarterback. Being that he is behind Everett Golson who is a freshman and Junior Tommy Rees, it is safe to say that it would take a string of unforeseen events for that to ever happen.

I am in no way calling for him to be the quarterback, but he is way too talented of an athlete to be standing on the sideline with a headset as the third string quarterback. I remember him pulling off a 90 yard run last season. I was never sold on him as a quarterback, but I certainly felt that he should be playing.

With Cierre Wood and Theo Riddick both being Seniors, there will be a spot at running back. George Atkinson can't carry the load by himself.

Robbie Toma and John Goodman are also seniors so there will be room for more receivers. However, do we really want to wait until next season to use him and have only two years.

With all the injuries the Irish have had in the secondary, I say try him as a defensive back. That is where he can make an impact right away. Lots of players who were quarterbacks in high school be safeties in college. That is because it is a position that also lines up the unit and reads the opposition to make a call.

Right now, Hendrix could play in nickel and dime situations. With the graduation of Zeke Motta, he can compete for the starting job next season.

I know that he has always been a quarterback but he is just too good of athlete to not find a role for. Defensive back would be something new for him but the coaches should have him practice. As long as he doesn't tackle like a girl, give him a shot.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

There Is Something Different About Tommy Rees

With the success of Notre Dame this year, there are so many upperclassmen such as Cierre Wood, Tyler Eifert, Manti Te'o, Prince Shembo, etc. who you have to feel good for. They have all been there for previous struggles and have to be happy with this year.

Probably the player I feel best for though is Tommy Rees. That may sound strange being that he is now the backup to freshman sensation Everett Golson. However, Rees has made an enormous contribution to the team's success. He has come in an led the team to victories against Purdue, Michigan, and Stanford.

Watching him this year compared to last, he just seems different. Last year, fans had to hold their breath every time he dropped back wondering if the next throw would be picked off or if he would fumble. Although Notre Dame did win consistently with Rees, he was a turnover machine his first two years. This year he has yet to turn it over.

Although Golson is the guy with all the talent and the future, he is still a work in progress. Therefore, it is nice to have a guy like Rees who Coach Brian Kelly can depend on when needed. Looking at Notre Dame's remaining schedule, it is predictable when Rees will be needed again. He won't be needed this week, but he will be against Oklahoma. Then he won't be needed again until USC and then again in the bowl game.

This situation is healthy for the team and I think it actually helps in the development of Golson. Rees is the best back up quarterback in college football.

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Secret Behind What Makes the Irish Defense So Good


Notre Dame Lands at #5 in the First BCS Poll

Wow! What a first half of the season it was! It started in Ireland and it featured three prime time games. Two were against Michigan rivals and the other renewed a rivalry with a trip to Chicago. It ended back in South Bend with a dogfight in rainy Notre Dame Stadium as the Irish defeated Stanford in overtime. Notre Dame still hasn't given up a touchdown in over a month. The offense is progressing into what it can be.

Meanwhile, Notre Dame keeps winning and climbing in the polls. As the BCS poll debuted on Sunday, The Fighting Irish ranked #5. The computers actually had them at #2. All the teams in the top five are undefeated.

Alabama is #1 to nobody's surprise. Florida was #2 which was a little surprising. However, that won't really affect anything because they will play each other in the SEC title game if they both keep winning. Therefore, one will lose.

Coming in at #3 was Oregon. That could be a potential problem for Notre Dame to overtake them if the Ducks win out. That could be hard though because they have a tough remaining schedule that starts this Thursday with 5-1 Arizona State. They will also play USC (possibly twice), Stanford, and in-state rival Oregon State. To be honest, if they win out against that schedule they deserve it.

Kansas State is #4. They still have to win tough road tests against West Virginia and TCU. They also still have to play Texas Tech. There are potential for losses there but Notre Dame might be able to pass them even if they don't lose.

