Tag Archives: acc championship

Notre Dame Football Traditions Hold it back

PSA: If you are a Notre Dame fan over the age of 35, you probably will not like what you are about to read.

“Tradition:” A word more synonymous with Notre Dame Football than “winning” at this point. In an age of big players, big bucks, and big scandals, Notre Dame has managed to preserve a certain throwback quality to the way it operates. And besides a vintage love affair with Knute Rockne, Irish Football’s most evergreen trademark is its non-conference schedule.

For years the Irish brutally clashed with football juggernauts and bitter rivals under the holy name of Independent. The Irish have never been bound to crush conference cellar-dwellers on the path to a National Title. Now, the College Football Playoff has ushered in a new era of college football. An era in which, quite frankly, the Independent method just doesn’t fit. It’s time to face the music, pronto.

This system—or rather, this refusal to adapt to a system—has rankled the rest of the college football world, with naysayers claiming it gives the Irish an unfair advantage. On paper, this logic seems valid. Notre Dame can schedule whomever it chooses while other programs are shackled to schedules assigned from on high.

Notre Dame can theoretically rake in TV revenue for primetime road match-ups and its home contract with NBC. When Notre Dame plays on the road against a 2-7 Boston College team, it goes on ESPN at 8:00. When any other team plays at Boston College it’s a 12:00 game that might blackout on WatchESPN. This unfair advantage in the ways of scheduling and television coverage gives the Irish freedom and exposure that other teams just don’t have.

But the reality of the last two decades tells a different story. Notre Dame hasn’t won a national championship in 28 years, and only twice since then has it come close to contention. Perhaps the way to Make Notre Dame Great Again is to loosen the grip on tradition, starting with its logistical relationship to the wider college football galaxy.

Yet, the Irish stay independent. Before their half-assed deal with the ACC, each year the Irish faced the same core group of teams: Michigan, Michigan State, USC, Stanford, Navy, Boston College, and Pittsburgh. This was essentially Notre Dame’s “conference” schedule and each year it would attempt to buff its schedule with a couple of strong teams, essentially like a non-conference slate.

If Notre Dame is really to explode from the history books of college football back to the top, it is pivotal that it joins a conference.

Notre Dame must put tradition aside for the sake of the program. For years the Irish have maintained that they are different from the rest of college football. That Notre Dame is Notre Dame and everyone else isn’t, thus it supersedes the conference system.

That is wrong. All of the beautiful tradition that surrounds Notre Dame Football does not have to be eliminated, but it’s time for that tradition to stop blinding Notre Dame fans and management from realizing that to win, things have to change.

I don’t mean the termination of all the beloved Notre Dame rivalries, I just mean that some games cannot be annual.

USC is a staple game, and it can easily be worked into a schedule the way it stands now. That leaves two non-conference games each season, with which the Irish can schedule Michigan, Michigan State, Stanford, or any other team for that matter.

The most important part is that Notre Dame will finally have a rigid conference system to support it. All of a sudden, a two-loss Notre Dame team that wins the ACC Championship game has a chance to make the playoff.

Notre Dame can become the powerhouse it once was, conquering college football in the name of Touchdown Jesus. This can only be achieved if it aligns with the rest of the College Football world.

E-mail John at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @John_Horlander.

Photo: Christopher Aloi/Flickr

Correction: August 5, 2016
An earlier version of this article stated Notre Dame hadn’t won a national championship in 19 years. Notre Dame’s last national championship was in 1988.

Monday Morning Breeze: College ‘Chips and NFL Winter Dips

Sometimes the parallels between life and these splendid sport displays are too loud to ignore.

Yesterday, when walking around the city (Austin) I came across a couple random dudes that’d just jumped (illegally) off the main (Congress) bridge into the frigid Colorado River which bisects the downtown portion of the city. It was a random moment in a rapidly-changing town that I just happened to catch, yet it contextualized the city and the day in its own special way. Two bike-kids popping off their wheels to flee the scene of cement and soar into unknown waters far beneath, for glee. It reminded me of this weekend’s football significance, with college teams hopefully plunging into waters of uncertain depth and temperature, hoping to return to the surface as league champions and playoff participants. Similarly, the NFL action called for the consistent competition that comes with our beloved professional game; pitting healthy, hot teams against the those lurking in the coldest waters, always looking to strike despite what the record beside their nickname might say.

