USC Review: Welcome to the Playoffs

Easy, it was not. Notre Dame walked into the L.A. Coliseum on Saturday night with a playoff berth on the line and found itself quickly struggling against a precision short-passing game from JT Daniels and a revived USC defense with an aggressive blitz-heavy attack. It took a while, but the Irish righted the ship, crawled back into the game, and used a gritty 3rd quarter to gain momentum on the way to a 12-0 perfect regular season.

Let’s recap the rarest of things, a win in Los Angeles!

Stats Package

STAT IRISH USC
Score 24 17
Yards 473 443
Passing 352 349
Rushing 121 94
1st Downs 23 24
3rd/4th Conversions 7/17 8/16
Yards Per Play 6.75 5.90
Turnovers 1 2

PASSING OFFENSE

At times, this felt like Ian Book’s worst performance of the year. And yet, he ends up with 352 passing yards. Even when the offense is inconsistent they continue to find ways to make plays.

It was a sluggish start for sure as USC kept the ball away from the Irish as a few minutes into the 2nd quarter Book only had 19 passing yards on a pair of completions. The Trojans pressure definitely bothered Book and the Irish early on although as time wore on the offense was able to counteract the pressure and do some positive things with misdirection and moving the pocket.

Book wasn’t that accurate on several throws and that hurt the offense early on. He missed a trio of sideline jump balls and missed Finke on a wide-open sluggo that would’ve been a huge touchdown play. His interception on a drive that was in USC’s red zone was maybe his worst decision of the season.

With this said, the passing game was just explosive enough to get a victory. Book connected on 15 passes that gained at least 10 yards with long completions of 51 (TD), 38 (Hail Mary 1st half), 28, 24, 23, and 22 yards. In a low-scoring game these are crucial completions.

A special shout out to Chris Finke whose early play (7 for 86 yards, 1 TD all in the 1st half I believe) kept the offense afloat. The Irish also killed USC with passes to the running backs–Dexter and Jones combined for 6 receptions for 105 yards.

RUSHING OFFENSE

Another week of poor running success bolstered by 3 absolutely and insanely timely big plays in big moments. Those carries were Dexter Williams’ 52-yard touchdown run, Ian Book’s 11-yard run on 3rd down 2 plays prior to a touchdown pass, and Book’s 16-yard run 3 plays prior to another touchdown pass.

Irish Running Success

Williams – 7 of 16 (43.7%)
Book – 2 of 5 (40.0%)
Jones – 1 of 3 (33.3%)
Armstrong – 0 of 1 (0.0%)
Finke – 0 of 1 (0.0%)
TOTAL – 10 of 26 (38.4%)

There’s much work to be done over the long December break. Obviously, only 10 successful runs are not going to cut it in the playoffs unless 8 of those are for 40+ yards.

Something to work on may be getting Book more involved and dangerous with his feet. It’ll be a tough task against any playoff opponent but his 2 massive runs were scrambles on Saturday night and he hasn’t been very dangerous at all when keeping the ball on reads lately.

Note: The Finke “carry” was officially a sack since the Irish were setting up a wide receiver pass. We usually don’t count sacks but this was unique enough to include as Finke ran around like crazy anyway and didn’t actually attempt to throw the ball after a brief second. 

PASSING DEFENSE

If there’s a gameplan that can work against Notre Dame it’s a precision short-passing game. For long stretches of this game it looked like USC was going to carve up the Irish through the air and do the unthinkable–continually move the ball down the field and score with tons of short throws.

In a losing effort, JT Daniels made a statement at quarterback completing 37 passes! However, something changed in the second half. The Irish appeared to adjust their defense and as a result USC decided to run the ball a little more. The Trojans had some success on the ground but not enough to keep drives alive.

The 5 drives beginning in the 3rd quarter and stretching until Daniels’ late touchdown pass, USC ran the ball 14 times and attempted 13 passes–2 of which ended on sacks. On these crucial 5 drives, Daniels went 5 of 11 for 45 yards and USC suddenly found themselves no longer in control of the game.

Outside of those 5 drives, Daniels was 32 of 40 for 304 yards with USC punting only once on 6 drives. Notre Dame ended up adjusting in time, but did not tackle well in space, lost a handful of 1-on-1 battles in the air, and were fortunate to recover 2 fumbles on drives where USC had gained 62 yards and 70 yards respectively on each possession.

RUSHING DEFENSE

Notre Dame continues to play with fire and somehow it’s working. USC didn’t run the ball very much as expected with just 22 carries to the running backs without a mobile running quarterback in support. Yet, when the Trojans did keep the ball on the ground they were really, really successful.

