Sport Things To Learn: Notre Dame has a defensive plan for USC, but can it stick to one on offense?
LSU football lifts COVID-19 entrance protocols
Practically all virus-related restrictions for attending games are eliminated. Fans under the age of 12 no longer have to wear masks in outdoor spaces, but guests must still wear face coverings in the indoor portions of Tiger Stadium. "This is amazing progress," Dr. O’Neal added. "But the game is not over. This virus will surge again, and Louisiana must be prepared before it arrives yet again by getting vaccinated. The vaccines we have are safe and effective, and getting vaccinated is our best shot at defeating COVID-19."LSU says coronavirus hospitalizations in Louisiana have decreased by 80% over the past seven weeks.
may have declared as Notre Dame’s starting quarterback this weekend against USC (7:30 ET; NBC), but the biggest questions around the No. 13 Irish (5-1) remain focused on the quarterback depth chart. The curiosity of playing—of needing three quarterbacks to get through the first half of the season opens the door to rampant speculation coming out of the idle week.
Will Coan look like he did to start against Virginia Tech, when Notre Dame’s first three drives netted just 17 yards? Or will he resemble the closer who channeled Lane Stadium’s “Enter Sandman” ethos with two efficient drives in the fourth quarter to tie and then win the game?
Arizona QB Jordan McCloud out for season, to have surgery
The Arizona Wildcats are having a season to forget and fell to 0-5 via Saturday's 34-16 loss to the UCLA Bruins. © Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports Arizona coach Jedd Fisch confirmed more bad news about the campaign on Monday. According to Adam Rittenberg of ESPN, Fisch told reporters that starting quarterback Jordan McCloud will miss the rest of the season and have surgery to repair knee and ankle injuries. McCloud was Arizona's QB1 for the past two games, and he ends his year with 481 passing yards, two touchdown throws, and five interceptions with 75 rushing yards on 18 attempts.
“Jack’s like a stone-cold killer, he’s cold-blooded,” . “… He knows where he needs to go with the ball.”
Will freshman impress enough to supplant Coan, as it looked like Buchner might in the second quarter two weeks ago, when he spurred the Irish to two touchdowns to erase a 10-point deficit? Or will Buchner’s struggles reading coverages remain his present downfall, as exhibited by his three interceptions on only 20 pass attempts to date?
No amount of outside wondering can answer these questions. No volume of message-board squabbling deciphers what Notre Dame sees in practice, even if those practices now include Buchner and sophomore splitting not only the No. 2 reps but also the scout team reps after junior entered the transfer portal this week.
Conference USA proposes reorganization with AAC
The new era of college football realignment is not over yet, with at least one Group of Five conference offering up one of the more radical proposals to date. © Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports According to Ross Dellenger of SI, Conference USA has proposed a full reorganization with the American Athletic Conference. While the two leagues would remain distinct, the schools in them would be reorganized geographically, and the leagues would have different names.
Only time and competition, obviously, will clear up the confusion Kelly has seemingly had no choice but to further this season. That may be the biggest wonder with half the year left:
Can any one Notre Dame quarterback play consistently enough so as to not need to be benched, to take the controls of the carousel out of Kelly’s hands?
That is not to say play brilliantly, and it is not arguing for any of the three quarterbacks in particular. It is simply a typical necessity, one that has eluded the Irish thus far in 2021. Coan played miserably in the first quarter against the Hokies. He played masterfully in the fourth. That rapid up-and-down showing has been typical of Irish passers thus far, and winning despite those inconsistencies can be only so sustainable.
Each quarterback has shown moments of aptitude. Each has also struggled at some point or another. Those trends then naturally extend to Notre Dame’s offense.
Panthers OC Joe Brady responds to speculation linking him to LSU opening
The 32-year-old Brady had been generating plenty of buzz as a potential candidate for the LSU job, and it makes a lot of sense. After all, he rose to prominence as the passing game coordinator and wide receivers coach for the Tigers, helping lead them to the national title in 2019. Brady’s success working with players like Joe Burrow, Ja’Marr Chase and Justin Jefferson established him as one of the top young offensive minds in football. He even won the Broyles Award in 2019 as the best assistant in all of college football. Brady left LSU in 2020 to join Matt Rhule’s staff in Carolina.
“We would take bits and pieces of how we’ve looked,” Kelly said Monday. “The first drive at Florida State, first drive against Cincinnati, I could give you a lot of examples of the first drive where we looked like, wow, that’s a pretty good indication that this team has really turned the corner.
“It’s one mistake here, one mistake there. It’s maturation and 11 players pulling together as one. We had that more or less in the second half against Virginia Tech. We’re hoping that was a turning point for us offensively, that we can get more of that on a consistent basis.”
Inside the Irish
Trotting out the offensive line seen in that second half should help the Irish toward that consistency, with freshman at left tackle and junior Andrew Kristofic replacing junior at left guard. Alt is now so established at left tackle that the former high school tight end is not the lineman who will dabble at tight end as an extra blocker. Instead, sophomore — the backup left tackle when the season began before a sprained ankle knocked him out of the Toledo game and limited him for the following month — is quite literally listed among the tight ends on the Notre Dame depth chart.
