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USC Mailbag

Oct 17, 2013, 1:57 PM EDT

Notre Dame v Arizona State Getty Images

Without further ado, here are some answers to your mailbag questions.

ndcanuck: Is USC more or less dangerous Saturday without Lane Kiffin? And can we get “Crazy Train” banned from the PA for this game? Come on Keith – you’ve got some pull, right?

I think they’re way more dangerous. The worst thing has already happened. The head coach is fired and uncertainty hit them, and… well, things are okay. Last week’s victory was huge from a morale perspective, and while some are laughing at the mess, the Trojans are still 4-2 with a lot they can still accomplish this season.

As for Crazy Train — They BETTER PLAY IT. It now stands as that wonderful inside joke song that I hope keeps a permanent spot in the rotation at Notre Dame Stadium, if only because it empowers this group to laugh at itself.

irishdodger: What strategy do u think Diaco will install to contain Marquise Lee & Nelson Agholor?

I think it’ll be similar to what we’ve seen in the past — a lot of cushion and respect, and a group of defenders flocking to the football. I don’t think Notre Dame wants to get into a football game where they’re needing to cover either of these guys one on one. That’s a losing proposition for any defensive back.

Just because Cody Kessler completed a couple deep shots down the field last week doesn’t mean this team is turning into a vertical passing offense. I expect a ton of playaction, establishing the run game, and some high percentage throws that set up Lee and Agholor to get yards after the catch.

oldestguard: Whats the risk / reward of protecting Malik Zaire’s redshirt considering the ambiguities of who will be available to QB next year ? Does Golson have to re-apply ? When would this re-applicaton process take place ?

You aren’t the first person to ask this, but let’s walk through my logic on why taking Zaire’s redshirt off was always a dumb idea.

a) Assuming that Zaire gave Notre Dame a better chance to win this year was a pretty huge leap. Especially when mono sidelined him for much of the first month.

b) All reports have Everett Golson coming back to school in the winter. Brian Kelly talks with him regularly and he’ll be back in at the semester break and participating in spring football.

c) It’s been a while since I had to read Notre Dame’s honor code or Du Lac, and thankfully I never ran into trouble like this in the classroom, but it’s highly likely that the reapplication process has already taken place and that Golson is cleared to return while on scholarship. From the sounds of it, this has already been discussed with Golson’s family, Kelly, ND administrations, the whole crew.

d) Currently, Golson isn’t taking classes, but training in San Diego. That leads me to believe academically he’ll be fine after sitting this semester out.

e) There’s little chance that Zaire will beat Golson out for the starting job next season, even if he did play some football this year. Would you start his clock now with the understanding that Zaire will likely be the No. 2 guy next season, likely forcing him to waste three of his four years of eligibility not as QB1?

charlie617: Who would you say is the more dangerous receiver this year (or which would you worry about more if you were a defensive coordinator), TJ Jones or Marqise Lee ? Keep in mind, here are their stats through the first half of the season:

Lee – 5 games, 30 catches, 385 yards, 12.8 YPC, 1 touchdown
Jones – 6 games, 33 catches, 481 yards, 14.6 YPC, 4 touchdowns

I think TJ Jones is a fine football player. But let’s compare last year’s stats to help complete this picture:

Lee – 13 games, 118 catches, 1,721 yards, 14.6 YPC, 14 TDs (1 KO return TD)
Jones –  13 games, 50 catches, 649 yards, 13.0 YPC, 4 TDs

Come on, Charlie. I think the answer is pretty easy: Lee. He’s a Heisman level talent and will likely be one of the first receivers picked in the NFL Draft.

jerseyshorendfan1: Keith, I’m having some folks over to watch the game and I always try to do a food theme that loosely relates to the culture of the area where the opponent is from. For example, if we were playing Miami there would be some Cuban sandwiches and Mojitos. BC would get some lobster, New England clam chowder and Sam Adams. Get it? Problem is, I’m stuck on this weeks game. I’m thinking self serve taco bar, some guac and chips and some ice cold Tecate. Or I thought some nice sushi that I order in with some Sapporos. As a SoCal guy, what would scream La La Land to you?

