Notre Dame Football: LSU Tigers

ESPN Junior 300 defensive tackle Daylon Mack (Gladewater, Texas/Gladewater) has a new top four.

Irish Lunch Links

March, 20, 2012
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Brian Kelly is expected to kick off spring with a news conference right around now. Check back here later for what he has to say.
ESPN The Magazine and ESPN.com's RecruitingNation went through data from the past five years to further break down who dominates what, when it comes to going after the nation's top high school prospects.

Some interesting numbers of note:
  • Notre Dame has 36 ESPNU 150 players from 2007-11, the fifth-most in the nation. Florida (57) has the most.
  • Seven of the 104 ESPNU 150 wide receivers from 2007-11 have gone to Notre Dame, which ties the Irish with Texas and LSU for most at that position.
  • Three of the 27 ESPNU 150 tight ends from 2007-11 have chosen the Irish, giving them the most during that span.
  • The average Notre Dame recruit travels 791 miles from campus. Eight schools reel in recruits from a longer average distance.

ESPN The Magazine's LaRue Cook also ranks the top 10 out-of-state recruiters, a list Notre Dame does not crack, because:
You'll notice that teams like the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, who signed 34 of 36 ESPNU 150 recruits from outside Indiana, and the Oregon Ducks, who signed 11 of 12 from out of state, are missing. But those schools didn't have much choice but to look elsewhere: just nine ESPNU 150 recruits resided in Indiana during the time frame and only three in Oregon.

A blue-chip prospect was set and ready to join the preseason 2012 favorite.

A Notre Dame recruiting class needed some juice after losing two commits in the past week.

Less than 24 hours later ... Wow.

Gunner Kiel, the nephew of former Irish quarterback Blair Kiel, is Irish-bound, the school announced Tuesday, the first day of the spring semester. And what a first day it is.

Notre Dame landed ESPNU's No. 2 quarterback and No. 20 overall prospect, and it might just have its quarterback of the future.

The roller-coaster recruitment that initially had Kiel bound for Bloomington, and then for Baton Rouge, ends with the four-star prospect enrolling in South Bend, about a four-hour drive from his hometown of Columbus, Ind.

He will have all of the spring and preseason practices to play catch-up to the duo of Tommy Rees and Andrew Hendrix while battling Everett Golson as well.

And there's more.

Cornerback Tee Shepard (Fresno, Calif./Washington Union), defensive lineman Sheldon Day (Indianapolis, Ind./Warren Central) and running back Amir Carlisle all enrolled early, too.

The former two are four-star prospects, while Carlisle comes over from rival USC.

Shepard, in particular, should allow fans to relax a little after a recruitment that kept everyone on edge.

The trio won't overshadow the addition of Kiel, who is now one of four quarterbacks battling for one spot. And while Irish fans might discover the true genius of Brian Kelly through this quarterback battle the next couple of years, he has already flexed his muscle with another late-season recruiting coup.

When will SEC's reign end?

January, 11, 2012
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Alabama beat LSU for the national title, and both will likely enter 2012 as preseason top-five teams.

Not far behind them will be Arkansas, which has a legitimate argument as the nation's third-best team this season following an 11-2 campaign that featured losses to only the Crimson Tide and the Tigers.

Throw in the fact the Razorbacks get both finalists at home next season, and we may once again be looking at three top-five SEC West teams, meaning, at the very least, one will be in the BCS title game and give the conference a chance at a seventh straight national title.

When will this reign of dominance end? Probably not soon, as seven of ESPNU's current top 15 recruiting classes for 2012 belong to SEC schools. Notre Dame is there as well, at No. 13, but it would be unreasonable to expect the Irish to jump into national title contention, at least next season, with an unfavorable schedule and a big question mark at quarterback.

The best guess here is change atop the college football ranks won't come until change comes to the BCS as we know it, and even that does nothing more than provide a sliver of opportunity for everyone else.