Notre Dame kept its base defense in the game for most of the first half–and while they were burned on many a short pass–USC was still able to run the ball for good gains seemingly every carry. Their backs finished with 112 yards on those 22 carries for 5.09 per rush.

Trojan Running Success

Ware – 9 of 13 (69.2%)
Stepp – 4 of 5 (80.0%)
Malepeai – 2 of 4 (50.0%)
TOTAL – 13 of 22 (59.0%)

If you’re Notre Dame, you take heart in the fact that teams continue to struggle breaking long runs and disrupting the bend-but-don’t-break mentality of the defense. USC’s longest run was just 14 yards and when they started running the ball more to begin the 2nd half it really didn’t lead to many scoring opportunities.

The bigger problem may be the lack of tackles for loss. Beyond the 2 sacks of Daniels, not a single Trojan ball carrier was dropped behind the line of scrimmage. USC couldn’t finish when it mattered but they were hardly ever off schedule and had opportunities to make the Irish pay.

To me, the front seven looked tired. However, USC came out with a really difficult game plan to defend and the field was in terrible shape for pass rushing and leverage in run defense.

SPECIAL TEAMS

This was a win for Notre Dame just based on the fact that special teams were largely a draw. The recovered onside kick by Miles Boykin can’t be overlooked. USC did have one nice punt return for 22 yards but were largely held in check with their athletic playmakers. Each side had a couple good and bad punts, while each kicker nailed their lone field goal attempt.

TURNING POINT

Chip Long waited and waited. He finally used motion and USC’s aggressiveness against them with a few crucial passes to the running backs in key moments. The one on 4th & 3 late in the 3rd quarter to Dexter Williams for 12 yards set up the crucial field goal to take a 7-point lead. That was a rare instance of a positive throw on 3rd or 4th down for Notre Dame.

The Irish used a very similar play to spring Tony Jones on his long touchdown catch, ultimately the game-winner. Once Notre Dame figured out a few ways to use that Trojan pressure against them the offense found much more success.

3 STARS

1) WR Chris Finke – If not for his 1st half this could’ve been a 3 score deficit in the 3rd quarter.

2) RB Dexter Williams – 151 yards from scrimmage in his last regular season game.

3) S Alohi Gilman – A constant force for good in run defense, trash talking, and crunching tackles.

FINAL NOTES

If you’re USC you were probably gobsmacked at how you looked like you were going to breeze to a 40-point night on offense after the 1st series or two and yet with just over 1 minute remaining there was just 1 touchdown and 10 overall points on the board. The Irish defense played well enough at times but still allowed 5.9 yards per play which was the 2nd worst mark on the season. This felt like a Clark Lea special but also pretty worrisome that another opponent in the playoff with an accurate quarterback will really do some damage, find longer runs, and not fumble away 2 scoring drives.

A major story for the offense was that Book couldn’t string together enough completions to off-set a pretty lackluster ground game. The Irish QB did connect on 6 straight passes to close out the first half but amazingly enough didn’t complete more than 2 in a row at any point before or after that moment on Saturday. This type of inconsistency simply can’t work when the staff puts so much on Book’s plate to be accurate and efficient.

Key moments on third down were also a problem for Notre Dame’s offense, too. The Trojans kept them off schedule stifling the run game and Book finished 6 of 12 for 64 yards with only 4 conversions through the air plus a really, really poor interception into the end zone and another sack allowed on a 13th snap.

Notre Dame’s 2nd drive of the game and first to open the 2nd half each were 3 & out punt possessions. In the other 9 non-kneel down drives, the Irish moved the ball at least into USC territory. The offense’s inability to grind out a few more yards in key moments and set up 3 more field goals at minimum were the difference in this game being so close in the 2nd half. Notre Dame was inside the USC 39-yard line 5 different times and came away with zero points on those drives.

A 12-0 regular season what an incredible run! This season has been an amazing ride because so many players on the roster have either met expectations or have developed well beyond previously conceived abilities. The amount of players who really struggled to perform is also shockingly low. The same can be said for the coaching staff.

This does feel different than 2012 in that the previous undefeated regular season team felt a bit charmed. In hindsight, that charmed season was a little less rosy and more difficult than we cared to admit. This 2018 team does appear more even-keeled and confident in a way that may not always come across tremendously in Fighting Irish Media videos. I do think it’s important to witness how much jubilation there was after 2012 (I mean I loved it too) and how much more business-like the 2018 team was after the same circumstances. True, the program seems to be in such a different place 6 years later. This may bode much better for a playoff game in which Notre Dame will likely be a double-digit underdog.

At any rate, this should be a very enjoyable Holiday season for everyone around Notre Dame football. The Irish settled around 9.5 to 10-point underdogs prior to the run up against Alabama in 2012 and will be perceived as much larger underdogs by the entire country leading up to December 29th in either Arlington or Miami. I like that edge which can come with having tons of doubters which didn’t exist as much as maybe it should have back in 2012.

