Weekend primer

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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 Miami: Who, what, when, where, why and by how much

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WHO? No. 3 Notre Dame (8-1) at No. 7 Miami (8-0) in their fourth meeting in eight years. The Irish have won the previous three (2010 Sun Bowl, 2012 at Soldier Field, 2016 at Notre Dame).

WHAT? This contest will not determine the Hurricanes’ chances at the ACC title. They need to win one of their final two games to clinch the Coastal division and a date in the conference championship game most likely against No. 4 Clemson.

Instead, the prime-time endeavor will all-but knock one team from the College Football Playoff conversation. It is conceivable Miami could lose, go on to win the ACC and find itself back in the mix, but that would need some chaos around the rest of the country. It would be much simpler to simply beat the Irish, though that is far from simple on its own.

WHEN? 8:16 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. For all the grief NBC gets each week for turning “3:30” game times into 3:42 kickoffs, that delay is elongated even further by the Worldwide Leader.

WHERE? Hard Rock Stadium, Miami Gardens, Fla. It has been rebranded, but this is indeed the same south Florida venue Notre Dame visited in early 2013.

ABC has the broadcast, but mobile viewers should be able to enjoy it via the Watch ESPN app, as well.

WEATHER? Some will try to make a note of the 77-degree evening, humidity bumping the tangible temperature to 81 degrees, but Irish coach Brian Kelly maintained the heat should not be an issue for a hydrated Notre Dame. Frankly, the night with a slight northeastern breeze sounds like an absolute delight.

WHY? Somewhere here another mention should be made of this being Kelly’s 100th game leading the Irish. Aside from that, turn back to the College Football Playoff conversation.

Entering the season, few would have expected this contest to alter the national outlook of the rest of the season. Indeed it will.

This is the last scheduled matchup for Notre Dame and Miami until 2024, a quirk of the Irish rotation through the ACC.

BY HOW MUCH? This line could move yet today, as the Hurricanes’ did last week when they hosted Virginia Tech. All week, the Hokies had been favored by 2.5 points, but come Saturday the spread flipped a full four points to Miami by 1.5.

Such is unlikely to repeat itself, but consider the disclaimer offered. As of late Friday evening, Notre Dame is favored by three with a combined point total over/under of 59.5, making for a hypothetical midnight conclusion of Irish 31, Hurricanes 28.

A close finish should concern Notre Dame fans. Miami is used to the nail-biters. Senior quarterback Malik Rosier has gotten somewhat used to those last-minute moments.

With that in mind, expecting an Irish victory also comes with predicting a larger margin than the bookmakers project.

Notre Dame 31, Miami 23. (7-2 record on the season.)

THIS WEEK’S REQUISITE EMBEDDING OF THE ‘CATHOLICS VS. CONVICTS’ TRAILER:

THIS WEEK’S INSIDE THE IRSH READING:
Monday’s Leftovers: Miami’s strengths, a weakness & a Justin Yoon record

Finally, Notre Dame lands a cornerback commitment

‘Focus, refocus’ approach applies to both Notre Dame’s defense and Kelly’s 100th game as Irish coach

CFP Contenders & Notre Dame’s Opponents: Oklahoma & Wisconsin loom

And In That Corner … The No.7 Miami Hurricanes and an eye-catching turnover chain

Things To Learn: On Notre Dame injuries, crowd noise and close games

Friday at 4: This isn’t ‘Catholics vs. Convicts.’ It hardly ever ways. But it already matters again.

— Claypool’s drops perhaps a harbinger of Notre Dame success to come

INSIDE THE IRISH COVERAGE FROM THE WAKE FOREST GAME:
Notre Dame gets what matters against Wake Forest: A win, 48-37

Things We Learned: Notre Dame is really good, even when it isn’t

Sunday Notre Dame Notebook: Correcting a relaxed defense & injury updates

THIS WEEK’S OUTSIDE READING:
How a fist bump has brought Notre Dame all the way back

He said Notre Dame would win. I said, ‘Nope.’ Canes over Irish.

The impossible task of bringing Josh Adams down

Josh Adams: I’ll be ready for Miami

Trash-talking getting personal between Miami and Notre Dame

Yeah, a 13-0 Wisconsin would make the College Football Playoff

Nebraska: Bob Diaco’s defense ‘never a quick fix’ for team running out of time

THIS WEEK’S REQUISITE ’33 TRUCKING’ VIDEO:

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

Notre Dame vs. North Carolina State: Who, what, when, where, weather, why and by how much?

