Anthony Brown

Getty Images

Notre Dame’s bowl likelihoods and opponents round-up

48 Comments

If discussing Notre Dame’s bowl possibilities, the new No. 8 ranking in Tuesday night’s College Football Playoff selection committee poll means only so much. One most also project how the Irish will finish the season.

If Notre Dame wins its last two games (v. Navy; at Stanford), a spot in a playoff-eligible bowl is assured. A loss makes for some time in Orlando.

A Playoff-Eligible Bowl
A process of elimination helps guess which of the four possibilities is most likely. Presume USC continues on its current post-Irish tear and wins the Pac 12. The committee will attempt to avoid rematches, preventing Notre Dame from facing the Trojans in the Fiesta Bowl. If Clemson beats Miami in the ACC title game — and remember, that will be held in Charlotte, N.C., not in Hard Rock Stadium — then Miami will get to enjoy a home game in the Orange Bowl and the Irish will not be there, either.

As much as some might profess a desire for revenge, Notre Dame should be glad to avoid the Orange Bowl for a while. Between last weekend and the 2013 BCS title game vs. Alabama, the last two Irish appearances in that stadium have resulted in a combined 83-22 score for the other guys, including a 55-0 combined halftime margin.

That theoretical situation leaves the Cotton Bowl and the Peach Bowl for Notre Dame. The latter has one slot filled by the highest-ranked Group of Five team, almost certainly Central Florida. The time in Dallas goes to two at-large teams. With three SEC teams in the committee’s top 7, the championship game loser seems destined for the week in Atlanta and the Peach Bowl.

There has been debate about who is better: Penn State running back Saquon Barkley or Notre Dame’s Josh Adams. They could meet in a bowl game. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

That narrows this pool to only the Cotton Bowl. However, this changes quickly if the Hurricanes win the ACC. At that point, with the Irish likely higher-ranked than any non-playoff SEC or Big Ten teams, Notre Dame would head back to its 10th circle of hell.

Who would the Irish face in Dallas? Some quick projecting makes the likely opponents either Auburn or Penn State.

An Orlando Bowl
If Notre Dame falls to either Navy or Stanford, two possibilities come into play. The Irish would head to Orlando for either the Citrus Bowl (Jan. 1, 1 p.m. ET) or the Camping World Bowl (Dec. 28, 5:15 p.m. ET). Nothing Notre Dame does would influence which it is.

Excluding Playoff teams, the highest-ranked SEC or Big Ten team goes to the Orange Bowl. (As referenced above, the Irish also fit into that determination, but right now this conversation hinges on Notre Dame falling to 9-3 or even 8-4.) If that is a Big Ten team, then the Irish enjoy New Year’s near Disney World. (Checks which one is which, yep, World is in Orlando. Land is out west.) If all three of Alabama, Auburn and Georgia remain in playoff-eligible bowls, the opponent here would be the fourth team in the SEC, meaning Mississippi State or perhaps LSU.

Should an SEC team claim the Orange Bowl berth, then the Big Ten heads to the Citrus and Notre Dame claims the ACC’s spot in the Camping World Bowl to face a Big 12 foe, likely Oklahoma State though possibly TCU.

But, isn’t there a chance …?

Will Grier is good, but he probably is not good enough to upset Oklahoma twice in two weeks. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

Yes, Lloyd Christmas, there is a chance of the Irish falling backward into the College Football Playoff. The most-likely scenario involves current-No. 1 Alabama, No. 3 Miami and No. 5 Wisconsin all finishing the season undefeated, and No. 4 Oklahoma losing twice to West Virginia and cult hero quarterback Will Grier.

At that point, the debate would be between 10-2 Notre Dame, 10-2 Georgia (currently No. 7), 11-2 Clemson (currently No. 2) and 11-2 Ohio State (currently No. 9). Based off committee chairman Kirby Hocutt’s comments Tuesday night, the edge would go to Clemson. The committee is giving the Tigers some leeway for suffering their only lose to-date largely without their starting quarterback due to a concussion. Even when he played at Syracuse, an injured ankle robbed Kelly Bryant off much of his dynamism.

Clemson also travels to South Carolina, so add a Gamecocks upset to the Irish wish list. For thoroughness’ sake, perhaps hope Georgia Tech also upsets Georgia in two weeks.

Of course, after enough chaos, 13-0 Central Florida (currently No. 15) should enter the conversation simply out of principle.

Opponents’ Round-up
Temple (5-5): The Owls beat Cincinnati 35-24 on Friday, but now brace for a visit from undefeated Central Florida (12 p.m. ET; ESPNU). The Knights are favored by two touchdowns and given their need to hope for chaos and impress the committee, perhaps that margin is too slim. A combined points total over/under of 56 hints at a 35-21 conclusion.

Georgia (9-1): The Bulldogs suffered their first loss, a 40-17 whooping at Auburn. These things happen at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Georgia gets to recover with a visit from Kentucky (3:30 p.m. ET; CBS). Favored by three touchdowns with an over/under of 51, Georgia should cruise to something along the lines of a 36-15 victory.

Boston College (5-5): In a pyrrhic defeat, the Eagles both lost to North Carolina State 17-14 and lost their starting quarterback freshman Anthony Brown for the season to a right leg injury. Brown had led the way to Boston College’s resurgence from a 1-3 and 2-4 start, possibly saving head coach Steve Addazio’s job in the process.