Oklahoma State is in the title game this season if not for a double-overtime loss at Iowa State that came one day after the Cowboys' women's basketball coach and three others were killed in a plane crash. Whether the Cowboys would have beaten LSU is another matter entirely. And they're only in the conversation now because of a Fiesta Bowl that Stanford could not close out when given the chance in the waning seconds.

Things could have been different. In 2008, former Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe helped reject a proposed "plus one" that was being supported by the ACC and SEC. Yup, Mike Slive gave everyone a chance, and he got turned down. As they say, who's laughing now?

But change may be coming. Every conference better hope it is.

Six straight national titles by the SEC -- culminating with two of its schools in the title game Monday night -- gives the conference the benefit of the doubt. That means a one-loss Alabama team that already lost to LSU gets a rematch instead of a one-loss Oklahoma State team waiting for its shot, regardless of each's body of work this season. It's a no-win situation for champions of other conferences. It's the SEC champion and the next-best thing, which, this year, meant another SEC team. History favors it, and the Tide's performance Monday left little room for argument.

Which leads us to whatever changes come in 2014, when the next BCS contract will begin. Answers remain unclear, but if any semblance of a playo ... (er, "plus one") comes to fruition, schools from all over will have the chance to make their cases on the field.

That's all it is -- a chance. But in the same way an Iowa State can knock off an Oklahoma State, that chance may be all anyone tired of the SEC can hope for in trying to slow the dominance of college football's best conference.
Notre Dame comes in at No. 23 in colleague Mark Schlabach's way-too-early 2012 top 25.

Florida State, which beat the Irish in the Dec. 29 Champs Sports Bowl, is No. 8. (Outside the top-five, which is surprising to some of you who took Schlabach's pre-bowl prediction a little too seriously.)

Irish opponent USC comes in at No. 2, behind LSU. Oklahoma, another Irish opponent in 2012, is at No. 5. Michigan State is No. 9.

Michigan (No. 11) and Stanford (No. 17) make it five Notre Dame 2012 opponents in the way-too-early top 25.

On Notre Dame, Schlabach writes:
The jury still seems to be out on whether coach Brian Kelly can return the Fighting Irish to national prominence. There's no question the Irish are a better defensive team under Kelly, but the offense continues to struggle because of turnovers and poor quarterback play. Kelly will again oversee a quarterback battle during the offseason, with Tommy Rees, Andrew Hendrix and Everett Golson battling for the starting job. They'll be without star receiver Michael Floyd, but tight end Tyler Eifert decided to come back for one more season. The defense should continue to improve as young linemen like Aaron Lynch and Stephon Tuitt get stronger. Notre Dame's schedule in 2012 is daunting, with nine games against teams that played in bowl games, including road contests at Michigan State, Oklahoma and USC.

Darby de-commits from Notre Dame

January, 9, 2012
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Four-star cornerback Ronald Darby (Oxon Hill, Md./Potomac; No. 69 in the ESPNU 150) has re-opened his recruitment after de-committing from Notre Dame, according to multiple reports.

Darby, who committed to the Irish in April and had been their highest-rated recruit for this year's class, is expected to visit Florida State and Clemson, and is considering trips to Ohio State and LSU as well.

Notre Dame's 2012 recruiting class is down to 17 members.

What does Kiel-to-LSU mean for Irish?

December, 27, 2011
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On its surface, the loss of ESPNU's No. 20 overall player and No. 2 quarterback — one who plays just a few hours south from Notre Dame — would appear to be a blow for the Irish as the home stretch of the recruiting season approaches.

But Columbus East's (Ind.) Gunner Kiel's decision to commit to LSU on Tuesday night over Notre Dame and Vanderbilt is far from the end of the world in South Bend, Ind.

Notre Dame will close its 2011 campaign Thursday with a quarterback controversy, albeit a different one from the conundrum that the Irish began the season with. Sophomore Tommy Rees will start, sophomore Andrew Hendrix will back him up and freshman Everett Golson will bide his time for one more game before jumping into the mix this coming spring.

