2015 Irish opponents in the Bowl Games

Eight of Notre Dame’s scheduled opponents for 2015 are playing in bowl games.
Virginia, UMass, Temple and Wake Forest are not.
We list them chronologically, with some possible points of observation and analysis.

NAVY v. San Diego State, Poinsettia, Tue, Dec. 23, 9:30 NYC time

7-5 Navy, which has been defeated four times in a row by the Irish, is led by Junior Keenan Reynolds, a slippery master of the option who rushed for over 1100 yards while passing for a mere 800. Fullback Noah Copeland is playing his last game for the Middies. The cutblocks and chainmoving will be maddening reminders of past travail, but also observe the Middie defense, which has allowed 48 ppg to the Irish over the last four years. If the Navy defenders seem small and unathletic, do not adjust your set.

ASK YOURSELF: Will Brian Van Gorder, in his second year, with a more veteran defense, playing Georgia Tech in September, be able to slow down the Navy option with Senior QB Reynolds? Or will the Irish just have to outscore the Middies once again?

BOSTON COLLEGE v. Penn State, Pinstripe, Saturday, Dec. 27, 4:30 NYC time

The same Eagles who pounded USC for 452 yards on the ground kept running the ball all year long under former Irish Assistant Steve Addazio and option QB Tyler Murphy, the transfer from Florida who rushed for over 1000 yards while leading BC to the #15 ranking in rushing in the country. While Murphy passed for more than 1500 yards, BC gained 2 yards on the ground for every yard they gained in the air. Addazio starts 7 seniors on offense, including Murphy, and 5 on defense, so next November’s tilt in Feway will test how his recruiting has supplemented what he inherited in building a 7-5 record. Best win was against USC, worst loss to Colorado State.

ASK YOURSELF: Will BC be able to replace their offensive playmakers to generate enough offense to score on the deeper, more mature 2015 Irish defense? Will BC be able to resurrect the ghosts of the past to spoil ND’s party at Fenway?

USC v. Nebraska, Holiday, Saturday, Dec. 27 8:00 NYC time

Watch the “track team” at wide receiver: Juju Smith, George Farmer, Darreus Rogers, Ajene Harris, Nelson Agholor (who might leave for the NFL draft) and Adoree Jackson, moonlighting from his full time job as a future star at cornerback. Smith grew, Farmer got healthy and at year end the Trojans receiving corps was college football’s most explosive.

Cody Kessler threw 36 touchdowns and just four interceptions. While not as heralded as his predecessors Matt Barkley and Mark Sanchez, he may be more effective and productive. He is a junior.

Keep an eye on the giant freshmen on the OL: Damien Mama, 6’5” 370 lbs, Viane Talamaivao, 6’3” 330lbs, and Toa Lobendahn 6’3” 280lbs. Future ND-USC games will pivot on how well the Notre Dame defensive line fares against that threesome. The Trojan offense loses only Randall Telfer, the TE, to graduation, though many expect Agholor to jump to the NFL.

Leonard Williams will probably leave as a top five draft pick. Also departing will be Hayes Pullard and fellow linebacker J.. Tavai along with Safety Gerald Bowman.

ASK YOURSELF: Will ND’s offense be able to control the ball, the clock and the scoreboard to stay ahead of USC? Will ND’s defensive backs be able to stay with the USC receivers catching passes from a senior Cody Kessler?

CLEMSON versus Oklahoma, Monday, Dec. 29, Russell Citrus Bowl 5:30 NYC time

Keep an eye on Clemson QB Deshawn Watson, shoved into the fray as a true frosh, slowed by injuries but the heir apparent to the productive Tahj Boyd. Does Clemson have the playmakers on the outside as they have recently with Jacoby Ford, Sammy Watkins and Martavis Bryant? Clemson’s defense is led by senior studs like First Team AP All-American Vic Beasley and Stephone Anthony and five other senior starters. Will they be able to replace them?

