Saturday, December 28, 2013

Rutgers No Match For Notre Dame

Yes the score was only 29-16, but that does not accurately give a picture of how dominant Notre Dame was. Mistakes really allowed Rutgers to stay in the game for longer than they needed to be. An early muffed punt return by TJ Jones led to a field goal. Then dropped touchdowns by William Fuller, DaVaris Daniels, and Jones kept points off the board.

But the running game took over in the second half thanks to a dominant line anchored by game MVP Zach Martin. Cam McDaniel led the way with 81 yards while Tarean Folston added 74 yards and a touchdown. Going forward, these two need to be the featured runners next season.

It was a nice game for Tommy Rees to go out on. He threw for 318 yards and more importantly no turnovers.

Defensively it wasn't really anything spectacular just another day at the office. They held the Scarlet Knights to just 16 points and only 3 after halftime. The Irish  forced 4 turnovers. The most important stat was that they were able to get off the field. Notre Dame dominated in Time of Possession. The Irish had the ball for 35 minutes to 20 by the Scarlet Knights.

The game wasn't really all that exciting to watch but it is always nice to end with a win. I cannot wait until next season. The offense will be deadly with the return of Everett Golson and all the returning weapons he has. We just need to keep Coach Kelly away from the Detroit Lions.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Bowl Season Set to Kick Off

In the last year of the BCS and before the landscape of college football changes dramatically, from top to bottom there are some really good bowl match ups this year. Unfortunately the Pinstripe Bowl is not one of them. I am not talking just the BCS Bowls, there are some good match ups. Boise and Oregon State in the Hawaii Bowl is a nice match up. BYU and Washington in the Fight Hunger Bowl will be a good one.

Although Notre Dame does not have a good match up, there are two other bowls that day that will be worth watching. Miami-Louisville in the Russell Athletic Bowl and Michigan-Kansas State in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl should be great match ups.

Oregon-Texas in the Alamo Bowl should be a great one. That is Mack Brown's last game. What about Duke-Texas A & M in the Chick  Fil A Bowl? That will be an interesting one.

Then we get into the bigger bowls. As usual there is a Big Ten-SEC challenge on New Year's Day. Expect the SEC to dominate it again. But Michigan State can give the Big Ten some hope with a win over Stanford in the Rose Bowl. That will just be a tough physical game.

Then honestly all the BCS games are good match ups. It will be an exciting bowl season. It all kicks off this Saturday with 4 games. The headliner is USC-Fresno State in the Las Vegas Bowl. I honestly cannot think of a better way to start the bowl season than with a USC loss. And maybe another locker room fight occurs and Marqise Lee announces he is leaving minutes later like Robert Woods did last year. That would be great.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Good For You Coach Diaco. You Deserve It

I write this blog with mixed emotions. Bob Diaco came with Coach Kelly from Cincinnati. In his four years he has been one of the best defensive coordinators in the nation. Nobody will ever forget that defense he put together in 2012. There is no doubt that his departure leaves a huge hole on the coaching staff. He will certainly be missed and we are sorry to lose him.

At the same time, I am really happy for him. He has earned his right to be a head coach. While Connecticut may not be a big time program, it is a good opportunity for him to get his feet wet and it is one where he will have time to build it without immediate pressure to win.

The downside he is going into a conference that is really a rag tag league. The American Athletic Conference is leftovers from the Big East and former members of Conference USA. Two of those teams, Louisville and Rutgers are leaving. While that is bad for the league, it could put Connecticut in a more competitive spot.

Congratulations and good luck to Coach Diaco. I hope he sticks around for the bowl game but I will understand if he has to go now.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Thank You Louis Nix

Not a lot needs to be said about Louis Nix. We all know how important he was to that defense. One thing that stands out was last season when Manti Te'o was asked if he had a vote for Heisman, who would it be? He said Louis Nix. Nix often took two blockers or even three which freed up not only Te'o but that entire linebacking crew.

It is a fact that in a 3-4 defense, if you don't have a good nose tackle your defense will not be that good. Nix was just a rock for so long. He will be missed.

Thank you Louis Nix for all you did for Notre dame. Get well and I will be rooting for you to do well in the NFL unless you get drafted by the Jets.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Love the Idea of Playing At Yankee Stadium, But Hate the Match Up

My last blog was how I wanted to see the team play at Yankee Stadium because of the history involved. But I was really expecting and hoping to play Houston. The Cougars haven't really played a tough schedule but they have a very exciting offense. It would have been fun to watch.

As it is, we are stuck playing Rutgers. Although Rutgers has been a good program lately, they struggled this season. They did get off to a pretty good start. They started the year 4-1 but their best game in that stretch was the loss. It was an overtime loss to Fresno State opening weekend. Their wins were against an FCS team in Norfolk State, a really bad MAC team in Eastern Michigan, an awful Arkansas team, and a SMU Team in overtime who did not make a bowl game.

Then the Scarlet Knights went on a stretch were they lost 5 of 6 games. That one win was against Temple whom they beat by just a field goal. We all remember how bad Temple was.

They needed to win their last game just to be bowl eligible and to their credit, they did win impressively. But it was against a South Florida team who not only won just two games but also had no offense all year.

Based on that, this is really a no win situation for the Irish. This is an opponent who they should not only beat but just destroy. It would be embarrassing if the Irish lose and even if they win in a close one it won't look good. But Notre Dame can't control who The Pinstripe Bowl picked for the opponent. What they can control is how they prepare and how they play. To build momentum for next season, Notre Dame needs to settle for nothing less than making Rutgers sorry they were ever born.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Why I Want The Pinstripe Bowl

I know it is likely to be cold and snowy, but there is something about Notre Dame playing at Yankee Stadium that just makes sense. It is often stated that the two best jobs in the country are the Head Coach at Notre Dame and the Manager of the New York Yankees. I really thought it was awesome when they played Army a couple years back at Yankee Stadium. We are talking about two of the biggest brand names in all of sports.

Looking at our other options, we could go to Detroit for the Little Caesars Bowl and play a MAC team. not to sound like a snob or anything but that game is beneath us and we prove nothing by beating up on a Mid major.

Another possibility is a trip to Florida for the Beef O'Brady's Bowl against a C-USA team. While the weather is nice I still think we can do better than this one.

A trip to San Diego to likely play Boise in the Poinsettia Bowl is a little more appealing. Boise is not the program they used to be but still a good matchup. I can live with this one but still I want to see them at Yankee Stadium.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Who Should Be Notre Dame's Next Offensive Coordinator? Why Not Tommy Rees?

With Chuck Martin moving on to be the head coach at Miami (Ohio), Notre Dame now has to fill that position. We all know that Brian Kelly is not going to allow an offensive coordinator come in and run his own system. Kelly wants the quick spread. Therefore, The Irish need someone who knows Kelly's system well. After being in the system for four years, I think it is safe to say that Tommy Rees knows that system and the playbook inside and out.

I know suggesting something as radical as this will create a lot of debate and doubters. Some will say he may be a good coach but he is too young for a job like this. That is ridiculous though because either you know football or you don't age has nothing to do with it.

Then there will be those who are so hell bent on hating Rees, they will totally scoff at the idea. But that is also ridiculous because playing ability has nothing to do with knowledge. Not only does Rees know Kelly's system inside and out, but he also is a coaches son meaning he was raised around this game.

The fact is that during his four years, Rees has shown signs that he could do a great job of coaching. He was a great mentor to Everett Golson during the magical season of 2012. Golson said he was blown away at how  much football knowledge Rees has.

Rees showed that this year as the starter too. How many times did he see what the defense was doing before  they did it and audibled out. He had a lot of success with that. His knowledge in many ways made up for any physical limitations.

