Monday, September 29, 2014

Notre Dame Will Be Defined Over the Next Three Weeks

Irish fans these days can be described as optimistic and at the same time cautious. The 4-0 record is cause for optimism. Notre Dame has really looked dominant on defense and has arguably the best quarterback in the nation. But there is also reason to be cautious. The reason being that they haven't really played a good team yet. Rice, Michigan, Purdue, and Syracuse have a combined record of 7-11 and an 0-9 record against teams from Power 5. On top of that, Notre Dame has looked sloppy in the last two games. Granted it was on neutral fields in games that were kind of like the bowl game for both Purdue and Syracuse. Therefore, teams like that will play above themselves for awhile until reality sits in.

Nonetheless, while Irish fans are hopeful the reality is that we do not know how good this team is. My intuition tells me that they are better than the 8-4 team from a year ago, but it is way to early to compare them to the team that went 12-0 two years ago. The good news is that we will have a better idea about Notre Dame after these next 3 games.

Stanford may have owned this rivalry in recent years, but that was without Golson. Also their offensive line is not as tough as they usually are. Nonetheless, we can always expect a physical battle from Stanford.

Next up will be North Carolina who has not lived up to expectations, but this has trap game written all over it. Notre Dame needs to be ready to play for this one.

Finally, Florida State will round it out for Notre Dame to play in Tallahasse.  That is the ultimate measuring stick as to how good the Irish are.

So we may not know just yet how good Notre Dame is, we will in about three weeks.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Syracuse Outmatched By The Fighting Irish

Where do we start with this one? How about with Everett Golson? He had what I would call an ambiguous night. Prior to this game, he did not turn the ball over at all. He turned it over three times in the first half and it easily could have been four. Then he threw a pick six late.  At the same time, he also had 25 straight completions while throwing for 362 yards and 4 touchdowns.

His best receivers were Will Fuller who caught six passes for 119 yards and two touchdowns and Corey Robinson who had a career night with 8 catches for 91 yards and a touchdown.

Once again the running game did not do much to help and the offensive line did not help the cause. These are areas that need to improve as the schedule gets tougher.

The defense was absolutely solid. With the inconsistency of the offense, it was nice to see that the defense had their back.

It is nice to get the win and be 4-0. But being real, Syracuse was completely outmatched. A better opponent would have capitialized on the Irish mistakes. Coach Kelly has lots to work on getting ready for Stanford.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Notre Dame Set to Officially Begin Its ACC Agreement With Syracuse

When this blog was created two years ago, it was right after the announcement that Notre Dame had struck the agreement with the ACC. It was all about the new direction Notre Dame would take in all of it's great history, hence "The New Notre Dame."

So first on the schedule is another team that is still new to the ACC. Syracuse is only in it's second season in the ACC. The game is another neutral field game at Met Life Stadium in New Jersey. It is sort of like Syracuse's version of the Shamrock Series.

To tell you the truth, a team like Syracuse almost scares me more than a Stanford or a Florida State. The reason being that when we face those tougher schools, we know we are in for a fight. But The Orange are a different animal. They began the year by needed overtime to beat an FCS team in Villanova. After a bye, they blew out Central Michigan who had blown out Purdue the week before. Then just last week they got manhandled by Maryland from the Big Ten. That tells me that they are inconsistent and we don't really know what to expect. But much like it was for Purdue in Indianapolis, this is probably their Bowl game.

Watching Syracuse last week, I noticed a couple of things about them. their secondary looked slow and that is something that Everett Golson and our receivers can exploit. Also their quarterback is an Everett Golson wanna be. Terrell Hunt has only thrown for one touchdown so far, but he has rushed for five. He is decent but he is no Golson. The defense just needs to bring it and have one spy for him. I don't think he can complete passes under duress like Golson does.

Notre Dame should not have too much trouble with this one if they come ready to play.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Back To Reality For Notre Dame

Bye week is done and it is time for the Fighting Irish to get back to preparing for Syracuse. The reality that played out over the off weekend for Notre Dame is that there are really more questions than answers as far as how good Notre Dame really is. Sure they have looked really good, but it has not really been against anybody yet. I am not trying to be negative, but I have to keep it real.

The Irish have beaten three unranked teams who aren't very good.  Rice, though they are the defending C_USA Champs, is 0-3. Certainly there is no shame for a team like Rice to lose handily to Notre Dame and Texas A & M. But Old Dominion??? Really???

