Posts Tagged 'Notre Dame'

College FootBlog Week 3 Recap

Landry Jones stepped up big when he need to against #5 Florida State (photo courtesy of National Scouting Report, http://blog.nsr-inc.com)

Another week in the books for the 2011 college football season, and as we continue to learn more about the contenders and pretenders, College FootBlog breaks down some of the action from Week 3.

Oklahoma passes major test:   One of our contributors, Christian Hon, and I actually covered this game and the pregame festivities (check out the on location podcast and tailgate and game footage),  and what a fantastic football game!  In the end, though, the Sooners showed why they’re the #1 team in the land.  Although OU quarterback Landry Jones was held under 200 yards passing and picked off twice by Florida State, he completed a clutch touchdown pass in the fourth quarter when the game was tied.  Oklahoma is known for their explosive offense, but it was their defense, led by linebackers Travis Lewis and Tom Wort that stepped up and passed what may have been the most difficult test of the regular season.

Notre Dame finally gets a win:  The Irish still have a tough road ahead of them if they want to finish above .500, but they managed to knock off the favored Michigan State Spartans in South Bend last weekend.  Similar to Oklahoma, it was the defense that stole the show for Notre Dame, holding Michigan State to just 29 yards rushing.  The defense was non-existent against Michigan in week 2, so Irish fans have to feel good about the 31-13 victory over their hated rivals from East Lansing.  The next three weeks see the Irish traveling to very mediocre Pitt and Purdue, followed by a home game against Air Force.  If they can win two of those games, Brian Kelly’s face may turn back to red, as opposed to the bright purple shade he sported in the South Florida game.

Oklahoma State continues to win shoot outs:  The Cowboys have given up an average of 27 points per game so far this season, which ranks 76th nationally.  The good thing for Mike Gundy is that the OSU offense is averaging over 52 points per game, which ranks #3 nationally.  The main reason for this offensive output is senior quarterback Brandon Weeden, who has thrown for 1154 yards in the first three games of the season.  OSU will get their first real test of the season this weekend, when open up conference play at Texas A&M this weekend.  With Oklahoma State’s non-existent defense, there won’t be a shortage of points this weekend at College Station.

Kellen Moore keeping his name on the Heisman list:  While Toledo may not garner a ton of national attention, they are a legitimate football team, one that gave Ohio State all they could handle in week 2.  For Boise State quarterback Kellen Moore, it was just another day at the office.  The senior QB threw for 455 yards and 5 TDs.  On the season, he is completing 78.9% of his passes with 8 TDs and only 2 Ints, and that’s only in two games.  Look for Moore to put up 4,000 yards and 35+ touchdowns and represent the Broncos in New York as a finalist for college football’s most prestigious award.

Heart of Stanford’s defense, Shane Skov done for the season:  While most of the hype of the Stanford Cardinal surrounds Heisman front-runner Andrew Luck (and rightfully so), the heart of the Cardinal defense is (and has been) Shane Skov.  This is a huge loss to a team that many expect to challenge Oregon for the inaugural Pac 12 title.  The junior linebacker was highly touted coming out of high school and has lived up to his billing, leading Stanford defensively in last year’s Orange Bowl with three sacks and leading the Cardinal in tackles so far this season.  Luckily for Stanford, October 22nd is the first test against a decent offense, when they play host to the Washington Huskies.  Three football games should give the defense a chance to gel as a unit before they get into the meat of their schedule.

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College FootBlog College Football Week 2 Recap

Denard Robinson worked his magic on Notre Dame again last weekend (photo courtesy of Melanie Maxwell I, annarbor.com)

With the end of week 2, the 2011 college football season continues to take shape.  <a href=”collegesportsfeed.com”>CSF</a> highlights five of the most crucial outcomes from the second week of the young college football season.

Denard Robinson is still lightning in a bottle: After having an up and down game through the first three quarters against Notre Dame, Michigan’s dynamic play maker saved his best for last in what was an instant classic in one of the most storied rivalries in college football.  Robinson threw for two touchdowns in the final 1:02 of the game, capping off yet another performance that saw him rush for over 100 yards and throw for over 300 yards.  Health is the key for Robinson, whose body wore down the second half of 2010, but he proved once again that he is arguably the most exciting player in all of college football.