Not only is Rees smart, but he also has the respect of every player in that locker room. They followed him as a player and trusted him as their quarterback.

So to those of you who think he may be too young or just are too anti-Rees to be on board with this, I ask you these questions. Who is out there that knows this offense better than Rees? Who is out there that has more respect from the team than Rees?

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Coaching Hire That Just Makes Me Laugh

 When Ed Orgeron took over the USC program, he knew it was on an interim basis. But after he actually had success, he wanted to have the job permanently. He was 6-2 as coach and the team was very impressive in those wins. But his two losses were two Notre Dame and UCLA, the Trojans big rivals. Losing those games is unacceptable to USC.

So I can certainly understand why Pat Haden would have reservations about making Orgeron the permanent coach. We have seen this before where a new coach takes over who is a polar opposite of the guy who was fired and not well liked by the players. The team goes on an emotional run but that emotion runs out. The name Larry Coker stands out and to a smaller degree Charlie Weis. We will never know if that would have been the case with Orgeron or not.

My take on it was they might as well just give him a year and see what he does. He earned and there still is sanctions for a couple more years. That was unless there was a big name coach out there that wanted the job like Jack Del Rio.

That is why this hire of Steve Sarkesian just makes me laugh. I know he had success as an offensive coordinator in their recent glory days under Pete Carroll. But as a head coach at Washington, he did an OKAY job. He did decent but nothing to really get excited about. His record in five years 34-29 and he was 1-2 in bowl games. The program is in better shape now than when he got there but it is still nowhere near Oregon, Stanford, or even UCLA.

In fact, there was even some rumor about whether or not Sarkesian would be fired had they not beaten in state rival Washington State.

Another thing that is funny about this is that he actually mentored the guy Haden fired in the first place. That alone should say something.

The USC players seemed to really like Orgeron and played really hard for him. So if you are going to replace a coach like that, you better had a guy whose name already demands respect. But I am sorry but Sarkesian is not that guy.

I don't blame Orgeron one bit for resigning. He could have been a really high paid assistant, but it was not about the money. I am sure he wants to get back at Haden and USC. So if I were him I would apply for the Washington job and really stick it to them if Washington wants him.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Notre Dame Finishes Roller Coaster Regular Season With A Nice Effort By Rees

I had to take some time to think on this one because the Stanford loss was one that just seemed a little different than the other three. In the first half the effort looked just pathetic honestly. Stanford was running the ball at will and Notre Dame could not run at all. That once again put way too much on Tommy Rees. Looking at Coach Kelly's demeanor on the sidelines and he honestly looked disinterested in the game. It is true that our bowl positioning probably would not have changed regardless of the win or loss, but still it is a rivalry. It is not USC, but it is still a rival.

Then came the second half and the team played a lot better at least on offense. The defense never did figure a way to stop workhorse Tyler Gaffney who ended with 189 yards and a touchdown. But the offense did get going as Rees threw two touchdowns that got the Irish back into the game. Unfortunately for Rees, there are too many idiots that call themselves fans. They will not remember the two touchdowns. They only care about the two interceptions late that sealed Notre Dame's fate.

Clearly these fans know very little if anything about football. They pay no attention to the fact that they were asking way too much of Rees because of a lack of a running game. They also pay no attention to the fact that if you have to pass that much, interceptions will happen regardless of who the quarterback is. The fact is that Rees this season threw more than twice as many touchdowns as he did interceptions.

In his career, Rees has thrown 61 touchdowns and 37 interceptions. That is almost double the total. In fact, that is a difference of 24. For those idiots who probably don't understand basic math either, that means he threw 24 more touchdowns than he did interceptions.

I appreciate everything this young man did for Notre Dame and I hope he stays on as a GA. I especially appreciate the fact that he was committed to stay at Notre Dame even though it looked like he would be the back up. He could have very easily have transferred to an FCS team his senior year and said "screw you" to all you ungrateful fans. Quite frankly, I would have done that. That is why I really appreciate this young man.

Now moving forward, it is looking like we will be making a trip to Yankee Stadium to play Houston in the Pinstripe Bowl. Although it is not official, that is what the experts are predicting.


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Notre Dame and Stanford Battle In a Game That Doesn't Mean Much On Paper

For the first time since the Sugar Bowl, Notre Dame will be on FOX Sports. FOX has a contract with the PAC 12 for home games and this week Notre Dame goes to Palo Alto. When the schedule came out, I am sure both the Irish and the Cardinal circled this one as a match up that could be between two undefeated teams for a trip to the BCS Title game.

And both teams have had impressive wins, The Irish had signature wins over Michigan State, Arizona State, and USC who are all ranked teams. Stanford's signature moment was Oregon of course but they also had huge wins over UCLA and Arizona State.

But both teams have also had disappointing losses. Notre Dame lost to Michigan and Oklahoma in games where the losses look a lot worse now than they did at the time. Then the Pitt game was just a dark spot on the season. Stanford had an inexcusable loss to Utah who won't even make a bowl game. They also lost to USC  and not to discredit what USC has done since the coaching change but the Cardinal should have taken care of business in this one.

Based on that, that makes this game somewhat irrelevant on the national scale. Stanford will not play for a BCS title, but they will play in the PAC 12 Championship regardless of the outcome. The game is a little more relevant for Notre Dame because as I said in my last blog, they are not mathematically eliminated from the BCS, but it will take a lot of help. So being realistic, whether the Irish are 9-3 or 8-4 probably won't affect too much what bowl they get.

But whether or not the game matters nationally, it is still another huge rivalry for the Irish. It is not a rivalry like USC, Michigan, or Miami where the two teams just don't like each other. It is more of a rivalry like Navy where the two teams have a mutual respect for each other and how both teams build a strong program while still maintaining tough academic standards. But make no mistake of it, both teams want to win bad.

And this will be another physical battle. Stanford is a really tough team who loves to play smash mouth run the ball style. We all remember the overtime battle last year in which it took a Tommy Rees to TJ Jones touchdown followed by a signature goal line stand. That gave the Irish an 18-9 series lead.

What will decide this game this year is who runs the ball most effectively and on paper that favors Stanford. They have a senior in Tyler Gaffney who has rushed for 1296 yards and 16 touchdowns. That will be a tough battle for Stephon Tuitt, Sheldon Day, and Jaron Jones. Notre Dame's leading rusher on the other hand is Cam McDaniel with 608 yards and 3 touchdowns. Having said that, the Irish do have a little more depth at that position because George Atkinson has 554 yards with 3 touchdowns, and the late emergence of Tarean Folston has added more to the running game. Outside of Gaffney, Stanford's next leading rusher has 262. So while both teams want to run the ball, the Irish have to basically prepare for one guy while Stanford has to be ready for a committee who all have different running style. That could be a slight advantage for Notre Dame.

The quarterbacks have had similar seasons but Notre Dame has a clear edge in the passing game. Kevin Hogan has thrown for 2052 yards with 18 touchdowns and 7 interceptions while Rees has thrown for 2739 yards and 25 touchdowns with 11 interceptions. Hogan's best receiver is Ty Montgomery with 50 catches for 822 yards and 9 touchdowns but the next highest receiver has 22 catches for 396 yards. Rees on the other hand has Jones who has 59 catches for 986 yards and 8 touchdowns. But Jones is not the only weapon. DaVaris Daniels has 41 catches for 641 yards and 6 touchdowns while Tight End Troy Niklas has added 26 catches for 398 yards and 5 touchdowns.

It is safe to say for both offenses that this is one of the more physical defenses they have faced. Unfortunately  for Notre Dame though, Stanford's defense has stayed healthy for the most part. This will be a battle and I am glad that the players will have some time for the bowl game. They will need it to heal.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

BCS Is Not Mathematically Dead, But........

