Friday, July 31, 2015

Should Notre Dame Join a Conference or Play 13 Games?

Coaches around the country seem to have an opinion these days about Notre Dame's independence and whether or not they should be included in the playoff consideration. Coaches from Missouri and Clemson among other places think Notre Dame should be in a conference or play 13 games to be considered.

We all know that if Notre Dame were to join one, it would be the ACC since it is already in in every other sport. The question is should they do it in spite of all the tradition of being an independent? The answer is not if they don't have to. But the problem is that we are not sure how big of an if that is. Certainly, Notre Dame plays a tough enough schedule to where they have a case. The only problem is that the idea of being a conference champion seems to really hold a lot of water with the committee. At least it did in the first year.

The Big 12 did not have a clear champ as TCU and Baylor split the honor in spite a Baylor head to head victory. That combined with the fact that Ohio State had one more victory due to a championship game gave them the nod over the two Big 12 teams.

That does lead to the other part is should Notre Dame play a 13 game schedule? Honestly, I have to say yes they should. The fact of the matter is that if you have two teams with a single loss, 12-1 is better than 11-1. The Irish could solve that problem by scheduling an extra game.

The problem is how are they practically going to do it? No team that has a conference championship game can schedule a game on Championship Saturday since they could have to play already. The only two conferences I can think of that do not have a championship game are the Big 12 and the Sun Belt. No disrespect to the Sun Belt but I just don't see how a late season game against a team like Troy does anything.

So that really only leaves the Big 12 as an option. Since the Big 12 gets screwed over by not having that title game too, it might be mutually beneficial to have Notre Dame play the Big 12 champ every year in AT & T Stadium in Dallas. That really seems to be the most practical option but what happens when the Big 12 adds two more teams and once again gets a title game?

I guess it is possible for Notre Dame to play BYU that weekend every year as long as BYU remains independent. But who knows how long before BYU does get back in a conference possibly the Big 12?

The only other option I see is play all 13 games before Championship Saturday. But that would mean going all year without a bye week and the very thought of that is just crazy.

In conclusion, Notre Dame should not give up their independence if they don't have to but should schedule a 13th game if there is a practical way to do it.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Brian Kelly's Legacy at Notre Dame Will Be Defined by Malik Zaire

It's almost here. It is just over a month away when Notre Dame opens against Texas. Coach Brian Kelly is heading into his sixth year as head coach. It is a year in which he has to produce a team that is a playoff contender. His first five years have really been a roller coaster. It has seen it's moments of hope and of great disappointment.

His first couple seasons saw the Irish earn great victories over historic rivals USC and Miami. But it also saw losses to teams like Tulsa and South Florida. Then came the magic season of 2012 only to get blown out to Alabama in the Title game. Then last season was really the story of what Kelly's whole career has been. They start off 6-0 and lose to the defending champs (Florida State) in a very controversial matter. Then they lose 4 straight including a loss to lowly Northwestern. Yet somehow they are able to beat LSU in the Music City Bowl. That's the definition of inconsistency.

Now came the offseason which saw Everett Golson leave for Florida State leaving Malik Zaire as the undisputed starter. In what limited playing time he has had, he has looked good but the reality is that he is still unproven. That makes the outcome of this huge in the legacy of Brian Kelly. If Zaire lives up to the hype than that it was the right decision and what Golson does in Tallahassee becomes irrelevant. However, if Zaire does not live up to expectations than it looks bad for Kelly. It will sting even harder if Golson leads the Seminoles to another playoff appearance.

Having said that, Kelly's best success at Notre Dame has come with a first year quarterback, a simplified playbook, and stout defense. That was the case in his first season when Tommy Rees replaced an injured Dayne Crist leading the Irish to 4 straight wins. That was also the case in year 3 when Golson was a redshirt freshman.

I am not sure how simplified the playbook will be here though because Zaire has been there 2 years already. I am also not sure how good the defense will be to help the young quarterback out. That's the next blog.

But one thing is for certain. Kelly's legacy in South Bend is directly tied to Zaire.