<strong><a href=”auburn.rivals.com”>Auburn</a> bounces back: </strong> After needing a recovery of an on-side kick to knock off visiting <a href=”utahstate.rivals.com”>Utah State</a> in week 1, the Tigers played host to <a href=”mississippi.rivals.com”>Mississippi State</a>.  In another of the many thrillers of week 2.  Auburn stopped Mississippi State quarterback <a href=”mississippistate.rivals.com”>Chris Relf</a> just in front of the goal line, which prevented overtime.  The tough SEC schedule will only get tougher, but the Tigers passed a major test in week 2, against a legitimate top 25 team.

Richt officially on the hot seat:  Opening against two top 10 teams to start your season would be a tall order for any program, but that’s exactly what Mark Richt and Georgia has done in 2011.  After taking on a gritty and underappreciated Boise State team (currently ranked #4 in both major polls), the Bulldogs had to play host to last year’s SEC East champs, South Carolina (currently ranked #10 in the AP poll).  Bruising tailback Marcus Lattimore made up for quarterback Stephen Garcia’s dismal performance, by rushing for 176 yards and a touchdown.  In yet another game that went down to the wire, Georgia fell 45-42, making them 0-2 to start the season.  After going 6-7 last year, Richt can’t afford another losing season in 2011, and he has his work cut out for him to catch up after dropping the first two games of this young season.

Russell Wilson continues to impress: After being shunned by NC State head coach Tom O’Brien for electing to play professional baseball this summer, Wisconsin gladly accepted the talented senior quarterback, and Wilson has delivered.  In the first two games, Wilson has picked up right where he left off, when he led the NC State Wolfpack for his three years as their starter.  Wilson is completing over 79% of his passes and has thrown for five touchdowns with no picks, and he has also added 73 yards and a touchdown rushing.

Garrett Gilbert is out in Texas:  In the 2009 BCS Championship Game, Gilbert, then a true freshman, relieved an injured Colt McCoy against the top defense in the country, Alabama, and he passed with flying colors.  Although the Longhorns lost that game, Gilbert’s poise and athletic ability gave fans in Austin a lot to look forward to–at least they that’s what they thought.  Last season, much of the blame for Texas’ offensive woes was blamed on Gilbert, who completed less than 60% of his passes with just 10 TDs to go along with 17 picks.  In the first two games of the 2011 season, the junior signal-caller has done even worse, completing just 45% of his passes with two TDs and four picks.  Head coach Mack Brown decided last week during the BYU game that enough was enough and replaced Gilbert with back ups Case McCoy and David Ash, who are expected to split time for the remainder of the season, while Gilbert watches from the sidelines.

College FootBlog Week 1 Recap

Robert Griffin III lit up the TCU defense in a huge opening week upset (photo courtesy of collegesportsmadness.com and google images)

The first week of the 2011 college football season is officially in the books, and while the January bowls are still months away, we did manage to learn quite a bit from opening week.  Here is College FootBlog’s Breakdown from Week 1.

Another year, another over-hyped Notre Dame team:  A lot of hype surrounded the hiring of former Cincinnati head coach Brian Kelly.  Because of the dismal state that Charlie Weis left the program in, the expectations were not too high last season.  This season was a different story.  Most preseason polls had the Irish in the top 25, and last weekend’s loss to USF in South Bend was proof yet again that the Irish are not a dominant program.  Much credit needs to go to USF and Skip Holtz, but once again, Notre Dame folded in the face of pressure and played like a team that was afraid of losing, instead of a confident team that expected to win.

RG3 is good.  Very good: While most people who watched TCU fall to Baylor are discussing the fall of TCU from the nation’s elite, we prefer to look at the unbelievable play of Baylor QB Robert Griffin III.  The junior signal-caller did everything except park the cars and sell the popcorn in Baylor’s amazing 50-48 victory over the Horned Frogs.  Griffin III has somewhat flown under the radar because of other NFL prospects in the Big 12 like Blaine Gabbert, Josh Freeman and Landry Jones to name a few, but last weekend was not a fluke.  RG3 came into the season with 41 career touchdown passes, versus only 11 picks.  This will not be the first time you hear from Griffin or the Bears this season.