The Eagles still hope for bowl eligibility, and that may cement another season for Addazio. This weekend gives them a ripe chance at securing it with a visit from Connecticut (7 p.m. ET; CBS Sports Network). Even without Brown, Boston College is favored by 21.5 points with an over/under of 50.5. A 26-14 victory would satisfy Addazio just fine.

Michigan State (7-3): The Spartans’ upstart hopes came to a sudden halt with a 48-3 loss at Ohio State. Suffice it to say, the Buckeyes are motivated.

Michigan State can return to the positive side of the ledger this weekend against Maryland (4 p.m. ET; FOX). Favored by 16.5 points with an over/under of 43.5, bookmakers expect the Spartans to prevail 30-13.

Miami (OH) (4-6): The RedHawks kept their bowl hopes alive with a 24-14 victory over Akron last Tuesday. They will need to keep on winning tonight (Wednesday) against Eastern Michigan (7 p.m. ET; CBS Sports Network). Favored by 2.5 points with an over/under of 50, Miami would hypothetically squeak by 26-24, but do not underestimate the Eagles.

North Carolina (2-8): The Tar Heels won. The Tar Heels won. Repeat, repeat, the Tar Heels won.

North Carolina beat Pittsburgh 34-31 on Thursday, ending a six-game losing streak. The Tar Heels should make it two in a row this weekend, hosting Western Carolina (3 p.m. ET; ACC Network).

USC (9-2): The Trojans won their third consecutive game by multiple possessions since falling in South Bend, this time 38-24 at Colorado. To conclude their season, they will look to do the same to UCLA (8 p.m. ET; ABC). Expectations are for USC to indeed finish with an exclamation point, favored by 16 with an over/under of 71. Putting up 43 in the final week of their regular season would probably be okay with the Trojans.

North Carolina State (7-3): Barely squeezing past Boston College was enough for the Wolfpack, looking to stay in the mix for a playoff-eligible bowl should both Clemson and Miami somehow make the Playoff. North Carolina State heads to Wake Forest this weekend (7:30 p.m. ET; ESPNU) as two-point underdogs. An over/under of 63 hints at a 32-30 final. That seems like a lot, and it seems like the wrong team is favored.

Wake Forest (6-4): The Demon Deacons scored 64 in a come-from-behind victory over Syracuse, trailing 38-24 at halftime but outscoring the Orange 24-0 in the fourth quarter to notch a 64-43 victory.

Miami (FL) (9-0): The Hurricanes won this past weekend, if anyone missed that bit of information. They now host Virginia (12 p.m. ET; ABC). Expect another blowout. Bookmakers project a 35-16 result.

Navy (6-3): The Midshipmen barely got past SMU, 43-40.

Stanford (7-3): The Cardinal upset Washington 30-22 on Friday thanks to home-field advantage and a short week for the Huskies. It welcomes Cal (8 p.m. ET, FOX) this weekend with expectations of a two-touchdown victory, perhaps something along the lines of 35-20.


Note: This space will continue to refer to the Cotton, Fiesta, Orange and Peach bowls as playoff-eligible bowls this year, not pieces of the “New Year’s Six.” The Cotton Bowl will be held Dec. 29 this year while the Fiesta and Orange Bowls are on Dec. 30. Those aren’t exactly New Year’s.

Notre Dame’s Opponents: BC & Mich. St. rise while Miami continues its streak of well-timed luck

Getty Images
38 Comments

For a two-letter word, if could not have much more in the way of implications than it does. If Notre Dame wins the rest of its games, it will have one of the country’s best résumés and be well-situated for a bid to the College Football Playoff. If the Irish finish 11-1, that will not only include wins over a momentum-gaining Michigan State and a still-in-control-of-the-Pac-12 USC, but also victories over two of the ACC’s top contenders. If Notre Dame runs the table, even its win over Boston College may hold value by season’s end.

If.

Including the Eagles’ upset at Virginia this weekend, Irish foes went a combined 4-4, not including the Trojans’ loss in South Bend. That .500 mark should be surpassed this weekend, with oddsmakers expecting a 5-3 result.

Temple (3-5): Apparently, junior quarterback Logan Marchi injured his lower right leg two weeks ago at Connecticut, leading to senior Frank Nutile getting the start in the Owls’ 31-28 overtime loss at Army. Nutile finished 20-of-29 for 290 yards and a touchdown. In his seven games, Marchi had completed 55.5 percent of his passes for 1,658 yards and nine touchdowns along with eight interceptions.

A quarterback controversy could be brewing for first-year head coach Geoff Collins. He will get a week off to consider the possibilities at hand.

Georgia (7-0): The Bulldogs enjoyed a bye week, preparing for as crucial a two-week stretch as they will face in the regular season. With Florida this week and South Carolina next, Georgia has a chance to dispatch the last two remote SEC East threats. Both the Gators and the Gamecocks already have two conference losses, so as long as the Bulldogs beat one of them, they should be fine from an SEC viewpoint.