Three right arms are currently vying for one position. All three, if they wish, will be here for at least the next two seasons.

While the addition of a four-star quarterback would create a problem any coach would wish to have, Notre Dame already dealt with one unhappy camper this season in Dayne Crist. The Irish will likely have at least one more next season, as it is tough to envision a scenario in which three different signal callers see significant action. Adding Kiel to the mix would, at least in the immediate future, create room for one more clipboard-holder and increase the potential for resentment among the position.

Kiel is a tremendous prospect and is joining a tremendous team. But count quarterback as the one area moving forward that LSU could use more help at than Notre Dame.

Irish second-most valuable team

December, 26, 2011
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Notre Dame is the second-most valuable college football team, according to Forbes.

The magazine's list of the 20-most valuable football programs placed the Irish second only to Texas, which is valued at $129 million.

Notre Dame is valued at $112 million, producing $72 million in revenue and $47 million in total profit. Texas produced $96 million in revenue and $71 million in total profit.

Penn State, LSU and Michigan rounded out the top five.

Brian Kelly radio show recap

December, 13, 2011
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Brian Kelly welcomed a special guest for his final radio show of the 2011 season — Manti Te'o.

The junior linebacker earned applause from the crowd after announcing his intention to return to Notre Dame two days ago; Kelly said it's impossible to quantify what a player like Te'o means to the program.

"He's a six-star, maybe even a nine-star," Kelly said of the kind of recruit Te'o is.

In his first public appearance since Charley Molnar took the Massachusetts head-coaching job, Kelly said he was pleased for his former offensive coordinator.

"We're really happy for Charley and excited for him and his family; he’s got a beautiful family," Kelly said. "I'll take some more leadership on the offensive side of the ball, and we're all gonna pitch in — Ed Warinner, Tim Hinton, Mike Denbrock."

Speaking of family, Kelly's parents, Paul and Regina, were also in attendance.

Kelly was also asked about the punt-return game, which averaged a nation-worst 0.3 yards per return.

"We've actually begun to study on a lot of these things and it really has a lot to do with the punters in college football," Kelly said. "They're scholarship players; they're not walk-ons. They understand their impact in the game is immense. BC, their punter controlled the flow of the game with our starting position.

"And secondly, if there's a kick that has 4.2 seconds of hangtime and you have an average coverage scheme, you're gonna put that return guy in a position where he's gonna have to be like Tyrann Mathieu of LSU. He's gonna have to make three or four or five guys miss. So your punt-return guy has to be a gamebreaker."

When recapping the regular season, Kelly deemed it a "woulda, coulda, shoulda" campaign that will require some tightening up across the board.

Week 10: Did you know?

November, 4, 2011
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Thanks to ESPN Stats and Information for these nuggets:
  • Notre Dame is one of 15 schools that can clinch bowl eligibility with one more victory.
  • No. 1 LSU plays No. 2 Alabama this weekend. Notre Dame has the most wins in games between the top two AP-ranked teams, with five.
  • Saturday is the first meeting between Notre Dame and Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons are the second team the Irish are playing this season for the first time in program history, joining South Florida.
  • Notre Dame will play three consecutive ACC schools starting Saturday. The Irish are 78-31-2 all-time against schools from that league.
  • When the Irish turn the ball over three or more times, they are 1-3. They're 4-0 when committing fewer than three turnovers. They have five red-zone turnovers this season, tied with Tulane for the most in the nation.
  • Notre Dame has allowed just four rushing touchdowns this season, behind only Alabama, which has surrendered two.
A majority of the college football world's attention will be focused on Tuscaloosa, Ala., this weekend as No. 2 Alabama hosts No. 1 LSU in what many are calling the game of the century.

With that in mind, let's take a look back at some of the notable AP No. 1 vs. No. 2 games involving Notre Dame.

Thanks to ESPN Stats and Information for the help.

