Tag Archives: 2016 college football playoff

J.T. Barrett and Ohio State Are Downright Scary

Coming into the 2017 season, the Ohio State Buckeyes were ranked No. 2 in the polls, which garnered both negative and positive reactions. Some eyebrows were raised due to the fact the Buckeyes had been obliterated 31-0 in the 2016 College Football Playoff and were seemingly rewarded based on their namesake alone, while fans argued that despite their embarrassing loss, they lost to the eventual national champion Clemson. Not even almighty Alabama could defeat them. Also, if it wasn’t for a few fortunate opportunities that went Penn State’s way, they would’ve won that game and advanced to the Big Ten Championship game as the presumed favorites versus Wisconsin. Whatever your position was, it was a fortuitous spot to be ranked ahead of the reigning Big Ten champs Penn State and put the pressure on Ohio State to prove their worth.

In their first battle or “test” of the season against Oklahoma, the Buckeyes, seven-point favorites in Columbus, suffered their biggest loss at home since 1999 (46-20 loss to Illinois) and were mocked as overrated. J.T. Barrett was just 19 of 35 for 183 yards as the passing game was wildly inconsistent and below average. It appeared the naysayers were right and much to their delight, the Nittany Lions leapfrogged the Buckeyes in the rankings.

Since that time heading into last Saturday, Ohio State had been playing very good, fundamentally sound football. Yes, the opposition wasn’t exactly challenging but their offense had looked like a well-oiled machine and the defense hadn’t surrendered many points. Sometimes all you need is a few solid games to build momentum and confidence and regain your swagger.

Last weekend before the epic showdown, I was asked the question several times who was the best team in conference and I said Ohio State. Some gave me interesting looks while others laughed and said good luck versus Penn State. Others said I was a traitor for not saying my alma mater, Wisconsin. However, as hard as it is to support Ohio State, I had predicted much earlier this year, Wisconsin would meet Ohio State in the title game and I had to stay true to my word.

Also, I just had this premonition the Buckeyes would get the job done. The game was in Columbus and it’s not the easiest place to play. It’s like meeting a rabid animal in its very own den – its possible to survive but its no simple task either. Second, these teams were only separated by four spots in the rankings. It seemed everyone was already writing the Silver Bullets off much too soon and media outlets criticized Barrett for failing to show up in big games but you can never count out a Buckeye squad that has been written off too early.

We’ve seen this story before in 2014 when Ohio State lost to Virginia Tech only to come back and win the national title. Just when they appear dead to rights, they come back and shock you. To me, it’s simple: Hell hath no fury like a scorned Urban Meyer. Besides Nick Saban, no one plans, prepares, adjusts and responds in the face of adversity better than Meyer.

Things didn’t look great early on for the Buckeyes as Penn State raced out to a 21-3 advantage and although they closed the gap 28-17 by halftime, the Nittany Lions were in control as they built a 35-20 lead in the fourth quarter and appeared they would knock Ohio State out of playoff contention.

Yet, in spite of the big lead, turnovers, poor special teams, and questionable calls, Barrett rose to the occasion. All the qualities people said he didn’t have, he displayed: leadership, poise, resolve and a strong, accurate arm capable of leading his team to victory. The sign of a great leader is how he reacts and responds to adversity and all Barrett did was calmly throw 13 for 13 in the final quarter for 170 yards and three touchdowns including the game-sealing pass to Marcus Baugh with 1:48 left. It was the most impressive performance of his collegiate career in a classic game and showed once again the power of never giving up.

Yes, the jury is still out on Barrett and the Buckeyes as they are far from the being the top contender but the critics have been silenced, at least for moment. The takeaway here is really quite simple: Barrett vaulted himself back into the Heisman race as a front-runner and cemented Ohio State’s spot in the middle of the playoffs, though the initial rankings surprisingly did not place them in the top four. The Buckeyes are peaking at the right time and Barrett is a dangerous man. If they can fix their special team problems, it could be 2014 all over again and that is downright scary.

E-mail Mike at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @MDeuces2051

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College Football Playoff National Championship Preview

With the National Championship on Monday, I was tasked with writing a proper preview. The game is the first rematch in the D1 National Championship era. The respective beatings that Alabama and Clemson handed to Washington and Ohio State, two teams who were supposed to be amongst the top four in the country, left me unable to find the proper terms or analogies to show just how incredible the Crimson Tide and the Tigers have been over the course of the season. As I thought more about the matchup, I began to see Alabama and Clemson less as college football teams and more as legendary figures set to do battle. With that in mind, I set to find a chimerical battle that properly described the teams. At this point, I remembered the Greek myth of the fight between Heracles (known as Hercules to Romans and Disney fans) and the Hydra, two figures that I realized represented the teams in the National Championship perfectly. Don’t believe me? Let me explain.