That can begin in Jacksonville against Florida (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS). As two-touchdown favorites with a combined point total over/under of 44, Georgia will be looking to prevail 29-15. Only two teams have scored that many points against the Bulldogs — Missouri in a blowout and Notre Dame with its 19 — so expect the Gators to struggle to reach even that mark.

The week after upsetting Louisville on the road 45-42, Boston College routed Virginia 41-10, led by freshman quarterback Anthony Brown‘s three touchdowns. (Photo by Ryan M. Kelly/Getty Images)

Boston College (4-4): Much like the Irish rout of USC, the Eagles 41-10 demolishing of Virginia was entirely unexpected. A close game was certainly foreseeable, even predicted in this space a week ago, and a win was within fathoming, but handing the Cavaliers their first conference loss in such decisive fashion came out of nowhere. Suddenly Boston College head coach Steve Addazio should be feeling much better about his job prospects.

Freshman quarterback Anthony Brown led the way with a dazzling performance. Brown finished 19-of-24 passing for 275 yards and three touchdowns.

The question now is simple: Can the Eagles keep this roll going? They have played superior opponents closely all season, building to this win. Meanwhile, Florida State has universally struggled. Thus, Boston College is only a 2.5-point underdog with the Seminoles visiting Friday night (9 p.m. ET; ESPN). An over/under of 45 suggests a 24-21 contest to watch on mute at your local destination of choice this Halloween weekend.

Michigan State (6-1): The Spartans were tested by Indiana, but they kept their composure and discipline to hold on for a 17-9 win which was closer than the score sounds. The Hoosiers quite literally conceded an 18-yard touchdown run from Michigan State running back LJ Scott with fewer than two minutes remaining in an attempt to get back the ball and stage a dramatic comeback. In certain corners, that score mattered a great deal. To the Spartans, it was simply the second fourth-quarter trip to the end zone in their come-from-behind victory.

Another even matchup is expected for Michigan State, a one-point favorite in a trip to Northwestern (3:30 p.m. ET; ESPN). A 21-20 final sounds a bit high-scoring for a typical Big Ten affair.

Miami (OH) (3-5): Thanks to an unlikely source, the RedHawks halted their slide with a 24-14 win against Buffalo. Senior quarterback Gus Ragland remains sidelined, leading to junior Billy Bahl getting the start. Bahl managed only 177 yards on 13-of-20 passing. Senior running back Kenny Young picked up the slack, delivering career highs with 125 rushing yards and two touchdowns on a career-high-tying 19 carries.

Ragland has some time to get healthy with Miami enjoying a shortened bye this week. It will take the field next Tuesday on the road against Ohio.

North Carolina (1-7): Injuries are one thing, but the Tar Heels staircase is spiraling downward much further than that. Virginia Tech led 52-0 entering the fourth quarter against North Carolina, cruising to a 59-7 victory.

Miami (FL) will look to add on to that misery. The Tar Heels host the Hurricanes, yet are nearly three-touchdown underdogs (20.5 points) with an over/under of only 50 points. The only issue with a 35-14 conclusion is it is hard to imagine North Carolina reaching the end zone twice.

USC (6-2): The Trojans fell to Notre Dame 49-14 this weekend. If reading this far into this piece in this space, you probably already knew that.

USC still holds the cards in the Pac 12, though. Beginning this week, those cards will be at risk. The Trojans head to Arizona State for #Pac12AfterDark (10:45 p.m. ET, ESPN) favored by only three points with an over/under of 57. The winner of this tilt will have control of the Pac 12 South Division. It is not hard to envision USC junior quarterback Sam Darnold lucking into a dramatic 30-27 victory.

North Carolina State (6-1): Following a bye, the Wolfpack face Notre Dame as a 7.5-point underdog (3:30 p.m. ET; NBC). A 59.5 over/under creates a theoretical 34-26 final. In that scenario, North Carolina State would be the first team to break 20 points against the Irish this season. Of course, some of that scoring could come from the Wolfpack’s excellent defense, led by senior defensive end Bradley Chubb and his 6.5 sacks.

Wake Forest (4-3): It’s the triple-option. What are you going to do?

Georgia Tech ran for 427 yards on 66 carries against the Demon Deacons, controlling the ball for two seconds shy of 36 minutes and winning 38-24.

Louisville junior quarterback Lamar Jackson plays anything but a traditional football style, but Wake Forest’s defense is certainly more accustomed to that type of assignment than it is the triple-option. Jackson and Louisville take to the road as three-point favorites, looking at a 33-30 final. (12:20 p.m. ET, ACC Digital Network.) Considering the staunchness of the Demon Deacon defense — Georgia Tech was the first team to break 28 points against it; Florida State managed only 26 and Clemson that 28 — do not expect the scoreboard to work quite that hard.

Miami’s record remains unblemished, but only barely. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Miami (FL) (6-0): The good news: For the third week in a row, a score in the final minutes proved crucial for the Hurricanes, using a touchdown with fewer than three minutes remaining to bump a one-point cushion up to eight in a 27-19 win over Syracuse.

The obvious news: A win is a win is a [insert four-beat pause] win.

The forward-looking news: Before Miami welcomes Notre Dame, it hosts Virginia Tech next weekend. That increasingly looks like it could, perhaps should, be the Hurricanes’ first loss of the season.

