Why people are buying Notre Dame as College Football Playoff contender (and why some might hold off)

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It’s about that time of the year again when Notre Dame starts generating some buzz as a national title contender. This seems to happen every few years or so. If we’re not asking if Notre Dame will be back, we are asking if they will be in the championship conversation. Perhaps those questions are the same for some. Whatever the case is, the Irish appear to be entering the 2015 season with high expectations by many around the college football universe. Are you buying the Irish as a College Football Playoff contender, or are you holding off to see how they start the new season?

Associated Press college football writer Ralph Russo placed Notre Dame in a College Football Playoff semifinal, against Auburn (Ohio State and Baylor are in the other semifinal). Russo’s early summer bowl projections are not the only place you will see preseason hype for the Irish. Stewart Mandel of FOX Sports said in a recent mailbag post he views Notre Dame as a legit playoff contender. The always knowledgeable Matt Brown, of Sports On Earth, lauded the playoff talent on Notre Dame’s roster, suggesting Notre Dame may actually be underhyped. Fresh off Notre Dame’s Music City Bowl victory over LSU at the end of last season, Chicago Tribune writer Chris Hine set the bar for the Irish at the College Football Playoff level. Anything short of a playoff game won’t cut it for the Irish in 2015, Hine suggested. Travis Haney of ESPN.com reviewed first-time starting quarterbacks for this upcoming season’s supposed playoff contenders, which naturally included Malik Zaire of Notre Dame.

So here we are on June 10, with many respected names around college football’s media coverage dropping Notre Dame in the playoff conversation. Are they on the mark with the Irish, or is it a tad early to suggest Notre Dame will have everything in place to make a postseason run?

A quick review of what the Irish have shows why so many seem to be optimistic about Notre Dame in 2015. First, the Irish return 19 starters from last season. This does not account for the possible returns of potential starters Ishaq Williams at defensive end and KeiVarae Russell at defensive back. As mentioned above, Zaire is set to take control of the offense without anybody standing in his way following Everett Golson transferring to Florida State. Zaire has shown some promise, but now the job is his. Let’s see how he and head coach Brian Kelly handle it.

Notre Dame’s defense was hampered by injuries down the stretch of the season in 2014, and it showed. What will ultimately place Notre Dame in the playoff hunt will be an improvement in turnover margin. When the Irish defense was beat, it was torched. Last season the Irish forced 23 turnovers, but gave the football away 26 times. It was the third time Notre Dame had a negative turnover margin in a season since 2008. Not so coincidentally, when Notre Dame made a run to the BCS Championship Game in the 2012 season, the Irish had their highest turnover margin in that stretch, with a +8. The Irish will also have to improve inside the red zone. Last year the Irish entered the opponent’s 20-yard line 62 times. On 40 of those trips the Irish scored a touchdown, good for the 45th best red zone touchdown percentage in the country. Three of the four playoff teams had a higher percentage last season (Florida State was significantly lower).

If Notre Dame can improve in these two areas, then the schedule does set up well for the Irish to remain in the playoff discussion into November, but there are some significant hurdles along the way. Notre Dame opens the season at home in primetime against Texas, but the Longhorns are still in a bit of a rebuild state right now under Charlie Strong. Georgia Tech can be a stingy test early on for the Irish as well, but the defending ACC Coastal champs are on the road in week three. Notre Dame plays at Clemson in the first weekend in October, followed by a home game against Navy and another home game against USC. The Trojans could be dangerous, but you never know what will happen when they visit South Bend. A road game at Pittsburgh could also be tricky given the offensive talent the Panthers have (James Conner and  Tyler Boyd are among the best at their positions in the ACC, if not the country). Notre Dame’s season ends with games in Fenway Park against Boston College and on the road against always tough Stanford.

Under the new College Football Playoff model, one loss is not nearly as catastrophic as it may have been before for Notre Dame, but the margin for error is still small. The Irish not playing a conference championship game could lead to a similar fate as last season’s Big 12 co-champions from Baylor and TCU (although the Big 12’s strength of schedule was also a fair target, one that may not apply for Notre Dame).