Nov. 13, 1993
No. 2 Notre Dame 31, No. 1 Florida State 24
Shawn Wooden batted down eventual Heisman Trophy winner Charlie Ward’s pass in the end zone to seal the Irish's upset win. The next week, however, top-ranked Notre Dame suffers its only loss of the season, falling to No. 17 Boston College. FSU beat Florida and then Nebraska in the Orange Bowl to win its first national title. Notre Dame eventually topped Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl to finish No. 2 in the polls despite its earlier win over the Seminoles.

Nov. 19, 1966
No. 1 Notre Dame 10, No. 2 Michigan State 10
The two led the AP rankings for six straight weeks, with Notre Dame entering this game on top. The Irish came back from a 10-0 deficit but, with the ball in its own territory with less than two minutes left, settled for a controversial tie. They finished the season No. 1. The Spartans finished second.

Nov. 9, 1946
No. 1 Army 0, No. 2 Notre Dame 0
With scalpers getting a reported $250 per ticket for the game at Yankee Stadium — no small amount 65 years ago — Johnny Lujack made a key diving tackle of Army's Doc Blanchard on a potential touchdown run, keeping the game a scoreless tie. Army, which entered with a 25-game winning streak and was a two-time defending national champion, fell to No. 2 after a close 21-18 win over Navy in its finale. Notre Dame, which entered the contest 5-0, ended the season ahead of Army, securing the national title.

Notre Dame mailbag

October, 21, 2011
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Apologies for the late start chatting today. Here is my way of making it up to you.

Kevin from New York writes: I would love to see Notre Dame make a BCS bowl game, but how do you see Notre Dame standing up against some of the other dominant BCS schools?

Matt Fortuna: Kevin, I think LSU, Alabama and Oklahoma are in a league of their own right now. Oklahoma State, Wisconsin, Stanford and Clemson aren't too far behind. I suppose we'll really get our answer Nov. 26 when the Irish go to Stanford, and I think at the moment that could be a very good game. I wouldn't want any part of the other three at the moment.



Adena from South Bend writes: I often hear Kirk Herbstreit talk about how Notre Dame has a lot of talent. Why don't they play a team like Alabama or LSU to prove they are indeed relevant again? Can you please blog about this? Thank You.

Matt Fortuna: Adena, they go to Oklahoma next year to face a Sooners team that, who knows, may just be defending its national title. They also go to Stanford this year and in recent years have played a national title contender in USC annually. Add in the fact that there are no true cupcakes and the scheduling quirks that come with being an independent, and it becomes a lot harder to schedule such big games, especially with so many annual rivalries to protect as well.



Jody Ruedisale from Lansing, Mich., writes: I feel Notre Dame should be ranked. I don't know what the coaches or the writers are thinking in the AP and the coaches poll. They are better in the teams ranked 20-15 and they beat a very Michigan State team soundly.

Matt Fortuna: Jody, I agree, it is weird to see the Irish not ranked after these past four wins. That MSU win is looking better and better each week, as well, and will especially look good if Sparty can somehow beat Wisconsin this week. No worries, however. If ND beats USC, it will be ranked.



Pete from Bergenfield, N.J., writes: Do you see Everett Golson getting some solid playing time in the near future? And when do you think if ever he will be the starting quarterback.

Matt Fortuna: Pete, Golson is all but a lock to redshirt this season with three other quarterbacks having already seen playing time. It is a long ways away to know whether he will ever start, and I, for one, have never seen a practice so I can't exactly tell you how he looks. I do know that it will be an open competition after this year and everything will be up for grabs.