Oklahoma-Kansas game briefly halted due to power outage
Saturday’s game between Oklahoma and Kansas was halted due to a brief power outage in Lawrence. © Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Spencer Rattler (7) talks with head coach Lincoln Riley. With just over ten minutes to go in the first quarter, Kansas Memorial Stadium lost power. All the scoreboards went down, prompting an official timeout. The succinctly stated reason was that “everything is off.” "Timeout on the field. Everything is off" pic.twitter.
has not fallen short of 6.0 yards per play since 2011.
It is at 5.22 currently, but maybe the generous defenses awaiting the Irish will be kind enough to boost that number these next six weeks —
— Douglas Farmer (@D_Farmer)
Such an extra blocker may be more necessary than usual, though USC’s defense is the worst the Irish have faced to date. With sophomore running back a game-time decision, per Kelly, coming back from a turf toe injury suffered at Virignia Tech, Notre Dame’s backfield will not have the pass-blocking depth it usually does, an acumen that has occasionally made the offensive line look less inept than it was.
“Running backs, they’ve got to be at 100 percent. I don’t know that he’s 100 percent right now,” Kelly said. “… I will tell you that we have confidence in both [freshman Logan Diggs] and [senior C’Bo Flemister] if Chris isn’t able to go at a high level. … I wouldn’t get worked up on whether it’s No. 2, 3. I would really say it’s 2A, 2B with those kids right now.”
That may be, but given Flemister’s unavailability for five of this season’s first six games, another strong showing from Diggs may widen a gap between the two.
LOOKING IN A MIRROR Irish junior safety is a rare breed, a 6-foot-4 safety widely seen as a top-five draft pick next spring and a likely unanimous first-team All-American, so comparing anyone to Hamilton is an aggressive description.
In an unusually normal manner, Notre Dame has no trouble with USC, 31-16
Led by Kyren Williams' two touchdowns and 100-plus yards, Notre Dame simply took care of business against USC on Saturday, a rarity for the Irish.For the first time since the season opener, Notre Dame’s offense even looked efficient, putting together back-to-back 70-yard drives for the first time this year in the first quarter. Quarterback Jack Coan finished with 189 yards on 20-of-28 passing to lead the Irish, perhaps putting to bed the quarterback controversy that consumed the first half of the season.
Yet, Trojans junior receiver warrants such praise. And from the West Coast point of view, Hamilton is the one receiving a compliment in this comparison.
“It’s kind of like looking in a mirror, body-wise,” Hamilton said Tuesday. “He’s really athletic, he’s high-pointing balls, he’s a good route runner, knows how to use his body, obviously a big receiver, doesn’t let that slow him down, really. Doesn’t have any weaknesses. They love getting the ball to him.”
If Hamilton were merely offering typical laudings of an opposing player, he would not have done so at such length. London has caught Notre Dame’s attention on film, both in terms of needing to defend him and in terms of simply appreciating a great football player.
Drake London might be the best pro prospectfaces this season. Probably also the best college player right now on the Irish schedule.
Try to enjoy watching him tomorrow, ND fans. Try.
— Douglas Farmer (@D_Farmer)
“He’s a really good receiver, he’s a problem,” Hamilton said. “Hopefully we can solve it, but our game plan is definitely centered around him.
“If we can stop him, we stop the offense.”
Easier said than done. London is averaging nearly 11 catches and 138.7 yards per game. His worst game, a 42-28 USC loss to Stanford that led to the firing of Trojans head coach after just two games this season, still included four catches for 68 yards and a touchdown.
London may be the single best player the Irish face this season. Either he or Purdue defensive end is the best pro prospect on the schedule, both in conversation with Hamilton as top-10 draft picks. Notre Dame successfully schemed around Karlaftis, despite playing a third-string left tackle in his first career start. That required Tyree and junior running back to help on many passing downs.
Slowing London may require similar devotion from Hamilton.
“We couldn’t just line up and say, ‘George, just rush the passer,’” Kelly said. “We had to have a plan for him. So, we’ll have to have a plan for [London], as well.”
At least defensively, the Irish can expect a plan to hold up largely as intended and not need to abruptly reverse course due to persistent struggles. Clearing that low bar offensively could establish one Notre Dame quarterback as the Notre Dame quarterback.
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Conference USA in negotiations to add three universities .
Connecticut, New Mexico State and Liberty are all in negotiations to join Conference USA.Conference USA was recently plundered by other conferences adding to their ranks. The American Athletic Conference replaced its upcoming losses by announcing that six Conference USA schools — UAB, Florida Atlantic, Charlotte, North Texas, Rice and UTSA — would all be joining its ranks. Conference USA also lost Southern Mississippi and Old Dominion to the Sun Belt Conference.