Saturday night sucked. Braylon Edwards was correct in his assessment. And while I totally agree with him, I must admit that things are not as bad as they seemed while watching that sick joke of a game. Still, this needs to be a wakeup call because it looked like the Wolverines slept through most of their opener. Continue reading Michigan Football: Things are not as bad as They Seem
The powers that be must have read my complaint about last year’s Week 1 schedule because there are a lot of big games kicking off the 2018 campaign. Here’s what you should know about each one going in:
At the end of any given football season, I always love going back through my articles and checking out all the brilliant things I said throughout the year. Then, when I come across all the completely dumb things I said, I enjoy that part even more. Laughter is good for the soul.
So, first of all, let me brag to you about the things I said that have turned out to be absolutely brilliant in retrospect. I don’t get to brag about being right about football too often, so let me have my moment.
“SEC East Sleeper: Remember the Gators” This was a title for one of my articles early in the year.
“This year, I am still cautious about all the optimism surrounding the Tennessee football program.” Good call here, even if my dad was convinced otherwise.
“With the return of Mike Williams from injury, Watson should have a great target downfield for those longer plays.” Deshaun Watson proved to be a huge asset in Clemson’s championship game, but so did Mike Williams.
“I would not be surprised to see a Heisman winner from an ACC football program this year.” It may not have been Deshaun Watson, but the Heisman winner was from the ACC.
“And as much as I ride for SEC football, I have to admit I do expect the Seminoles to come out victorious.” This was the one SEC game I really wanted to see during week one, even if I did expect Ole Miss to drop this game.
“Do I expect Ole Miss to get its third victory in a row in this series? No, but I do anticipate a very interesting football game.” This came from that same article and was referring to watching Alabama’s trip Ole Miss. I was right about this year, even though Ole Miss had given Alabama trouble lately.
“They’ve actually won eleven in a row in this rivalry…but who’s counting? This year I truly do expect that winning streak to come to an end.” This is yet another gem from that same article about watching only one SEC football game each week. Tennessee had been hitting a huge mental roadblock in the Florida game–until this year.
“ACC football is not to be taken lightly this season.” Early in the season, I warned everyone to give ACC football some respect this year. After the conference’s bowl season performance, it was definitely earned.
“To be totally honest, at this point the regular season is just Alabama getting warmed up for its playoff appearance.” This came from my Alabama-Ole Miss smackdown piece, but really was not an exaggeration at all.
“Florida’s offense is still nothing special.” Although this was from my smackdown piece before the Florida-Tennessee game, it turned out to be very true. No surprise there.
“I know the Auburn Tigers are ranked a little below the Arkansas Razorbacks, but they’re going to beat them anyways.” Yet another smackdown piece that proved to be correct.
“It will be funny to see Great Value DBU shut down the Heisman winner though. I must say…” This was a personal tweet referring to LSU shutting down Lamar Jackson, which did eventually happen.
So I was right, at least to some extent, pretty often. But what I hope you’ll find much more amusing is all those really stupid things I said. Maybe my sense of humor is strange, but I thought some of these were pretty hilarious.
“If Mark Richt can do that, they could have a very impressive non-conference win in his first season as head coach.” I really thought Miami’s trip to South Bend would be a noteworthy non-conference game this season. Unfortunately, beating Notre Dame wasn’t exactly an impressive feat.
“But if the Vols do get that win then it’s safe to say they are national contenders and Alabama better watch out for them in a couple weeks.” Remember when everyone thought the Vols were potential national contenders before the season even started? I bought into that hype when discussing how I wanted to watch the Vols play at Georgia in Week 5 of SEC football.
“I don’t know that I’m right about this but I think the Vols will have a good chance to win at home over the Crimson Tide.” I wanted to watch the Alabama-Tennessee game in Week 7 if I could only watch one SEC game. Poor choice there.
“Labor Day is just a welcomed day off from both work and school for most people. But for Ole Miss this year, it’s the day [it takes] down the Florida State Seminoles.” From a Smackdown Friday piece so I didn’t really mean it. But still hilarious. Plus, that whole article was hilarious if you like hating on Florida State.
“…if I had money to bet I’d be putting it all on the Tennessee Vols to win the SEC East right now.” It’s a good thing I was broke. I would’ve wasted a lot of money thinking that the Vols were really going to win the SEC East.