By |2018-11-25T12:02:22+00:00November 25th, 2018|Football|71 Comments

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Andy RobertsgbskClay Cossé fka MouthCoyote1985Publius2010 Recent comment authors
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nd09hls12
nd09hls12

Here is a (probably non-exhaustive; I’m doing this off the top of my head) list of seemingly bad or at least seemingly-questionable-at-the-time off-the-field things that happened to get us to this point since 4-8 two short years ago:

2017:
(1) Rumors that Kelly wants out immediately following the end-of-season game;
(2) A bunch of decommitments in the wake of a terrible season, including at least a couple of guys who have looked good when I’ve seen them so far (Adebo; Pete Warner making plays yesterday);
(3) Hiring a young offensive coordinator with one(?) year of OC experience;
(4) Hiring a 26-year-old Tommy Rees as quarterbacks coach;
(5) Kizer goes pro (he could have still been the starter this season!); and
(6) Our best true-freshman WR since Floyd suspended for four games for weed.

2018:
(1) A bunch of guys kicked off the team, including the aforementioned best freshman WR since Floyd, who had looked pretty good again once he got back in 2017. Also included: an RB who had flashed the previous year and one of our only two four-star RBs;
(2) Our best position coach leaves and is replaced by a guy that seemingly nobody other than BK wanted;
(3) Lose two top-10 NFL picks;
(4) Lose your best offensive player five games into the season; and
(5) Changing quarterbacks three games in to the season because the 1.25-year starter is wildly inaccurate.

And, despite all that (and whatever else I’m forgetting), three losses over the period, coming off an 8-loss season. And 12-0! That’s nuts! Unbelievable job all around, starting at the top.

kiwifan
kiwifan

That’s a pretty interesting summary ND09, thanks. 22 wins in 25 games in that period too.

Here are some random thoughts on last night’s game:

1. The weakness of this team, just as it was in 2012, is the Oline. They were manhandled most of the game by a makeshift USC defensive front. Run blocking is especially erratic ( weak). Book was under a lot of pressure often in the game as well. This line will not serve us well in the playoffs. I’m doubtful we get past either the Clemson or Bama defense, both of which are truly elite, with this line.

2. Book’s two scrambles for first downs were gritty and absolutely essential for the win. Without them not sure if we’d have won.

3. Book MUST get more accurate on deep throws to wide open receivers. The missed connection to Finke in the second half should have been a killer TD. It is possible that Book thought Finke was going to cut out, the throw was so far off, but I’m not sure. Kelly was yelling at one of them as they came off the field but the shot didn’t show who his target was.

4. On the interception in the end zone, one of the receivers must have run the wrong route. Boykin and Mack somehow ended up in the same spot at the front of the end zone, thus 3 defenders there as well. Bad decision to throw, but Mack should have been able to prevent the INT but didn’t do the job. Watch it and see what you think.

5. The decisions to continue to try running inside and to pick on #8 defender for so long didn’t make sense to me.

6. Many people on the various boards and in the media expected a blowout by us. Having watched the USC-ND series since the early 50’s I never expect us to blow them out, even when we are really good and they are bad. I was a student when Ara’s first team lost vs USC in the last game of what would have been a championship season and a huge turnaround with the same players Kuharich and Devore wasted in my first two years in school. Even with their thrown-together team, USC fought their asses off and our guys had to dig really deep to pull out the win. And they did!

7. 12-0. USC and FSU no bowl game, Michigan gets trashed in their big moment. Savor them all, especially that first one!!!

More Noise
More Noise

Hey Kiwifan,
I had no idea you were a contemporary, awesome! I was a frosh in ’64, but having been raised in South Bend and gone to high school across the lake at the long-since departed Holy Cross Seminary, I had lived through the Terry Brennan and Joe Kuharich era. Yes, Hughie Devore too, but as an interim coach in ’63 at least Devore had his players imbued with fighting spirit, if absolutely zero x’s and o’s — and remember that dreadful quarterback in ’63?… but I digress! The point being, all of that and the fabulousness of Ara’s first year led to the sheer awfulness of that last part of the 4th quarter in ’64. Which made me like some of us extremely cautious about the game Saturday night. My buddy Lou Somogyi at B&G is better than anybody in sensing the sort of macro dynamics of seasons (though I have to say our Monsieur Murtaugh is pretty damn good) and he was also tapping the breaks. Which makes the perception of Saturday’s game interesting — we the ND fans are aware of how the particular historical aspect of the ND-SC rivalry can make the Coliseum a very tough venue, but outsiders will be using the closeness of the score to reinforce the story line that we are trash and will get blown out by four TDs by Bama or Clemson, or anybody. There I agree with Eric, that will help us avoid the koolaid of ’12, and if this team is as high-character as they seem, will motivate them in their so far habitual good solid fashion to rise to the (magnificent!!!) occasion(s).
Go Irish!

kiwifan
kiwifan

Hi Noise,
Love reading about your exploits going back and forth between Paris and the games. I’m assuming you’ve got your own plane or it would be too brutal😊

Budka was the guy in ‘63, but at least I got to see Lamonica (mad bomber) play in ‘62. Then Ara discovered Huarte and Snow and ND football was back on track, just in time for your matriculation.

