Notre Dame v USC

Notre Dame kicks its way to the BCS national championship

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Probably. But only because we’re still technically required to include that word.

The newest official BCS standings come out tomorrow evening, and the top-ranked Irish do not play next week. Still, it’s impossible to think that Notre Dame won’t be No. 1 when the final BCS rankings come out early next month. Why? Because top-ranked Notre Dame did what it was asked to do: win every game on its 2012 schedule, including Saturday night’s 22-13 victory over rival USC.

Running back Theo Riddick was the game’s MVP with 146 yards and a touchdown. When the Irish needed yards, Brian Kelly went to Riddick. When the Irish needed touchdowns, Kelly… did not go to Riddick. At least not on a drive that could have officially iced the game.  Facing a 1st-and-goal at the USC 9-yard line midway through the fourth quarter, Kelly elected to go to an empty set and put the ball in quarterback Everett Golson‘s hands after Riddick and Cierre Wood had rushed for 47 combined yards on just four plays earlier.

And, like four other times previously, the Irish had to settle for a Kyle Brindza field goal.

But that’s been Notre Dame’s formula all year — although not always on purpose. The Irish offense has shown big-play ability at times this season, but tying it all together for an entire game, let alone an entire season, has been a chore for the offensive-minded Kelly. So Notre Dame has relied on its defense. At no time was that more necessary than USC’s second-to-last offensive possession. Trojans backup quarterback Max Wittek finally connected with Marqise Lee (after trying all game) for a 53-yard gain down to the Notre Dame 2-yard line. The pass was perfectly defended; it was simply a better pitch and catch by Wittek and Lee. But then, Notre Dame’s defense bowed up and held the Trojans on a goal line stand when Wittek’s play-action pass went through the hands of fullback Soma Vainuku.

Why Lane Kiffin, still needing two scores to win, didn’t opt for the field goal is perplexing. Then again, much of why the Trojans, the preseason No. 1 team, sit unranked at 7-5 is difficult to comprehend. Will Kiffin lose his job because Pat Haden is racking his brain for answers? That too is hard to tell.

Likewise, you’d be hard-pressed to find many who had the foresight to predict that Notre Dame would be in this position three months ago. The Irish became the first team to go from unranked in the preseason AP poll to reaching BCS championship game in the same season.

Not that there haven’t been doubters along the way. When college football was still working with three to four undefeated teams, it was Notre Dame — not Alabama, Kansas State or Oregon — expected to be on the outside looking in once the final BCS standings were revealed. But, because college football is a tricky siren luring all us sailors to our inevitable and often gruesome demise, it was only Notre Dame that evaded the 2012 season unscathed.

It wasn’t sexy, and like all teams, Notre Dame needed some good fortune along the way. But this team got the job done when it mattered.

For that, no matter how you think the Irish stack up against other competition, Notre Dame has rightfully earned a spot in the BCS championship game. Notre Dame will play the champion of the SEC, winners of six straight national titles, too. What better way to prove yourself than to knock off the champs?

Remember the annoying “S-E-C!” chants raining down from inside JerryWorld when Alabama defeated Michigan at the beginning of the season? Notre Dame — hated Notre Dame, for all the preferential treatment it receives in college athletics — has the opportunity to silence them.

Wait for it: Notre Dame might actually be the lesser of the two evils here, especially if its championship opponent is Alabama. We’ll give you a minute to keep your head from exploding.

The ratings of an Alabama-Notre Dame BCS championship would be through the roof. Viewers by the masses would tune in for support, hate, curiosity and a stew of other (and possibly subconscious) reasons. Why? Because love ’em or hate ’em, Notre Dame matters, and its success (or failure) is going to be magnified.

But for now — finally — the Irish have the product on the field to back it up.

Western Michigan to transfer ‘Row the Boat’ trademark to P.J. Fleck, per report

DETROIT, MI - DECEMBER 02: Head coach P.J. Fleck looks on from the sideline during the first half while playing the Ohio Bobcats during the MAC Championship on December 2, 2016 at Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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“Row the Boat” will soon row its way from Kalamazoo to Minneapolis.

According to a report from Madison Bennett of MLive, Western Michigan will soon transfer the “Row the Boat” trademark over to its former head coach P.J. Fleck.

“It’s just a matter of negotiating the terms of the release of that intellectual property,” WMU trustee William Johnston told MLive.

Fleck introduced the phrase at his introductory press conference in December of 2012 and turned it into a program mantra. The phrase joined national consciousness this season as Fleck guided the Broncos to an undefeated regular season, a MAC championship and an appearance in the Cotton Bowl. That success led him to take the head job at Minnesota earlier this month.

Fleck has stated the phrase has personal meaning to him, first spawning after he and his first wife Tracie lost infant son Colt to a heart condition.