From the depths of the Black Warrior River, the Tuscaloosan Hydra has vanquished any and all in its way this year. With college football stars like Jonathan Allen, Marlon Humphrey, Cam Robinson, Reuben Foster, Tim Williams, O.J. Howard, and Jalen Hurts headlining an elite roster, the Crimson Tide truly embody the mythological serpent’s ability to regenerate its decapitated heads. So many teams come into matchups attempting to best Alabama straight on, only to be swarmed by sheer magnitude of talent that the Crimson Tide possesses on its roster. Interestingly enough, this week it felt like Alabama cut off one of its own heads, as the Tide parted ways with Offensive Coordinator Lane Kiffin a mere week before the National Championship game. We don’t yet know how the offense will blend with new OC Steve Sarkisian, but the change could prove to be the biggest weakness in Alabama’s team all season.

Heracles here is none other than Deshaun Watson, the descendant of “Clemson football gods” Tajh Boyd and Steve Fuller. Like Heracles, Deshaun-cles has the combined strength, agility, willpower and intuition of his predecessors. Deshaun-cles, with some help from his foster father, general “Dabo” Amphitryon and his army of tigers, has completed all of his labours to this point. Deshaun-cles has already defeated the Louisville bronze-beaked man-eating birds, killed the fearsome Seminole giant Geryon Cook, captured the Palmetto Hind, and most recently, slain the Ohioan Lion. All that is left on Deshaun-cles’ list of labours is to kill the Tuscaloosan Hydra. Whether or not Deshaun-cles and the Tigers can sear Alabama’s wound closed and bury the head under a rock will be answered Monday night.

Okay, okay, let’s get serious and talk what is actually going to go down on Monday evening. Deshaun-cles Deshaun Watson and the Tiger offense are looking to score early and minimize the scoring ability of the Crimson Tide. I think the difference between the upcoming matchup and Washington’s effort in the Peach Bowl is that the Tigers, through their elite spread offensive approach, will be able to beat the Alabama defense early enough to have the points to counteract the massive retaliation that often occurs once an Alabama opponent scores. I think both Alabama and Clemson will get into the double digits by the mid-second quarter, but the game will then start to slow down. Both the Alabama and the Clemson defenses will take over for the middle two quarters of the contest. However, by the fourth, with the game tied, what I predict will be an incredibly physical matchup will begin to take its toll. Possibly some injuries, cramps or just exhaustion will start to take effect. The offenses, having been handicapped by the ferocious play of the respective defenses, will see an opportunity and kick back into high gear. Unfortunately for Clemson, Deshaun Watson, who has thrown numerous interceptions this season, will at some point have an Alabama defender jump a route, leading to a Crimson Tide touchdown. Alabama then kicks a field goal to go up by 10 late in the game. Clemson will score a last minute touchdown, but fail to recover the onside kick, finishing off Alabama’s victory in this year’s National Championship game, making the Tide back-to-back champions, and giving Nick Saban his sixth National Title.

Final Score: Alabama Crimson Tide 27, Clemson Tigers 24

 

Email Cooper at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @uf_goetz.
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The Big 10 Will get two Teams in Playoff

The last college football playoff rankings  before championship weekend were released Tuesday night, and the results were pretty much as expected.

After falling to #2 Ohio State in Columbus, Michigan fell from #3 last week to #5. This opened the door for Washington to move into the fourth and final spot in the college football playoff. Alabama obviously remained at #1 after remaining undefeated with a win in the Iron Bowl. Ohio State, after a victory over yet another top-ten opponent remained firmly positioned in its #2 spot, and Clemson moved up from #4 to #3. Michigan, Wisconsin, Penn State, Colorado, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State round out the top-10.

For the Big Ten, the latest CFP rankings give the conference at least a shot to get two teams from one conference in the playoff for the first time since it being instituted a few years ago. With the top two spots nearly locks to remain the same, championship weekend will be huge for teams fighting for the final two spots in the college football playoff. Let’s take a look a couple different scenario’s in which the Big Ten could claim at least one of those final two spots.