‘Tis the season for organizational heathens leaving pink slips on the desks of disappointing coaches country-wide, and championship pursuit pictures getting clearer with Time’s guide. Regardless of the ugly sides of this football guide, we thankfully sigh knowing entertainment lies once again on the full weekend’s tide with Saturday, Sunday, and Monday offering welcome rides to the truths turf-tussling provides.

In the college ranks, we’ve already seen the coaching turnstile spinning round and round, with massive shake-ups at schools big and small. We’ve also heavily anticipated this championship weekend, as if the weeks leading to this Saturday were conjecture-filled opening/closing arguments for who belonged in the College Football Playoffs, this weekend would provide the jury’s decision, finally offering the truest clarity of the Four-tunate teams that’d go on to compete for college football’s holiest grail.

In the NFL, games continue chugging along with each week promising the delight and defiance showcased in a league built on the ideal of parity, in loud contrast to College Football’s “Mostly Big, Old Powers Rule” system. Post Sunday-Monday-smashing we’d learn if the Seahawks or Vikings were more for real, if the Panthers could remain the NFL’s sole undefeated in New Orleans, if Philadelphia is as bad as they seem facing the Super Patriots, and more and more and more.

So here’s what happened…

COLLEGE FOOTBALL WEEK 12 PORTION OF THE PROGRAM

Championship Saturday’s here! The conjectured smoke we’ve made will finally clear. On. The. Field.

College Football Link Dinks and Dunks of the Week

The College Football Playoff is set…HEAD COACHING TURNSTILE UPDATE: Mark Richt heads to Miami, where I think he’ll dominate…Alabama’s DC Kirby Smart off to replace Richt in Georgia…Nice SI (Staples’) piece on Smart’s potential at UGA…Will Muschamp gets another HC shot at South Carolina…DJ Durkin leaving UofM(ichigan) for another UofM(aryland)…BYU’s Mendenhall off to mend Virginia…Syracuse to hire Bowling Green’s Dino BabersRutgers to hire OSU DC Chris Ash?…LSU to hire the coach they already had, Les Miles (great article)…Standout PITT RB James Conner, already out for the season w/a knee injury, diagnosed with Lymphoma

CFB Game of the Week

#4 Iowa vs. #5 MSU (B1G Championship Game)

Of all the championship games taking place Saturday, this one was the only clear-cut “win and you’re in the playoff” scenario for both teams participating. MSU, coming off a massive win over at-that-time-undefeated for 23-games Ohio State and a pummeling of Penn State, was rolling strong and appeared to be on a warpath to the Playoff. Meanwhile, Iowa’s been humming along in relative obscurity all year, except for those taking potshots at the Hawkeyes’ mediocre schedule and claiming they lack proof for being counted among the nation’s elite. For each, this game was a chance to quiet naysayers. In MSU’s case, forever playing second-fiddle to the University of Michigan in its own state (even as MSU’s been superior for years) has created a little-brother complex the Spartans seem ready to shed, and this game’s potential for granting MSU a spot in the CFP would lift any lingering question marks about their legitimacy as a national power. On the other hand, Iowa’s vanilla offense and vanilla schedule have created a mostly vanilla reception from the national audience relative to their elite status. If they could beat a mostly-proven opponent in MSU, on the Big Ten championship stage, it’d quiet almost each (but not all) negative Nancy and push them into the even brighter lights of the College Football Playoff.

LJ Use

#5 MSU 16 – #4 Iowa 13

Here’s One Play that Defined the Game, My Way:

  1. Sparty’s Longest Drive, Longest Yard, Long-Awaited Playoff Berth:

Click here to watch the play of the game.

We could talk all about the defensive slugfest this game predictably turned out to be. We could talk all about the resilience of Michigan State all year exhibited again here, the toughness of Iowa showing up on the big stage proving they belong listed among the nation’s elite, but we should only talk about one play. This play capped the one drive that mattered in this evening’s contest: Michigan State’s game-ending, 22-play, 82-yard drive that took 9 minutes and 42 seconds off the 4th-quarter clock, finishing with a battle comprised within a run that exemplified the entire game up to that point. Two teams playing disciplined, defensive, program-identity-laden football eventually being decided by this amazing gasp of human exertion by MSU’s Freshman RB LJ Scott.

