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.

Baylor suspends dog-beating WR for three games, makes him give canine ‘to animal-friendly home’

FORT WORTH, TX - NOVEMBER 27:  Nick Orr #18 of the TCU Horned Frogs makes a pass interception against Ishmael Zamora #8 of the Baylor Bears in the first quarter at Amon G. Carter Stadium on November 27, 2015 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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After a couple of weeks of outrage over yet another incident involving one of its football players, Baylor has finally pulled the trigger on actually doing something of substance.

In a press release Tuesday evening, Baylor announced that wide receiver Ishmael Zamora has been suspended for the first three games of the 2016 season.  The suspension comes 12 days or so after a video surfaced that showed Zamora beating his dog with a belt and kicking the animal.  The incident happened in June, and ultimately resulted in a citation for misdemeanor animal cruelty.

In addition to the suspension, the university also levied the following punishments on the wide receiver: “Zamora must perform 40 community service hours in a manner that will teach him kindness and respect toward animals, must undergo counseling and must relinquish the dog to an animal-friendly home.”

The player agreed to release the details of his punishment as it’s not university policy to divulge such information publicly, the school made sure to note in its release.

Last season, Zamora caught nine passes for 132 yards and two touchdowns.  The sophomore has been expected to play a bigger role in the Bears’ passing game with the departure of All-American Corey Coleman, as evidenced by the fact that, just yesterday, Zamora was listed as a starting wide receiver on the depth chart released by the Bears.

The suspension will cost the receiver games against FCS Northwestern State, SMU and Rice.  Zamora will be eligible to return for the Sept. 24 Big 12 opener against Oklahoma State.

Below are the statements released by the university in connection to this development.

ZAMORA
“I am sorry that I took out my frustration on my dog and accept the punishment that comes with it. This incident will never, ever, happen again. I truly love my dog, however, I know that my actions showed differently and I know that I made a big mistake.

“I apologize to my family, teammates, Baylor University and our fans for my actions.

“Eventually, I hope that everyone can see who I really am and that I am not a terrible person. This incident does not and will not define me, and I know that I am the one who will have to prove that to others in the days ahead.”

INTERIM HEAD COACH JIM GROBE
“Our football program does not condone this behavior by anyone. We are deeply saddened by it and have worked together with the University to hold Ishmael accountable for his actions.

“We have received communications about this incident from many passionate individuals over the past 10 days, and I am aware of their concerns. Our goal is for this discipline to be educational and restorative, and I believe that we have taken corrective measures to help Ishmael learn from his actions and to better understand the behavior we demand of all students at the University.”

ATHLETIC DIRECTOR MACK RHODES
“Ishmael’s behavior toward his dog is disheartening, and is not condoned. We believe with proper counseling and training Ishmael can learn from this and I expect that of him. I’ve conveyed to him my expectation that his actions and his service will illustrate his commitment to change.”

Dee Dowis, Air Force’s all-time leading rusher, killed in car wreck

Dee Dowis
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Air Force is today mourning the loss of one of the most beloved players in the football program’s history.

The service academy confirmed Tuesday that Dee Dowis was killed in a vehicle accident in Gwinnett City., Ga., Monday.  Dowis was 48 years old, and is survived by his wife Tracie and two children.

Dowis was a three-year letterman and graduated from the Academy in 1990.

“I don’t have adequate words to describe what a personal loss this is for me,” Dowis’ head coach, Fisher DeBerry, told the Colorado Springs Gazette. “It’s a sad day for Falcon football. I’m sure so many people who enjoyed watching him play feel as empty as I do today. …

“I am shocked. So saddened. My heart’s broken. It bleeds for Tracie and Madeline and Grant, Dee’s mother and family and for all our Falcon brothers. What a legacy he leaves for all of us and what it means to be a wonderful husband, devoted father, a Christian businessman and leader like he was. But he has secured his eternal home and one day we’ll be able to relive a lot of those Falcons days that we all had together.”