Those are all things Notre Dame can't actually worry about though. They can't control them. All they can control is how they prepare and how they play each week. Now that the first step of bowl eligibility is accomplished, The Fighting Irish can now start positioning itself for a BCS run. The only way to accomplish it though is by continuing to go one game at a time. Next up is BYU who is another tough defensive team.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Defense is Once Again Dominant For Bowl Eligible Notre Dame Against Stanford

On a day that was wet and rainy, something happened after Everett Golson fumbled in the endzone. Stanford recovered the fumble and the Irish trailed for the first time all year. It was in the second quarter. Then Golson responded with a long drive that unfortunately ended in a fumble to Stanford. The Cardinal then drove the ball to end the half with a long field goal of 49 yards. Notre Dame trailed at halftime 10-3.

That didn't deter the defense at all who gave up about 19 yards in the third quarter. They also intercepted Josh Nunes twice. Stefan Taylor did run harder than any running back has all year against the Irish. He gained 102 yards on 28 carries. However, once again the Irish kept them out of the endzone.

There was no score in the third quarter but it ended during a really good Irish drive that finished in the opening minute of the 4th quarter with touchdown pass from Golson to All American Tyler Eifert.
That tied the game at 10 until Stanford answered with a long drive that ended in a short field goal.

Then something interesting happened. Notre Dame started a drive impressively, but looked as though it would be stalled as Golson threw an incompletion on 2nd and 19. But he was roughed and it led to an automatic first down instead of 3rd and 19. What was interesting was Golson was hurt after a blow to the head. So Tommy Rees came in to finish the drive.

That makes me wonder that while I know that coaches are very careful with concussions, but how much of it was he hurt and how much of it was a way to get the veteran quarterback in in a clutch situation? Only Kelly knows for sure. Regardless, Rees once again showed he is the best backup quarterback in the game as he led the Irish down to get an easy Kyle Brindza field goal.

Then in overtime Rees threw the ball well. He showed his experience by reading the defense well before he hit TJ Jones for a touchdown.

Then it was up to the defense who haven't given up a touchdown since the Purdue game. Stanford game close to snapping that as they had it 3rd and goal at the one. They had two plays to get one yard, but the Fighting Irish stuffed them.

Although this wasn't as pretty of win as some of their other games, it was nice to see this team handle adversity the way they did. I was particularly impressed with how Golson handled it. He responded to turning the ball over and getting behind with long drives.

Although no one running back shined, Cierre Wood, Theo Riddick, and Golson all contributed and rushed for a total of 152 yards among the three of them.

The defense remains the teams strength and is arguably the nation's best. They have to be in that discussion when you go a month without giving up a touchdown.

With the win, Notre Dame improves to 6-0 and becomes bowl eligible. That is a key factor. I am one who believes that you don't discuss a national title until you are BCS eligible and you don't discuss that until you are bowl eligible and BCS is realistic. So now the BCS can be talked about but Notre Dame still needs to focus on the task at hand which is now BYU who has another tough defense.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Stanford Could Be Notre Dame's Toughest Opponent

After the graduation of Andrew Luck, there was definite uncertainty of how good Stanford would be. Now coming into South Bend with a 4-1 record, there is definite uncertainty on how good the team is. This is a team that shocked the college football world with a win over USC. That was only to get shocked by Washington 12 days later.

Let's not forget that they also were unimpressive in a 20-17 win against San Jose State to open the year. It was thought that this team was a defensive team with a building offense under first year starting quarterback junior Josh Nunes. Through four games, he had thrown for just 425 yards with four touchdowns and four interceptions. The defense in the meantime had held every team under under 20 points.

That was until last Saturday when Nunes broke out throwing for 360 yards and five total touchdowns (two pass, three rush). Stanford scored 54 points in an overtime win. The defense more than doubled it's season average though in giving up 48 points.

This is what makes this Stanford team a little difficult to prepare for. Will they be the team that has the strong defense and good running game led by Stepfan Taylor who has 418 yards and three touchdowns? Or will they be the great offensive team that broke out last week?

One thing is for sure. They haven't seen a defense like Notre Dame yet. Nunes has struggled on the road so a trip to Notre Dame Stadium might be a little too big for him at this point. Also, that Arizona team had been giving up a lot of points in recent weeks.

Stanford's defense however could be a tough test for Everett Golson. Will this be the defense of the first four weeks or the defense of last week? How will they defend Notre Dame? Will they key on the great running game that went for over yards against Miami and make Golson beat them? Or will they set back and make him read the defense knowing he struggles more with that?

