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The Countdown

A bottom-to-top assessment of the F.B.S. landscape heading into the 2012 season.

The Countdown

No. 25: Notre Dame

There’s past, there’s present and there’s future, and nowhere else do all three commingle more than at Notre Dame. Such is life in South Bend, where every nook and cranny – from Rockne to Leahy, Ara to Holtz – serves as a reminder, and an often painful one at that, of the program’s newfound place among college football’s perennial underachievers. If it’s not one thing it’s another; if it’s not penalties it’s turnovers, if not the defense it’s the quarterback. It’s getting tiresome, and for no group more so than the current Irish – those players who constitute this year’s team, who have battled against not only U.S.C., Michigan and Michigan State but also the annual perception that when push comes to shove, Notre Dame is not going to live up the hype. Well, you have two options when you get shoved against a wall: you can either run away and hide, with your tail between your legs, or you can push back.

Conference
Independent

Location
South Bend, Ind.

Nickname
Fighting Irish

Returning starters
14 (8 offense, 6 defense)

Last year’s ranking
No. 15

2011 record
(8-5, 0-0)

Last year’s
re-ranking

No. 33

2012 schedule

  • Sept. 1
    vs. Navy (in Dublin, Ire.)
  • Sept. 8
    Purdue
  • Sept. 15
    at Michigan St.
  • Sept. 22
    Michigan
  • Oct. 6
    vs. Miami (Fla.) (in Chicago)
  • Oct. 13
    Stanford
  • Oct. 20
    B.Y.U.
  • Oct. 27
    at Oklahoma
  • Nov. 3
    Pittsburgh
  • Nov. 10
    at Boston College
  • Nov. 17
    Wake Forest
  • Nov. 24
    at U.S.C.

Last year’s prediction

Let’s pump the brakes just a little bit: Notre Dame’s not built for a national title run even with this schedule. This year’s team lacks optimal depth, for starters, but there are lingering questions at quarterback — this above all else — and along the interior of the defensive line. But those are survivable issues, as I think Kelly is going to land improved quarterback play regardless of which candidate assumes the starting role. So what’s the ceiling? I can see 10 wins, and don’t scoff. I hesitate to say 10-2, but I think nine wins is very much in the cards. Just think: that’s only a two-game improvement in the win column from last year’s regular season, and that’s not a huge amount. It’s an exciting time for Notre Dame. This time, I think the excitement is justified.

2011 recap

In a nutshell Turnovers. How many lost games? Giveaways led to South Florida’s upset — one that looked worse and worse as the year worse on — in the season opener. Giveaways allowed Michigan to hang around long enough to post its fourth quarter comeback. Giveaways broke Notre Dame’s heart in U.S.C.’s 14-point win. Giveaways blew any chance the Fighting Irish had of knocking off Stanford in Andrew Luck’s final game in Palo Alto. And giveaways allowed Florida State to take and hold the lead in the fourth quarter in the Champs Sports Bowl. So where would Notre Dame have been had it been to control its turnovers? It meant the difference in at least two defeats; with those wins — South Florida and Michigan, let’s say — Notre Dame is playing in a B.C.S. bowl. Instead, the Irish notched eight wins for the second consecutive season under Brian Kelly.

High point A 31-13 win over Michigan State on Sept. 17. At the time, it was a much-needed win after the disastrous 0-2 start. Two months later, it remained Notre Dame’s finest win on the season — by a wide margin.

Low point There were no moral victories; there haven’t been moral victories in South Bend in, well, a century. But the 31-17 home loss to U.S.C. stings more than most: as many have suggested, the Irish did not leave it all on the field in the fourth quarter.

Tidbit There’s nothing that defines this team’s offensive efforts under Kelly more than this fact: Notre Dame is 13-2 when gaining more rushing yards and 3-8 when gaining fewer rushing yards than its opposition. The two losses when gaining more yards came last fall, against Michigan in September and Florida State during bowl play. Two of the three wins when gaining fewer yards on the ground came last fall, against Air Force and Navy – which skews this a bit, as win or lose, N.D. is not going to be as successful on the ground as the service academies. Kelly’s offensive mindset is simple, almost to the point where his philosophy jibes with the program’s past legends despite his system’s bells and whistles: Kelly wants Notre Dame to run the football effectively and limit turnovers.

