2012 has been an absolute whirlwind.
Personally, I found myself changing jobs, a move that was a long time coming. Around the same time, I saw my responsibilities change here at HLS as well. All of sudden, I’m helping with a total redesign, fighting through the issues that redesign caused, and being named editor-in-chief.
The next thing I know, I look up and the Irish are 12-0 with a shot at the title and joined in on a worthy effort to send a great kid to South Beach. And succeeding.
The whole year has seemed like a crazy dream.
When I watched NBC’s recap of our undefeated season, it was a surreal feeling. It was as if the entire show was a reminder that, yes, this all actually happened. Every ESPN promo for the title game has a similar function. Yes, the Irish are indeed number one. The lights on top of Grace Hall remain lit for a reason.
2012 has simply been an incredible year all around and we get to start 2013 with the conclusion of this crazy ride.
If this is a dream, don’t wake me.
Not having such a great year: Matt Barkley. Remember when he was the Heisman favorite? Yeah, now he’s not even playing in his bowl game. Yikes.
If you’re early, you’re on time. If you’re on time, you’re late. If you’re late, you’re Lane Kiffin. And yeah, I get your flight got delayed and it screwed up your schedule, but it doesn’t help when your players compare their host city to excrement in the same 24-hour time-span. Related, please never stop coaching USC, Lane.
Roll injuries? Here’s some Alabama injury news you might want to keep an eye on. In particular, if Barrett Jones remains out, Louis Nix could cause major havoc.
Speaking of Louis Nix…here are more reasons to love this kid.
Congrats, Denard Robinson you have NFL talent! At cornerback.
Jack Swarbrick is talking. You should listen.
Lou Holtz wants you to go back to church. Expect to see quite a few of these ads in the next week.
This has absolutely nothing to do with football. Seriously, it doesn’t, but this story is absolutely hilarious so I’m linking it anyways.
Put These Games on Your Radar
Same drill as last week. Below are all the bowl games until next Friday with my games of interest in bold. All times ET.
Friday, December 28
2:00 PM – Ohio vs Louisiana-Monroe (ESPN/WatchESPN)
5:30 PM – Rutgers vs Virginia Tech (ESPN/WatchESPN)
9:00 PM – Minnesota vs Texas Tech (ESPN/WatchESPN)
Saturday, December 29
11:45 AM – Rice vs Air Force (ESPN/WatchESPN)
3:15 PM – West Virginia vs Syracuse (ESPN/WatchESPN)
4:00 PM – Navy vs Arizona State (ESPN2/WatchESPN)
6:45 PM – #23 Texas vs #13 Oregon State (ESPN/WatchESPN)
10:15 PM – TCU vs Michigan State (ESPN/WatchESPN)
Monday, December 31
12:00 PM – North Carolina State vs Vanderbilt (ESPN/WatchESPN)
2:00 PM – USC vs Georgia Tech (CBS)
3:30 PM – Iowa State vs Tulsa (ESPN/WatchESPN)
7:30 PM – #8 LSU vs #14 Clemson (ESPN/WatchESPN)
Tuesday, January 1
12:00 PM – Notre Dame Football Marathon, includes Onward Notre Dame: South Bend to Soldier Field, Undefeated: 2012 Notre Dame Season in Review (NBC Sports Network – full schedule)
12:00 PM – Mississippi State vs #20 Northwestern (ESPN2/WatchESPN)
12:00 PM – Purdue vs Oklahoma State (ESPNU/WatchESPN)
1:00 PM – #7 Georgia vs #16 Nebraska (ABC)
1:00 PM – #10 South Carolina vs #18 Michigan (ESPN/WatchESPN)
5:00 PM – Wisconsin vs #6 Stanford (ESPN/WatchESPN)
8:30 PM – #15 Northern Illinois vs #12 Florida State (ESPN/WatchESPN) (call it morbid curiosity)
Wednesday, January 2
8:30 PM – #21 Louisville vs #3 Florida (ESPN/WatchESPN)
Thursday, January 3
8:30 PM – #4 Oregon vs #5 Kansas State (ESPN/WatchESPN)
It’s New Year’s, so we need to bust out the champagne right? Let’s see, what’s the champagne of beers…
Notre Dame simply did what it has done all season. Minimize mistakes on offense, establish their running game, and have their defense dominate.
The result: a 22-13 Irish victory to cap off an undefeated 2012 regular season and a berth in the BCS title game.
While the game was close, and many Irish fans were understandably nervous considering the stakes, Notre Dame flat out dominated Southern Cal. Just take a look at the below stats:
|Notre Dame||Southern Cal|
|Time of Posession||34:38||25:22|
To add to that, Notre Dame once again finished the first quarter without allowing any TDs just as they have all season, becoming the only team in FBS to accomplish that feat in 2012. Further, Notre Dame came out and dominated the third quarter once again, allowing no points, and giving up only 24 total yards to the Trojans.