Michigan did look impressive against an FCS opponent week 1, since then they have been a disaster. Notre Dame shut them out and then the following week the Wolverines were really not that impressive in beating Miami of Ohio who has the longest current losing streak of 21 games. Now Michigan lost to Utah from the PAC 12. In that game, the offense only managed a field goal. That means that in 8 quarters against major competition, Michigan's offense has 3 points to show for itself. Looking at their remaining schedule, they might only win two more games. While that will make Irish fans chuckle, the reality is that Notre Dame dominated a weaker team.

Ironically, the best team the Irish have played might have been Purdue. I would never would have thought that after they got blown out to Central Michigan, but outside of that game the Boilermakers have been decent. But still they are not a team who will even contend for the Big Ten title and will struggle to even be bowl eligible.

So what do we have with Notre Dame this year? We know that we have a great quarterback who is among the best in the nation. We know he also has a great group of receivers. We don't know how good the line is to protect him. We know we have three really good prospects at tailback, but we don't know if one can establish himself as the featured runner.

We know we have a young and fiery new defense. We don't know how if they can stay disciplined in big games. We also don't know how they will matchup against physical offenses like Stanford and Florida State.

So when I look at that #8 ranking and wonder if it is accurate. If I think with my heart, I say "Hell Yeah!" But if I try to be even a little objective, I have to say we don't know yet.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Why I Hate The New Playoff System

Okay, so yes this is a piece for a bye week. But the new playoff system is a joke. For anybody to suggest that it is better than what we had is just silly. Where do I start?

How about with the panel? All I hear is about how great it will be to no longer have computers involved in the selection process. Humans have eyeballs and can see what happens on the field. That is a valid argument, but the problems with humans is that they also have bias which affects their objectivity. What is more objective and unbiased than a computer?

But beyond that, the problem is that it is not being decided on the field but chosen by a committee. I am okay with a Final Four, but why can't they use what was already there to determine it?

The old system had four major bowls. The Rose Bowl was Big Ten vs. PAC 12, The Sugar Bowl was SEC vs. at large or Notre Dame, The Orange Bowl was ACC vs. at large usually from the Big East aka AAC, and the Fiesta Bowl was Big 12 vs. at large or Notre Dame. Why can't they keep that system and the winners are your final four?

The other thing I really hate is the new system is totally unfair to Notre Dame. I keep hearing that the committee will be emphasizing Conference Champions when determining the four teams. That means Notre Dame will likely get left out if they lose even one game and we all know how difficult their schedule is every year.

Under the system I propose above, they can make the standards for Notre Dame very clear. If they win 10 games they are an automatic bid. If they win 9, they are eligible for an at large selection. What is so hard about that?

My biggest fear with it though is that I think it will be so SEC biased. ESPN owns the new SEC Network and this playoff is on ESPN. There is the motivation for the system to grant two SEC teams in. ESPN is biased toward Notre Dame. Do you think they would be if they had a contract for Notre Dame?

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

3 Things To Work On During the Bye.

After Notre Dame's rocky victory over Purdue, it is pretty easy to see the areas the Fighting Irish need to improve upon with a tough schedule ahead.  The offensive line, running game, and secondary are all areas to work on. I am not worried over 5 players who may or may not be reinstated. The coaches have no control over it either way.

Offensive Line

This is always a good place to start. The bottom line is that this unit just needs to play better. Everett Golson was running for his life out there. A quarterback of lesser ability would have not been able to make the plays Golson did. But he is going to get hurt behind this line with tough defenses like Stanford and Florida State on the schedule in the near future.

Running Game

The Irish have an interesting dilemma here. They have three runners in Tarean Folston, Greg Bryant, and Cam McDaniel who all have shown great potential. The problem is that with a three way rotation, none of them are really being featured and that makes it tough for any one runner to get into a rhythm. It seems that the Irish have to do one of two things. That is they can feature one runner and limit the carries for the other two. It is not clear which of the three should be featured at this point. Or they can go to a two back rotation instead of three. That will give more carries to two guys and allow them to go with the hot runner in the second half. But the problem is which runner do you take out of the rotation. This is not an easy decision here. It can be considered a good problem to have but it is a problem nonetheless.


