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Tunney: Five College Football games to watch in Week 5

Even though the Irish have a bye this week, there is still a ton of entertaining college football to watch. Conference play is beginning to heat up, so there are a lot of matchups that could play huge roles in determining the rest of the college football season. In my opinion, it’s the best top five any weekend has had all year. With that being said, let’s get into the games. 

5. No. 4 Michigan @ Iowa, Noon, FOX, (Michigan -10.5)

Michigan is 4-0 and a Big Ten and College Football playoff contender. They are extremely deep at receiver and running back, with multiple key playmakers. Running back Donovan Edwards did not play against Maryland last week, but thankfully the other star in the Wolverine’s backfield, Blake Corum, picked up the slack with 243 yards and two touchdowns on 30 carries. After playing three of the worst teams in Division 1 to open the year, Michigan is coming off of a 34-27 win over Maryland that offered areas to improve upon.

Michigan fans will be looking for an improved pass rush and more accurate throws from quarterback J.J. McCarthy. However, offense may be tough to come by against the Iowa Hawkeyes. The Hawkeyes have the best scoring defense in the country, but if they want to compete with the likes of Michigan they will need more from their offense. Iowa quarterback Spencer Petras has been derided by Hawkeye fans as he passed for just 524 yards and one touchdown over four games. Iowa has the benefit of home-field advantage and Michigan hasn’t won at Iowa since 2005. Can the Wolverines exorcise their past demons? Do the Hawkeyes have another upset in them?

4. No. 2 Alabama @ No. 20 Arkansas, 3:30 p.m., CBS, (Alabama -16.5)

After being taken to the brink against Texas in the second week of the season, Alabama has reasserted itself in blowout wins over UL Monroe and Vanderbilt. However, questions still remain about how the Tide will look against another quality opponent. Quarterback Bryce Young looked on point versus Vanderbilt with 385 yards and four touchdowns. Running back Jahmyr Gibbs transitioned into a receiving role last week, ceding running back duties to Jase McClellan. Both McClellan and Gibbs ended up scoring a touchdown, so the versatility of these players will provide another headache to the Arkansas defense. Arkansas is coming off of a heartbreaking loss to Texas A&M last week, where a fumble and a missed field goal doomed them. They are also feeling the loss of all SEC safety Jalen Catalon being out for the season. However, Arkansas still has a lot of offensive talent that should make Nick Saban sweat, and they have the benefit of the game being played on their turf. 

3. No. 7 Kentucky @ No. 14 Ole Miss, Noon, ESPN (Ole Miss -6.5)

Kentucky is 4-0 and seventh in the country, their highest ranking since 1977. Quarterback Will Levis and head coach Mark Stoops have helped turn what has always been considered a “basketball school” into a dark horse SEC contender. Levis has passed for nearly 1200 yards and 10 touchdowns through just four games, showing that he could reach historic marks for a program that is usually an SEC bottom-dweller.

Kentucky welcomes the return of running back Chris Rodriguez, as they hope that he will spark a running game that has been struggling. They head down to Oxford, Miss for the first time since 2001. After airing it out with quarterback Matt Corral last season, the Rebels seem content to have a more balanced attack this season. Quarterback Jaxson Dart has managed games well, but hasn’t been a transcendent piece. Ole Miss will look to control the line of scrimmage against Kentucky, aiming to dominate a porous Wildcat o-line (allowing four sacks a game). Both teams have struggled with consistency, with Ole Miss sleepwalking to a win over Tulsa last week while Kentucky faced early struggles with Northern Illinois. Both teams need this win badly to prove that they are a legit SEC contender. 

2. No. 9 Oklahoma State @ No. 16 Baylor, 3:30 p.m., FOX, (Baylor -2.5)

A rematch of last year’s Big 12 Championship game could end up being one of the biggest regular-season games in the following season. Baylor has been great ever since the start of last season, getting back on track after a double-overtime loss to BYU with a tough win on the road against Iowa State. The Bears may possess the best rushing defense in college football, allowing a paltry 79.5 yards per contest. Quarterback Blake Shapen had a much better day than he did against BYU, committing no turnovers in a game that probably served as a confidence builder. Dominating the line of scrimmage without committing turnovers usually results in success, so it’s no surprise that this Baylor team is a tough-out.

Oklahoma State, on the other hand, has looked like an offensive juggernaut through three games. In their first three games, quarterback Spencer Sanders has thrown for over 300 yards per game and 10 touchdowns, compared to just one pick. Head coach Mike Gundy seems to have another team that will contend for the Big 12 crown. Last year, the game went down to the final play with Oklahoma State coming up a yard short. Could we see a similar legendary finish on Saturday?