Theo Riddick, as he has done all season, led the Irish rushing attack with 146 yards on 20 carries (8.3 yards/carry). As if that wasn’t enough, Riddick also snagged 3 passes for 33 yards, giving him 179 total yards on the day.
Everett Golson had yet another solid performance. He didn’t burn up the stat sheet, going only 15-26 for 217 yards (8.3 yards/pass) and rushed for 47 yards on 9 carries (5.2 yards/carry). He had zero total TDs, but also had zero turnovers. As we’ve seen this season, if Golson does that, the Irish tend to win rather comfortably when all is said and done.
Especially when you have a defense like the Irish do.
In my preview of this matchup, if there was one thing I was worried about, it was Southern Cal’s potential for the big play. However, the Irish held the Trojans to only two gains of 20 yards or more: a 24 yard run by Silas Redd in the second quarter and a 53 yard bomb to Marquise Lee near the end of the game.
Neither of those drives resulted in a TD.
The Irish gave up only a FG after the big Redd run. After the Lee strike, the Irish had a goal line stand that can only be topped by what they did in OT to Stanford.
That stand started on the Irish’s 2 yard line with a false start pushing the Trojans back ot the 7. A Curtis McNeal rush put the Trojans on the 4 were they tried to throw two fade routes to Marquise Lee, each broken up by a defensive PI to save the TD. That put the Trojans on the 1 yard line, and four plays later, they failed to gain that single yard to make this a ball game again.
Included in that goal stand stand was a QB sneak in which USC attempted to “Bush Push” again. However, this time it failed, exorcising yet another demon of the past.
2012 has simply been a season in which we’ve seen just about everything go the Irish’s way. Brent Musburger went as far to call the Irish “destiny’s darlings”. And you might not blame him either, especially considering the goal line stand was capped off by a rushed pass that was dropped by the SC fullback and, in the Trojan drive prior, Lane Kiffin called a timeout right before a play that would have likely resulted in a TD (although Lee did drop that pass anyways).
However, I have a different reasoning than Brent: the Irish have created their own luck and we’ve seen it all season.
The Irish defense causes mistakes to be made, passes dropped, and coaches frantically calling timeouts when they shouldn’t. In previous years, the Irish would be the ones cracking under pressure — this year they are causing it.
Not only that, this defense has all the confidence in the world that they can stop anyone, especially when their opponent is right on the goal line. It’s why they have no problem purposefully committing defensive pass interference and daring the Trojans to run at them. It’s why Diaco can put Manti Te’o on Marquise Lee without blinking an eye.
Bottom line: it’s why this team is 12-0.
And speaking of Manti, he got his 7th interception and pushed his tackle total over 100. He may not have found the endzone this season, but I firmly believe he put a solid finishing touch on his Heisman campaign. As Brian Kelly put it:
If a guy like Manti Te’o isn’t going to win the Heisman, they should just make it an offensive award. Just give it to the offensive player every year and just cut to the chase. He is the backbone of a 12-0 football team that has proven itself each week. He showed it again tonight with a key interception and a great play in the end zone. If the Heisman Trophy is what it is, I don’t know how Manti Te’o is held out of that conversation.
I couldn’t agree more.
Now, we have over a month to let this sink in as we anxiously await for our shot at the BCS title. For now though enjoy the following moments of glory below and savor each one.
Rick Reilly needs to pay up (and as a former student manager, I must say, have fun with this!):
— Kapron Lewis-Moore (@KLM_89) November 25, 2012
Hopefully you will hold true to your promise @reillyrick we will be working on the helmets early next week…see you soon!
— Ryan Grooms (@NDFBEquipment) November 25, 2012
Mark May pays up…in a leprechaun suit:
Lou’s troll game is oh so strong:
— Lou Holtz (@ESPNDrLou) November 25, 2012
And finally, the best ICON ever:
See you in Miami.
Notre Dame Football, we need to talk.
Let’s be honest, the past decade hasn’t been kind to me or any Irish fan for that matter. Hell, we could probably go back even further than that, but I’m not going to pretend to have any major Irish memories when my age wasn’t even in double digits.
The point though, is that you’ve teased us before. We’ve seen the undefeated runs and the multiple “return[s] to glory” only to play Charlie Brown while you are Lucy, yanking the football away from us.
This is why Biscuit had to write a piece simply to wonder just how he should feel. I too find myself in a strange spot as to just how I should approach this Saturday.
