Chicago Colleges: Curtis McNeal

Big Ten viewer’s guide: Week 7

October, 10, 2014
Oct 10
10:00
AM CT
Week 7 is here, and let’s not sugarcoat it: Big Ten football has looked more interesting on other weekends. This first Saturday of the season without nonconference action lacks marquee matchups. Still, the division races will continue to take shape.

Here’s a look at the five games (all times Eastern):

Noon

Illinois (3-3) and Wisconsin (3-2), ESPN2: Will Melvin Gordon run for 300 yards? If the Badgers wanted it to happen, Illinois’ 119th-ranked rushing defense would likely comply. More of the intrigue in Madison involves the quarterbacks. For Wisconsin, Joel Stave, who returned last week against Northwestern, will see time, in addition to Tanner McEvoy, who might also take a shot at receiver. And with Illinois’ Wes Lunt out with a fractured leg, senior Reilly O’Toole and sophomore Aaron Bailey, who was set to redshirt, have competed in practice this week.

Indiana (3-2) and Iowa (4-1), ESPNU: Indiana has shown it can win on the road in tough spots, handing Missouri its lone loss on Sept. 20. The Hoosiers are more explosive on offense than any foe Iowa has faced. But Indiana still can’t defend well, in particular against proficient quarterbacks. The Hawkeyes are going back to Jake Rudock at the start, but C.J. Beathard will play. How well can Greg Davis manage this? If it’s a disaster, Indiana might just find itself in the right place at the right time for an upset bid.

[+] EnlargeDavid Cobb
Leon Halip/Getty ImagesDavid Cobb and Minnesota can take a big step in their quest for a Western Division crown by beating Northwestern on Saturday.
Northwestern (3-2) at Minnesota (4-1), BTN: Who would have guessed a month ago, as the Golden Gophers fell flat at TCU and the Wildcats sat winless, that this game would have legitimate implications for the West Division title race? It does, with NU in quest of a third straight unexpected win to open league play. Its defense led the charge against Penn State and Wisconsin. Minnesota is simply solid, led by David Cobb, statistically the league’s most valuable offensive player. Minnesota has defended the pass especially well in recent games and will test Northwestern’s Trevor Siemian, 13th in the Big Ten in QBR.

3:30 p.m.

No. 8 Michigan State (4-1) at Purdue (3-3), ESPN2: At least it’s not the best team in the Big Ten against the worst. Purdue escaped the low spot last week with a win over Illinois. And sophomore quarterback Austin Appleby looked good in the victory. Very good, in fact. Back at home, he figures to find a much more difficult situation against the Spartans, who might come in a bit angry after nearly blowing a 24-point, fourth-quarter lead against Nebraska.

7 p.m.

Penn State (4-1) at Michigan (2-4), ESPN2: The visitors from Happy Valley, after an off week, get an opportunity to show that their anemic performance against Northwestern was just a fluke. With an upcoming stretch of three challenging games, no better time exists for PSU to get healthy than at Michigan, trying to avoid its first 0-3 start in the Big Ten since 1965. Against a good Penn State front, the Wolverines must protect Devin Gardner and throw the football, neither of which they’ve done well in recent weeks.

Required reading

Notre Dame concedes very little on defense

November, 23, 2012
11/23/12
5:45
PM CT
Matthew EmmonsWith one more win, Manti Te'o (right) and Notre Dame will play for the right to be No. 1.

(USC hosts Notre Dame on Saturday at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.)

If the Notre Dame Fighting Irish can win on the road against the USC Trojans. History could, again, repeat itself.

Four different head coaches have been responsible for Notre Dame's eight national championships in the AP poll era (since 1936). All four captured their first national title in their third season at Notre Dame, and head coach Brian Kelly is in his third season at the helm in South Bend.

Notre Dame is one win from playing for the BCS Title thanks in larger part to its defense. The Irish have conceded a touchdown on 6.7 percent of their opponents’ possessions, the lowest percentage in FBS this season.

Notre Dame’s red zone defense also is the best in the nation, allowing a touchdown on 24.1 percent of their opponents’ drives inside the 20-yard line. (Opponents have seven touchdowns and five turnovers in 29 red zone possessions.) That’s the lowest percentage for any FBS team in the last eight seasons.

The defense is led by senior linebacker Manti Te'o. With two more tackles, Te'o will join Bob Crable as the second Notre Dame player with three 100-tackle seasons. Te’o also leads the Irish with six interceptions after not having any in his first three seasons.

Notre Dame's defense will be tested one more time, this time by one of the best wide receivers in the country. USC’s Marqise Lee has more receiving yards (821) in his last four games than 52 FBS teams during that time span. Lee has gained more yards after the catch (837) than any player from any BCS-AQ school, and leads FBS with eight 100-yard receiving games. However, only one player this season has 100 yards receiving against Notre Dame, Jalen Saunders from Oklahoma.

