It's been a while since the Irish have had this type of athlete on the defensive side of the ball. You know, athletes with speed. Now, Notre Dame has sent NFL defensive players to the NFL over the past decade or two, but it hasn't had the collection of speed, "want to" and tackling acumen like it has on campus now in quite some time.
Let's put the start of Notre Dame's schedule in perspective: 10, 17, 3 and 6. That's the point totals that Navy, Purdue, Michigan State and Michigan scored, respectively, in four games. 36 total points. Heck, that's a good quarter for Oregon, much less four full games against three B1G teams and an option team. Notre Dame DC Bob Diaco is unleashing his "hounds" and it's paying big dividends, even without a guy like Aaron Lynch, who left the program in the off-season.
Against Michigan, the Irish, led by LB Manti Te'o's two interceptions, eight tackles and a tackle for a loss, held QB Denard Robinson and the Wolverines to 299 total yards and forced five interceptions. The B1G part of the schedule has been vanquished and a bye week awaits.
But, the ACC/Independent/Pac-12 portion of the slate starts on the first weekend in October, so we'll see if the Irish's 11 Angry Men can stay hungry or not. However, kudos to this group for its play in the month of September.
A quick story. Last year, my buddy David Nuno and I were broadcasting "live" from the Paul Bear Bryant Award ceremony. And by live, I mean we were recording coaches interviews as they would show up at our table so that we could play them later on our respective shows on Yahoo! Sports Radio.
Anyhow, Coach Bill Snyder stopped by the table and we had a little "technical difficulty" in the studio; some other host thought that would be the proper time to schedule an interview that he couldn't reschedule. As such, we were told we'd have to wait. Not my decision, but whatever.
So, here we are with one of the great coaches in college football history, one that was instrumental in the most incredible program turnaround in the history of the game… and he has to wait.
And you know what? He did.
I moved over to the other side of the table and just chatted him up so he didn't get bored, but he told us no problem, I'm good, I'll be ready when you are. He gave us ten great minutes and was gracious, kind and thankful that we gave time to "Kansas State University".
I thought about that instance watching the end of the game on Saturday night in Norman. Snyder knows that he won't get 5-star recruits like OU. He doesn't have the bucolic campus advantage of a place like Austin. Yet, he's patient. He cares and he doesn't worry about things he can't control. He coaches up the players he does recruit and he'll kick your butt on a consistent basis.
Consequently, Oklahoma found out the hard way. Now, Oklahoma has its set of issues and I'll get to them, but KSU's 24-19 win sent a shot across the bow of the Big 12, and of those that didn't quite believe in the Cats pre-season (that's me bowing my head).
QB Collin Klein was brilliant, although he doesn't do one thing brilliantly but keep making plays one after the next. He didn't have one of his patented, 35 passes, 30 runs type of game, but he kept moving the sticks with his 79 yards rushing and 149 yards passing. A few more performances like this, combined with more key wins, and Klein's name and "dark horse Heisman candidate" will reside in the same sentence in articles written throughout the rest of the fall.
A scheduled bye and a cancellation of its game against Nicholls State have kept Oregon State from playing more than 120 minutes over four weeks. Beaver fans wish OSU could've played every minute of the last four weeks given how hot this team is at the moment.
After the grind it out, physical manhandling of Wisconsin in its opener, the Beavers kept the momentum going two weeks later "flying" past #19 UCLA in the Rose Bowl. QB Sean Mannion lit up the UCLA secondary with 379 yards through the air, as WR Brandin Cooks and Markus Wheaton combined for 15 receptions, 325 yards and two touchdowns. An embarrassed Arizona squad is up next for Oregon State, playing just its third game of the season.
How about the Ducks defense? Yes, you heard me: the DEFENSE. Now, I'm sure that's a dirty word for Oregon fans, given how Ducks fans have pledged their souls to the spread offense football gods, but take a look at what the defense did against #22 Arizona:
Dadgum, I feel like I'm singing the 12 Ducks of Christmas. Oregon DC Nick Aliotti's unit, playing without senior captain safety John Boyett, stone cold shut down Rich Rodriguez's offense that had been averaging just under 47 points per game heading in to last Saturday night's showdown. Well, it was hardly a showdown, to be honest, and it was a message to all those that stayed up late to watch that game on ESPN - the Ducks are scary on offense and athletic on defense.