I don’t think you could go wrong with some Pacificos and slow cooked carnitas tacos. Get some corn tortillas, fresh guac, and pico and there you go. (Thank you for reminding me that I’m hungry.) Also –A staple outside the LA Memorial Coliseum is the bacon-wrapped hot dog. Strange but true.

steincj36: With Grace gone, has the 2 deep across the LB changed? Will we see more nickel and dime packages to get more talent on the field?

It did. It got A LOT thinner. Dan Fox will be backed up by Joe Schmidt. Carlo Calabrese will be backed up by Kendall Moore. Michael Deeb is the emergency guy behind them. I expect Fox to be the linebacker that stays on the field in nickel and dime packages instead of Grace.

vicpaul: Hey Keith, pretty sure I heard that we laid new sod from goal-line to goal-line, What’s the deal with that? I know that’s not the turf BK wants in there but I also know that the grass has looked brutal from game one vs Temple. What were they doing all summer in there?

They re-sodded the field over bye week. I don’t think the maintenance crew had an answer for mother nature, but it’s not hard to read between the lines and understand that Brian Kelly wants a new playing surface in Notre Dame Stadium.

If they can’t figure out how to install something like what the Green Bay Packers have or Michigan State, I think they need to put field turf in the stadium, especially with the Irish now the faster team on the field most Saturdays.

(Not to take it easy on the grounds crew, but I know they’ve spent a ton of man hours working on the field, even bringing in George Toma, basically the Godfather of groundskeepers.)

If I had to guess the new repurposing and remodel of the stadium will include a new surface.

irishlee10: I won’t be able to watch the game on tv. Is there anyway I can stream the game on my iPhone?

So glad you asked, Lee. Download the NBC Sports LiveEXTRA app, and that should do it for you.

yllibnosredna: I have the feeling that this game could turn into a 2011 redux editon. It seems similar in a lot of ways: Night Game, loads of hype, tons of promising recruits, Tommy Rees at QB, a supposedly inferior (although dangerous and talented) USC squad.

Give three reasons why ND fans should feel that the outcome will be different from 2011 this Saturday night.

tburke9601: Hey Keith, Is all the doom and gloom gone for the rest of the season if ND wins or are we going to continue to hear about Tommy’s limitations and the bad play calling every week?

I’m bunching these questions together because they seem to go together. It’s not hard to find similarities between this game and the ’11 game. Although Lane Kiffin went on to beat Oregon in Eugene that year, and this year he’ll be watching from his couch in Manhattan Beach.

Big games are what you play for. If you don’t want to play in a game filled with hype, packed with recruits and pressure, you’re at the wrong place.

If Notre Dame wins this game, all of a sudden a back-door BCS run is in the cards. Even with three losses you can make an argument that they’ll still have a shot at a bid. And while I want it to stop, there’s no way we aren’t talking about Tommy Rees the rest of the season.

andy44teg: What would you put the odds at of:
ND blows out USC
USC blows out ND
ND wins a squeaker
USC wins a squeaker

ND blow out: 15%
USC blow out: 5%
ND squeaker: 50%
USC squeaker: 30%

  1. irishdodger - Oct 17, 2013 at 2:57 PM

    While we’re only half way thru the regular season, I’m pretty confident that a 3-loss ND team would NOT have a case for a BCS bid. A lot of losing above them would have to happen…i.e., an inordinate number of 2-loss teams. If they lose to SC, it will point towards a 4-loss season anyway as everyone seems to be conceding Stanford. But if ND does beat SC and wins out before a third loss to Stanford, I don’t think there’s any impressive wins on the resume. I mean OU & Michigan won by 14 & 10 points respectively and they’ve both shown themselves to be average.

    • c4evr - Oct 17, 2013 at 3:44 PM

      Good points. And those pesky style points do matter. ND just hasn’t played sexy all year. But I’m with you – give me a lower tier bowl game and a legitimate chance to win versus a blowout in a BCS that lingers like Shleprock into the next season.

  2. irishdodger - Oct 17, 2013 at 3:02 PM

    Plus, I don’t want a 3-loss ND team being bumped up into a BCS game against an elite team that will inevitably blow ND out as has happened the last 20 years (’95 Fiesta Bowl, 2001 Fiesta Bowl, 2007 Sugar Bowl, etc). I know after the NC game, the BCS is charged w/ putting whichever team they deem as the best draw when it comes to tickets & TV number, but I want to see an opponent like ND had in the Champs Bowl vs FSU. That was an evenly match game with two big names….ND just choked. All that said….I realize it’s waaaaaaaay too early to prognosticate which bowl, etc.

