NCF Nation: Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Games are won in the fall. But the foundations for great plays, and great seasons, are often built behind the scenes in the spring and summer months. With spring ball already underway at a few ACC stops, we're taking a look at some of the players who have plenty to prove on the field in the coming weeks and months.

Sean Maguire. The race to replace Jameis Winston will draw no shortage of attention in Tallahassee. And the man currently at the top of the pecking order, at least experience-wise, is Maguire, a redshirt junior. Starting in place of the suspended Winston in FSU's biggest game of the year, at home in September against Clemson, Maguire had an up-and-down performance: 21-of-39 passing for 304 yards with one touchdown and two picks in an overtime win. Still, that's more than anyone else on the roster can show right now, and it's up to Maguire to fend off highly-touted challengers J.J. Cosentino (redshirt freshman) and De'Andre Johnson (freshman).

[+] EnlargeTallahassee, FL - September 20, 2014 - Doak Campbell Stadium: Sean Maguire (10) of the Florida State University Seminoles during a regular season game (Photo by Scott Clarke / ESPN Images)
Scott Clarke/ESPN ImagesStarting in place of a suspended Jameis Winston, Sean Maguire led the Seminoles to an overtime win against Clemson last season.
Stacy Coley. Remember this guy? Let's refresh your memory: As a freshman in 2013, Coley burst onto the scene for Miami, catching 33 passes for 591 yards and seven touchdowns, while also returning a punt and a kickoff for a score. (And rushing for one more, too.) Then he had a sophomore slump in 2014: Just 23 catches for 184 yards, with no scores. A shoulder injury was partly to blame, but the dropoff was still perplexing. If Coley can regain his rookie form and connect with reigning ACC rookie of the year Brad Kaaya, that could certainly open things up for the Hurricanes' offense moving forward.

Taquan "Smoke" Mizzell. Mizzell has been stellar and versatile through two seasons at Virginia, leading all ACC running backs last season with 39 catches. Still, more is expected of a former ballyhooed recruit than 280 rushing yards, which Mizzell totaled last year. And as Mizzell enters his junior year in a crucial season for the Cavalier program, he needs to make the leap from good to great, especially with Kevin Parks now out of the picture.

Jabari Hunt-Days. Hunt-Days missed the 2014 season because of an academic issue, a big setback for a player who had notched seven stops behind the line of scrimmage as a sophomore in 2013 -- after earning several freshman All-America honors the year before. He's a fifth-year senior now, and the defensive lineman could be the big playmaker who brings Georgia Tech's defense up a level in 2015. (His brother, Synjyn Days, certainly set a nice example in 2014 with a strong senior year for the Yellow Jackets.)

Josh Harvey-Clemons. Spots are open for the taking in Louisville's secondary, and few may be in better position to take advantage than Harvey-Clemons, the former ESPN four-star prospect. The safety was dismissed from Georgia last winter following multiple violations of team rules and reunited with defensive coordinator Todd Grantham with the Cardinals. Despite missing two games in 2013, Harvey-Clemons led the SEC with three fumble recoveries, adding 5.5 tackles for loss and one pick. The talent is obviously there. Now eligible, Harvey-Clemons must perform for the Cards.

Al-Quadin Muhammad. Now a redshirt sophomore at Miami, Muhammad is back with the Hurrricanes after a semester-long university-issued suspension last fall. The former ESPN four-star prospect said he never contemplated transferring, and coaches and teammates have stuck by the lineman. The 6-foot-3, 260-pounder has changed his jersey number from No. 98 to No. 8, and he certainly possesses the physical tools necessary to make an impact up front on the Canes' defense, for whom he tallied a pair of sacks as a true freshman when he last took the field, in 2013.

Everett Golson. Golson struggled down the stretch in 2014 for Notre Dame, with all 22 of his turnovers coming in the final nine regular-season games, leading to Malik Zaire starting the Irish's bowl against LSU. Both quarterbacks played in the win, but Golson -- who had begun his college career with a 16-1 as a starter -- will have no shortage of suitors elsewhere if he chooses to leave Notre Dame. In order to do that, though, he must first graduate, something he has said he is on track to accomplish this spring. If Golson wins the job back soon, does that mean he likely stays? If the starting job remains unclear as he gets his diploma, does he take his chances elsewhere? Stay tuned.
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Mike Sanford is a 32-year-old rising star in the coaching business. In his lone year as offensive coordinator at Boise State, he helped the Broncos claim the No. 9 scoring offense and a Fiesta Bowl win.

