Early-summer hypeSports Illustrated (CNNSI.com) released its post-spring rankings on Monday with three 2011 Irish opponents populating the list: #5 Stanford, #14 Michigan State, and #24 Maryland. (Notre Dame came in at #21.)
Athlonsports.com is nearing the conclusion of its daily rankings release with Stanford (#13), USC (#20), and Michigan State (#21) on a list that has reached #7 in the countdown. Notre Dame has not yet appeared on the magazine's online rankings, though a late-April article on the magazine's website suggested the Irish were a Top 10 caliber team entering 2011.
Early-season litmus?One of my forthcoming 30 summer predictions involves the Air Force Falcons, so I'll save any detailed, glowing previews for its June publication – suffice it to say: with 14 starters returning for national coach of the year finalist Troy Calhoun, including triple-option triggerman Tim Jefferson, the Falcons could give reloading TCU all it can handle when the Horned Frogs visit Colorado Springs in Week Two. Irish fans looking to catch a glimpse of the most undervalued squad heading to South Bend this fall (9-4 last year with a bowl victory over Georgia Tech) will receive an early indication of the Falcons 2011 fortunes that Saturday afternoon.
Talent on tapA pair of opposing signal callers rank 1-2 respectively among Mel Kiper's NFL draft prospects. The long-time ESPN draft guru rates Stanford's Andrew Luck as the nation's top collegiate prospect overall, with USC's Matt Barkley the No. 2 quarterback and No. 5 overall prospect on his pre-season "Big Board."
Barkley, however, isn't Kiper's top overall prospect on his own college team – that honor belongs to redshirt-junior offensive tackle Matt Kalil (#3 overall), who like Barkley, has two seasons of collegiate eligibility remaining.
Other 2011 Irish opponents appearing on Kiper's Top 25 list include Stanford offensive tackle and redshirt-junior Jonathan Martin (#6); Michigan State defensive tackle Jerel Worthy – also a redshirt-junior – at #8; and true junior linebacker and reigning NCAA tackles leader Luke Kuechly (#16), whose BC Eagles visit South Bend on senior day.
Notre Dame's Manti Te'o ranks #20 overall as a true junior on Kiper's initial Big Board. Kiper noted that eight of his original top 10 from summer 2010 became first-round draft picks in April 2011.
All-too-familiar arrestIn 2009, sophomore kick return Daryl Stonum returned a first half kick-off 94 yards for a score in Michigan's 38-34 victory over Notre Dame. Last fall, Stonum caught four passes for 34 yards including two on the Wolverine's game-winning drive in a matchup with the Irish.
Stonum's status for the September 10 matchup this season at the Big House is in jeopardy thanks to a second arrest for suspicion of drunken driving. First-year head coach Brady Hoke indefinitely suspended Stonum from the squad "for behavior that is unbecoming of a Michigan football player."
Stonum was charged with operating a vehicle while intoxicated (and driving with a suspended license) as a freshman in 2008, and, according to the Washington Post, the senior receiver has an evidentiary hearing scheduled for June 3 on misdemeanor charges that he operated a vehicle while intoxicated and drove with a suspended license on May 6, 2011.
Irish vs. the HallSeven members of College Football's 16-man 2011 Hall of Fame class faced Notre Dame during their college football tenures:
- Russell Maryland: Part of two national championships during his time at Miami while posting a 2-2 mark in four matchups with the Irish. Maryland and the Hurricanes defeated Notre Dame twice in home games at the Orange Bowl en route to the 1987 and 1989 national championship. The Irish beat Maryland's Miami squads in a pair of South Bend battles – winning the epic 31-30 decision in 1988 and a 29-20 win over the #2 'Canes in 1990 – Maryland's All-America season for the then-hated ‘Canes. The Irish won the national title in '88 and played for a share of the crown after the 1990 season.
- Eddie George: Finished 1-0 vs. the Irish and stole the show in a 207-yard, two-TD effort during a 45-26 win over Notre Dame in Columbus, 1995.
- Marty Lyons: The defensive tackle lost his only matchup with the Irish as a member of the Crimson Tide, a 21-18 defeat in South Bend as #18 Notre Dame defeated #10 Alabama in 1976, Dan Devine's first season as the Irish coach. The game marked the third of 'Bama legend Bear Bryant's four losses (0-4) to Notre Dame.
- Gene Washington: Finished a uniform 1-1-1 in three matchups vs. the Irish from 1964-66.
- Clendon Thomas: Helped defeat the Irish 40-0 in 1956 en route to the national championship, then dropped a 7-0 decision the following season as Notre Dame ended Oklahoma's record 47-game winning streak. The loss to the Irish was the only defeat of Thomas' collegiate career.
- Lloyd Carr: Concluded his overall Michigan coaching career (1980-2006) with an 11-10-1 overall mark vs. Notre Dame including a 5-4 mark as the Wolverines head coach (games played 1997-2007). Carr won his final two meetings with former Irish head coach Charlie Weis to conclude his Michigan career with a winning record vs. the Irish. Only Tyrone Willingham (2-1) owned a winning mark vs. Carr among three Irish coaches the Hall of Famer faced (2-1 vs. Bob Davie and 2-1 vs. Weis) as Michigan's head man.
- Fisher DeBerry: Finished 3-11 vs. the Irish as head coach of the Air Force Falcons from 1984-2006. DeBerry defeated Notre Dame in back-to-back seasons (1984-85) and again in a 1996 overtime upset of the #8 Irish in South Bend – the loss serving as Lou Holtz's sole defeat at the hands of as service academy during 11 seasons as head coach.