Tag Archives: DeShone Kizer

Former Notre Dame Quarterback Makes His Pick to Lead Irish Offense

Former Notre Dame quarterback and FS1 analyst Brady Quinn joined Bruce Feldman on The Audible podcast to discuss the quarterback competition at his alma mater. In sitting down with Feldman, Quinn discussed his choice for the Notre Dame quarterback position.

Quinn chose to side with last year’s game one starter, Malik Zaire, in lieu of his eventual replacement, Deshone Kizer.

Much of Quinn’s decision has to do with seniority. Zaire can graduate in the spring, but still has a year of eligibility left. Under the graduate transfer rule, this would give him the ability to transfer without sitting out a season. Giving Zaire the nod to start this season would likely eliminate this as a possibility.

According to Quinn, if Zaire gets the nod to start the season, the Irish will be better suited in the long-run. Should Zaire falter, Kizer would replace him, much like he was able to do last season. Zaire would then be free to transfer with no hard feelings and the Irish would move on with Kizer as the starter.

However, should the Irish start Kizer on opening weekend, there is greater chance of instability at the position. Should Kizer falter, Zaire would undoubtedly replace him. Zaire potentially could feel slighted enough to transfer at season’s end if he is not given the job to start the season. This would leave the Irish with a shaky Kizer and an inexperienced Brandon Wimbush to start 2017.

Whatever the decision is, Quinn highlighted the importance of making a decision early in the process. Quinn’s “X-factor” is the fact that Zaire is left-handed and Kizer is right-handed. According to Quinn, “Your entire team has to adjust to a different spin of the football and the fact that the plays are going to be formatted a different way. Teams are going to attack you differently based on the arm of your quarterback.”

Quinn certainly has valid points. One idea that seems to be conventional wisdom is the desire to name a starter sooner rather than later. Zaire seems to be the safe choice, while giving the Irish the most flexibility going forward.

Many will argue that the experience factor gives Kizer an edge. One must consider if that argument matters, given the number of players the Irish are replacing from last year’s team. Neither Zaire nor Kizer gives the offense much as far as chemistry with returning players is concerned. Of the many newcomers, many will come at the wide receiver position. Whoever wins the starting job will need to develop chemistry with a nearly-brand-new group of receivers.

One area of optimism carrying over from last season is the emergence of the running game. Even with the injury to Tarean Folston, the Irish were able to plug in ball-carriers with great success. Folston will return from injury and will split carries with promising sophomore back Josh Adams. The Irish may need to lean on their running game while the passing game develops continuity.

Zaire is the better of the two runners and can add an element to the running game that Kizer cannot. For Brian Kelly, the best decision may be to go with Malik Zaire to start the season.

Top 10 NCAA Quarterbacks for 2016

Quarterback is the most important position in football. (I’ll give you a moment to recover from this earth-shattering news) but this is especially the case in college football. Because of the talent discrepancies between top and bottom tier teams, even within a conference, a quarterback can single-handedly propel his team to the college football playoff. Additionally, top-notch quarterbacks who have exceptionally running ability can take over a game simply in that manner in a way that isn’t possible in the NFL. A great quarterback can make up for losses at the skill positions and keep his team in the game during shootouts.

Today, we’ll look at the top 10 quarterbacks heading into the 2016 season. This isn’t simply which quarterbacks had the best stats last year and are returning this year, or the ones that will have the best stats this year. It is a combination of statistical proficiency, pro potential, and who could lead their team to great things in 2016.

10. Chad Kelly – Ole Miss

Kelly is basically the de facto best quarterback in the SEC as he is the only returning quarterback to even finish in the top half of the nation in passing yards in 2015. That shouldn’t be a slight against Kelly since he put together a great year in his first season as the Rebels starting quarterback. It will be much tougher this year however without Laremy Tunsil protecting his blindside and fellow NFL draftees Laquan Treadwell and Cody Core gone from the receiving core.

9. Brad Kaaya – Miami (Fl.)

If Kaaya can regain his touchdown total from his freshman year (26) and add that to his improving accuracy (61% last year) it might be enough to make this list. It’s his potential however that has scouts salivating. Deshaun Watson is the favorite to be the number one pick in next year’s draft, but Kaaya is getting first round buzz as well. That buzz partially stems from the arrival of new coach Mark Richt, who has produced a plethora of quality quarterbacks in his career (Matthew Stafford, David Greene, Aaron Murray to name a few). If Kaaya wants to move into the top five, he’ll have to prove he can elevate Miami to outperform its run-of-the-mill expectations.

