1 – And then there were…10: Barring a calamitous final three weekends, 10 teams have a legitimate shot at the second annual college football playoffs, with nine needing *no or +minimal aid to that end: *Clemson, *Alabama, *Ohio State, +Notre Dame, +Oklahoma State, *Iowa, +Oklahoma, *Florida, *Michigan State, and emerging dark horse North Carolina. Should said calamity strike, undefeated Houston and two-loss Michigan lie in wait.
2 – Romeo, Romeo, Where Were Thou?: Notre Dame’s 20-year-old scrimmage wrecker Romeo Okwara has emerged ahead of schedule, blossoming before his 21st birthday and is thus well-positioned for a standout fifth-year campai…wait, what? He’s 20 and about to graduate? But he turns 21 NEXT Summer? He can’t be out of eligibility!
Unfortunately for Irish fans, the late-blooming Okwara will play his last game in a Notre Dame uniform this winter, the result of (mostly) necessary but inconsequential playing time as a 17-year-old backup dog linebacker in September 2012. Starter Danny Spond was believed lost for his career due to a debilitating migraine condition, and Okwara was thus prepared for action as a varsity contributor.
Spond returned and played well as Okwara continued to see spot duty, and a season of eligibility was burned, with Okwara eventually manning the better-suited third-string role at Cat linebacker behind Prince Shembo and Ishaq Williams.
Three years later, Okwara is dominating the line of scrimmage, racking up a ludicrous 12.5 Stuffs including seven sacks in the last four games. He deserves a beer next June for his efforts when he’s legally able to consume.
3 – Getting Stuffed: The best rushing attack at Notre Dame since Lou Holtz left the sidelines has been tackled for loss or a gain of two yards or less on approximately 34 percent of its competitive game carries. It is, at present, a weakness being overcome by the Irish offense. Should Brian Kelly’s squad qualify for the playoffs, it will become the season’s fatal flaw. Period.
4 – Getting Worked: I’m not sure what the Urban Dictionary definition of the phrase shows, but I bet Notre Dame’s cornerbacks are pictured, running close to a nondescript wide receiver while ultimately losing the battle of the ball in the air.
5 – Apropos of Nothing: Welcome Back, aka, the Welcome Back Kotter theme song is difficult to get out of your head…
6 – Back to Romeo: His recent ascent is reminiscent of 1992 pass rusher Devon McDonald, another senior DE that greatly improved his performance over the final two months of his Irish career. Now if only Okwara could register 10 tackles including four for loss in the Cotton Bowl (a semi-final site on Dec. 31) as McDonald did 23 seasons ago, we’d be onto something…
7 – Writing the Script: I don’t want to ruin Tuesday’s A Season With Notre Dame Football episode for anyone, but I can doubtless let you in on one of the scenes: A wistful Joe Schmidt taking in the scene around him as he jogs purposefully toward his teammates prior to the Alma Mater.
On a serious (and potentially playoff-relevant note), Schmidt played his best game Saturday since dominating Georgia Tech on Sept. 19. I had the Irish senior captain with two QB pressures, one Stuff, and two “wins” on third down to accompany his season-best 10 tackles. Schmidt likewise had 10 tackles in the aforementioned win over Tech highlighted by 3.5 Stuffs, 2.5 Pressures, and 2 third down Wins.
8 – Emerging: Torii Hunter, Jr., the Compliment, Matthias Farley the Special Teams Demon, and Jaylon Smith the Super Human Force of Nature
9 – Must Emerge and/or Re-emerge: Greer Martini, Matthias Farley (Nickel – it’s coming back out of necessity), C.J. Sanders, C.J. Prosise, Steve Elmer, Aliz’e Jones, KeiVarae Russell and one more (positive) season-defining play…
10 – David Gordon: For the unfortunate record, he/that was 22 years ago to the DAY, this Saturday…For those of you that don’t understand the reference, give him a Google search. For those that do, I apologize, but Nov. 21, 1993 is indeed the date which continues to live in Irish Football Infamy.
On to Game #11, Nov. 21, 2015 against Boston College and a renewed study in the human inferiority complex …