Auburn could be in for a long season:  The 2010 BCS National Champs had to recover an onside kick and score with less than a minute in their nail-biter against visiting Utah State last weekend.  Much has been made of the Tigers’ holes vacated by Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton and 13th overall NFL selection Nick Fairley, and the cynics got it right this time.  Auburn could not slow down the Utah State, who racked up 227 yards rushing and 448 total net yards.  With a healthy dose of SEC West opponents, it is only going to get more difficult, and the Tigers will have to fight to be bowl eligible this season.

The SEC is still King.  Just ask the Oregon Ducks:  After Nick Fairley dominated the Oregon offensive line, this year was the Ducks’ opportunity to get respect for themselves and the newly expanded Pac 12, but LSU stood in the way of that, dominating Oregon in the first bigtime match up of the young season.  Despite only getting 98 yards passing from Jarrett Lee, the Tigers stuffed last year’s leading rusher in all of college football, holing LaMichael James to an anemic 54 yards.  Until Oregon can score against the SEC, they can rack up as many yards and points as they want–it just won’t get them back to a title game.

Maryland trumps Oregon in most hideous uniform challenge:  If you watched the Miami vs. Maryland game on Monday night, you may have thown up your hot wings.  The Terps’ uniforms rivaled the uni’s from “Any Given Sunday”–if you’ve seen that horrible movie, you understand the comparison.  Previously, Oregon’s all-fluorescent yellow uniforms took the cake, but Maryland trumped those on Monday.  If nothing else, new head coach Randy Edsall has people (including us) talking and writing about Maryland football, which hadn’t been on the radar since Al Davis, in his infinite wisdom, took former Terp wideout Darirus Heyward-Bey with the Oakland Raiders’ first pick in the 2009 NFL Draft.

College FootBlog Spotlight: Denard Robinson

Heading into the 2010 college football season at Ann Arbor, it wasn’t even clear who the starter at quarterback would be, so there was obviously no talk of Heisman

Oh, what a difference a few weeks can make.  It’s very early in the season, but Denard Robinson has put himself and his team back on the map, and in the process, he may also be saving his head coach, Rich Rodriguez’ job. 

All Robinson has done to this point is lead the nation in total offense and beat hated Notre Dame in week 2.  In this edition of College FootBlog, we examine three reasons for optimism for Michigan fans, and we also break down the three biggest hurdles standing in his way to making the trip to New York this December.

Feeling Optimistic?  Robinson has done more than his part to be in the national spotlight, but here are three factors that play in his favor to continue his momentum:

1.  Opposing Defenses:  With Ohio State, Iowa and Wisconsin left on the schedule, you would think this would be a negative.  True, going against three of the best defenses in the country will provide a significant challenge, a closer look at the rest of Michigan’s opponents, and more notably, the defenses they will face, should have Robinson salivating.  Of the final nine games of the regular season, the Wolverines will face only two (Ohio State and Iowa) that are currently ranked in the top 25 in total defense.  And next week’s opponent, Bowling Green, is ranked 111th nationally in that category.

Denard Robinson has put himself in the mix for this year's Heisman race (google images)

2.  National Television:  If Michigan can continue to win, they have a chance to play nationally televised games against Michigan State, Penn State, Iowa, Wisconsin and the showdown against the Buckeyes on November 27th.  This could backfire if Robinson has a bad game or two, but with his explosiveness and knack for the big play, it could also play hugely in his favor.  He has proven so far this season that the more opportunities he gets, the more big plays he produces.

3.  Ohio State:  With the defensive woes that Michigan has shown (most recently against FCS opponent UMass last weekend), there is very little chance that Michigan will be in the hunt for a Big Ten title this season, and by the time the Big Game against the hated Buckeyes rolls around, the Wolverines could have nothing to lose.  This actually plays into Michigan and Robinson’s favor.  Rich-Rod has been known for trick plays and gambling, but look for him to pull out all stops against OSU.  If the game stays tight, even against one of the best defenses in the nation (OSU), Robinson has the speed and athleticism that is impossible to defend.  This scenario could provide Robinson with a couple of opportunities for a signature Heisman moment if the Wolverines were to pull off the unthinkable and take down the Buckeyes at the Horseshoe in the final week of the regular season.