Tidbit (300 losses edition) Notre Dame’s loss to F.S.U. in the Champs Sports Bowl was the program’s 300th career defeat, making the program the last of those select few programs in the 800-win club to lose 300 games. Michigan lost its 300th game in October of 2009; Oklahoma to B.Y.U. in that’s year opener. Ohio State’s 300th loss came against Florida in the 2006 national title game. Alabama’s came against Auburn in the 2005 Iron Bowl, which makes reaching the milestone doubly painful. Nebraska, like Ohio State, suffered its 300th loss in the national title game – against Miami in the 2002 Rose Bowl. Finally, Texas lost its 300th game against Texas A&M in 1999.

Former players in the N.F.L.

34 RB Armando Allen (Chicago), OT Jordan Black (Washington), CB Robert Blanton (Minnesota), S Sergio Brown (New England), S David Bruton (Denver), TE John Carlson (Minnesota), QB Jimmy Clausen (Carolina), TE Anthony Fasano (Miami), LB Darius Fleming (San Francisco), WR Michael Floyd (Arizona), RB Jonas Gray (Miami), OT Ryan Harris (Denver), LS J.J. Jansen (Carolina), DE Ethan Johnson (Kansas City), CB Terrail Lambert (Oakland), DT Derek Landri (Philadelphia), DT Trevor Laws (St. Louis), S Kyle McCarthy (Kansas City), OG Eric Olsen (New Orleans), QB Brady Quinn (Kansas City), OG Trevor Robinson (Cincinnati), TE Kyle Rudolph (Minnesota), LB Brian Smith (Tampa Bay), S Harrison Smith (Minnesota), OT Chris Stewart (Arizona), WR Maurice Stovall (Detroit), C John Sullivan (Minnesota), WR Golden Tate (Seattle), DE Justin Tuck (New York Giants), CB Darrin Walls (Atlanta), DT Ian Williams (San Francisco), OT Sam Young (Buffalo), S Tom Zbikowski (Indianapolis).

Arbitrary top five list

M.L.B. players from Notre Dame, 1995-present
1. 2B Craig Counsell (1995-2011).
2. RP Brad Lidge (2002-present).
3. RP John Axford (2009-present).
4. RP Aaron Heilman (2003-11).
5. SP Jeff Samardzija (2009-present).

Coaching

Brian Kelly (Assumption ’83), 16-10 after two seasons with the Fighting Irish. His ascension to college football’s premier spot was justified: Kelly compiled a 34-7 record in three seasons at Cincinnati, a period that included a pair of conference championships. He won the Big East Coach of the Year award in each of his three full years with the program. Kelly followed up a 10-win debut season with an 11-3 mark in 2008, which included the program’s first Big East title and B.C.S. bowl berth. Cincinnati took another sizable step forward in 2009, running through the regular season undefeated and making a claim to playing for the national championship. None can doubt the distinct impression Kelly left on the Cincinnati program after replacing current Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio prior to the 2007 International Bowl. Kelly had taken the job 34 days prior to the bowl game, and instead of merely taking that last month to familiarize himself with the program – or even staying away until the end of the season – Kelly determinedly installed his offensive philosophy, something that was undoubtedly key to Cincinnati’s strong finish in his first full season in charge. He has gained a well-earned reputation as a program builder, something that drew him national attention during his three-year stint at Central Michigan (2004-6). The Chippewas, who had won more than three games only once in the previous four years, improved in each of Kelly’s seasons, from 4-7 in 2004 to 6-5 in 2005 to a 9-4 mark and a MAC championship in his final season. Before moving up to the F.B.S. with C.M.U., Kelly was the coach at Division II Grand Valley State for 13 seasons, winning back-to-back D-II titles in 2003-4. Overall, Kelly brings a 187-68-2 career record into his 23rd season coaching on the N.C.A.A. level.

Quarterbacks to watch

The question isn’t whether Tommy Rees will be Notre Dame’s starter coming out of fall camp, as that’s already been decided: Rees, along with senior linebacker Carlo Calabrese, was suspended for the season opener after committing what Kelly called “a set of poor decisions” in an altercation with police following an off-campus party in May. Rees, said Kelly, “can attempt to climb the depth chart following the conclusion” of his suspension – and I’ll take the liberty of reading between the lines: Rees is not going to be Notre Dame’s quarterback in 2012.

