O’Malley’s Monday Musings

Your Holiday edition includes four video blasts from the past, my undervalued freshman of note, another rookie we curiously rarely discuss, and the best QBs that recent edition Irish squads beat…and those they didn’t.

1 – Is Week Two Finally Bullet Proof? With one exception, the second game in each of Brian Kelly’s six seasons in South Bend has offered cause for pause.

Losses to Michigan in 2010, 2011, and 2013, plus epic struggles against heavy underdogs Purdue (2012) and Virginia in Charlottesville (2015) fly in the face of the sport’s old adage, “A team improves most between its first and second contests.”

Only the 2014 bloodletting of Michigan stands as a strong Game #2 outing for Kelly & Co. to date, which begs the question:

Does Nevada (7-6 last season) led by former Irish assistant coach Brian Polian pose a similar problem? The game’s situation – a short week following a prime time marquee game to start the season – suggests that stranger things have happened. And often do.

The reality of the Wolf Pack’s heavy personnel losses on defense, however, does not…

2 – Top 5 Coaches? New ones, that is, at least according to Lindy’s Magazine, which discusses each of the whopping 28 new posts for 2016 while adding the moniker of “Lindy’s Top Five Hire” for Georgia (Kirby Smart), Miami (Mark Richt), Syracuse (Dino Babers), Virginia (Bronco Mendenhall), and Virginia Tech (Justin Fuentes).

Related: Notre Dame plays Miami, Syracuse, and Virginia Tech this season, Miami again in 2017, and Georgia in both 2017 and 2019 while tussling with Syracuse and Virginia Tech again in 2018.

Also among the new hires, USC’s Clay Helton – bereft of the “Top 5” designation, for whatever that’s worth.

3 – Low Hanging Fruit? Last week’s Musings included a look back at the magical 2012 regular season and the dearth of quality quarterbacks that defense encountered. (In terms of projections, 2016 is even more favorable for the Irish D.)

So who are the best quarterbacks a Kelly-led squad has beaten during his tenure? What about Charlie Weis? Or Tyrone Willingham? Or Bob Davie…actually stop right there: Davie’s Irish beat Tom Brady and Michigan in the 1998 season opener.

As for the others:

2015 – USC’s Cody Kessler and Navy’s Keenan Reynolds (plus UMass’s Blake Frohnappel)
2014 – Stanford’s Kevin Hogan
2013 – MSU’s (young) Connor Cook, ASU’s Taylor Kelly, and Navy’s Ricky Dobbs, perhaps BYU’s Taysom Hill
2012 – OU’s *Landry Jones and UM’s Denard Robinson
2011 – MSU”s Kirk Cousins and Air Force’s Tim Jefferson
2010 – Utah’s Jordan Wynn, Miami’s Jacory Harris and Western Michigan’s Alex Carder

-- The best college quarterbacks Weis teams beat were Nevada’s Colin Kaepernick (2009), Michigan State’s Kirk Cousins (2009), Washington’s Jake Locker (2009), and Michigan’s Chad Henne (2005).

-- As for Willingham? Henne in 2004 in South Bend? A young Kyle Orton and Purdue in 2002? Perhaps John Navarre of Michigan in ’02 as well? Chris Rix and FSU? Regardless, it’s slim pickings for Irish head coaches against top quarterbacks post Davie who, in addition to Brady in ‘98, also beat Drew Brees in ’98 and ’02.

4 – Want to Be Champions? On a related note, the list of great, legitimately GREAT collegiate or professional quarterbacks that Notre Dame has lost to in the new millennium alone is staggering:

2015: Deshaun Watson (very good senior Kevin Hogan and JT Barrett)
2014: Jameis Winston (very good junior Cody Kessler)
2013: None
2012: A.J. McCarron though he, uh, had some help…
2011: Andrew Luck (very good junior Matt Barkley)
2010: Andrew Luck and Ricky Dobbs (and one-game, all-time great Denard Robinson)
2009: Dobbs and Luck, though not yet “great” at the time
2008: Mark Sanchez (how about “very, very good?”)
2007: Matt Ryan, though this should barely count
2006: Jamarcus Russell
2005: Matt Leinart and Troy Smith
2004: Leinart (plus very good senior Kyle Orton)
2003: Leinart
2002: Carlson Palmer, Philip Rivers
2001: Eric Crouch
2000: Crouch

What does it mean? Notre Dame’s national schedule almost annually offers the best the sport has to offer…and beating them is a tall order.

5 – Fireworks: My honest evaluation…Seen one, seen ‘em all.

It’s not that I don’t find them impressive. And I can enjoy them pending the setting, but my overall feelings on fireworks are akin to those regarding Kelly’s choice to award Notre Dame’s #1 jersey on a rotating basis this fall.


6 – This Week’s Prediction: This edition of the Musings is trending long, so I’ll be brief…

-- Prediction No. 10 this summer: Notre Dame will score fewer touchdowns in 2016 than it did last season (58). The 58 scored over 13 games last year ranks tied for second in program history behind only 1991 (64 in 13 games including the Sugar Bowl) and alongside the 58 scored by the 1992 Irish (in just 12 games) and 2005 squad (also 12 games).

Why fewer? Nine touchdowns scored against UMass last September greatly aided the overall Irish tally last fall.

7 – Monday Memories: A player never forgotten, but two plays by the late Rodney Culver that showcase what it means to be a complete football player – and in a Top 10 matchup, I might add.

First a 3rd down block, then much more in #1 Notre Dame at #9 Tennessee, 1990:


8 – Home Schedule, Odds and Ends: We discussed Nevada above…

-- The last time Notre Dame played Michigan State under the lights in South Bend, Tim Brown returned two punts for touchdowns Enjoy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uzopUh_q9Tg

-- Duke and Notre Dame have the same record over the last three seasons (27-12)…

-- Combined offensive touchdowns scored by both teams before the fourth quarter in the last two meetings between Notre Dame and Stanford in South Bend? (2) Two!

-- Regarding Notre Dame/Miami, I miss the days when this was an issue: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QZYvmSpOs8k

-- Ultimate oddity regarding Virginia Tech’s first-ever visit to Notre Dame (Senior Day this November 19): Three of the seven programs to visit South Bend for the first time over the last six seasons won the contest, as Tulsa, South Florida and Louisville prevailed while Utah, Wake Forest, Temple and Massachusetts each fell to the Irish.

9  – Three Quick, Unrelated Thoughts: Not everything has to be backed up by facts and research, right? Here we go…

A.) Now that the proven duo of Mike McGlinchey and Steve Elmer has been disbanded a year early, the quintet of Irish offensive linemen inked in 2013 could end up being a weak point rather than presumed strength. With John Montelus out of the mix, it’s high time for either Hunter Bivin or Colin McGovern to play to his prep projections. The ’16 line is counting on it…

B.) Save for Irish Illustrated’s Steve Hare, why have we all (the site’s writers, mods, and most subscribers alike) stopped talking about Javon McKinley?

C.) I think incoming freshman Deon McIntosh is undervalued and he’ll make an impact in South Bend. It’s McIntosh’s penchant for getting to full speed two steps after planting and turning up field that intrigues me the most.
Have a safe and restful remainder of your Holiday Weekend. Until next week, Irish fans…

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