At Stanford, Sanford coached quarterbacks, running backs and receivers, with each of his three Cardinal seasons ending in a BCS bowl. At Yale, he coached fullbacks and tight ends, while also serving as recruiting coordinator. His father, also Mike, is currently the head coach at Indiana State, and once served as Notre Dame's quarterbacks coach, back in 1997 and '98.

The younger Sanford's daughter is named Peyton, because of course she is.

Brian Kelly has, by any measure, landed Notre Dame a cookie-cutter image of an offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach in Sanford. That alone should make this an intriguing enough hire for the Irish. Contrast Sanford's background with that of Kelly's previous offensive hirings, however, and the possibilities sure are tantalizing for a 2015 Irish squad that returns nine starters on that side of the ball.

[+] EnlargeBrian Kelly
Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY SportsNotre Dame coach Brian Kelly has hired 32-year-old rising star Mike Sanford to be his offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.
From Mike Denbrock, Matt LaFleur, Chuck Martin and Charley Molnar at Notre Dame, to Jeff Quinn at Cincinnati, Central Michigan and Grand Valley State, all of Kelly's offensive aides have had one thing in common: Experience working for him. That has proven beneficial, as was the case with a 2009 Cincinnati squad that ranked fourth in scoring (38.6 ppg) or a 2012 Irish unit that knew how to manage a first-time starting QB (Everett Golson). It has also, directly or indirectly, hampered the Irish offense from truly taking off five years into the Kelly regime, as evidenced by the turnover-filled campaigns of talented 2011 and 2014 teams.

Now comes Sanford, a man entering relatively foreign territory for an offensive mind of his status, bringing validation to an operation with all of the tools necessary to break out this fall.

"I've been around some spread offenses. In fact, my dad coming off the coordinator job that he had at the University of Utah with Urban Meyer, that at the time was revolutionary football: triple-option offense from the shotgun hadn't been done a ton back in the early 2000s," Sanford said Monday, talking about his first job, at UNLV in 2005. "So I had a chance to GA in that offense, and then ended up going from there to Stanford. And the biggest thing that I found is obviously championship football, a lot of times it comes down to who runs the football the best, and then who makes the explosive plays down the field in the throwing game."

Sanford was reportedly courted by Meyer at Ohio State, among others. The fact Kelly was able to land an up-and-comer that the defending national champion could not is no small feat from a perception standpoint -- not to mention the fact that he did this after Meyer had already landed a third assistant from Notre Dame in the last four years, Tony Alford.

Sanford's reason Monday for picking the Irish was rather philosophical, one befitting a coach on the path to running his own program in the near future:

"One thing that was really unique about really my background as a coach in the last 10 years of doing this, and then this opportunity, is that I think every head coach that I've worked for was either in their first or second year as a head coach at that particular school or really at that level. So you're talking about some new head coaches. Between my dad who was a first-time head coach at UNLV, Jim Harbaugh had come from the University of San Diego but was really at the Pac-12 level certainly his first year, and then Willie Taggart, Tom Williams at Yale. So I've had a chance to be part of the beginnings of someone's figuring out (of) their philosophies, which was a great experience for me.

"But now I have a chance to work for a guy that's a 25-plus year head coach, and to learn from somebody who's been through all the highs and lows of being a head coach. One thing I respect tremendously about Coach Kelly is he's done it from Div. II level, and he's had success all the way, and I've always respected the heck out of that. A lot of people come into this profession and they've lived a very charmed life, and they're thrust right into an opportunity like this at a young age, but he was a guy that scratched and clawed and worked his way up as a longtime head coach, and I think that experience -- I'm always in the pursuit of learning more and growing more, both as a coach and as a man, as a person, and this provided a tremendous opportunity with Coach Kelly and his experience, for me to pick his brain and to really just sit back and observe the way he runs this football team."

How much control Sanford will have remains unclear, as play-calling duties have yet to be assigned. This is, after all, Kelly's program, and he has called the plays in four of five years so far at Notre Dame. Still, for a unit whose most impressive performance was the one freshest in everyone's minds -- a 51-run, 26-pass attack in a bowl win over LSU -- the addition of Sanford could signal a more diverse attack.