This is a unit that has just been decimated by injury. Hopefully, Austin Collinsworth will be back soon. Andrew Trumbetti who suffered a head injury against Michigan should be ready to go against Syracuse. Cole Luke has to go through concussion protocol and there is no word on his return yet. Nicky Baratti is done for the year after separating his shoulder. Finally, somebody needs to sit down with Max Redfield.  I do love the intensity this young man plays with. However, he not only will cost the team harmful penalties, but he will also hurt somebody possibly himself with the way he plays.

The bye week is coming at a good time. There are injury issues to deal with. The team needs to transition from a Big Ten type Schedule to now a ACC and PAC 12 schedule. The Irish will play Syracuse in two weeks. After that, the schedule gets really tough. The line up is Stanford, North Carolina, and Florida State. Then late in the season Notre Dame has Arizona State, Louisville, and USC. Even Navy always play the Irish tough. The only easy win appears to be Northwestern. It won't be an easy road at all, so the Irish have to make the most of this bye week.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Notre Dame Has a Sloppy Victory Over Purdue Which Leads to More Questions Than Answers

I was so afraid of it going into the Purdue game. It happens to almost all programs after a big win. That is a let down. All week the Fighting Irish just listened as the country patted them on the back for their great effort against Michigan. Purdue on the other hand got manhandled by Central Michigan and had a quarterback controversy. Notre Dame was supposed to blow them out and it seemed like the Irish players had that mentality at times.

The defense did not tackle well in the first half although they did pitch a shutout in the second half. As exciting as Brian VanGorder's defensive philosophy with all his blitz schemes is, there are a couple problems with it. One being that a team can screen pass you to death with it. The Boilermakers did that in the first half. The other thing is that coaches tend to be more vanilla with it when they play lesser opponents. The Irish brought the house against Michigan but really seemed to be holding back against Purdue. The reason coaches do that is because they want to save their good packages for the premier match ups. While there is logic to that, it does give lesser offenses more of a chance than they need.

There are questions on offense as well. Everett Golson had another great game with 259 yards passing with 2 touchdowns and once again no turnovers. He was also the leading rusher with 56 yards and a touchdown. However, the line really did not help him today as he was sacked 4 times and really was running for his life all day. He had to make great plays with his feet and scrambling more than the coaches want to see. The line needs to do better with a tough schedule that includes Stanford, Florida State, and USC.

Another question I have is with the rotation at running back. It seems that Tarean Folston, Cam McDaniel, and Greg Bryant all have really good potential but it seems that none of them can really get into a groove because of the three way rotation. That makes me wonder if it is in the best interest of the team to have a headed monster or just decide who of the three is the best and primarily feature him.

Notre Dame has a lot to work on in this bye week and another question is whether or not any of the 5 suspended players will be back. The team had injuries in the secondary as well and how deep they are is a question as well. Hopefully, Austin Collinsworth can come back soon.

Although I am excited to be undefeated heading into the bye, I can't help but question how good is this team really. So far they have not played a ranked team. Earlier in the day Central Michigan who blew out Purdue got blown out by our next opponent Syracuse. Michigan was also not impressive in beating Miami of Ohio who has not won a game in two years and has Andrew Hendrix aka the guy who could never beat out Tommy Rees as their quarterback. Rice also got blown out by Texas A & M. So it is great to be 3-0, but being honest we have not beaten anybody who is worth writing home about yet.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Purdue Is Not Notre Dame's Opponent This Weekend

Let's just be real about this. We have Everett Golson leading our team, and they have Danny Etling. No comparison there. Etling could not get his team moving against Central Michigan. Brian Van Gorder's unit is about 10 times better. CMUs Thomas Rawls ran all over them. Imagine what Tarean Folston, Cam McDaniel, and Greg Bryant will do. Purdue is totally outmatched and there is no way they can beat the Irish.

Notre Dame's biggest problem this weekend this weekend will not be the Boilermakers. Notre Dame will have to battle Notre Dame. Whenever a program has a big and emotional win like the Irish did against Michigan, the risk of a let down is always a worry. The first thing that comes to mind is Pittsburgh two years ago when Notre Dame played them the week after their big win over Oklahoma. And Purdue always plays Notre Dame tough regardless of their record.

That is what scares me this weekend and not Purdue. The good news is that Notre Dame has traditionally played really well in the Shamrock Series aka Home away from Home.Purdue cannot beat Notre Dame, but Notre Dame can beat themselves. Let's just hope that there is no let down and the Irish come ready to battle.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Shamrock Series: A New But Great Tradition

One thing Notre Dame fans take a lot of pride in is their traditions. Anything from the Play Like A Champion Today sign to all the traditional rivals the Irish play. There is so much history involved with all these traditions.