I heartily endorse your comments re Eric, Somogyi and the scariness of the coliseum regardless of records. I was holding my breath all game, and before was wondering why people were so dismissive of USC. All ended well though.

Nice meeting you through the board, I love the tone of all your comments. You’re a good soul, man.

More Noise
More Noise

Budka — OMG yes. Frank, right? Heart of a lion, never stopped trying, and we did beat USC that year for one of our two wins, but … he just could not throw the f-ball longer than 12 yards…
Otherwise, great meeting you virtually as well. Thanks for the nice words, means a lot actually.
No on my own plane, but Air France still has great champagne even for coach and most of those often quite lovely flight attendants seem to think my accent is “cute” (better than the contrary I guess)…

kiwifan
kiwifan

“Lovely flight attendant “. ……. an oxymoron on American Airlines!!

Hope we get to meet one day, ya never know 😉

More Noise
More Noise

Just saw this — it’d be great to meet up. The only guy on the board I ever actually met was First Down Moses, from the old site. Been hoping to catch up with KG, he needs my optimism to complement his natural pessimistic outlook, and besides he’s an Army guy… where are you located yourself?
Anyway, seems to me 18 Stripes should all meet up in… an end zone with 18 stripes someday (we know where two of them are!)

eyerish9299
eyerish9299

On the interception…. Isn’t Book scrambling? If so, most WRs will improvise and try to get open. That’s my guess as to why Mack and Boykin ended up in the same area.

nd09hls12
nd09hls12

Realized I forgot two from the most recent year:

(6) our more productive running back since the 90s goes pro early; and
(7) we do not get a five-star brother of an ND player to commit, who would at least be splitting time in the slot as a true freshman.

And, despite all of that, 22-3/12-0. A heck of a job.

nd09hls12
nd09hls12

Welp, forgot another one: (8) two 5th-year returning starters decide to leave and play elsewhere.

12-0 is getting more and more impressive the more I think about it.

MikeyB
MikeyB

Book dropping the shoulder was incredible. 0% chance he gets that first down if he doesn’t.

The back to back plays where Long called the fake toss rollout (20 yard completion to Mack) followed by the 50 yard run by Dex was pure bliss. Sitting in the middle of a bunch of usc fans, it got eerily quiet so quickly.

The TD pass to Jones was really a fantastic read by Book. He missed 2 or 3 presnap reads in this game where USC either had 5 guys in the box or 9 guys in the box and he didn’t adjust the call. But on this play, USC showed blitz a second too early, and Book knew exactly where to go with it. The moment he flipped it out to Jones, you could just see an easy 30 yard gain open up…and then Michael Young made sure that 30 yard gain turned into a 50 yard touchdown with a Claypool-esque destruction block. One of the most beautiful plays of the season.

kiwifan
kiwifan

Was that Young or Boykin that got the block? Wish I’d been there too just to hear the hush of the USC gaggle.

Cubfansince1957
Cubfansince1957

It was Boykin.

MikeyB
MikeyB

Ah correct. I was high enough up where 81 and 87 kind of looked the same.

KG
KG

Watching the game from Colorado must be quite the trippy experience.

Cubfansince1957
Cubfansince1957

“Notre Dame was inside the USC 39-yard line 5 different times and came away with zero points on those drives.”

Notre Dame had four scoring plays, the Finke TD, the Williams TD, the Jones TD and Yoon’s FG. ALL of them were from distance, with none of them being closer than 24 yards (the Finke TD). It’s weird that all of our scoring was on what were essentially explosive plays, and we had none of the methodical scoring drives we’re used to seeing.

dpet
dpet

Going in, on paper it looked like it should be an easy win for us, but my gut told me it would be difficult. Unfortunately my gut was right! Great season and I can’t wait for a shot in the playoffs!

More Noise
More Noise

dpet, see my recent posts – yeah, your gut was right on. Which makes the win even more satisfying in a way. One would like our biggest rival to show respect, n’est-ce pas?

dpet
dpet

In other news, our old friend Mike Sanford was just fired at Western Kentucky. I thought he might be the next wunderkind young coach, I guess not. He’ll probably be OC at a big job next year.