I want to be clear, I have all the confidence in the world that you can beat Southern Cal. They aren’t exactly the elite team we thought they were and now they are starting a redshirt freshman at quarterback. There’s all the reason in the world for me to be convinced that this Saturday is simply “taking care of business”, but yet, I’m utterly terrified.
The thing is, I know I’m not alone either. This is what you have done to us. Hell, I’m even scared of putting a jinx on the whole thing by simply discussing potential travel plans should Saturday end in a victory.
I beg you, for the love of God, please finish the job and just destroy Southern Cal.
Don’t go breaking my heart again, ND. I can’t take it.
Because you can never have enough reasons to hate Kiffin and USC. The SEC is squarely behind him and now Chip Kelly of Oregon even gaurantees victory. Or Lane’s full of crap. Either is likely.
Ohio State is taking a different approach to their BCS title hopes. They are petitioning Barack Obama to pardon them. Seriously. I guess the logic is “we helped you get back in the White House, send us to Miami”; however, there’s a bit of hilarious irony that people in Ohio have also submitted a petition to secede. Well done.
Big Ten, enjoy your new friends. Because your new relationship with Maryland and Rutgers really doesn’t make much sense.
Oh, and Big East, you need to figure something out and fast. You are now on life support.
Want to win a banner used at the Emerald Isle Classic? Swing by the ND Alumni Facebook page for details. I’d suggest liking them for future updates.
Notre Dame is looking to rack up the hardware. Be sure to swing by UND.com who has a central hub for everything that you need to spread the word for our deserving candidates, including Manti Te’o's Heisman quest.
Yes, I know I bag on ESPN a lot. But every now and then, they do some great stuff like this piece on a life-long Irish fan that recently passed.
Put These Games on Your Radar
There are loads of intriguing games this weekend. You’ll have a lot of time to kill before our primetime matchup, so the below will definitely keep you busy.
#19 Michigan @ Ohio State, 12pm EST, ABC - Idiotic presidential peitions aside, Ohio State and Urban Meyer would love to make some noise about an undefeated season. Unfortunetly, the Skunkbears are all that now stands in their way. GO METEOR!
#5 Oregon @ #15 Oregon State, 3pm EST, Pac 12 Network - Of course this game just has to be on a channel I don’t have. If you are forunate enough, tune in because this should be a great rivalry matchup.
Auburn @ #2 Alabama, 3:30pm EST, CBS - The Iron Bowl. This will likely end in complete disaster for Auburn, but there is always an outside chance this intense rivalry will deliver one hell of a game.
#4 Florida @ #10 Florida State, 3:30pm EST, ABC - Really not too much to say here besides the fact, I actually would like karma to knock Florida down a peg for winning a game on a blocked punt with just seconds left against a non-BCS team.
#21 Oklahoma State @ #13 Oklahoma, 3:30pm EST, ESPN/WatchESPN - Bedlam. Good potential for a nice Big XII shootout.
#8 Stanford @ #17 UCLA, 6:30pm EST, FOX - Stanford needs a win to secure their spot in the Pac 12 title game against…UCLA…so…uh…round one?
I can’t go back on what I said on the air right? With an uproven QB and a defense looking to make a point to cement Te’o's Heisman campaign. I’m looking for a solid win. Oh and no TDs for the Trojans.
ND 32 – USC 6
Screw the Dancing Leprechauns!
ND Wins 24-9 (halftime is 10-6 though)
38-17 ND runs away with it.
Irish 20, Trojans 10
Like I said in my piece on Tuesday, Notre Dame is headed into USC to go curbstomp our biggest rivals on the way to the National Championship. 34-13 Irish. We goin’ to the ship!
Closest to the Pin – Week 11
This wasn’t even close. Screw closest to the pin, Bayou hit an ace and hit the score dead on. He gets a .5 bonus for that feat.
Well done, sir.
Considering that we are playing out in California, Sierra Nevada immediately came to mind. While I was looking at the potential selections I saw this:
Because, yes, we do indeed want to have a celebration out in Southern Cal. Here’s hoping I’m drinking this IPA out of joy an not to drown my sorrows.
Bayou started off the week talking about some of Lane Kiffin’s…uh…unique coaching habits. Twibby scratched the surface of the 2012 edition of the USC Trojans yesterday. Today we are going to go a little bit deeper and check out just exactly what stands between the Irish and a chance at a national title.
The biggest news of course, is that former Heisman hopeful, Matt Barkley, will be out of this Saturday’s contest with a sprained throwing shoulder. Now, while I wouldn’t put it past Kiffykins to try to pull a fast one on us, I have a hard time believing that even Lane Kiffin would dare pull a stunt like that. So let’s just assume, that redshirt freshman, Max Wittek, will be under center for the Trojans.