  3. c4evr - Oct 17, 2013 at 3:49 PM

    From the looks of things, with Orgeron going all cowboy, it’ll be BK 2010 vs. BK 2013.

    The Thrilla vs. Vanilla pre-Halloween Spine-chilla!!

  4. mcirish27 - Oct 17, 2013 at 4:27 PM

    No disrespect to George Toma, but there is only one Sod Father – Roger Bossard of the White Sox. The Cubs even hired him when redoing the field at Wrigley.

  5. onward2victory - Oct 17, 2013 at 4:33 PM

    I’m predicting ND vs Texas A&M in a bowl, whether its BCS or not. It would draw huge ratings and it would give ND a chance to beat a legit SEC team. (or get completely owned by Manziel…)

    • don74 - Oct 17, 2013 at 4:52 PM

      LOL. Manziel vs. the anti Manziel. Perfect matchup.

    • bearcatirishfan - Oct 17, 2013 at 5:06 PM

      You really wanna see our defense try to stop a runner like Manziel? Look what the dude from temple did, I don’t even remember his name and he sure ain’t no Manziel.

      • onward2victory - Oct 17, 2013 at 5:36 PM

        I didn’t say I *want* to see this matchup, I’m just predicting it because the powers-that-be at TV networks would drool over this game.

    • nudeman - Oct 17, 2013 at 5:23 PM

      I beg that does NOT happen. They scored 40+ on Alabama.

      I say, without the least bit of uncertainty that A&M and Manziel would utterly destroy the Irish. Do we really need that???

      Would rather play East Dakota State in the Dirty Underwear Bowl and win by 2 TDs.

      • kansasirish - Oct 17, 2013 at 5:40 PM

        Totally agree Nudie! That would be an ugly mess and we don’t need anymore prime time embarrassment.

      • onward2victory - Oct 17, 2013 at 5:41 PM

        I somewhat agree, Nude. But at some point, if ND really wants to be “relevant” again, we’ll have to beat a top SEC team. The Irish would have to play a near perfect game and control the clock like they did against ASU. A&M’s defense sucks so we would have a punchers chance.

      • nudeman - Oct 17, 2013 at 8:05 PM

        But a Tommy Rees led team can’t beat ANYONE in the SEC
        That is an effing joke

      • nudeman - Oct 17, 2013 at 8:35 PM

        wtf are the chances ND “plays a perfect game” against TA&M?
        I’m going with “ZERO”
        Thumb me down to your heart’s delight

      • getsome99 - Oct 17, 2013 at 10:03 PM

        Hypotheticals mean nothing and certainly don’t support opinions. You don’t think Notre Dame can beat Missouri this year? They just mauled Georgia. There’s one team ND can’t beat in the SEC right now. The same one that Golson couldn’t beat other.

      • bearcatirishfan - Oct 17, 2013 at 11:50 PM

        SEC teams I would like to see us play as in we have a chance to win:

        Ole miss
        Auburn (maybe wanna see them play some better teams first)
        Miss st
        Missouri ( if starting QB stays hurt)

        You know who is not on that list anyone that will finish in the top three of their SEC division. Just don’t think we have what it takes to beat the other ones this year

        Maybe s Carolina and Florida since they seem not quite as loaded in years past.

      • nudeman - Oct 18, 2013 at 12:19 AM

        OK bearcat, they can probably beat those teams but so what?
        Kentucky? Auburn? Arkansas? Jesus …

        We’re talking about the University of Notre Dame here

        If you want to measure them against the bottom feeders in ANY conference then yes, they’ll come out smelling like a rose. Probably could beat Minnesota and Indiana too. Is THAT what we’re measuring ourselves against?

        Come on.

        Fact is this is a down year and we will probably lose at least two more games with your boy Rees playing QB. I am 50/50 on the USC game. Agholor and Lee are dangerous against our slow DBs and LBs, Best hope we have is Kessler shi**ing the bed

        And I hate to bring up old sh**, but Kelly interviewing with the Eagles cost us Anzalone
        Wouldn’t it be nice to have him next year?

