Notre Dame v USC

Robert Woods’ NFL decision coming Monday


Later today, USC will announce whether Matt Barkley will be healthy enough to return to play in the Sun Bowl early next week (here’s a hint: he won’t).

Following the Trojans’ first postseason game since 2009, one of Barkley’s top targets over the past three seasons will announce whether he’ll return to play one more collegiate season.

After USC arrived in El Paso Wednesday for on-site bowl preparations, wide receiver Robert Woods confirmed to reporters that he will reveal  his NFL intentions Monday, after the Trojans square off with Georgia Tech in the Sun Bowl.  It’s expected the true junior will forego his final season of collegiate eligibility, with the Orange County Register writing that “[s]ources said Woods would probably turn pro, barring a last-minute change of heart.”

Woods is USC’s career leader in receptions, but has seen his role in the passing game decreased by the continuing emergence of Marqise Lee, who staked his claim to the Biletnikoff Award earlier this month after eclipsing Woods’ single-season school receiving record.  Despite being relegated to “an afterthought” and Option B behind Lee, Woods still managed 73 catches for 813 yards and 11 touchdowns thus far this season.

If as expected Woods makes himself available for the 2013 NFL draft, the Los Angeles Times writes that Woods stated “he received a draft evaluation from the NFL that gave him a range that topped at the second round.”

While we’re here, and in other USC Sun Bowl news, the Trojans likely didn’t endear themselves to either the El Paso Chamber of Commerce or the Yellow Jackets thanks to a pair of “incidents” upon their arrival.  As far as the former is concerned, defensive lineman Leonard Williams referred to El Paso as a “sh***y city” in a tweet that was subsequently deleted; in the latter misstep, the Trojans as a team were an hour or so late for a dinner feting both Sun Bowl participants.  Tech ended up leaving the feast just as the USC entourage was arriving.

Yep, never a dull moment when a Lane Kiffin-coached team is involved.

SEC, Big Ten and Pac-12 all have 5 teams in coaches top 25 poll

Johnny Jefferson, Micah Awe
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With multiple teams in the coach spill top 10 losing this week, there was bound to be some shaking up the rankings this week. The coaches poll still has Ohio State on top, followed by TCU, Michigan State and Baylor. Florida had the biggest jump in the rankings while Georgia had the biggest drop The coaches poll also welcomes some new additions this week.

The Florida Gators, fresh off a stomping of previous No. 3 Ole Miss (down to No. 13) moved up 11 spots in this week’s coaches poll. Florida is one of five SEC teams in this week’s coaches poll. The Big Ten has five as well. So does the Pac-12.

No. 23 Iowa, No. 24 Boise State and No. 25 Memphis make their debuts in the coaches poll this week, giving us our first glimpse on the national perception in the Group of Five race. I may have Boise State down a few pegs, but the coaches, or those who actually submit the votes, have the Broncos on top of the Group of Five pack. Memphis is right there as well, but not Toledo.

Here is this week’s coaches poll:

  1. Ohio State ( first place votes)
  2. TCU
  3. Michigan State
  4. Baylor
  5. LSU
  6. Clemson
  7. Utah
  8. Florida State
  9. Oklahoma
  10. Alabama
  11. Texas A&M
  12. Florida
  13. Ole Miss
  14. Northwestern
  15. Notre Dame
  16. Georgia
  17. USC
  18. Stanford
  19. Oklahoma State
  20. UCLA
  21. Michigan
  22. California
  23. Iowa
  24. Boise State
  25. Memphis

Brian Kelly defends decisions on two-point conversion attempts

Brian Kelly

Notre Dame fell two points shy of tying a road game at Clemson Saturday night, partly because the decision to go for two-point conversion on one early fourth-quarter touchdown backfired on the Irish. Down 12 points early in the fourth quarter, Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly chose to go for two-points to cut the Clemson lead to 10 points, meaning Notre Dame would need a touchdown, extra point and a field goal to tie. The two-point conversion attempt failed, and the Irish trailed by 12, 21-9.

Had the Irish gone for the easier and more likely extra point, Notre Dame would have been down 11 points. That is still a bit of an uphill battle that would require a two-point conversion later on anyway, but it also meant Notre Dame had to score two touchdowns instead of a touchdown and a field goal for a shot at tying the game. Making things worse, Notre Dame burned a timeout after the touchdown before deciding which two-point conversion play to run.

Notre Dame’s execution of a late two-point conversion with the game on the line with under 10 seconds to play also came into question as the Irish looked to give freshman quarterback DeShone Kizer the call on a run-pass option. This was stuffed by Clemson as Kizer held on to the football. Kelly, after the game, defended his quarterback’s decision to try and run for the two points.

“We had fair numbers,” Kelly said. “He’s reading it at the line of scrimmage, if the numbers were fair, they were in zone coverage. It was the right call. He made the right call.”

Sometimes a player can make the right decision and still come up short. Perhaps that is exactly what happened in the rain at Clemson Saturday night. Kizer made the best possible decision in the heat of the moment, but Clemson came out on top with solid work up front on the line of scrimmage. Of course, as it turned out late in the game, Notre Dame would have only needed an extra point to tie Clemson in the final seconds after the Tigers tacked on a field goal to set up a seven-point deficit with an Irish extra point earlier. The Irish were forced to go for two because they chased the points earlier in the quarter. Hindsight might be 20/20, but Kelly is not looking back on that decision.

Kelly is hardly the only coach to make some questionable decisions under pressure this season, or this weekend. He is, however, another example of a coach being paid millions to put his program in the best position making some questionable calls that have come back to bite him. Maybe Notre Dame would have won in overtime. The Irish certainly had the momentum in their hands. Or maybe Clemson wins anyway. Who knows?