8. Notre Dame Starting QB

Alright this is a bit of a copout, but whoever ends up getting the starting gig for the Irish cannot be ignored. DeShone Kizer stepped in last year after Maliz Zaire got hurt early in 2015 and nearly led the Irish to a playoff spot. Zaire now returns as a junior after showing vast potential in his limited playing time for the Irish. If he’s able to beat out Kizer after the season Kizer had, Notre Dame fans know they are in good hands. On a team that is poised to make a run at a playoff spot again, whoever starts for the Irish will be a household name.

7. Josh Rosen – UCLA

There is a lot of potential put into this ranking of the UCLA sophomore, but it’s not as if Rosen has done nothing to warrant such hope. It can be tough to walk in as a prized recruit and perform from the moment you step on campus, but all Josh Rosen did was throw for 23 touchdowns, 11 interceptions, and finish top 20 in the nation in passing yards as a true freshman. He’ll look to build on those numbers and to help him do so, he’s packed on some muscle which should help prevent him from wearing down as the year goes on. The Pac-12 doesn’t have a clear contender entering 2016, and Rosen has the talent to make the Bruins the front-runner as the year goes on.

6. Greg Ward Jr. – Houston

Ward might be the preeminent dual-threat quarterback in the country after rushing for 21 touchdowns and over 1,100 yards a season ago. First-year coach Tom Herman took Greg Ward’s (and Houston’s) offensive performance to the next level, and if they make even the slightest improvements from last year, Ward may find himself at the Heisman ceremony. Not just a runner, Ward Jr had a respectable 8.2 yards per attempt and a near 3:1 TD:INT ratio. Adding to his importance? The Cougars only loss of 2015 came in the game he all but missed.

5. Luke Falk – Washington State

I could go on and on about Falk, but our guy Mike Wilson did a great job detailing the Wazzou quarterback this past week. What I will say about Falk is this: he threw for 300 yards, 2 touchdowns and 0 interceptions in a blizzard in Washington State’s bowl game. As a fan of Miami (the Cougars’ opponent that day) I was thankful there was a snowstorm because it felt like he could go for 500 easily.

4. Baker Mayfield – Oklahoma

Getting to some heavy hitters here as many thought Mayfield deserved to be a Heisman finalist in 2015 after leading the Sooners to a spot in the college football playoff. He enters this year with the fourth best odds to take home the honor, and team expectations will be high as well with Oklahoma assuredly starting the year in the top 10. Mayfield was often the force behind keeping the Sooners’ hopes alive last year, but they may prove more difficult in 2016 without the help of superb wideout Sterling Shephard. Mayfield also won’t get the numbers that other top quarterbacks may achieve because of the running back tandem of Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon, maybe the best duo in the nation.

3. Seth Russell – Baylor

Russell is just the next quarterback in line to lead a prolific Baylor Bears offense. After stepping into the role a year ago, Russell was carving up opponents to the tune of 29 touchdowns, six picks, and an astonishing 10.5 yards per attempt just halfway through the season before a neck injury ended his year. Russell will be without first-round draft pick Corey Coleman this year, but Baylor is stocked with top WR recruits and with a usually questionable defense, Russell will be slinging it well into the second half. Well, when the Bears are playing a real team anyway.

2. J.T. Barrett – Ohio State

It’s easy to forget just how good Barrett was in 2014 after Cardale Jones’ 3-game run to end the year and the subsequent season-long offensive non-sense in Columbus in 2015. Barrett merely completed 64-plus percent of his passes on 9.0 yards per attempt, accounting for 45 touchdowns during his freshman campaign two years ago. Now that the team is his again, I expect a lot more of 2014 J.T. Barrett to come.

1. Deshaun Watson – Clemson

Sometimes the right answer is the most obvious one. Watson fulfilled the potential he showed in his freshman year by leading Clemson to a national title appearance, falling short against Alabama even though he threw for 400 yards and four touchdowns against arguably the nation’s best defense. After finishing as a Heisman finalist in 2015, Watson is the favorite to land the award in 2016 when he’ll lead an offense that returns eight starters, in addition to potential first-round pick at WR Mike Williams, who missed basically all of last year.

Featured image courtesy Tom Magliery

 

Three Reasons Notre Dame Will Make the College Football Playoff

Notre Dame came just short of the 2016 College Football Playoff after an inspired Stanford team drove into field goal range with under a minute left and kicked a game-winning field goal as time expired to cap off an incredible Senior Day for Cardinal quarterback Kevin Hogan. The depleted Irish then went on to falter in the Fiesta Bowl, losing to an Ohio State team that looked good enough to compete for a national title. The experiences roller coaster 2015-2016 campaign was just a precursor to the Irish being major contenders in Brian Kelly’s sixth season at the helm in South Bend. Here are a few reasons why you will be seeing the Irish playing in a game on New Year’s Even 2016:

The Irish have the best quarterback situation/controversy in College Football entering the season.

