Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Big Games That Don't Involve Notre Dame This Weekend

Championship weekend is always one of the most exciting weekends in college football. For those conferences who have championship games, it is a one game playoff where the winner gets a BCS bowl and the loser falls to a second tier bowl game. Because Notre Dame is not in a conference in football, they will never be involved in this weekend. While I am a traditionalist and love Notre Dame being independent, it does suck to not be able to be involved in this weekend. This year though, it is kind of an advantage having their spot in the BCS title game already secured.

Let's take a look at the other teams in college football that will be playing this weekend in big games.

Rutgers Vs. Louisville

It begins on Thursday with this game. The state of the Big East is an absolute mess. Teams from mid-majors, even those that have no business geographically, are trying to get in while existing members are trying to get out. Notre Dame will be leaving in every other sport for the ACC. Pittsburgh and Syracuse are gone after this year too. That is a year after the conference already lost West Virginia.

Although this is not technically a conference championship, it might as well be as the winner is most likely the one with the BCS bid. There are scenarios where it could be Syracuse that is so confusing to understand. At any rate, it is fitting that the two teams that could potentially represent the Big East will soon be gone as well. Rutgers will move on to the Big Ten in 2014 and Louisville will join Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, and Syracuse in the ACC.

Kent State Vs. Northern Illinois

The action continues on Friday. This is normally a game that has no significance in terms of the BCS. It is usually a case of the winner is the MAC champions but both teams go to second rate bowl games. This year is different though because Kent State is currently ranked #17 in the BCS and the rule states that a team from a non-BCS conference that is ranked #16 or higher gets an automatic BCS bid as long as they are ranked higher than a conference champion. At this time, there is no Big East team in the top 25 so they will be ranked ahead of them. The problem is that they do need somebody ahead of them to lose and fall far enough. There aren't too many options other than UCLA who is directly ahead of them. The other obstacle is the Northern Illinois is also a tough team. This should be a big game.

Stanford Vs. UCLA

The other big game on Friday is for the PAC 12 championship. It is kind of hard for me to determine who I want to win this game. Both of these teams did Notre Dame a big favor a couple weeks ago. UCLA knocked out Matt Barkley making Notre Dame's victory over USC a more certain thing. It is not to say that the Fighting Irish would not have won the game anyway, but not having Barkley in did help. Stanford helped the Irish even more by knocking off then #2 Oregon. That win lifted Notre Dame to #1 and enabled them to control their own destiny going to the title game.

The funny thing about this match up is these two teams played each other last week as they were coincidentally scheduled that way. Stanford won but here is the part that makes me wonder how hard UCLA even tried in that game. The Bruins already had their spot locked in this game with their victory over USC. However, if they would have beaten the Cardinal they would have had to play Oregon. But because they lost they get Stanford again. It makes you wonder if they didn't just use that game as the ultimate way to scout their opponent.

The winner of this game gets a bid in the Rose Bowl. The loser falls to probably the Holiday bowl. Again, a UCLA loss would likely put Kent State in the BCS with a win. So both of these Friday games have huge BCS implications.

Now for the Saturday games.

Although the Big 12 no longer has a championship game, they do still have a couple of big games that have huge BCS implications. This conference could potentially have two BCS representatives. That is huge for another conference that has had multiple members leave.

Oklahoma Vs. TCU

Notre Dame's signature moment this season was it's big win in Norman in a game where nobody gave the Irish a chance against Oklahoma. Although the Sooners are out of the national championship picture with two losses, a trip to the Sugar Bowl is a likely to happen with a win. The only potential snag is once again the situation with Kent State.

Kansas State Vs. Texas

The Wildcats will take the field for the first time since their blowout loss to Baylor that knocked them from #1 and destroyed any chance for them to play for a national championship. As disappointing as that is, a win still gives them the Big 12 championship and a trip to the Fiesta Bowl. However, it won't be easy as Texas has bowl plans of their own. They won't be in the BCS but a trip to the Cotton Bowl is a pretty good consolation. The Longhorns want to be sure to lock their spot for the game in Dallas which could be against their old rival Texas A & M.

Nebraska Vs. Wisconsin

The Big Ten has had one of it's worst season's ever. It started on opening day when Michigan got hammered by Alabama. It continued as the conference suffered three losses to Notre Dame, three more to the PAC 12, and they even lost three games to the MAC. To make it even more ugly, look at the two teams that qualified. Many are still considering Nebraska a Big 12 team and Wisconsin actually finished third in their division. But they play in this game because both Ohio State and Penn State are on probation. That is the definition of an ugly year for a conference. Even with that, the winner of this game earns a trip to Pasadena to play the winner of Stanford-UCLA in the Rose Bowl.