“I hate to break it to Clemson fans, but Lamar Jackson is about the shatter your hopes and dreams.” This Smackdown was off. Lamar Jackson did take Deshaun Watson’s Heisman trophy. But Clemson still lived out its dream of winning a national championship again.
“Coastal Division Is Worse for ACC Football than East Is for SEC Football” Even just the title of this article is off. After bowl season, there’s not much that can be said for the SEC East, aside from Florida and Tennessee.
“It’s not that the Razorbacks can’t beat the Gators. It’s just that they won’t.” Another Smackdown Friday article gone wrong. The Razorbacks could and did beat the Gators–in convincing fashion.
E-mail Kristen at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @KristenBotica.
Photo from Public Domain Pictures.
In the nascent stages of ACC conference play, the Irish seem to be firing on all cylinders once again. A strong 9-0 start was derailed after the Irish blew double-digit leads against No. 1 Villanova and No. 15 Purdue, but Notre Dame got back on track with a big road win in overtime against Pittsburgh, and a hard-fought win at home against No. 9 Louisville. This Notre Dame team remains on the periphery of the College Basketball elite, but it is never to be taken lightly.
The reason for that: Mike Brey. In his 17 seasons at the helm in South Bend, the Irish have locked down the fundamentals of the game and truly become feared opponents. Each year Brey and the Irish are among the best in the NCAA in offensive efficiency, free throw percentage, and assist-turnover ratio. This year the Irish are third, first, and first, respectively, in those categories. Brey has emphasized time and time again that his philosophy uses veteran leadership and solid, fundamentally-sound basketball to win games, and that he does.
After back to back Elite Eight appearances, the expectations were high but fans and critics alike anticipated a drop in performance following the departures of essential playmakers Zach Auguste and Demetrius Jackson. But then again, they expected a drop in performance after Pat Connaughton and Jerian Grant left after the 2014-2015 season. A third straight Elite Eight is not at all unrealistic for this Irish team. Matt Farrell has proven that he can take care of the ball and lead the Irish offense, while sharpshooters V.J. Beachum and Steve Vasturia provide a lethal threat from behind the arc and driving to the basket. Bonzie Colson and Martinas Geben are the brute force rebounders and post players. Year after year, Mike Brey seems to be able to resist the inevitable personnel turnover and maintain a high level of success.
Those are just the tangible, statistical aspects of this Irish team. On paper, they’re efficient, lethal, and fundamentally-sound. But it’s the intangible that really stands out. On the sidelines, Brey is fired up like any other head coach. But Brey exerts a positivity almost unheard of among the likes of college basketball’s elite coaches. In a world of Jay Wright, John Calipari, Mike Krzyzewski, and Roy Williams, it seems like the level-headed positivity of Mike Brey wouldn’t find its place at the top. Yet it does, and it permeates the team. No matter what five players are on the floor, they all seem to radiate the hope and positivity that Brey embodies. No matter the opponent, no matter how big the task, The Irish always seem to be within striking distance. Since the 2014-2015 season, the Irish have notched wins against top 15 North Carolina and Top 10 Duke on the road, as well as at home against No. 4 Duke and No. 1 North Carolina. The Irish are 4-1 against Louisville in the last five years. When the big games arrive, Notre Dame is there to withstand the challenge and emerge victorious.
There is just an aura of hope and confidence that surrounds Brey and his troops that can’t help but lead to success. I was tentative to make a prediction earlier in the season, but I am confident now. This Notre Dame can certainly make a third straight Sweet Sixteen, but I think they could make a third straight Elite Eight and possibly earn their first birth in the Final Four since 1978.
Mike Brey and Notre Dame Basketball are on a collision course with the national championship. The only variable is time.
On Monday, DeShone Kizer declared for the NFL draft. On Tuesday, Notre Dame announced Special Teams Coach Scott Booker would not be returning for 2017. On Wednesday it was announced that Offensive Coordinator Mike Sanford would be returning to Western Kentucky University to serve as head coach. Defensive Coordinator Greg Hudson is entering his first full year as Irish Defensive Coordinator, and Brian Kelly has a brand new team ahead of him for next season.
