Notre Dame Football Stock Report: Post Bye Week

Now Notre Dame gets down to the serious business in 2017.

Gone are the cupcakes, in are the…meat and potatoes? (I’m not sure what the inverse of a cupcake is.) The first half was quite a good time, with the exception of one unfortunate night in early September. Notre Dame woke up this morning ranked 13th in the AP poll at 5-1, with a real chance at a playoff berth if they were to navigate the remainder of the schedule put before them. Opinions differ on how realistic that is given what we’ve seen from this team so far, but the fact remains it is in play. Getting through the final six weeks unscathed will be as impressive as anything any team will do this year.

Notre Dame has had a week to rest, plan, and prepare for the final gauntlet this season. Let’s take a look at what’s ahead of them and how things look on the Notre Dame end.


The Strength of Schedule

Regardless of how you feel about Notre Dame as a team this year, the next six games would be a challenge for any team in the country. Consider that the statistically worst team in the next six (Navy) is currently ranked 57th in the S&P+ rankings, is 23rd in offense, 30th in points per game and is 5-1. The next worst team in the S&P is 29th ranked Wake Forest. Those are the “easy” games on the back end of the schedule.

The next four represent the 11th, 15th, 17th, and 22nd ranked teams in the country, again according to the S&P+.

In terms of offenses, the Notre Dame defense is about to face, in order of play, the 18th, 15th, 72nd, 11th, 23rd, and 6th rated units in college football.

The Notre Dame offense will be butt heads with the 31st, 53rd, 14th, 24th, 94th, and 47th ranked defenses, so they have a bit of an easier go of it.

Notre Dame has dominated lots of mediocre to bad teams during the first six weeks, and to be clear, Michigan State (20th in the S&P+, 78th on offense, 9th on defense) was no patsy, but the competition will be stiff every week the rest of the way.

Kevin Stepherson

Brian Kelly stated in his weekly press conference today receiver Kevin Stepherson looked good during the bye week and we should expect to see more of him this week and presumably as the season moves forward.

In a vacuum this is a pretty big development. He was the second leading returning receiver on the team this season and he possesses a skill set unlike anyone else on the roster right now, at least that is currently playing. It’s easy to forget about what he did last season because we were kind of forced to. He never saw the field in the pre-season and he sat for most of the first six games.

But, he had a stretch in the middle of last season where he looked dominant, including a slant catch and run against Miami that had a number of defenders on roller skates as he ripped apart their secondary.

Of course, nothing happens in a vacuum, and Stepherson’s return may be somewhat mitigated by the inability of the passing game to reach its potential. After all, leading receiver Equanimeous St. Brown hasn’t been able to find much traction this year, so if Notre Dame can’t get him going, why should we expect different from Stepherson? Perhaps the answer is we shouldn’t. But, adding talent to the offense midseason is never a bad thing. Maybe they don’t get out of these guys what they could with a better quarterback situation, but I can guarantee the opponents liked it a lot better when Stepherson was on the sidelines.


The NCAA’s Reputation

Hahaha just kidding their reputation can’t fall any further.

In case you missed it, the NCAA ruled they couldn’t punish the University of North Carolina for their fake classes and fake majors because they couldn’t prove it was an extra benefit to athletes, due to the fact that those courses were available to regular students as well. And as the NCAA so eloquently put it, academic courses fall under the purview of the institutions, and they trust them to make those decisions. Fantastic.

Just as thought experiment, what is to prevent any institution from creating several sham courses, with sham majors, for it’s athletic department and a select few non-athletic department students in order to get their players through college without ever having to go to class, take a test, etc? The answer, apparently, is nothing. Nothing prevents it. You can do whatever you want as long as the University is cool with it.

The backdrop to all of this is Notre Dame telling on itself to the NCAA after a student manager was discovered helping players write papers (and when I say “helping write” I mean “write”). They didn’t have to do this. They could have done nothing. But, like a lot of Universities, they choose to take their academics, and their integrity, rather seriously. So, it cost them five players, two seasons worth of wins, and NCAA probation. Notre Dame was punished for telling the truth and North Carolina was rewarded for lying.


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  1. Maybe it will be favorably resolved for Darnold come Saturday night, but season to date he pretty much throws a pick for each TD toss. Tillery must collapse the pocket and DEs gotta contain.

  2. Damian,
    And remember Pater Noster Paterno wanted to turn Jim Kelly into a linebacker! Can’t wait to see Jerry Tillery bust loose on Saturday.

  3. Now that the Trojan roster is fully reloaded they play under a completely different set of rules than the Fighting Irish. A very uneven playing field. This game will not be decided by player vs. player, our defense vs. their offense, their defense vs. our offense, their special teams vs. our special teams. Our only hope is their coach making bonehead decisions. Loved when they had Paul”Buddy”Hackett.