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WHO? No. 9 Notre Dame (6-1) vs. No. 14 North Carolina State (6-1), two of about 16 remaining genuine College Football Playoff contenders. The Irish removed a name from that list last week.

WHAT? Continuing the stretch of “playoff” games on Notre Dame’s schedule, a win is absolutely necessary to keep that pipedream alive. This contest will likely come down to the strength-against-strength matchup of the Irish offensive line and running game against the Wolfpack’s defensive front seven led by senior end Bradley Chubb.

WHEN? 3:41 p.m. ET, though an Air Force F-16 flyover is expected beforehand, so if in attendance, don’t wait until the last minute to get inside.

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-north-carolina-state

Those abroad should take a look at NBC Sports Gold for the evening, and for anyone hoping to see the Notre Dame band’s halftime show: http://stream.nbcsports.com/notre-dame/notre-dame-halftime-show

A postgame show will also be available online: http://stream.nbcsports.com/notre-dame/?pid=37523

WEATHER? There are rumors of snow, but it would not likely accumulate. The more pertinent fact is Saturday in South Bend will be in the low-40s and precipitation is possible. If this were mid-November in the home finale against Navy, such might be expected, but it is still October, and this qualifies as cold on a comfort spectrum.

WHY? Entering the season, few would have expected this contest to have national implications, but it very much does. Both North Carolina State and Notre Dame have viable means of reaching the College Football Playoff, provided they win out after losing in the season’s first and second weeks, respectively. A loss would not stop the Wolfpack from chasing the ACC title, especially not with No. 7 Clemson awaiting in a week.

BY HOW MUCH? The Irish are favored by a touchdown with a combined point/total over under of 57.5, though that latter figure began the week a bit higher. Those current odds would indicate an unusual final score of Notre Dame 32, North Carolina State 25.

This space has been quietly warning of the difficulties of this matchup since August. It became an underpinning theme this week. Some excerpts, in chronological order:

Aug. 18 — Let’s also add North Carolina State exceeding 7.5 wins to the previous list of over bets.
Aug. 22 — Make no mistake about it: When the Irish host North Carolina State on Oct. 28, they will not be entering a trap game. The Wolfpack will be anything but average this season.

Sept. 19 — It may be a bit bold to predict the Wolfpack to win outright [at Florida State], but a cover and an under would go hand-in-hand.
Sept. 26 — North Carolina State notched its biggest win of the year, a 27-21 victory at Florida State. The Wolfpack benefited from 11 Seminoles penalties and a turnover, but overall North Carolina State just played a solid game.

Oct. 3 — As four-point underdogs, expect North Carolina State to come out on the high side of a 34-31 projected final [against Louisville].
Oct. 10 — The Wolfpack has definitively arrived, topping Louisville 39-25 on Thursday to add a second victory over the ACC’s top teams.

Monday — This seems an applicable time to remind folks, North Carolina State had the week off.
Tuesday — For the second consecutive week, Notre Dame will face a viable passing threat. North Carolina State senior quarterback Ryan Finley, however, has had a consistent and mistake-free season, especially if compared to USC junior Sam Darnold. Finley has yet to throw an interception and has been held to fewer than 200 yards only once, when he threw for 198 at Pittsburgh two weeks ago.
Wednesday — Notre Dame will have a difficult time running against North Carolina State. The Wolfpack gives up a mere 3.04 yards per carry, No. 14 in the country. For context, Georgia ranks No. 7 in allowing 2.82 yards per rush and Michigan State comes in at No. 8 at 2.89 yards.
Thursday — North Carolina State may be, particularly in the eyes of this scribe, the toughest opponent remaining on Notre Dame’s schedule.
Friday — “They’re one of the top teams in the country,” Irish coach Brian Kelly said. “They can play with anybody.”

All this was whole-heartedly intended to lay the groundwork for this prediction. The Wolfpack is a season-opening moment’s focus away from being undefeated. If South Carolina had not returned the first kick of its season for a touchdown, North Carolina State would enter this weekend no more than three-point underdogs. At that point, picking the upset would be much trendier than it is. It shouldn’t be trendy. It should hardly be considered an upset.

North Carolina State 28, Notre Dame 24. (6-1 record on the season.)