For an outsider, this was the perfect play-nugget to decide and explain this B1G championship contest between two defensive-centric, heavyweight-slugging teams. This running play, given to Scott heading off the right tackle, into a swarm of Iowa defenders, appeared to have been smothered behind the coveted goal line. However, just like Michelangelo’s depiction of spiritual swine Divine and Man touching digits in the “Hand of God”, LJ Scott would not be denied a connection with his fate, with his Ultimate Understanding. Just like Man must twist and collide and pivot and spin and eventually strive to stretch past His hurdles in Life, LJ managed to do so past the Hawkeye’s defensive contingent, reaching the rock over the blessed white line into the end zone, Heaven, Enlightenment, and all that’s holy in the B1G’s championship dossier. Watch it once and you’ll probably see a hard-nosed football play. Watch it twice, perhaps your eyes can catch the human pursuit of peace and perfection, hope’s resurrection, time’s exalted collection of the homo-sapien struggle, all contained within one foray of this funny football snuggle.

At the End of the Day: CFB’s Top 25 Went this Way (Rankings via Official College Football Playoff Poll)

#4 Iowa vs. #5 MSU (B1G Championship)

Spartans strong, win with one loooong final drive and outstretched RB arm, on to the Playoff

#12 Baylor vs. Texas

Charlie makes strong, season-ending statement besting beat up Bears in Koresh’s House

#19 Houston vs. #22 Temple (AAC Championship)

Herman’s Coug’s run Owls back east, clinch ‘ship and hopeful future with new 5-year HC deal

#1 Clemson vs. #10 UNC (ACC Championship)

Tigers remain undefeated, decleating Carolina, Dabo dances finah than Fedora

#2 Alabama vs. #18 Florida (SEC Championship)

Bama whamma’s Gators gains, screams victory from Mobile plains enroute to Playoff

#7 Stanford vs. #20 USC (Pac-12 Championship)

Card’s ride McCaffery’s record-setting (all-time yardage) son, may’ve won himself the Heisman

NFL WEEK 11 PORTION OF THE PROGRAM

Teams Keep Smashing Each Other in Fast, Fun, Frightening Ways

NFL Link Dinks and Dunks of the Week

God-damned Lions lose on this crazy play to the Pack…We know JJ Watt’s good, but outperforming Buffalo’s entire D-Line good?…Great look at how the NFL’s money train keep rolling, no matter what…Rams’ WR Stedman Bailey recovering miraculously from gunshot wounds to the head…Panthers’ CB Josh Norman on how he gets his game face on…

NFL Game of the Week

Seahawks @ Vikings

Minnesota red-carpeted to this game on a roll, winning 6 of their last 8 games, leading the NFC North and riding a rejuvenated Adrian Peterson fresh off his massive suspension last year to a dominant season thus far. Meanwhile, Seattle has struggled to regain the form that saw them to the last two Super Bowls, missing out on a repeat chance due to one (very) questionable goal-line offensive play call against New England. The Seahawks had rebounded from a rough 0-2 start to the season to 2-3, and now regaining their championship form on a 2-game winning streak. Who’s momentum would continue after this meeting of two of the warmer teams in the League? Could the ‘Hawks D slow down the Peterson train (yes)? Could Minnesota contain Russell Wilson (no)?

WILSON YES

Seattle 38 – Minnesoooootaahhh 7

One Play that Defined the Game, My Way:

  1. Russell Wilson Spins the Game, Vikings, on His Fingers:

Click here to watch the play of the game.