Throughout all of last week on my Overnight Takeover radio show whenever a caller wanted my opinion on this matchup, I used the same phrase each time - this was the "crap or get off the toilet" game of Jimbo Fisher's career. FSU was so highly regarded over the last two years but had nothing really to show for it. One ACC Atlantic Division championship, but no ACC titles. No BCS bowl appearances. Nothing representative of the pre-season high rankings FSU had garnered.
Well, fool me once, shame on you, fool me three times and I'm going to quit believing in you. (Or something like that.) But, Fisher's 'Noles put the foot on the accelerator and finally put Clemson to bed in the fourth quarter in a 49-37 win. In the end, I suppose Fisher can stay on the toilet, huh? Okay, sorry to end with that, but kudos to FSU for solidifying its #4 national ranking.
Now, watch the 'Noles disappear until late November and a visit from the Gators (although trips to Raleigh and Blacksburg are going to be trickier than we all think).
I thought that Manuel's performance was worthy of inclusion and separate from the Seminoles bullet point above. He threw for 380 yards and a pair of touchdowns, while rushing for 102 yards on the ground, leading FSU to a 49-37 win over Clemson. It took the Seminoles a while to get going, but in the second half, Manuel's bunch got it cranked and the Noles were flying high. If Manuel keeps this up, the DAC might need to keep a seat available for him in New York. It's early, but there isn't much standing in his way the rest of the season.
So much has been made of the South Carolina offense being the antithesis of a Steve Spurrier offense, yet on Saturday, which QB completed 20 passes in a row against a new SEC opponent? That's right: Connor Shaw. He completed 20 passes in a row and finished 20 of 21 for one of the all-time best performances in USC football history.
It's not, nor will it ever be, the old school Florida Fun 'n' Gun like it was back in the day, but if Shaw slings it like this going forward, the Gamecocks' offense will be more difficult to stop than it's been in quite some time.
What is there to say that I didn't say last weekend? Okay, here's a positive: WR Cobi Hamilton had over 300 yards receiving on 10 receptions. Cool. Anything else? *Crickets*
They are starting 1-3, with three consecutive losses in the state of Arkansas. Now the Hogs have consecutive trips to College Station and Auburn. 1-5 is a distinct possibility. Then take a look at the last thee games of the season. AT South Carolina. AT Mississippi State. LSU in Little Rock.
Put it this way: Arkansas can't lose one time in Fayetteville the rest of the season (Kentucky, Ole Miss and Tulsa) and then must beat two of the following to even be BOWL ELIGIBLE:
Can you honestly find two victories in that bunch, any two guaranteed wins? I'm not convinced I can and I'm trying to be positive. So, if that's the case, then this is a team that went from dark horse BCS National championship contender to no bowl. Yes, repeat after me…NO BOWL. Inexcusable.
This is a program in turmoil. UTEP hammered the Sooners in week one, but couldn't put any pressure on the Sooners late in the game because the Miners couldn't hit a field goal. We should've known after that week that this team didn't have the goods to be one of the best in the country.
Some of us did know, but I digress. Kansas State confirmed that very fact for us on Saturday night. Go down the list of issues for the Sooners. The offensive line is a disaster. QB Landry Jones has teased all of us for five years and he still makes abysmal decisions with the ball. The defense didn't make a play, seemingly, all night, didn't turn the Wildcats over once and couldn't get off the field on a key third down late in the game.
Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops has to take a long hard look at his program - coaches, schemes, philosophy, recruiting…everything. Now, that all said, the Sooners can still win the Big 12, but it won't finish higher than 3rd if it doesn't make some immediate changes going forward.
It feels like a weekly occurrence. Michigan doesn't score a touchdown in a loss at Notre Dame. Wisconsin struggles with UTEP. Michigan State almost got beat by a directional Michigan school (Eastern). Iowa DID get beat by a directional Michigan school (Western). Ohio State couldn't shake off pesky UAB. And, then Illinois got hammered by Louisiana Tech. So as we approach B1G play, here's the scoreboard…
It's been so bad B1G commissioner Jim Delaney is making sure that the B1G still has its annual invite from the Rose Bowl. I'm kidding, I'm kidding. But, it made you think, huh? A lot of B1G fans didn't like the "love" the SEC was getting last off-season; consequently, it's been quiet on that front for most of September.