Matt Cashore /

O’Malley’s Monday Musings

Nine thoughts that must leave my mind before Notre Dame’s push for the playoffs resumes.

1 – Of the 21 touchdowns scored vs. Notre Dame this season, 14 included the touchdown-maker running unfettered. I have no idea what to make of this except that it would appear the middle of the Irish defensive back seven is out of position, slow to react, slow to help, or too slow, at inopportune moments.

2– Opposing teams are a combined 4 of 11 in their field goal attempts vs. the Irish this season. Fortuitous to be sure, and I’m certain one more timely missed/made field goal will provide the tell tale moment in Notre Dame’s playoff pursuit.

3 – Call them the November 9: At least nine teams that Notre Dame hasn’t and won’t play (Ohio State, Baylor, TCU, Alabama, LSU, Michigan State, Iowa, Florida, and Oklahoma State) will be on the minds of Irish fans monitoring scoreboards nationwide during college football’s season-long march to the playoffs.

Three squads the Irish have already or will soon encounter (Clemson, Temple and Stanford) are likewise in the running. Add to the mix Memphis, Houston (the two will square off in Houston in mid-November) and with an unblemished finish, Oklahoma, and there are 15 legitimate and/or hope-filled contenders for four playoff spots.

Because of conference championship games, none of the above has an easy road, though Iowa’s is enviable by comparison.

As is the case with most contending teams each November – undefeated and one-loss alike -- finishing the final month-plus without a dispiriting defeat is far more of a challenge than having the remaining, necessary pieces fall into place.

4 – College football’s unintended season-long, double-elimination playoff model remains the most intriguing in sports. But it would appear previously undefeated Florida State and Utah suffered the type of defeats (ill-timed and ignominious, respectively) that eliminated both from actual playoff contention over the weekend.

Of the three handfuls of programs noted in Musing #3 above, you can book at least 12 combined losses among them – six are guaranteed due to matchups and it’s my opinion (not to mention history’s) that at leas six more dominoes will doubtless fall along the way. Feel free to begin your checklist Saturday night in Philadelphia, though I don’t think that will be the only so-called “elimination game” of the weekend.

5 – Each of Notre Dame’s five interceptions this season has occurred over the last four contests including two to secure victory against USC. (The Irish have yet to pick off a pass in the first half this Fall.)

Can Todd Lyght’s secondary exceed its pre-bye total of five picks over the final five contests? 

6 – The Irish are six rushing scores shy of the Brian Kelly-era record 25 set during the 2011 season (kudos to the ‘11 backfield tandem of Jonas Gray and Cierre Wood).

Additionally, with 19 on the ground through seven games to date, Notre Dame’s rushing attack is just four short of the combined total of Kelly’s 2010 and 2013 seasons (a paltry 23).

(It’s a lot easier when you can run the football. #Analysis)

Will the 2015 Irish hit 30 rushing scores by season’s end? It hasn’t happened since the final season of the Lou Holtz era (surprise!) 1996 when Autry Denson, Randy Kinder, and Marc Edwards rumbled for 24 of the team’s 34 in just 11 games.

7 – Through seven contests, Notre Dame’s 2015 slot receivers (Torii Hunter, Jr., and Amir Carlisle) have combined for 27 receptions, 307 yards, and 1 TD with a long gain of 28 yards, while likewise carrying the ball 8 times 25 yards and a long gain of just 9. Combined first downs produced: 20.

-- Conversely, through the 13-game slate of 2014, slot receivers C.J. Prosise and Amir Carlisle posted 52 receptions for 825 yards with 5 receiving TD plus 17 carries for 172 yards with a (50-yard) score.

I’ll ask head coach Brian Kelly if he needs more from his slot duo going forward or if the rest of the offense sufficiently carries the day in their stead.

8 – On the rise for November (beginning on the final day of October, of course):

Cole Luke, Josh Adams, Aliz’e Jones, Chris Brown (continued), C.J. Sanders (a KR TD is afoot), and relative to their play to date: Ronnie Stanley (NFL push) Jaylon Smith, KeiVarae Russell, and Joe Schmidt.

9 – Sophomore season Rick Mirer (1990), junior season Jarious Jackson (1998), and redshirt-freshman DeShone Kizer. Discuss…

On to Game #8 and a Halloween date with the undefeated Temple Owls. Top Stories