No. 12 Notre Dame tops No. 14 Michigan to renew rivalry with a win

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The echoes were awoken Saturday night in South Bend… in a big way.

No. 12 Notre Dame jumped out to a lead and never seemed to look back as they made a season-opening statement by topping No. 14 Michigan 24-17 in a game they generally controlled throughout. It was an impressive outing by any measure and especially so as the two college football blue bloods renewed their rivalry series with high hopes for the year but only one walking away happy.

Perhaps the most pleasing development for head coach Brian Kelly’s Irish squad was the play of quarterback Brandon Wimbush. After a full offseason’s worth of work on his passing, the senior looked much sharper and in command of the offense despite the bright lights and feisty defense on the other side. Though he had a few throws that were off target and near interceptions, he finished the night with 170 yards, a touchdown and an interception (he also led the team in rushing with 59 yards). The numbers weren’t eye-popping by any measure but he certainly performed well against a Don Brown-led defense that returned the bulk of last year’s group that was among the best in the nation.

Wimbush wasn’t the only one to get involved in moving the ball as tailback Jafar Armstrong scored twice and ran for 35 yards in a game where every inch was earned. His speed, especially on sweeps, was evident and it looks like he’ll fit in well with Notre Dame’s other skill position talent. That group certainly includes senior Chris Finke, who delivered the early highlight of the year with a leaping touchdown catch and seems like he’ll factor heavily in the rotation out of the slot in 2018.

The Irish defense also came to play and started the year off on the right foot by allowing under four yards per play. That included holding Michigan’s rushing attack to well under 100 yards for the game, keeping lead back Karan Higdan in check particularly well with just 72 yards on 21 carries (3.4 ypc). Te’von Coney led the way with 10 tackles — and the game-sealing fumble recovery — while safety Alohi Gilman made the most of his debut for the team by stuffing the stat sheet with seven tackles, a TFL and two pass breakups.

As a result, the Wolverines couldn’t really muster much consistency at all despite a few nice plays from Shea Patterson throughout the game. The transfer from Ole Miss does look like a good fit in Jim Harbaugh’s system but every yard was tough to come by and he finished 20-of-30 for 227 yards and an interception. Patterson had to exit late with what appeared to be cramps in the fourth quarter, leading to backup Dylan McCaffrey taking a few snaps down the stretch instead of one of last year’s starters in Brandon Peters.

Things could have been much worse for Michigan had it not been for the defense bowing up as the game went on and special teams coming through. Ambry Thomas briefly gave the team life just before halftime with an electric 99-yard kick return for a touchdown but there was otherwise not much scoring on either side as the two teams slugged things out the rest of the way.

The end result will lead to ever more questions for Harbaugh as his offense seemed to once again show flashes but wind up not doing a whole lot come crunch time. There’s certainly still a path to the College Football Playoff available for the Wolverines in the tough Big Ten East but the margin for error does seem a lot smaller than it did in the offseason with the way they played. The defense remains solid and there does appear to be more playmakers available on the other side of the ball but consistency was lacking on the road to open the season.

The Irish, meanwhile, have to be thrilled at the result even if the second half wasn’t quite as convincing as they wanted it to be. They’ll likely move up into the top 10 come the release of the latest polls on Tuesday and have two more home games to work out any kinks before facing a few stout tests in Wake Forest and, especially, big rival Stanford. While it is still far too early to start talking playoff, it was an excellent start to the year for Kelly and company as team gets used to a few new faces around the football offices.

That’s all for another time however as Notre Dame can be sure to celebrate the effort on Saturday night as they vanquished a big rival and made quite the early statement to kick off the season.

Ole Miss confirms addition of Navy transfer Jake Springer

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Ole Miss has looked to a service academy to significantly bolster its football roster.  Officially.

Back in mid-March, Jake Springer signaled his intention to transfer from Navy by entering the NCAA transfer database.  A little over three months later, the striker utilized Instagram to announce that he had committed to the Ole Miss football team.