ASK YOURSELF: Will the 2015 Irish defense be able to control Deshawn Watson, or will he reprise the Marquise Williams (North Carolina) explosion? Will Brent Venables’ youngish, but athletic, defense be able to hold down a veteran Irish offense hard by Howard’s Rock? How excited will those Orangemen from Clemson be to entertain the Fighting Irish?

TEXAS LONGHORNS v Arkansas, Texas Bowl, Houston, Mon. Dec 29, 9:00 NYC time

Observe Charley Strong’s first edition of the Horns. He culled the Longhorn herd quite severely, provoking Roger Goodell to consult with Strong and learn from Charley about having more, for the want of a better phrase, “RKG’s” in the NFL. The book on Texas was that they were good field, no hit. Tyrone Swoopes is a massive mammal at quarterback, but is just beginning his journey at quarterback.

The Horns RB, TE and two of the three WRS are Seniors, so observe the depth. The Horns start five seniors on defense, none an All-Star, but observe if the Charley Strong imprint, so clear at Florida and Louisville, is starting to be embossed on the Texas stop unit.

ASK YOURSELF: Will Swoopes have made enough progress by next September to truly threaten the Irish defense? When Strong returns as a former assistant to South Bend will YOU be able to block out flashbacks of the ’11 opener when returning former assistant Skip Holtz and the USF Bulls beat the Irish in a rain-delayed nightmare? Will Texas have enough pass rush and coverage corners to slow down the elite ND receiving corps?

STANFORD v. Maryland, San Francisco Bowl, Tues, 12/30 10:00 NYC time

Which Kevin Hogan will we see? The fumbler or the coldly efficient field general he was against UCLA? Can the Stanford OL regain the power of the past or have they slipped down a notch?

Senior starters on defense include Blake Lueders, David Parry, Henry Anderson, A.J. Tarpley, Jordan Richards and Wayne Lyons. Can their replacements measure up or is this the last of the Harbaugh effect?

ASK YOURSELF: Can the Irish handle the visit to Palo Alto and the physical last game of the season for Kelly’s first win against Stanford on the road?
Will the Irish running game that outrushed Stanford by 129-47 be able to dominate the trenches once again?

GEORGIA TECH V. MISSISSIPPI STATE, Orange Bowl, Wed. 12/31 8:00 NYC time

Option wizard Paul Johnson will meet his match in option wizard Dan Mullen, the option puppeter for Urban Meyer at Utah and Florida. Will the savvy Mullen, and the SEC-type athletic defenders in Maroon be able to hold Georgia Tech to its lowest rushing total of the year? Will Georgia Tech’s porous defense be able to slow down a tough, physical Bulldog offense, and an outstanding college (but not pro) QB in Dakota Prescott? Georgia Tech’s QB is a soph, the three running backs all seniors.

ASK YOURSELF: Will Brian Van Gorder be able to have his defense ready to stop Georgia Tech’s offense on the third Saturday in September?

Have the Irish ever seen a quarterback as speedy as Justin Thomas? Will Johnson be able to have functional replacements for the three running backs by the third week of the season? Will a suspect Yellow Jacket defense be able to slow down a veteran ND offense?

PITT versus Houston, Lockheed, Fri. Jan 2d, Noon NYC time

Will Pitt have named a replacement for Paul Chryst by the bowl game? Chryst will have left behind a big, Wisconsin-style OL with bruising James Conner at RB, and former ND interests Dorian Johnson and Adam Bisnowaty in the trenches. Chad Voytik is a run first quarterback. 6’2” Tyler Boyd, a soph, is a stud at wide receiver.
Only four seniors start for a solid defense, which, in the high-scoring ACC, gave up more than 30 points only twice, to Duke and Carolina

ASK YOURSELF: Which Irish rush defense will play against Pitt, the one that stuffed the run against Michigan, Stanford and Florida State, or the injured sieve of November? Is the Pitt pass defense strong enough to cope with the burgeoning crew of Irish receivers? What impact will the coaching change have on the Panthers? Bookmark that Pitt is Notre Dame’s most favorable scheduling break in 2015, coming between Temple and Wake Forest.