Believe it or not, Notre Dame is still not mathematically eliminated from the BCS. It will take a victory over Stanford and a lot of help. Plus, the voters never seem to be on the side of the Irish and tend to point out Notre Dame's failures rather than their successes. I will break my TV next time I hear a commentator say, "I don't know how Michigan State lost to Notre Dame." It never even enters their mind that maybe Notre Dame is a pretty damn good team. But enough about that, let's explore just how Notre Dame can still pull off a trip to the BCS.

They are currently ranked #25 and need to be at least #15 in the final poll to be eligible. That means we have two weeks to climb 10 spots. we are off that last weekend, but that can actually be a good thing.

Just ahead of Notre Dame is Duke. They play North Carolina this week and if they win as expected, they will play Florida State in the ACC Championship in which the Seminoles will likely make them sorry they were ever born. So passing Duke should not be a problem.

Ahead of Duke is USC and UCLA. The best value that has to the Irish is that they both play each other this week. This will be an interesting game to watch and much of the focus will be on whether or not Ed Orgeron will get the job as Head Coach on a permanent basis. Since taking over he has only lost once but it was to Notre Dame which is a big loss to them. He can get some redemption with a win over their other big rival, but a loss will make it hard for Pat Haden to ignore the fact that Jack Del Rio is out there. Expect this to be one of the best games in this rivalry in a long time. The good thing is that one of them will lose.

Ahead of these two LA rivals is Texas A & M led by Johnny Football. They play Missouri this week who with a win will advance to the SEC title game. I expect the Tigers to take care of business. So passing the Aggies seems to be very realistic.

The next team at #20 is Louisville who has the week off before ending the year against Cincinnati. I think Coach Kelly's old team is underrated and has a real chance in this one. The game is in Cincinnati.

Ahead of Louisville is Central Florida and it might be hard to pass them because they have two games left against two teams that tackle like wimps. But SMU is always tough with that Run and Shoot offense so maybe they can pull off an upset. This one may take an act of God.

Next up is Oklahoma who has struggled since their win over Notre Dame. They have one game left against in state rival Oklahoma State who is currently #7. The Cowboys will win the Big 12 with a win which will make it even tougher for the Sooners. That is good for the Irish.

#17 is LSU who has one game left against Arkansas who has only 3 wins all year. Ouch, this one will be tough.

Next up is Fresno State who plays San Jose State before playing either Utah State or Boise in the Mountain West Championship. I don't see them losing this weekend but there is potential in the title game.

At #15 which is where the Irish need to be is Wisconsin. They have one game left this weekend and it is against Penn State. The Nittany Lions are a tough team but I am not sure they match up with the Badgers and this will be their Senior Day. This one will be tough.

Just ahead of Wisconsin is Northern Illinois who won't lose today against Western Michigan, but the MAC Title games are always exciting and either Bowling Green or Buffalo will give the Huskies all they can handle.

Another game of interest to Notre Dame is the Big 10 Title game with Michigan State and Ohio State. This can be good either way. If the Spartans pull off the upset, our victory over them looks even better. But if the Buckeyes win, Michigan State will potentially fall far enough.

Oregon seems to have lost a lot of momentum and a loss to Oregon State would help. Also, Arizona State plays an emerging Arizona team this week, but I kind of want the Sun Devils to win because it makes our win over them look better.

Of course Notre Dame can help it themselves with a win over Stanford who is #8 but will fall many places with a loss to the Irish. Of course, Stanford will play Arizona State the following week in which one of them has to lose.

The thing that does hurt us though is that our losses are bad ones. Neither Michigan nor Oklahoma lived up to expectations and Pitt is well Pitt. So there are a lot of things that do need to happen in the Irish's favor and it will be tough. So the best thing Notre Dame can do is have a great week of practice, play the game of their life against Stanford, and let the rest take care of itself.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Notre Dame Lands Back In The Top 25 After Physical Win Over BYU

My apologies for the lateness of this blog. I was indisposed this weekend and was just able to see the game film now.

Things always look better after a win. Fans were really questioning the direction of the program after the Pitt loss. But now things are looking a lot better. The team is now 8-3 and not mathematically eliminated from the BCS. Although they do need a lot of help to make it there. But let's not go there just yet.

On Saturday, the Fighting Irish finally played the kind of game they should have been playing all year. That is a physical running game and play action passes off of it. The first drive was symbolic of that as emerging freshman Tearean Folston ran effectively for the whole drive until Tommy Rees hit a wide open DaVaris Daniels for a 61 yard touchdown.

That was the theme all day as Folston along with Cam McDaniel just ran it down BYU's throat. McDaniel gained 117 yards on 24 carries and Folston had 78 yards on 13 carries with a touchdown. George Atkinson also pitched in with 42 yards on 6 carries. The USC kid never saw the field.

There was enough balance in the passing game as Rees finished with a respectable 235 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Daniels finished with 6 catches for 107 yards and a touchdown while TJ Jones had another solid day with 5 catches for 95 yards.

The defense had a nice effort. They did give up yards but managed to keep everything in front. Dual threat quarterback Taysom Hill had 168 yards passing with a touchdown and an interception along with 101 yards rushing. The defense really did a nice job of stopping Jamaal Williams as he only had 43 yards.

Defensive standouts were Jaylon Smith who keeps getting better and better and Jarron Jones who filled in nicely for Louis Nix. I am excited for the careers these young men could have. Jones had a huge field goal block late in the game that would have pulled the Cougars to within a touchdown.

Great win for the Irish and it is now time to prepare for our annual year end trip to California to play Stanford. This year the game may not mean much on paper, but it is another big rivalry for Notre Dame.

Friday, November 22, 2013

BYU Has Had A Season Similar To Notre Dame's

With all the talk about the seniors this week, it is sometimes easy to forget that we have a football game against a really good team. For Notre Dame it has been probably the most up and down season I can remember. For the ups, we beat Michigan State and Arizona State who will both likely play in their conference championships for a chance to go to the BCS. We also beat USC which is always a huge bonus.

But we lost to Michigan and Oklahoma who have both gone really south since playing Notre Dame. The Pittsburgh loss was a low point, but to be fair, our team was really injured in that game.

BYU has had a very similar season in many regards. They open the year by losing to a mediocre Virginia team only to blow out Texas the next week. Then they lose to a mediocre Utah team before going on a winning streak against a soft schedule featuring lots of mid majors. The Cougars to their credit did play Wisconsin pretty tough but I never got the sense they would win that game.

But what I do know is that they played us tough last year. Rees had a tough game but we did win. Their biggest offensive threat is dual threat quarterback Taysom Hill who has 2379 passing yards and 16 touchdowns. Hill also has 956 yards rushing with 8 touchdowns. His one weakness is that he does tend to turn it over with 12 interceptions.

Another weapon they have is runner Jamaal Williams who has 940 yards and 6 touchdowns. The Irish defense will once again have their hands full and with Louis Nix out for the year, that will be tough.

It is hard to say how good the Cougar defense is because they have not really played too many explosive offenses.

Nonetheless, the Irish will have another battle on their hands.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Thank You Seniors

I already wrote a whole piece on Tommy Rees so this one is dedicated to the other seniors.

TJ Jones

He has been by far the team's best receiver with 54 catches, 891 yards, and 8 touchdowns. Jones was often overshadowed by guys like Michael Floyd and Tyler Eifert in his early years. But in his senior year, he has really been the man. I expect to see him on Sundays.

Zack Martin

A rock on the offensive line for years. He came back this year to play with his younger brother 

Chris Watt

Another soild rock on the line.