My gut instinct says they will attack the running game because that is what defensive coordinators do. However, Golson is very good when it breaks down and he just lets his ability take over as opposed to reading the defense.

Of all the opponents Notre Dame has faced this season, Stanford seems to be the hardest one to figure out so far. That scares me a little.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Quarterback Situation is a Positive Thing

With all the excitement of the 5-0 start and one of the most dominant defenses in all the land, there are still those who say that Notre Dame has a quarterback controversy. The way I see it is that they have a redshirt freshman, Everett Golson, who has incredible ability but is still developing. To help out the Fighting Irish have possibly the best backup quarterback in all of college football.

That is somehow supposed to be a problem. I am not sure how that works. I get the whole point that if you have two quarterbacks, you have none. However, that only applies when you have two guys who are fighting to be the starter. I am not saying Rees doesn't want to be the starter, but I think he and everyone on the team know what his role is.

Against Miami, Golson showed why he is the one the coaches are all excited about. Against Michigan, he showed why having Rees is important. It was a smart move by Head Coach Brian Kelly to start Rees for one series against the Hurricanes. That possibly lit a fire under Golson.

NBC Sports Mike Mayock made an interesting observation when he said that Golson is better when it all breaks down and he has to react. Come to think of it, he performed well against attacking defenses of Purdue and Michigan State. However, it was against Michigan when he struggled. They looked like they sat back a little and made him read the defense.

That is something he has to learn but it is good to have Rees if needed. However, it would be nice to need him less as the season progresses. That would show development of Golson.

As for Rees, he is in a tough spot in some ways. There is no doubt he wants to play. He has to prepare every week like he is going to play. Although he won't know when that is if at all. That is a tough place to be in, but he can't underestimate the importance of his role.

His coaches and teammates don't.

Will Brady Quinn Finally get his Chance in the NFL?

After leading the Fighting Irish to back to back BCS bowls, Notre Dame fans everywhere thought that Brady Quinn would be destined for NFL stardom. Then when he was drafted by his childhood team The Cleveland Browns, it seemed like a dream scenario.

That dream quickly turned into a nightmare for the former Irish star. He had the infamous holdout which cost him any chance of competing for the starting job. Then he watched Derek Anderson have possibly the biggest fluke season ever. That set Quinn back even further and it wasn't until Anderson proved what a fluke he was before Quinn got his first chance halfway through the year.

He played well in his first two starts, but suffered a broken hand. That affected his performance in the third game and then he was lost for the year. At the end of the year, his coach Romeo Crennel (who had already named Quinn the starter) was fired.

Eric Mangini came in and constantly went back and forth between Quinn and Anderson. All that did was prepare neither of them properly. It also didn't help to trade away their best weapons in Kellen Winslow and Braylon Edwards.

Then Quinn was traded in the off season to Denver where he would go in as the back up to Kyle Orton, but would be groomed to be the starter. That was the plan for about a month and a half until Tim Tebow was drafted. At that point, Quinn would never get a fair chance regardless of how much he outperformed Tebow. All Denver did was waste two years of his career.

Now here he is in Kansas City. He had a good enough pre season to win the backup job. Starter Matt Cassel, who has struggled this year (103-176 58% for 1150 yards, only five touchdowns and nine interceptions, QB rating of 66.2) went down with a head injury.

Quinn came in and went 3-3 for 32 yards. He also had touchdown pass, but it was called back unfortunately. While I am not rooting for Cassel to be hurt or to fail, I would love to see Quinn finally get the chance he has waited so long for.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Charlie Weis and Dayne Crist Reunion Not working Out Too Well

While Notre Dame is in the midst of possibly it's most exciting season in a long time, it is not working out so well for Charlie Weis and Dayne Crist in Kansas. The team is 1-4 under Weis and they have lost to teams such as Rice and Northern Illinois. If they are going to lose to them, how will they compete with West Virginia, Texas, Oklahoma, etc. As it is, they are fresh off being demolished 56-16 by in state rival Kansas State.

