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During Notre Dame’s retrospective awards, Tranquill & Weishar set focus forward

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Notre Dame spent Friday night giving out awards to recognize 2017’s top players, but the night’s attention went to two pieces of news received regarding next season. Both linebacker Drue Tranquill and tight end Nic Weishar announced intentions to return for fifth seasons in 2018.

Tranquill especially seemed increasingly unlikely to return after a career season and a two-year stretch of health set him up for NFL consideration. The idea of what could have been, of what could be, proved too much for him to bypass his remaining season of collegiate eligibility.

“I think it started after the Miami game, just on the busses, realized that we probably weren’t going to make the College Playoff anymore and realized everything everyone had put into this thing,” Tranquill told Irish Illustrated. “I felt I owed it to this team in my heart to come back and finish what we started.”

Tranquill’s return will stymie what could have been a decimating linebacker exodus. Senior captains Nyles Morgan and Greer Martini are both out of eligibility. If Tranquill had joined them in pursuing an NFL future this spring, Notre Dame would have lost three of its top four tacklers, and perhaps all four. Leading tackler, junior linebacker Te’von Coney and his 99 takedowns including 13 for loss and three sacks, is still considering an early entry into the NFL Draft.

Weishar’s return will provide a baseline at tight end following the departure of current fifth-year Durham Smythe.

RELATED READING: Where Notre Dame is & was: Linebackers
Where Notre Dame is & was: Tight Ends

As for the Echoes awards, senior left guard Quenton Nelson received Most Valuable Player honors, only the third offensive lineman to be named MVP in Irish history.

Along the lines of Tranquill’s and Weishar’s returns, only a couple of Friday night’s awards portend future developments. Freshman offensive lineman Dillan Gibbons performed well enough behind the scenes to claim Offensive Scout Team Player of the Year. With Nelson presumably heading to the NFL, Gibbons could insert himself into the competition to fill the left guard spot.

Sophomore safety Alohi Gilman spent the season following his transfer from Navy leading the scout defense. His success there only furthers the likelihood he will be starting in the defensive backfield when Michigan arrives at Notre Dame Stadium on Sept. 1.

With few surprises — perhaps naming junior quarterback Brandon Wimbush and senior defensive lineman Jonathan Bonner the offensive and defensive newcomers of the year, respectively, was too obvious to be widely-considered beforehand — the full listing of the awards …

— Most Valuable Player: Sr. left guard Quenton Nelson.
— Offensive Player of the Year: Jr. running back Josh Adams.
— Defensive Player of the Year: Sr. linebacker Nyles Morgan.
— Impact Player: Jr. linebacker Te’von Coney.
— Offensive Newcomer of the Year: Jr. quarterback Brandon Wimbush.
— Defensive Newcomer of the Year: Sr. defensive lineman Jonathan Bonner.
— Offensive Lineman of the Year: Fifth-year left tackle Mike McGlinchey.
— Moose Krause Lineman of the Year: Jr. defensive tackle Jerry Tillery.
— Offensive Scout Team Player of the Year: Fr. lineman Dillan Gibbons.
— Defensive Scout Team Player of the Year: So. safety and Navy transfer Alohi Gilman.
— Special Teams Player of the Year: Sr. linebacker Greer Martini (eight special teams tackles).
— Walk-On Players Union Player of the Year: Jr. linebacker Robert Regan.
— Next Man In: Sr. defensive end Andrew Trumbetti.
— Father Lange Iron Cross, for weight room presence: Fifth-year tight end Durham Smythe.
— Pietrosante Award for leadership, teamwork, etc.: Sr. captain and former walk-on Austin Webster.
— Rockne Student-Athlete of the Year: Sr. linebacker Drue Tranquill.
— Irish Around the Bend, for community service: Sr. tight end Nic Weishar.