Florida State Vs. Georgia Tech

Like the scenario with Kent State, this is a game that could really throw a wrench into the BCS. Florida State is ranked #13 with a 10-2 record and are favored to win this game. If that holds up, they go to the Orange Bowl against probably whomever escapes the Big East. However, if Georgia Tech pulls the upset then they would go to the Orange Bowl with, get this, a 7-6 record. Therefore, if they lose they have a losing record. That is just an ugly thought. The ACC has also had a down year in spite the agreement they made with Notre Dame.

Georgia Vs. Alabama

Now for the game Notre Dame fans care about the most. This is the game that will determine who Notre Dame plays in Miami. This game should be an absolute dogfight. While the Crimson Tide is favored, the Bulldogs are hungry to get a piece of the national championship pie that their conference has enjoyed that so far they have fallen short of.

Many of the experts say that Alabama is a better match up for Notre Dame because the Irish are strong against the run but the weakness is the secondary. I have watched 12 Notre Dame games this year and I think the unit led by Zeke Motta including KeVare Russell, Bennett Jackson, and Mathias Farley have done a great job. I don't see them as a weakness at all.

Regardless of who wins, it will be a tough challenge for Notre Dame in the BCS Title game. The loser will fall out of the BCS altogether as Florida figures to jump ahead of the loser to get the Sugar Bowl. Therefore, it is a winner take all to face the Irish and the loser goes to the Capital One Bowl, which is not a bad bowl, against probably Michigan.

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Irony In This Year's BCS Championship Game

While it is still not official, it is just a formality that Notre Dame will play in the BCS Title game on January 7, 2013. Just the thought of that gets me excited. For Irish fans, it has been a long time coming. While the Fighting Irish playing for a national championship is how it is supposed to be, I can't help but think of the irony of them being there this year.

It is a bit ironic that when the experts finally decided the BCS needed to be replaced with a four team playoff, that the teams participating actually make sense this year. Notre Dame is the only eligible undefeated team. Ohio State may be a great team but they are on probation. Therefore, putting the Fighting Irish in is a no brainer. It is also a no brainer that their opponent will be the SEC champ as Alabama and Georgia are ranked #2 and #3. They also play in the toughest conference in the SEC. It is kind of funny that two years before the playoff goes into effect that the BCS actually worked (at least for the title game).

The next part that is a bit ironic for Notre Dame is that in the same year that they formed a partnership with the ACC that they will play the game in the heart of ACC country two years before that agreement goes into effect.

But the thing I find most ironic is this. There are two kinds of college football fans. There are those who love Notre Dame and those who hate Notre Dame. There is no middle ground. In recent years though, SEC fans have really had all the bragging rights as they have won six straight titles. It started in 2006 with Florida then it was followed by LSU, Florida, Alabama, Auburn, and Alabama again. As a result of this, SEC fans have become a bit arrogant and many of them believe that college football revolves around the SEC. Meanwhile, fans in other parts of the country are tired of the SEC and would love to see them dethroned.

Whether it is the Crimson Tide or the Bulldogs, it is Notre Dame that will be fighting to dethrone the mighty SEC. How ironic is it that the team that many love to hate will be the very team they have to depend on to fight for the rest of college football?  It is the Fighting Irish that is there for the country to show the Southeastern part of the country that there is good college football in other parts. Many college fans will have to decide what is more important to them (their hate for Notre Dame or their desire to see the SEC dethroned). That is what makes this BCS Title game like no other in history.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Charlie Weis's Last Recruiting Class Was His Best

As Notre Dame fans celebrate their season and the birth in the BCS title game, it is always good to look back at where the program was so they can appreciate where it is now.The program still hadn't found any consistency since Lou Holtz retired in 1996. Bob Davie was only 35-25 in five seasons with only three bowl appearances. His only BCS appearance was the 2001 Fiesta Bowl where the Irish got blown out 41-9 by Oregon State.

Then Tyrone Willingham took over in 2002 and the team started 8-0. Then losses to Boston College and USC turn the season around. The next two seasons were filled with mediocrity with records of 4-7 and 6-5.

Then Charlie Weis took over the program in 2005. Irish fans were excited to get a coach who came from a multiple Super Bowl background with the New England Patriots. He inherited star players such as Brady Quinn and Jeff Samardjiza. He took those teams to back to back BCS Bowls. He led them to the Fiesta Bowl in 2005 against Ohio State and the Sugar Bowl against LSU in 2006. Unfortunately, the Irish got beaten badly in both of those games. Still Irish fans were optimistic about the future of the program.

Year three for Weis was a challenge as Quinn, Samardjiza and company were all gone. We all knew Weis could coach, now it was time to see if he could recruit. It was a rough year for Notre Dame as they finished 3-9. In spite of the record, fans were a little forgiving of Weis given his resume and they did like the progress of freshman Jimmy Clausen and Golden Tate.