Much has been (rightfully) made of Steph Curry’s dominance of the NBA recently, including this glowing NY Times’ piece getting the similarly glowing reviews from professional ballet dancers on Steph’s footwork and exploits. If there’s anyone in the NFL that can offer such a consistently entertaining, fleet of foot viewing experience it’s Seattle’s QB Russell Wilson. On a key 3rd down play during SEA’s first scoring drive against the Vikings, Wilson’s Curry-like ways were on full display as he rolled left and was rudely confronted by Minnesota’s DE, #99 Danielle Hunter. Wilson, in response to potentially being mauled, chose to feign a quick cut right, seemingly planning to return whence he came for greener pastures. His juke so convincing the ultra-athletic (and jacked) Hunter sought to cut Russell off at the pass, for a likely sack, glory, and end of the Seahawks’ potential TD drive. Unfortunately for Hunter, and Viking fans worldwide, Wilson was merely setting him up, like Reggie Miller getting free for another open 3 or a mark getting took by the Vegas shark that’s lurked longer, better, and quickly spun back to his left, revealing a wide-open patchwork of turf he’d quickly sprint across, gaining a valuable first down and ultimately a Seahawks touchdown. It appeared effortless, perfect balance maintained throughout, as though Wilson was Kasparov playing chess with a beginner, knowing all along the trap he needed to set for a quick victory. This is just one play, but it resembled the entire afternoon of this Seattle blowout victory, as Wilson was at his best all day, controlling the pace of the game, distributing the ball effectively, and being electric when he had to. Don’t count out the ‘Hawks just yet, thanks to Wilson’s balletic brilliance, that’s a play I won’t soon forget.

NFL Results Roundup

Packers vs. Lions (Thursday Night)

McCarthyism wins in miracle fashion, Pack smack Lions back down with shocking Hail Aaron

Texans @ Bills

Rexy’s boys finally get win machine turned on, top Texans and turn tons of pressure on Billy’s butt

Falcons @ Buccaneers

Rookie QB’s rule today, with Winston rolling once more to a win over Matt “Not Good” Ice

Jaguars @ Titans

Mr. Mariota runs looooong past Jacksonville, cast Jags in a losing suit once more

Jets @ Giants

Despite another lovely ODB Jr. long TD, Jets with the battle of New York, see?

Cardinals @ Rams

If you haven’t noticed yet, ‘Zona’s good and they pull the hood over Rams’ heads again

49ers @ Bears

Gabbert shows he’s a fast white dude, excludes Cutler from that category & the one named WIN

Bengals @ Browns

How’s that Manziel punishment going? Dalton’s smash baby Browns, make clowns of CLE frowns

Ravens @ Dolphins

Will Smith’s win over the Poe’s in the city of Southern Sin

Broncos @ Chargers

Brock bowls a nice game again, smacks Future Los Angeles Chargers hard

Chiefs @ Raiders

Reid’s steeds beat Al’s young pals, KC craters Raiders

Panthers @ Saints

Cam’s Cats stay undefeated, gut-punch hope-depleted Stains du Nu Orlosin’s

Eagles @ Patriots

Chip shows college football how much he loves NFL by bringing hell to 2-loss-in-a-row Belichicks

Colts @ Steelers

Big Ben busts Hasselbeck’s butt so bad, the Colts can’t remember Luck ever feeling so bad

Cowboys @ Washington (Monday Night Football Prediction)

(EDIT) Cousins continues climb to kiddie-Canton1Editor’s Note: We realize Drew Stanton plays in Arizona, but we tend not to bother The Breeze when he’s rolling, a la Brother Bluto, leads Terrible Name past the Collarbone’d Cowboys

Follow This to Finish Fantasy Fantasy Football Finer than Foes

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1. Editor’s Note: We realize Drew Stanton plays in Arizona, but we tend not to bother The Breeze when he’s rolling, a la Brother Bluto

Clemson Overcomes Multiple Potentially Fatal Mistakes

Remember when Miami joined the ACC in 2005? The ACC brass had dreams of regular matchups between Florida St & Miami in the ACC championship game…so much so that the first 5 championship games were scheduled for Jacksonville & Tampa respectively. Imagine Floridians chagrin when Wake Forest & Georgia Tech showed up for the championship game in 2006 followed by Boston College & Virginia Tech the following 2 years. While the Championship game has moved to Charlotte where it belongs, the dream matchup the ACC anticipated is still just a dream. However, the 2015 game is pretty darned good contest between Clemson & North Carolina, rightly played in Charlotte’s Bank of America stadium so there is no danger of attendance looking like a regular season Miami Hurricane’s home game.