Go Irish!

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      1. not really, the subject here is the 2015 opponents. Perhaps it’s the orange uniforms, perhaps it’s Dabo, but Clemson has been stellar the last three years, more under the radar than you think.

  1. Your point is correct, Oh Burgundian one, but in college football, in contradistinction to the pros (where identifying the peak,before the decline, of a player’s effectiveness has become a Patriot specialty,) it is much more likely (90% to 10%? does that make sense?) that players will improve, injuries discounted. I can not recall a time, and it’s due to a variety of circumstances, including the suspensions, the injuries, the thin senior class and the way the recruiting cookie crumbles,when a Notre Dame unit, in this case the defense, will go from young/no depth to mature/depth at 9 of 11 positions. And few will see it coming. It’s simple statistically. Just examine the returning roster members on defense (including prodigals) then multiply their natural ability by both the mean/median improvement factor for that position and class, run a Monte Carlo simulation and examine the most plausible range of results.

    On Harbaugh, he committed a transgression, by Notre Dame standards, which will ever prohibit him from being considered for Notre Dame head football coach. Of course, the good Fathers will never go public with this. further, let he who is without that same sin cast the first stone.

    But in a certain community, the event is very well known and documented, though folks find it unnecessary to be gratuitous and public about it.

    Some aver lack of Glory-producing Guts but it is merely a disguise for adherence to principle. As Ron White says, you can’t fix stupid.

  2. Michael, the fulcrum for 2015 is the Notre Dame defense, and there are a lot of reasons to think that it will be much improved. Conjecture is conjecture, and the proof is in the playing but the more likely outcome in 2015 is that the defense will more closely resemble the defense of the first seven games than it will resemble the defese of the last five games.

    It will be quite the iteresting Spring practice for Brian Van Gorder and his minions.

    But Michael, when you watch on Tuesday please note that the only defensive contributors who will depart are Utopu, Riggs and Hardy.

    When comparing that degree of loss with that of our opponents also ask yourself which of them will add two such impactful recruits as Ishaq Williams and KeiVarae Russell.

    1. Just because players/starters return doesn’t necessarily mean they will be better. For example, BJ will return as a poster next year.

  3. Harbaugh is persona non grata at Notre Dame due to a particular
    interpersonal incident which is not relevant to this board. BJ, you must, MUST make a choice if your FIRST principle is Notre Dame’s code or victory a all costs. Naturally gentlemen and Christians at Notre Dame are not going to sully Harbaugh gratuitously. But it is well knows in a certain part of the Midwest and was collocated with someone who has some decisional influence at Notre Dame.

    But suffice it to say that the RKG requirement (by Notre Dame’s own complicated and difficult formulation) applies to coaches as well as to players.

    Notre Dame has a head coach. You are free to root and go elsewhere.

    And he has brought my school to a National Championship game.

    Therefore I am grateful to him, unabashedly so.

    what do you bring bj? Joy, support, good will, good cheer, hope, analysis?

  4. Even including @ Virginia early( this ND version hasn’t yet become “road warriors”) plus the eight you featured above, that’s nine- count ’em nine- opponents next year that wouldn’t shock and awe me if ND lost to any of them on the proverbial given day. Throw in the inevitable let-downs in every season when you must find a way to win (see Navy and NC this year) plus that annual one we lose that we never should have (excluding 2012), and a ten win effort would be a pleasant surprise. Ten win seasons have become the exception to the rule in college football most everywhere. Having gotten that troubling reality out of the way, there is not a team on NDs schedule next season who I’d be surprised if we beat them, including duranko’s established “true enemy and rival” visiting ND in October from L.A. For those who’ll be looking for more than 10 wins), may your optimism be realized.

  5. Just one note on the offensive line, and it sure slipped by me.

    Three of the guys, Martin, Hegarty and Lombard were coming back from surgery, illness or season-ending injury. It may well be that your healthiest linemen ONLY who can play throughout Spring ball, are the presumptive starters. It sort of flips the script in that you can’t generally lose your job due to injury. Maybe if you are an OL, and your lifting will be compromised, once you are out by injury you HAVE lost your job and will have to fight,. scratch and claw to get it back from the healthy guy who took your place.