What do we know about Wittek? Very little, besides the fact that he might just regret saying this:
We haven’t got the full game plan yet, but from what I can tell, we’re going to play our offense, whatever coach (Lane) Kiffin feels comfortable giving me. If he wants to air it out, let’s air it out. If he wants to pound it on the ground, let’s do that. Like I said, I’m going to go out there, I’m going to play within myself, within the system, and we’re going to win this ballgame.
Poking the bear already, kid? Brave. I salute you for your courage, but question your intelligence for doing this before you face the toughest defense your team’s seen all season and right after the guy in front of you got broken.
To be fair though, Wittek does actually have some legitimate reasons to have some confidence. This is, after all the 27th best offense in the nation, led by their 20th ranked passing attack. While Barkley is a large reason for this success, actual Heisman hopeful, Marqise Lee, and Robert Woods have had a large part in this as well. While most expected Woods to have the biggest impact, Lee has proven to be the most dangerous offensive weapon on USC’s roster. Lee is second in the nation in both receptions/game (9.73) and receiving yards/game (145.91). Apparently, he can play a bit of defense too…but don’t expect it.
Further, and likely the biggest concern for the Irish, is the explosive play potential for the Trojans. Southern Cal comes in 10th in the nation for explosive drives with 24% of their drives ending in an average of 10 yards/play (this is one of those fun stats from Football Outsiders).
While the Irish defense showed that they could hold up against a powerful offense like Oklahoma, the Irish have yet to face an offense with this kind of explosive potential. The young secondary will have to ensure that they again keep all plays in front of them and don’t let USC gain any momentum with a huge play.
While much has been made about the Trojan defense being a weakness of this team, especially after Oregon put up 50+, they do have some potential to cause the Irish some issues. In particular, keep an eye on the Trojan pass rush that ranks 4th in the nation with 3.82 sacks/game. Should the Irish line have issues protecting Everett Golson, there is a huge potential for the young QB to have some mistakes of his own. Further, keep in mind that USC ranks 5th in that nation in tackles for a loss, coming in at an even 8 TFL/game.
So yes, the Trojans defense has proven beyond beatable, but considering the Irish have demonstrated offensive struggles of their own in the past, this battle will be far from a pushover.
Some other fun facts about the Trojans this season:
- USC has faced four currently ranked teams in the BCS top 25 (Oregon, Stanford, UCLA, and Arizona), and has lost all of those matchups.
- USC has been great at home, 5-1, with their only loss coming to Oregon.
- USC’s best offensive performance came in that loss to Oregon. Their second best came against lowly Colorado. Pac 12 defenses y’all.
- USC’s worst offensive performance came against Stanford. Oregon feels your pain.
And perhaps most importantly, the last time Matt Barkley was injured and didn’t play against the Irish, the Trojans lost at home to a Tommy Rees led Irish squad in 2010. Here’s hoping history repeats itself.
I hear Miami is fantastic in January.
One of the principles underlying warfare is that of chivalry. The word conjures images of knights riding into battle or of a battleship firing off a salute. In practice, the principle of chivalry implies a respect for the rules. Given the events that unfolded in Los Angeles over the weekend, we need to be cognizant that things in Troy are not necessarily what they seem.
In short, the only thing we know right now is that we’re playing the University of Southern California Trojans on Saturday in Los Angeles. Everything else, to me, is speculation, despite Lane Kiffin’s announcement that Matt Barkley would not play against the Irish. Given his past, I won’t believe that until the game is over. Am I giving in to Fox Mulder-esque paranoia? Probably. But before you judge me, remember this:
These are all run-ins with the truth and rules that happened THIS YEAR. Let’s not even get into Coach Kiffin’s history with the truth and rules while at Tennessee. Just sticking with this season, I think you can make a pretty convincing case that Coach Kiffin is not above trying to turn the present situation to his advantage, or at least using it to get inside the heads of the Fighting Irish.
But what’s it mean? Who is Matt Wittek? Well, here’s his recruiting video:
This season, the redshirt freshman has seen action in 9 games, throwing 9 passes with 8 completitions. He’s thrown for 1 touchdown and has a quarterback rating of 214.23. He has yet to throw an interception. On the ground, he has -13 yards rushing.
The only thing that matters for the Irish should be beating USC, regardless of who is under center. There’s no denying, though, that losing Matt Barkley, preseason Everything Trophy favorite, is a massive loss to their offense, if he’s indeed out. While you can debate just how focused a four-loss Trojan squad would be against the Irish, that went out the window when we put on the Number One ranking. Now the Irish wear the bull’s eye.
Don’t think Lane won’t use every trick in the book to take us down.