THIS WEEK’S INSIDE THE IRISH READING:
Notre Dame to the Citrus Bowl to face LSU, with some numbers
Monday’s Leftovers: Brian Kelly on Notre Dame in the Citrus Bowl, facing LSU, and the early signing period
Where Notre Dame was & is: Linebackers
Where Notre Dame was & is: Special Teams
Where Notre Dame was & is: Receivers
Notre Dame releases 2018 home schedule, includes trip to Yankee Stadium
Where Notre Dame was & is: Tight Ends
Friday at 4: Projecting Notre Dame’s Echoes

THIS WEEK’S OUTSIDE READING:
SI’s 2017 All-America Teams
LSU RB Derrius Guice on NFL decision: ‘I will not know until after the bowl game’
RB Mark Walton leaving Miami early for the NFL

A Championship Weekend Primer with a Notre Dame focus

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There are a few perks to Notre Dame being a college football independent. Its schedule varies and creates unique fan experiences, nearly every game is broadcast on national television, and the Irish season ends before the weekend of championship games.

No, that will not affect Notre Dame’s entry to the College Football Playoff. Not this year and not in seasons to come. As long as the schedule remains three-quarters filled with Power Five opponents, enough opportunities to prove their worthiness will always be available to the Irish, especially when compared to the Pac 12 or the ACC thanks to set scheduling parameters.

It means today can be an easygoing day enjoying good collegiate football with little-to-no stress. The day’s results will, however, alter where Notre Dame heads for it bowl game.

12:30 p.m. ET on FOX — TCU vs. Oklahoma with the Sooners as touchdown favorites.
4:00 p.m. ET on CBS — Georgia vs. Auburn in what is essentially a toss-up.
8:00 p.m. ET on FOX —Wisconsin vs. Ohio State with the lower-ranked, two-loss Buckeyes as six-point favorites.
8:00 p.m. ET on ABC — Miami vs. Clemson has the Tigers as 9.5-point favorites.

Once more, a recap of how these games determine the Irish bowl destination:

If the top four teams in the College Football Playoff all win (Clemson, Auburn, Oklahoma, Wisconsin), then Notre Dame will enjoy the Dec. 29 Camping World Bowl in Orlando, Fla.

Most would prefer the Irish play on New Year’s Day in the Citrus Bowl, also in Orlando. It is not a significantly better bowl, but it would allow for easy viewing thanks to the holiday. The simplest sequence of events to make that a reality has Ohio State beating Wisconsin to edge No. 5 Alabama into the Playoff. This scenario works only if the Badgers are then ranked ahead of the SEC title game loser.

Any and all bowl assignments should be figured out Sunday afternoon and evening, beginning with the final College Football Playoff selection committee rankings released at noon ET on ESPN.

A STAT REGARDING THE CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP GAMES
Notre Dame played four of the Power Five conference champion contenders, including both Pac-12 participants. (USC beat Stanford 31-28 on Friday.) This is a unique circumstance also deriving from the Irish independence.

Only Texas and Georgia Tech played as many as three of the 10 teams this season, both going 0-3 in those games.

HERE, SOME RANDOM TRIVIA
Which Beatle was barefoot on the cover of the album, “Abbey Road”?

Answer at the bottom of the post.

THIS WEEK’S INSIDE THE IRSH READING:
Monday’s Leftovers: Notre Dame was always going to play this out at least one more year
A look at Notre Dame’s November in one word: Turnovers
Notre Dame’s bowl projections and opponents’ results
Where Notre Dame was & is: Defensive Line
Friday at 4: The results of 40 Notre Dame preseason predictions

INSIDE THE IRISH COVERAGE FROM THE STANFORD GAME
Notre Dame’s turnovers lead to a 38-20 loss and 9-3 finish
Things We Learned: Notre Dame is far from the finished product it once looked to be

THIS WEEK’S OUTSIDE READING:
Fortuna: Is this as good as it gets for Notre Dame under Brian Kelly? ($)
On the eve of the SEC championship, the league is a mess off the field — “This is the Exxon Valdez spilling a million gallons of New Coke and calling for help on ESPN The Phone. It is a breathtaking mashup of dysfunction, delusion, misplaced arrogance, mob mentality, panic and poor leadership.”
Tennessee fans got what they wanted, and now the school is the laughingstock of college football — “Often times, program tradition is a great thing. But sometimes it’s a toxic thing, and Tennessee appears to be finding that out now.”
How did Alabama find itself playing 10-plus minutes of a basketball game with only three players?
And how exactly did Alabama fare playing with only three players?


Paul McCartney, obviously.

Notre Dame at Stanford: Who, what, when, where, why and by how much?

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WHO? No. 8 Notre Dame (9-2) vs. No. 21 Stanford (8-3).