Crist is only completing 48% of his passes (62-129). He has only thrown for 763 yards through five games. That is a dismal 152.6 average. He also has only two touchdowns to go with four interceptions.

Tight End Mike Ragone has only two catches for 11 yards although one is a touchdown.

While I am excited about Notre Dame and the potential it has this year, I am a bit sad for what is happening in Kansas. Although it didn't work out for those guys in South Bend, I do appreciate all the work and dedication they showed to the school when they were there.

The fact is that is was Weis who created the Shamrock Series. It was Crist who played a big role in the development of Tommy Rees. Because of that I was really hoping that they could have better results in Kansas. But to be fair, Weis did not exactly inherit a team loaded with championship caliber talent.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Fighting Irish Now Ranked #7

For whatever reason I was nervous heading into the Miami game. I am that way whenever tradition is messed with. I was skeptical of the special uniforms and helmets. However, I can honestly say that those uniforms looked sharp.

The team also looked sharp in a 41-7 blowout of Miami. When the new AP poll came out on Sunday, Notre Dame found itself in a place it hasn't been in a long time. That is #7. Not only are they #7, but they are ranked higher than everyone on their schedule. That includes both past and future opponents. When is the last time we could say that?

While that is exciting, it is also uncomfortable in many ways. The fact is that they haven't done anything yet. Not only that, but their next game is against possibly their toughest opponent in Stanford. That won't be easy.

Like I said before, the worst thing they can do is start believing the hype and National Title talk. They are no where near there. To be eligible for the title game, they need to be BCS eligible first. To be BCS eligible, they need to be bowl eligible first. Notre Dame still needs one more win to even be bowl eligible. That is the first step and the only way to do it is one game at a time.

If they do that and keep winning, all that other stuff will take care of itself. Florida did leapfrog the Fighting Irish, and they deserve it after knocking off LSU. However, that is not a concern because with two other SEC teams in Alabama and South Carolina ahead of them. They will all play each other and somebody has to lose.

Big 12 teams Kansas State and West Virginia will have to play each other also. All that leaves is #2 Oregon who will play common Notre Dame opponents in USC and Stanford. The point is that as long as the Fighting  Irish  keep winning, they will keep climbing.

But again, take it one week at a time.

Go Irish!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Miami No Match for Notre Dame

With Notre Dame's new partnership with the ACC, some traditional rivals such as Michigan and Michigan State will  be discontinued. While that is too bad to see two schools whose history is linked with Notre Dame, another rivalry hopefully will be restored.

It was on Saturday and although the game wasn't close, you just get the sense that these two teams are meant to play each other. In the 80s, this was THE GAME. Often it would decide the national championship and the two teams just did not like each other. They had some memorable games that were often decided in the last minute.

With Notre Dame being unbeaten and Miami coming in with just one loss, this game suddenly had that feel to it again. Unfortunately for the Hurricanes, the Fighting Irish were just too much for them. It didn't look like it early though as Miami star receiver Phillip Dorsett dropped two sure touchdowns on the opening drive on two perfect passes from Stephen Morris.

Then in a surprise move Tommy Rees started the game as apparently Everett Golson was in violation of team rules. However, after Rees went three and out and the Fighting Irish got helped with a roughing the kicker penalty, Golson came in and retook his spot as the starting quarterback.

He moved the team right down the field with both his arm and his legs before giving way to Theo Riddick for a one yard touchdown run. Overall, Golson had his best day as he finished 17-22 for 186 yards. Most importantly, he had no turnovers. What is even more impressive was that most of those stats game in the first half. He only threw a couple passes in the second half and really just handed off to a rushing attack that was most impressive.

As a team Notre Dame finished with 376 rushing yards compared to only 84 for Miami. Cierre Wood and George Atkinson both had over 100 yards and they had three touchdowns between the two of them. Golson himself pitched in with 51 yards. Even Cam McDaniel had 55 yards and a touchdown. The guy that got lost in the shuffle was Riddick as he was hardly seen after his early score. What is really impressive is that Miami knew they were running and they still couldn't stop them.

Now looking at the defense, what needs to be said really? The Hurricanes failed to capitalize on the early opportunities they had and you can't do that against a defense like this. For the third straight game, the Fighting Irish did not give up a touchdown. To get an idea of just how good this defense is, it would be considered a good defensive game if your team surrenders just four field goals and 12 points. 