In the off season, Weis recruited Michael Floyd to add to the mix. Tate and Floyd became a dynamic duo and nice weapons for Clausen. Another good weapon was Kyle Rudolph. That year the team started 5-2 and it appeared that they were on their way back before having an embarrassing loss to Syracuse and then getting destroyed by USC.

Questions about Weis's ability to recruit, especially on the defensive side, were really beginning to surface. Still Notre Dame did go to the Hawaii Bowl that year. Now that may not seem like a big deal but there was a player in Hawaii from Punahou who was being courted by Weis. That young man was on the sidelines when Notre Dame demolished Hawaii 49-21. I think we all know who that is.

Along with Manti Te'o came guys such as Theo Riddick, Cierre Wood, Zeke Motta, Mike Golic, Kapron Lewis-Moore, Carlo Calabrese, Braxston Cave, Dan Fox, Robby Toma, John Goodman among others. We all know the players they became. Another player worth mentioning that year is Shaquille Evans who did transfer but became a star at UCLA.

Unfortunately, for Weis this freshman class was unable to save his job from another 6-6 season. That year Clausen put up great numbers to Tate, Floyd, and Rudolph. Unfortunately, the defense was very weak that year and could not stop anybody. Te'o who was a freshman seemed like the only reason for any hope for that defense.

We all know that Weis's stay in South Bend was a disappointment considering how it started. His reputation was that he could coach someone else's players but couldn't recruit his own. While that may be true for the most part and Brian Kelly did have a lot to do with the development of these players, Irish fans do have to give Weis credit for this recruiting class. He got it right that year. I thank him for that.

Notre Dame Clinches Spot In BCS Title Game With Win Over USC

Who would have thought that Notre Dame would play for a National Championship before the season? Looking at the rivalry between USC and Notre Dame, all the attention was on USC. They were #1 and the Irish were unranked.

It is amazing how things changed over the season. USC still could have spoiled Notre Dame's plans with a win, but the Irish weren't having it.They got off to a 10-0 nothing lead off the strength of a Theo Riddick 9 yard touchdown run. Riddick had a nice all around game by gaining 146 yards on the ground and catching 3 passes for 33 yards.

Everett Golson continued to show growth at quarterback. He distributed the ball around nicely to Riddick, Tyler Eifert, Robby Toma, TJ Jones, among others.

Kyle Brindza had a great night by hitting 5 of 6 field goals including a career long 52 yarder.

The Irish just dominated the time of possession once again by having the ball about 10 minutes more than USC. Although the offense did only manage one touchdown, they scored on six drives thanks to Brindza.

Defensively was more of the same. Manti Te'o got another interception. Notre Dame once again showed how tough they are in the red zone by posting two very impressive goal line stands. With star quarterback Matt Barkley injured, redshirt freshman Max Wittek was thrown into a tough spot against the nation's best defense. He started out doing pretty good by throwing an early touchdown to Robert Woods. However, her learned like so many quarterbacks before him that Notre Dame gets tougher on defense as the game progress.

Wittek went on to throw two interceptions and was under constant pressure in the second half. He was unable to get them in the end zone again.

Although the score seemed close, those watching the game never got the sense Notre Dame would lose. They have been there too many times this year.

Already being #1, the Irish have clinched their spot in the BCS title game and they await the winner of Alabama and Georgia in the SEC Championship.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Notre Dame and USC Went in Opposite Directions in 2012

If you told college football fans before the season that when Notre Dame and USC play each other at the end of the year that one of them would be ranked #1 and in a position to clinch a spot in the BCS title game but the other team would have had a disappointing season and likely headed to some second tier bowl game that means nothing, I don't think anybody would argue.

After all, when the year started one team was ranked #1 and the other was unranked and not expected to finish better than 8-4 with their schedule. I have to be honest. Going into the season, I saw a sechedule with teams like Michigan, Michigan State, Miami, Stanford, BYU, Oklahoma, and ultimately USC. I also was thinking of the off season turmoil with suspensions and arrests involving Tommy Rees and Cierre Wood among others. They were also starting red shirt freshman Everett Golson at quarterback.  I was thinking that an 8-4 year would be an accomplishment.

Meanwhile, USC fans were excited for the start of the season. Matt Barkley was returning for his senior season and was prepared to light it up with the weapons he had around him. His receivers Robert Woods and Marqise Lee are as good of pair as there is. USC also had senior Curtis McNeal returning at running back and Penn State transfer Silas Redd was to join him. The defense under the guidance of defensive guru Monte Kiffin was to be tough again.

Therefore, nobody would argue if I told them this game would be between the #1 ranked team in the country and a mediocre one headed to a non-meaningful bowl. However if I told them that it would be Notre Dame ranked #1, they would have called me crazy and delusional. But here we are.