The pressure will be immense for him, and his seat may be starting to get warm. He must succeed next year, and I think for him that means winning a New Year’s Six bowl at minimum. He’s got the coaching ability to do it, and he’s proved it before. In 2012, with brand new starting quarterback Everett Golson, the Irish went 12-0 and played for the National Championship. In 2015, behind a brand new starting QB in Malik Zaire, the Irish won their opener against Texas and then a combined effort from Zaire and Kizer following the former’s injury earned a win against Virginia. Kizer won 9 of the next 11 games, and the Irish played in the Fiesta Bowl. In 2017, Brandon Wimbush will take over. Kelly knows how to coach a first-year quarterback and Wimbush has been touted as more talented than all the aforementioned shot-callers.
Brian Kelly’s record with a returning starter at QB: 32-22 (59.7%)
Brian Kelly's record with a first-year starter at QB: 27-9 (75.0%)
— Pete Sampson … TBA (@PeteSampson_) December 12, 2016
Despite the disappointing 4-8 season, the Irish did not play bad football. According to S&P+ rankings, the Irish were 25th in the country. Ranking top 40 in both offense and defense, it was mental mistakes and big plays that killed the Irish. Despite 7 losses by 8 points or less and a tough loss against Adoree Jackson and USC, and not once did the Irish lay down, quit, or throw a temper tantrum.
The offense will be good again next year. A standout receiver core will return all key playmakers, with the exception of Torii Hunter, Jr. Josh Adams and Dexter Williams will look to run through holes created by an offensive line that hopes to be much improved from last year.
Defensively, after the tumultuous beginning to what was the end of Brian VanGorder’s reign as Defensive Coordinator, Greg Hudson took over and reformed the defense. Nyles Morgan, Greer Martini, and Te’von Coney return to lead the Irish linebacker core, and a young and beat up Irish secondary will be healthy and experienced next year.
On the Special Teams side of things, mistakes killed Notre Dame. Kickoff returns, punt returns, missed field goals, bad punts, all cost the Irish precious points on both sides of the ball. Kickoff man John Chereson is graduating, thus leaving an opening for new specialist playmakers, such as fellow walk-on Jeff Riney, Riney spent this season as the backup to Tyler Newsome, but with a new coach and player turnover, Riney may find himself taking the weight off Newsome or field goal kicker Justin Yoon.
A brand new Notre Dame team will take the field against Temple next season, but there is one key consistency: this team still believes in Brian Kelly. Despite the fairly large outcry against him, Kelly has the backing of the players, the donors, and the Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick. While there is a lot of time before the 2017 season kicks off, the Irish squadron is looking primed to succeed. I should know, I already wagered they’d finish 11-1 or better. Go Irish, beat Temple.
It was awards week in college football, and an epic showdown between Army and Navy highlighted this week’s action.
“You’ve sunk my midshipmen!”
The Army Black Knights got their first victory over the Midshipmen of Navy in over 15 years on Saturday by a score of 21-17. After getting out to a 14-0 lead, it seemed like Army was going to dominate. Their four turnovers kept Navy in the game.
Despite losing starting quarterback Will Worth, starting running back Toneo Gulley, and wide receiver Tony Carmona, Navy clawed its way back to a 17-14 lead after quarterback replacement Zach Abey’s beastly 41-yard touchdown run gave the Midshipmen the lead with 12:42 remaining.
On the ensuing possession, Army marched down the field, burning more than six minutes off the clock. The Black Knights converted two third downs and a fourth and inches in the red zone on their way to a go-ahead touchdown run by Ahmad Bradshaw (Not that Ahmad Bradshaw, this Ahmad Bradshaw).
As he took a final knee to break the streak, Bradshaw turned to the cadets and watched as they poured over the barriers and celebrated with the players.
Most orderly field storming in history
— CJ Fogler (@cjzero) December 10, 2016
— CJ Fogler (@cjzero) December 10, 2016
It was at that moment you could see just how much this game meant to everyone involved. Despite what President-elect Donald Trump had to say on the air, this was an excellent football game.
And the Heisman goes to…
Lamar Jackson! In other news, the sky is blue and water is wet. Jackson was far and away the most electrifying college football player in the country this year, despite stumbling down the stretch against Houston and Kentucky. Jackson’s 3390 passing yards and 30 touchdowns, combined with his 1538 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns, earned him the honor, which gave the University of Louisville a first Heisman trophy.