Which, in the short-term, could mean a simpler attack.

All five offensive line starters from the bowl win are back. Two of the Irish's top three running backs are, too. And, of course, there is the plethora of young receivers and perhaps two experienced quarterbacks.

This should give Notre Dame options, with neither the run nor pass game having to feel too much pressure. In his lone year at Boise State, Sanford oversaw a unit that was as consistently strong as any at balancing things offensively: The Broncos ranked 29th in rushing, 23rd in passing. They improved in both categories from a year before, despite a new coaching staff.

"We didn't want somebody to be equal," Kelly said of hiring Sanford. "We wanted somebody that was going to turn that room upside down, that was that good. We weren't going to settle for somebody that was on the same plane. We wanted somebody that was going to challenge us on a daytoday basis. Mike does that. "

The pieces Notre Dame has returning provide plenty of promise for a potential Playoff run this fall. Scooping up a coveted outsider could go a long way toward the Irish getting in.
Quarterback Kyler Murray grabbed all of the headlines at Allen (Texas) High School over the past few seasons, but it’s actually junior offensive tackle Greg Little who is a higher-ranked prospect.

Best recruiting classes of independents

February, 4, 2015
Feb 4
Here's how Notre Dame and BYU fared in the final ESPN RecruitingNation class rankings:


Notre Dame Fighting Irish

National rank: 13

Notre Dame attacked the offensive line for 2015, reeling in No. 131 and top-ranked center Tristen Hoge, No. 280 Jerry Tillery, No. 288 Trevor Ruhland and three-star Brandon Tiassum. ESPN 300 WR Equanimeous St. Brown, Jalen Guyton and ultra-quick four-star C.J. Sanders will give quarterback and No. 45 overall Brandon Wimbush plenty of options to throw to. Wimbush and Alize Jones (No. 52 overall and No. 1 TE) flipped from Penn State and UCLA, respectively. Dexter Williams, a top-five back, should provide ND with dynamic presence in the backfield. Versatile four-star outside linebacker Bo Wallace out of Louisiana power John Curtis Christian is a key get. Four-star linebacker Te'Von Coney is a key pledge out of South Florida.


BYU Cougars

National rank: 50
ESPN 300 defensive end Mika Tafua is the jewel of a Cougars' class that includes three-star signal-callers Beau Hoge and Kody Wilstead. Offensive tackle Kieffer Longson has a high upside. Three-star defensive end David Lui is physically ready to pay from Day 1. Outside linebacker Devin Kaufusi is another prospect with a high ceiling. A trio of three-star recruits from Texas add depth to the class, led by speedy playmaker Charles West.
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Only at Notre Dame.

This was what Everett Golson had tweeted last Wednesday, a cryptic message that naturally sent fans and media into a minor panic, though the source of the Irish quarterback's amusement remains unknown.

Turns out Golson was a week early with the sentiment, regardless of its intent.

On a day when Brian Kelly welcomed 24 new members to his football program, the additions naturally took back seats to news and apparent non-news regarding looming departures and potential replacements.

Brady Hoke? Contrary to a media report Wednesday morning, the ex-Michigan head coach has not joined Notre Dame's staff, both parties said during several media appearances later in the day. That could be because neither side has made any overtures, or it could be because it is just not true as of national signing day, as the Irish technically entered this day with no official openings.

"We've got nine coaches today," Kelly said, smiling. "We've got nine coaches today. We're going to talk recruiting today. Any changes that we have on the staff, we will definitely get you up to date on it, but I'm not going to get into today talking about coaches and who's coming, who's staying.

"I'm staying. You guys happy? Yeah, right. Big round of applause. I'll be here."

What appears to be much clearer is that the Irish will have vacancies to fill in the immediate future, with multiple outlets reporting that secondary coach Kerry Cooks is Oklahoma-bound and that quarterbacks coach Matt LaFleur is going back to the NFL to join the Atlanta Falcons' staff.

That last nugget, it seems, might have also dripped out via social media, this time with another Irish quarterback — Malik Zaire — seemingly alluding to as much Wednesday morning.