Nobody knew that Notre Dame's defense led by Manti Te'o would be as dominant as it has been. Nobody knew that Golson would progress the way he has. Nobody expected Rees to be the best back up in the country and contribute the way he has.

Nobody expected USC's defense to struggle the way they have. If you look at the players on both defenses, the talent level is similar. The difference is that Notre Dame tackles well and USC has been sloppy. It comes down to fundamentals. USC has also been hurt with depth due to loss of scholarships. Although Barkley and company have for the most part put up good numbers, they actually appeared to get worse as opposed to better. They were also sloppy with turnovers and missed blocks. Notre Dame on the other limited their turnovers. Again it comes down to fundamentals.

Going into this game Barkley is out with a shoulder injury and red shirt freshman Max Wittek, who must be related to Rex Ryan, ran his mouth and guaranteed victory. Did he really think Te'o and company needed more motivation to come after him?

Monday, November 19, 2012

Does The SEC Really Have the Nerve to Criticize Notre Dame's Schedule?

It is normally not my style to write about potential opponents when there is another game to worry about. Being that Notre Dame's next opponent is USC, that is even more out of character.  However, SEC fans are really running their mouths about Notre Dame being #1. They say that all SEC teams that are currently ranked in the BCS top ten would be favored by 10 over the Irish.

They say that the Irish haven't played a tough schedule. Excuse me but Oklahoma and Stanford are really tough teams. Also, teams like Michigan, Michigan State, Miami,  BYU, Pittsburgh, Boston College, and Wake Forest. Those are all legitimate programs from BCS conferences. Even Navy has been tough in recent years. It is not Notre Dame's fault they were having a bit of a down year. So you can't fault them for something they have no control over.

Looking at the SEC however. They like to put themselves up on a level that they think nobody is at. They also seem to think college football revolves around their conference. They do have five straight titles and I will give them credit for that. However, looking at the way they get there is disturbing. I have no problem with scheduling an FCS team the first week or even the second week as a bit of a tune up game. But those match ups should not be happening in November.

Right now the top SEC teams are Alabama, Georgia, Florida, LSU, Texas A + M, and South Carolina. Of those teams only LSU played a conference opponent last weekend. Here are the opponents for the rest of them, Western Carolina, Georgia Southern, Jacksonville State, Sam Houston, and Wofford. For Florida it was actually two weeks in a row that they had an FCS opponent as the week before they played Lousiana-Lafayette. That is just pathetic for a conference that claims to be better than everyone else.

The thing I find funny is that Alabama looked unbeatable to the SEC but it was Texas A + M who beat them and they are still considered a Big 12 team by some. I would laugh if Florida State beat Florida and Clemson beat South Carolina this weekend. That would show the country that there is more to college football than just the SEC.

As much as I dislike USC, they are undefeated against the SEC this century. Finally, I find it ironic that Florida can barely beat two FCS teams and then be ranked #4. Yet everybody gets all over Notre Dame for barely beating Pittsburgh.

All I can say to the SEC fans is either schedule some real opponents in November or shut your mouths about Notre Dame!!!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Notre Dame Knew Matt Barkley Couldn't Play Before the Shoulder Injury

For the first time since 1993, Notre Dame is #1. A victory over arch rival USC will guarantee them a spot in the BCS title game. The news Sunday is that Senior quarterback Matt Barkley has a sprained shoulder and cannot play. That may sound like an advantage for Notre Dame, but it is really a piece of information we already knew. He couldn't play with a healthy shoulder either.

Okay he did throw 33 touchdowns and that is impressive. However, he threw 4 against Hawaii, 6 against Syracuse, 3 against Utah, and 6 against Colorado. That right there is 19 and it is against much inferior competition. He didn't throw any against Stanford and was intercepted twice.

Oh wait! He did throw 5 touchdowns against Oregon. Oh Yeah! The Ducks are all offense. Their defense is average at best. In fact, looking at the state of the PAC 12 in general it seems that Stanford is the only school  in the conference that still teaches the players how to play defense.

Therefore, Barkley put up most of his numbers against average or worse defenses. I would  love to see him try to do that against Notre Dame. So while it may seem like a big advantage to Notre Dame, but the reality is we already know what Barkley does under pressure. What we don't know is whether or not Max Wittek can play. In a way, that is a disadvantage. We know Barkley can't play, but we don't know about Wittek.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Notre Dame Clinches BCS Bowl With Win Over Wake Forest and Will Be #1

What a great day this was for Notre Dame! The Seniors took the field for the last time at Notre Dame Stadium. Tyler Eifert broke the all time Irish record for catches by a tight end. Everett Golson threw for a career high 349 yards and three touchdowns. The defense continued it's dominance by shutting out Wake Forest. With the win, Notre Dame clinched a BCS bowl.