ESPN’s 30 for 30 “Catholics vs. Convicts” aired last night, and it was phenomenal. The film goes in-depth about a t-shirt business run by some Notre Dame students, which culminated in the (in)famous “Catholics vs. Convicts” shirts ahead of the showdown between 1987 defending national champion Miami Hurricanes and eventual 1988 National Champion Notre Dame. 10/10 would recommend, objectively, without any connection to either school’s fanbase. (My dad was in the stands for that game, it was his sophomore year at ND. Here’s his shirt).
Contact writer John Horlander on Twitter @John_Horlander, or by email: [email protected].
After a disappointing 4-8 campaign this year, Brian Kelly and the Irish football program are under an immense amount of pressure to succeed next year. Rumors are circulating every day about the future of Kelly, offensive coordinator Mike Denbrock, backup quarterback Malik Zaire and more.
Just a few steps east of Notre Dame Stadium, however, things are going just fine for Mike Brey and the Irish basketball squad. Sitting at 7-0 and coming off of a big win against Iowa in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, Brey’s ragtag bunch of hustle players are still exceeding expectations.
Against Iowa, the Irish seemed to be cruising heading into halftime, but with 3:30 left the Hawkeyes turned it on. Iowa finished the half on a 13-0 run, cutting the Irish lead to two.
Coming out of the break, the two teams were evenly matched until Matt Farrell buried a three-pointer with 14:36 left in the second half. That shot won the game for the Irish. Of course, there was much more game to be played, but for the next 5 minutes of the game, the Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center was rocking. The Irish were invincible, as they went on a 17-4 run and took physical and emotional control of the game before winning 92-78.
The point is that the environment in the arena was everything these past few years have not been for the football team. Notre Dame has historically been a very welcoming place, where traveling fans feel respected and accepted. However, in the past few years, the atmosphere has declined greatly.
While Notre Dame Stadium has never been on the level of Death Valley, Doak Campbell, or the Big House, it has historically been a difficult place to play. When visiting teams took the field, there was a climate and culture of “Welcome to Notre Dame, we’re going to destroy you.” Teams visiting Notre Dame for the first time struggled to establish themselves and win in South Bend. Teams that were used to playing there, like Michigan, USC and Stanford, didn’t expect to come in and win easily. That has definitively changed.
Teams tend to assume the persona and attitude of the coach. Mike Brey, the energetic, hyped, motivational coach has charged this basketball team and propelled it to exceed expectations year after year. Brian Kelly has transformed from explosive, volatile, purple-faced monster to emotionless, resigned, disappointed coach. The team has transformed into the same. The Irish teams since the miraculous 2012 run have been lacking a spark, a fire that is essential to a culture of winning.
Since Kelly has taken over, eight teams have ventured to Notre Dame Stadium for the first time: Virginia Tech (L – 2016), UMass (W – 2015), Louisville (L – 2014), Temple (W – 2013), Wake Forest (W – 2012) South Florida (L – 2011), Tulsa (L – 2010), Utah (W – 2010). A .500 record is not a culture of asserting dominance and winning at home.
Now, don’t take that to mean that I think he should be fired. Notre Dame cannot upgrade from him right now. With that in mind, it’s better to choose the known evil with a possible upside than to dive headfirst into the cesspool of head coaching vacancy. So, the Irish are in the undesirable position of being stuck with an underwhelming head coach instead of being behind him and fully supportive of him. Kelly has underperformed in almost every way as head coach at the University of Notre Dame: He hasn’t won a title, he’s been the focus of two academic scandals and he’s had a losing season (three, technically, if you count the two seasons of wins that were vacated). He must succeed next year, and I think that means winning at least 11 games, whether that be 11 in the regular season or 10 games and a bowl game.
The atmosphere surrounding Notre Dame football will improve as the team starts winning – that’s just how it goes. But even still, it’s difficult to improve when the traveling fans out-cheer and sometimes seem to outnumber the home faithful. Until next year Irish fans, keep your heads up and remain hopeful. 275 days, beat Temple.
Tom Herman is the new head football coach at the University of Texas. For most people, this is a match made in heaven. Campus Pressbox’s own Chase Holik is one of those people who is showering Texas with unapologetic praise for the hire.