Louis Nix

There is some debate about whether or not he will exercise his option for a fifth year. But with the money waiting for him in the NFL, it is hard for me to picture him coming back. Nonetheless, along with guys like Stephon Tuitt, Kapron Lewis-Moore, and Sheldon Day, he was part of one of the most feared defensive lines in all of college football.

Dan Fox

Prince Shembo

Carlos Calabrese

These three were often overshadowed by Manti Te'o throughout their career. But all three have been solid and will be missed.

Bennett Jackson

He had the tough task of transitioning from wide receiver to cornerback. Although it was not an easy transition, Jackson managed to hold on to his starting job for two seasons.

Austin Collinsworth

An unsung hero in many ways. He has been a special teams star and very good in Nikel and dime packages.

Danny Spond

Another complimentary linebacker to Te'o, but he was unable to play his senior year due to injury. But he showed his commitment to Notre Dame by staying with the team and was very useful in the development of Jaylon Smith.

Thanks to all the seniors and good luck in your future endeavors. You will all be missed.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Why Tommy Rees Deserves a Standing Ovation On Senior Day

Every year the day that is filled with the most mixed emotions is Senior Day. That is the day that we are sad to see them go but are happy for what they gave to the program and want to wish them well. This year we have a player who will go down as one of the most debated players in Notre Dame history. That is Tommy Rees.

His four year career has really been a roller coaster ride. The first time we saw him was as a freshman against Michigan when he came in for injured starter Dayne Crist. I did not think much of him at that point as he looked very ineffective. But later that year, he came in again against Tulsa when Crist was once again injured. But this time it was for the year. Rees had a good game that day but he came up short with an interception in the endzone at the end. Fans were frustrated as the team was 4-5 and a 4-8 season was staring us in the face.

Then after a bye, Rees rallied the team on Senior Day with a huge win over a ranked Utah team. Then the team found new momentum and defeated Army at Yankee Stadium, defeated USC, and triumphed again in the Sun Bowl against Miami.

Then came an offseason in which Rees and Crist would have to compete for the starting job not only with each other but also with freshmen Andrew Hendrix and Everett Golson. In spite of the fact that Golson and Hendrix were more taylor made for Brian Kelly's spread system, they were way behind Rees and Crist. And although the competition was close, Crist got the nod in the opening game against South Florida. But he was so ineffective that Rees replaced him at the half.

In spite of the fact that Rees was the least talented quarterback, he continually outperformed the competition and was the quarterback for the rest of his sophomore season. He lead the team to an 8-4 record in which his play was very up and down. He had over 20 turnovers that year although he did look good at other times.

Then came an offseason in which he would once again compete with Golson and Hendrix for the job while Crist left for Kansas to be reunited with Charlie Weis. During spring it was close among all three, but Golson clearly look the best in the Spring game.

Then came probably the darkest time in Rees' career when he got arrested for drunk and disorderly and assaulting a police. That cost him a one game suspension and who knows if he would have won the starting job over Golson?

But during that special year when the Irish went to the BCS title game, Rees found a new role that he excelled in. That was a backup and mentor to Golson. Since Golson was so young, there would be games he would struggle in. I will never forget that day when he came in against Purdue with fans booing him and led them down for a game winning score.

Then two weeks later, he once again came in for a struggling Golson to lead the team to victory in an old fashioned defensive battle against Michigan. Later in the season he replaced an injured Golson against Stanford and threw a touchdown in overtime. He started against BYU and wasn't great but good enough for a win.

His role on the field diminished at that point as Golson was beginning to really grow. Although he did get in for one play against Oklahoma, but it was a big play. He hit Tyler Eifert for a long first down on a third and long on a drive that Golson led them to score. That drive grabbed control of the game for the Irish.

Although he didn't play much after that point, he was just as important in his role as a mentor to Golson. The two became friends. Going into the offseason, Rees did not look to have much of a role on the field in his senior season.

Then we all know what happened as Golson made a mistake we know he regrets in which he cheated on a test. Rees once again has had a season that has had it's ups and downs. Fans have been back and forth with each other about him.

My stance is and always has been was that I love the kid but he is a good backup quarterback. And we knew that we would have to play the season with our backup quarterback. So do I blame him for the 7-3 record? The answer is no. When a team knows they are playing with a backup at quarterback, it is up to the defense and running game to really step up and neither have been consistent all season.

Rees was never recruited to be the starter. He was a coaches kid who was smart and picked more for his intelligence. He was a good guy for depth on the roster. It is not his fault that he outperformed the more talented guys and that Golson made a bad mistake. Rees has given all he has to Notre Dame and has made the most of what he has. Can you honestly say the same thing about Crist and Hendrix? Is it his fault Golson messed up? For that reason Rees deserves a huge ovation on Saturday.

Thanks for everything Tommy and I hope Coach Kelly keeps you on as a GA. Otherwise you will be missed and good luck in your future endeavors.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

A Strong Finish Can Still Save the Season

The Pittsburgh game hurt. That was a game that Notre Dame should have won and it still hurts a week later. But being fair, the team was really banged up on defense and losing Stephon Tuitt who was the only healthy defensive lineman to a bad call really changed that game.

But the season is not done and there are two tough games left. I was very low after the Pitt game but ironically it was a USC win that gave me new life. I thought Stanford was looking unbeatable until that. With a by guys like Sheldon Day and Louis Nix have had a little time to heal and hopefully are ready to go against USC.

BYU is a tough team, but a victory over them will make that Pitt game just a hiccup. Go Irish! Get back on track.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Some Notre Dame Fans Need a Reality Check

Whenever a team suffers a disappointing loss, knee jerk reactions from fans always come. Following the loss to Pittsburgh. We hear them all. Of course a good share of them go toward Tommy Rees. Many hint that they can't wait until Golson comes back. I will be the first to admit that the offense can do way more with him than it can with Rees, but I will not forget that Golson had his moments as Rees has this year. The difference is that Golson had Rees to bail him out in those games. That is not the case this year. There is nobody behind Rees.

The fact is that Rees was probably never figured to be the starter by the coaches when he was recruited. Guys like Dayne Crist, Andrew Hendrix, and Golson all had more talent. But Rees outperformed all of them consistently. Don't be mad at him for that. Golson did have the job last year and Rees was his backup, but this year Golson messed up and we had to go with the backup.

Another common comment I hear is that this is the most frustrating season ever for a Notre Dame fan. I say Wow! You must have a short memory if you don't remember the Weis and Clausen years. Here we had a coach flashing his Super Bowl rings and a young man showing up in a hummer promising 4 National Titles. That of course was after he made his announcement at the NFL Hall of Fame. The farthest they went is the Hawaii Bowl.

To compare this year to that is ridiculous. I predicted 8-4 at the start. We lost way too many guys. Manti Te'o, Tyler Eifert, Kapron Lewis Moore, Zeke Motta, Theo Riddick, Cierre Wood, and Danny Spond are all gone. And we have played this whole season with our backup quarterback. What did we really expect? I predicted 8-4 and that is looking like what we will get.

We will end up with a decent bowl. Don't get me wrong I am still disappointed with the Pitt loss, but to compare this season with others in recent years is ridiculous.

I have faith that Coach Kelly will have them back next year.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Rule That Must Be Changed

Whenever you lose it is always tough. But it is easier to accept when you play a good game but lose to a team who is better than you. It really stings when you lose to a lesser opponent. It is even worse when there is controversy surrounding that loss.

That is the case right now with Notre Dame. If there was a player on defense that the Irish could not afford to lose last weekend it was Stephon Tuitt. Tuitt was the only healthy defensive lineman on the Irish roster. Louis Nix and Sheldon Day did both play but they clearly were not the same recovering from injuries.