Not so fast, my friend.  Here are the three factors that could keep Robinson from punching his plane ticket to New York City:

1.  Ohio State:  Just as this game could catapult Robinson to center stage of the Heisman race, this game could also be catastrophic.  Since his arrival at OSU, Jim Tressel has owned the Wolverines, going 8-1 in this rivalry game.  Of this success, there has been one constant–defense.  Tressel has consistently produced top 10 defenses since coming to Columbus, and the 2010 version could be his best yet.  Also, considering this game is at the Horseshoe, it could be a rough finale to the regular season for Robinson.

2.  Michigan’s Final Record:  Unless Michigan can find a dominant defense in the next two weeks, they will inevitably lose some games this season, and despite the 3-0 start, they have quite a task if they want to finish out the season with 7-8 wins.  Although it is not a requirement that you win your conference to take home the Heisman, the numbers are telling.  Six out of the last seven Heisman winners played on teams that won their respective conference.  Robinson would likely have to “buck” that trend (no pun intended).

3.  Robinson Must Stay Healthy:  At 6’0″ and 188 lbs., Robinson is not the biggest, most physical QB in the Big Ten.  His style of play and the number of carries as he gets into the thick of conference play in the Big Ten could prove to be a difficult task.  If he can stay healthy and continue to get the number of carries he has managed to this point, the stats will be there.  One big hit, however, could be the difference maker in whether or not he continues to light up the scoreboard like he has so far this season.

NFL QBs: Here’s to the Underdogs

For the elite high school quarterbacks in the country, the opportunity to play quarterback at one of the bigtime college football programs is a dream come true.  One major factor in making the final decision on which program gets the signature on the letter of intent is the degree to which that individual player will be prepared for the next level (the NFL).

The high-powered programs like Florida, Oklahoma, Miami and USC are just a few of the major BSC schools that elite high school quarterbacks consider, and why not?  These teams are known for their juggernaut offenses, and they are consistently in the hunt for a national championship.  College FootBlog takes a deeper look into the progress of the top performing quarterbacks from the NFL and where those QBs played their college ball.

Drew Brees has continued to relish the underdog role in the NFL, much like he did when he played QB at Purdue (google images)

If you are a coach or a parent of an elite QB, the you may want to take a hard look at the numbers because you’ll probably be very surprised.  For a number of reasons, which we will cover later, the major programs typically do not groom their top-tier signal callers for the NFL.  Let’s take a look at the passer ratings from the last season.

Of the top ten quarterback ratings, only two, Peyton Manning (Tennessee) and Tom Brady (Michigan) went to perineal BCS power houses, and Manning was ranked sixth, with Brady at #9. 

Purdue’s Drew Brees was the Superbowl MVP and the top-rated QB in the NFL last year, with a QB Rating of 109.6.  Brett Favre was a close second and is a sure-fire, first ballot Hall of Famer, and he played at Southern Miss.  

Phillip Rivers was the 3rd-ranked QB last year and has been a dominant player since his arrival in 2004, but NC State is not exactly known as Quarterback-U.  Aaron Rodgers was #4 and played at Cal, which doesn’t have the glamor of USC, but he outperformed his former rivals from LA last season.  Matt Schaub was ranked seventh and hails from the University of Virginia. 

The other three QBs in the top ten really dispel the idea that you have to go to a bigtime program to prepare for the NFL.   Fifth-ranked Ben Roethlisberger went to Miami–no, not that ‘Miami’…Miami of Ohio.  Eighth-ranked Tony Romo and 10th-ranked Kurt Warner played Division IAA (or FCS for those who are up on the new abbreviations) at Eastern Illinois and Northern Iowa, respectively.