  4. As Southside points out “d” is the key. Further we need to put in force a contain secondary, no cheap bombs. But, just as important we have to maintain a fresh defensive line throughout. We can look great in the 1st half stuffing the run. Then they go to a run offense. I don’t think RJ III can be tricked at the goal line like MSU.

  5. The NCAA is a joke. A bad joke, to be specific. Nation wide, the compliance offices are jokes…usually the last to know. The NCAA vacillates between being overly heavy handed about next to nothing and AWOL in situations where it really matters. As far as I can tell the FBI has a better handle on the pulse of the athletic departments than the NCAA! And as slow as the FBI is to act, they are infinitely quicker than the NCAA. Amazing!

    La Crosse, IN

    1. I have to agree. Look at the PSU-Sandusky situation. In that case, they rush in with punishments and because they didn’t follow their normal procedures they end up backtracking on some of the sanctions. Had they done a normal investigation those punishments may have stuck. Instead they ham-handedly rush in for the sake of good press and look like idiots. Personally I think some of those sanctions should have stuck, esp. the vacating of wins because that is the one punishment that hit Paterno close to home, since all those wins were the thing he cherished most.

      I live in PSU country and some of the fans are so delusional about Paterno. Oh he didn’t really know, or my favorite, he wasn’t really in charge. Come on people. Paterno ran PSU. He had free reign to do what he want. And he knew. He just decided his football reputation was more important (sadly ironic in a way, had he done the right thing he would have been hailed as a hero—they would have taken a temporary hit, but in the long run they would have come out on top because people would have respected him for putting kids first).

      I know I’m ranting and it’s a bit off topic, but I get frustrated with some PSU fans and their delusions about their “saint” of a former coach, who was anything but.

      1. Well said Damian. The NCAA are masters at punishing players and coaching staffs that had nothing to do with the offense, letting the guilty culprits move on to the pros long before any sanctions are imposed. It happens again and again. Like I said – it’s a joke.

        BGC ’77 ’82

  6. I agree that our passing game is more then sub-par… I believe some of that is do to slants in the middle and all the screen play’s we use to run. Short 5to 7 yard over the middle slants open the linebacker position. Trying to go down field on db’s that are not buying anything else seems a problem. As far as our academic state… We are the most prominent and outstanding institutions in the world. We will get better… WE ARE THE FIGHTING IRISH. GO IRISH BEAT SC

    1. LL, Adding to the slants, which I always felt were the hardest things to cover, let’s also try to get the ball a little downfield by hitting tight ends over the middle on little in-curls and post “patterns”, and maybe some delays. It would add an element to Wimbush’s options. Historically, Notre Dame has not run lots of slants, but we’ve always had the TE’s in the middle of the field somewhere. You can bet all those plays, even some slants, are in the playbook somewhere.

      BGC ’77 ’82

      1. By the way, I think we’re going to see some new things on “D” and on “O”…everybody does…but no one knows exactly what…just vague speculation. I love good college football!

        BGC ’77 ’82

  7. This USC game is huge — Irish need this win. I think the 1st quarter is crucial. Both Irish O and D units need to get upper hand early. Do not let the Trojans get any early momentum. Irish need to play mistake free , avoid stupid penalties , make tackles , play sound fundamental football. I believe for Irish to win — it’s going to be how well the defense plays. Irish D-line has to put pressure on USC QB — with some blitzes from Linebackers or D-backs. Stop Sam Darnold and Irish will win.

    1. I realize the concerns about the passing game — bottom line though — it’s the Defense that will get you to successful seasons and into playoff contention.

      1. The defense doesn’t keep the condoms off the field (dilly dilly). Our offense keeps usc from scoring. Just shove the ball down the throats of the pansy cali kids and we get the win… Oh yea number 7 of our defense needs his head on a pivot.. I got to see the IRISH play miami, first time ive been at home since 88. I got to hear some raiving drunk talk football for 3.5 hours whom never got a chance to play football in his life. I just watched the beating. Just play football and do it like you know how…. Then go get frankies on north Washington

  8. I guess that’s how Matt Leinert got away with taking Ball Room Dancing as his only class one year. Then again, he took both the lecture and the lab, so it was no pushover course.

    1. EJS , I like the word “push-over” course in regards to Matt Leinert. Is it possible Reggie Bush was in the same class in 2005—and the two of them practiced the “Bush Push” on the ball room dance floor ? I don’t know — just say’in.

  9. The passing game is the Achilles heel for ND right now. It’s the one thing that I think could hold them back. Solve that and we could be in for a special year. We have most of the other elements, what looks like a good defense, a great running game.

    I do agree about the NCAA too. You can bet your bottom dollar other schools with less scruples took notice and as Greg noted, the NCAA gave all those other teams a means to get away with cheating.

    1. Yeah, as long as every student can cheat then it’s OK! Where do they get these “wonder boy” thinkers from? Amazing.

      La Crosse, IN

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