But early in the second quarter, Tuitt was ejected for targeting on Pittsburgh quarterback Tom Savage.

The targeting rule is as follows:
• No player shall target and initiate contact vs. opponent with the crown of his helmet.
• No player shall target and initiate contact to the head or neck area of a defenseless opponent.
That all sounds good but looking at the photo above, it is clear that both players have their heads down. It actually looks like Savage went in with his head down and that Tuitt was just trying to get lower than him. If you watch the hit live, you will see that Tuitt actually made contact with his shoulder pads even though his head was down.
To me, it seems that the rule is designed to protect the quarterbacks and that is not right. If a quarterback goes in head first like that, he should get flagged too. 
The controversial part of the rule is the ejection part. What makes no sense is that the ejection can be reviewed but the penalty can't. So if he did not target and is not ejected, why wouldn't you pick up the flag. That is absurd. In Tuitt's case, the ejection was upheld and nobody in South Bend understood what they were looking at.
That call changed everything. Pitt's offense did nothing prior to the call. But after it, our already banged up and thin defense now had it in their head that they couldn't hit the other team a certain way. Yes it was Pitt but I don't care if it were an Ivy league team. If you're already banged up and your one healthy linemen goes down, that will affect the outcome of the game and it did. 
And yes, our three turnovers on offense did affect the outcome too, but Pitt would not have scored without that penalty.
That rule cost Notre Dame not only the game, but any chance at the BCS. It needs to be changed.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Bad Officiating and Three Turnovers Cost Notre Dame Any Chance Of BCS

Not a good night for the Irish as their BCS hopes were shattered with a loss to Pittsburgh. This was a team that on paper was outmatched by the Irish. And the way the game started, that is exactly how it looked. Tommy Rees had an early touchdown to Davaris Daniels and the Pittsburgh offense could do nothing.

Then it happened. Stephon Tuitt had a vicious hit on Panther quarterback Tom Savage. Although it was in bounds and it was Savage who lowered his head, Tuitt got a targeting penalty which got him ejected. That totally changed the game as Pittsburgh exploited that hole in a line that was already thin before the Tuitt ejection. The defense was not the same after that and could not stop a mediocre offense. Along the way there was a really bad pass interference call that led to a touchdown.

Having said all that, the defense should have been able to overcome the Tuitt ejection as he is not the only playmaker they have. Giving up three second half touchdowns to this offense who has a bad line is inexcusable.

Offensively it was another big day statistically. Rees had 318 yards passing with two touchdowns and TJ Jones had six catches for 149 yards and an 80 yard touchdown. But it was those two guys who had crucial errors that cost the Irish points. Jones had a long catch in the second quarter but fumbled inside the five. Rees just fell apart in the 4th quarter with two interceptions. One of them was in double coverage in the end zone.

Another factor in this game was that I felt the offensive game plan was poor. Tarean Folston had a breakout performance last week but he only got four carries against Pittsburgh. That is just inexcusable. The running game was completely abandoned in the second half in spite of the fact that it was working in the first half. And although that was a bad throw by Rees in the endzone, I was puzzled why they couldn't pound it in when they only needed a couple yards.

All these factors combined created a bad loss to a team they should have beaten. Now that the BCS is gone, it will be a long two weeks before BYU comes to South Bend for Senior Day. Notre Dame still needs to finish strong in hopes to get a decent bowl.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

It Doesn't Have To Be Pretty, Just Get A Win

There are two teams that Notre Dame annually plays that always make me nervous because it seems no matter what their record is they seem to play the Irish tough. They are Purdue and Pittsburgh. We all remember what happened last year and this year should be no different. While the panthers are only 4-4, they do have a quarterback in Tom Savage who has thrown for 1779 yards with 14 touchdowns and 7 interceptions and a running back in Isaac Bennett who has rushed for 543 yards and 5 touchdowns.

Granted six of Savage's touchdowns came in one game, but that one game was Duke who is better than they normally are. Also, 240 of Bennett's yards came against Old Dominion. But having said that, the Irish defense is banged up after two straight weeks of service academies. The cut blocking that goes on in those games takes it's toll and Notre Dame should think about whether it is in their best interests to keep playing them. They have to play Navy, but no reason to ever play Air Force or Army again.

Among the wounded for the Irish are Ishaq Williams and Kona Schwenke who are out. Sheldon Day is questionable. Ben Councell was lost for the year against Navy. The good news is that Louis Nix is returning this week. The defense needs is thin though and guys like Stephon Tuitt and Jalen Smith need to continue to play big as they have.

The good news is that the offense is not only healthy but got a real spark last week with freshman runner Tarean Folston. I am so excited to see what he can do for a follow up this week, but if las game was any indication he and Cam McDaniel can be a great 1-2 punch. This can only help Tommy Rees as TJ Jones, Troy Niklas, and company will be more open. This is a Pittsburgh defense that is giving up an average of 26.75 points a game and it is really against soft opponents other than Florida State and Duke. Expect Rees and company to have another big game.

But again, on paper this appears to be a big win for the Irish. However, this does have the makings of a trap game. Notre Dame has a bye with two weeks to prepare for BYU and Stanford. With all the injuries the Irish have, I say it doesn't have to be pretty. Just get a win.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Notre Dame Up To #23 With BCS Hopes Alive and Well

With their shoot out win over Navy, Notre Dame climbed two spaces to #23 in the latest BCS poll. With three games left, it means that the Fighting Irish still can make a BCS Bowl but they have to win out and they need teams in front of them to lose. That will happen because many teams in front of Notre Dame will play each other.

It starts this Thursday with a couple of big games. #3 Oregon and #5 Stanford play. That means one of them will lose. They probably won't fall enough but Notre Dame does play Stanford at  the end of the year. But being brutally honest, if Stanford beats Oregon I don't see how Notre Dame can beat them.

Another big game on Thursday is  #10 Oklahoma at #6 Baylor. The greatest value to us is that one has to lose, but if Oklahoma can win it does make us look better.

There is only one other top 25 match up but it is a big one. #1 Alabama hosts #13 LSU. Now Alabama will not fall anywhere near enough with a loss. But LSU just might with a blowout loss since that will be three losses.

Hopefully, somewhere along the way somebody knocks off Central Florida and Fresno. Arizona State was ranked one spot ahead of us which is strange since we beat them. But that is not a huge concern because they have a late season match up with #19 UCLA. Again the greatest value to us is that somebody has to lose.

Having said all of this, none of it matters if the Irish don't take care of their business. It starts this week with Pittsburgh whom we know always comes ready for Notre Dame regardless of their record.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Notre Dame Wins Shoot Out With Navy

If you wanted to see a defensive struggle, you watched the wrong game. Unlike the Michigan State and USC games, it was the offenses who ruled this day. Notre Dame and Navy accounted for over 900 yards of offense in this game.

For the Irish, Tommy Rees had another solid day with 242 yards passing and two more touchdowns. Hid did have two interceptions but only one was really on him. The receiver fell down on the other. TJ Jones had another big day with 4 catches for 111 yards.

But the story of this game was the running game. George Atkinson opened the game with a 41 yard touchdown run. Cam McDaniel was also solid running with 7 carries for 52 yards and a touchdown. But they were both outdone by true freshman Tarean Folston who had a breakout game. He rushed for 140 yards and a touchdown.

Navy really had no answer for the Irish offense. Notre Dame did not punt all day. It was only the two interceptions when the Midshipmen escaped without points and even on one of those a touchdown was called back because of a really questionable holding call. Notre Dame scored touchdowns on all three of it's second half possessions.