How good does that make you if you do that in three games? What is even more impressive is that in 12 trips to the red zone this season, they only surrendered two touchdowns. Both of which were to Purdue. Those are just ridiculous stats. What is even more scary is that the defense just seems to get better each week.

The Hurricanes who had been consistently putting up 30+ points managed just three points. In Miami's defense, they have many freshmen and sophomores playing. As expected with a young team, unforced mistakes really contributed to the lopsided score. But even with the game being a blow out, these two teams looked as though they are meant to play each other and those who watched really could sense an old rivalry being renewed.

Friday, October 5, 2012

New Notre Dame Uniforms Are Going to Take Some Getting Used To

The New Notre Dame is making many moves that are going to be good for the program. Notre Dame had struggled for some time with how to maintain it's tradition and still appeal to this generation of top recruits. The fact is that being an independent is something that was much more popular twenty years ago than it is now.

I think that by being affiliated with the ACC but still being independent was a nice way to meet in the middle. It is too bad that Big Ten rivals Michigan, Michigan State, and Purdue will fall by the wayside. However, when you're a school like Notre Dame, practically every week is a storied rivalry and they have to keep their rivalries with USC, Stanford, and Navy.

The craze in college football lately has been all kinds of fancy uniforms. Oregon is most famous for it and Maryland also made news by having their state flag as a uniform. This is another area where the Fighting Irish  felt it was necessary to appeal to the younger crowd.

When Notre Dame plays Miami in their annual Shamrock Series game, they will wear the uniforms above. It is safe to say that they will take some getting used to. I personally have supported most of the moves Notre Dame has made lately, but I just don't like the idea of watching a Notre Dame game without the golden domes. The uniforms themselves don't bother me that much, but I would prefer a throwback style. The younger crowd loves those too.

I am curious to see how these uniforms will look on Saturday.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Catholics Vs. Convicts Preview

In the 80s and early 90s, Notre Dame and Miami used to be a big rivalry. Both schools were independent before the Hurricanes joined the Big East in 1991. This rivalry went on regularly until 1990. The last three games were arguably the most memorable.

The rivalry gained national attention and both teams played their most famous games from 1988–90, dubbed the "Catholics vs. Convicts" contests. The first game was won by the Fighting Irish 31-30, with Miami ending Notre Dame's record 23-game winning streak the following year, 27-10. The rivalry ended after the Fighting Irish crushed #2 Miami's hopes for a repeat national championship with a 29-20 victory in South Bend. 

The Fighting Irish and Hurricanes met again, in the 2010 Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas, where Notre Dame defeated Miami 33-17. Notre Dame holds a 16-7-1 edge. This was arguably Michael Floyd's best college game in his four year career. He caught six passes for 106 yards and two touchdowns and he was even better than the stats.

They will meet in Soldier Field On Saturday, to play each other in the regular season for the first time since 1990.
It will certainly be a game that is huge for both sides. Although it is early, it is once again a game that could have national title implications. Notre Dame rolls in with a 4-0 record and one of the best defenses in the country.

The offense certainly has talent with one of the best tight ends in the country in Tyler Eifert to go along with a three headed rushing attack including Cierre Wood, Theo Riddick, and George Atkinson. That running game looked great against Navy but has since been held in check by three of the best defenses in the Big Ten.

The idea was to make young Everett Golson beat them and it didn't work too well for Purdue and Michigan State as Golson had a running and passing touchdown in each game. Michigan had a better plan for stopping him, but fortunately for the Irish, veteran Tommy Rees was able to come in and produce enough offense to win.

Miami doesn't appear to have as good of defense as those Big Ten teams as they have given up 30+ points in all but one game and that was against an FCS team in Bethune-Cookman. However, on the flip side they have scored 35+ points in all games except Kansas State who handed them their only loss in a lopsided 52-13 beating.

Miami's opponents other than Kansas State have a combined record of 9-10, so it is hard to say how impressive their 4-1 record is.