It’s a good thing, regardless of his 12-4 mark as the Irish’s starter. Rees is a riddle; he’s by every measurement a game manager – though I hate that phrase – but he’s also far too careless with the football, as we saw last season. By its definition, managing a team’s offense entails not turning the ball over with abandon, yet Rees has failed to give Notre Dame this level of reliability in the passing game. His failures became more pronounced once N.D. handed him the starting role on a full-time basis, and even more so once Kelly brought in two of his own quarterbacks, Andrew Hendrix and Everett Golson, whose skill sets dwarfed what Rees brought and brings to the table for this offense. Now that Kelly has added yet another premier recruit, incoming freshman Gunner Kiel – the nation’s top-ranked quarterback prospect, according to most recruiting services – the writing is on the wall for Rees; his suspension only ensures that his run as Notre Dame’s starter has come to an end.

So the Irish are left with three quarterbacks: Hendrix, Golson and Kiel. You can write off the latter as an option for the season opener, if not for this entire season. As of today, Kiel is running a fairly distant third in the competition – third among candidates still under consideration, and he’ll dip to fourth once Rees resumes normal activities following the Navy game. In reality, it’s a two-man competition between Hendrix and Golson, and the winner heading into Navy not only holds the edge to start all season, as you’d think, but also to be Notre Dame’s starter for the next three seasons.

Will it be Hendrix or Golson? The former played in five games last fall, beginning with Air Force, and gave this offense a bit of a jolt throwing the football against Stanford. But Hendrix’s strength is as a runner, as we saw a year ago, and while his legs pushed him into a nice role over the final month it was clear that the sophomore needed some substantial fine-tuning as a passer – and it remained clear during Notre Dame’s spring game; Hendrix has a rocket, but his touch and his accuracy leave much to be desired.

It’s going to be Golson against Navy, barring the unpredictable: an injury, a huge step forward from Kiel, a strong month from Hendrix. He spent last season running Notre Dame’s scout team, and doing it well, ramping up the expectations that he could shift into a starting role during spring ball – and as an aside, it seems as if the only guy more popular than the backup quarterback is the true freshman quarterback running the scout team. What Golson has, based on a small sample size, is great feet, a strong arm and the ability to give N.D. several different looks in the running game. He can run the option, for example, which Kelly couldn’t do with Rees under center. What I like about Golson is that he can improvise: he can step outside the box, perhaps make something out of nothing, and can give N.D. a different sort of quarterback from those lead-footed pocket passers that have been in vogue since 2005.

It was a small sample, but Golson was also the only N.D. quarterback not to throw an interception during the spring game. Think that’s not important to Kelly? Asked about his turnovers during the scrimmage, and the interceptions from Rees and Hendrix in particular, Kelly replied, “we’ve seen that movie before.” He’s tired of it; this offense can no longer afford to battle turnovers. So when N.D. has a chance to go with a more poised passer with solid footwork in the pocket and the running ability to give this offense a different look on the ground – Kelly should choose Golson as his starter. It’s going to be interesting, if not exciting.

Players to watch

Kelly’s arrival has led to a dramatic improvement in the running game, rapidly turning one of the nation’s weakest rushing teams into the program’s best in a generation. Last fall, behind a stronger offensive front and a deep backfield, N.D. averaged 160.4 rushing yards per game on 4.8 yards per carry, the latter the program’s best mark since 1996. That the Irish ran the ball so effectively despite encountering more than a few hurdles in the passing game reflected well on Kelly’s system, for one, and highlights the idea that this offense can be even more dynamic on running downs if Kelly can land greater consistency from his new starting quarterback.

I can see two areas of concern, however. The first is the staffing change: Notre Dame replaced Ed Warinner, who left for the same position at Ohio State, with former Tennessee assistant Harry Hiestand. Hiestand came under some fire in Knoxville, and some of the negativity was justified; while Tennessee’s line was young, last year’s group was the primary reason behind the team’s complete inability to run the football. A second concern revolves around personnel, as N.D. will break in new starters on the strong side of the line – and guard Trevor Robinson and tackle Taylor Dever did a nice job opening up holes on the ground last fall.

One thing the Irish need is a healthy Braxton Cave at center; he missed the final four games of last season with a foot injury. With Cave in the lineup, N.D. can move senior Mike Golic Jr. over to right guard, where he’ll battle – and likely win out – sophomore Nick Martin for the starting job. It would be surprising to see anyone but junior Christian Lombard take over for Dever at right tackle, though Tate Nichols, another junior, has great size for the strong side. Nichols’ issue thus far has been injuries, which have placed him behind Lombard in the pecking order.