Defensively it was a struggle though. To be fair, the Irish had some key injuries for this game, most notably Louis Nix aka Irish Chocolate. The referees also did not do the Irish any favors. There was an illegal use of hands penalty on Stephon Tuitt that kept a drive alive early that looked like a good play. Then Mathias Farley had a hit in bounds with his shoulders first that would have forced a punt. Instead he got flagged for unnecessary roughness.

But even with that, Notre Dame should have had enough talent to overcome what Navy had. As it was Keenan Reynolds and that triple option attack gave the Irish nightmares all day. Notre Dame actually only stopped them three times all day.

The first stop was the Mid Shipmen's second possession in which they did the Irish a favor by trying to pass when their option attack was working. The second stop was the first possession of the second half in which the Irish earned and made them punt. The third stop came on the final possession of the game in which the Irish actually got a little lucky. Navy was marching but a fumbled pitch on a first down put them in 2nd an 16.  They gained part of it back and set up a 4th and 5. That is when Navy tried a trick play with a reverse off the option only to have emerging freshman linebacker Jaylon Smith waiting for them and made the tackle. Honestly, I don't know why Navy tried that trick play when Notre Dame hadn't stopped their base option all game. The regular option probably would have worked.

But with the win Notre Dame improved to 7-2 with BCS hopes still alive. The problem is that not too many teams ahead of the Irish in the poll actually lost. #21 Michigan did get destroyed by #22 Michigan State. I am not sure if that helps us or hurts us. #15 Texas Tech went down to #18 Oklahoma State. #7 Miami fell hard to #3 Florida State. It will be interesting to see how far those teams fall in the poll.

Notre Dame must be #14 to be eligible and #8 for an automatic bid.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Notre Dame In a Scary Familiar Position

The date was October 31, 2009 (Halloween Night). The Place was San Antonio, Texas. It was the first ever Shamrock Series game against Washington State. The Fighting Irish destroyed the Cougars  40-14. The victory moved the Notre Dame to 6-2 and in a position to contend for a BCS bowl with four games left.

They had four opponents who were beatable but also tough enough to lose to if they didn't play their best. But Irish fans were confident they would go through Navy easily and then go to Pittsburgh and triumph. Connecticut was tough but it won't happen on Senior Day. Finally, Stanford would be a tough test, but Notre Dame owns this series.

Things were really looking up for Notre Dame and fans were talking about what BCS Bowl we would play in. Then it happened.  The Irish hit a wall against Navy and fell 23-21. Then proceeded to hit three more walls and lost the rest of their games. Charlie Weis was fired while Jimmy Clausen and Golden Tate bolted to the NFL.

Does this sound at all familiar? Notre Dame is coming off a dominant performance to Air Force and guess who is coming to South Bend? That is right Navy. Then once again the team travels to Pittsburgh and a trip to Stanford is the last game. Maybe because it is Halloween I am paranoid, but this is way too familiar. The only difference is BYU is the Senior Day opponent.

The point here is not to scare anybody, just to remind them that any given Saturday you can win or lose depending on how ready you are. It is very easy for Notre Dame to be overconfident against Navy. They have completely dominated the last two meetings including last year in Ireland. Notre Dame actually went 43 years without losing to Navy. However, there was a span in recent years in which the Mid Shipmen won 3 of 4 and as it stands now they do have the number one rushing offense in the nation. However, it is against inferior competition.

Their leading rusher is quarterback Keenan Reynolds with 546 yards and 11 touchdowns. But he has only 667 yards passing with 4 touchdowns and 3 interceptions as Navy is one dimensional as it always is. And this defense doesn't match up on paper. So Tommy Rees should have another big day throwing to TJ Jones and company.

So if Notre Dame comes out like they have the last three games and plays to their ability, they will help their BCS cause, but if they lose a repeat of 2009 is a real possibility.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Big Day For The Admiral

Ordinarily an NBA legend would not be mentioned on a Notre Dame blog. But David Robinson is going to be a really interested observer when Notre Dame and Navy renew their annual rivalry this Saturday. It will be his son versus his alma mater. He went to Navy, but his son Corey is an emerging freshman receiver for Notre Dame.

I am sure there will be some mixed emotion for the Admiral. Navy will always be in his heart.

But at the end of the day, blood is thicker than water.
 I expect to see the Admiral decked out in Blue and Gold screaming Go Irish!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Everett Golson Deserves a Second Chance

In a recent interview with SI, Everett Golson admitted that he cheated on an exam and that is what led to his suspension from Notre Dame. I was very impressed with the way he did not make excuses or blame anybody else. He took ownership of it. That really showed maturity.

He also said that he didn't play at a junior college this year in transition to transferring to another school because he has unfinished business at Notre Dame and feels the need to right a wrong. Based on his demeanor, I can tell that he is sorry for what he did and is determined to redeem himself. Based on that, I think he definitely deserves another chance to be the quarterback at Notre Dame.

Now he should not just get the job handed back to him. He should have to earn it back by competing with Malik Zaire and whatever freshman recruit comes in. But at the end of it, I expect Golson to win that job and be better than ever.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Two Michigan Rivals Have Gone in Opposite Directions Since Playing Notre Dame

At the same time Notre Dame will be playing Navy, two of it's early season Big Ten rivals will play against each other in a game that is a rivalry in it's own right. That is Michigan and Michigan State. They will hold their traditional battle for state bragging rights.

These two teams annually play Notre Dame just before opening the Big Ten season. Traditionally, a victory over Notre Dame by either team was a big momentum boost heading into conference play while a defeat generally has derailed them for the rest of the season.

That is generally the pattern but this year has had a surprisingly reverse effect for both teams. Michigan had a great game against the Fighting Irish and looked to be the class of the Legends Division. But a week later they barely survived against Akron and then had a very sloppy win at Connecticut. Those are two teams that Michigan should have dominated. Then in conference play, they beat Minnesota convincingly and appeared to have righted the ship only to go down in triple overtime to a Penn State team with a freshman quarterback and loads of sanctions. Most recently they needed record setting performances by Devin Gardner and Jeremy Gallon to beat Indiana. While Michigan is 6-1, they have really struggled since that great game against Notre Dame. Most concerning has been Gardner's turnovers and a very suspect defense.

Michigan State on the other hand has looked very impressive since their loss in South Bend. Their defense is the best in the Big Ten and possibly in the nation. They have the most defensive touchdowns in the nation with 5. They give up an average of only 12 points per game. Max Bullough and Shilique Calhoun have been the defensive standouts. The offense led by Connor Cook has gotten better each week to. Most recently they hung 42 on Illinois. The Spartans are also 6-1 but it looks to have more momentum.

When they play this weekend, the winner will be in prime position to contend for the Legends division. Both teams will also have to play Nebraska shortly after. This game does have significance for Notre Dame because the loser will fall behind them in the polls provided the Fighting Irish take care of business against Navy.

I wish this game was not on at the same time as Notre Dame because it will be a good one to watch. A dominant defense against a dangerous offense. As is often the case, how the other units perform will likely be a huge impact on the result.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Can We Name Cam McDaniel The Starter Already?

With Notre Dame's recent turnaround and return to the BCS top 25 poll, the team looks to make a late season run. There has been one area that has been a bit concerning. That is the running game. More specifically two players, Amir Carlisle and George Atkinson just haven't lived up to the hype. the season was set to have those two guys be the playmakers while Cam McDaniel, the tough white boy from Texas, would be the muscle in short yardage situations.