WHAT? Fifth-year left tackle and captain Mike McGlinchey refers to the Cardinal as his “favorite opponent to play.” Some might call the clash for the Legends Trophy the most underappreciated rivalry in college football. That may be extreme, but the last five games in this series have been decided by one possession each and a total of 26 points, three in Stanford’s favor and two toward the Irish.

WHEN? 8:14 p.m. ET. In other words, it will be barely dinner time at the local venue. California does some things right, folks.

WHERE? Stanford Stadium, otherwise known as “The Farm,” Palo Alto, Calif.

ABC will have the broadcast. Presumably, anyone on the move should be able to find the game via the Watch ESPN app.

WHY? If Notre Dame gets the win, the Irish are headed to a Playoff-eligible bowl. Those possibilities hinge heavily on conference championship games in a week. If USC wins the Pac 12, for example, that essentially rules out an Irish trip to the Fiesta Bowl, as the goal is to avoid rematches in those bowl games. The same goes for if Clemson beats Miami in the ACC title game, thus sending the Hurricanes to a veritable home game in the Orange Bowl.

If Notre Dame loses, a trip to Orlando is on the horizon, either the Jan. 1 Citrus Bowl or the Dec. 28 Camping World Bowl. The determining factor is if an SEC or a Big 10 team heads to the Orange Bowl — the highest-ranked option not in the College Football Playoff gets that nod. If it is an SEC team, as may seem likely, the Irish can stock up on tents and sleeping bags. If a Big 10 team lands in the Orange Bowl, then Notre Dame will take the ACC’s spot in the Citrus Bowl.

For Stanford, today’s game has no long-term effects aside from possibly establishing some momentum for the Pac-12 championship game in a week, which the Cardinal will go to only if Washington beats Washington State tonight.

MEANINGLESS STAT: Two weeks ago, the Irish were averaging 41.33 points per game, well north of the program record of 37.6 points per game. Managing only eight points at Miami torpedoed that trend, and scoring 24 against Navy did not reset it. To return to that pace, Notre Dame would need to score a mere 48 points against Stanford. The most points scored against the Cardinal this year were the 42 tallied by USC in the season’s second week. The last time someone scored that many points against a Stanford defense was Oct. 6, 2012, when the Cardinal slipped past Arizona in overtime, 54-48.

If Josh Adams can rush for 101 yards against Stanford, he will place his name alone atop the Notre Dame record books. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy, File)

EQUALLY MEANINGLESS BUT MORE INTERESTING STAT: With 1,377 rushing yards this season, Irish junior running back Josh Adams is exactly 100 yards shy of Vagas Ferguson’s single-season Notre Dame record. These days, any yards Adams gains in a bowl game would count toward the total, but if he slips past Ferguson’s record in the 12 regular season games, it would reduce any need for an asterisk, even though the 1979 schedule provided Ferguson with only 11 games in the first place.

On that note, it should be noted Adams has needed 171 attempts thus far this year. Ferguson carried the ball 301 times that record-setting season.

BY HOW MUCH? Stanford star junior running back Bryce Love has played with an injured ankle most of the season. A reaggravation of the sprain shelved him for much of the fourth quarter of the Cardinal’s 17-14 victory over Cal a week ago. Considering the potential impact of a win over Notre Dame compared to the effects of a Pac-12 championship, there is logic to wondering if Love will be completely available in head coach David Shaw’s game plan.

The possibility of Love not playing was assuaged somewhat Tuesday when Shaw described his offense’s driving force as “day to day.” At that point, the spread for this contest did not change, but the combined point total over/under jumped two points to 57.

It has since settled at 56 with a 2.5-point edge toward the Irish. That roughly equals a 29-26 conclusion.

Perhaps logic rules too strongly in this space, but deferring to it implies Love will not play the whole game. Maybe he will be used sporadically, perhaps not at all. Either way, limiting him will limit Stanford’s offense. With that in mind, let’s knock a score off that projected tally.

Notre Dame 31, Stanford 21. (8-3 record on the season.)

