Everett Golson, Brian Kelly

CFT Top 25: No. 15 Notre Dame

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2013 record: 9-4
2013 postseason: Pinstripe Bowl vs. Rutgers (29-16 win)
2013 final AP/coaches’ ranking: No. 20/No. 24
Head coach: Brian Kelly (90-37 overall; 37-15 in four years at Notre Dame)
Offensive coordinator: Mike Denbrock (first season as OC; 5th year under Kelly at Notre Dame)
2013 offensive rankings: 81st rushing offense (150.92 YPG); 39th passing offense (254.8 YPG); 68th total offense (405.8 YPG); 74th scoring offense (27.2 PPG)
Returning offensive starters: RB Cam McDaniel, WR DaVaris Daniels, OL Ronnie Stanley, OL Nick Martin, OL Christian Lombard
Defensive coordinator: Brian VanGorder (first season at Notre Dame)
2013 defensive rankings: 71st rushing defense (168 YPG); 15th passing defense (198.2 YPG); 31st total defense (366.2 YPG); 27th scoring defense (22.4 PPG)
Returning defensive starters: DT Sheldon Day, LB Jaylon Smith, CB KeiVarae Russell, S Austin Collinsworth
Location: South Bend, Ind.
Stadium: Notre Dame Stadium (80,795, FieldTurf)

THE GOOD
Notre Dame’s offense should be much improved with Everett Golson at the helm — he’s the playmaking quarterback Brian Kelly has wanted ever since coming to South Bend from Cincinnati. In 2012, Golson “rode the bus” to the BCS Championship, as Kelly put it, running a relatively basic offense. And in 2011 and 2013, Tommy Rees quarterbacked the Irish to eight and nine — not where Notre Dame wanted to be in either year.

In Year 2 of Golson, even with his 2013 exile from campus, Notre Dame finally looks to have the kind of offense that can win the team big games. Golson has loads of talent around him, from sophomore running backs Tarean Folston and Greg Bryant to wide receivers DaVaris Daniels, Chris Brown and Corey Robinson to tight end Durham Smythe — remember that last name going forward. The offensive line looks solid, too, and there doesn’t appear to be a whole lot holding back the Irish offense outside of a little inexperience heading into the fall.

Notre Dame has a number of stars on defense, too: Linebacker Jaylon Smith is the best player on the team, while defensive tackle Sheldon Day looks primed for a breakout season if he can stay healthy. The Irish secondary is stout, led by junior cornerback KeiVarae Russell, sophomore safety Max Redfield and graduate student/Florida transfer Cody Riggs. It’s a deep unit, too, and one that should play well in Brian VanGorder’s aggressive defensive scheme.

THE BAD
I mean, have you seen Notre Dame’s schedule? Road games at Florida State, Arizona State and USC — all of which come in the second half of the season — are tough as it is, but throw in home games against Michigan, Stanford, North Carolina and Louisville and the Irish have an awfully difficult minefield to navigate this fall.

There’s a chance Notre Dame actually is a better team than it was last year — the Irish finished 26th in F/+ — but wind up with the same 9-4 record…or worse. The toughest stretch comes in early to mid October, when Notre Dame faces Stanford and UNC at home on back-to-back weekends before traveling to Florida State.

Stanford and Florida State certainly are tough, but that North Carolina game has all the makings of a dangerous trap game for the Irish. UNC has a good enough offense to give the Irish defense fits, and if Notre Dame goes into Oct. 11 looking ahead to Florida State the Tarheels could be primed for an upset.

THE UNKNOWN
Notre Dame lost five starters off its front seven from a year ago: Louis Nix, Stephon Tuitt, Prince Shembo, Carlo Calabrese and Dan Fox. Sliding in for those guys is a group of inexperienced players who potentially could be good…but also who could potentially struggle to stop a number of the high-powered offenses Notre Dame has to face.

Guys like defensive tackle Jarron Jones and linebacker Joe Schmidt performed well in limited duty a year ago, but will they be able to succeed in larger roles? Can a converted safety (John Turner) and a converted wide receiver (James Onwualu) play Sam linebacker? Will freshmen defensive linemen Daniel Cage, Pete Mokwuah, Jonathan Bonner and Andrew Trumbetti be ready enough to provide much-needed depth up front?

The X-Factor with Notre Dame’s defense is how the unit performs running a defense that’ll take more chances under VanGorder than it did under Bob Diaco. The last few years of stats don’t really apply to Notre Dame’s defensive outlook this fall, given there’s a greater emphasis on forcing turnovers and sacks rather than two-gapping and preventing big plays. We won’t know how this defense really shakes out until it actually takes the field this fall under VanGorder, so that makes it very much an unknown.