Malik Zaire entered his first season as a starter with a bang, lighting up the Texas Longhorns in South Bend, on the way to a 38-3 Irish victory. After having a shaky start to his second career official start on the road against the Virginia Cavaliers, Zaire had the Irish gaining momentum, just before a gruesome-looking ankle injury ended his season toward the end of the third quarter. The Irish didn’t miss a beat, however, as Deshone Kizer took the reins, leading the Irish to a win in the game and an improbable run that had the Irish as serious contenders until the final days of November.

Kizer went on to complete 63% of his passes on the season for the Irish, racking up 2,884 yards and 21 touchdowns to just 10 interceptions. Stats aside, Kizer showed he was not afraid of the big moment, leading comebacks in games on the road against Clemson and Temple. Against Stanford, Kizer lead a drive to take a one-point lead with under a minute remaining. His only knock was perhaps that he scored too quickly, as Stanford was able to come back and win the game.

With both healthy and eager, the Irish look to have a great problem on their hands as the season approaches. Don’t rule out Brandon Wimbush, the Irish’s third quarterback option, either. Though many consider him to be the last horse in the race, Wimbush has shown great physical tools in limited action for the Irish and will look to shock the world and win the starting job in South Bend.

The Irish have a solid mix of veterans and newcomers who are returning this year

The Irish lost nine starters to injury last season, starting with a preseason injury to defensive tackle Jarron Jones, who will be perhaps Notre Dame’s best returning defensive lineman this season. Along with Jones, safety Drue Tranquill will be back with the Irish to help solidify a defensive secondary that was much-maligned last season and has question marks moving forward. Besides Jones and Tranquill, the Irish will be lead on defense by Nyles Morgan, Greer Martini, James Onwualu, Cole Luke, Andrew Trumbetti, and others who each contributed in the 2016 season. Even for a team that struggled at times, the cupboard is not dry with talent. For the Notre Dame defense, the only place to go is up.

On offense, the Irish will have to replace the production of Will Fuller, but new student-body president Corey Robinson and rising sophomore Equinameous St. Brown, along with veteran slot receiver Tori Hunter, Jr. will look to spread the load. Durham Smythe will return at the tight end position, with Alize Jones likely to get a lot of time there, also. Perhaps most significant is the return of Tarean Folston, who was Notre Dame’s top running back coming in to 2015 before tearing his ACL on the opening drive of the season. Folston will share carries with rising sophomore Josh Adams, who had a very impressive freshman campaign for the Irish.

The Irish have some favorable match-ups on their schedule this season

When looking at Notre Dame’s schedule, there isn’t a game that jumps out as a game where the Irish might find themselves outmatched. Key matchups include Texas (away), Michigan State (home), Duke (home), Stanford (home), Miami (home), Navy (neutral), Virginia Tech (home), and Southern California (away). Most of Notre Dame’s key matchups take place in South Bend, a place where the Irish did not lose last season. In addition, with the exception of Miami, all of the aforementioned opponents will have to replace a quarterback to start their season. Gone are the likes of Connor Cook, Kevin Hogan, Keenan Reynolds, and Cody Kessler from the list of quarterbacks the Irish will hope to defend. This will only help a pass defense that struggled mightily at times last season.

What to watch for:

If the Irish are able to stay healthy (something they could not do last season), there is no reason they cannot win every game they play this season. That said, there are two major question marks heading into the season:

The first, who will play quarterback? Naming a starter early would be best for the Irish, as a position battle that spills over into the season may prove a distraction.

The second question is whether or not the offensive line will be able to enjoy the same success as last season. A year ago, the Irish were experienced up front and their offensive success showed because of the talent of the big uglies up front. After losing three starters (LT Ronnie Stanley, C Nick Martin, and RG Steve Elmer), the Irish have some big shoes to fill. The offensive line may be the key to the season for the Irish.

E-mail Ben at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @BBelden330.

Irish Insiders 1: Pre-Spring Practice Preview

Ben Belden (@bbelden330) and Danny Cunningham (@DCunninghamCLE) preview the Notre Dame 2016 season. They discuss topics such as key newcomers, key departures, and the current team’s strengths and weaknesses. Also discussed are some of College Spun’s brackets.