Between now and then, Miami hosts North Carolina. That aforementioned 35-14 theoretical margin will boost the Hurricanes’ public appearance after this string of close calls, but that will be a façade more than anything else. A prediction of a prediction: This space will advise Hokie consideration in a week.

Navy (5-2): The Midshipmen never led in a 31-21 loss to Central Florida. Three turnovers crippled Navy’s chances at an upset. For that matter, the Midshipmen rushed for only 248 yards on 59 attempts, the lowest ground output for Navy since week two when it managed a 23-21 win vs. Tulane.

This week, a bye.

Stanford (5-2): The Cardinal follow a bye week with the next-best thing, a trip to Oregon State on Thursday night, creating another pseudo-bye the following week. Favored by 23 against the Beavers (9 p.m. ET, ESPN) with a 59.5-point over/under, a 41-18 result feels appropriate only because Stanford will have little reason to do more damage. Let’s place Cardinal junior running back Bryce Love on 300-yard watch this week. That might make the game interesting into the second half. He has reached that mark once this season, 301 against Arizona State on Sept. 30 in a 34-24 win.

Notre Dame’s Opponents: Georgia, Miami & Navy remain undefeated; one of those to be tested this week

Getty Images
10 Comments

Three Irish opponents remain undefeated and all three are favored to win again this week. Overall, Notre Dame’s foes went 7-4 last weekend, not counting the Irish victory over Miami (OH), and they are expected to replicate that again.

Temple (2-3): Consider any Owl conference championship hopes dashed. Temple now stands 0-2 in the American Athletic Conference this season thanks to a 20-13 loss to Houston. That score was much more lopsided entering the fourth quarter, when the Owls outscored the Cougars 10-0.

Three interceptions from junior quarterback Logan Marchi make it seven picks in two weeks for Temple’s quarterback. The Owls also had great difficulty on third downs, converting only four of 16 attempts.

A possible win at East Carolina this weekend (12 p.m. ET, ESPNU) will cleanse some of that taste from Temple’s mouth, but it will not do too much as it pertains to longer-termed goals. The spread favors the Owls by 2.5 points with a combined point total over/under of 62, indicating a final score of 32-29.

Georgia (5-0): This space would need much less editing each week if it were kept simpler. Something along the lines of: “The Bulldogs defense stifled [insert opponent here], forcing X turnovers while the Georgia rushing attack powered the offense to a YY-Z victory.”

Georgia freshman quarterback Jake Fromm has not excelled statistically, but he has not lost as a starter and, thus, will likely keep his job even when sophomore Jacob Eason returns to health. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

In this instance, the Bulldogs defense stifled Tennessee, forcing four turnovers and tilting the time of possession toward Georgia’s favor by 10 minutes. The Bulldogs rushing attack powered the offense with 294 yards en route to a 41-0 victory.

Freshman quarterback Jake Fromm completed 7-of-15 for only 84 yards, one touchdown and one interception, but his game management was certainly enough to likely keep sophomore Jacob Eason on the bench even though Eason is nearing health, apparently.

Vanderbilt will be Georgia’s next victim (12 p.m. ET, ESPN). The Bulldogs are 17.5-point road favorites with an over/under of 42, hinting at a 30-13 conclusion.

Boston College (2-3): Freshman quarterback Anthony Brown did not wow — quite the opposite, actually, with 14-of-21 passing for 85 yards and a touchdown — but the Eagles topped Central Michigan 28-8 thanks to 224 rushing yards and three Chippewa turnovers. Those yielded zero points, but they at least cut short Central Michigan drives.

Boston College will face a much stauncher test this week, and a much more motivated opponent, for that matter. Virginia Tech takes to the road following a season-altering loss to Clemson. Favored by 16, the Hokies are expected to win 32-16. (7:15 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

Michigan State (3-1): The Spartans took care of business against Iowa, and not a whole lot more can be said. Michigan State topped the Hawkeyes 17-10, led by Brian Lewerke. The junior quarterback completed 18 of 28 passes for 212 yards and two touchdowns while adding 42 yards on 12 rushes.

Remember a few weeks ago when Notre Dame ran right through the Spartan defense? That same unit held Iowa to all of 19 rushing yards.

Similar defensive success will be needed at Michigan (7:30 p.m. ET, ABC) to overcome an 11-point underdog status. The over/under of 41 points makes for a 26-15 hypothetical score. This will not be a trendy upset pick this week, and it probably shouldn’t be, but that is something to at least think about before Saturday.

Miami (OH) (2-3): Obviously, the RedHawks lost to the Irish 52-19, unable to contain the Notre Dame rushing attack.

They will likely be able to contain Bowling Green’s entire offense. The Falcons have yet to win a game this season, part of why Miami is favored by more than two touchdowns. Look for a 34-20 final, by the bookmakers projections, though a larger spread seems more likely.

North Carolina (1-4): The Tar Heels’ season has officially gotten away from them. A loss to Georgia Tech was expected. A 33-7 defeat was not. North Carolina has yet to beat an FBS-level opponent aside from Old Dominion.

The Tar Heels gave up 403 rushing yards and were outgained 456 yards to 247. Just how thorough was the Yellow Jackets’ game control? They had possession for 38:35.