The Irish’s best lineman is junior left tackle Zack Martin, a two-year starter who continues to blossom into one of the nation’s most unheralded protectors on the blind side. He and junior guard Chris Watt help give N.D. a very nice left side, essentially creating a mirror image of last year’s front – while Martin was Notre Dame’s top lineman, the right side of the line was stronger overall. One thing to like about this front: it’s the deepest yet under Kelly. It’s also the most experienced, not only in terms of career starts but in its familiarity with his system. The line will be the best of Kelly’s tenure.

And the running game will continue to improve as a result. N.D. lost a valuable weapon in Jonas Gray, who flourished in the system, but the cupboard isn’t bare. For one, the Irish bring back a starter in Cierre Wood (1,102 yards and 9 scores), the program’s first 1,000-yard back in five years and a steady option as a receiver coming out of the backfield. The Irish will also keep Theo Riddick (38 receptions for 463 yards) at running back; he made the move from receiver for the final two games of last season.

There’s also sophomore George Atkinson III, who held a slight role in the offense last season but broke out during the spring game, rushing for 124 yards and adding another 54 receiving yards. And once he recovers from an ankle injury, former U.S.C. transfer Amir Carlisle will add further depth to the equation; Carlise received a waiver from the N.C.A.A. that will allow him to play this season.

As in the running game, you’ve seen Kelly’s teams take a sizable statistical leap on the defensive side of the ball: Notre Dame ended last season ranked in the top 30 nationally in both scoring and total defense. But there’s still significant room for improvement, especially when it comes to stopping the run, and the Irish must make another leap without five of last season’s starters, including three from the secondary. What bodes well for this group’s chances this season is the fact that it will be entering its third season running defensive coordinator Bob Diaco’s 3-4 scheme; it’s obvious that the light turned on at times last fall, though the Irish remained too inconsistent for Diaco’s taste.

Another good sign is the team’s youth up front. Despite being young, last year’s line held opponents to only eight touchdowns on the ground, the program’s second-fewest since 1990. One of those youngsters is gone, however: Aaron Lynch, the team’s best edge rusher, transferred to South Florida after last season. That adds some pressure onto ends Kapron Lewis-Moore (32 tackles, 4.0 for loss) and Stephon Tuitt (30 tackles, 2.0 sacks), with Tuitt moving outside to end on a permanent basis after shuffling inside and out a year ago. While getting a full season out of Lewis-Moore will help, Notre Dame is still lacking an end who can bring pressure on passing downs – Tuitt and Lewis-Moore are prototypical, 300-pound ends, but that size does limit what each can do on passing downs.

But they’ll be anchors against the run, and the Irish do have some linebackers who can rush the passer from the second level. One new addition to watch at end is Jarron Jones, who, like Lewis-Moore, is big enough to move inside when Diaco opts to move into a four-linemen formation. Notre Dame brings back nose guard Louis Nix III (45 tackles, 4.5 for loss), an 11-game starter last fall, but one of the most pleasing developments from spring ball was the steady play of junior Kona Schwenke, who moved inside from end and showed himself capable of shouldering the load in the middle. Between these two and incoming freshman Sheldon Day, the Irish have great depth at nose guard.

These interior linemen will be asked to push the pocket, attack the ball-carrier and control the line of scrimmage. Most of all, however, they’ll be told to occupy blockers – because occupied blockers means a clean Manti Te’o (128 tackles, 13.5 for loss, 5.0 sacks), and a clean Te’o means trouble for opposing offenses. There’s not much to add about Te’o, the sideline-to-sideline menace who will easily net all-American honors and a cupboard full of national hardware; instead, simply consider Notre Dame’s defense without Te’o, had he opted to forego his final season of eligibility and enter the N.F.L. Draft. That he didn’t gives Diaco and the Irish one more season with the star of this defense – a player who can change the complexion of a game with one play, and a linebacker who completely and radically alters the overall tenor of this defense from his spot at inside linebacker.