The way Carlisle opened up with a big 40 yard gain against Temple gave us reason to believe he would be the next big runner in South Bend. But that carry accounted for about a quarter of his yards as he has only 193 for the year and no touchdowns. Atkinson has had moments particularly a 90 yard touchdown against Oklahoma, but he also hasn't put it together consistently and has just 381 yards and only two touchdowns.

The reality is that the tough white boy from Texas has outperformed both of them. He has 412 yards on 91 carries and two touchdowns. Those numbers would be better if he got even more carries.

I understand that Carlisle and Atkinson are the prototypical runners where McDaniel is built for a role. But the fact remains that McDaniel has consistently outperformed them all year. Even last Saturday when Coach Kelly made it a point to get those two going, McDaniel still outperformed them.

The situation is similar to the quarterback situation, Andrew Hendrix is the more prototypical quarterback for  Kelly's system, but Tommy Rees has consistently out performed him.

Based on that, it is time to commit to McDaniel as the starter, at least for the rest of this season.

Notre Dame #25 in BCS Poll

After a dominant performance against Air Force, Notre Dame put itself in position to make a run at the BCS and landed at #25 in the second poll. From what I understand, if the Fighting Irish are ranked #8 in the final BCS poll, they get an automatic invite. But they can still get an at large invite if they are #12. But being honest, if Notre Dame is eligible somebody will take them. They are Notre Dame after all. So that means that the Fighting Irish need to move up 13 spots.

While that may seem difficult they do have about six weeks to do it. Provided they take care of business the next two weeks, they will keep moving up due to many of the teams ahead of them playing each other. For sure either Michigan or Michigan State will lose as they play each other this week and that will put the Fighting Irish ahead of the loser. They will both likely lose out to Ohio State eventually which will move Notre Dame up even further.

I am not sure why Wisconsin is one spot ahead of Notre Dame considering they lost to Arizona State. But they don't have a schedule left that will give them a statement win. They do play BYU, another common opponent, in a couple weeks.

Central Florida has been tough with wins over Penn State and Louisville. Their only loss was by 3 points to an SEC team in South Carolina. But they still have tough games with Houston, Rutgers, and SMU left. It is likely they slip up somewhere.

Louisville also has tough games left with Houston and Cincinnati. They can fall in either if not both.

UCLA has been tough but with two losses they will definitely fall with another loss. They have a showdown with Arizona State and even if they are successful, they probably go down to Oregon again.

The SEC (Schedule Easy Competition) always finds a way to have many teams in the top half of the poll. This year is no exception with South Carolina, LSU, Texas A & M, Auburn, and Missouri all ahead of Notre Dame. I left Alabama out because we don't need to catch them and won't. But of those teams, only Auburn and Missouri have just one loss. LSU will likely lose another to Alabama in a couple weeks. Auburn will play them at the end of the year while Texas A&M and Missouri play each other meaning one has to lose. South Carolina still has tough games with Florida and Clemson.

Based on all this, Notre Dame should get a BCS bid if they win out because many teams in front of them will fall due to playing each other. It is inevitable. So the best thing Notre Dame can do is just keep getting better like it has in recent weeks.

Go Irish!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Notre Dame Is Now Bowl Eligible After Manhandling Air Force

Notre Dame needed to make a statement against a struggling Air Force team and they did with a 45-10 blowout. Most impressive in the win was Tommy Rees. He threw for almost 300 yards and a career high 5 touchdowns. He actually had the highest rating of any quarterback in FBS play this weekend. What was really cool about the five touchdowns was that they were to five different receivers. Corey Robinson, Chris Brown, and William Fuller all had their first career touchdowns. Reserve tight end Ben Koyack also had one and finally Rees couldn't leave his favorite target TJ Jones out. Jones had another big day with 7 catches for 104 yards.

Rees' 5 touchdowns now gives him 15 for the year and he also has 1660 yards. Jones now has 37 catches for 527 yards and 5 touchdowns.

Defensively, it was another solid effort after giving up a touchdown on the first drive. But once the Irish got settled in to defending the triple option, Air Force could do nothing. They did not score another touchdown. The defensive star was Jaylon Smith who had 8 tackles and a fumble recovery. This freshmen is getting better every week and on his way to be the leader on defense for the next four years.

If there was a disappointment in this game, it was the running game. George Atkinson and Amir Carlisle have not lived up to expectations all year and this game was no exception. Both have been outperformed by Cam McDaniel all year and it is time for Coach Kelly to commit to him as the number one runner. He had 61 yards on only 10 carries against Air Force.

With the win, the Fighting Irish clinched bowl eligibility and set themselves up for a run at the BCS. Losses by #24 Nebraska and #25 Oregon State should be enough to get Notre Dame into the BCS top 25. Notre Dame would ultimately have to finish in the #12 to be eligible for a BCS bid. To be honest, I am not sure what bowl they will get an invite too. The Big East is now defunct and Notre Dame doesn't start it's agreement with the ACC until next season. That means there are no bowls that have any kind of Notre Dame clauses except the BCS. In other words, if Notre Dame does not get a BCS bid they could get an invite to a bowl that is well below Notre Dame standards just due to circumstance.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Notre Dame Needs to Make a Huge Statement Against Air Force

 Despite not currently being ranked in the BCS Top 25, Notre Dame still has BCS hopes. It can happen if the Fighting Irish win out and go 10-2. To do that they have to go one game at a time. You can't go 10-2 if you don't go 6-2. But even with a 10-2 mark, they could still get left out if they don't impress the pollsters. It won't help if Notre Dame has opponent whom they should blow out on paper and end up barley beating them. That already happened once this year against Purdue and being honest, the Irish weren't really all that impressive against lowly Temple too.

Now here we are this week against an Air Force team that is 1-6 from a second tier conference in the Mountain West. From what I understand, they have already started 4 different quarterbacks. So going into this game, Air Force doesn't scare me at all. Notre Dame does. The Fighting Irish often do not get up for games like this and allow an inferior opponent to be closer than it should be. On paper, Notre Dame should blow the Falcons out. But they need to blow them out on the field. Notre Dame has looked good the last couple games and some of the pollsters have noticed. But an uninspired win will not help rally new ones.

But not only for purposes of moving into the polls, games like this are how you are supposed to build programs. These games should feature extended playing time for backups and give them game experience. But the coach can't do that if they keep it closer than it should be. What happened with Andrew Hendrix last week is a perfect example. Had he got game experience against Purdue and Temple, he might have been better prepared and done a little better. The fact is that he is the back up and may be called upon again in a key situation. That is why getting him and other back ups in this week is vitally important.

So Go Irish and blow this team out. We have no interest in an exciting game.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Notre Dame Gets Snubbed In the BCS Poll, But Has Much Bigger Concerns With Rees Being Day To Day

A day after defeating USC at home for the first time since 2001, it was really disappointing to see Notre Dame not ranked in the first BCS poll. I certainly don't think Fresno State, Northern Illinois, or Central Florida play a level of competition that makes them better than Notre Dame. I even want to scratch my head on Louisville. But regardless, I can understand that in the Fighting Irish's first 5 games they were not impressive even in the games they won. But since then they had a great game against Arizona State and the defense dominated USC. The offense was solid in the first half but after Tommy Rees got hurt, the offense did nothing. But if the team keeps playing like they are capable, I have no doubt that Notre Dame will be in position to clinch a BCS bowl with a win when they travel to Stanford at the end of the year. It would not hurt if one of the Michigan teams made it to the Big Ten title game, Oklahoma wins the Big 12, and Arizona State wins the PAC 12 South.