Now, let’s take a look at the lowest ranked QBs from last year’s NFL season.  Five of the worst eight QBs in the NFL last season were from major programs, including #32 (the worst) first-round bust JaMarcus Russell from LSU.  Former USC quarterbacks Matt Cassel and Mark Sanchez were numbers 25 and 28.

Former Notre Dame star Brady Quinn came in at #27 and rookie quarterback Matthew Stafford struggled in his first season out of the University of Georgia, ranking 29th.

When digging into the numbers it really should not come as a huge surprise.  Afterall, the quarterbacks at the major programs typically have a bigtime advantage with their receiving corps versus the opposing secondaries.  For example, in Stafford’s last season at Georgia, he had 6’2″ and 2nd round pick Mohamed Massaquoi and soon to be first rounder AJ Green, who is 6’4″ and could be the best wideout in the country this year.

Even in the SEC, which is widely known for being the best conference in college football, the dominant programs have bigger, faster and stronger WRs, creating bigger windows to throw into and much more room for error. 

In the NFL, it is typically the cornerbacks that are the fastest players on the field, and while they may be at a disadvantage in size, the talent pool is much smaller, and those large windows to complete passes are not only smaller, but they also close very quickly.  In the NFL, a ball delivered a split-second too early or too late is the difference between a completion and a pick-six for the defense.

The QBs at the lesser-known programs have to deal with a more balanced and level playing field and often do not have this colossal advantage with their receivers, forcing them to make better reads and to thread the needle, instead of throwing to an area.

In the end, there are a few low-ranked QBs that could easily turn things around.  After all, Mark Sanchez and Matthew Stafford were only rookies last season, but the trend is quite staggering when you take away all the glamor and simply look at production on the field.  For the time being (and seemingly for the immediate future), it is the underdogs that continue to lead the way.

What Should We Expect From Brian Kelly in 2010?

After a 9-3 season, which was capped off by a BCS bowl game against Ohio State, the Charlie Weis era at Notre Dame took a drastic turn for the worse.  In his last three seasons at the helm, Weis led the Irish to a combined record of 16-21.  Last season’s 6-6 record marked the end of Weis’ five-year run in South Bend.

Brian Kelly enters the spring season with an empty cupboard on offense (google images)

Enter former Cincinnati head coach Brian Kelly.  As we head into spring football, College FootBlog takes a look at the program that Kelly inherits and the current state of what is perhaps college football’s most storied program.

 

The strength of Notre Dame last season was the offense, led by future first rounders, quarterback Jimmy Clausen and wide receiver Golden Tate.  As good as the offense was last year, Kelly will have a lot to replace.  As mentioned, Clausen and Tate chose to leave after their junior seasons, and four of the five starters on the offensive line are now gone.  

The Irish will return starting tailback Armando Allen, but the rushing attack was not exactly explosive a year ago.  Allen, who led the team in rushing, managed 697 yards rushing, but he only managed to break 100 yards once all season (against Purdue).  Allen also only managed to find the end zone three times on the ground all year.

Wide receiver Michael Floyd has shown some great promise and could very easily be a first round draft pick in the next two seasons.  The problem Kelly and his staff have now is finding someone to throw him the football.  Junior Dayne Crist was the second-ranked quarterback in the nation coming out of high school, but since his arrival from the 2008 class, he has yet to see any significant playing time, and although he is ahead of schedule, the junior QB from California is recovering from a torn ACL, which he suffered last fall against Washington State.

That leaves true freshman Tommy Rees, who just enrolled at Notre Dame in January to run the offense in the spring.  After Rees, the only other option at quarterback is wide receiver John Goodman.

Now, for the bad news–Notre Dame’s defense was 86th nationally in total defense, averaging just under 400 yards allowed per game.  The good news for Irish fans is that last year’s defense was very young, with three of the four leading tacklers coming back for next season, including linebacker Manti Te’o, who started last season as a true freshman.

Despite the departures of several key starters on offense and a struggling defense last season, Kelly and his staff should have an improved defense in 2010, and overall, Kelly has already proven to be a more successful head coach at the college level than the last three head coaches brought into the program.