MAKE-OR-BREAK GAME: Nov. 29 at USC
Hypothetically, if Notre Dame heads to Los Angeles with one loss (likely to Florida State), a win over USC and an 11-1 season could be enough to get the Irish into the four-team playoff.

That’s the best-case scenario for Notre Dame. But there are plenty of other hypotheticals that involve Notre Dame either salvaging a disappointing season (say, a 7-5/8-4 year) or generating some early hype for 2015 (say, a 10-win year) that involve beating USC. That it’s a rivalry game doesn’t hurt, either.

There are plenty of other games that could’ve fit here: Michigan, Stanford, Florida State and Arizona State. But given it’s the final game of the season and Notre Dame-USC always carries weight, it gets a make-or-break designation.

HEISMAN HOPEFUL: Quarterback Everett Golson
Six hundred days will have passed since Golson last played in a competitive game when he takes the field for Notre Dame Aug. 30 against Rice. But that long layoff hasn’t prevented Golson from seeing his name pop up as a Heisman dark horse, and the latest Bovada odds have him at 20/1 to win the trophy.

Golson threw for 2,405 yards with 12 touchdowns and six interceptions in 2012, but expect those numbers — as well as his rushing totals — to go up this fall. It’ll take a big leap for Golson to legitimately get in the Heisman competition, but if Notre Dame has a better season than most are expecting Golson very well could find himself in the discussion.

(Click HERE for the CFT 2014 Preseason Preview Repository)

JJ Stankevitz is CSNChicago.com’s Notre Dame Insider. Follow him on Twitter @JJStankevitz.

Oklahoma State tops No. 22 Texas in Stillwater for first time since 1997

STILLWATER, OK - OCTOBER 1 : Wide receiver James Washington #28 of the Oklahoma State Cowboys celebrates a touchdown against the Texas Longhorns October 1, 2016 at Boone Pickens Stadium in Stillwater, Oklahoma.  (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
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Oklahoma State (3-2, 101 Big 12) had the look of a Big 12 contender Saturday afternoon against No. 22 Texas (2-2, 0-1 Big 12). It also looked like Texas still has a long way to go to play up to the level Charlie Strong would prefer in Austin. Oklahoma State and Texas played  a wild second half with four lead exchanges, but it was the Cowboys who took control of the Big 12 contest in the second half en route to a 49-31 victory.

Mason Rudolph passed for 392 yards and three touchdowns without an interception for Oklahoma State. Jalen McCleskey was on the receiving end for 109 of those yards and two of the touchdowns and Justice Hill led the Oklahoma State ground game with 137 yards and a touchdown. Barry Sanders Jr. also contributed a touchdown on the ground. As a team, Oklahoma State rolled up 557 yards of offense and converted seven of 15 third down plays against Texas. The Longhorns have looked shabby on defense this season, and this was just the latest example of how far off Strong’s defense is from where he would like to see it.

Oklahoma State’s defense gave up some big plays and yards as well. Texas actually out-gained Oklahoma State with 568 yards, including an astounding 329 on the ground. But the Longhorns had the one turnover of the game and could not find a way to stop Oklahoma State every time it looked as though Texas could seize momentum.

Texas running back D'Onta Foreman was forced to leave the game with an injury in the third quarter. He went down without contact after taking a handoff, clutching his right rib and going down voluntarily before being touched by an Oklahoma State defender. Before his awkward exit, Foreman had rushed for 146 yards and two touchdowns. Oklahoma State’s James Washington was also knocked out of the game following a big hit, but Gundy said after the game he expects Washington will be available next week.

This was Oklahoma State’s first home win against Texas since 1997. The Longhorns had won eight straight meetings in Stillwater. All but one of those wins had come by a double-digit margin. Oklahoma State will look to keep the good vibes going next week with another home game. This time, Iowa State comes to town after suffering a gut-wrenching loss at home this afternoon against Baylor. Iowa State blew a 14-point lead and lost on a game-winning field goal by the Bears.

It will not get easier next week for Texas as the Red River Shootout Rivalry gets fired up in Cotton Bowl Stadium next week at the state fair in Dallas. Texas shocked Oklahoma last year, seemingly boosting Strong’s job security at least a little bit. Will he need some magic once again this season to defeat the Sooners?