KG
KG

He’s still young, so he still might be–people forget that Belichek was fired from the Cleveland job. Of course, that just shows that no one could win in Cleveland, even with Saban also on the staff.

juicebox
juicebox

Belichick won a playoff game in Cleveland! I still consider this the most impressive feat of his career.

That staff accumulated 657 HC wins (mostly in college)
Belichick: 252
Saban:245 (230 college, 15 pro)
Ferentz: 162

KG
KG

And it took the greatest collection of coaching talent this generation has seen (plus Ferentz) to do it!

gbsk
gbsk

I never understood the infatuation with Sanford. Kizer went downhill his second year starting. What did he do at ND?

Scarponi
Scarponi

1) Reveling in 12-0!

2) Looking forward, I think whoever we match up against in the playoffs will give us a whole lot of trouble, but my rooting interests for next week are basically: whatever avoids Bama in the semi-finals.

To that end, I think a Georgia win would be huge for us. Because, either Bama drops out of the top 4 (goal reached). Or, if they stay in the top 4, I’m not sure what the specific ranking order would be, but I have to imagine Georgia is ranked ahead of Bama, and Clemson (presuming they win) would remain ahead of us. If that specific hierarchy happens (GA > ALA and Clem > ND), it is impossible for ND and Bama to pair in the semi-finals.

MikeyB
MikeyB

How dare you underestimate that dangerous Pitt team! Clemson on upset alert!

KG
KG

Losing to Miami was the perfect way for the Pitt Superweapon to fully charge.

nd09hls12
nd09hls12

If Alabama wins, it will be impossible for ND to play Bama in the semifinals, regardless of what else happens. Clemson is not going to pass a 13-0 Bama by beating Pitt, no matter how big of a win and how close of a Bama win. The only reason to cheer for Bama is in hopes that they might get kicked out of the playoff entirely in the event of a loss, which only seems possible but not probable.

Scarponi
Scarponi

I’m not worried about Clemson passing Bama, I’m more worried about someone else passing us.

nd09hls12
nd09hls12

Not happening. We’re a lock for the 1-3 seeds. And, realistically, we’re probably a lock for the 2-3 seeds – i.e., if Georgia beats Bama and Clemson loses, it will probably be UGA as #1.

hooks orpik
hooks orpik

Herbstreit was already hinting at ND dropping to #4 and setting the bait for it already…I doubt it will happen though. Committee has shown no willingness to have a 1-loss team jump Notre Dame yet, even though they may have been tempted (against all common sense) if Michigan would have throttled tOSU. Luckily of course typical Harbaugh results happened.

KG
KG

It’s ESPN “we gotta have something for our talking heads to scream at each other about” BS. Stirring the pot because hating on ND draws eyeballs. There’s no way the committee drops us this week. Next week, if Ohio State wins by 50 or UGA wins, then there’s the slightest chance, but I still doubt it.

alstein

FWIW on ESPN’s Championship Drive show, they didn’t even entertain the possibility that we would get passed by anyone for the 3 seed. I don’t think anyone is really talking about this anymore.

I also thought Herbie, while he did bring it up after the broadcast, seemed to be dismissive of it happening too, and he’s been among the most vocal about it in previous weeks.

KG
KG

That’s fair, but they definitely play both sides. I’m sure Desmond will have some explanation for how Michigan’s two losses are better than ND’s zero losses and therefore Michigan should be above ND.

Scarponi
Scarponi

Also in the ridiculously idiotic category: FiveThirtyEight’s playoff predictor model says that if everything goes chalk next weekend then ND has only a 61% chance of *making* the playoff.

farquad2012
farquad2012

All models are wrong but some are useful. Some are wrong and useless.

Andy Roberts

Their model is completely screwed up because of conference championships. It seems that they treat ND as a conference team that didn’t win a title as opposed to the sui generis entity that it is.

You’d think they’d have tweaked the conference title thing after the last two seasons, in any case.

Scarponi
Scarponi

“Committee has shown no willingness to have a 1-loss team jump Notre Dame yet”

Except they already did this once this season (LSU). I don’t think anyone SHOULD jump ND, I don’t think there’s a reasonable argument for ND being passed up, but I also don’t see the committee being tied to reasonable arguments, or prevented from finding ways to talk themselves into things that no one else would consider.

If Oklahoma pounds Texas, then the argument could be: both ND and Okla have 12 wins, Okla has “erased” their loss and shown it more as a fluke than anything, Okla has the Heisman candidate, would be favored over ND (according to S&P) and has a conference championship… is that enough to get the committee to slide Okla past ND?