The offense will likely struggle at times for the Irish in 2010, but look for Kelly and his staff to do a much better job of coaching the entire team than Weis did.  Unlike his predecessor, Kelly has shown that he can win with great offense, as he did last season in Cincinnati, but he has also shown that he can win with a solid defense, as he did in 2008.

A relatively soft schedule in 2010, which includes Western Michigan, Army, a struggling Michigan program and a Stanford team (minus Toby Gerhart) should set Kelly up with a great opportunity to at least match Weis’ six win total from 2009.  But don’t expect much more than that from Notre Dame this fall.  The losses on offense and the state in which Weis left the defense will likely be too much to sustain.

Look out for Notre Dame in 2011, though, especially if Floyd stays for his senior season and Crist is as good as advertised.  That will also be the season that the Irish defense that was smacked around last season will be comprised of juniors and seniors with bigtime game experience.

Bradford or Clausen? An Inside Look at the Draft’s Top 2 QBs

As the NFL Combine continues through this weekend, much of the buzz the last few days has centered around the debate of which quarterback will be the first to go in April’s draft.  College FootBlog will break down the top two candidates, Notre Dame’s Jimmy Clausen and Oklahoma’s Sam Bradford by analyzing five key categories to see which one is most likely to hear his name selected first by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

1.  Size

Bradford is hoping that his added body weight will help ease NFL scouts' concerns of his durability (google images)

At 6’4″, Bradford is an inch taller than Clausen, but the biggest difference is weight.  Bradford tipped the scales at 238 lbs last week, which should make NFL scouts feel much more comfortable about his durability (which came into question last season after separating his shoulder).  While Clausen showed durability at Notre Dame, he is about twenty pounds lighter than Bradford.  EDGE:  Bradford

2.  Accuracy

Clausen has proven he can make every single throw, but Bradford may be the most accurate quarterback to enter the draft since Drew Brees.  Not only did Bradford consistently deliver accurate passes that hit his receivers in stride, he did it consistently with a multiple receivers like Ryan Broyles, Jermaine Gresham, Juaquin Iglesias, etc.  While Clausen is very accurate as well, the vast majority of his passes were to his go-to receiver, Golden Tate EDGE:  Bradford

3.  Offensive System

While OU head coach Bob Stoops brought Bradford more under center and had more of a pro-style offense his sophomore season, there is no question that Clausen has the edge here.  Although Charlie Weis did not perform as a head coach, Notre Dame’s offense is as close to an NFL offense as any college program in the country.  Clausen, and more importantly, his future NFL team will benefit greatly from Weis’ tuteledge.  EDGE:  Clausen

4.  Competition

Oklahoma not only competes in one of the major BCS conferences, but they also play at least one competitive non-conference game a year.  Bradford also faced much better defenses in his bowl games, as he led the Sooners to back to back BCS games.  Even though the Big 12 is known more for its explosive offenses, Bradford did have to go against Will Muschamp in the Red River Rivalry three times in his career.

Notre Dame on the other hand, had a schedule that was absolutely laughable during Clausen’s career.  The Irish didn’t exactly load up with competition last year, scheduling Nevada, Washington, Washington State and UConn.  EDGE:  Bradford

5.  Intangibles

Bradford ran a no huddle offense that was one of the most explosive attacks in college football history.  Although his back up, Landry Jones, did an admirable job replacing him last season, Bradford was clearly what made OU’s offense click on all cylinders.  He had a solid grasp of the scheme, and he showed the ability to read defenses. 

Clausen not only had a strong grasp of Weis’ offense, in nearly every game last season, he showed a lot of poise and moxy.  He was at his best when the game was on the line and always seemed to make big plays when it counted the most.  EDGE:  Clausen

Final Analysis:  An argument can be made for either Bradford or Clausen to the be first QB taken in the upcoming draft, and both have put up big numbers in their college careers.  However, Bradford had two exceptional seasons at Oklahoma, while Clausen really only shined in his third year at Notre Dame against a weak schedule.  Despite Bradford’s injury last season, he has the more impressive and more complete body of work that Clausen. 

Let us know your thoughts!  College FootBlog wants to know who you think should go first in the NFL Draft?