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.

Former Notre Dame defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder reportedly hired as defensive analyst at Oklahoma State

JACKSONVILLE, FL - 2005:  Brian VanGorder of the Jacksonville Jaguars poses for his 2005 NFL headshot at photo day in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Getty Images)
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Staff changes are nearly complete around college football but it appears there is still one hire left to make for Oklahoma State.

According to a report from the Tulsa World, Cowboys head coach Mike Gundy is expected to bring on former Notre Dame defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder as the team’s new defensive analyst.

VanGorder was fired by the Irish last season after a 1-3 start that saw numerous issues on the defensive side of the ball. He later took a defensive analyst spot at Georgia toward the end of the 2016 campaign but apparently was looking for something else this year and ended up in Stillwater.

The move to bring on the coaching veteran gives Gundy and Cowboys defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer a wealth of knowledge on staff for that side of the ball as former OSU defensive coordinator Bill Clay is also a defensive analyst on the staff.

Prior to going to South Bend, VanGorder was a DC at Auburn, Georgia, and South Carolina. He also served as head coach of Georgia Southern for one season and made several NFL coaching stops along the way as well but this will be his first gig with a Big 12 program.

Tommy Tuberville says he would rather be Alabama governor than a head coach again

UNITED STATES - MAY 24:  Tommy Tuberville, head football coach of the Auburn Tigers tees off during the FedEx St. Jude Classic Stanford Pro-Am on May 24, 2006 at TPC Southwind in Memphis, Tennessee.  (Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images)
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Those stories about former head coach Tommy Tuberville making a run at becoming governor of the great state of Alabama appear to have some legs.

The ex-Auburn head man and longtime college football head coach talked to WNSP 105.5 FM (in Mobile, Ala.) about potentially mounting a political campaign on Friday and he didn’t exactly shy away from the fact that he was considering entering the fray.

“I’ve been there done that for many many years in college football,” Tuberville told the hosts when asked if he’d rather be governor or a head coach again. “I don’t know what I’m going to do. Talking about this governor thing, I’m kind of testing the wind. But probably be governor, in this time of life. I want to do a little something different and I think I can make a difference if I do decide to run.”

Tuberville added that he is doing some polling on the matter prior to formally beginning any sort of campaign process in order to see how he could potentially do in the race for governor.

The 62-year-old didn’t rule out a return to coaching, joining a TV network or even becoming an athletic director either but it sounds like he has a few political aspirations in mind. Tuberville certainly knows the state well having been at Auburn from 1999-2008 as head coach and leading the team to an undefeated season in 2004. While the fact that he wore plenty of orange back in the day and won six straight Iron Bowls might dissuade certain Alabama fans from voting for him, it appears that the old coach is already laying the ground work for recruiting a few Crimson Tide to his side down the road.

“If you end up running, trying to be the governor, it’s about one big team: The whole state of Alabama,” he said. “When I was at Auburn, I faced quite a few Alabama coaches. You do something on the scale of governorship, you have to have all your friends. I know as many Alabama folks as I do Auburn folks.”

It seems Tuberville is already getting a little political when it comes to appeasing both sides of the aisle in the state of Alabama — and we’re not referring to Republicans and Democrats either.

Wisconsin gives pay raises to head coach Paul Chryst, OC Joe Rudolph

EAST LANSING, MI - SEPTEMBER 24:  Paul Chryst, head coach of the Wisconsin Badgers, reacts on the sideline during the game against the Michigan State Spartans at Spartan Stadium on September 24, 2016 in East Lansing, Michigan.  (Photo by Bobby Ellis/Getty Images)
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There is always a certain rhythm to college football and as sure as the sun rises in the East, the offseason after a good year will result in a handful of raises for various coaches.

Such is apparently the case at Wisconsin this week, as documents provided by the school to the Wisconsin State Journal show head coach Paul Chyrst has received a hefty half million bump in salary this year.

Chryst is coming off a terrific year with the Badgers after guiding them to a surprise Big Ten West title and victory in the Cotton Bowl over previously undefeated Western Michigan. He is now set to earn roughly $3.2 million in 2017 and then see annual raises of $100,000 each year until the end of his contract. The head coach and former Wisconsin player was recently extended by the school through 2022.

That’s not the only raise handed out either, as offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph also received a bump of $80,000 this year to bring his salary to $650,000 in 2017 and 2018.

Despite the pay increases, the two Badgers coaches are still well behind most of their peers at the Power Five level and in the Big Ten especially. At Michigan alone, for comparison’s sake, head coach Jim Harbaugh makes around $9 million a season and pays three different assistants seven figures as well.

Georgia doles out pair of hefty raises to two staff members

MEMPHIS, TN - DECEMBER 30: Head coach Kirby Smart of the Georgia Bulldogs poses with running back Sony Michel #1 of the Georgia Bulldogs and defensive tackle Trenton Thompson #78 of the Georgia Bulldogs after defeating the TCU Horned Frogs at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium on December 30, 2016 in Memphis, Tennessee. The Georgia Bulldogs defeated the TCU Horned Frogs 31-23. (Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images)
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Two football staffers at Georgia received a nice raise this offseason, according to documents obtained by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

According to the AJC’s Seth Emerson, Bulldogs running backs coach Dell McGee took home a pay bum of $75,000 recently to put his total compensation at $350,000 per year. 2017 will be his second season with the team under head coach Kirby Smart and is probably worth it alone given the role McGee no doubt had in convincing star tailbacks Nick Chubb and Sonny Michel to return to school this season.

That’s not the only staff member to get a nice raise however as the program’s strength and conditioning coordinator, Scott Sinclair, received an even larger raise of $80,000, according to the same report. He now makes a whopping $300,000 a year.

While you might think the six-figure raises for two staff members is a tad excessive, even for an SEC program, Georgia is saving $125,000 on the base salary of new defensive line coach Tray Scott compared to his predecessor. Given how important McGee and Sinclair will be for one of the SEC East favorites this year, it is probably money well spent for Smart and the administration.