Good news, however, did roll in, with the Irish landing a pair of targets who held off their pledges until signing day announcements: They received national letters of intent from four-star running back Dexter Williams of Winter Garden, Florida, who chose the Irish over Miami, and from four-star receiver Equanimeous St. Brown of Anaheim, California, who shunned Stanford, USC and UCLA and who, more notably, announced his decision in French, German and English.

"I'll have to figure out what language to talk to him in," Kelly quipped.

Kelly said there would be no more high school prospects on the way after Williams and St. Brown -- a pair of ESPN 300 prospects -- faxed in their commitments. The sixth-year Irish coach did, however, leave room open for some offseason transfers, along with two players who missed all of last season as part of the school's internal academic probe: Cornerback KeiVarae Russell and end Ishaq Williams.

"KeiVarae's situation is that he's working on classes right now at the University of Washington, and he's had conversations with the appropriate people to get those classes transferred back here to meet the needs that he has relative to transfer requirements and meeting eligibility," Kelly said. "There's still some work to be done there, but I know he's working toward getting that done, and our expectations are to have him back.

"I think Ishaq has a similar kind of criteria. His bar is a little bit more complicated, but he knows what he needs to do as well. So we're hoping that both of them can get it done."

So more good news could be on the way for Notre Dame, which hauled in the nation's No. 13 recruiting class, a group headlined by nine ESPN 300 prospects. Before then, though, clarity must arrive on who will coach some of these players, and that remained the prevailing storyline on a signing day like few others for Notre Dame.

Notes: Linebacker Jarrett Grace (multiple knee surgeries) is close to returning after missing the last year and a half, Kelly said. ... Safety Nicky Baratti (shoulder) will be noncontact this spring. ... Safety Drue Tranquill (ACL) is ahead of schedule, Kelly said, while defensive linemen Jarron Jones (foot) will get his boot off Monday and linebacker Joe Schmidt (ankle) got his boot off several weeks ago. ... Kelly also said guard Conor Hanratty has decided to stop playing football. ... Kelly said there is no set spring game or location yet, though he thinks there likely will be one somewhere on campus. Notre Dame Stadium is currently undergoing renovations.
Dexter Williams, Ezekiel ElliottStudent Sports, Icon SportswireRunning back Dexter Williams has a similar size-to-speed ratio as Ohio State RB Ezekiel Elliott.
Dexter Williams, No. 78 in the ESPN 300 and the No. 5-ranked running back prospect, committed to Notre Dame over Miami and Louisville on Wednesday. The Orlando-area running back and onetime Hurricanes commitment is another big win in Florida for Notre Dame’s Tony Alford, who has recruited Sunshine State prospects Louis Nix III, Greg Bryant and Tarean Folston to South Bend in classes past.

What he brings:

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It’s always fun to look into the history books to see how certain players lived up to their rankings. With signing day fewer than 24 hours away, here’s a look at the last five No. 1 and where I think they would rank stacked up against each other.

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It's tough to imagine a more exhausting and stressful conclusion to a recruiting process than the one Iman Marshall orchestrated. Over the past 10 days, Marshall has taken official visits to Florida State, LSU and Michigan, as well as hosted several coaches at his home and school. But just like on the football field, the nation's No. 4 overall prospect doesn't appear to be fazed at all by what's being thrown at him.

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The deadline for underclassmen to declare for the NFL draft has passed. Now let's take a quick look at the biggest draft deadline winners and losers across the ACC:


Clemson: The Tigers did lose an underclassman: punter Bradley Pinion. Head-scratching, yes. But the reason the Tigers are winners this year is that they held on to all their top offensive talent. While nobody was in position to declare early, it still is notable that this is the first time Clemson has not had an underclassman on offense turn pro since 2010. That could very well change once these freshmen start growing up, but for now, it is good to be co-offensive coordinators Jeff Scott and Tony Elliott.

Duke: The Blue Devils had only one player who could have potentially left early: safety Jeremy Cash. When he announced he would return to school, there must have been a huge sigh of relief. Not only does the Duke secondary now return all its starters, it returns its best player. Cash had 111 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks, 2 interceptions and 4 forced fumbles this past season. With linebacker Kelby Brown (ACL) expected healthy for 2015, Duke potentially has two of the best defensive players in the ACC.