If Ohio St. throttles Northwestern, I’m not that sure that the committee doesn’t see OSU as in the same “tier” as ND. If that happens, and OSU has the conference championship and was clearly better against our 2 common opponents… is that enough to get the committee to slide OSU past ND?

alstein

Lol Ohio State lost to Purdue by 1000, and Oklahoma has given up 47 ppg in the month of November. It’d be a pretty big stretch to make any sort of qualitative assessment that either of those teams should be above ND, and the committee would be insane to invite that kinda scrutiny. I think people are thinking way too hard here.

KG
KG

Also, kind of my point above, the media is much more “shiny object” because they’ve got to create interest and discussion. The committee isn’t immune (see TCU getting left out for an all of a sudden great tOSU the first year) but I think if they left ND out it’d be essentially a statement that ND could never ever make it in, similar to their stance to a Group of 5 team. Except ND is and has always been treated like a Power 5, so it’d require quite the shift (and they wouldn’t leave all the ND eyeball money on the table).

hooks orpik
hooks orpik

Right. Notre Dame has an NCAA-high 12 wins over FBS teams right now. 10 wins over P5 programs. And what, 4 ranked wins?

They don’t have the pure star power of an SEC championship resume, but other than that the case is already made, the perception is just off by the recency effect of the last game being a championship game.

An undefeated Irish team can’t be denied, the schedule is competitive enough to be in the mix. However, if ND was 11-1, they’re not likely to get benefit of the doubt over 12-1 BIG10, BIG12 type champs, that’s where the real problem lies….So hopefully they’ll just do the inevitable and expand the playoff to 8 teams quicker.

Scarponi
Scarponi

Sorry, to be clear I’m not worried about ND dropping out – that ain’t happening. But could they get passed by one team putting them at 4 (which would likely result in playing Bama in the semifinals).

nd09hls12
nd09hls12

There is no team behind ND that can jump ND other than Georgia. If Georgia jumps ND, Alabama will fall behind them. We’re locked in to 1-3.

Clay Cossé fka Mouth
Clay Cossé fka Mouth

Also we have what 10 P5 wins. Most teams, like Bama, only play 9 P5 teams.

Scarponi
Scarponi

Actually, while its true that if Georgia wins this next week they will only have 9 P5 wins, but if Bama and/or Okla win they will have 10, and if tOSU wins they will have 11 P5 wins.

This is my point, ND shouldn’t get passed, and I’m not even saying they will get passed, but if someone on the committee wants to make the argument, there are ways to look at it to do so (such as tOSU with more P5 wins).

hooks orpik
hooks orpik

“The only reason to cheer for Bama is in hopes that they might get kicked out of the playoff entirely in the event of a loss, which only seems possible but not probable.”

Ehh, I don’t know. Bama is the first team since like 1888 to win their first 12 games by 20+ points. If the committee is looking for the 4 “best” teams, could easily see them shoehorning Alabama in with a close, competitive (perhaps fluky ending) loss to Georgia.

And, after all, a hypothetical 1-loss Bama vs. a 1-loss tOSU vs. a 1-loss Oklahoma….Bama would have the “best” loss, and piled up a season worth of domination before the conference championship. IMO I think their ticket is practically already punched based on what they have already shown.

nd09hls12
nd09hls12

I agree. I was more responding to his argument that we should be rooting to ensure no semi-final matchup with Bama, which I mostly agree with. The only way we get Bama in the semis is if they lose AND Clemson loses AND the Committee puts us ahead of Georgia, and we’re playing them in the 1-4 game as the 1-seed. Notwithstanding that the odds that all that happening jointly are quite low, they’re still greater than the odds that we get placed in the 4-seed, IMO.

hooks orpik
hooks orpik

If Clemson loses I could see it going #1 UGA, #2 ND, #3 Bama. Probably unlikely to happen for many reasons, but still a reasonable enough chance.

I do agree overall ND does seem well-positioned to not play Bama first round. But that means being well-positioned to play Clemson first round, which I’m not sure is that much more of a consolation.