With Ohio State almost a lock for the playoff after remaining at #2 in the rankings with no more games to play, the Big Ten will have at least one team in the playoff at this point. The conference then has three more teams, in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Penn State, (with the latter two playing for a Big Ten championship) just outside the top four at numbers five, six, and seven respectively.

This is good news for those in Big Ten country, who hope it becomes the first conference to have multiple teams in the playoff. The first scenario that is rather easy to picture is to say the winner of the Big Ten championship game between Wisconsin and Penn State will be the team that will crack the top four first.

Both teams currently sit at 10-2, and would finish as a two-loss conference champion with a win in the Big Ten title game. In a scenario where both Clemson and Washington were to both become conference champions, it would then be an argument between the winner of the Pac-12 in one-loss Washington, against the winner of the Big Ten championship with two losses. In this scenario, it would benefit the Big Ten to have Penn State beat Wisconsin, who would then have wins over two top-ten teams to rival the soft conference schedule of Washington.

Could a two-loss Big Ten champ beat out a one-loss Pac-12 champ for the final playoff spot? For me, it could. The Big Ten has been far an away the best conference in the country all season, with four teams that could match up with most teams in the country. This could aid a two loss Big Ten championship team in trying to beat out a one-loss Pac-12 champion in Washington. Washington will look to throw in some style points while beating the #8 ranked Colorado to avoid any chance at this happening.

The second scenario where the Big Ten could get two teams in the playoff is Washington dropping the Pac-12 title game to Colorado, which is honestly the most likely scenario of them all. If Washington were to fall and Clemson wins the ACC, the final playoff spot would be up for grabs to teams like Michigan, and the winner of the Big Ten championship game between Wisconsin and Penn State.

In this case, the committee would be deciding between a Michigan team with two losses, (that on the field clearly looks like a top-four team in the country) and a two loss Big Ten champ that lost to the Wolverines head to head. If Washington loses, and Penn State wins the Big Ten, you would have Penn State as a Big Ten champion fighting for the final playoff spot with a Michigan team that it lost to 49-10 earlier this season.

How could you then put that Penn State team in the playoff over Michigan regardless of a Big Ten Championship? In my eyes you couldn’t, but to many, the question would then be what’s the significance of even winning your conference? With a Washington loss and a Wisconsin win over Penn State, the argument would also be interesting with Wisconsin losing on the road by seven to Michigan. Who’s to say on a neutral field the Badgers couldn’t have beaten the Wolverines? It’s an argument that could go a number of different ways. Regardless, with a Washington loss, the Big Ten will get two teams in the playoff.

The last scenario to discuss as far the Big Ten crashing the college football playoff, is one in which both Clemson and Washington slip in their respective championship games, which would open the door for possibly three Big Ten teams to enter the playoff. In this case, you could conceivably have Michigan, and the winner of the Big Ten join Ohio State and Alabama in the third edition of the college football playoff. As crazy as it sounds, losses by both Clemson as Washington could see this happen. Michigan, who would have beaten its competition for one of those spots in Pac-12 champ Colorado would surely get in. The Big Ten champion would then most likely go head to head with Colorado for that fourth and final spot.

In the end, we could go on and on with these scenario’s of who will and won’t get in the playoff. But my bold prediction is that the Big Ten will get two teams in the playoff, becoming the first conference to do so in the playoff era.  A Washington loss to Colorado will open the door for #5 Michigan to sneak in the playoff over the Big Ten champ, as the debate will be a head to head win versus a conference champion, and for me you cannot ignore the fact that Michigan beat both Penn State and Wisconsin. Michigan has showed in the field it is a playoff caliber team, this will bode well for the Wolverines as they stake claim to the fourth and final spot in the college football playoff.

 

E-mail Derek at derek [dot] woods [at] campuspressbox [dot] com and follow him on Twitter @D_Woods21.

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Will Wisconsin Make The Playoffs And Is It Worth It?

Down 17-7 to the Minnesota Gophers at halftime last Saturday, the Wisconsin Badgers playoff hopes seemed to be in serious jeopardy. However, the Badger faithful were able to let out a massive sigh of relief as Minnesota completely collapsed when quarterback Mitch Leidner threw four interceptions in the second half and Wisconsin retained Paul Bunyan’s axe for the 13th consecutive time with a 31-17 victory. Now Wisconsin is looking ahead to the Big Ten Championship game in Indianapolis against Penn State as a conference title and possible playoff berth hang in the balance.