Topics:

  • College Spun’s Mock College Football 68-team bracket
  • The QB Battle between DeShone Kizer and Malik Zaire
  • Newcomers and Departures on Offense
  • Newcomers and Departures on Defense

Links:

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Notre Dame’s Christmas Wish List

While it’s doubtful that Santa will be heading down the chimney of the Golden Dome with a bag full of presents for the Notre Dame Football team (although, you never know), the Fighting Irish have a few items on the wish list this holiday season. In no particular order, here is a wish list for Brian Kelly and the Irish:

Recruits Jordan Fuller and Caleb Kelly sign with the Irish

According to Rivals.com, Jordan Fuller is a 6’2″, 190-pound safety recruit from New Jersey. Fuller is friends with current Irish quarterback Brandon Wimbush, who has been actively working to persuade Fuller to sign with the Irish.

Fuller has garnered his fair share of attention from teams such as Ohio State, Michigan, Rutgers, Penn State, and UCLA. Many websites are predicting Fuller to sign with the Buckeyes. However, the Irish are having more success on the recruiting front because of the team’s agreement with Showtime and the “A Season With” series. Fuller’s decision may well be influenced by the outcome of the Fiesta Bowl. If the Irish can top Ohio State–one of the Big Ten’s perennial powers–the Irish will prove themselves to be around for the long haul in the college football landscape.

The Irish have been thin in the secondary as of late, so Fuller would likely be able to compete for playing time right away. After all, guys with the last name of Fuller have done well for the Irish, as of late.

Along with Fuller, the Irish are in hot pursuit of California linebacker Caleb Kelly. Kelly hails from Fresno and stands at 6’4″ and weighs 214 pounds. It’s Kelly’s athleticism that makes him stand out from the pack, drawing immediate comparisons between he and current Irish linebacker Jaylon Smith. Smith may be on his way to the NFL at season’s end, which may allow Kelly the opportunity to step in to the rotation early in his career. If Smith stays, Smith would be the perfect mentor for Kelly.

Kelly is considering many top schools along with the Irish. Kelly is considering USC, Stanford, Ohio State, Michigan, Oregon, and Oklahoma, among others. Many expect Kelly to choose Oklahoma, but depending on how the bowl season goes, Notre Dame make be able to make a splash and a last-minute push for Kelly.

Will Fuller and CJ Prosise remain in South Bend

The Irish are looking to reload after a stellar season this year. Will Fuller and CJ Prosise are integral to that reloading process. The Irish are not losing much on the offensive side of the football due to graduation–Chris Brown, Amir Carlisle, and Ronnie Stanley are a few who will be gone, but the Irish have the experience and depth to make a seamless transition to 2016.

Fuller indicated that he will be back in 2016, but has since asked for his recommendation from NFL scouts. Fuller certainly has the big-play ability that will have NFL scouts salivating, but had far too many drops on intermediate routes to be a truly elite wide receiver. Fuller would be best suited to join a receiving core alongside Corey Robinson and other young Irish receivers in 2016. Fuller is assured to have a more-than-adequate quarterback throwing to him, with both Deshone Kizer and Malik Zaire returning.

CJ Prosise also is integral to the reloading experience. The Irish running back has had a breakout year for the Irish, rushing for over 1,000 yards after being thrust into the role of starter due to injury. However, with Tarean Folston returning from injury and freshmen Josh Adams and Dexter Williams coming back for their sophomore seasons. With Prosise, there is a logjam at the position. With his stock as high as it’s ever been Prosise could look to make the leap to the NFL while he can. If Prosise remains, he and Folston will be a dynamic one-two punch for the Irish running game.

The Irish beat the Ohio State Buckeyes in the Battlefrog Fiesta Bowl

This one is pretty self-explanatory. It’s no secret what a win would mean for the Irish in Glendale on January 1st. The Irish and Buckeyes share a geographic battle for both future recruits and for fanbases. The close proximity of the two schools makes their meeting interesting. I am not the only diehard Notre Dame fan in the great state of Ohio, so an Irish win would make January in Ohio much more bearable.

 

A message from the author:

Thank you, as always for reading my work. From myself and the rest of the Campus Pressbox team, please have a safe, happy, healthy holiday season.

Irish face Buckeyes in Fiesta Bowl Rematch

In perhaps the most anticipated matchup not a part of the College Football Playoff, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish will take on the Ohio State Buckeyes in the BattleFrog Fiesta Bowl. Despite not having met since the Fiesta Bowl in 2006, the two schools have quite a history due to proximity and competition for recruits. Many Notre Dame fans–myself included–make their homes in Ohio, which often results in competitive banter between fanbases and endless “what-if” scenarios.

