What went wrong for Notre Dame in its loss to Alabama?

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The only questions Alabama players and coaches will answer following another BCS championship game victory will be 1) who will be going pro (see what we did there? That’s a Nick Saban joke.) and 2) how do they feel about the term “dynasty?”

The questions Notre Dame must answer are more difficult and unwelcome.

Though ranked No. 2 in the country entering tonight’s game, the Tide was a 10-point favorite over the Irish, so the general storylines were more closely geared toward what Brian Kelly‘s program needed to do to win its first national title in over 20 years.

It started up front along the offensive and defensive lines. The trenches. Alabama’s O-line is anchored by All-American center Barrett Jones and has paved the way for one of the best rushing attacks in the nation while keeping the jersey of its quarterback, A.J. McCarron, clean. McCarron had just three interceptions on the season, a compliment not only to his decision-making, but the time he was given to make those decisions.

Notre Dame’s front seven needed to be able to disrupt Alabama’s run-first game plan without the help of an additional body in the box. Instead, Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon ran for most of the Tide’s 265 yards on the ground. When Notre Dame was able to get penetration up front, missed tackles and bad angles allowed Lacy and Yeldon to use their athleticism to get past the initial rush. For McCarron? He went 20-of-28 for 264 yards and four touchdowns. It wasn’t exactly chaos in Alabama’s backfield.

With little pressure up front, Notre Dame’s linebacker unit and secondary got torched in one-on-one matchups with Alabama’s skill players. Linebacker Manti Te’0 wasn’t the only Irish defender getting embarrassed, but considering his postseason accolades and role on the team, he was getting the most negative attention. Tape from the 2012 season shows that Te’o had only two missed tackles all year. He might have had two in one quarter tonight.

It was undisciplined defense all around and Alabama was so balanced and multiple on offense that it didn’t seem fair.

And Notre Dame’s offense hasn’t shown the quick-strike ability consistently to mount a comeback even if the defense stiffened up. The Irish have been flighty on that side of the ball all season as Everett Golson kept developing at quarterback and there were times when Tommy Rees had to step in to keep things going. But when Notre Dame clicked on offense, namely against Oklahoma and Miami, it has the playmakers in Tyler Eifert, Cierre Wood, Theo Riddick and TJ Jones to put up a lot of points.

Notre Dame had to have an offensive performance similar to the one it had in October against the Sooners. That didn’t happen either. Alabama’s defense under coordinator Kirby Smart did a nice job of disrupting Golson all night. There was no tempo, no rhythm for Kelly’s team.

Plus, the Irish probably needed either a big mistake from Alabama or an exceptional special teams play — something to swing field position or momentum for a quick and easy score. Not only was Notre Dame not able to take advantage of any mistakes, but it didn’t benefit from early judgement calls from the officials either (the Eifert catch out-of-bounds and Christion Jones muffed punt come to mind). With injuries to Louis Nix and Kapron Lewis-Moore along the D-line, the Irish couldn’t even catch a break on the injury front. Meanwhile, Barrett Jones played the entire game with a Lisfranc injury and never left the field.

That kind of night. Nothing went right for the Irish. Yes, Alabama was clearly the better team, but the Tide was also far more prepared and executed its game plan perfectly.

Now, it’ll be a long eight months as Kelly and his coaching staff look for some answers.

UNC and Minnesota line up future home-and-home deal

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While one football series between an ACC and Big Ten team may be hard to come by, North Carolina and Minnesota have put together a future home-and-home scheduling agreement to look forward to. The Tar Heels and Gophers will meet for the first time on the football field in 2023 and follow up with a second game in 2024, the schools announced on Wednesday.

North Carolina will host Minnesota on Sept. 16, 2023. The two schools will then open the 2024 season at Minnesota, either on August 31, 2024 or for a Thursday opener on August 29, 2024.

The ACC and Big Ten each require their members to play one game against another power conference opponent each season. North Carolina already satisfied that requirement in 2024 with a season-opener against South Carolina scheduled to be played in Charlotte, NC, but the 2024 game fulfills the power conference scheduling requirement for the Tar Heels. The home-and-home series will also satisfy Minnesota’s obligation to the Big Ten scheduling policy for both seasons (Minnesota is getting an exemption for 2018 and 2019 due to previous scheduling arrangements being in place prior to the Big Ten’s stance on strength of schedule in non-conference play.