Calabrese was viewed as a likely contributor alongside Te’o in the middle; while Rees is no longer in the picture at quarterback, Calabrese should move back into the rotation following the season opener. The starter at the second inside linebacker spot is junior Dan Fox (48 tackles), a former special teams contributor who held down the top spot for every game of last season. Outside, the Irish bring back junior Prince Shembo (31 tackles, 2.0 sacks) but must replace Darius Fleming, who did a nice job bringing some heat on passing downs. Shembo swaps sides, moving into Fleming’s role, so he’ll need to be more explosive. On the other side, Notre Dame will go with junior Danny Spond. One player to watch is sophomore Ishaq Williams, a high school defensive end recruited solely for his ability to be a potential game-changer as a pass rusher. If Shembo falters, Williams will move into the starting lineup.

The warning signs are there in the secondary. Last year’s group, one paced by three senior starters, took a horrible nosedive after a nice debut under Kelly and this staff. In September, Notre Dame will look to reverse this slide while breaking in a new cast of characters – and very new, when it comes to cornerback. The good news is that there’s experience and depth to spare at safety, where the Irish put forth a two-deep composed only of seniors and a second level brimming with new additions from the recruiting trail. After splitting time at one safety spot last fall, seniors Zeke Motta (40 tackles) and Jamoris Slaughter (45 tackles, 1 interception) will be Notre Dame’s full-time starters. Behind this pair are seniors Dan McCarthy and Chris Salvi, followed by the rookies – led by Elijah Shumate, a New Jersey product who looks like a player.

The issue is at cornerback, where Notre Dame’s starting pairing of juniors Lo Wood and Bennett Jackson combined to make 26 tackles last fall, with more than a few coming on special teams. This is a concern, and a pretty large concern at that, the biggest one facing this team’s personnel heading into September. What the Irish don’t have is any incoming cornerback help, with most of last year’s class devoted to safety, so it’s going to be Wood, Jackson, sophomores Josh Atkinson and Cam McDaniel and redshirt freshman Jalen Brown – come hell or high water. You can raise the red flag: Notre Dame is inexperienced at cornerback, if hopeful that Brown can make an impact, and has question marks surrounding its ability to bring consistent pressure on passing downs.

It seemed as if David Ruffer’s season ran off the rails early, when his missed field goal against U.S.F. proved to be the difference in that painful loss; whatever the reason, he simply wasn’t the sort of never-fail kicker the Irish saw for parts of 2009 and all of 2010. Ruffer’s replacement, fittingly enough, will be the player he replaced three years ago: Nick Tausch, who made 14 of 17 tries that fall, moves back into the starting lineup. While Tausch lacks a big leg, Notre Dame can turn to sophomore kickoff specialist Kyle Brindza in a pinch. Brindza can also handle punts if needed, though Notre Dame does return senior Ben Turk, who had a nice second half to last season. Atkinson III is a weapon on kick returns, but the Irish must get more on punts – last year’s team gave up this side of the field position battle.

Position battle(s) to watch

Wide receiver It won’t be solely on the receivers to replace Michael Floyd, the all-American target who led the Irish in receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns in each of the last two seasons. What N.D. will do is spread the ball more evenly throughout its entire formation, not only at receiver but also to its tight ends and running backs – where a player like Riddick, with his receiver background, could really be a difference-maker. The lead options in the backfield include Riddick and Wood (27 receptions), if not also Atkinson III, who showed some flash catching the football during the spring. These three will see a larger role in the passing game with Floyd out of the picture.

As will Notre Dame’s tight ends, though it will be hard for Tyler Eifert (63 receptions for 803 yards) do more for this offense than he did a year ago, when he led all F.B.S. tight ends in receptions en route to all-American honors. But increased depth at the position should allow Kelly to use more multiple-tight end formations, teaming Eifert with Ben Koyack, Alex Welch and Troy Niklas – the latter a converted linebacker – to give N.D. a number of different looks in the intermediate passing game.

But someone needs to be Notre Dame’s go-to target, though Eifert is the chains-mover on third down. The options include junior T.J. Jones (38 for 366), the team’s top returning receiver, as well as senior Robby Toma (19 for 207), who had a very nice final month to last season. Senior John Goodman should round out the starting trio, giving Notre Dame some nice size; Jones and Toma are not overly big. But depth at receiver is an issue, especially with injury issues surrounding Luke Massa and Daniel Smith. To help give Kelly an adequate rotation, N.D. needs a breakout year from redshirt freshman DaVaris Daniels and some help from one of the four incoming freshmen, led by Davonte Neal.