Notre Dame and Ohio State fans can put those “what-ifs” to bed, at least for the time being, when the two teams square off in Glendale, Arizona on New Year’s Day.

Notre Dame and Ohio State have ultra-talented rosters. When both teams take the field, there figures to be multiple players with NFL first-round talent on the field at the same time. Let’s take a look at some of the more intriguing matchups:

Quarterbacks: 

The Irish’s quarterback situation looks much like Ohio State’s did last year. Starting spring practice, Deshone Kizer was the third quarterback on Notre Dame’s depth chart, and his rise to be the starter after Everett Golson’s transfer and Malik Zaire’s injury is well-documented. Ohio State, likewise, saw third-stringer Cardale Jones take them to the National Championship last season and become the starter entering this one, but Cardale does not figure to see much time in the Fiesta Bowl.

Barring unforeseen circumstances, Ohio State will be lead by JT Barrett. When comparing Kizer and Barrett, there are a few similarities–both were thrust into the position early due to an injury and both have similar types of experience, at least as far as number of starts is concerned. Neither has started a postseason game, but both have started and performed well in other big games.

Both quarterbacks run a system where the quarterback run is utilized often. Barrett probably has the edge on the ground versus Kizer, where passing similarities are too close to call.

As far as quarterback play, it’s a wash between the two teams.

Receivers: 

The two to keep an eye on in this game are Will Fuller, #7 in blue and gold, and Michael Thomas, #3 in scarlet and grey. For the Irish, Fuller has caught 56 balls for over 1145 yards and 13 touchdowns. For the Buckeyes, Thomas has caught 49 balls for 709 yards and 8 scores. All things held equal, Fuller has had the better season and the passing stats of Notre Dame versus those of Ohio State indicate the Irish have had slightly more success in that area.

Advantage: Notre Dame

Running Backs: 

Both teams have boasted solid running attacks, when utilized, this season. For the Irish, CJ Prosise has carried most of the load, running for over 1,000 yards, 11 scores, and a 6.1 yards per carry average, while battling injury at the end of the season. His counterpart, Ezekiel Elliot, has run for over 1,600 yards, 19 scores, and an 6.4 yards per carry average. It’s no secret that Elliot is arguably the best back in the country.

Advantage: Ohio State, but not by as much as you would think.

In the Trenches:

Going right along with the running game is the offensive and defensive lines.

When the Irish have the ball, they will look to utilize a talented and experienced offensive line, which features a future top-pick in left tackle Ronnie Stanley and fifth-year senior center Nick Martin. They, however, go up against a defensive line that boasts Joey Bosa and Adolphus Washington. This duo may be among the best the Irish face this year. This matchup may be the most intriguing of the game. If the Irish have their running game firing on all cylinders, they will be hard to stop and this game could turn in to a shootout quickly. If the Ohio State defensive line and linebackers win the battle against the Irish, it could be a long day for Brian Kelly’s offense.

When Ohio State has the ball, the Buckeyes will look to feature Elliot after he demanded (and received) more carries in Ohio State’s final game against Michigan on the way to 214 yards in the running game. Ohio State does not have a superior offensive line (but 1600 yards for Elliot clearly indicates they’re plenty good enough), while the same can be said for Notre Dame’s defensive line, which will have the services of Jarron Jones for the first time all season, after recovering from an MCL tear suffered in preseason practice.

Advantage: None.

Bottom line: This game will depend on who wins the line of scrimmage. Both teams’ passing game is largely predicated on keeping the defense off-balance. If either team is unable to run the ball and puts their quarterback in obvious passing situation too often, it will be difficult for either to have success on offense.

In the end, I expect this to be an incredible football game–one that fans such as myself have waited far too long to see.

Fighting Irish Look Ahead to Bowl, 2016 Season

Despite a disappointing end to the regular season, Notre Dame’s 2015 campaign was an overwhelming success. Going into the season, the Irish had high hopes, as they eyed a spot in the illustrious College Football Playoff. Unfortunately, close road losses to top-1o opponents dashed those hopes, but for Brian Kelly and the Fighting Irish the dream and the overall goal remains the same for the upcoming season.

The Irish have every reason to be proud of the season the team assembled. When the Irish lost starting running back Tarean Folston for the season on their first offensive series, the team knew it would be without someone they were going to count on heavily to carry them to the playoff. Little did the Irish know, however, that soon they would be without their starting quarterback, and later, their starting tight end, a starting safety, a starting cornerback, a starting offensive lineman, and numerous other contributors on both sides of the ball.