I’m here to tell Chase and the rest of the Tom Herman fan club to slow down.
In hiring Herman, I feel like we’ve witnessed this kind of enthusiasm about a previous Texas head coaching hire. Remember when Charlie Strong was hired in 2014? I do. And Strong was the hot, unproven coaching commodity in 2014 just as Herman is now. Even though the perception is that Herman and Strong are nothing like, let’s compare the two at comparable points in their careers.
Prior to accepting the Texas job, Strong boasted an impressive resume. He spent time as an assistant coach at high profile schools like Florida and Notre Dame. He was a position coach for Lou Holtz at Notre Dame and was the defensive coordinator for Florida’s 2006 and 2008 national championship teams. He turned his success as an assistant coach into a head coaching opportunity at Louisville.
In 2010, Strong took over a Louisville program that had gone 15-21 under Steve Kragthorpe. Strong took that struggling program and, through recruiting players like Teddy Bridgewater, went 37-15. In his four seasons at Louisville, Strong turned the Cardinals back into winners. His tenure was highlighted by a Sugar Bowl victory over Florida. His reward for rebuilding Louisville was being tapped to do the same at Texas. Texas was coming off of an 8-5 season under Mack Brown. Times were tough in Austin when Strong took over.
The state of the Longhorn program is important to remember when assessing Strong’s record at Texas. He was having to rebuild the program both inside and out.
Herman and Strong’s rise to coaching prominence is similar. Herman’s claim to fame was the success Ohio State had during his time as offensive coordinator. He is credited with being the architect of the Buckeye offense that won the 2014 national championship. Herman used this accomplishment to gain his first head coaching job at Houston.
Herman then took over a Houston program that had fallen on hard times under head coach Tony Levine. Levine went 21-17 at Houston prior to Herman taking over. Like Strong did at Louisville, Herman brought Houston back to national prominence. Herman went 22-4 at Houston and the highlight was beating Florida State in the 2015 Peach Bowl.
The similarities between Herman and Strong not only include impressive resumes as assistant coaches but also includes success as mid-major head coaches. But the decision made by the Texas administration to hire Herman is based on the idea that Herman is completely different than Strong. Texas is wrong. Herman and Strong are more similar on the field than anyone at Texas cares to admit.
Herman knows football. There’s no question about that. When it comes right down to it, so does Strong. But there’s more to succeeding at Texas than just knowing football. Coaching at Texas also means living inside a vast political machine that includes overbearing boosters and a savage Austin sports media cabal. And that is what I doubt Herman is prepared to manage. Strong was over his head and my best guess is that Herman will also be in over his head.
Texas would have been better off hiring an experienced head coach. Sorry, but Herman’s two years at Houston just doesn’t cut it. Herman couldn’t handle a bit of friction with Nick Wright and John Lopez. Keep in mind that this happened while Herman was winning at Houston. What will he do if he falls on hard times at Texas and the Austin media rip into him? Wright and Lopez aren’t Kirk Bohls and Chip Brown. I’ll wish Herman good luck right now if he rubs either of those Austin sports media legends the wrong way.
Being the head coach at Louisville was different than being in charge of the Longhorns. And being in charge at Houston is different than being the head coach at Texas. It’s not so much about football knowledge as it is the ability to maneuver through a 24-hour labyrinth of media and booster scrutiny.
There will be no honeymoon period for Herman just as there wasn’t for Strong. Herman may have had the head coaching pedigree to handle a job as big as Texas down the road, but I don’t believe that day is today.
E-mail Seth at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @SethMerenbloom.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
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In the bitter cold of a vintage November Saturday in South Bend, Indiana, The Notre Dame Fighting Irish warmed up the 80,000 in attendance with the dumpster fire that was the second half against Virginia Tech. For the third straight time at home this season, the Irish blitzed out to an early lead, before suffering a total collapse.
Against Stanford, the Cardinal fell behind 10-0 at halftime, but then went on to score 17 unanswered and beat the Irish by seven. After a bye week to recuperate and fix their mistakes, the Irish assumed that a 20 point lead would be safe against Miami. 27 unanswered points for the Hurricanes debunked that theory, but the Irish were fortunate to scrape their way back and win that one.