THIS WEEK’S INSIDE THE IRSH READING:
Monday’s Leftovers: Notre Dame on the precipice of a rare three-year stretch
Questions for the Week: If without St. Brown, who will Notre Dame turn to?
Notre Dame’s Opponents and Playoff Competition: Results and Upcoming
And In That Corner … The No. 21 Stanford Cardinal and (maybe) Bryce Love
A Notre Dame fan’s 40 thanks to give
— Things to Learn: What did Miami teach Notre Dame?
Friday at 4: Some complaints, some predictions in the balance & one thought experiment

INSIDE THE IRISH COVERAGE FROM THE NAVY GAME:
Notre Dame turns to its strengths to slip past Navy, 24-17
Things We Learned: Notre Dame will do what it takes to develop its passing game
Sunday Notre Dame Notebook: Defensive counter to Navy’s option helps Irish put Miami in past

THIS WEEK’S OUTSIDE READING:
This section is lighter than usual for two reasons. One, as a holiday week, fewer pieces were published internet-wide. Second, with travel this week, fewer pieces were read by yours truly, and no piece will ever be recommended blindly.
College Film Room: How Stanford — led by a pair of No. 20s — pulled the upset over Washington ($)
Is Notre Dame-Stanford college football’s most underappreciated rivalry? ($)

Notre Dame vs. Navy: Who, what, when, where, weather, why and by how much

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WHO? No. 8 Notre Dame (8-2) vs. Navy (6-3).

WHAT? It is a storied series, if not necessarily a rivalry. Partly due to that, partly as an homage to the original “House That Rockne Built” and partly because otherwise there would be no alternate uniform this season, the Irish will be wearing “Rockne Heritage” uniforms.

WHEN? 3:41 p.m. ET. Considering Notre Dame will recognize 26 seniors before kickoff, tuning in a bit early would include a few of those moments. The last half dozen are likely to be the six senior captains. In order: former walk-on receiver Austin Webster, linebacker Greer Martini, linebacker Nyles Morgan, left guard Quenton Nelson, linebacker Drue Tranquill and fifth-year left tackle Mike McGlinchey.

WHERE? For the seventh and final time this season, Notre Dame Stadium, South Bend, Ind.

NBC has the broadcast, which means an online stream is available at: http://ndstream.nbcsports.com/

For those on the move, take a look at the NBC Sports app. If abroad, enjoy NBC Sports Gold.

WEATHER? It’s mid-November in northwestern Indiana. An unpleasant outdoor experience is something of a given. This weekend is no different. Precipitation is all-but guaranteed, the only question is if it will be rain or snow, with temperatures reaching as high as 50 degrees before falling just below freezing.

WHY? By now, most are familiar with the Navy’s role in keeping Notre Dame’s doors open during World War II. That bit is not legend. It is very well-established fact. That is also the company line as to why this series continues on with never a thought of a break.

On a more philosophical level, they play this game because strange things happen in football and taking the time to reach a result is often worthwhile. If not, the world would be robbed of this Allen Rossum memory from 1997.

BY HOW MUCH? A spread on this game was only intermittently available this week, due to questions about who Navy will start at quarterback. That should hardly matter. To use Irish coach Brian Kelly’s phrase, the Midshipmen triple-option offense is “plug-and-play” at quarterback. Kelly meant it as quite the compliment to Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo.

When available, the line has consistently favored Notre Dame by 17.5 with a combined points total over/under of 59.5, making for a theoretical 38-21 conclusion.

Using that as a baseline, let’s expect the Irish defense to be motivated to have a good showing for the first time in three weeks.

Notre Dame 38, Navy 14. (7-3 record on the season.)

THIS WEEK’S INSIDE THE IRSH READING:

Monday’s Leftovers: A need to execute and a need for continued defensive line improvement

Question for the Week (rather, for the Year): On Notre Dame, pride and progress

Notre Dame’s bowl likelihoods and opponents round-up

And In that Corner … The Navy Midshipmen with that pesky triple-option

Things To Learn: Will Notre Dame, and Wimbush, rebound?

Friday at 4: To the seniors, the leaders

Friday at 4 (Oct. 27): If/when Notre Dame loses, shed the disappointment

INSIDE THE IRISH COVERAGE FROM THE MIAMI GAME:
Notre Dame’s Playoff hopes drowned by Hurricanes

Things We Learned: Without a passing game, Notre Dame is not *there* yet

Sunday Notre Dame Notebook: Atmosphere, crowd & turnovers doomed Irish from outset

THIS WEEK’S OUTSIDE READING:
The Observer profiles all 26 Notre Dame seniors

After brief benching in Miami beatdown, Brandon Wimbush regroups with Navy on deck

For Durham Smythe, patience finally pays

Leaving a legacy: Mike McGlinchey cements place as leader for Notre Dame

All-American mentality: Quenton Nelson instills high standard as Irish leader

Always working: Drue Tranquill focuses on growth in all aspects of life

Notre Dame vs. Wake Forest: Who, what, when, where, weather, why and by how much?