That is only the start of the good news. I would ordinarily not be interested in a game between Baylor and Kansas State or Oregon and Stanford. However with Notre Dame being ranked #3, one of them had to lose at some point. In about a twenty minute span, they both went down. Kansas State got dominated by the Baylor Bears. Then Oregon went down in overtime to the Cardinal.

What was sweet about the Stanford win was that all week Notre Dame heard that they needed overtime to beat Stanford and Oregon would dominate them. That proved false just by going into overtime. Then when Stanford won, it gave the pollsters no choice. They have to put Notre Dame as the #1 team.

The Fighting Irish will now control their own destiny as they go on the road to play USC. Today after the hot start in the first quarter with a great run by Cierre Wood, another Eifert touchdown, and a long bomb to John Goodman, I could see that the issue would never be in doubt. Therefore, I did a lot more game jumping than I would ordinarily do during an Irish game. That was because the Trojans were on FOX against their crosstown rival UCLA in not only a battle for LA but also for the division title.

I wanted to get a look at the next opponent. USC went down for the fourth time this year and may have also lost Matt Barkley for next week with a late Shoulder injury. One of the stars in that game was  Notre Dame transfer Shaquelle Evans who caught 8 passes for 114 yards. That ruined the Trojans chances of a PAC 12 title. That actually makes them more dangerous because all they got left is spoiling Notre Dame's season.

It has been such a magic year for the Irish and it all began in Ireland. Even a USC victory won't change that. A BCS bowl is imminent. Even if Notre Dame doesn't win the national championship, that doesn't change the fact that for the first time in a very long time Notre Dame is 11-0 and #1. You can't take this day away no matter what happens the rest of the way.

Can Notre Dame Put Together a Complete Game at Home Today?

With the final home game of the season just hours away, Irish fans and players are hoping not only for a victory against Wake Forest, but also a complete game in South Bend. Even with the 10-0 record, Notre Dame has struggled at home. Now the defense has played solid all year with the exception of Pittsburgh. The offense led by Everett Golson has really been better away from South Bend.

It is really amazing to see the difference. Looking at their games not at Notre Dame Stadium, they beat Navy in Ireland 50-10, Michigan State in East Lansing 20-3, Miami in Chicago 41-3, Oklahoma in Norman 30-13, and Boston College at Chestnut Hill 21-6. The average margin of victory is 25.4.

Comparing that to their home games, the Irish beat Purdue 20-17, Michigan 13-6, Stanford 20-13, BYU 17-14, and Pittsburgh 29-26. That is an average margin of victory of just 4.6. That is less than a touchdown and a difference of 20.8 points compared to that on the road.

Golson has even stated that it is easier for him to focus on the road because their are fewer distractions. It is also true that playing in Notre Dame stadium is a once (maybe twice) in a lifetime experience for the players on the other team where as it is regular for the Irish. College players say playing in South Bend is like nowhere else. Having said that, it is time to protect the house and put together a nice home game.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Fighting Irish Must Not Let Distractions Shift Their Focus From Wake Forest

It seems that the more Notre Dame wins, the more distractions come. The BCS and National Title talk only escalates after every Irish win. Now with them being one of only three major unbeatens (Kansas State and Oregon are the other two), the distractions are at an all time high for this group of Notre Dame players.

This week they have to compound that with the seniors running through the tunnel for the final time, and the thought of their annual showdown with arch rival USC just a week away.Did I forget we have a Heisman candidate in Manti Te'o? On top of all that, they need to be prepared to play a football game against Wake Forest. This is untraveled territory for Notre Dame.

While Wake Forest is just 5-5, Notre Dame knows all too well what can happen if they  are not focused on the task at hand (aka. Pittsburgh and BYU). This is also a team that The Fighting Irish beat by just seven points last year. Of course, many of the players are the same. Therefore, Notre Dame should expect to be in  a battle.

Te'o and company will have yet another veteran quarterback to deal with in Junior Tanner Price who has thrown for 1852 yards with 12 touchdowns and just 5 interceptions. His favorite target is red shirt junior wide receiver Michael Campanaro who has caught 65 passes for 618 yards and 7 touchdowns. Campanaro will be a tough chore for either Bennett Jackson or KeVare Russell.

The Demon Deacons have struggled with the running game all year as their leading runner is Junior Josh Harris who has just 607 yards with 5 touchdowns. He is only averaging 60.7 yards a game and has only one 100 yard game and it was against Army. The next highest runner is Deandre Martin with 330 yards. Compare that to the Irish who have Theo Riddick with 714 yards and Cierre Wood with 570. Everett Golson and George Atkinson have also contributed to the running game with 258 and 312 yards respectively.

Defensively Wake Forest has been very inconsistent all year. They have given up as few as 10 points against Virginia and as many as 52 against Florida State. Therefore it is hard to know which defense will show up. The defense has given up at least 20 points to the teams they have played with winning records. They even gave up 37 to Army. They have only given up less than 20 points to losing teams and FCS teams.

