Gigantic football weekend ahead

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Apologies for the lack of updates yesterday, but I was flying back from Chicago and enjoyed the double-whammy of travel delays and a few computer problems, but we’re back and better than ever today to get started on the now incredibly intriguing Notre Dame-Michigan showdown this Saturday.

As a college football fan, if you’re not glued to a couch with as many TVs on as possible from sunrise to sunset, there’s something wrong with you. Here’s the bullet-points of what could be the best Saturday of the year:


     * Notre Dame vs. Michigan
     * Florida State vs. Oklahoma
     * Miami vs. Ohio State
     * Penn State vs. Alabama


     * South Florida vs. Florida
     * Georgia vs. South Carolina
     * Iowa State vs. Iowa
     * BYU vs. Air Force
     * Oregon vs. Tennessee
     * Stanford vs. UCLA
     * Virginia vs. USC

Even with all the incredible football on tap, I’ll make a persuasive argument that the best game of the week is the one being played in South Bend. With the explosion of the Michigan offense, and the incredible performance by Denard Robinson, the Wolverines look like a completely different team than the one that cratered last season after starting 4-0. In Robinson, head coach Rich Rodriguez has a quarterback that gives him everything he wants in his quarterback archetype, and the closest thing he’s had to Pat White since the former West Virginia quarterback graduated.

Sure Michigan’s offensive breakthrough was impressive, but the Wolverines defense holding UConn to only 10 points might be even more surprising. With a secondary that looks like a ghost town and a first-year transition into the 3-3-5, defensive coordinator Greg Robinson did a nice job of mixing pressure and a solid run defense, while protecting a secondary that should have been under fire with Michigan jumping out to an early 21-0 lead early in the second quarter.

Still, Michigan’s fast start was exactly what the defense needed. If there’s any type of offense that the 3-3-5 is susceptible against, it’s a power running team, and UConn certainly came off a season where they started to establish a punishing ground attack. The best way to shutdown a solid running game? Rack up a three score lead early. 

We’ll certainly get into it in more detail as the week continues, but Notre Dame’s base defense will be key to stopping the new-found explosive Michigan attack. Great play by outside linebackers Kerry Neal and Darius Fleming, as well as stout games by the front three will be key to allowing Manti Te’o to run free and chase down the man known as Shoelace. Robinson’s passing proficiency was a product of the dangerous running game Michigan put together, but the Irish secondary will have the benefit of spending most of their time in zone coverage, making it easier to not fall victim to the explosive play-action passing attack.

Michigan’s depth chart took another hit this week when Rich Rodriguez announced that safety/linebacker Carvin Johnson was most likely out for the game, joined by wide receiver Roy Roundtree. Also gone from the dwindling secondary depth chart is free safety Jared Van Slyke, who also serves as a holder.

I’ll have analysis on both Brian Kelly and Rich Rodriguez’s press conferences later on, but the short week is a perfect antidote for a Saturday afternoon that can’t come fast enough.

Irish add commitment from CB Donte Vaughn

Donte Vaughn

Notre Dame’s recruiting class grew on Monday. And in adding 6-foot-3 Memphis cornerback Donte Vaughn, it grew considerably.

The Irish added another jumbo-sized skill player in Vaughn, beating out a slew of SEC offers for the intriguing cover man. Vaughn picked Notre Dame over offers from Auburn, LSU, Miami, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Tennessee and Texas A&M among others.

He made the announcement on Monday, his 18th birthday:

It remains to be seen if Vaughn can run like a true cornerback. But his length certainly gives him a skill-set that doesn’t currently exist on the Notre Dame roster.

Interestingly enough, Vaughn’s commitment comes a cycle after Brian VanGorder made news by going after out-of-profile coverman Shaun Crawford, immediately offering the 5-foot-9 cornerback after taking over for Bob Diaco, who passed because of Crawford’s size. An ACL injury cut short Crawford’s freshman season before it got started, but not before Crawford already proved he’ll be a valuable piece of the Irish secondary for years to come.

Vaughn is another freaky athlete in a class that already features British Columbia’s Chase Claypool. With a safety depth chart that’s likely turning over quite a bit in the next two seasons, Vaughn can clearly shift over if that’s needed, though Notre Dame adding length like Vaughn clearly points to some of the shifting trends after Richard Sherman went from an average wide receiver to one of the best cornerbacks in football, and Vaughn will be asked to play on the outside.

Vaughn is the 15th member of Notre Dame’s 2016 signing class. He is the fifth defensive back, joining safeties D.J. Morgan, Jalen Elliott and Spencer Perry along with cornerback Julian Love. The Irish project to take one more.

With Notre Dame expecting another huge recruiting weekend with USC coming to town, it’ll be very interesting to see how the Irish staff close out this recruiting class.




Days before facing Notre Dame, USC coach Steve Sarkisian to take leave of absence


When Notre Dame takes on rival USC on Saturday, they’ll be facing a Trojans team without a head coach. USC athletic director Pat Haden announced today that effective immediately, head coach Steve Sarkisian will be taking an indefinite leave of absence. Offensive coordinator Clay Helton will be interim head coach.

While the details are still coming into focus, multiple reports point to another incident with alcohol. Haden himself said that he made the decision after speaking with Sarkisian.

“I called Steve and talked to him. It was very clear to me that he is not healthy. I asked him to take an indefinite leave of absence,” Haden said, according to multiple Los Angeles media reports.

Sarkisian’s decision-making and alcohol use came into the spotlight this August when the head coach made inappropriate statements at a large booster event. Sarkisian addressed the media after the incident, acknowledged mixing medication with alcohol, and vowed to seek help and not to make the same mistake again.

Today’s incident appears to be a relapse, and one that requires immediate attention. Helton ran the team’s practice today and steps back into an interim head coaching role, a job he handled after the Trojans fired Lane Kiffin and Ed Orgeron left after not being awarded the permanent job.

“Fortunately or unfortunately, I have been in this situation before,” Helton said. “Once again, I’m very fortunate to have a group of first-class kids that are extremely talented and want to do something special here.”

This is the second major sports persona to leave his season to seek treatment in recent weeks. New York Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia left the team to seek treatment for alcohol issues. The Trojans are coming off an upset loss to Washington on Thursday night, losing 17-12 as a 17-point favorite.