However, Lee will not have Matt Barkley throwing to him – the senior quarterback will not play because of a sprained shoulder. Since 2002, USC’s only loss to Notre Dame came in 2010 when Barkley (then a sophomore) had a sprained ankle and did not play.

Without Barkley, USC may turn to its running game. The Trojans are averaging 160 rushing yards per game, and has gained 10 yards or more on almost 17 percent of their rush attempts. Curtis McNeal has 324 yards in USC’s last two games, but he’ll face a Notre Dame defense that has allowed just three running backs to rush for 80 or more yards this season.

Did you know? Notre Dame at USC

November, 23, 2012
11/23/12
2:52
PM CT
As always, hats off to the folks from ESPN Stats & Information, along with both schools' sports information departments, for these tidbits.
  • Notre Dame has allowed a touchdown on 6.7 percent of its opponents’ possessions, the lowest percentage in the nation. Red zone defense has been key for the Irish, allowing a touchdown on 24.1 percent of their opponents’ red zone drives, the lowest percentage for any FBS team in the past eight seasons. Overall, Notre Dame's opponents have seven touchdowns and five turnovers in 29 red zone possessions.
  • USC has scored a touchdown on 64.6 percent of its red-zone possessions, 39th in the nation. The Trojans have scored a touchdown on 29.2 percent of their goal-to-go rushes, tied for 86th nationally. Notre Dame has allowed one touchdown and minus-31 rushing yards on 18 goal-to-go rushes. Every other team in the nation has allowed at least three such touchdowns.
  • Notre Dame is the only team that has not allowed a touchdown drive longer than 75 yards. Every other FBS team has allowed at least two.
  • The Irish have allowed 14 plays of 25 yards or more, tied for second-fewest nationally. They have allowed one 25-yard touchdown, tied with Florida and Alabama for the fewest in the country.
  • Everett Golson has completed 70.8 percent of his passes thrown 10 yards or longer in his past two games after completing 44 percent of those throws in his first eight games. Four different receivers have at least two catches on a throw of that distance over the past two weeks. T.J. Jones has six catches on seven targets.
  • Marqise Lee has more receiving yards (821) in his last four games than 52 FBS teams during that time span. Lee has gained more yards after the catch (837) this season than any player from a BCS school and leads the nation with eight 100-yard receiving games. Notre Dame’s opponents are averaging 68.4 yards after the catch per game and have allowed just one player to gain 100 yards in a game this season (Jalen Saunders, Oklahoma). Lee has five more catches and 264 more receiving yards than the Irish's entire receiving corps. Lee has gained at least 100 yards receiving in eight of his 11 games, including five straight dating back to a victory over Colorado. Notre Dame has not a 100-yard receiving game from a receiver this season.
  • Robert Woods entered the season on the Biletnikoff Watch List after leading USC with 111 catches and 1,292 receiving yards last season. But Lee has emerged as USC’s clear No. 1 receiver, gaining more yards after the catch (837) than Woods has total yards (721). Woods is not getting downfield with the same consistency as last season, as he has 12 catches and four touchdowns on 31 pass attempts thrown 15 yards or longer downfield. Last season, he had 20 such catches and seven touchdowns on 42 pass attempts of that distance.
  • USC is averaging 160.5 rushing yards per game and has gained 10 or more yards on 16.6 percent of its rush attempts. Curtis McNeal has filled in nicely for an injured Silas Redd, gaining 324 yards in USC’s past two games. He will face a Notre Dame defense that has allowed just three running backs to rush for 80 or more yards this season.

USC comments fall on deaf ears

October, 23, 2011
10/23/11
8:17
PM CT
Don't expect any verbal retaliation from Notre Dame players in wake of a 31-17 loss to USC that led to several Trojans players taking postgame shots at the Irish.

"If they do, they don't know me very well," Brian Kelly said during his Sunday teleconference.

USC took possession at the Irish 49 with 6:43 left in the game following a Nickell Robey interception. It ended the contest with 10 straight Curtis McNeal runs.

Down two scores, Notre Dame did not use any of its timeouts, prompting harsh words from its visitors.

"At the end there, when they didn't call those timeouts, they just quit," USC linebacker Chris Galippo said, according to ESPNLA.com's Pedro Moura. "And that's what Notre Dame football's about. They're not anything like USC."

"We're coming halfway across the country to play these guys," Galippo added. "They hyped it up. This was their Super Bowl. They had 26 or 27 official visits this weekend.

"This was it for them."

Trojans running back Marc Tyler had more toned-down comments about Notre Dame.

"That's what happens when you beat them down," Tyler said. "We wore them out. They didn't want to play no more.

"We out-physicaled them and beat them down."

Kelly did not agree that his team wore down defensively but would not engage in a battle of words.

"I don't know if that's the case," Kelly said. "To the victors go the spoils. I think we probably would have said the same thing last year. Again, how we evaluate our players, we didn't play the kind of football we wanted to play."

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