Speaking of dangerous rushing attacks, here comes Notre Dame’s at 3:30 p.m. ET on ABC. As of Tuesday morning, the Irish are favored by 16 points with an over/under of 64.5. By those numbers, file away a 40-24 prediction. Then remember the Irish defense has yet to allow 20 points this season and realize that alone could lead to a larger margin of victory.

USC junior quarterback Sam Darnold’s fumble on the Trojans final drive sealed the 30-27 loss. (AP Photo/Young Kwak)

USC (4-1): The Trojans fell at Washington State on Friday, 30-27. The night saw junior quarterback Sam Darnold set a new career-low in passing yards, failing to reach the previous mark set against Notre Dame in 2016. Darnold finished 15-of-29 for 164 yards against the Cougars while USC’s defense allowed 462 total yards. That offensive success may have best shown itself in Washington State’s 8-of-18 third down conversions and 35:27 of possession.

Darnold can look to boost his statistics this weekend as the Trojans host Oregon State (4 p.m. ET, Pac 12 Network). USC is not favored by five touchdowns, rather only 34 points with an over/under of 61. The thought of a 47-14 rout may be alluring to coach Clay Helton’s team, but any spread that large against a Power Five opponent should be viewed with skepticism.

North Carolina State (4-1): A 33-25 win over Syracuse may not speak of a promising future to come for the Wolfpack, but that score was skewed by the Orange notching a touchdown and a two-point conversion with fewer than five minutes remaining.

North Carolina State gained 206 yards through the air along with its 256 on the ground, the latter quite a number when compared to Syracuse’s 59 rushing yards. To continue the time of possession theme this week, the Wolfpack had control of the ball for 36:29.

Now comes a second major test of the season — the first being a win over Florida State. Louisville visits the Wolfpack on Thursday (8 p.m. ET, ESPN). As four-point underdogs, expect North Carolina State to come out on the high side of a 34-31 projected final.

Wake Forest (4-1): The Demon Deacons’ dream season fell apart with less than a minute remaining against Florida State. A 40-yard touchdown pass gave the Seminoles a 26-19 win, despite Wake Forest senior quarterback John Wolford completing 24 of 34 passes for 271 yards.

The Demon Deacons’ shortcoming came in the ground game, taking 34 rushes for only 96 yards, a 2.8 yards per carry average. They just could not quite put Florida State away.

On one hand, another opportunity arrives quickly. On the other, that opportunity is even more difficult. Wake Forest heads to No. 2 Clemson (12 p.m. ET, ESPN2) as three-touchdown underdogs. The over/under of 47 projects to a 34-13 final.

Miami (FL) (3-0): A season interrupted by Hurricane Irma gained momentum with a 31-6 victory at Duke on Friday. Only leading 17-6 entering the fourth quarter, Miami never let the Blue Devils make it too much of a close contest.

Duke attempted 42 passes, gaining only 166 yards. Its longest completions were for 28 and 27 yards, no other passes exceeding 20 yards.

For a better litmus test, the Hurricanes head to Florida State this weekend (3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN). Despite it being a road game in a very hostile environment, Miami is favored by 3.5 points with an over/under of 48. A 26-23 final would be closer than probably should be expected.

Junior quarterback Zach Abey has led Navy to a 5-0 start to the season, next to be challenged by Air Force.. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

Navy (4-0): For a little bit Saturday, the Midshipmen looked ready to toss aside an undefeated season, falling behind Tulsa 14-0. Then, they merely scored 31 unanswered points to cruise to a 31-21 victory led by junior quarterback Zach Abey’s 36 rushes for 185 yards and three touchdowns. Malcolm Perry and Chris High also played pivotal roles in the rushing game (10 carries for 104 yards and a score; 13 rushes for 89 yards, respectively) as Navy gained a total of 421 yards on the ground.

Navy is going to Navy, it seems.

Now, it hosts Air Force (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network), favored by 7.5 points. The Midshipmen should come out ahead 30-22 by the metrics cited so often here.

Stanford (3-2): [Insert Bryce Love praise here.] Aside from the Cardinal junior running back, though, it was something of an underwhelming performance despite it ending in a 34-24 victory against Arizona State. Stanford gave up 214 rushing yards on 46 carries, a 4.7 Sun Devils average.

Life will get a bit more difficult for the Cardinal and Love will have his altitude fitness tested at Utah (10:15 p.m. ET, FS1). Favored by just less than a touchdown with an over/under of 55, Stanford is expected to prevail 31-24.

Notre Dame rushes past Boston College and record books

Associated Press
22 Comments

Winning if by ground, losing if by air. Thus, seven by ground, none by air.

That is, Notre Dame scored all seven of its touchdowns via rush in its 49-20 victory over Boston College on Saturday. After struggling through the first half relying on both the passing and ground games, the Irish held a mere 14-10 lead at the break. They then found and stuck to their strength to pull away with increasing ease.

“We didn’t stop the run,” Eagles coach Steve Addazio said. “We did not stop the run, and that was a huge deal in that game.”

Yes, yes it was.

“We didn’t make a lot of plays in the first half,” Irish coach Brian Kelly said. “We came in at halftime and went up to the offensive line and said, ‘Look, we need you to take over this football game. You’re our veteran group.’

“They really responded. Really proud of the way they controlled the line of scrimmage in the second half.”