    This season was confounding. Having been around this a few decades I’ve never seen such a weird season, in which a team was in the national championship conversation through the whistle in the end zone against FSU and then was so woeful in November.

    There was a mild analog in ’70. The Joey T offense had hummed early and then was shut down in November by Georgia Tech and LSU. You just couldn’t see it coming. But they did respond in the Cotton Bowl.

  6. To fxm an Frank:

    Georgia Tech is good hit, no field. Further, their option is never in full voice until October at the earliest and November most surely. Minimally, we should outscore them. As I wrote I the post-USC game article “Our true enemy has revealed itself” Michigan was NEVER our rival. We’ll yet see about Sarkisian. But, at a minimum, we will not have Ted Tollner, Paul Hackett or Lane Kiffin on the sideline.

    Frank, you’re right on with the depth, but don’t sleep on the TES. Smythe will be a redshirt soph, Weishar should be bulked up and Luatua will at least crush people. In preseason 2014 our WR corps looked young, shallow and inexperienced. Perhaps we will see a reprise at TE.

    What ill be shocking is the defense overall, and the front seven in articular. Few defenses wil have two such impactful “newcomers” as KeiVarae Russel and Ishaq Williams. There was no full-time defensive starter for 12 games who will depart. The bad news was the injuries, but with that torn emerged a rose with added experience for Hayes, Cage, Morgan, Martni, Butler and Tanquill. In 2015 we go from a skeletal frount for to a legitimate thee deep, with only Utopu leaving. We’re suddel veteran with possibly four senior starters on the DL.

    It may be interesting……

    1. Duranko, Although I feel frustrated, I am not without hope. Maybe we get too mesmerized by the written word coming into the season. Although we lost what is now a Pro-Bowl offensive linemen, many steadfastly believed that the O line was going to be our strength. Timber!!!! Follow that up with the scitzo QB play and yes, I have been shaken. Combined that with our early stout rush defense and the shockingly bad luck with injuries – too much. However, all suspensions, demonic possession of our QB, and injuries aside – this team did have the talent to make the playoffs. Hope springs eternal but the dark side has been in power for a long time now, how about a little light?

  7. I want Kelly to finally have a year which he is 2-3 deep at every position (next year except for TE), has 2 game tested QB’s so we can run them freely, no early defections to the NFL, no suspensions, no transfers that hurt, no injuries of any consequence, and no game-losing bad calls like FSU. Then we can be them all. Who on that list can stop us from 40 points per game? Texas? USC?

  8. Although these teams are in bowl games this year it doesn’t necessarily mean they will be good in 2015. That being said, that really doesn’t matter because Northwestern wasn’t that good in 2014 but look what happened with them.

  9. I looked at the 2015 schedule a few weeks ago and just shook my head. By the time ND recuperates from Georgia Tech, they bump into Navy. ND will have so many injuries follow those games, they will look like the ND in this year’s USC game. Schedule maker must not be ND fan (lol). That schedule will see BK wave goodbye! Lucky if we are back to the 7 win season!

  10. After the way we finished, it would be easy to feel ill reading this piece. Georgia Tech is Navy with athletes and I am sorry to say, whenever USC has a “real” coach we will be very challenged to compete with them. Frankly, if Pete Carroll didn’t get into trouble and remained, even Bama would find dealing with them to be daunting. Just have too much in their favor.

  11. This means nothing. I am the biggest ND fan in the world and ND does not belong in a bowl game this year. Forget the money, they do not need it. Forget the extra practice, check the last few years results. Forget the graduating seniors…bowl games are earned and the collective lay down in the USC game was a disgrace. Kelly needs to take stock and learn how to get a rhythm for his O-line and running backs by integrating a running attack into his strategy, which would also chew up time for a defense playing 9 freshman.

    That said….GO IRISH…12.30.14!

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