If Golson and company are ready, they can potentially put up some really big numbers. Let's just hope their minds are on the game and not all the distractions that have become increasingly more difficult to deal with.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Notre Dame Seniors to Play Last Home Game

Notre Dame like all storied programs has many traditions. They touch the "Play Like a Champion Today"
sign on the way through the tunnel. They sing the alma mater after the game. They play many traditional rivals like USC, Navy, Stanford, Michigan, Michigan State, etc. Some of those may fall by the wayside with the
new agreement with the ACC. One thing that will remain is it's proudest tradition of all. That is Senior day.

It is a day where fans are both excited for the players future but also sad to see them leave. They are both thankful for their contributions but will miss them. This year is no exception and it is a great class. I do have to thank Charlie Weis for this great class. Although Weis didn't work out, he does deserve some credit for this class.

Theo Riddick

This guy has been probably the most versatile of all the seniors. Riddick has played both back and receiver and has played both well. I am not sure if he will make it in the NFL as a featured back, but I can see him third down packages.

Cierre Wood

Wood's senior year started on a negative note with a two game suspension. That has forced him to share the load with Riddick. His stats may not be as good as they were his junior year, but I will never forget that run at Oklahoma. I hope to see him on Sundays.

John Goodman

While this guy has not caught many passes his senior year, the ones he has caught have been huge. Just ask Purdue and Michigan State. I wish him well in his future endeavors.

Robby Toma

If anybody knows what it is like to live in someone's shadow, it is this guy. For all of his career he has lived in the shadow of being the guy that came with Manti Te'o. He was also in the shadow of Michael Floyd for most of his career. Living in the shadow of two all time greats has to be tough. Still Toma has gone about his business and been a valuable contributor. Good luck to him.

Tyler Eifert

Here is perhaps the best tight end in the nation. That is not only for his pass catching but also his blocking. NFL scouts love this guy. We will see him on Sundays. 

Mike Golic, Jr.

Having escaped his dad's shadow, Golic has been very consistent on the line this season. I hope to see him in the NFL.

Braxton Cave

Cave has also been a very consistent member on the line. I am not sure if the NFL is in his future but he will be missed in South Bend.

Kapron Lewis-Moore

All I can say about this guy is that he has been an absolute beast on the defensive line. He will leave a big hole next year and we will miss him. I can see him playing on Sundays.

Zeke Motta

Not only a solid safety, but Motta has also been a great leader in the secondary. He was the only senior in an otherwise very young defensive backfield. I really hate to see him go.

Manti Te'o

Saving the best for last, where do we start? All-American? Heisman candidate? Great linebacker? How about the heart and soul of not only the defense, but the whole team. This guy has overcome personal tragedy to have the great year he has had. When he leaves the Irish will be replacing more than just a football player. He will go very high in the draft.

Thank you and Good Luck to all the seniors. You will all be missed.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Notre Dame Not Getting the Respect They Deserve

At 10-0 Notre Dame is among only three teams still undefeated. If all three remain unbeaten, Notre Dame would likely be left out of the National Title game and it would be between Kansas State and Oregon. Now the fact that there are only two weeks left in the regular season and Notre Dame is still in the National Title discussion already makes this season a huge success. Having said that, I am not sure why the pollsters seem to think that what Notre Dame has done is somehow less impressive than the other two teams.

I am not taking anything away from Kansas State or Oregon or a one loss SEC champ (whomever that is) for that matter. They have taken care of their business and deserve to be in the title game. What I have a bit of a problem with is this notion by the experts that they deserve it more than Notre Dame.

Currently in the BCS standings, Kansas State is #1, Oregon is #2, and Notre Dame is #3. Let's look at the Wildcats first. While they are worthy of being #1, they have played two common opponents with Notre Dame. That being Miami and Oklahoma. They beat the Hurricanes by 39 points and the Irish beat them by 38 (not much of a difference). However, Notre Dame beat the Sooners by 17 points and the Wildcats were a play away from losing. In fact, they got lucky with an unforced turnover that made a difference.

Therefore, that is a case for Notre Dame to be higher than Kansas State.

Now let's look at the Ducks. So far there have no common opponents, but they will play Stanford this week and the Fighting Irish will end at USC. That will give us a clearer picture, but until then all we have is numbers. I won't lie. Oregon has very impressive numbers. They are averaging 54.8 points a game. They have gone over 50 points seven times, over 60 points three times, and scored 70 once. There is no doubt that is impressive.

But here is the question that I would love answered. Is all that more impressive than a team that gives up an average of 11.1 points a game. Take away their one off week against Pittsburgh and that average is 9.4. The Fighting Irish went an entire month without giving up a touchdown. They have only surrendered two rushing touchdowns all year and 8 total. Oregon would give that up in two games.