THIS WEEK’S INSIDE THE IRSH READING:
Monday’s Leftovers: Notre Dame lands safety commitment and Adams lands in more Heisman talk
Notre Dame’s Opponents: BC & Mich. St. rise while Miami continues its streak of well-timed luck
Notre Dame doesn’t ‘have anything else to play for’ but a Playoff bid
Questions for the Week (Some, Notre Dame already answered)
And In That Corner … The No. 14 North Carolina State Wolfpack and a vaunted run defense
Things To Learn: Notre Dame will need the year’s best rushing performance vs. NC State
Notre Dame’s injury returns will aid needed punt return coverage
Friday at 4: If/when Notre Dame loses, shed the disappointment

INSIDE THE IRISH COVERAGE FROM THE USC GAME:
Notre Dame makes quick, easy work of USC
Things We Learned: Maybe, just maybe …
Sunday Notre Dame Notebook; Results create belief & an injury update

THIS WEEK’S OUTSIDE READING:
Jack Swarbrick reflects on his commitment to Brian Kelly over the offseason
Notre Dame left guard Quenton Nelson lands in the conversation of most NFL-ready, non-QB draft prospects
Irish linebacker Te’von Coney has returned from a public mistake to become a valuable on-field contributor
Defensive coordinator Mike Elko has made all the difference for Notre Dame this season. How?
Do bye weeks lead to wins? ($)
A Notre Dame alumnus pledged a $100 million gift to the University to be used in any way the school sees fit
Former Notre Dame basketball guard Pat Connaughton has shown he is ready for an increased role with the Portland Blazers this season
Only one starting quarterback has yet to throw an interception this season
DeShone Kizer’s late night out doesn’t sit well with Browns
The Athletic’s Heisman straw poll has a familiar name debut this week ($)

Bye Week Primer: What to watch & what to read

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This is Notre Dame’s bye week. Any “Who, what, when, where, why and by how much” ponderings do not really apply this week. Instead, it comes down to “What to watch” and “What to read.”

Partly due to the Irish not playing, there are no top-25 matchups this weekend. There are, however, still a handful of good games. If spending this fall Saturday indoors with football on the screen, consider these options:

12 p.m. ET on ESPN2 — Florida State at Duke. A loss here would just about put a wrap on the Seminoles’ season.
3:30 p.m. ET on ABC — Georgia Tech at No. 11 Miami (FL). The triple option is one of worthwhile two hurdles standing between the Hurricanes and meeting Notre Dame undefeated. The other comes the week immediately prior that game, when Miami hosts Virginia Tech.
3:30 p.m. ET on Big Ten Network — Purdue at No. 7 Wisconsin. If watching the triple option hurts your senses, perhaps turn toward the Midwest. Boilermakers head coach Jeff Brohm will be determined not to let this turn into a typical Big Ten rock fight.
3:45 p.m. ET on ESPNU — No. 25 Navy at Memphis. Again considering an Irish outlook, if the Midshipmen can get past the Tigers, they will have only one more difficult contest (next week vs. Central Florida) before traveling to Notre Dame. Those two games could lead to two Navy losses or they could lead to a rolling 9-0 entrance to South Bend.
8 p.m. ET on ABC — Utah at No. 13 USC. Utah may not be ranked, but this is essentially a top-25 game and certainly a Pac-12 indicator. In addition to that, the Trojans will be looking to build momentum before the primetime tilt with the Irish next weekend.
10:30 p.m. ET on CBS Sports Network — Boise State at No. 19 San Diego State. Do not let the time, the network or the school names fool you. This very well could be the best game this weekend.
11:00 p.m. ET on FS1 — Oregon at No. 23 Stanford. The Cardinal are still in the thick of the race for the Pac-12 North Division, but a loss to the Ducks would change that.

THIS WEEK’S INSIDE THE IRSH READING:
Monday Afternoon Leftovers: Notre Dame has already exceeded many of 2016’s totals
Notre Dame’s Opponents: Second half of schedule continues to look even more impressive
A statistical look at Notre Dame’s offense through six games compared to the past
Notre Dame’s defense has limited scoring, but what keys have led to that?
A Notre Dame Bye Week Mailbag: On bowls, momentum & passing game struggles
Friday at 4: 40 predictions updated & 4 more for the next six weeks

INSIDE THE IRISH COVERAGE FROM THE NORTH CAROLINA GAME
Notre Dame stifles North Carolina throughout 33-10 victory
Things We Learned: Notre Dame can turn to Book, though may prefer not to
Sunday Notre Dame Notebook: Recover, relax, recruit and ready for USC (and Navy)

THIS WEEK’S OUTSIDE READING:
538 gives Notre Dame an 11 percent chance of finishing 11-1
ESPN’s midseason All-America team
Oregon State head coach Gary Andersen said he would walk away from $12.6 million and he did just that
The NCAA formed a commission to look into the current college basketball scandal. It is led by Condoleezza Rice and also has Notre Dame. Pres. Fr. John Jenkins on it.