It can be assumed that the Hurricanes, especially those who were there, will want revenge from the Sun Bowl. Junior quarterback Stephen Morris who had a decent game in mop up time is now a veteran. His stats are quite impressive, 98-158 for 1069 yards with 4 TDs and 3 INTs. His rating is 123.4. However, he has not really faced good defenses other than Kansas State who held his offense out of the end zone.

 Therefore, it is safe to say he hasn't gotten it done against a defense the caliber of Notre Dame yet. Based on those factors, this is a game Notre Dame should win if they play their game. Golson does have to show some growth in this game or Brian Kelly might not have a choice but to go with Rees and put the experiment on hold until Spring.

Go Catholics, Beat Convicts.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Worst Thing Notre Dame Can Do

With a 4-0 record and one of the best defenses in the country, there is no doubt that it is exciting times in South Bend. This could be one of the best seasons Notre Dame has had in a very long time. Manti Te'o is arguably the best defensive player in the country and will without a doubt be a candidate for some awards. He will also likely be the first linebacker drafted.

With the excitement of the football team and the exciting new direction the school is going with the ACC, optimism is at an all time high. However, Notre Dame cannot fall into a trap that easy to fall into. That is believing the hype and the talk of a national championship. USC fans are already talking about how they will ruin it for Notre Dame Thanksgiving weekend.

What I tell USC fans is that I am not even thinking about them. I am worried about the convicts right now. The fact is in order to be eligible for a National Championship, they first have to be eligible for the BCS. In order to be eligible for the BCS, they first have to be bowl eligible. With 4 wins, they still need two more to even become bowl eligible.

Therefore, looking ahead is the worst thing this team can do. We would all love to play for a National title but let's get bowl eligible first. The players have to focus on the task at hand. Right now, that is the Miami Hurricanes. 100% of their focus needs to be on that.

The good thing for Notre Dame is that they play a schedule where looking ahead doesn't seem to be a problem. While most schools have maybe four big games a year, Notre Dame plays a game almost every week in which there is a lot of history involved. 

They already played Navy and the three Big Ten teams in Purdue, Michigan State, and Michigan. It seems like every week there is a story behind the rivalry. It is no exception this week with Miami as the Catholics Vs. Convicts rivalry is renewed. In the 80s, this was a huge game every year and usually had national title implications.

Later Notre Dame will play Stanford, Pittsburgh, and Boston College which all have lots of history behind them as well. They will also play non traditional opponents in BYU and Oklahoma in games that are also huge. They end as they traditionally do in Los Angeles to play arch-rival USC. 

There is no doubt that that is a tough road and if Notre Dame can get through it with all wins, they will have definitely earned a trip to the BCS title game. However, they have to focus one game at a time. They can't go  12-0 if they don't go 5-0. 

Go Irish! Beat the Hurricanes!

Monday, October 1, 2012

In the midst of their first undefeated September since 2004 for the football team, Notre Dame made a decision that will take all of Notre Dame athletics in a new direction. They decided to join the ACC in all sports except football. The Fighting Irish will remain independent in football but will play five ACC schools each year.

The new Notre Dame is a blog created by Notre Dame writer Erin McLaughlin. This blog will feature everything Notre Dame as it makes it's move to the ACC.

The football team will be affected by this move. It has already announced that it will discontinue it's rivalry with Michigan. There is so much history in that rivalry as it was Michigan that traveled to South Bend to teach Notre Dame football.

The Michigan State and Purdue rivalries will also likely fall as well. Notre Dame really desires to keep it's rivalries with Stanford, USC, and Navy. There is always a lot of history with Notre Dame, no matter who they play. That is why there is no program that can compare to Notre Dame.

Yes, Notre Dame has not been a serious contender for a long time, but it is about so much more than that. The ACC itself has schools who have history with Notre Dame. Boston College is often likened to Notre Dame being that they are another school with Irish Catholic roots.

Pittsburgh is another big rival and they will soon be joining the ACC as well.

Notre Dame will renew an old rivalry this week with Miami. This used to be a big game and one that had national title implications in the 80s. It was known as Catholics vs. Convicts. Suddenly, it has that feel again.

The New Notre Dame will report on the new direction they are headed in South Bend.