Now, this week, Notre Dame took a quick 17-0 lead early in the second quarter. The Hokies, led by dual-threat quarterback Jerod Evans, scored 34 points in the next three quarters. They went on to win 34-31, capped off by 13 unanswered points in the fourth quarter.
The “what-ifs” surrounding this game are brutal to consider. What if the Irish had punched it in when they had 1st and goal from the 1, instead of settling for a field goal? What if DeShone Kizer’s head hadn’t been slammed into the turf when he scrambled for a first down (The incident is at 2:13:45 in the video)? What if he hadn’t been knocked out again on the penultimate play of the game? What if Cole Luke hadn’t been wrongfully called for pass interference (2:47:30 in the video) in the fourth quarter? What if?
Unfortunately, all of those things did happen. Now, the reality is that Notre Dame has now lost seven games by a combined total of 32 points. In each loss, the Irish have had the ball in crunch time with a chance to win or tie the game. 5 times this season, the Irish have had the ball and failed to score with under 2 minutes left in the game. The absence of a consistent, clutch playmaker has hurt the Irish time and time again. DeShone Kizer, after throwing for 199 yards and two touchdowns in the first half, went 3-of-15 for 36 yards as the Hokies stormed back to take the lead.
There were some positives to be gleaned from this game, however, the most significant of which being that Josh Adams ran for 100 yards, and Notre Dame as a whole ran for 200. Kizer hit 8 different receivers for passes of over 10 yards, despite being under pressure for almost the whole game. James Onwualu got a sack on Senior Day, and Jarron Jones recovered a fumble.
There’s not a lot to celebrate right now as a Notre Dame Football fan, but a big rivalry game against a talented USC team and the optimism that comes with a new season are enough to keep the hope alive. A lot of talent returns next year, and I’m calling it now, 11-1 next season for the Irish. Come back next week to read why I’m right about that prediction. But for now, Happy Thanksgiving and beat Trojans.
After falling short by one point against a Navy team that played the game of its life, Notre Dame rebounded with a convincing 44-6 dismantling of Army. Defending the triple option is always hard, but it’s much easier when Army doesn’t complete 4-5 fourth downs and holds the ball for half a quarter at a time.
The Irish dominated from start to finish, roaring out to a 21-0 lead and finishing the game with twice as many yards and three times as many first downs as the Black Knights. It was exactly the type of commanding performance that Notre Dame needed; it proved that it won’t be going away easily to end this year.
But the road is the toughest it has been so far. The Irish welcome a tough Virginia Tech squad to Notre Dame Stadium on Senior Day. Jerod Evans, the Hokies’ dangerous dual-threat quarterback, promises to make life difficult for an Irish defensive unit that, while showing great improvement since Brian Van Gorder was fired, is still young and inexperienced. They follow that up with a trip to Los Angeles to face USC in the
mausoleum colosseum. USC has looked much better since it was obliterated by Alabama, and the Irish will need to be careful to avoid another beatdown like the last time they visited the Trojans.
The Irish, especially freshman Julian Love, looked good against Army. Love began to stand out against Navy, finishing with eight tackles, a tackle for loss and a blow to the head that many thought would rule him out against Army. After tests showed that Love had no concussion, he stepped up again and had three tackles, an interception and a pass break up this weekend. Love, smiling like only a freshman on the sidelines after his first career interception could, symbolized to Irish critics and fans alike that Notre Dame is not done yet.
A season filled with tough, close losses can often lead to uncertainty and separation in the locker room for a program like Notre Dame. There has been a great deal of debate and speculation as to whether or not Brian Kelly will retain his job next season (he will, by the way) and whether or not the players still like him (they do, by the way).
At 4-6, with two tough games remaining, the Irish proved that they aren’t just looking to fast forward to next season. An absurdly talented offensive group seems to have alleviated the problems which befell it against Stanford and NC State. Equanimeous St. Brown, C.J. Sanders, Kevin Stepherson, and more headline a standout wide receiving corps. Balanced with Josh Adams, Dexter Williams, and Tarean Folston in the run game, Notre Dame has a lot of weapons with which to strike. If the defense can keep up the good work, Kelly may have just turned this season around. Kind of. Beat the Hokies. (Time to play some real football).