Game(s) to watch

Six true home games, four road games, two games played at a neutral site. It’s your typical Notre Dame schedule, complete with a few sure-fire wins – though not too many – and loaded with several games against teams with national title aspirations. How the Irish navigate this schedule hinges entirely on whether they take care of business against the bottom half; Notre Dame must win games against Navy, Purdue, Miami, Pittsburgh, Boston College and Wake, as doing so leaves some wiggle room against the five or six opponents with 10-win potential. So who will the Irish – you know, people from Ireland – root for in the season opener? On one hand, you have the Fighting Irish. Then there’s Navy, and the founding father of the American Navy, John Barry, was born in County Wexford, which is about 75 miles down the road from Dublin.

Season breakdown & prediction

In a nutshell Is Notre Dame ready to turn the corner? Not with this schedule, no. In terms of its personnel, Notre Dame has issues at cornerback, where the lack of proven options is troubling, and must formulate a plan for getting pressure on the quarterback on third down. On offense, the issue is simple: N.D. has weapons – including in the passing game, where a more balanced approach will offset Floyd’s departure – but must cut down on its turnovers; as we saw last fall, this offense, or any offense, cannot reach its full potential if it doesn’t protect the football. In short, teams like Michigan State, Oklahoma and U.S.C. are going to hard for Notre Dame to handle.

But there are signs here, signs that the Irish are close to breaking through, and they can’t afford to be overlooked – despite the idea that the Irish head into every September with heightened expectations. I think that Golson provides an entirely different mentality on offense, both in terms of his ability to avoid pressure in the pocket to the added quirks he allows Kelly to pursue on the ground. The offensive line is the best of Kelly’s tenure; so will be the running game. The Irish won’t be as dynamic throwing the football without Floyd, but don’t look for the passing game to suffer as a result: Notre Dame will place even greater emphasis on its tight ends and running backs, which should open up more room for players like Jones, Toma and Daniels. There’s a fine blend of experience, athleticism and potential throughout the front seven, and there’s Te’o, the best linebacker in college football.

So what’s a successful season, all things considered? The team’s youth points towards a stumble or two; the tougher schedule locks Notre Dame into four losses during the regular season, in my mind – but no more, leaving the Irish at 8-4 heading into the postseason. But judging by how Kelly has approached this roster, most notably in his handling of the quarterback situation, paints this fall as a building season – not a rebuilding season, but one where Notre Dame gets on the same page, accumulates experience and prepares to take off in 2013. Laugh, if you’d like. But keep in mind the idea that N.D. would have won at least nine games last fall had it done a better job protecting the football. The Irish are close. This schedule might not lead to an improvement in the win column, but if you look closely, you see a Notre Dame program that has made genuine and meaningful improvement in nearly every facet of the game over Kelly’s two seasons– you see a program almost ready to push back.

Dream season Notre Dame loses at Michigan State early and against at Oklahoma in October, but a season-ending victory at U.S.C. puts the Irish in a B.C.S. bowl – and knocks the Trojans out of national title contention.

Nightmare season Turnovers continue to plague this offense, leading Kelly to play all four quarterbacks in an effort to stem the bleeding. The lack of options at cornerback spells doom against the better passing teams on this schedule, dropping Notre Dame down to 6-6.

In case you were wondering

Where do Notre Dame fans congregate? As expected, you can’t log on the Internet without bumping into at least one Notre Dame Web site. Here are a few to check out: One Foot Down, ND NationIrish EnvyUHND.comIrish Illustrated, Gold Helmet and Irish Eyes. I’m sure I’m missing a few, so list them below. As readers have pointed out, Irish Sports Daily and Her Loyal Sons might be the best options of all.

Notre Dame’s all-name nominee OT Dan Furlong.

Word Count

Through 100 teams 404,873.

Up Next

Who is No. 24? The next team’s leading returning tackler attended the same high school as a television producer whose credits include an hour-long series whose star, on the side, performed in a rock group that included the former drummer for a band that had a single top the Billboard charts for two weeks in the summer of 1968.

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Comments

  1. Scott Wallace says:

    20 days until showtime.

  2. dawgs1 says:

    ND must have about 40 million alumni/fans still alive or NBC would have dropped them years ago & they would have been forced to join the Big 10.