Notre Dame: So the Irish have only one toe in the ACC football waters, but they did end up a huge winner, and that is something teams with Notre Dame on the 2015 schedule need to know. All underclassmen who could have returned did: defensive lineman Sheldon Day, left tackle Ronnie Stanley, center/guard Nick Martin and quarterback Everett Golson (at least for now). Stanley was the biggest surprise because some had projected him as a first-round pick on a few early mock drafts. While Golson's status remains unclear, getting Day, Stanley and Martin back means expectations will again be high in South Bend, Indiana.


Florida State: The Seminoles might be the biggest draft-deadline loser in the country, with five players turning pro early this year: quarterback Jameis Winston, cornerbacks P.J. Williams and Ronald Darby, defensive tackle Eddie Goldman and defensive end Mario Edwards Jr. Of that group, Winston and Goldman are listed on the first Mel Kiper Jr. mock draft. Losing players to the draft is nothing new for the Seminoles, but they have taken heavy losses from their underclassmen in the past three years: 12 in all. Add to that losses from a terrific senior group, including Rashad Greene, Nick O'Leary and Karlos Williams, and 2015 might end up being a bit of a rebuilding year for the Seminoles as they get a boatload of young guys ready to play. On the bright side, kicker Roberto Aguayo and linebacker Terrance Smith announced they would return to school.

Louisville: Many expected safety Gerod Holliman to leave after he tied an NCAA record with 14 interceptions, despite some questions about his pro potential. But losing defensive backs Charles Gaines and James Sample has to be a blow the Cardinals were not quite expecting. Louisville, which ranked No. 5 in the nation in pass efficiency defense, must now replace five of its top six defensive backs in 2015. Put another way, Louisville is losing players responsible for 21 of the 26 interceptions it had last season.

Miami: While we all expected running back Duke Johnson to leave, losing him is still tough for a Miami offense that revolved heavily around him in the past three seasons. Johnson leaves as the school's all-time career all-purpose yards and rushing yards leader. Add the departure of offensive tackle Ereck Flowers and now Miami has to replace its two best underclassmen, plus top seniors Clive Walford and Denzel Perryman.

Few recruiting battles are more intriguing than the ones going on in Texas for high-profile players such as Daylon Mack, Soso Jamabo and Chris Warren III. What schools they pick could tilt recruiting supremacy in the Lone Star State moving forward

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Most coaches at AFCA agree an early signing period is a good thing, but when to have it will be a hot topic at Tuesday’s NCAA recruiting seminar.

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About two dozen schools have expressed interest in Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson, if the Irish quarterback decides to transfer, a source told ESPN’s Brett McMurphy.

Golson did not start the Irish’s Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl victory against LSU, prompting speculation that Golson would leave the school after the spring semester. Golson is scheduled to graduate from Notre Dame in May. At that point, he could transfer to another school, if he desires, to play his final season this fall.

Of the two dozen schools expressing interest in Golson, six were SEC schools, the source said. Golson has not contacted any schools about transferring, the source said.

Last Monday, the Times-Picayune reported that Golson had reached out to LSU about possibly transferring to the school. Later that day Golson tweeted: “Don’t believe everything you hear.”

On Thursday, Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said: “I expect (Golson) to be back and competing for the starting position. I know he expects to be the starter.”

Golson has thrown for 5,850 yards, 41 touchdowns and 20 interceptions in two seasons with the Fighting Irish. He started 23 of 25 games. Sophomore Malik Zaire started for Golson in the Music City Bowl, with Golson coming off the bench in the second quarter.

Golson did not play during the 2013 season after he was suspended from Notre Dame for “poor academic judgment” and was not enrolled in the school. He returned to Notre Dame before the 2014 season.
Several players, like Notre Dame commitment Shaun Crawford, have already surprised with how well they’ve played at the Under Armour All-America Game.

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Instant Analysis: Notre Dame 31, LSU 28

December, 30, 2014
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- In an entertaining back-and-forth affair, two storied programs traded blows at LP Field before Notre Dame finally topped LSU 31-28 on Tuesday in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl. Here are the high points from the game:

It was over when: Notre Dame kicker Kyle Brindza connected on a 32-yard field goal as time expired to give the Fighting Irish the win. It came at the end of an impressive final drive as Notre Dame marched 71 yards in 14 plays and took 5:41 off the clock to close it out. The Irish used both of their quarterbacks, Everett Golson and Malik Zaire, throughout the day and on the final drive.