Is Notre Dame for real in 2015? Yeah, they could be, but we will have a much better idea of what to make of Notre Dame by mid-October. If Notre Dame is 7-0 or 6-1, get ready for a Notre Dame playoff push coming down the stretch of the regular season.

Colorado WR La’Vontae Shenault arrested on three charges, including DUI

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Laviska Shenault may be gone from Colorado football, but the surname lives on in the headlines. Unfortunately, for all of the wrong reasons. But, still.

In December, and as expected, Shenault announced in early December that he would be leaving the Colorado football team early for the 2020 NFL Draft.  The star wide receiver’s brother, La’Vontae Shenault, though, is a redshirt freshman at the same position for the Buffaloes.

Over the Fourth of July weekend, the Fort Collins Coloradoan has reported, La’Vontae Shenault was arrested on multiple charges in the city.  Included in that was a charge of suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs.  The 19-year-old Colorado football player is also facing one count each of driving without headlamps at night and a drivers license violation.  All of those charges are misdemeanors, the newspaper noted.

As of yet, the Colorado football program has not commented on the off-field incident.

Shenault was a three-star member of the Class of 2019 for the Buffaloes.  He was rated as the No. 49 prospect regardless of position in the state of Texas.

As a true freshman, Shenault played in four games and dressed for seven.  The DeSoto, Tex., product didn’t record any statistics this past season.

Because he appeared in four games, he was permitted to take a redshirt for the 2019 season.

Toledo defensive lineman Jahneil Douglas killed in overnight shooting

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UPDATED 10:05 a.m. ET: The athletic department at the University of Toledo has confirmed the passing of Jahneil Douglas.

“The University and all of Rocket Nation mourn the death of junior football player Jahneil Douglas, who was shot in an incident in Toledo last night.”

(The original post appears below.)

____________

Sadly, tragedy has struck the Toledo football program.

WTOL-TV in Toledo is reporting that one man was shot dead in the city very late Tuesday night.  The shooting occurred outside of a Gino’s Pizza and was the culmination of a fight between two individuals.

According to that television station’s sports director, Jordan Strack, Toledo football player Jahneil Douglas was the man killed in the shooting.  Thus far, there’s been no comment from the Rockets football program or head coach Jason Candle on the junior defensive lineman’s reported passing.

From the station’s report:

Police say casings were found scattered in the parking lot and at least one car was hit by gunfire.

The restaurant has video surveillance near where the shooting happened. There is no word on any arrests as of yet.

Douglas was a two-star member of the Toledo football Class of 2018.  The 6-3, 300-pound lineman played his high school football in the city of Toledo.  On the 247Sports.com composite, Douglas was rated as the No. 116 player in the state of Ohio regardless of position.

As a true freshman, Douglas appeared in five games.  This past season, Douglas played in seven.  He was credited with a pair of tackles in those appearances.

Our thoughts, prayers and condolences go out to all of those impacted by Douglas’ tragic passing.

College Football in Coronavirus Quarantine: On this day in CFT history, including Ohio State releasing its response to the NCAA’s Notice of Allegations

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The sports world, including college football, had essentially screeched to a halt in the spring as countries around the world battled the coronavirus pandemic. As such, there was a dearth of college football news as the sport went into a COVID-induced hibernation.  Slowly, though, the game is coming back to life.  Hopefully.

That being said, we thought it might be fun to go back through the CollegeFootballTalk archives that stretch back to 2009 and take a peek at what transpired in the sport on this date.

So, without further ado — ok, one further ado — here’s what happened in college football on July 8, by way of our team of CFT writers both past and present.

(P.S.: If any of our readers have ideas on posts they’d like to read during this college football hiatus, leave your suggestions in the comments section.  Mailbag, maybe?)

2019

THE HEADLINE: Urban Meyer to debut new podcast about leadership, culture, behavior
THE SYNOPSIS: For some reason, some readers thought this was a headline ripped from the pages of The Onion.  It wasn’t, though.  Seriously.

2017

THE HEADLINE: Vandy TE charged after landing drone in Fourth of July crowd
THE SYNOPSIS: College kids, y’all.  Dobbs went on to catch 15 passes for 136 yards in 2017 and 2018.

