1 – Sneak Peak: In an attempt to project the collective train of thought of 12 others, my best guess (plus logic) is as follows. Clemson, Alabama, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Iowa, Oklahoma, Baylor, Ohio State, Stanford and Florida, with Michigan only a tick behind the scuffling Florida Gators. (I’d put Michigan at No. 10.)
As always, I’ll offer my own thoughts on those 10 teams plus two handfuls of relevant others Wednesday morning in our weekly “Notre Dame vs. the Field” column.
2 – Notre Dame’s Resume, top to bottom: For the sake of argument, I’m projecting an Irish win over Stanford here, because if not, the point is moot:
1. W at Stanford (PAC-12 North champs)
2. L at Clemson (#1 team)
3. W vs. Navy (Potential AAC champs)
4. W at Temple (Potential AAC champs)
5. W vs. USC (Potential PAC-12 south champs)
6. W at Pittsburgh (lost at Iowa by 3 + a home win Saturday against Miami = 9-3)
7. W vs. Texas (because of Oklahoma’s loss to the Longhorns)
8. A 4-1 record on the road
3 – Back to the Matter at Hand: Looking for a sobering surprise Saturday evening in Fenway? (Well, besides someone asking of Nick Ironside and me, “Is that the Green Monster?” while pointing to the Jumbo Tron):
Notre Dame produced six plays in excess of 20 yards. Boston College matched them, gaining 41 more aggregate yards over their six big plays.
Moral? The Irish will need to score five touchdowns to win Saturday at Stanford. They simply aren’t a consistent defense.
4 – Double Stuff: Though Notre Dame’s rushing attack has trended (straight) down over the last four games, it’s nonetheless notable that the numbers of “Stuffs” the Irish offense has incurred totals just 52 – or 13 per game. Surprisingly, that’s commensurate with the per week average suffered by the Irish prior, 13.2 per game over the first seven outings (through USC).
The Irish defense has come up with a whopping 73 Stuffs of its own over the last four games. Though they’re doubtless a maddening unit, their total points allowed during that stretch is just 73 as well, or 18.2 ppg.
The discerning eye knows Notre Dame doesn’t have a championship defense, but they have their moments, and their metrics won’t reflect poorly, at least when compared to the Irish fans’ collective eye test.
5 – Irv Smith, Where Art Thou?: Try as they might, Notre Dame cannot integrate its tight ends into the otherwise well-rounded 2015 offense. Freshman Aliz’e Jones was targeted four times in the first three quarters Saturday against Boston College – twice in the end zone and once deep down field. Each fell incomplete, each a touch off in the overall execution, be it the route, a telegraphed throw, or what have you.
But Notre Dame’s offense doesn’t need Jones or redshirt-freshman Nic Weishar to be a pass-catching weapon each week. They need the pair, or the tandem of Tyler Luatua and Chase Hounshell, to do their jobs more consistently as blockers.
At this point, the tight end quartet’s inability to execute in-line is the running game’s greatest detriment.
6 – Kudos: Chris Brown and Amir Carlisle. The pair has joined Romeo Okwara as swan song stars in this, their final month of college football. (Brown has had a solid overall season but has elevated his game of late.)
Heretofore viewed as Will Fuller’s complementary pieces, the duo combined Saturday for 16 targets, 13 receptions, 10 first downs, 201 yards, and a pair of touchdowns. A similar effort this weekend would keep the Irish in the contest down to the final gun.
Now…bring back the superstar version of Will Fuller and the Irish won’t lose Saturday in Palo Alto.
7 – Injury impact in order of importance: This week only – Jarron Jones, Daniel Cage (expected back), KeiVarae Russell, Durham Smythe, Drue Tranquill, Tarean Folston and/or C.J. Prosise, Malik Zaire, Avery Sebastian (tackling), James Onwualu (normally much higher, but this is a Martini/Grace game), Shaun Crawford (also normally much higher), reserve guard Alex Bars and special teamer Equanimeous St. Brown.
8 – Don’t Know What You Got, ‘Til It’s Gone: Saturday, Nov. 28, 2015 marks the dawn of the KeiVarae Russell Appreciation Society among the Irish fan base.
Tune in to Fox at 7:30 EST and find out why…
9 – The Game of Their Lives: It’s relevant to note that both Joe Schmidt and Cole Luke played the best games of their Irish careers last October in a 17-14 win over Stanford.
Removing quarterback DeShone Kizer from your list of candidates, which two Irish players would you choose to play well above their norm this Saturday against the Cardinal?
That’s all for now: on to Game 12 and the first round of Notre Dame’s college football playoffs…