    As a college football fan, I appreciate the fact that they schedule games several games against “worthy” opponents. But the media “lovefest” with ND bothers me. They have not been produced winning results in a very long time & yet are treated like loyalty. What gives? I would rather watch Boise State vs TCU.

  3. Nick Coston says:

    The Assumption College Greyhounds are next.

    Rising junior weakside linebacker Smith Smithson graduated from Truman Benedict Technical College in San Clemente, California. TBTC is also the alma mater of Paul Wheatbread, drummer for Gary Puckett & The Union Gap, whose single “Young Girl” topped the charts in March of 1968 — a year so unseasonably hot in Orange County that summer officially began on March 7th. Wheatbread went on to produce the lackluster telenovela ¿Quién se tiró un pedo en mi almohada?

  4. alpelican says:

    Oh god, don’t go to NDNation. HerLoyalSons.com (down right now for an upgrade) is great.

    Great writeup. As long as the Irish beat Southern Cal, everything else is gravy as far as I’m concerned.

  5. John Densmore says:

    We did a lot of drugs back in ’68.

  6. Patrick says:

    This is one tough clue. Only two drummers could fit the clue given, and one is John Desmond of The Doors. Have at it, boys.

  7. Papa John says:

    The Doors had a number 1 hit for two weeks in the summer of 1968 (Hello, I Love You). As Patrick mentioned, John Densmore was the drummer at the time. He played a drummer for Johnny Slash’s rock band Open 24 Hours in the show “Square Pegs.” Too bad “Square Pegs” was a 30-minute show.

  8. jjncaa says:

    I’ve got press pass for the Emerald Isle Classic, so I’ll be in Dublin on September 1st, that’s for sure :) CAN’T WAIT

  9. Paul m says:

    I don’t see a Love Fest at all. Just a constant reminder of how they underachieve. If the attention bothers you, stay away. It’s that simple. If more people stay away, then eventually it will go away. Can’t ND haters understand that! Why does ESPN .com run a stupid story on ND every day? Because the story gets 4000 hits! The day it gets 400, ND will become irrelevant . As far as rather watching TCU vs Boise St, that’s great. I wonder if NBC , or any other tv exec feels the same way. Let’s see….ahhh noooo. Unless you think all tv execs love ND so much, and want to conspire to put them on tv, and could care less about revenue, which means you are clueless. Do they have 40 million alumni, no! But their fan base is top 3 or 4 in the country. Just a fact, and the people who want to make money for a living agree, or else you would get your TCU -BSU game instead of ND – Purdue. I’m sure more people tune in to hope they lose, but they tune in. End of story!

  10. Tim Robbins says:

    When the heck was I on TV?

  11. KDRLAX says:

    The NEXT TEAM CLUE just made my head explode!

    Seriously…. WHAT?! :)

    atleast there’s only 24 teams to choose from, so I’ll just throw one of their names in the mix. I have no idea of the clue connection:

    uh…. UTAH (?)

  12. David says:

    Tim Robbins, I was wondering about that too.

  13. Chase says:

    Well, Densmore went to University High School in LA. My guess is it’s a western school.

  14. Tim Robbins says:

    I think I did a 3 episode stint on St. Elsewhere and that show lists two producers.

  15. Lee says:

    Paul,

    Is your ranking system based on how teams will finish(projected) or simply who you think are the best teams?

    Thanks

  16. Badgers says:

    Wisconsin is next.

  17. Jay says:

    Slight nit: Darius Fleming didn’t bring much heat at all on passing downs: Only 3.5 sacks for the season from the position that’s primary responsibility is to generate pressure. If Shembo can’t do better than that he will be benched.

  18. Zach says:

    Warriner and Molnar were both essentially fired. BY all account Hiestand has been a huge hit and the ground game should continue to improve. Tennessee is/was a dumpster fire last year and his track record speaks for itself and the players absolutely love him and his approach.

    Great read

  19. The Commish says:

    No longer are two things the major bugaboo for ND: speed and depth. Kelly has deftly recruited to respond to each of those longstanding problems. So, the issue now focuses on execution. If the QB can operate efficiently when game day comes, ND has enough firepower to be a “player” in the BCS despite facing two top five teams on the road. 10-2 or 9-3 are real possibilities.

    Go Irish.

  20. Dr. Samuel "Sam" Beckett says:

    Reporting from the Future: Notre Dame still sucks.

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