More Noise
More Noise

Besides my thoughts in reply to Kiwifan above on the overall ambiance of the aftermath of Saturday wrt to the next month’s leadup, some other thoughts from across the ocean: 1, Had the ND Club of Paris over for a tape delay game watch and turkey yesterday (also on delay since the French don’t do Thanksgiving) — and it made me in a most thankful Thanksgiving mood, so let me start off by expressing my very deepest thanks to Eric and “Da Staff” for devoting so much time and energy to creating and nurturing this super site. Not to mention each and every one of you who post. This is a true joy and, vraiment, merci enormement! 2, Agree with Eric, besides the crappy field, the D-line did look tired. I also think Jerry Tillery has kind of tailed off the last few games, not in effort but productivity. I am wondering in his case if there is not a nagging injury. We know KK has been battling the ankle as well. Here is hoping the next month puts them back to their full super form. 3, I think we should not underestimate the impact of SC’s talent when motivated. I especially think that led to our poor tackling in space which Eric pointed out; my impression was SC’s talented skill players (to include their running back) brought it, and our guys were used to Syracuse if you will. Maybe I’m wrong, but in any case my hope is that this will serve as a wakeup call, because any of our potential opponents on Dec 29 have equally talented wideouts and running backs… 4, That being said, Alohi is just freaking fabulous, and that fumble he caused is a perfect example. So I think we merited both those turnovers, a good sign. 5, Yeah, the O-line needs a ton of work, and I am not sure they will get there in four weeks. Good kids, but the transition from last year was always going to be really difficult, and losing Bars hurt a ton. I fear we will be stuck on the 80% getting stuffed on running plays, and thus reliant on Chip and Ian’s synergy in creating opportunities for 20% explosive plays. I do think Dexter and our wideouts and tight ends have as much talent as our likely opponents, but without a top-tier O-line that will require Ian to be at his very best. 6, Speaking of Ian, concur, his worst game of the season — but I am wondering how he has been feeling after the ribs and other internal damage from Northwestern. Hopefully the next four weeks will allow him to get back in top form. 7, Indeed, the SC game may be a blessing in disguise, good point Eric about the celebration from 2012 as opposed to this year. Even though if Kansas State had not screwed the pooch vs Baylor we would’ve beaten them and had a Natty, getting blown out by the Death… Read more »

kiwifan
kiwifan

Hey Noise,

Good points. Re #6, I agree it was Book’s worst game, but the line didn’t give him the best help. He was rushed and scrambling all night, and sacked three times. Despite his two glaring miscues ( overthrowing Finke for a sure TD plus the interception, he made three absolutely critical plays, two of which turned the momentum of the game in the second quarter: the lowered the shoulder run for a first down and the perfect throw to Finke (who made a remarkable catch) for our first score. The other critical play was the run for first down, hurdles tackle to get 16 yards or so on another long 3rd down.

So, worst game, but still he was a game changer for us. Love watching him play. Also Alohi, a difference maker on D.

More Noise
More Noise

Agreeance. Did not mean to denigrate Ian, in that even for a not sharp game, he had a very very good game. Those two runs, incredible, and lots of good throws. The misses were there in Yankee Stadium as well, though, which is why I raised the health issue, ribs can be tricky.

HolyCrossHog
HolyCrossHog

Some light reading

https://www.chicagotribune.com/sports/college/ct-spt-notre-dame-perfect-season-appreciation-20181125-story.html

“SEC teams won’t leave their counties without a court order…”

spider-man
spider-man

That was a classy gesture by Helton, to tell BK after the game to “go win it all”

More Noise
More Noise

Can’t open it over here — fusses with EU data protection or whatever.

Coyote1985
Coyote1985

I still can’t stand that writer – in his column about the 2018 season, he still brings up Declan Sullivan incident and implies that it was Brian Kelly’s fault. I suspect that the only reason he wrote the article is that he lost a bet.

More Noise
More Noise

Is the writer that pathetic David (Haugh?) somebody, used to write for the SB Tribune? Very poor journalist IMO, carries grudges, always spins for negative, esp vs ND…

Irishchamp23
Irishchamp23

So whens the analysis of us against Clemson posting? We don’t have to wait until they beat Pitt. Do we really have a chance? I haven’t seen or followed Clemson much this year. Is their QB legitimately elite? And isn’t their DL filled with future NFL players? What do the advanced stats rankings say about their offense and defense?

Michael Bryan

Heh I can’t speak for everyone else but I am not deep diving into Clemson until this whole thing shakes out. I can promise there will be plenty of analysis into the semifinal opponent (probably them) probably starting next week.

The one easy one is yes, their DL is full of future high draft picks. Ferrell, Wilkins, Lawrence, and Bryant will all probably go in Round 1 or 2. They have the #1 defense in the land per S&P+, after Michigan dropped to 5th.

KG
KG

Lawrence is about as elite as a true freshman QB gets–but he’s still a true freshman, and can make mistakes. He’s got the physical tools to be an NFL star, and he’ll terrorize CFB until he leaves for the NFL after his junior year. Talent-wise, Clemson is in the top tier with Bama. However, they’re less consistent, and can have mental lapses. I think the projected 10-11 point spread for our game is probably reasonable. I don’t think we’ll embarrass ourselves, but I think it’d take our best game and a few mental mistakes/breaks by Clemson for us to win. So I’m saying there’s a chance…

hooks orpik
hooks orpik

Lawrence has 22 TDs and 4 INTs and a 66% completion rate so I’m not really sure how many mistakes he’s capable of making, especially versus how many plays he’s making. His season attempts (303) are similar to Book’s (288), as are his yards (2488 to 2468), so he’s not really THAT much of a freshman anymore.