From a match-up standpoint, a game against the Nittany Lions is more favorable than one versus Ohio State or Michigan and gives the Badgers a much better shot at winning a Big Ten title, though not a guaranteed playoff spot. At the same time, though the Wolverines or Buckeyes would have been tougher opponents, Wisconsin would’ve had a straight shot into the playoff with a victory over either one of them. So what now?

Well, depending on how the playoff committee views conference titles and their significance or lack thereof, the team with the title will either advance to the playoff over the best team or the best team will advance even without the conference title.

If you agree with the former, then the winner of the Big Ten title should get in over Ohio State. End of story. Unless Clemson or Washington losses, Ohio State should not even be considered over the champion because some believe that since the Buckeyes didn’t do enough to make it into their own conference’s playoff, why should they get to go to the national playoffs?

If you agree with the latter, then Ohio State which has an 11-1 record with three top ten wins should advance. Those in this boat say why is winning a conference title a requirement to advance and why should it override other factors like strength of schedule, non-conference games, head-to-head and overall records.  Furthermore, they say every team that was included in the first two years of the College Football Playoff had a conference championship but then again, this is the first year the committee has ever weighed a one-loss non-conference champion with a résumé as incredible as the Buckeyes  against a two-loss conference champion.

If Penn State wins, I think they have a strong case to make the playoff due to its win over Ohio State but if it’s a Wisconsin victory, as difficult as it is for me to say, I don’t think they should beat out the Buckeyes, because they came into Madison and defeated us.

Maybe an upset of Clemson and/or Washington opens a playoff with two Big Ten teams, maybe even three, but unless all hell breaks loose, I do not see Wisconsin making the playoff.

I mean honestly, is it worth it to make the playoffs?

I have been debating this question all week because the fact of the matter is while making the playoff would be a mind-blowing achievement, it is downright scary to me to face a team like Alabama. While I think (and certainly hope) that the score would be closer than the last time Wisconsin played Alabama in a 35-17 loss in 2015, it would be still a loss. Why not just take the conference title and be content with a Rose Bowl berth and a bigger chance to win a game rather than get possibly slaughtered in the playoff?

It seems like a tempting settlement in a high profile lawsuit where one could walk away with millions or fight until the bitter end and risk losing everything. Some would say you’d be a fool to fight on and that sometimes it’s better to let go but if I have learned anything from college football is that anything is possible and those who refuse to fight to the bitter end never win. Remember Appalachian State over Michigan in 2007 or Stanford over USC the same year? They could’ve given up with impossible odds stacked against them but welcomed the challenge head-on and came away victorious. You never know what can happen.

With all this being said, it’s pretty obvious I want them to make the playoff. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime achievement and even if a beating happens, would you want to loss in the NCAA Tournament or win the NIT? Yes, I’d be ecstatic if we won the Rose Bowl but it’s all about the biggest trophy. While I don’t see the playoffs in our future, I hope I am dead wrong and am cheering for chaos to ensue, because as they say, anything is possible.

E-mail Mike at mike [dot] tews [at] campuspressbox [dot] com or follow him on Twitter @MDeuces2051

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The Silver Lining: Wisconsin Is the Big Ten Front-runner

With a 48-3 shellacking of Illinois on Homecoming Saturday, the Wisconsin Badgers have hit their stride at the right time heading into the final two games of the season. And with the chaos happening elsewhere in the country as three of the top four teams were upset the same day, the Badgers playoff chances are getting better and better. The question I’ve been asked is “Are the Badgers the favorite to win the Big Ten?” and the answer is a resounding “Yes.”

It’s crazy to think that even with losses to Michigan and Ohio State, Wisconsin is in the top 10 of the 2016 College Football Playoff rankings this late in the year. If you would’ve told me that this would happen before the season, I would’ve said you’re crazy. However, they beat several highly-ranked, albeit overrated, teams (LSU, Michigan State, Nebraska) at the perfect time that propelled them to the top of the rankings. What makes it even more unbelievable is that the Badgers have been barely subpar on offense (91st overall), at times facing an identity crisis at quarterback. And they’ve done it with a defense that lost two starting linebackers (Chris Orr, Jack Cichy) and features new defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox.

In the aftermath of the most exciting college football Saturday in recent memory, I was thinking about how we got to this point and all the scenarios for Wisconsin’s best chance at winning the Big Ten.