Pitt leaves renewal of football series in Penn State’s hands

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Ever since the in-state rivalry between Penn State and Pitt came to a temporary end in 2001, it has been a struggle to get the two schools back on the field for any stretch of time. With the third in a four-game series upcoming this fall, Pitt is hoping to find a way to continue playing the Nittany Lions on future schedules, but the offer is now apparently in Penn State’s hands awaiting a response.

Pitt athletic director Heather Lyke told reporters Wednesday she has proposed a four-year series beginning in 2026 to her Penn State counterpart, Sandy Barbour, but Penn State has not responded to the offer.

“We’re going to wait a tad more patiently, but not much,” Lyke said, according to Trib Live. “We can’t. We have people who want to play us and good opportunities to play what would be a very attractive game.”

The four-game series currently ongoing between the Panthers and Nittany Lions comes to a close after their meeting in the 2019 season in Happy Valley. According to FBSchedules.com, Penn State will not have another opening for a non-conference game until 2021. That is also the first season Pitt will have scheduling availability for non-conference matchups. Both schools already have power conference opponents lined up through 2025 as well, perhaps eliminating the desire to add another power conference opponent to the schedule.

Both Penn State and Pitt have scheduling requirements for non-conference play from the Big Ten and ACC, respectively, to include at least one game against another power conference opponent. It seems like a natural solution for Penn State and Pitt to agree to a long-term scheduling commitment to satisfy their respective conferences’ scheduling requirements, but the old issue has always come down to the financial incentive of a game. With Penn State playing in a larger stadium, it would be losing out on potential revenue that could be gained by an extra home game when possible. And playing road games at Pittsburgh only helps another program in the state by filling the seats more than any other home game on Pitt’s schedules in just about any season (Notre Dame and West Virginia would be other candidates to help Pitt fill Heinz Field).

It took so long just to get the two schools together for a two-year series, which was later expanded to a four-year arrangement. Don’t count on this in-state rivalry being renewed for quite some time after the 2019 season.

QB Blake Barnett reportedly transferring from Arizona State

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Quarterback Blake Barnett is now on the graduate transfer market. According to Bruce Feldman of Sports Illustrated, via Twitter, Barnett will find a new program to wrap up his college football career as a graduate transfer. South Florida is reportedly set to get an official visit from the former Sun Devils and Alabama quarterback.

Barnett started his football career at Alabama, where he sat out the 2015 season as a freshman. During his redshirt freshman in 2016, Barnett appeared in just three games as Jalen Hurts rose to become Alabama’s starting quarterback that would lead the Tide for the next two seasons (until halftime of last season’s national championship game). Barnett transferred to Arizona State, leaving behind a seemingly tumultuous relationship with Nick Saban, and played in just two games for the Sun Devils last fall, while Manny Wilkins established himself as the quarterback for former head coach Todd Graham.

A former four-star recruit out of high school, Barnett has played in just five games and completed 14 of 24 pass attempts for 259 yards and two touchdowns with an interception. Barnett’s latest transfer news comes a day after former UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen took a swipe at Barnett, who was ranked ahead of Rosen in various recruiting rankings out of high school.

“Blake Barnett was the Elite 11 MVP,” Rosen said, per SEC Country. “He was the dude that was going to go to ‘Bama, win a couple championships, call it quits and go to the league as the first overall pick. You don’t really hear about him too much.”

As a graduate transfer, Barnett will be eligible to play immediately this fall.

Transferring BYU QB Kody Wilstead finds new home at Kansas JUCO

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With eight quarterbacks on the roster, Kody Wilstead opted to leave the Cougars in mid-March.  A little over a month later, Wilstead has found a new home, albeit a little further down on the college football ladder.

According to the Deseret News, Wilstead has signed to play at Coffeyville Community College in Kansas.  As Coffeyville is a junior college, the quarterback will be eligible to play immediately in 2018.

It’s expected that Wilstead will spend at least one season at the JUCO level before looking at making a move back up to the FBS.

Wilstead, a three-star 2015 signee, took a redshirt as a true freshman last season after serving an LDS mission the previous two years.

After Wilstead’s departure, the seven remaining Cougar signal-callers are, in alphabetical order, Stacy ConnerJoe CritchlowHayden GriffittsBeau HogeTanner MangumBaylor Romney and Zach Wilson. Mangum, last year’s starter, is recovering from an Achilles tendon injury he suffered in November of last year but remains on track to return for the start of summer camp in August.