James Clinton from Springfield, Va., writes: You always say that Notre Dame's defense isn't good and that ND isn't good, yet they are the only team to beat Michigan State, IN A BLOW-OUT, and man-handled Air Force. U are just being biased because of the first two games. And our offense, which is so bad apparently, has scored over 30 in 4 games. And we rank 28th in BCS, which is too low, yet somehow 7 spots lower than penn state. How does PSU, who plays NOBODY, rank above a team with what analysts call the "hardest first six games schedule?" Thanks

Matt Fortuna: James, appreciate the etiquette with the "thanks" at the end. And I don't think Penn State is better than Notre Dame, which I again ranked higher this week, though I do think the better record and the fact its only loss came to No. 2 Alabama certainly plays a role in most voters' minds. Now if you can find where I "always say that Notre Dame's defense isn't good," that "ND isn't good" and where I wrote that the offense is so bad, then I will gladly eat my own words. Also, a bias would imply I don't like Notre Dame, not that my judgment is clouded by the first two games. Those two games — two losses — are a part of Notre Dame football's 2011 team forever, and they will always show up in the record books. You can't always ignore that when talking about this team, however good it may end up being.

Notre Dame mailbag

October, 14, 2011
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Here's what's on your mind as Notre Dame enjoys its bye weekend at the midway point of the season:

Peter Wiegand from South Bend writes: Hey Matt, Where do you think Notre Dame would be in the rankings if they had beaten USF 27-23, and held Michigan from scoring a touchdown on their last drive and won that game? Thanks!

Matt Fortuna: Peter, what-if is a funny game, but I'd see the Irish anywhere from 4-7. I don't think they'd jump LSU, Alabama or Oklahoma, and how they'd rank against the rest of the undefeated teams is up for debate. Really, though, do you think they destroy MSU the way they did if they don't go into that weekend 0-2 with a chip on their shoulder? That's not to say they wouldn't win, but you can't fake the kind of anger this team was forced to play with after two tough losses.


Joe from Shrewsbury, Mass., writes: Hey Matt,Do you sense that next saturday's game against USC could be the tipping point for many recruits on the fringe of committing ND or another school? If the Irish pull this one off, do you think that it will be a huge momentum swing for recruiting?Thanks so much!-Joe

Matt Fortuna: Joe, I think a lot can hinge on the day in general, from the execution of the night game to the play on the field. It is certainly a great opportunity to haul in a few recruits, many of whom will likely be in town for the game. I still think those in town from last week are in shock at the 80 degree weather in South Bend in October.


Brian Styerwalt from Denver writes: Hey Matt,I've been a die hard Notre Dame fan for as long as I can remember. I have no doubt that they can win out even with Stanford at the conclusion. If they do that and go 10-2 do you think they'll finish in the top 8 and get a BCS bid or do you think they'll fall just short?

Matt Fortuna: Brian, it's a lot easier said than done, but I think if they end the season on a 10-game winning streak that that should be enough to make a BCS bowl, in addition to erasing the sour early-season memories from everyone's minds. It's no secret that Irish fans travel well, and they'd certainly be riding plenty of momentum if they get to that point. I wouldn't look that far ahead, however, as there is a whole half of a season left to be played.


Randy Olry from Fort Wayne, Ind., writes: Its obvious that you have a bias against Notre Dame. I always wondered why and then I read your Bio that you graduated from Penn State. You don't give Notre Dame credit for not loading up their schedule with cupcakes. You want to say that teams that have fewer losses should be ahead of Notre Dame. If Notre Dame did what other schools do and loaded up with FBS schools early and only play the tough games at the end of the year they would be in the National Championship hunt each year. Instead, they play tough teams all year. Thats why their fans are so loyal, because they have never ducked the tough games like all the teams ranked ahead of them. Thats why Penn State can't win a National Championship any more since joing the Big Ten. THey used to load up on cupcakes and be one of the top ranked teams. Thats a lot harder playing Big Ten teams. Notre Dame is two turnovers away from being undeafeated against one of the toughest schedules in the country. You will continue to have a bias for Notr Dame because your alma mater used to load up on cupcakes.

Matt Fortuna: Randy, here is a link to my power rankings from this past week, in which I rank a two-loss Notre Dame team ahead of a one-loss Penn State team. Some bias.

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