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WHO? No. 3 Notre Dame (7-1) vs. Wake Forest (5-3), otherwise known as defensive coordinator Mike Elko’s current employer against his former employer, respectively.

WHAT? It’s pretty simple, really. If the Irish win their remaining four games, they have a very good chance — though not a sure thing — of reaching the College Football Playoff. If they lose so much as one, Orlando is nice in late December or early January.

WHEN? 3:41 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time. Note: Come Sunday, those clocks pivot back to standard time. It is truly one of the best weekends of the year, albeit created by one of the most-outdated practices still maintained. Daylight saving time, the designated hitter and unicycles — all things that have hung around in society long enough.

WHERE? Notre Dame Stadium, South Bend, Ind., and broadcast on NBC.

The game will also be available through the NBC Sports app or online at: http://stream.nbcsports.com/notre-dame/notre-dame-wake-forest

WEATHER? If you like 50-degree rain, then here is some great news: The day in South Bend is expected to be around 50 degrees with a strong likelihood of rain throughout the day. Let’s just avoid lightning.

WHY? In many respects, the Irish suffering a loss so early in the season gave each and every subsequent week a distinct impetus. If undefeated, it would be conceivable Notre Dame might start to think of grandeur, or at least of a trip to Miami in a week. If losing more recently, the deflating aspect might crush all hopes of righting the ship to reach the Playoff. Instead, the Irish know exactly what position they are in and seem to be focused appropriately.

As for the Demon Deacons, they are a win away from bowl eligibility and besting the win total over/under mark of 5.5. While they would certainly like to snag that victory in an attention-grabbing upset, they still have two prime chances remaining if needed (at Syracuse on Nov. 11; vs. Duke on Nov. 25).

BY HOW MUCH? The looming weather may dampen the game’s total score, but current odds project Notre Dame to win by two touchdowns with a combined point total over/under of 55. In other words, bookmakers expect the Irish to win 34-20.

Notre Dame has scored fewer than 35 points only once this year with its starting quarterback, junior Brandon Wimbush, taking snaps. That was the 20-19 loss to now-No. 1 Georgia in the season’s second week. The Bulldogs are also the only team to reach 20 points against the Irish.

Expecting Wake Forest to join Georgia in either category seems far-fetched, so let’s flip a touchdown to Notre Dame and then round up to make it consistent with a typical football tally.

Notre Dame 42, Wake Forest 13. (6-2 record on the season.)

THIS WEEK’S INSIDE THE IRSH READING:
Monday’s Leftover: Notre Dame embraces Adams’ Heisman hopes with ’33 Trucking’ theme
Notre Dame’s Opponents: Six still hold conference title hopes
Notre Dame among the dozen looking at the Playoff, though it is still October
Notre Dame at No. 3 in initial CFP poll
Notre Dame’s best-case and worst-case CFP scenarios
Notre Dame lands speedy CA receiver’s commitment
And In That Corner … The Wake Forest Demon Deacons and a very familiar defense
Things To Learn: Wake Forest offers a look into Notre Dame’s defensive future
Quick Notre Dame Notebook: Injury updates, cornerback swap & ‘developmental’ players
Friday at 4: A statistical look at how Notre Dame routed two top-15 teams in consecutive weeks

INSIDE THE IRISH COVERAGE FROM THE NORTH CAROLINA STATE GAME:
Notre Dame ‘dominates’ Wolfpack 35-14
Things We Learned: Notre Dame’s in-season improvements make the previously-maybe become increasingly possible
Notre Dame Sunday Notebook: Injury update and punt block blocks

THIS WEEK’S OUTSIDE READING:
Long drives, reliably delivered
’33 Trucking’ hats available with all proceeds going back to Irish student-athletes
Meet the replacements: Deacons line up with depth in light of injuries
New 538.com projections factor in first CFP poll
North Carolina State QB and head coach explain pick-six misunderstanding