The most likely scenario is Wisconsin presumably beats Purdue and Minnesota, Penn State wins out and Ohio State defeats Michigan, which means the Badgers will play against the Nittany Lions in Lucas Oil Stadium on December 3. In my estimation, Wisconsin would have the advantage over a Penn State team that incurred several injuries to its offensive line and would have a conference championship on its résumé despite two losses.

Someone came to the conclusion that losing against Michigan and Ohio State might have been the greatest blessing in disguise. If Wisconsin had beaten both the Wolverines and Buckeyes and they in turn didn’t lose to Iowa and Penn State respectively, then the Silver Bullets would be in position to advance to the Big Ten Championship.

Remember last time those two faced off in Indianapolis? Yeah, I predicted Wisconsin would win and then the Buckeyes proceeded to dismantle the Badgers 59-0.

At the same time, that was two years ago, and the Badgers are a different team now. Wisconsin already played pretty stout against the Buckeyes this season as the game had to be decided in overtime even though Ohio State won 30-23. Plus, if we did beat Ohio State in the title game, it would give us another win over a top-10 opponent and would all but guarantee admittance into the playoff.

Ohio State still could advance to the title game if it wins The Game in Columbus and if Penn State gets upset, which as shocking as that may be, could happen given how tumultuous the year has been.

And if Michigan wins out, I’d still give the Badgers a hell of a chance. Wisconsin played the Wolverines tough in a 14-7 loss and beat a struggling Iowa team 17-9 at Kinnick Stadium, something Big Blue wasn’t able to do. Plus, Michigan is reeling from the reports that their leader Wilton Speight will be out for the foreseeable future with a broken collarbone.

It’s a double-edged sword because it would be easier to attain a Big Ten title against Penn State and let that speak for itself, but it would be a walk to make the playoff if Michigan or Ohio State advance and we beat either one even though it be a much harder matchup.

But what if Wisconsin beats Penn State for the Big Ten title? Would Wisconsin, even with a conference title, still make the playoff over a one-loss Ohio State?

I was listening to Mike and Mike on ESPN radio this Tuesday as hosts Mike Golic and Mike Greenberg were discussing playoff possibilities. Both of them agreed that if Wisconsin wins the conference, they would join the playoff along with Ohio State.

I’m not saying that their beliefs are the gospel truth because the selection committee could pick Ohio State over conference champion Wisconsin but if others are saying that, it definitely gives us Badgers fans hope.

However, there is no doubt we are the most enviable two-loss team in the country and whether we make the playoff or not, we are the front-runners for a Big Ten championship. That’s a pretty darn good silver lining.

E-mail Mike at mike [dot] tews [at] campuspressbox [dot] com or follow him on Twitter @MDeuces2051

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The Stanford Cardinal is the Big Dog in the Pac-12

We are beginning conference play in college football now. In the Pac-12, the Stanford Cardinal is showing why it’s their conference to lose.

They are still my top team in the Pac-12, by far. They have already used their bye week in week two. That extra time allowed them to get ready for USC. The extra time gained was put to good use. Stanford made the Trojans look like a team that didn’t know what they were doing on the field.

Christian McCaffrey is up to his usual game day highlights. I don’t think there is a defense in the Pac-12, or the country, that can shut this guy down. McCaffrey had 265 all-purpose yards against the Trojans, but it could have been much more. Having stats like those is becoming the norm for him. Coming into the Pac-12 season, head coach David Shaw was adamant about using his star player in different ways, but didn’t want to overuse him.

“We plan to get Christian the ball whenever and however we can. We have many sets that we plan to use to utilize his talents,” Coach Shaw said at the Pac-12 Media Days.

Shaw is becoming a master at getting his star player the ball. He’s used him in the backfield, slot, out on the perimeter, punt return, and kick-off return. If he could play defense, Coach Shaw would use McCaffrey there as well.

Players of Christian McCaffrey’s caliber don’t come along very often, but when they do they are fun to watch.  Going into his sophomore season I talked about him as a potential play-maker for the Cardinal. However, nobody foresaw the type of play-maker he has become. He has exceeded all expectations set forth by his coaches and it has allowed Stanford to reach heights only dreamed of before.

However, football is not a one-man show. Behind every great team is a great coach.