No. 2 Ohio State thumps Rutgers, 58-0

COLUMBUS, OH - OCTOBER 1:  Quarterback J.T. Barrett #16 of the Ohio State Buckeyes completes a pass in the second quarter against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights at Ohio Stadium on October 1, 2016 in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
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No. 2 Ohio State (4-0, 1-0 Big Ten) opened its Big Ten schedule without giving up a point. J.T. Barrett tossed four touchdowns to become the school’s all-time passing touchdown leader and Mike Weber rushed for 144 yards and a score in a 58-0 victory over Rutgers (2-3, 0-2 Big Ten) on Saturday in Ohio Stadium.

First year Rutgers head coach Chris Ash, a former Ohio State assistant, had the benefit of having some inside perspective on how Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer prepares his team. But Meyer had the benefit of having a stacked roster that could probably have gotten by with a fairly easy win if they juts used second and third-stringers against Rutgers. Rutgers did hang with Ohio State early on in the first quarter, including an interception of Barrett on Ohio State’s first offensive possession, but there was no matchup battle that wasn’t won by Ohio State the rest of the way.

At one point in the fourth quarter, Ohio State had 502 more yards of total offense than Rutgers. That included over 350 rushing yards. Ohio State also had 20 more first downs than Rutgers. It’s hard to pull an upset, or even sniff an upset, with that kind of box score.

There was a bit of a scare on the field for Rutgers this afternoon when linebacker Greg Jones was taken off the field on a stretcher and on a cart after apparently banging his helmet while attempting to make a tackle. He was taken to the hospital for further evaluation. Early indications appear to suggest Jones should be OK, as he has been communicating and moving his extremities.

Did we really learn anything from this game? No, probably not much. Ohio State was a heavy favorite over Rutgers anyway, and there was never much expectation Rutgers would make a game of this one. For Ohio State, it was just another week to get in gear, and they are certainly in gear. There is no team in the Big Ten as good as Ohio State. This is Ohio State’s conference to lose.

Ohio State will continue Big Ten play at home next week against Indiana. The Hoosiers host Michigan State Saturday night and have a knack for giving Ohio State some trouble in recent years, at least on offense. Rutgers will return home to host Michigan in a primetime game next week. Ohio State one week and Michigan the next? That’s juts cruel.

WATCH: Illinois captains give Nebraska counterparts an Illini Sam Foltz jersey

LINCOLN, NE - SEPTEMBER 10: Students of the Nebraska Cornhuskers honor deceased player Sam Foltz with a banner before the game against the Wyoming Cowboys at Memorial Stadium on September 10, 2016 in Lincoln, Nebraska. Nebraska defeated Wyoming 52-14. (Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images)
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In what’s become an almost weekly occurrence, Illinois became the latest team to honor the life of Sam Foltz.

The Nebraska punter, along with former Michigan State punter Mike Sadler, were killed in a July car accident on their way home from a kick camp in Wisconsin. LSU kicker Colby Delahoussaye was injured in the wreck, but is kicking this season for the Tigers and honoring both by wearing special cleats.

The Big Ten announced earlier this week that, for the seven conference games in Week 5, a coin featuring Foltz on one side and Sadler on the other would be used in the pregame flip ceremony.  As the Nebraska and Illinois captains met at midfield, Illini senior Michael Martin, after saying a few heartfelt words, handed his counterparts a signed Illini jersey with Foltz’s name on it.

With as much tumult and turmoil and negativity in and around the sport, these displays honoring Foltz have somewhat restored our faith in college football’s humanity.

Derek Jeter leaves message in every Michigan player’s locker

ANN ARBOR, MI - SEPTEMBER 26:  Head coach Jim Harbaugh (R) of the Michigan Wolverines  presents baseball great Derek Jeter (L) of the New York Yankees with a jersey prior to the game against the Brigham Young Cougars at Michigan Stadium on September 26, 2015 in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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Ahead of a huge Top 10 matchup, the Michigan football team has received a bit of inspiration from a pinstriped legend.

Derek Jeter, a Michigan high school graduate who signed with UM coming out of high school before embarking on what will end up being a Hall of Fame baseball career, has been somewhat of a fixture in and around the football program since the Wolverines became a part of Brand Jordan, a brand that Jeter also represents. Along with the brand’s namesake, His Airness Michael Jordan, Jeter was a part of the opener early this year at the Big House.  He was at a star-studded National Signing Day event this year as well.

With No. 8 Wisconsin on tap, Jeter decided to leave a gift and, more importantly, a message in the locker of every single player on the fourth-ranked team in the country.

“It is my personal challenge to you all to remain humble, yet hungry, every day along this journey to achieving greatness,” a portion of Jeter’s note read.