The Irish were perhaps the most snake-bitten team of 2015, but still somehow came up just 30 seconds and a made field goal short of the College Football Playoff.

Here are a couple storylines to keep an eye on for the Irish going forward:

Which bowl will the Irish play in (and who will be their opponent) this bowl season?  

Many have the Irish slated to finish somewhere around the 10th spot in the College Football Playoff rankings, which would make the team a likely candidate to participate in a New Year’s Six Bowl. Since the Rose Bowl and the Sugar Bowl both have conference tie-ins, the Irish are looking at a berth in either the Fiesta or Peach Bowl, with the Fiesta Bowl perhaps being the more likely of the two, given Notre Dame’s history with that specific game. Since the winner of the B1G title game between Michigan State and Iowa is almost a sure lock for the playoff, the loser of the game will likely head to the Rose Bowl, meaning that another B1G in the top 10, Ohio State, could be in the mix for a date with the Irish in the desert on January 1st. The two have history meeting in the game, as the Buckeyes beat the Irish in 2006. Given the proximity of the two schools and the overlap of two national fanbases, a Notre Dame-Ohio State matchup might break the internet. If the Fiesta Bowl powers that be fail to cash in on that potential, then shame on them.

Is Brian Kelly going to stick around long enough to guide the team to the playoff?

I can say with as much certainty possible that Brian Kelly will be around next season. Many speculate that Kelly would bite at the right NFL job. It makes sense—Kelly has worked his way up the football coaches’ hierarchy, coaching at Grand Valley State, Central Michigan, Cincinnati, and finally Notre Dame, so the next logical move would be one to the NFL.  Those near Kelly have indicated that the coach most likely is not ready to leave South Bend, however, at least for the time being.

And why would he be?

In his tenure at Notre Dame, Kelly’s teams have shown promise. In just 3 years, he took them to a National Championship, mostly with players he himself didn’t recruit. In the two seasons that followed, the Irish perhaps underachieved, but those teams were perhaps the first teams Kelly had that were truly “his.” The Irish capped last season with a significant bowl win over an up-and-coming SEC opponent in LSU, and this year they took the next step in the progression toward a National Championship in what they did was a depleted lineup.

Kelly has referenced the “problem” he’s sitting on—having both Deshone Kizer and Malik Zaire healthy at the beginning of next season—so that language doesn’t indicate a guy who is thinking about taking the next step. Also, with Will Fuller coming back and Notre Dame receiving many starters back after injury during this season, the Irish should be pretty loaded once again. Kelly has put his stamp on this program and has laid a solid foundation. Also, Kelly has indicated a love for being autonomous when it comes to personnel decisions, a luxury he may not have at the next level. Kelly will not be contacting a real estate agent any time soon.

It is fully expected that Kelly will leave Notre Dame in the next few years—in this era, it’s rare for college coaches to stay in one place for any length that approaches 10 years. At age 54, Kelly still has the opportunity to make his leap to the NFL once his time at Notre Dame is up.

About that quarterback position…

Your guess is as good as mine. After Everett Golson transferred to Florida State, Malik Zaire was the go-to guy because his limited experience was the only experience the Irish had at the position. Unfortunately, Zaire’s injury means that he no longer has the experience. Factor in the up-and-coming Brandon Wimbush—who looked impressive in limited action this season—and the Irish have a logjam at the position. Next spring will likely feature a significant battle at the position.

Irish Fall to Stanford in Season Finale

An instant classic in Palo Alto knocked one team out of the playoff picture, and very well could have elevated one into the picture.

Stanford defeated Notre Dame 38-36 in a game for the ages in the growing rivalry between the Fighting Irish and the Stanford Cardinal. The matchup of two top 10 teams lived up to the billing.

The back-and-forth game came down to the wire, as Stanford kicked the game winning field goal from 45 yards out as time expired.

Notre Dame saw very good performances from QB DeShone Kizer, true freshman running back Josh Adams had another tremendous outing, and Will Fuller was once again the explosive wide receiver that the Irish faithful have watched all year. On the defensive side of the ball Notre Dame did a fantastic job limiting Heisman hopeful Christian McCaffrey to less than 100 yards rushing on the day, although the secondary for the Irish struggled all night long, allowing Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan to have an outstanding day.

While the heart-breaking loss does end Notre Dame’s title hopes, not all is lost.

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The Irish won 10 regular season games, which was the expectation from many media outlets during the preseason.

The prediction rang true, but the circumstances were not what many thought they would be.