The 2015 edition of the ACC championship is an intriguing matchup between Clemson and North Carolina. Clemson was expected to be in this game as one of the two power teams in the Atlantic division. UNC on the other hand, emerged out of the annual jumble that is the Coastal division. Georgia Tech is the most recent pre-season favorite in the Coastal to confound prognosticators. Loaded with top-shelf talent as usual, Clemson finally met pre-season expectations, ran the table in the regular season, and sits atop the NCAA playoff rankings coming into the conference championship. On the other hand, UNC came out of nowhere to post an 11-1 regular season mark. After a dreadful performance against a dismal South Carolina team, UNC righted itself, dodged a few bullets the rest of the way and is riding an 11 game win streak. What a difference a defense makes. Like last year, Carolina has racked up yards & points on offense, but in 2014, the UNC defense was the worst in the ACC yielding 39mpoints per game and letting offensive powerhouses like Liberty University and San Diego St march up and down the field. Carolina has found defensive stability and righted the ship against its schedule of whacky-racers in the Coastal. Tonight Carolina gets a chance to see if they are ready to run with the big dogs against Clemson.

‘Bama punched their ticket to the NCAA playoffs, it’s time for the ACC Championship game. Let’s get to it!

While this game was billed as Clemson versus North Carolina, it really boiled down to Clemson versus Clemson. UNC was present, but this game was decided by Clemson’s ability to overcome their penchant for self-destruction, particularly in the first half but really throughout the game. From a near Steve Bartman moment when Clemson punter Andy Teasdall inexplicably called his own number on 4th & 15 from the Clemson 35, to 4 personal foul penalties, to multiple dropped passes on third down, Clemson outgained UNC by 3X in the first half, but only led by 5 at the break.

With some flashes of life in the second half fueled by more Clemson mistakes, Carolina admirably did not go down without a fight in their inaugural championship appearance. However the Heels simply were not good enough to win this game outright, on their own. Instead, the Tar Heels were good enough to take what Clemson gave them and the Tigers were truly feeling the generosity of the holiday season. The Clemson defense, when it wasn’t making silly penalties or falling asleep in coverage, by and large dominated the line of scrimmage and kept the UNC offense off balance. The Clemson offensive line, which was a massive rebuild to start the season, won the war of attrition and had the Carolina defense looking more like the 2014 edition than the much improved 2015 squad.

What was clear, no matter how many mistakes Clemson made, the best team in the Atlantic is a lot better than the best team in the Coastal. This was pretty clear midway through the first quarter and painfully obvious early in the second half when Clemson shoved a 97 yard drive down the Carolina’s throat. It was apparent there was little the Heels could do about it, other than hope for more Clemson mistakes.

Coming into this game the burning question in the ACC was “who was the better quarterback, Marquise Williams or Deshaun Watson?” I might have argued for Williams coming into this game. No more. After their performances in the biggest game on the ACC calendar, there is no question that Watson is the better quarterback and the best offensive player in the ACC. While neither was at his best, Watson was by far the better QB. Watson overcame early passing accuracy problems with effective running. Watson’s passing accuracy got better and better as the game progressed. Williams never got fully on track…by Williams standards. While many teams would have been happy to have tonight’s performance on any given night, by Marquise’ gaudy standards, this was a subpar performance when Carolina needed his best. As much as I love Williams running skills, how does a guy that athletic get hit so much? He needs to feel pressure better and take off sooner. His inability to use his running skills and tough stretch of inaccurate passes helped Clemson survive their litany of mistakes.

While the UNC faithful will gripe about the missed offsides call late in the 4th quarter, it’s hard to say that the gifts UNC received throughout the game where not more than any team can reasonable expect. Clemson was the better team that could overcome multiple, potentially suicidal mistakes.

There is no question that Carolina is still a basketball school. The football program hasn’t won an ACC championship since 1980. The basketball program has won 9 over that time. Unless UNC and their pals in the Coastal get a lot better in a hurry, it’s hard to see Clemson or Florida St coming out on the short end of this stick in the near future. Kudos to Carolina for fighting to the end, but in the end, Clemson was just too good, no matter how many stupid mistakes they made from whistle to whistle.

Seminoles vs Gators: ACC Wrap Up

Florida State defeated Chattanooga 52-13 over the past weekend, in a game that was never really in question. At 9-2, the #13 Seminoles will now turn all of their attention towards the #12 Florida Gators.