Game ball goes to: Brian Kelly. The Notre Dame coach handled the quarterback situation masterfully, starting Zaire, who played well (96 rushing yards, 96 passing yards, two total touchdowns). Zaire started the game with an impressive scoring drive and the Irish rotated Golson (90 passing yards on 6-of-11 attempts) in throughout the day. The plan, though unorthodox, was effective overall. Kelly has won eight games in each of his first five seasons at Notre Dame.

How the game was won: The Fighting Irish were terrific offensively and controlled time of possession. Notre Dame only outgained LSU 449 yards to 436 but held a 37:00-23:00 time of possession advantage. The Irish were 11-of-17 on third downs. Defensively, they got some key stops late and got an important -- yet controversial -- stop at the end of the first half on an LSU fake field goal try. Referees ruled that LSU holder Brad Kragthorpe did not cross the goal line, and upon official review the play stood, which turned out to be a key sequence in such a close game.

Stat of the game: Leonard Fournette became only the second freshman in LSU history to rush for 1,000 yards in a season and now holds the LSU freshman record for rushing yards, passing Justin Vincent. Fournette concluded the season with 1,034 rushing yards and had five games of 100 yards or more in his final nine games. On Tuesday he was a handful for Notre Dame, rushing for 143 yards and two touchdowns on 11 carries and adding a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. The only question is whether the Tigers got him the ball enough on Tuesday.

Best play: The game-winning field goal was the most important, but the most highlight-worthy plays belonged to Fournette, who gave us a couple to choose from. While his 100-yard kickoff return was impressive, we’ll go with his 89-yard touchdown run that gave the Tigers a 28-21 lead in the third quarter. It looked like two Notre Dame defenders were closing in on Fournette, only for him to maintain top speed and sprint to the end zone. What a freshman.
Two storied programs with rich football tradition meet Tuesday (3 p.m. ET, ESPN) when LSU takes on Notre Dame in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl at LP Field in Nashville, Tennessee. Let's look ahead to the matchup:

What's at stake: Not as much as either team would hope. Both teams were ranked in the top 10 nationally at one point this season but stumbled down the stretch. Notre Dame (7-5) dropped its last four regular-season contests; LSU (8-4) lost two straight, including a shutout at the hands of Arkansas, before getting a road win Thanksgiving Day at Texas A&M. That said, the two big-name programs should be fired up to meet, and getting a win would be a nice positive for either squad. Brian Kelly has won eight games in each of his first four seasons at Notre Dame, and a win would give him a fifth straight such season. LSU has won eight games in a season for the past 15 years, and it is the longest such streak of any Power 5 conference team.

Players to watch:Notre Dame receiver William Fuller is tied for third in the nation in touchdown catches after hauling in 14 this season. He leads the Fighting Irish in receptions (71) and receiving yards (1,037). LSU true freshman running back Leonard Fournette leads the Tigers with 891 rushing yards and eight touchdowns and has four games of 100 or more rushing yards in LSU's past eight games.

Out-of-conference success: Under Miles, LSU has enjoyed plenty of success against teams outside the SEC. Since 2005, LSU is 45-2 against non-SEC teams, with the only two losses coming in bowl games (Penn State in the 2010 Capital One Bowl; Clemson in the 2012 Chick-fil-A Bowl).

Evening up with the SEC: Notre Dame is 3-4 in bowl games against SEC teams and looking to make that mark .500. They have only faced two SEC teams in bowl games in the past 17 years. The past two came in the BCS championship vs. Alabama in 2013 and against LSU in the 2007 Sugar Bowl, both Notre Dame losses.

Watching the QBs: Kelly announced Monday that Notre Dame redshirt freshman Malik Zaire will get the start over previous starter Everett Golson. Zaire relieved Golson in Notre Dame's regular-season finale against USC, a 49-14 loss. There has been much talk about LSU's quarterback situation and how much time true freshman Brandon Harris will see, but expect starter Anthony Jennings to get the lion's share of the snaps. Jennings told reporters "I'm getting all the one's reps right now. I expect to start and play well."

Stiff defense: LSU's defense, ranked eighth nationally in yards per game, was strong down the stretch. The Tigers allowed only eight touchdowns in regulation in the past six games. Of those eight, only three were on drives of 75 yards or longer.