Dowis came to the Falcons as a 150-pound quarterback in the mid-eighties and left as the academy’s all-time leading rusher with 3,612 yards rushing, a record that still remains.  His sixth-place finish in the 1989 Heisman Trophy voting is the highest finish ever for a Falcon, and made him one of three service academy players to finish that high in the voting since Roger Staubach of Navy took home the honor in 1963.

The season that led to that finish, 1,286 yards rushing and 1,285 passing, marked just the fifth time a player had topped 1,000 yards both passing and rushing in the same season.  In 2009, Dowis was a member of the second class inducted into the Air Force Athletic Hall of Fame.

One of Dowis’ teammates during his time at the Academy was Troy Calhoun, the Falcons’ current head football coach.  Obviously, Dowis’ passing had a significant impact on the coach.

“He was the most electric, dynamic and exciting football player probably in the history of service academy football, ever. And yet a better person,” Calhoun told the Gazette. “You just knew he was going to be quite, quite accomplished no matter what he did. Hands down the nicest and most humble human being, period.”

Suspended USC LB Osa Masina reportedly under investigation for sexual assault

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 08:  Antwaun Woods #99 of the USC Trojans and Osa Masina #58 of the USC Trojans pressure Jake Browning #3 of the Washington Huskies on this pass play during the first quarter of a game at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on October 8, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Sean Haffey/Getty Images)
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And now we know a little more of the rest of the story, and it’s potentially serious for one member of the USC football program.

Monday night, Clay Helton revealed that Osa Masina has been suspended for his team’s season opener against Alabama this weekend.  The head coach gave no specific reason or reasons for the sanctions being placed on the linebacker, although a school official subsequently described it as an unspecified violation of team rules.

However, the FOX affiliate out of Salt Lake City is reporting that Masina, a Utah native, is being investigated over sexual assault allegations.  The probe stems from an alleged incident or incidents that allegedly took place over the summer in Salt Lake County.

From the television station’s report:

Cottonwood Heights Police have confirmed the ongoing investigation but have not released details about the alleged crime.

Cottonwood Heights PD, with the help of the Los Angeles Police Dept., served a search warrant last week at a USC practice facility in Los Angeles.

At this point, no charges have been filed.  All questions to Masina’s parents were referred to the defense attorney representing their son.

Masina (pictured, left) was a five-star 2015 recruit who was the top-rated player at any position in the state of Utah.  He played in 12 games as a true freshman last season and was credited with 25 tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss, with the highlight of his first year as a Trojan coming on a fumble return for a touchdown in the season-opening win over Arkansas State.

On the preseason depth chart released a week ago, Masina was listed as a backup to starting inside linebacker Michael Hutchings.

Dylan Sumner-Gardner adds four-game suspension to rocky Boise State résumé

PROVO, UT - SEPTEMBER 12: Mitchell Juergens #87 of the Brigham Young Cougars catches this 4th down, 4th quarter go ahead touchdown between defenders Darian Thompson #4 and Dylan Sumner-Gardner #29 of the Boise State Broncos at LaVell Edwards Stadium on September 12, 2015 in Provo, Utah. BYU won 35-24. (Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images)
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The roller coaster career of Dylan Sumner-Gardner at Boise State is on a downward trajectory yet again.

Tuesday, Boise announced that Sumner-Gardner (pictured, No. 29) has been suspended for the first four games of the 2016 season.  According to the school’s release, the suspension stems from the defensive back “failing to meet NCAA football academic eligibility requirements.”

Sumner-Gardner will kiss games against Louisiana-Lafayette, Washington State, Oregon State and Utah State.  Provided the current timeline holds, Sumner-Gardner would be eligible to return for the New Mexico game Oct. 7.

After playing in 13 games as a true freshman, Sumner-Gardner started the first four games last year before going down with a season-ending ankle injury.  In November he was arrested on a misdemeanor drug charge, then didn’t travel to BSU’s Poinsettia Bowl win over Northern Illinois in late December because of what was described as an unspecified violation of team rules.  His status for the upcoming season has been a question mark throughout the offseason.

Sumner-Gardner, a four-star 2014 prospect who was the Broncos’ highest-rated recruit in that class, had been a projected starter at safety; with the junior sidelined, Cameron Hartsfield is listed as the starter instead.