Etienne is what really scares me. 1300 rushing yards, 19 TDs, 8.0 yards/carry, and I think they have a couple good backups too. The ND front is stout, but if they get pushed around a bit that would be pretty demoralizing.

I’m not too hopeful yet, but just a quick glance looks like Clemson is a very similar team to ND in terms of strengths; beast d-line, efficient QB, great running back…It’s just that Clemson has arguably better players at literally every position group (save maybe linebacker) where ND is good, they are great..I think you’re right it would be a 10-11 point spread, and that’s a fairly significant one.

nd09hls12
nd09hls12

Yeah, I don’t think people appreciate just how good Lawrence is. I think he’s probably the best true freshman QB ever. If he isn’t the #1 pick in two years, it will be a major upset.

kiwifan
kiwifan

Tua probably would have been the best freshman qb ever if Saban had played him over Hurts, which he didn’t do until the championship game second half. Lawrence is great, but Tua plays looser than any college qb I’ve ever seen and has all the tools. Better stats than Lawrence as well, although he also has the best receivers and RBs to play with.

Re us vs Clemson, our Oline is the Achilles heel. If we can’t run we won’t be able to win, IMO. Long’s play calling could have given them more help when the box was consistently stuffed by USC. Stick with the West Coast offense as our main chance and hope the D can get traction. If we do get by them, I don’t even want to think about Eichenberg facing off with #92, Williams, of Bama. Blocking him is supposed to be “like trying to wrestle with a 300 pound bar of wet soap”.

KG
KG

I mean, I led off my comment with “Lawrence is about as elite as a true freshman QB gets.”

At least in my head that’s the same thing as “best true freshman QB ever.”

nd09hls12
nd09hls12

For sure – I meant that as agreement, not as disagreement (by “people” I meant “other people”). My sense is that Lawrence is being treated as nationally as a good quarterback, not a potential all-time great as he probably should be.

KG
KG

I think you’re misreading my “there’s a chance” as optimism. It’s sarcasm. I think we lose by 2 TDs, to be honest. But…I don’t think we lose by 5 TDs, and I think, as I said, if everything breaks our way, ND plays it’s best, and Clemson doesn’t for some reason, then there is a chance. Not a good one, but a chance.

alstein

I think this is probably overstating things at least a little. We’re not that much different from them by most metrics. For example, by S&P+, they are rated 27.7 whereas we are 20.5, which means we’re only about a TD underdog on a neutral field. FEI isn’t updated yet but seems to tell a similar story.

That very obviously makes us an underdog, but it definitely doesn’t require some outrageous sequence of events just to keep it close. It’s, like, plus-one unusual TD or turnover or something like that to keep us straight-up with them. More like a 65/35 proposition.

I’m not sure if that’s incompatible with what you are saying, but I think it’s important to say that this isn’t exactly the Miracle on Ice we’re talking about here.

KG
KG

Yeah, Miracle on Ice would be Bama.

I am also a noted pessimist. But yes, essentially my “we need breaks and to play our best” is very similar to your “plus-one unusual TD or turnover,” and less like “outrageous series of events.”

I think 2015 is probably a good comparison, actually. We can hang with them. They’re probably the better team. They could get up, but we could come back and make it a game, especially if they get weirdly (not so weird in a monsoon, but you know what I mean) conservative. There’s a legit chance, but if we went the whole “10 times on a neutral field” discussion I’d put them at winning 7-8 of them.

We only need to win one, though.

More Noise
More Noise

Concur, KG, and I think it will come down to the mental toughness and core spirit of this group. No measurables but they do seem to rise to the occasion.

Irishchamp23
Irishchamp23

Yikes, so it probably won’t be as bad as 2012 but unless we play our best or they make some uncharacteristic mistakes we may be able to keep it a game for a half but we probably don’t have a solid chance.

I wonder what the line would be with OSU or Oklahoma against Clemson. Would it be much better?

Publius2010
Publius2010

Well the over/under would be a lot higher

kiwifan
kiwifan

I’d rather see Okie vs Bama, just to see how many points OU can score against Bama’s D. Whatever that number is, Tua will double it.

gbsk
gbsk

I think this team is much better (mostly the offense)than the 2012 team. However, Bama and Clemson are much better than they were in 2012 also. Back then almost every game was a squeaker and ND probably should have lost a couple of games but their grit and luck pulled through. This year, I think they were definitely better than their opponent but sometimes played down to their level. I was pretty confident the team would pull through each time this year. In 2012, it was a coin toss.