It may be difficult to overstate how the afternoon shifted once Notre Dame devoted itself to the running game. At halftime, the Irish had converted only three of nine third-down attempts, also failing on one fourth-down attempt. They had outgained Boston College by only 43 yards, 271 to 228.

Beginning with the third Irish drive of the second half, the focus was singular, and the scoreboard’s gradual changes reflected it. Prior to that point, Notre Dame clung to a 14-13 lead, its defense holding Boston College in check while the offense sputtered. For example, the first two Irish drives of the half combined for seven plays, 11 yards and one turnover.

Alternating with those two drives, the Notre Dame defense prevented the Eagles from capitalizing on a turnover — holding to only a field goal — and then forced a turnover on downs in Irish territory.

With the ball back, the third Notre Dame drive after halftime gained 65 of its 70 yards on the ground, seven of the nine plays being designed rushes, including junior quarterback Brandon Wimbush finding a lane in the defense for 46 yards and a first-and-goal. Three plays later, sophomore running back Tony Jones scored from a yard out, and the rout commenced.

“It all started with our offensive line in terms of being able to run the football,” Kelly said.

Wimbush finished with 207 yards on 21 carries. Adams took 18 rushes for 229 yards. Junior running back Dexter Williams chipped in 50 yards and two scores on only six carries. Jones finished with five yards and a touchdown on two attempts. Even sophomore Deon McIntosh found 24 yards on four carries.

The Irish finished the day nine-of-18 on third-down attempts and outgained Boston College by 211 yards, 611 to 400.

TURNING POINT OF THE GAME
Either one of those defensive stands could qualify here. Boston College could have, perhaps should have, retaken the lead on both occasions. For that matter, the Eagles could have retaken the lead and then subsequently extended it. Keeping in mind the complete ineffectiveness of Notre Dame’s passing attack Saturday, a theoretical two-possession deficit may have been too much to overcome.

The first threat came when Wimbush fumbled on the fourth play after the break. That drive began with the potential of the Irish going up two possessions themselves. Instead, the turnover gifted Boston College possession only 32 yards from the end zone. A quick rush from junior running back Jon Hilliman brought the Eagles into the red zone. At that point, Notre Dame’s defense seemed to decide enough was enough. The following three plays netted Boston College negative three yards (including a false start penalty), leading to a successful 41-yard field goal.

The Irish still had a lead, the aforementioned 14-13 margin.

But, again, the offense stalled. On first-and-10, Wimbush found junior running back Josh Adams for a whopping one-yard reception. On second-and-long, Adam was stopped in the backfield. He never had a chance at gaining the needed 14 yards on third down. The three-and-out again gave the Eagles beneficial field position, again put the defense in a difficult position and again stalled any version of momentum.

A soon-to-follow fourth-and-one on the Notre Dame 30-yard line showed just how little the defense seemed to mind.

Freshman defensive tackle Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa won the initial push on the line of scrimmage, invalidating Boston College’s intended point of attack. The rest of the Irish defense swarmed Hilliman — senior linebacker Nyles Morgan and junior linebacker Te’von Coney were credited with the tackle. The danger was averted.

“Our defense really ignited us with a fourth down stop, got some energy,” Kelly said. “When you make plays, obviously that creates an energy, and we were able to score. I thought that was a pretty big turning point in the second half.”

Notre Dame had the ball back.

Commence rout.

Shaun Crawford’s interception helped stymied an Boston College comeback hopes long enough for the Irish offense to genuinely pull away during Notre Dame’s 49-20 victory Saturday. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

OVERLOOKED POINT OF THE GAME
Again, look to the defense. In fact, look to the possession immediately following Jones’ touchdown. The Eagles were trailing only 21-13. Freshman quarterback Anthony Brown looked for a mid-range route, perhaps one that could break loose for a big gain, positioning Boston College to come within one point or tie up the game.

Instead, Irish junior cornerback Shaun Crawford won the battle for the pass, pulling in his second career interception.

“We went over those plays a number of times throughout the week, and I was in perfect position,” said Crawford, who added another interception and a fumble recovery by the end of the day. “… We knew they had nothing to lose, they were going to try all their tricks, and [in the] second half we made adjustments. We came out strong.”

Following Crawford’s first interception, Adams took the next snap for 36 yards to the Eagles 39-yard line. Wimbush immediately connected with fifth-year tight end Durham Smythe for 33 yards to get to the six-yard line. Two plays later, the score was 28-13.

Rout in progress.

PLAYER OF THE GAME
Wimbush found the end zone four times, but this honor should go to Adams. His 18 carries for 229 yards included runs of 64 and 65 yards, setting up two of Wimbush’s touchdowns.

The second of those came a few minutes before the half, leading to the 14-10 advantage. If Notre Dame had entered the break trailing 10-7, the locker room psyche would have undoubtedly been much different than it was.

Adams’ run restored some of the Irish confidence.

STAT OF THE GAME

Brandon Wimbush’s fourth and final rushing touchdown Saturday pushed Notre Dame’s rushing statistics over the top into historical territory. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

Notre Dame rushed 51 times for 515 yards. That equals an average of 10.09 yards per carry. A few items to note about those numbers.

— The Irish threw for only 96 yards on 27 attempts, an average of 3.56 yards per attempt.