“It comes from a very personal, personal tragedy in my life and that’s where ‘Row the Boat’ came from,” Fleck told ESPN earlier this month. “So, I really hope they do see that, and [that] they are willing to allow me to take that, but we’ll see as we move forward. I’m not sure what they’re going to do with it, but I really hope because of what it means, that I have the ability to at least purchase it, take it with me, and continue to change other people’s lives through tragedy, through adversity, in just a different area.”

Notre Dame hires Tommy Rees as quarterbacks coach

ANN ARBOR, MI - SEPTEMBER 10:  Tommy Rees #11 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish talks with head coach Brian Kelly while playing the  Michigan Wolverines at Michigan Stadium on September 10, 2010 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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Tommy Rees is back in the Notre Dame quarterbacks room. Except now he’s running the room, and he’s no longer Tommy Rees.

Notre Dame on Tuesday announced the hiring of Tom Rees as its new quarterbacks coach, three seasons after he left school as its starting quarterback.

“When I finished my playing career and graduated from Notre Dame, I wanted to do two things,” Rees said in a statement. “First, I wanted to coach, and second, at some point in my career I hoped to get an opportunity to return and do it at my alma mater. I didn’t know when or if this opportunity might present itself, but I’m so grateful and honored that it did. I’m ready to get things rolling with this great staff and group of student-athletes.”

After starting the entirety of the 2011 and ’13 seasons and playing off-and-on in ’10 and ’12, Rees left school ranking third in Irish history with 7,670 passing yards, second with 61 touchdown passes, and seventh all-time with 23 victories against eight losses.  He was named Notre Dame’s Offensive Player of the Year in 2013.

“I’m very excited to have Tom join our staff,” head coach Brian Kelly added. “He possesses an understanding of the game, and most importantly the quarterback position, that’s unique. He’s a true student of the game and great communicator that will offer immediate dividends toward guiding our quarterback room.

“As a former quarterback at Notre Dame, Tom also has a rare ability to truly relate with the quarterbacks on our roster. He’s literally sat in their seat, dealt with the ups and downs, faced the criticism, deflected the praise, and all that comes with playing the position at Notre Dame. He can genuinely mentor them — not only on the football field, but in the classroom and the community as well.”

Rees jumped into coaching as a graduate assistant at Northwestern in 2015, then spent last season as an offensive assistant with the San Diego Chargers.

Jim Harbaugh becomes first coach to pay three assistants $1 million

STATE COLLEGE, PA - NOVEMBER 21:  Jim Harbaugh head coach of the Michigan Wolverines run onto the field prior to the game against the Penn State Nittany Lions at Beaver Stadium on November 21, 2015 in State College, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Evan Habeeb/Getty Images)
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According to the USA Today coaching salary database, a dozen assistant coaches took home at least $1 million in 2016.

That number will rise to at least 15 in 2017, and three of the coaches will wear maize and blue.

Michigan released contract information Tuesday that shows offensive coordinator Tim Drevno, defensive coordinator Don Brown and quarterbacks coach/passing game coordinator Pep Hamilton will each take home $1 million in 2017. This comes on the heels of Jim Harbaugh taking home an industry-leading $9 million himself in 2016.

In another move that will not go unnoticed within the industry, Harbaugh has also handed lengthy contracts to each assistant. Drevno and Brown each inked 5-year deals, and Hamilton a 4-year one.

Brown’s deal stays at a flat $1 million through the first four years before jumping to $1.4 million in Year 5, with $1.4 million in retention bonuses built in. Hamilton will make $1.25 million in the final year of his contract, with $700,000 waiting after the second and third seasons. Drevno will make $1 million with no retention bonuses, but he has netted a $150,000 signing bonus.

Contract details oncoming:

The Wolverines are 20-6 in the first two seasons of the Harbaugh era.

Texas Tech adds former Red Raider center as O-line coach

LUBBOCK, TX - NOVEMBER 14: The Texas Tech Red Raiders take the field before the game against the Kansas State Wildcats on November 14, 2015 at Jones AT&T Stadium in Lubbock, Texas. Texas Tech won the game 59-44. (Photo by John Weast/Getty Images)
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Brandon Jones‘ coaching career began in Lubbock after his playing days at Texas Tech came to an end, and now that career will continue on at his alma mater.

Jones, Tech announce via a press release, has been hired as the Red Raiders new offensive line coach.  The hiring of Jones comes a couple of days after Tech announced that Lee Hays would not be returning to Kliff Kingsbury‘s coaching staff in 2017.

“We’re excited to welcome Coach Jones to our staff,” the head coach said in a statement. “He’s regarded as one of the top offensive line coaches in the country, and our program will benefit from his leadership. We’re looking forward to our offensive line continuing to develop under him.”

The past two seasons, Jones served as the line coach and running-game coordinator at Cal.

Prior to that, he was the line coach at East Carolina from 2010-14. Jones started 22 games along the line for the Red Raiders before becoming a grad assistant with the football program in 2007.