The preseason saw Everett Golson transfer, Greg Bryant drop out of school due to academic ineligibility, and Jarron Jones tear his MCL, ending his regular season, and Shaun Crawford tear his ACL.

Shortly after that the Irish lost starting running back Tarean Folston to a torn ACL against Texas, starting quarterback Malik Zaire to a fractured ankle against Virginia, and Durham Smythe to knee and shoulder injuries in the same game. Week 3 saw the Irish lose safety Drue Tranquill to a torn ACL, his second in two seasons at Notre Dame. Things wouldn’t stop there for Notre Dame on the injury front. Offensive linemen Alex Bars was lost during the season against USC with a fractured ankle, Quenton Nelson missed time against Navy and USC with a bum ankle as well. James Onwalu sprained his MCL against Wake Forest, causing him to miss the last two regular season games. Also missing from the Wake Forest game was CJ Prosise, sitting out with a concussion before coming back against Boston College, only to injury his ankle, causing him to miss the Stanford game. Also lost in the Boston College game was KeiVarae Russell to a fractured fibula.

Long story short, Notre Dame faced a tall task getting to 10 wins with the cards they were dealt.

Playing a challenging schedule is one thing, but doing it while facing an incredible amount of serious injuries is very impressive.

As of the time of this writing, there are 12 teams that have 10 or more wins against FBS competition. There have been four games played between multiple schools with 10 plus FBS wins. Notre Dame has played in three of those four games.

The Irish went 1-2 in those games, which was ultimately their downfall. Those two losses both came by two points in road games.

Not ideal, but not bad if you ask me.

Notre Dame fans should be happy with the season that just finished up for the Irish.

10 wins, countless young contributors, and an extremely bright future for the team. The Stanford loss closes the door on championship hopes this season, but next year’s door is wide open.

Irish Survive Scare From Eagles

Fenway Park was built for baseball.

Notre Dame should have left it as a baseball sanctuary.

The Fighting Irish did not have their best night of the season against Boston College at one of baseball’s most famous diamonds, but they did find a way to win. The win wasn’t pretty by any stretch of the imagination, but what did Notre Dame fans expect would happen in cursed green jerseys?

DeShone Kizer certainly did not have his best night, especially early on, but he did recover nicely and ended up throwing for 320 yards and two scores to go along with the three interceptions that he tossed. Chris Brown and Amir Carlisle, both of whom had touchdown receptions for Notre Dame, bailed him out. Brown finished with seven catches for 104 yards, and Carlisle snagged six passes for 97 yards. Star wideout Will Fuller was quiet for the entire first half, but did have three grabs for 72 yards in the second half. Fuller also had three drops, including one on third down and another that would have gone for six.

Nov 21, 2015; Boston, MA, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish wide receiver William Fuller (7) runs after the catch while wide receiver Torii Hunter Jr. (16) blocks as Boston College Eagles defensive back John Johnson (9) defends in the third quarter at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 21, 2015; Boston, MA, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish wide receiver William Fuller (7) runs after the catch while wide receiver Torii Hunter Jr. (16) blocks as Boston College Eagles defensive back John Johnson (9) defends in the third quarter at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Defensively, Notre Dame did keep the abysmal Boston College offense at bay for most of the evening. A missed assignment was attributed to QB Jeff Smith’s 80-yard scamper, and Boston College’s other touchdown drive came with the Irish in prevent defense.

While all this sounds negative, the positive news for Notre Dame is that they still found a way to win. They certainly didn’t gather any style points. When the task is the nation’s number one defense, should style points be expected?

I think Notre Dame should be happy with a win, especially considering the five turnovers the Irish committed. Good teams find a way to win when they are not playing at their best, and that is exactly what Notre Dame did at Fenway.

Injury Front

This season has seen many injuries to Irish players, and Saturday night was no different.

Running back CJ Prosise exited the game in the first half with a high ankle sprain on his left leg. Prosise was seen on crutches, and the extent of the sprain has not been announced yet. The injury looked eerily similar to the play that Malik Zaire fractured his ankle on against Virginia. The hope for Notre Dame is that Prosise will not miss the remainder of the season. The running back position is one spot that Notre Dame certainly could not afford to have an injury at. Tarean Folston has been previously lost for the season and Greg Bryant was removed from the team for academic reasons. True freshmen Josh Adams and Dexter Williams will be asked to carry the load for Notre Dame in the event that CJ Prosise can’t go.