Two weeks after that social media revelation, Ole Miss confirmed that Springer has signed and been added to the Rebels football roster.  It was initially thought that Springer would be headed to the Rebels as a graduate transfer.  Instead, the school confirmed he’ll have to sit out the 2020 season.  The 2021 season will be his final year of eligibility.

Springer was a two-star member of the Class of 2017 for the Midshipmen.  His recruiting pedigree, though, belies the potential for production he brings to Ole Miss football.

After playing in six games as a true freshman, Springer saw action in a dozen in 2018.  He started four of those contests, intercepting a pair of passes in that action.  The Missouri product had a breakout season in 2019, starting 10 games for the Midshipmen.  He led the team in both tackles for loss (16) and sacks (eight).  The latter total is tied for third-most in academy history, the former tied for the fifth-most.

Following the regular season, Springer was accorded second-team All-AAC honors.

While he played a hybrid linebacker/safety (striker) position at Navy, Springer is expected to make his mark in the secondary for the SEC school.

Illinois LB Joseph Thompson enters the transfer portal

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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.

First reported by Rivals.com, Joseph Thompson has entered his name into the NCAA transfer database.  247Sports.com subsequently confirmed that the defensive back is intent on leaving the Illinois football program.

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.

Thompson was a three-star member of the Illinois football Class of 2019.  The Chicago native was rated as the No. 27 recruit regardless of position in the state of Illinois.  As a true freshman, Thompson didn’t appear in any games and took a redshirt.

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

Report: Oklahoma wants to move its 2020 opener up a week, to Aug. 29

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While seemingly everyone in the sport is looking to push games back, Oklahoma is actually looking to move its football opener up.

Oklahoma is currently scheduled to open the 2020 college football season at home in Norman against FCS Missouri State Sept. 5.  According to The Oklahoman, however, OU is looking to move that matchup up a week, to Aug. 29.  Reportedly, the FCS school is amenable to such a move.

The reasoning behind such a waiver?

OU athletic director Joe Castiglione’s rationale in this pandemic-stricken year is that moving the opener would give OU an off week after each of its first two games, which could be valuable with the testing of players for the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

With constant testing and the subsequent contact tracing for those exposed, teams face a season with frequent quarantines and isolation of players who either have the virus or have been exposed to it.

At the moment, Oklahoma is scheduled to face Tennessee at Memorial Stadium Sept. 12.  Then coming off a bye, OU would travel

All of this, of course, is contingent on there actually being non-conference games in the sport.  The Big Ten was the first conference-only scheduling domino to fall.  The ACC and Pac-12 are expected to follow suit.  The Sooners’ conference, the Big 12, likely won’t make a decision on that front until the end of this month.  The same goes for the SEC as well.

Five-star 2020 Georgia signee Broderick Jones reportedly injured in motor bike accident

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There’s a health concern involving one of the crown jewels of the Georgia football Class of 2020.

With Auburn in hot pursuit, Broderick Jones confirmed back in February that he had signed with Georgia football. The offensive lineman stated on National Signing Day he is “a Georgia boy” and “wanted to be close to home so my family could support me.“

Now, though, 247Sports.com is confirming that Jones suffered “a lower leg injury related to an accident involving a motor bike.” No details surrounding the accident have been revealed, although the website noted that it didn’t happen in the last couple of days.

It’s expected that Jones will be recovering for multiple weeks, perhaps up to two months. As of yet, the Georgia football program has not commented on the development.

The No. 3 recruit regardless of position in the state of Georgia, the 6-5, 298-pound Jones is the No. 2 offensive tackle in the country.  On the 247Sports.com composite, he’s listed as the No. 11 prospect overall in the Class of 2020.  Only one signee in this year’s class for the Bulldogs, cornerback Kelee Ringo, was rated higher.

While Jones verbally committed to UGA in April of 2018, the departure of line coach Sam Pittman for the head job at Arkansas in December caused some concern.  In January, Jones took an official visit to Arkansas.  He took another to Illinois that same month.

With the Bulldogs, the expectation is that Jones will slide into a starting job as a true freshman.  Provided there is a season, of course.