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.

Houston QB D’Eriq King considering leaving team to grad transfer elsewhere in 2020

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Houston quarterback D’Eriq King is considering leaving the team, counting this season as a redshirt and then graduate transferring elsewhere for the 2020 season. If such a move is completed, it’s believed to be a first in major college football.

King’s father, Eric King, told Mark Berman of the Fox affiliate in Houston that the move is a done deal.

However, King himself says the decision is not final.

Whether it happens or not, that such a move is being considered is a radical (and, depending on your perspective) cynical use of the new redshirt rule, passed in 2018, that allows players to compete in up to four games and still count the season as a redshirt.

Kelly Bryant did at Clemson, as did Jalen McCleskey at Oklahoma State. (Ironically, King played McCleskey, now at Tulane, on Thursday night.)

But neither of those players were starting quarterbacks. Bryant’s departure happened after he had just been demoted in favor of Trevor Lawrence.

King is Houston’s starter, and its best player. He has 36 games’ experience under his belt; only one other Cougar has thrown pass this season, freshman Logan Holgorsen. (He’s 1-of-1 for 5 yards.)

King threw for 2,982 yards and 36 touchdowns and rushed for 674 yards and 14 scores last season before missing the final portion to a knee injury. On Thursday he passed Tim Tebow to become the first player in FBS history to rush and throw for a touchdown in 15 consecutive games.

Houston is off to a 1-3 start under new head coach Dana Holgorsen, and it’s clear that the King camp doesn’t believe he’s clicking with the new coaching staff.

And while King’s decision would be treated in some corners of the college football world as a sky-is-falling scenario, it’s telling that King’s experience at Houston is chalked up as business as usual. A product of Manvel, Texas, King was recruited, signed and played his first season for Tom Herman. Herman left for Texas and was replaced by Major Applewhite, but he was fired after two seasons and replaced by Holgorsen.

It appears now that King would like a do-over on the end of his college career, and would like to do so for a coaching staff that he can actually choose to play for.

BYU loses grad transfer RB Ty’Son Williams for the year

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Ty’Son Williams‘s career has come to a premature end, as the running back revealed on Twitter on Sunday that he has suffered a torn ACL in his left knee.

A graduate transfer from South Carolina, Williams actually signed with North Carolina out of Sumter, S.C., but transferred to Columbia and spent three years with the Gamecocks. After totaling 165 carries in two seasons on South Carolina’s active roster. Williams was enjoying the usage he never got at his first two schools. He rushed a career-high 17 times for 92 yards and two touchdowns in BYU’s win at Tennessee, then bested that mark a week later, carrying 19 times for 99 yards in the Cougars’ 30-27 win over No. 21 USC on Sept. 14.

“Unfortunately my 2019 season has come to an end due to an ACL year in my left knee,” Williams wrote on social media. “Having no regrets as every time I gave it my all when I was out there. I appreciate all my family and friends reaching out as I always say “I love y’all.”

Williams carried six times for 28 yards in BYU’s loss to No. 17 Washington on Saturday.

For the year, Williams rushed 49 times for 264 yards and three touchdowns.

Williams used a redshirt in leaving North Carolina for South Carolina, so he would have to appeal to the NCAA for a medical hardship to return for a sixth season in 2020 — and he passed the 4-game threshold this season. As a graduate transfer, Williams owns a Bachelor’s degree from South Carolina and is pursuing a Master’s in communications at BYU.

Pac-12 says ending of Ole Miss-Cal could have been reviewed, but says call on field was correct

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Before we move on, let’s acknowledge two competing, equally true things. First, if your team lost a game like Ole Miss did, you’d be hopping mad, too. Second, much of Ole Miss’s anger is a thin veil obscuring the fact the replay they wanted would have been a de facto fourth timeout, as well as the fact their team could have hustled a heckuva lot quicker to the line of scrimmage to run that ill-fated final play.

All that said, the Pac-12 has now issued its review of the ending of No. 15 Cal’s controversial win over Ole Miss, and found that while the play “probably should” have been reviewed, the underlying call on the field was correct. Elijah Moore came down short of the goal line.

“Given the closeness of the call, and that it was an end-of-game scenario, it probably should have been stopped by instant replay for review,” Pac-12 VP of officiating David Coleman says. “However, as there was not irrefutable video evidence that the ruling … could be overturned to a touchdown, it was the correct call.”

A review in that situation would have been an undeniable advantage to Ole Miss, allowing the Rebels to regroup and snap the ball with a fresh play call from offensive coordinator Rich Rodriguez.

Instead, the correct call was not reviewed, and it’s hard to be angry at the replay official for not reviewing a correct call.

No. 11 Texas loses two starting DBs for a month, a third for longer, backup LB for the season

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Coming into this season, Texas really liked its depth in the secondary. Heading into the meat of the Big 12 schedule, that faith is about to be tested.

Tom Herman confirmed Monday that Texas will be without starting cornerback Jalen Green and starting safety Caden Sterns for the next month and safety Josh Thompson for even longer. All three were injured during the No. 11 Longhorns’ 36-30 win over Oklahoma State.

Those injuries were in addition to the injuries already sustained by starting nickelback BJ Foster and back-up safety DeMarvion Overshown, who both missed Saturday’s game.

Additionally, freshman linebacker Marcus Tillman, Jr., will miss the remainder of the season with an MCL sprain.

The Green injury is especially painful for Texas given the circumstances that led to it. The ‘Horns were set to take a 21-13 lead into halftime when, with 45 seconds left in the second quarter, punt returner Jake Smith muffed a punt at his own 15-yard line, which Oklahoma State recovered. Forced to defend an extra possession, Green dislocated his shoulder attempting to tackle Oklahoma State running back Chuba Hubbard and did not return to the game. Adding insult to injury, Oklahoma State scored on the possession. (Though Texas obviously won the game.)

Sterns led the Longhorns with 12 tackles on Saturday but left the field seated upright in a cart after spraining a ligament in his knee. Sterns also missed Texas’ win over Georgia in the Sugar Bowl due to a knee injury and sat out spring practice recuperating the knee.

Texas is off this week, accounting for one of the weeks Sterns, Green and Thompson will miss. That’s the good news. The bad: all are certain to miss the ‘Horns Oct. 12 date with No. 6 Oklahoma.