The other part of the equation for Stanford has been head coach David Shaw. Coach Shaw has a vision for his program and he doesn’t waver from it. He goes after players that fit that vision, but doesn’t stray from the vision he has.

“If a player doesn’t fit the culture we have at Stanford. He’s not for us,” Shaw said recently.

In my opinion, David Shaw is the best coach in the Pac-12 and possibly the entire country. Sorry, Alabama fans.

Shaw has shown that he is flexible in his offensive and defensive schemes. He’s not afraid to be different from the rest of the Pac-12 Conference. While Stanford is known for its physical play and pound the ball type of offense, it has shown that running some tempo offense is not out of its repertoire.

“Most people don’t know about the speed we have on this team. It’s an overlooked facet of our team. We have people that can flat out fly down the field. We would be crazy not to take advantage of the speed we have,” Shaw said.

Coach Shaw has a monster growing in Palo Alto, so he will continue to feed the beast at Stanford to make them the class of the West Coast.

Rumors swirl every year that he might leave for the NFL. He isn’t going anywhere, so keep wishing NFL fans. Stanford is full of intelligent people and to let David Shaw escape campus would be the worst move the school could make.

With the coaching ability of David Shaw and the playmaking ability of Christian McCaffrey it is little wonder why the Stanford Cardinal is the big dog of the Pac-12 Conference.

 

E-mail Mike at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @pigskinopinion.

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The Red Zone: The Key to Irish Success in 2016

2015 was a mercurial year for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Notre Dame entered the year a strong contender to finish in the top four, and it fought tooth and nail start to finish. The Irish managed to overcome the manifold setbacks which befell them and finish the year at a convincing 10-3, falling short to eventual conference champions Stanford and national runners-up Clemson. They lost to Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl.

It’s a new year, a different team, and Brian Kelly is tasked with finding a way to push the Irish over the hump to get back in the mix for a National Championship. The key to this Irish team’s success in 2016 is simple: finish. The Irish ranked 88th out of 127 FBS teams last season in red zone efficiency. It is crucial that the Irish score when they get into the red zone.

The Irish made it to the red zone 53 times, scoring on 43 of those trips (31 TD, 12 FG). That’s an efficiency of 81%, which falls between Maryland, who finished 3-9 and at the bottom of the Big Ten West, and Arkansas St, who were the Sun Belt runners-up and finished 9-4. That’s not stellar company.

It wasn’t an inability to score that hurt the Irish, it was the fact that of the ten times Notre Dame failed to score, eight of them were because of turnovers. Each time the Irish marched down the field and gave the ball away, they forced their defense to make some big plays and get a stop.

Let me set the scene for you. Death Valley, a top 15 showdown between Notre Dame and Clemson. With 2:09 to go in the 4th quarter and trailing 16-24, DeShone Kizer stepped back to pass and hit Chris Brown with a precise throw at the 7-yard line. Brown turned into space and pushed forward to try and get to the first down marker. As he crossed the 3-yard line, Jayron Kearse forced the ball loose. Clemson recovered and the Irish let an opportunity slide. The Irish defense forced Clemson into a 3 and out, and got the ball back. Notre Dame went on to score, but failed the 2-point conversion attempt, sealing the victory for the Tigers.

Had Notre Dame scored on that first red zone trip, that game ends a different way. It was red zone missteps like this that stood in the way of Notre Dame’s reaching the Playoff. Coming into the Nov 22 matchup with Boston College, Notre Dame was ranked 4th. They looked in great position to make the Playoff if they could just take care of business against Boston College and Stanford the next week. The Irish escaped, by the skin of their teeth, Fenway park with a 19-16 win. But that game would have been much more comfortable if the Irish hadn’t turned the ball over 3 times inside of the 7-yard line. Because of the nature of Notre Dame’s performance that week, they were all but counted out of the Playoff regardless of the result of the Stanford game (of course the loss in Palo Alto sealed that fate).

Missed opportunities, mental mistakes, and bad luck comprised what was a middling season for the Fighting Irish. And while 10-3 and a Fiesta Bowl berth may not seem like a disappointment for most teams, welcome to Notre Dame.

This year the Irish will be back in the mix for the Playoff in 2016, and the solution is simple. Take care of the football. If Notre Dame’s offense can be as potent as it was last year, while at the same time taking care of the football and putting it in the end zone, it will be a fun year for Irish fans.

Email John at [email protected]. Twitter: @John_Horlander

Flickr – Daniel Hartwig