But one tradition that I personally love is the Shamrock Series which is only a few years old. Every year Notre Dame moves a home game away from South Bend and plays in a professional stadium. This tradition started on Halloween night 2009 in San Antonio, Texas at the Alamo Dome. In that game, the Fighting Irish crushed Washington State 40-14. The following year, this new tradition relived an old one by having the Irish play Army at Yankee Stadium. Since that time, Notre Dame has been to NFL stadiums Fed Ex Field, Soldier Field, and AT & T Stadium. That streak will continue this Saturday as the Irish will stay in state and go to Lucas Oil Stadium.

There are a couple of things that are really cool about this new tradition. It is a chance for the Irish players to play on a bigger stage than they are used to. It also gives the program a chance to showcase Notre Dame in other parts of the country. It is great for recruiting.

The other thing that is cool about this game is the uniforms that come out each year for it. Some of the old school traditionalists don't like it but the new aged fans do.
Notre Dame is undefeated in this game and has only been close against Arizona State. All other times, the Irish have dominated. This year is expected to be the same as a clearly inferior Purdue team who couldn't even beat Coach Kelly's old team (Central Michigan) will meet the Irish in Indianapolis.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Irish Defense Dominates Michigan to End Rivalry with First Ever Shut Out in Series

The last time Michigan came to South Bend, Everett Golson was pulled in the first quarter. He knew he had only one shot at redemption as this great rivalry was set to end. Golson answered the call just fine. He threw for 226 yards and three touchdowns. He also had no interceptions. Golson distributed the ball well but his primary receivers were William Fuller who had 9 catches for 89 yards and a touchdown and Amir Carlisle with 7 catches for 61 yards and 2 touchdowns.

But as good as Golson was, it was the defense that stole the show. After being torched a year ago in Ann Arbor by Devin Garder, the defense was after some redemption of it's own. Not only did they intercept Gardner three times but they also held him to less than 200 yards passing.

The Irish front just dominated the Michigan line. Brian VanGorder has a much more aggressive style than Bob Diaco did. Watching the Rice game, I got the feeling that he was holding back a little. He saved some blitz packages for Michigan. The Irish defenders were coming after Gardner from all angles.

In a series that has historically been close especially in recent years, the final meeting was all Irish. This is the first time Michigan was shut out in this series. Imagine having to live ending the series like that.

Now Notre Dame can put this rivalry behind them and move on to bigger and better things.

Friday, September 5, 2014

College Football's Oldest Rivalry Ends on Saturday

There was nobody more excited to hear about Notre Dame's agreement with the ACC two years ago. The idea of playing teams like Florida State, Viriginia Tech, Clemson periodically as well as occasionally renewing an old rivalry with Miami was awesome news. But with that news, the Fighting Irish knew they would have to give something up. They couldn't not play Navy. That honors the WWII veterans. There was no way they were giving up USC. And since Stanford is kind of the team that alternates with USC, the Cardinal was going nowhere.

So that left Notre Dame no choice but to get rid of their Big Ten rivals. That left Michigan as the odd team out. As happy as I am that we have that agreement with the ACC, it is hard for me to imagine not playing Michigan. When I think of this game, I remember being a kid in a small Michigan town with a family full of people yelling "Go Blue!" This was the game opened the season every year. There was no tune up game. But while my family was all rooting for Michigan, I remember Notre Dame blowing them out every year. So I told them that I like the team in the gold helmets better.

Now here we are at the last time these two natural enemies will face. As with all of Notre Dame's rivals, there is so much history in this rivalry. It was Michigan who actually taught Notre Dame the game of football.

So what will happen in this last game? It will be exciting to see. Last year Devin Gardner exploded for a great game. You know that the Irish defense will be out for revenge. Two years Everett Golson was pulled for Tommy Rees and now he has one shot for redemption. Of course, neither side will want to end this with a loss.

So that would lead you to believe that the game will be really competitive. However, it is really still early to gauge how good either team is. Both teams blew out their opponents last week. I would think that Rice is a little tougher opponent than Appalachian State based on the fact that they are at least in an FBS conference and are the defending champs in Conference USA. Having said that, you can never tell after one game who is better. This is a tough one to predict so I will go with the home team. GO IRISH!