Therefore, it is hard to say who is better at this point. There is still a lot of football to be played. Kansas State still has to play Texas. Notre Dame has to take care of business against Wake Forest and then USC. Oregon perhaps has the toughest road as they play Stanford before traveling to in state rival Oregon State. If they win those games, they will face either UCLA or USC (again) in the PAC-12 title game.  All of those teams are currently ranked in the top 20 in the BCS.

The bottom line is that whether it is fair or not, Notre Dame will need to remain unbeaten and needs one of the other teams to lose. Therefore, the best thing The Fighting Irish can do is just continue to play solid football and let all that other stuff take care of itself. Like Coach Brian Kelly said, "If we don't beat Wake Forest, none of it matters." 

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Notre Dame Too Much For Boston College

The final score was 21-6, but it wasn't close. Anybody watching this game could plainly see that the players for Boston College just couldn't compete. The Fighting Irish once again surrendered less than 10 points and no touchdown. It is the fourth time this season they did that. Manti Te'o once again led the way in his bid for the Heisman. He had five tackles and an interception.

Everett Golson and offense moved the ball at will. BC couldn't stop them, it took two Notre Dame fumbles. If not for that, the score would have more more lopsided. Golson has continued to get better every week. In Boston, he threw for 200 yards and two touchdowns. He also added 39 yards rushing and a touchdown.

Golson was complimented by seniors Theo Riddick and Tyler Eifert. Riddick had another solid running game with 104 yards. Eifert showed the nation why NFL scouts love him with six catches for 67 yards.

The thing that was impressive about the offense was the way the Irish could take up a good chunk of the quarter on one drive. They had four drives that were at least six minutes and one in the second quarter that took almost nine minutes.

It was a game that wasn't much in terms of excitement. It was not a back and forth game. Notre Dame seized control early. The scoreboard doesn't reflect just how one sided this game was.

The two fumbles are an area of concern and must get cleaned up. They can't do that against the tougher teams. Having said that, the Fighting Irish are 10-0 and very much alive for BCS and National Title consideration.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Boston College Has No Chance

Whenever a 9-0 team plays a 2-7 team, there is always the fear of taking them too lightly and not being prepared to play. There is no way this will happen this week. Notre Dame already had a let down last week against Pittsburgh. This is a defense that gave up 26 points to the Panthers. That may not seem that bad, but it is when your average is just under 12 points. They also allowed a 100 yard rusher for the first time all year.

Therefore, the defense will be fired up this week and will take it out on Boston College. The Eagles do have a legitimate passing threat in Junior quarterback Chase Rettig who has thrown for 2556 yards with 16 touchdowns and only 8 interceptions. His favorite target is Junior receiver Alex Amion who has caught 67 passes for 1073 yards and 6 touchdowns.

Boston College has had virtually no running game all year. Junior Andre Williams does have 584 yards with four touchdowns, but that is misleading considering 191 of those yards came against Army. It is also safe to say that no defense they have faced in the ACC, other than Florida State, can compare with Notre Dame.

On the other side, the Eagles give up an average of 35 points a game. Put that against a team that has a young quarterback who is getting better every week. Everett Golson has also said that he is actually more comfortable playing on the road. I am not sure why that is. Maybe it is easier being away from South Bend and all the media that is there. Brian Kelly needs to just stay with Golson from here on out. We all love Tommy Rees, but it is time to let Golson take charge of this offense.

To go along with Golson is a great running game that has three runners with at least 300 yards in Theo Riddick, Cierre Wood, and George Atkinson. Tyler Eifert leads a really good receiving core to help Golson. With the development of young Golson. Notre Dame is no longer just a great defense. They are a great team.

Of course we can't look past anybody, but I am certain Notre Dame will be ready after the let down last week. The line is that barring an act of God, Boston College has no chance.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

NBC Is Not The Only Network That Broadcasts Notre Dame

Those who hate Notre Dame often complain because they are on TV every week even in the bad years. When Notre Dame was 3-9 a few years back, they could still be seen on TV every week. I even remember a friend of mine asking who slept with who at NBC to put that crap on TV every year?

The problem with that thought is that all networks put Notre Dame on TV when they can. NBC just happens to have the home schedule. That leaves 4 or 5 other games every year that still end up being shown. How is that?  

Let's take a look at some of the other contracts for other Networks.

It is true that the SEC is the primary concern for this network. However, they also have a contract with the service academies. With that contract they show two games yearly, the Army-Navy game and every other year when Notre Dame visits Navy. It seems as though CBS uses this contract as a way to show Notre Dame.

Here is another one.

ESPN does broadcast it's share of ACC games, but it makes it a point to get Notre Dame on when they play the ACC. How else would Boston College get on prime time this Saturday? Who would tune in to watch a 2-7 team? That will only increase in a couple years when Notre Dame begins it's new agreement with the ACC.

