Frank Commentary

The Notre Dame football team advanced to 8-1 on the season with a win over North Carolina on Saturday. The 45-26 score won't win the Irish many "style points" in the minds of the voters, but thankfully they likely won't need any.

It's time to take a look at the good, the bad, and the ugly—although there isn't much ugly from this game.

The Good

Turnovers: The Irish did have a turnover in the game, but it was on a muffed punt by a reserve punt returner. In the last five games the Irish have just two turnovers. In fact, the Irish have committed just nine turnovers all year, five of which came against Michigan. Throw out the Michigan game and the Irish have committed just four turnovers in eight games.

Third down: The Irish have struggled in third down situations all year but finished 8-of-14 in this game. Hopefully that trend will continue.

Brady Quinn: Quinn continues to be a very efficient quarterback. 23-of-35 for 346 yards and four touchdowns…Weis will take that every game. In the last six games Quinn is 144-of-216 (67 percent) for 1812 yards (302 per game) with 19 touchdowns with just one interception.

Triple play: John Carlson, Jeff Samardzija and Rhema McKnight have really been playing well these past few weeks. Samardzija was the big winner this week with six catches for 177 yards and a touchdown, but Carlson (8 receptions, 91 yards TD) and McKnight (6 receptions, 56 yards, 2 TD) also had nice games. McKnight leads the team in receptions (52) and touchdowns (11), but Samardzija isn't far behind (48 receptions, 8 TD) and leads the team in yards (686). But surprisingly, Carlson is right on their heels (45 receptions, 620 yards). You just can't spread it around any more evenly than that. Victor Abiamiri: Victor has also been on the rampage. Abiamiri picked up two more sacks in this game to increase his season total to 10. He's had eight sacks in the last four games.

Red Zone: The Irish also continue to be highly efficient in the red zone. They were a perfect 5-for-5 on Saturday and are 32-of-35 on the season with 26 touchdowns.

The Bad

Yards per carry: The Irish averaged just three yards per carry against North Carolina on Saturday….this against a team that came in ranked No. 115 in rush defense. The Irish have averaged just 3.2 yards per carry all season. One would hope for better production against a team like North Carolina.

Doesn't make sense: Along the same lines as above, the Irish opened the game throwing. In fact, the Irish had 20 plays in their first three drives. 17 of those plays were pass attempts. With the Tar Heel's surrendering 27 touchdowns on the ground prior to this game, it was surprising the Irish didn't try to establish the run earlier.

Sacks: Notre Dame surrendered three sacks in this game to a team who had just 12 total sacks coming into the game. Yes, I think Quinn probably could've thrown the ball earlier than he did on some of those sacks, but I'm not sure he should be under pressure as much as he is. The Irish have allowed 24 sacks this season…that is not a good stat in case you're wondering. The Irish allowed 21 sacks all 2005 season and Notre Dame still has four games left to play.

The Ugly

Big plays: We should just make this a permanent category I guess. The Irish gave up a 35-yard rush, which led to North Carolina's first score. They then surrendered a 90-yard kick off return for the Tar Heel's second score. In the opening drive of the second half the Irish defense surrendered a 42-yard pass play, which led to Carolina's third score. And then they surrendered a 72-yard touchdown pass, which obviously led to their fourth and final score. Four big plays made the game look much closer than it actually was.

Game Balls I've got a lot, and they're all recognized above, however, I'd like to add three key guys who impressed me yesterday.

Dynamic duo: I can't mention one without the other. Derek Landri and Trevor Laws are continuing to play outstanding football. Landri had four tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, a sack and a blocked kick. Laws only showed up with three tackles and one blocked kick, but he also was in the backfield all day long. ND fans are sorely going to miss Landri next season, and hopefully they don't have to miss Laws as well.

Maurice Crum: For the first time in awhile, I saw what I thought was a true middle linebacker out there on Saturday. The guy was bringing it every play and he continues to get better and better as the year goes on. Crum had nine tackles, a tackle for loss and a sack. I'm excited about the future at linebacker. I think these three are playing pretty solid football right now.

The future: Where does an 8-1 Irish land in the polls? Will LSU jump the Irish with their big victory over Tennessee on Saturday? Will West Virginia drop below the Irish after their loss to Louisville on Thursday?

West Virginia has one "quality" win so far this season. They beat Maryland 45-24 earlier in the season. They haven't played anyone worth mentioning besides Louisville. They have a tough game at home against Cincinnati coming up. They then travel to Pittsburgh and close the season at home against South Florida and Rutgers. It's possible the Mountaineers could drop another game. Will they fall below Notre Dame? They should, but I wouldn't be surprised if they didn't. I'd certainly drop them.

LSU has lost both to Florida and Auburn. In fact, their only quality win came this week against Tennessee. They have two home games against Alabama and Ole Miss before heading to Arkansas to close their season. Should they jump the Irish? No, but they just might.

Louisville is set up for the ultimate trap game next weekend. They play an undefeated Rutgers team on the road at night. They then return to play South Florida at home, then travel to Pittsburgh and close their season at home with UConn. Rutgers is Notre Dame's best hope to jump the Big East leaders.

Texas has just two games left and then the Big 12 Championship game. The Longhorns travel to 6-4 Kansas State next weekend and then close their season at home against 8-2 Texas A&M. I don't see anyone in the Big 12 north who will challenge Texas in the championship game, so A&M is likely ND's best hope to jump the Longhorns.

Auburn's one loss came at the hands of 8-1 Arkansas. The Tigers have two quality wins over LSU and Florida and have a home game with 6-4 Georgia and then travel to Alabama to take on the 6-4 Crimson Tide. Auburn could make it into the SEC Championship game, but would need some help along the way. Notre Dame's best chance to jump Auburn will likely be an Alabama loss.

Florida eeked out a win against 4-6 Vandy, 25-19 on Saturday. The Gators have two home games against South Carolina and Western Carolina before traveling to Tallahassee to take on the 5-4 Seminoles. It just feels good saying 5-4 Seminoles. Anyway, I just don't see the Gators losing another game until the SEC Championship game. I doubt the Irish have much of a shot to jump Florida until then.

Cal beat UCLA on Saturday and are now 8-1. Either Cal or USC will drop below the Irish soon as the two clash on November 18. Cal has to travel to Arizona first before they'll travel to USC on the 18th. They close the season at Stanford, so USC is Notre Dame's best hope to jump Cal.

USC has the hardest road along the way playing Oregon this week, Cal the following week and then Notre Dame. The good news for the Trojans is all games are at home and are night games. They close the season against UCLA on the road. It's possible USC could end up with at least one more loss this season.

As it stands, at least one of Cal and USC will drop below the Irish very soon if Notre Dame keeps on winning. The Irish need to hold off LSU this week in the polls, and hope that West Virginia falls below the Irish in the polls this week. Regardless, the Irish look to be in good shape for a BCS bid, especially if they can beat USC.


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