      • bearcatirishfan - Oct 18, 2013 at 11:01 AM

        No the point I was trying to make is that we can’t beat the big dawgs this year, maybe that didn’t come across as well. It always sounds more sarcastic in my head.

        Basically we are a mid level SEC team this year, but I do think it should be noted that under the weis years you would have to take away at least 5 more of those names, progress?

  6. scottatnd - Oct 17, 2013 at 7:41 PM

    Is there any scenario that could play out in order to put us in a bowl/rematch with Michigan?

    • nudeman - Oct 18, 2013 at 9:42 AM

      Don’t want to see that either

  7. getsome99 - Oct 17, 2013 at 7:50 PM

    Rose Bowl?

  8. NotreDan - Oct 17, 2013 at 10:06 PM


  9. norcalirish - Oct 17, 2013 at 11:32 PM

    Yes, turf is the missing piece. If we just had turf, we’d win more.


    • mediocrebob - Oct 18, 2013 at 4:54 AM

      Not sure where you got the idea that anyone has blamed the wins/losses on the playing surface…

  10. nudeman - Oct 18, 2013 at 12:40 AM

    Kelly in today’s presser on Hendrix:

    “I think the only thing that held him back was lack of really putting him in the game and giving him reps. I think, quite frankly, the focus was on Tommy, getting him ready. He’s gotten so much more time and so much more involvement in the game plan that I’m feeling so much more confident that he can go in and run the entire offense, whereas I wasn’t as confident earlier in the year.”

    What a load of BS.
    He wasn’t confident about AH earlier in the year?
    I thought I read “he’s ready; he’s closed the gap; we’re totally comfortable with Andrew”

    And NOW, after 6 games it turns out he WASN’T confident about Hendrix

    Either Kelly is completely disingenuous, or he’s protecting a guy who just can’t play, or he’s making excuses to keep his boy Tommy in the lineup

    • mediocrebob - Oct 18, 2013 at 4:57 AM

      Making excuses to play “his boy” Tommy? Get over it. BK knows that TR is the best option to win with what they have. I’m not sure why it’s so hard to understand.


      • c4evr - Oct 18, 2013 at 9:52 AM

        Kelly should remember these words, “The players and I are united in the same goal: to keep my job.” -Lou Holtz

      • mediocrebob - Oct 18, 2013 at 10:08 AM

        Didn’t know that there was turmoil in the Irish locker room. Haven’t heard any players come out saying anything negative about BK. I have a feeling that the players AND the staff are on the same page.

        Go Irish

    • 1historian - Oct 18, 2013 at 9:22 AM

      Kelly knows that Rees is our best QB now.

      Hendrix has had 4 years to show his stuff and take the job away – he has not come close to doing it.

      Zaire is a redshirt and they are desperate to keep him that way.

      Golson might be back next year.

      For now – it’s Rees.

      I know there are many of you who get your rhetorical rocks off dumping on him from the anonymity of cyberspace but for now – he’s the best we’ve got.

    • bb90grad - Oct 18, 2013 at 10:26 AM

      Nude, it’s not eithers/ors in your last sentence, it’s all of them. I am burned out on spin from BK, Congress, the media, etc…

      Took a week off from the blog while on vacation, started catching back up and fast forwarded. Burned out on getsome and the enablers after 30 seconds.

      If you do branch out with your own blog, I’m there. Just post links to more X’s and O’s so I can learn something. KA’s doing great, but armchair commentary here has been said and done ad nauseum.

      • getsome99 - Oct 18, 2013 at 11:38 AM

        X’s and O’s like Tommy Rees sucks? Or Brian Kelly’s play calling sucks? That doesn’t sound like armchair QB at all.

  11. getsome99 - Oct 18, 2013 at 10:49 AM

    We only enable winning.

  12. fnc111 - Oct 18, 2013 at 11:12 AM

    Gotta love stat guy. Comparing Lee to TJ lolololol. Stat guy is TRs best friend.

  13. getsome99 - Oct 18, 2013 at 11:35 AM

    Rees seems to have a lot friends for someone who sucks so bad.

  14. mschlab33 - Oct 19, 2013 at 6:55 PM

    Does anyone know what recruits will be at the game for the Irish tonight?

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