— The modern-era record for Irish yards per carry in one game was 10.0, set in 1942 when Notre Dame rushed 25 times for 250 yards in a 13-13 tie against the Naval Station Great Lakes. That record, obviously, is no longer.

— The modern-era record for Irish yards in one game is 597 yards, set in 1969 against Navy. Anytime that mark warrants pertinent mention, it is a reflection of just how strong the Notre Dame ground attack was for a day.

— Per Notre Dame, and fitting with common sense, this was the first time in program history two individuals rushed for more than 200 yards in one game.

“The offensive line did a [great] job again and opened up lanes for myself, Josh Adams, Dexter and Tony, and even Deon got in there at the end and got a couple yards there,” Wimbush said. “When you’re running in the open field, it feels great to open up a little bit and obviously have that red jersey off of you.”

QUOTE OF THE AFTERNOON
Heading into Saturday afternoon, much time had been spent discussing how tough Boston College seems to always play Notre Dame. Recent results prove some validity to the point. When mentioned early in the week, Kelly met the thesis with a “Heck yeah [they do.]”

With that background, the thumping stands out.

“Playing Boston College is always a challenge for us at Notre Dame,” Kelly said afterward. “It’s always one that we expect their very, very best, and we get it …

“We were able to break them, and it’s hard to do.”

QUESTIONABLE COACHING DECISION OF THE AFTERNOON
Boston College senior defensive end Harold Landry came off the field for entire series at a time in an apparent attempt to keep him rested for a productive fourth quarter. Seemingly whenever that occurred, Notre Dame found space for a long run. Both of Adams’ 60-plus yarders came with Landry sidelined. When Wimbush broke loose for that 46-yard run to set up the third Irish touchdown, Landry watched from his coach’s vantage point.

Not only did his absence play a part in Notre Dame’s first three touchdowns, but the rest also did not produce its desired effect. When Wimbush opted not to shovel a pass to senior tight end Nic Weishar and instead race for a 65-yard touchdown, his fourth score of the day, the greatest obstacle was Landry. The NFL prospect was waiting in the backfield, likely playing a role in Wimbush not tossing to Weishar.

Rest or no rest, Landry did not slow Wimbush.

SCORING SUMMARY

First Quarter
7:52 —Boston College field goal. Colton Lichtenberg from 38 yards. Boston College 3, Notre Dame 0. (10 plays, 32 yards, 4:16)
6:28 — Notre Dame touchdown. Brandon Wimbush two-yard rush. Justin Yoon PAT good. Notre Dame 7, Boston College 3. (4 plays, 75 yards, 1:24)

Second Quarter
11:59 — Boston College touchdown. Charlie Callinan 22-yard reception from Anthony Brown. Lichtenberg PAT good. Boston College 10, Notre Dame 7. (9 plays, 85 yards, 3:01)
1:57 — Notre Dame touchdown. Wimbush one-yard rush. Yoon PAT good. Notre Dame 14, Boston College 10. (7 plays, 92 yards, 1:55)

Third Quarter
11:25 — Boston College field goal. Lichtenberg from 41 yards. Notre Dame 14, Boston College 13. (5 plays, 9 yards, 2:19)
5:04 — Notre Dame touchdown. Tony Jones one-yard rush. Yoon PAT good. Notre Dame 21, Boston College 13. (9 plays, 70 yards, 2:36)
2:38 — Notre Dame touchdown. Wimbush three-yard rush. Yoon PAT good. Notre Dame 28, Boston College 13. (4 plays, 75 yards, 1:34)

Fourth Quarter
13:41 — Notre Dame touchdown. Wimbush 65-yard rush. Yoon PAT good. Notre Dame 35, Boston College 13. (5 plays, 83 yards, 1:59)
9:02 — Boston College touchdown. Callinan 14-yard reception from Brown. Lichtenberg PAT good. Notre Dame 35, Boston College 20. (14 plays, 75 yards, 4:39)
6:23 — Notre Dame touchdown. Dexter Williams three-yard rush. Yoon PAT good. Notre Dame 42, Boston College 20. (2 plays, 35 yards, 0:28)
4:57 — Notre Dame touchdown. Williams 15-yard rush. Yoon PAT good. Notre Dame 49, Boston College 20. (5 plays, 33 yards, 1:16)

Notre Dame’s Opponents: USC rolls, UNC stumbles, more results & spreads

Getty Images
20 Comments

Even with two Irish opponents beating up on other teams scheduled to face Notre Dame, the 11 foes went 8-3, including Georgia’s victory over the Irish. Miami (FL) did not see action due to Hurricane Irma, and that will be the case for this week as well.

Temple (1-1): Owls head coach Geoff Collins got his first career win Saturday, barely. Perhaps it should have raised eyebrows when Temple was favored by less than a touchdown against FCS-level Villanova. Vegas knows. Vegas always knows. The Owls won 16-13, but let’s not spend any more time on that encounter.

Before jumping into a tough American Athletic stretch — Temple will travel to South Florida before hosting Houston — the Owls can try to gain some genuine momentum against Massachusetts on Friday at 7 p.m. ET on ESPNU. Favored by 14.5 with a combined over/under point total of 51.5, project a final score of 33-18.