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KeiVarae Russell exited the game against Boston College in the second half due to a stress fracture in his foot. There is no timetable for Russell’s return at the point of this writing. If Russell cannot go, it would be expected that Devin Butler would replace him in the starting lineup.

News & Notes

Boston College was previously 2-1 all-time against Notre Dame when the Irish have been ranked in the top five. That alone should have been reason for Notre Dame fans to worry.

The Irish have now won five consecutive contests against Boston College.

Next week Notre Dame will travel to Palo Alto to take on Stanford. This should be a matchup of two top 10 teams. Stanford was ranked 11 this week, but should move up with the losses of both Ohio State and Oklahoma State ranked three and six, respectively. A win against Stanford for Notre Dame would go a long way in helping them find themselves in the College Football Playoff. A loss would almost certainly eliminate them from contention.

Irish’s Sloppy Play a Concern in Win at Fenway

As the college football season comes to a close and teams vie for playoff positioning, style points matter.

The College Football Playoff committee set a precedence last season: Teams that are playing their best football at the end of the season get the nod over teams that aren’t. Notre Dame didn’t help themselves in style points category, despite beating the Boston College Eagles at Fenway Park in Boston on Saturday night. Here are a few takeaways from the game:

The Irish’s offensive struggles are concerning: Despite wowing the college football world in the weeks immediately following Malik Zaire’s injury, Deshone Kizer has looked like a true redshirt freshman quarterback these past two weeks. After a week that saw him post his worst offensive output as a starter, Kizer came to Boston looking to get back on track. However, Kizer looked as stumped as ever against Boston College’s first-ranked defense.

After his opening drive showed promise, Kizer rolled right on a 1st and goal play from the 6 yard line and threw a questionable pass to tight end Alize Jones in the back of the endzone, which was easily intercepted by the Boston College defender. Throughout the rest of the half, Kizer struggled to find open receivers, and even missed on some throws that he has been able to make routinely throughout the season to this point. Kizer finished the first half with 2 interceptions and added his third on a deflected pass on Notre Dame’s first offensive possession of the second half.

In addition to Kizer’s struggles, the Irish were unable to hold on to the football against the attacking Eagles defense. Before suffering a lower leg injury that kept him out of the second half of the game, running back CJ Prosise fumbled the ball twice, while freshman Josh Adams fumbled the ball on a goal line run in the second quarter. All in all, the Irish turned the ball over 5 times through the first 3 quarters, which let the Eagles stick around deep into the second half.

In addition to the sloppiness on offense, the Will Fuller, Notre Dame’s leading receiver, was held without a catch throughout the first half. The Irish were mostly unable to capitalize on the Boston College defense devoting multiple defenders in Fuller’s direction. Fuller’s first catch didn’t come until late in the third quarter. It wasn’t all Boston College’s defense, however: Fuller had multiple egregious drops that cost the Irish significantly.

CJ Prosise was injured for the second time in as many appearances. The Irish running back became only the second Notre Dame running back to tally 1,000 yards on the ground in the last 9 years. That, however, was the about the last positive for Prosise, who fumbled twice, and was benched briefly in the second quarter. Upon his return, Prosise was the victim of an awkward hit, which saw him get his left leg pinned under a Boston College defender. Prosise was able to walk to the locker room, albeit rather gingerly, and was quickly ruled out for the rest of the game. The prognosis on Prosise’s ankle is currently unknown, but if he is unable to play in next week’s tango with Stanford, it will be a significant loss for the Irish.

Despite an ugly win, the Irish got an assist from other teams on Saturday. Michigan State did the Irish a favor, beating the Ohio State Buckeyes in Columbus. Also, Baylor, after losing last week, rebounded to beat the previously unbeaten Oklahoma State Cowboys in Stillwater. With these events, the Irish are likely to move into third place in the next rankings from the playoff committee. If the Irish are able to take care of business next week against the Stanford Cardinal in Palo Alto, they figure to be firmly in the mix for the college football playoff.

The Irish control their own destiny. Even with an ugly win, the Irish find themselves likely in control of their own destiny. Other teams in the playoff mix were not overly-impressive: Clemson beat Wake Forest, Alabama played an FCS school, Ohio State and Oklahoma State lost, and Iowa only lead a poor Purdue team by a touchdown in the second half. A win over currently eleventh-ranked Stanford will almost certainly be enough to keep the Irish in the top 4 of the final College Football Playoff rankings, regardless of what happens in the B1G and the Big 12. However, the Irish will have to play much better to beat a disciplined, physical Stanford team. If the Irish are able to not be their own worst enemy, they may see themselves playing in a fairly significant game on New Year’s Eve.