Obviously this is a monumental game for both teams, a win for Florida State would be the highlight of their season and would keep the Noles from having their first three-loss season in a couple years. A win for Florida would keep them on track for a playoff berth if they can beat Alabama in the SEC Championship. This game also could mean a lot to the recruiting landscape in Florida, as the winner would have bragging rights within the state as the best program.

These two teams have been pretty similar throughout the season. Neither has gotten a lot of production from their offense, and both rely on their defense to win games. Both teams have their reasons for their offensive woes, but currently both have questions at quarterback. The Gators quarterback situation got sticky when Will Grier got suspended, while the Seminoles have just had a quarterback problem all season between Sean Maguire and Everett Golson. Both offenses rely on their rushing game to gain yards, and that will be no different this weekend.

On the defensive end, Florida’s defense is ranked third in the nation in points allowed per game, and the Seminoles’ defense is ranked 11th in the same category. All signs point towards this game being a low-scoring, defensive showdown that will be decided by which quarterback makes the fewest mistakes.

Whichever back has the better game will most likely determine who wins this game
Whichever back has the better game will most likely determine who wins this game

For the Seminoles, this game will come down to the matchup between their ground game, and Florida’s 8th ranked run defense. Florida State’s offense hinges on the success of their run game, and if Dalvin Cook can continue doing what he’s done all season against Florida that would bode well for their chances of winning. At quarterback, the Seminoles need to get Sean Maguire settled into the game early on with some quick and easy throws that will help him get some confidence in the beginning of the game. Maguire has shown that he can play well when he establishes some confidence and gets into a rhythm. Noles fans are hoping that he can do this early on in the game, opposed to getting into a hole quickly on the road.

The game will be played in the Swamp at night, which provides it’s own set of problems for the Seminoles as they’re 2-2 on the road and 7-0 at home. However their game against Clemson in Death Valley should help prepare this team for the fans they’re about to face in Gainesville.

In a game that will be decided by big plays and the ground game, I’ll take the Seminoles winning this game simply because of Dalvin Cook. If Cook can shred the Gators this weekend he might even find himself in the middle of the Heisman discussion, although no ACC Championship for the Noles will make Cook’s odds very slim. Florida State’s defense should be able to contain the Gator’s offense considering that the Gator’s offense hasn’t really been able to do damage against anyone. In a low scoring game, I think the Seminoles will take this one 20-13.

The game kicks off at 7:30 in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

Here’s what else is happening in the ACC this weekend:

RIVALRY WEEK

Being that it is rivalry week in college football, there are numerous matchups to watch within the ACC. Georgia Tech could end their season on a positive note when Georgia comes into town to play them. Seeing as Georgia Tech has nothing left to play for, they should show up in this game against a beatable Georgia team. Clemson plays South Carolina in what has been a very disappointing season for South Carolina. Virginia Tech and Virginia face off in an interstate rival that will determine which team has the better season. One of the sneaky good matchups this weekend will be when UNC travels to NC State this weekend. At 7-4, the Wolfpack are a good team in their own right and the Tarheels will have their hands full with their high-powered offense.

 FRANK BEAMER AND VIRGINIA TECH

Virginia Tech’s game this weekend has a lot more on the line than a victory over Virginia, a victory this weekend means that the Hokies will be bowl eligible in Frank Beamer’s final year with the team. At 5-6, the Hokies haven’t had a whole lot of positives from this season, and a win against Virginia would change that. A win would allow Frank Beamer the chance to finish his last season with a winning record, and would boost morale within the program going forward. A loss would be a sad way to end Beamer’s career at Virginia Tech.

ACC NEEDS CLEMSON AND UNC TO WIN

One thing that I don’t think will happen, but would be bad for the ACC is if Clemson or UNC were to lose this weekend. A win by both teams this weekend would mean that the winner of the ACC would most likely be playing in the playoffs. A loss this weekend for either team allows the possibility of the ACC winner not playing in the playoffs. A loss by UNC this weekend would make them 10-2, making it hard for them to advance even if they did beat Clemson, and a loss by Clemson would mean that if they beat UNC they might not make it to the playoff. Even though it is hard to imagine the ACC winner not being in the playoff, a loss by either team this weekend would open up a Pandora’s box of possibilities.