Notre Dame is undefeated and ranked No. 5 in the country ahead of their game against Pitt on Saturday. Given the upcoming slate the Irish have, the team is a trendy pick to eventually make the College Football Playoff if they win out — a real possibility given there are no ranked teams remaining on the slate.
However, there are still obstacles and stumbling blocks out there, including at least five Power Five conference champions (and maybe a few others) that will think they, too, will be occupying a spot in the final four. Despite that fact that Notre Dame will be sitting at home on the final week of the season when conference title games are everybody’s focus, the school’s leadership is not fretting too much about getting left out in the cold even if they prove to be one of the best teams in the end.
“I have enormous confidence in the selection committee and the process,” athletic director Jack Swarbrick told CBS Sports. “What the prior years have demonstrated is they’re focused on the cardinal rule: Identify the four best teams.”
Interestingly, a lot of debate over the potential inclusion of the Irish has centered on the fact that the team, as a football independent, will not play a conference title game for a 13th data point on the season. While that is an opportunity to lose a game against a good team, it’s also a chance they can add to their resume and the possibility of strengthening the schedule even further is something that Swarbrick is open to provided NCAA rules change in the near future.
“We’d be happy to play a 13th game,” he said. “There’s only one [other] school (BYU) that’s told they can’t play a 13th game. We would love to do it.”
Teams are normally limited to a 12 game regular season schedule and then a conference title game appearance if they qualify. Teams are also permitted to play a 13th regular season game if they have scheduled a game at Hawaii. While it does not seem that Swarbrick is going to start putting the Rainbow Warriors on the docket every season going forward, it does sound as though he’s given some thought to getting creative to keep Notre Dame on a level playing field with some of their Power Five peers by the time the CFP Selection Committee starts to break things down.
So much for that.
In August of last year, Torrence Brown announced that, “[d]ue to multiple injuries and surgeries, my career at Penn State has come to an end.” The defensive end spent the 2018 season as a student assistant coach for the Nittany Lions, seemingly kickstarting a career in coaching.
While that may ultimately be his employment lot in life, it’s been put on hold as Brown confirmed Tuesday via Twitter that he has decided to transfer to Southern Miss to continue his collegiate playing career. The lineman was actually committed to the Golden Eagles before flipping to the Nittany Lions in February of 2014.
Brown started four of 14 games as a redshirt sophomore in 2016 and then started the first three games the following year before going down with a season-ending knee injury.
Because of NCAA bylaws, a player who medically retires while at one school is not permitted to play at that same school if he opts to restart his playing career. He can, though, transfer and continue it elsewhere.
In January of 2016, Adam Breneman ended his playing career at Penn State and medically retired because of chronic knee issues; seven months later, the tight end resurfaced and continued his playing career at UMass.
Virginia Tech’s roster took a one-two personnel punch on Tuesday.
Last evening, wide receiver Eric Kumah announced on Twitter that he has “decided that [it’s] best for me to enter my name into the transfer portal.” A half-hour later, teammate and Hokies tight end Chris Cunningham announced via the same social media site that “I feel as though it is in my best interest to transfer from Virginia Tech.”
The fact that the players’ names are in the NCAA transfer database doesn’t guarantee a departure, although it is normally a sign that the player will ultimately move on to another program. With the names in the database, other schools can contact them without receiving permission from Tech. Conversely, Tech has the right to strip both players of their scholarships at the end of the current semester.
Both Kumah and Cunningham have already graduated from Tech and could use their final season of eligibility at another FBS program immediately in 2019. The former also has a redshirt year available to him.
This past season, Kumah’s 42 receptions, 559 receiving yards and seven receiving touchdowns were all second on the Hokies. He started 12 games in 2018 and 20 total during his time in Blacksburg.
Primarily a blocking tight end, Cunningham started a pair of games in 2018 and finished the season with 74 yards and two touchdowns on seven catches.
With Manny Diaz now in charge, Miami continues to collect players with Power Five and FBS experience.
The latest for the former additions is Chigozie Nnoruka, with the former UCLA defensive tackle announcing on Twitter late Tuesday night that he has transferred to Miami. The native of Nigeria will be coming to the Hurricanes as a graduate transfer — he’s expected to receive his degree in March — which means he can play immediately for Diaz’s squad in 2019.
The upcoming season will be the lineman’s final year of eligibility.
According to 247Sports.com, Nnoruka chose The U over an offer from Florida.
After beginning his collegiate career at a junior college and then playing in one game his first season with the Bruins, Nnoruka started 10 of the 12 games in which he played during the 2017 season. That year, his 8½ tackles for loss were tied for second on the team.
With Chip Kelly and a new defensive coaching staff on board, Nnoruka played in 11 games with no starts this past season. After 49 tackles the previous season, Nnoruka was credited with seven in 2018, none of which were for a loss.
In addition to Nnoruka, Miami has added safety Bubba Bolden from USC (HERE), running back Asa Martin from Auburn (HERE) and quarterback Tate Martell of Ohio State (HERE) from Power Five programs since mid-December. Additionally, Buffalo’s second-leading receiver, K.J. Osborn, tweeted his decision to transfer to UM earlier this month.
For the second time this offseason, a Koenning has been added to a new Power Five coaching staff. And, for the second time since taking over in Lawrence two months ago, Les Miles has hired an offensive coordinator.
Jan. 10, Troy announced that Chip Lindsey, hired by Miles as Kansas’ offensive coordinator the month before, would take over as the Sun Belt program’s head football coach and replace Neal Brown, who left to take the head job at West Virginia. Two weeks after Lindsay’s departure, KU confirmed Tuesday that Les Koenning will take over for Lindsey as the Jayhawks’ coordinator.
Koenning, whose cousin, Vic Koenning, was named as WVU’s defensive coordinator by Brown earlier this month, spent the 2018 season as the running backs coach at Southern Miss.
“We are so excited to add an offensive coordinator with the experience of Les Koenning,” said Miles in a statement. “He has proven to be an innovative offensive mind who has great success recruiting and developing offensive skill players, particularly at the quarterback position.”
Koenning has served as the coordinator at six stops at the FBS level — UAB (2016-17), Mississippi State (2009-13), Texas A&M (2003-07), Alabama (2001-02), Houston (1999) and Duke (1998).