The fact is that as much as the haters want to hate, Notre Dame sells and people watch. That is the only reason these networks would do what they do to get them on TV.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

The Irish Refuse to Lose

Let's take a missed field goal along with a missed extra point. There were also two interceptions that were easy catches by Pittsburgh. Then there was a fumble in the endzone by Cierre Wood. Those were just a few of the mistakes Notre Dame made against Pittsburgh. The defense also played it's worst game of the year by giving up 26 points. So how can you explain a Notre Dame victory with all those factors?

Pittsburgh kicker Kevin Harper was perfect all day until he missed a kick following the Wood fumble. It is Notre Dame's year. That is the only explanation that makes any sense. The Irish did everything to lose this game. Not only the players were doing off stuff, but Coach Kelly too.

I know Tommy Rees has done an outstanding job all year, but Kelly needs to show the confidence in Golson  enough to stay with him. The young man responded after being benched. He came back in with the team trailing 20-6 (largest deficit of the year). He threw a touchdown to TJ Jones. Then the defense became fired up and played like the defense has all year.

That was only to see Golson throw a bad interception in the endzone with just minutes left. It appeared as though the undefeated season was done. However, the defense held them three and out. Golson responded with the team trailing by eight with a three play drive that was all improvisation. He found Theo Riddick in the endzone and took the two point conversion in himself.

Then Golson scored the winning touchdown in the third overtime.

As ugly as this game was, it did show a lot about what this team was made of. Notre Dame just flat out refused to lose. Pittsburgh did everything to win and they should have. However, the Irish showed what champions are made of.

It was also good to see that Notre Dame can count on more than just their defense. Golson threw for 227 yards and two touchdowns. He added 74 more on the ground with the game winning touchdown. Riddick gained 85 yards and Wood added 70. Jones, along with DaVarius Daniels, Tyler Eifert, Robby Toma all had nice days receiving the ball.

In a way, this is kind of a game Notre Dame needed. That is at least for the offense.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Notre Dame Needs a Statement Win Against Pittsburgh

On paper, this is not even close. Notre Dame is 8-0 and coming off a huge win against Oklahoma. The other has struggled to a 4-4 record and their four victories are nothing to write home about.  They defeated Virginia Tech, Gardner Webb, Buffalo, and Temple. All of which have losing records. The combined record of those teams is 10-22.

Therefore, this is set up to be a blowout. Notre Dame is supposed to beat them convincingly. That is different from what The Irish had been hearing. It all started when Pittsburgh Alum and Notre Dame hater Mark May predicted Notre Dame to lose to Purdue. Then nobody gave them a chance at Michigan State.

After that, it was Denard Robinson and Michigan that would bring the Irish to reality. It continued through Miami and Stanford and then there was the concern of a let down versus BYU. Even with a 7-0 record nobody gave them a chance at Oklahoma.

Now at 8-0 and #3 in the BCS, the experts are now expecting the Irish to dominate all of their opponents going into USC.  To be honest, this is a scary place to be. It is easy to prepare hard for a team like Oklahoma. However, that makes it easy to look past a team like Pittsburgh. That is dangerous to do.

Even though they have been inconsistent, the Panthers are another rival for Notre Dame and they take pride in beating the Fighting Irish. Mr. May also takes pride in it as well. That is why I personally love beating Pittsburgh as much as anybody else. I would love to see Notre Dame make a wager to May stating that if Pitt can pull off this upset, Notre Dame will surrender it's BCS rights. But if Notre Dame continues it's winning ways then May has to get in an MMA ring with a player of the team's choice and the fight doesn't end until the player gets tired of stomping on his face or ramming his head into the cage.

That ought to motivate the Fighting Irish not to look past this team. Brian Kelly has done a great job of keeping them focused on the task at hand and not looking ahead. That has to continue this week. Senior quarterback Tino Sunseri is one of the best in the nation. He has completed 68.9% of his passes for 1878 yards with 10 touchdowns and only 2 interceptions. His rating is an impressive 159.6.

Senior running back Ray Graham is also a legitimate threat. Coming in with 866 total yards and nine total touchdowns, he can produce in both the running and passing game. Mike Shanahan is their toughest receiver. Having said that, this is not Oklahoma and Notre Dame at it's best should be able to stop this team consistently.

Defensively, Pittsburgh is giving up an average of 22 points a game but that is misleading as they have not been consistent on defense either. They have given up as much as 45 and as little as 6(but that was against Gardner Webb). With the trio of great runners in Theo Riddick, Cierre Wood, and George Atkinson and the  emergence of Everett Golson, this defense will have it's hands full.

What it all boils down to is this. If Notre Dame continues to play like it has all year, this will not be close. However, Notre Dame can easily look past a team like this and have a disappointing result.