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.

Lott IMPACT Trophy announces semifinalists

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You know we are getting close to award season in college football because it seems this week has been filled with announcements about semifinalists for every award possible. Welcome to the party, Lott IMPACT Trophy. A total of nine semifinalists were announced by the Lott IMPACT Trophy, which is awarded to the best defensive player with a focus on success on and off the field, integrity, maturity, performance, academics, community and tenacity.

The nine semifinalists for this year’s Lott IMPACT Trophy are:

  • Derrick Brown, DL, Auburn
  • Cole Christiansen, LB, Army
  • Jordan Fuller, DB, Ohio State
  • Brandon Jones, DB, Texas
  • Kenneth Murray, LB, Oklahoma
  • Chris Orr, LB, Wisconsin
  • Isaiah Simmons, LB, Clemson
  • Curtis Weaver, DL, Boise State
  • Evan Weaver, LB, Cal

Linebacker remains a strong position for the Lott IMPACT Trophy this season, with five of the nine semifinalists playing a linebacker position.

This year’s recipient of the Lott IMPACT Trophy will be announced on Dec. 15 at the Pacific Club in Newport Beach. This list of nine semifinalists will be trimmed down to four finalists prior to the announcement.

Kentucky’s Josh Allen took home the award last season.

Class of 2019 four-star Baylor commit says he’s heading to Utah

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Former Baylor quarterback Peyton Powell has a new football home in the Pac-12. Powell announced on Thursday he is heading to Utah to join the Utes program.

“It’s time for me to clear the air and I WILL be doing that at THE University of Utah,” Powell said in a statement share don his Twitter account on Thursday afternoon.

Powell came to Baylor with the hopes of being able to compete and play quarterback for the Bears. That opportunity was one of the reasons Baylor ended up winning his commitment out of high school, while many schools hoping to sign the four-star athlete could find ways to use his athleticism at different positions. Powell, a member of the Baylor Class of 2019, has not played this season and will have four years of eligibility remaining. NCAA rules would force Powell to sit out the 2010 season before being ruled eligible to play, but he may be given a chance to play right away considering he did not play during his freshman year at Baylor.

Arizona continues shaking up coaching staff with reported firing of defensive line coach

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As a year of disappointing results comes down the final stretch for the Arizona Wildcats, changes are already in the air for Kevin Sumlin and the program. On Thursday, Arizona continued to go through the process of overhauling its defensive coaching staff with the firing of defensive line coach Iona Uiagalelei.

News of the coaching change was first reported by Jason Scheer of Wildcat Authority. According to that same report, defensive analyst Greg Patrick will be moved into the position of defensive line coach, at least for the remainder of the current season.

Arizona ranks 73rd nationally in rushing defense, 113th in sacks, and 119th in tackles for a loss. These are all stats most commonly used to evaluate the performance of the defensive line, and the results this late in the season just simply aren’t good any way you look at it.

A month ago, Arizona parted ways with defensive coordinator Marcel Yates and linebackers coach John Rushing. Uiagalelei is the third defensive coach to be removed from the staff during the 2019 season.

Jonathan Taylor, Chuba Hubbard among semifinalists for Doak Walker Award

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Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor is attempting to do something that has only been done twice before by winning the Doak Walker Award in back-to-back seasons. Taylor was one of the 10 semifinalists revealed by the Doak Walker Award on Thursday, putting last year’s top running back one step closer to pulling off the rare feat on the college football award circuit.

Taylor will have some stiff competition for the award this season. Among the other semifinalists for the award include Oklahoma State’s Chuba Hubbard, the nation’s rushing leader with 1,726 yards and 20 rushing touchdowns (Taylor has 1,463 yards and 17 rushing touchdowns in the same number of games as Hubbard).

Darren McFadden of Arkansas is the most recent player to win the Doak  Walker Award in back-to-back seasons, doing so in 2006 and 2007. The only other player to win the award in consecutive seasons, and the only other two-time winner of the Doak Walker Award, is Ricky Williams of Texas. Williams won the award in 1997 and 1998. Taylor joined former Wisconsin running backs Melvin Gordon (2014), Montee Ball (2012) and Ron Dayne (1999) to move Wisconsin into first place for most all-time Doak Walker Award winners. Texas also has four awards won, but by three players (Ricky Williams twice, Cedric Benson in 2004 and D’Onta Foreman in 2016).

The other semi-finalists for the Doak Walker Award this year include LeVante Bellamy of Western Michigan (21 touchdowns leads the nation), AJ Dillon of Boston College, JK Dobbins of Ohio State, Clyde Edwards-Helaire of LSU, Travis Etienne of Clemson, Kenneth Gainwell of Memphis, Xavier Jones of SMU, Zack Moss of Utah.