Following last week’s 28-6 win over Temple, Notre Dame announced that they had signed Head Coach Brian Kelly to a five year contract extension. I, like many Notre Dame fans, applauded this move.
Kelly has been every bit as good as advertised since joining the Irish three years ago, compiling a 29-11 record with Irish. Notre Dame has reached a bowl in all three seasons Kelly has been in charge, including their first National Title game appearance in over twenty years.
Coach Kelly has turned Tommy Rees from a wide eyed freshmen to the leader of the Irish offense this season, and also a guy that Kelly leaned on multiple times last season to close out games in the fourth quarter as part of Notre Dame’s perfect regular season. He turned Everett Golson’s arm from a liability at the beginning of 2012 to the focal point of the offensive gameplan in the National Title game just four months later. Add his elite recruiting skills into the mix, and it’s easy to be impressed by Kelly’s accomplishments with the Irish thus far on the football field.
Perhaps even more impressive has been Kelly’s ability to keep his squad focused. Although his first two seasons did not start as well as expected, he still kept his players motivated enough to finish the campaigns strong. He has also kept the program running smoothly in light of some disciplinary issues with his players. Tommy Rees, Carlo Calabrese, and Michael Floyd all ran into some issues during Kelly’s time with the Irish. However, all of these incidents were nipped in the bud and never truly became a distraction because of the way Kelly handled things. He never let the players run wild throughout campus getting into trouble; but he also never cracked the whip and overreacted to these issues, robbing players of a second chance. Kelly found a happy medium in dealing with these things; something much easier said than done.
I realize you’ve probably heard this before; but I really think Notre Dame has found its’ man this time. While the same thing was said about Tyrone Willingham, it was a rushed judgment based on eight games that his defense won for him. The same was also said for Charlie Weis, but that was also an overreaction to a hot start and many of us forgot that Weis was still largely inexperienced in the world of college football. Kelly has won everywhere he’s been. He not only knows how to coach; he knows how to build a successful program that is not just a flash in the pan, but a perennial BCS contender. This program is already in much better shape than it was three years ago when Kelly signed on, and I’m sure it will be in great hands for years to come.
GAME BALLS: WEEK 1
Jameis Winston, QB Florida State:
Was near perfect in his first collegiate start, completing 25 of 27 passes for 356 and 4 touchdowns. Also added another touchdown on the ground in Florida State’s 41-13 victory over PITT.
Derek Carr, QB Fresno State:
Completed 52 of 73 passes for 456 yards and 5 touchdowns in a 52-51 victory over Rutgers
Christion Jones, WR Alabama:
Scored on a 72 yard punt return, a 94 yard kickoff return, and a 38 yard touchdown catch in Alabama’s win over Virgina Tech.
THIS WEEK FOR THE IRISH
The Irish will travel to Ann Arbor this weekend for one of my favorite games of the year; the Michigan game. Out of all the rivalries Notre Dame has, few deliver on such a consistent basis as this one does. I really can’t recall the last time this game wasn’t close. And it is almost always an exciting contest. Both teams will come in at 1-0 and ranked. Throw in that “Gameday” will be on campus and it’s under the lights at the Big House, and you have one of the biggest games of the week. Even given the skill level of Central Michigan, the Wolverines looked very good on Saturday with fifty point victory. Devin Gardner looked shaky at times throwing the football, but did tally 3 total touchdowns on the day. Gardner is a duel threat quarterback who could give the Irish problems. Last week against Temple the defense lost contain on Connor Reilly a number of times as the first time starter rushed for 65 yards and extended numerous drives with his legs on third downs. These two are as evenly matched as ever going into this contest, and I still believe the Irish defense we saw last week was not the finished product. I think this game will come down to the Irish forcing Gardner into a few turnovers; which they are certainly capable of. I’ve gone back and forth on this game all week, and I am far from a negative fan who is overreacting to an underwhelming week 1, but when I see two teams that are as evenly matched as these two, I have to give the edge to the team playing at home with a crowed of people who have been drinking since 6am behind them.
Prediction: Michigan 24 Notre Dame 21
WHAT ELSE I’M WATCHING THIS WEEK
#12 Florida @ Miami
Few players impressed more than Miami running back Duke Johnson in the opening week of college football. The Sopohomore rushed for 186 yards and a touchdown in Miami’s opening game win, but now he will face a much stiffer test in Florida’s defense. Because the SEC may be moving to an extended conference schedule in the next few years, this may be the last meeting between the two rivals for a while, so it is fitting that this is the most evenly these two teams have been matched up in quite some time. The Florida defense is outstanding, and they will get numerous defensive players back from suspension for this game. Duke Johnson can carve up Florida Atlantic, but can he have success against one of the SEC’s top defenses? It’s a very intriguing matchup in one of my favorite rivalries in college football, and who knows when we’ll actually see these teams play again?
#6 South Carolina @ #11 Georgia
Georgia had visions of a National Title at this time last week, but now they will be fighting for their lives to avoid an 0-2 start when the Gamecocks come to town. Georgia’s defense full of youngins struggled big time with Tajh Boyd and the Clemson Tigers, and it won’t get much easier this week as Mike Davis and Connor Shaw will come into this game following an impressive home victory over North Carolina. It will be interesting to see how the young Georgia defense responds following a week of the national media telling them how overmatched they looked against elite talent. While the Bulldogs may be inexperienced on the defensive side of the ball, they are very experienced at two of the most important positions there are; Head Coach and Quarterback. I think the desperation factor may be a good thing for this Georgia squad as far as this week goes.
PICKS FOR WEEK 2 (2-0 YTD)
Last week I hit on Bowling Green -4 (34-6 win over Tulsa, pick was posted on Twitter) and Virginia +1 (19-16 win over BYU, pick was posted in last week’s article) This week I have the following:
Illinois +7.5. Hosting Cincinatti.
Memphis +4.5 over Duke
Many times I will come up with a pick after my weekly article had been posted, in that case I post them on Twitter as well (@TylerDonchez).
Any feedback? Contact me on Twitter (@TylerDonchez) and let me know what you thought of this week’s article. Thank you!