All that talk is mute though if the Irish lose even one more game. With the Rees injury, that is definitely now a concern considering just how bad the offense was without him. Let's just put this in perspective how bad it was. He had two touchdowns in the first half and was well on his way to having close to 400 yards passing. The offense had 269 yards with him and just 26 without him. Keep in mind that this is a defense that has given up well over 600 yards in the last two games. They are notorious for wearing down in the second half and gave up 63 second half points the previous two games, and yet our offense could generate nothing without Rees. That is quite disturbing honestly.

I don't want to beat up on Andrew Hendrix, but you would expect a guy who has been in the program have a better knowledge and honestly have more hunger than he showed. This was his one shot at glory after being behind Rees and Everitt Golson for so long. And look what he did with it. He was 0 for 4 passing and they honestly weren't even close, nor were they difficult passes. Then another ball fell out of his hands when he tried to pass. I understand he is a good kid and is probably trying his best, but this is Notre Dame, not Pop Warner.

Rees's injury does not appear to be serious as he is day to day and expected to practice Tuesday. He has a sprain in his neck. This week, the Fighting Irish have to prepare for an Air Force team that is 1-6 against competition that does not compare to Notre Dame's schedule. I mean no disrespect to the Mountain West conference by that statement because a few good programs got their start in that league. But facts are facts, Air Force is struggling against lesser competition and from what I understand are down to their fourth string quarterback. Given those conditions, I would normally say just sit Rees for this because we should be able to win with a back up. But with as bad as Hendrix was against USC, I have no confidence that Notre Dame can beat anybody with him. We certainly don't want to remove the red shirt from Malik Zaire, not for Air Force. I almost want to say give Charlie Fiessinger a chance. I am sure he can throw a bubble screen to TJ Jones or DaVaris Daniels which is really all he would be expected to do. But then again, there is a reason why he is behind Hendrix.

Good thing we are playing Air Force this week, but we still need to be able to do something offensively. Coach Kelly will definitely have to earn his pay check this week in how he prepares them.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Defense Dominates While Andrew Hendrix Shows Why He is Not The Starter As Notre Dame Ends Home Drought Against USC

For the first time since 2002 Notre Dame defeated USC at home. The Irish have now won 3 of the last 4 against USC and have retaken control of this rivalry after losing 8 straight to the Trojans. But the win did not come easily or without cost.

The game started with Notre Dame taking the ball all the way to the one before USC put up a goal line stand. The Trojans then took it all the way down for a Silas Redd touchdown. Redd had a big first half with 91 yards. But the Irish defense did get it together and only gave up a field goal the rest of the first half.

The Irish offense was great in the first half. Tommy Rees threw for 166 yards and 2 touchdowns. One was to Troy Niklas and the other was to TJ Jones. These plays were set up by great running from Cam McDaniel who had 85 yards in the first half.

At the half, the Irish were up 14-10 and appeared to be on their way to an easy victory as USC was clearly wearing out and star receiver Marqise Lee reinjured his knee. Then on the first drive in the second half, Emerging linebacker Jaylon Smith intercepted USC quarterback Cody Kessler on the first drive. That set up the Irish in great field position and with a chance to take control of the game. But USC linebacker Lamar Dawson busted through untouched and knocked Rees out of the game.

Then came in seldom used junior quarterback Andrew Hendrix. To be blunt, he was awful. He did not complete a pass in 4 attempts and USC totally committed everybody to stopping the run since the pass was no threat.

But fortunately, the defense was awesome in the second half. Kessler was under pressure all night. Leading the way was Louis Nix, Stephon Tuitt, Sheldon Day, Prince Shembo, and Ishaq Williams. These guys put so much pressure on Kessler and forced the USC linemen to hold on many occasions.

There was no scoring for either team in the second half so the Irish held on for the win.Going forward though, we have to be concerned if Rees cannot come back. We might beat Air Force and Navy, but I am not sure we can beat anybody else if we have to go forward with Hendrix.

As for Lee, I want to reiterate a point on whether or not it is in his best interests to keep playing for this average USC team. He has such a great future ahead of him in the NFL. He really should consider shutting it down this year to preserve that.

Is It About Time to Bust Out the Green Jerseys Against USC?

They are not worn very often. The green jerseys are kept for special occasion. The last time I recall Notre Dame wearing them was against Army at Yankee Stadium 3 years ago. We live in a day and age where kids get pumped up by special uniforms. The Fight Irish always plays great at the Shamrock Series that features special uniforms.

These green uniforms are kept for certain occasions. I think trying to beat your arch rival in prime time at home for the first time since 2002 qualifies as a special occasion.

I say lets bust them out against the Trojans.

Friday, October 18, 2013

How Notre Dame Should Game Plan For USC

On paper, Notre Dame should win against USC. They both played Arizona State in consecutive weeks. The Trojans got embarrassed by giving up 62 points and a week later the Fighting Irish had their best game of the year. However, there are a couple factors that still make me nervous on this one. First, this is THE  rival and Notre Dame has not beat USC in South Bend since 2002. Getting a monkey like that off your back is never easy regardless of the circumstances. Second, USC looked like a totally different team against Arizona in their first game with Ed Orgeron as Interim Head Coach.

So thinking of all that, it is always important to have a great game plan. Starting with the defense, they need to pick up where they left off against Arizona State. That pressure was awesome and needs to keep up against USC. They have a young quarterback in Cody Kessler who has yet to play a team that has the potential to rush him the way the Irish can. That pressure is key because if he is given time, I don't think either Bennett Jackson or KeVare Russell can cover Marqise Lee. But that is a moot point if Kessler can't get him the ball.

Notre Dame has been solid all year against the run and they will certainly have a challenge this week against Silas Redd and Tre Madden. But I see the Irish defensive line overpowering the Trojan offensive line.

Now looking at the offense, the key is patience in the running game and time of possession in the first half. I know that it is always an urge to go for a big play early, but that is not the correct thing to do this week. The reason why is USC wears down in the second half. The fact is that they have lost a lot of scholarships because of the sanctions and don't have the same depth as most programs.

Just take a look at their last two opponents. In that embarrassing loss to Arizona State, it is easy to forget that it was a tight game at the half. It was mentioned that they gave up 62 points, well 42 of them were in the second half. Even against Arizona, USC wore down. They gave up a touchdown late in the first half and gave up three more in the second half. As good as they looked in that game, the Wildcats nearly rallied to beat them.

What that tells me is that in the first half, George Atkinson, Cam McDaniel, and Amir Carlisle really need to run that ball a lot. Tommy Rees and TJ Jones need to have patience. They will have their opportunities in the second half, The points will be there but the key early is running the ball and time of possession. That will wear this defense that has limited depth. Then in the second half, open that playbook up. This team has given up 63 second half points in their last two games. If Notre Dame is tied or even slightly behind at the half, they are in great shape for a big second half.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Amir Carlisle Can Make Or Break His Season Against Former Team

It is certainly not unusual for a player to transfer schools while he is in college. However, a player going from USC to Notre Dame is almost unheard of. The Irish are not a rival, they are the rival. But that is exactly what Amir Carlisle did. And it got off to a roaring start. His first carry was for 45 yards. After two games he was the teams leading rusher with 132 and appeared to be the guy who would be the featured runner. But in the last four games, he has just 46 yards. That gives him just 178 for the year and no touchdowns.

He is currently listed as the third runner behind Cam McDaniel and George Atkinson. Those two are really built more to be specialists than featured runners. Cam is the muscle while GA III is the speed. The fact that those two have more yards than Carlisle alone highlights how disappointing Carlisle has been since his hot start.

He has shown flashes at times, but has never established himself. Playing against his former team should provide extra incentive for him.There is no doubt he circled this date when the schedule came out. Maybe a big game against his former team can get him jump started for the stretch run. But if he has another game in which he can't even break 20 yards, it might be hard for the coaching staff to keep him in the regular rotation.