1 – A New Era, Apparently: The first of three Irish Illustrated staff surveys was published Saturday and Part I offered a varied look at everything from the squad’s future pros to those projected to be solid but unspectacular competitors for 2016.
Most telling though were our answers to Question #1: “The one Notre Dame player I wouldn’t trade for a current college star at the same position is…
We did not have a repeat name among five staff contributors. Consider that impossibility last season – on both sides of scrimmage.
Part II (Coaching Staff) will follow this weekend with a unique schedule round up as Part III seven days later.
2 – Theo Riddick Field: Congratulations are in order for 2012 Irish running back/slot receiver Theo Riddick. Now a crucial member of the Detroit Lions backfield, Riddick had his prep playing field at Immaculata High School (Somerville, N.J.) named after him last week.
Riddick was the straw that stirred the drink for the 2012 Irish offense, and though the advent of Theo Riddick Field marks the first official playing surface named after him, Riddick could, at least for one evening, likewise lay claim to the Los Angeles Coliseum as the first, most important 100-yard swath of gridiron he actually owned.
It was the senior’s 20-carry, 146-yard effort that paved the way for Notre Dame’s BCS berth on Thanksgiving Saturday 2012 (he added the squad’s only touchdown) and for my money, and considering the stakes, stands as the most inspired (easily) and best overall rushing performance of the Brian Kelly Era. (Though Josh Adams at Stanford seven months ago gives him a run for his money.)
3 – Proud Fellow Alum: Congrats to Demetrius Jackson, the first ever NBA draft pick from my high school (Mishawaka, Marian). Taken about 20 spots too low, the silver-lining to Jackson’s precipitous draft day drop is he’ll begin working for the best young coach in the free world, former Butler sage and current Boston Celtics head man Brad Stevens.
After spending the next three-to-five calendar years remaining dedicated solely to his craft and occupation, next on Jackson’s docket should be the long journey back to some day joining the most important alumni association of our lives: The University of Notre Dame.
He’s admittedly a long way away, but seems a good bet to make good on that goal.
4 – Summer Prediction No. 9: If you’re scoring at home, fearless prognostications to date have featured the following:
-- Notre Dame’s longest win streak will (again) be six games
-- The Irish won’t lose two straight
-- The Irish will lose once in September
-- Notre Dame will play 7 games “Close and Late” in 2016
-- Torii Hunter will lead the team in touchdowns scored
-- Nyles Morgan will lead the defense in statistical big plays (aggregate Stuffs, turnovers forced/obtained, PD and third-down “wins”)
-- 34 combined TD are on tap for this quintet: Kizer, Zaire, Adams, Folston, Hunter
-- Rookie Shaun Crawford will lead the team in passes defended
This week’s prediction: The Irish will lose one game in October.
Don’t shoot the messenger…
5 – Back to Reality: It’s apparent I was able to decompress on my five days away from work – a lake house rental for the family on Lake Michigan. That reality was made clear Sunday morning when I walked outside my home (not the rental) and, upon noticing a flat rock on the walkway, immediately considered its properties as an ideal stone for skipping with my three-year-old.
Fortunately, like my 86-year-old father Jack O’Malley, I found a job that elicits a “Thank God it’s Monday” reaction. It’s good to be back.
6 – Money in the Bank? According to Sportsbook.com, Notre Dame currently faces the nation’s ninth-lowest odds to claim college football’s national championship. (As it should, schedule weighs heavily into a casino’s pre-season stakes.)
Ahead of the Irish are Alabama (+700), Clemson and Ohio State (+750), Michigan (+800), LSU and Oklahoma (+1200), Florida State (+1400), Tennessee (+1500), and then Notre Dame (+1,800) followed immediately – though at much longer odds – by Oct. 15 foe Stanford (+2,800).
Remaining Irish opponents include Michigan State +3,500; USC +4,000; Texas and Miami both at +8,000, Virginia Tech +30,000, NC State +50,000, and Duke +200,000. (Army, Navy, Syracuse and Nevada are not options.)
What does this mean? Basically if you’d like, you can wager $100 and win $1,800 if Notre Dame indeed wins the national title. (And thus, wager $100 and win $700 if it’s Alabama…or wager $100 and win $200,000 if it’s Duke.)
I don’t think it’ll happen, but I’ll argue there’s more value in Notre Dame at 18/1 than anyone else.
Then again, there’s a reason Vegas has big buildings…
7 – Quick Take: Need a Cliff’s Notes (do they still make those, by the way?) version of Notre Dame’s 2016 slate? Here you go:
-- Peers: Michigan State, Stanford, USC
-- Probably a peer: Miami
-- Never sleep on: Virginia Tech on Senior Day (inherently sleepy)
-- Tough Spot: at Texas
-- Trap City USA: Duke, at NC State
-- Different level of competition, but we’ve seen crazier: Navy, Syracuse
-- Implausible Defeats: Army, Nevada
Plan your viewing expectations accordingly…
8 – Not Exactly Murder’s Row: If you’re not keeping up with Tim Prister’s annual First Rate column, it’s an illuminating series on Notre Dame’s standing in comparison to its 12 foes for 2016.
Prister’s first edition this summer remains the most telling (Quarterback). It’s difficult to fathom a less-impressive list of opposing signal-callers – at least prior to a season – than the collection defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder’s unit is set to face this fall.
(Click here to read Prister’s piece):
But this collection of middling triggermen sparked an idea for the Musings (so God bless them!): Which season among Kelly’s six previous at the helm featured the worst opposing signal-callers?
A cursory exam shows none other than the 12 straight vanquished in 2012 as the only choice:
Trey Miller (Navy), Robert Marve (Purdue), Andrew Maxwell (MSU), Denard Robinson (Michigan), Stephen Morris (Miami), Josh Nunes (Stanford), Riley Nelson (BYU), Landry Jones (Oklahoma), Tino Sunseri (Pitt), Chase Rettig (BC), Tanner Price (Wake), and Max Freaking Wittek (USC).
Bob Diaco’s stout defensive unit caught a break facing three “bridge men” with Navy’s Miller (the program’s starter between option stalwarts Ricky Dobbs and Keenan Reynolds), MSU’s Maxwell (between Kirk Cousins and Connor Cook), and Stanford’s Nunes (between Andrew Luck and Kevin Hogan), while also drawing a first-time starter (BC’s Rettig) plus USC’s Wittek in place of injured standout Matt Barkley.
The Irish likewise demolished top dogs Denard Robinson and Landry Jones and were able to withstand quality outings by unspectacular seniors Marve, Nelson, and Pitt’s Sunseri (phew).
The forthcoming 2016 slate is set to feature rookies under center for Navy, Michigan State, Stanford, USC, (likely) Texas, and NC State. And save for Texas, a program-great was lost to each of those squads over the off-season.
Among the rest only one name – Miami’s Brad Kaaya – should elicit fear from a sound defensive unit.
And therein lies the rub.
Until next week, Irish fans…