2014

THE HEADLINE: Oprah getting in on the Jerry Sandusky story with new interview
THE SYNOPSIS: As if the Penn State scandal wasn’t covered enough by college football scribes.  Two years after his sentencing, the Big O got in on the Sandusky scandal by interviewing the convicted pedophile’s oldest son.

2013

THE HEADLINE: LSU’s leading RB formally charged with simple battery
THE SYNOPSIS: From our post on Jeremy Hill declaring for the draft a year later:

In late April, Hill was arrested and (ultimately) charged with simple battery following a bar altercation.  A video of the incident subsequently surfaced, which showed Hill punching the victim and celebrating.  The attorney for Hill, who was suspended following the arrest but was reinstated prior to the opener, claimed that the physical altercation was preceded by the victim heckling his client over the player’s past.

That past came in 2011 as Hill was arrested on charges of oral sexual battery and later pleaded guilty to carnal knowledge of a juvenile, a misdemeanor.

2011

THE HEADLINE: Ohio State vacates 2010 wins, doesn’t self-impose bowl ban, scholarship losses
THE SYNOPSIS: OSU acknowledged unethical conduct on the part of former head coach Jim Tressel.  The NCAA ultimately banned the Buckeyes from appearing in a postseason game in 2012.  And Tressel was given a five-year show-cause.

Illinois WR Jordan Holmes states on social media his time as a Fighting Illini football player has come to a close

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Illinois has been on the right side of the football portal throughout the offseason.  Now, Lovie Smith‘s crew finds themselves on the wrong end.  Maybe.

On social media, Jordan Holmes announced that he is no longer a member of the Illinois football team.  The wide receiver gave no indication as to the reason behind his impending departure.

Holmes also didn’t indicate whether or not he would be entering the NCAA transfer database.

Below is Holmes’ entire social-media statement, via 247Sports.com:

This will be a surprise for many of you but my time as a football player at the University of Illinois has come to a close. I want to say thank you to everyone who made living out my dream possible. The game of football has brought me so many friendships, experiences and memories that I’ll cherish forever.

First off, I want to thank God for giving me the opportunity to play at the Division 1 level in the B1G. Thank you to my parents and the rest of my family for all the constant love and support you gave me throughout this entire experience. I couldn’t have done this without you all by my side. To everyone from my small town of Columbia, IL, this is where it all started for me and you all helped me stay the course to get to where I am today and I can’t thank you all enough.

To my teammates, I love you all from the bottom of my heart and the bonds we created will stay with me forever. You all pushed me every single day to be my best and helped me through the times that got tough. Thank you for all the lifelong memories we created, I won’t forget the times we had together at practice, on road trips, in the locker room and on game days, those are all things that will stay with me forever.

Illini Nation, THANK YOU. You are the best fans in the nation and I won’t forget the 2 years I had playing in front of y’all.

This is the end of my journey, thank you to everyone who made this experience so special to me, I will always bleed Orange & Blue.

So, if Holmes does continue his playing career and enters the portal?  Here we go…

Now, for what’s seemingly becoming a daily disclaimer when it comes to transfers.

As we’ve stated myriad times in the past, a player can remove his name from the portal and remain at the same school. At this point, though, other programs are permitted to contact a player without receiving permission from his current football program.

NCAA bylaws also permit schools to pull a portal entrant’s scholarship at the end of the semester in which he entered it.

Holmes, a junior, appeared in 19 games for Illinois football.  In his time with the Fighting Illini, Holmes caught four passes for 39 yards.  He also returned 13 punts for 75 yards.  His 10 returns for 73 yards were tops on the team this past season.

On the positive side for the Illini? Illinois has added seven transfers to its football roster this offseason.  Five of those come from Power Five programs.

In mid-March, ex-Alabama linebacker Christian Bell tweeted that he was moving on to the Illini. Shortly thereafter, we noted that an FCS All-American offensive lineman had opted to transfer into the Illinois football program. New Mexico State wide receiver Desmond Dan did the same.  As did Miami wide receiver Brian Hightower.  And Mississippi State offensive lineman Brevyn Jones as well in early May  And Louisville defensive back TreSean Smith last week mid-May.  And Cal defensive tackle Chinedu Udeogu that same month.