Georgia (2-0): Does anyone know how the Bulldogs fared this past weekend?

Their level of competition will drop a bit, now facing FCS-level Samford at 7:30 p.m. ET on the SEC Network. From there, though, it will be directly into SEC play.

Boston College (1-1): The Eagles did themselves in against Wake Forest, falling at home 34-10. That lopsided score can be directly attributed to four turnovers, including three interceptions from freshman quarterback Anthony Brown. Senior Darius Wade stepped in to finish the game after the third pick. The Demon Deacons outgained Boston College by only four yards, 309-305.

Now the Eagles host Notre Dame at 3:30 p.m. ET on ESPN. Nearly two-touchdown underdogs with an over/under of 48.5, rounding indicates a theoretical final score of 31-18.

Michigan State (2-0): The Spartans had no trouble with Western Michigan, dispatching the Broncos 28-14 before entering a bye week. To open the season, Western Michigan managed 357 yards and 31 points at USC. Compare that to the 195 and 14 Michigan State allowed.

Miami (OH) (1-1): The RedHawks returned to winning ways with an easy 31-10 rout of FCS-level Austin Peay, though the score is misleading when considering Miami outgained the Governors by only 13 yards (283 to 270) and each team committed three turnovers. To counteract that, the RedHawks went 8-for-17 on third downs and 3-for-4 on fourth.

If they continue to keep drives alive like that, they should easily cover the 4.5-point spread against Cincinnati at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN3 this weekend. The over/under of 45.5 implies a final score of 25-21, as odd as 25 points may be in football. A touchdown and six field goals would certainly be an underwhelming delivery.

Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson struck that pose once before last year, and North Carolina helped his campaign again this year by giving up 525 total yards to the defending Heisman Trophy-winner. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome, File)

North Carolina (0-2): This could be a long season for the Tar Heels. They have now given up 82 points through two games, with Louisville accounting for 47 of those in the Cardinals 47-35 victory. To think, entering the season the wholesale turnover in offensive personnel was the biggest concern.

North Carolina can ease the misery on the road this weekend against Old Dominion. Favored by more than a touchdown in the 3:30 p.m. ET kick, the Tar Heels should win by more than a 32-25 margin.

USC (2-0): Oh, hey Trojans offense. Nice of you to make sure the world was aware of your abilities. USC blew past Stanford 42-24, despite being favored by less than a touchdown. The Trojans racked up 623 yards of total offense, 316 through the air and 307 on the ground, and converted 10 of 12 third downs. Both Stephen Carr and Ronald Jones exceeded 100 yards rushing. It just may seem USC could live up to the preseason hype.

The Trojans now host another highly-touted preseason team, though one that has not fared as well to date. Favored by 17 over Texas with an over/under of 67, USC could mimic last week’s final score. With that in mind, and presuming the Cardinal are indeed better than the Longhorns, perhaps that margin should be larger.

North Carolina State (1-1): The Wolfpack pulled away in the second half to beat Marshall 3-20. Not much else to that, and now North Carolina State gets to enjoy FCS-level Furman on the ACC Network at 12:20 p.m. ET.

Wake Forest (2-0): The 24-point victory over Boston College was a 26-point swing compared to the spread. In other words, perhaps the Deacons are better than anticipated despite the loss of their defensive coordinator and his right hand man (Mike Elko and Clark Lea, respectively).

Wake Forest can solidify that trend as it hosts Utah State this weekend. The Aggies were blown out by Wisconsin, but they are typically a formidable opponent. A 13.5-point spread favors the Deacons with an over/under of 48.5, implying a 31-18 conclusion.

Miami (FL) (1-0): The Hurricanes trip to Arkansas State was cancelled last week due to foreseeable difficulties returning to Miami after/during Hurricane Irma. I will admit, I was at first critical of this decision. The game was in Arkansas, not Florida, after all. But when considering the players may want to be in the mix with their nearby families during this threat, the decision makes sense.

It also made sense to postpone this coming weekend’s tilt with Florida State, since Miami’s campus will be closed most of the week.

From a speculating perspective, the Hurricanes win total over/under was nine entering the season. Missing the Arkansas State game greatly endangers the chances of hitting that over, though most would understand the schedule was abbreviated.

Navy (2-0): The Midshipmen got a conference victory, but a 23-21 final over Tulane was far closer than would ever have been expected. Junior quarterback Zach Abey still both ran and passed for more than 100 yards, though. Navy’s defense was the star against the Green Wave, holding Tulane to 71 passing yards.

Now, the Midshipmen get to enjoy a bye week.

Stanford junior running back Bryce Love was the lone bright spot in the Cardinal’s defeat to USC. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

Stanford (1-1): The Cardinal fell to USC 42-24. That was undoubtedly a disappointment, but it may be viewed as more a reflection on the Trojans than anything else. As it pertains to Stanford, junior running back Bryce Love was the bright spot, taking 17 carries for 160 yards and a touchdown.

Now the Cardinal travels to Mountain West heavyweight San Diego State as a 9.5-point favorite. The 10:30 p.m. ET kickoff on CBS Sports Network projects to end along the lines of 27-18. Don’t be too surprised if the Aztecs prove a stiffer challenge than that, partly because they do get to enjoy home-cooking.