1. No. 10 NC State @ No. 5 Clemson, 7:30 PM, ABC, (Clemson -6.5)

The only matchup between two top-10 schools is a clash between two ACC heavyweights. Clemson hung on in a double-overtime shootout over ranked Wake Forest last weekend that saw an amazing performance from quarterback DJ Uiagalelei. Uiagalelei and the Clemson offense were able to keep pace and outlast Sam Hartman and the Demon Deacons, with the former throwing for 375 yards and five touchdowns. Seeing the offense produce like that is a welcome sign for Clemson fans, but the defense has to lock it back down against another quality opponent in NC State. Hyped as a dark horse ACC contender to start the season, the Wolfpack have largely looked up to the task. After going on the road to Eastern Carolina and escaping with a one-point win, NC State won their next three games rather comfortably, including a 27-14 win over Texas Tech. Clemson will undoubtedly serve as NC State’s biggest test. College Gameday is on-site for the game, which may serve as an omen for a Clemson victory: the Tigers are 6-1 when hosting the show. Can NC State show they’re a legitimate contender? Can Clemson continue its journey back to the College Football Playoff?

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Notre Dame vs. Cal: The history of the matchup

While Notre Dame has strong rivalries with other California universities like USC and Stanford, Notre Dame and Cal will meet on the football field for just the fifth time in history this Saturday. These foes each share a mutual rival in the Stanford Cardinal. In addition, both schools are academic powerhouses that boast strong athletic programs. Before the series is renewed on Saturday, let’s examine the previous matchups on the gridiron. 

October 10, 1959: Notre Dame 28, Cal 6

The inaugural meeting between Notre Dame and Cal was on the west coast, with 68,500 fans packing Memorial Stadium. The Irish had a great start to the game, recovering a fumble on Cal’s first play from scrimmage. Quarterback George Izo threw a 27-yard touchdown pass two plays later to put the Irish up 7-0. The Irish defense was swarming to the ball the whole day, forcing a total of six turnovers.

Late in the first quarter, the Irish’s other quarterback, Don White, engineered a touchdown drive to expand the lead to 14-0. In the second half, the offensive drives began to stall out for both sides. The Golden Bears couldn’t get any offense until late in the fourth quarter after a 56-yard run play eventually led to a five-yard touchdown catch to make it 21-6.

After another touchdown by the Irish, the clock ran out a few minutes later. It was an important game for the Irish, needing to rebound after an upset loss to Purdue the previous week. The Irish struggled in 1959 but ended the season on a high note, beating two ranked teams in Iowa and USC to finish at an even 5-5. Cal finished 2-8 in the last season of the Pete Elliott era. 

September 24, 1960: Notre Dame 21, Cal 7

The second meeting between Notre Dame and Cal opened the season for both schools. This was also the first time the Golden Bears would take the trip east to Notre Dame Stadium. Leading the Bears after Pete Elliott’s dismissal was head coach Marv Levy. Levy is today more commonly known for his later tenure as head coach of the Buffalo Bills, making four straight Super Bowl appearances but failing to win all four. However, 26 years before he took the job with the Bills, he was the head coach of Cal.

Notre Dame got on the board first as a result of a short field due to a Cal fumble. But Cal responded with a sustained drive that eventually led to a touchdown. Cal outplayed the Irish in the first half, holding the Irish to a 7-7 tie at the intermission.

But Notre Dame came out of the break with a strong drive highlighted by a long kick return and a 33-yard touchdown run. Later in the third quarter, the Irish blocked a Cal punt and took it to the house to finish the scoring.

However, the Irish still had major concerns after the opening win. The passing attack was never able to get going, and the team seemed inexperienced. These would prove to be valid, as the Irish finished with a lowly 2-8 record. Cal finished only marginally better, going 2-7-1. Strangely, both teams beat their main rivals (USC and Stanford, respectively) in otherwise terrible years. 

September 18th, 1965: Notre Dame 48, Cal 6

During the five-year intermission between the second and third games of the series, Notre Dame football had lost its identity but found it again. After three subpar seasons where the Irish never finished better than 5-5, they hired the first non-Notre Dame graduate since Knute Rockne: Ara Parseghian.

Parseghian instantly turned Notre Dame football around. The team was 9-0 going into the final game of the 1964 season, boasting the number one ranking. However, USC upset the Irish to dash any national title hopes. Expectations were sky high for 1965, and they opened with Cal, who finished last in their conference in 1964.

The Irish rolled to a 48-6 win, amassing 381 yards on the ground. Cal head coach Ray Willsey said, “We have no excuses for this fiasco.” The Irish were up 9-0 after the end of the first quarter, but the lead had ballooned to 28-6 by halftime. Turnovers again plagued Cal, leading coach Parseghian to remark that “Cal was most unfortunate; it yielded field position on turnovers all day.”

Cal went on to go 5-5. The dominant win propelled Notre Dame to the number one ranking, which they would relinquish a week later in an upset loss to Purdue. The Irish ended up finishing 7-2-1 on the season. 

September 23rd, 1967: Notre Dame 41, Cal 8

The Irish again opened up their season facing the Golden Bears, this time in defense of their 1966 national championship. Notre Dame finished 9-0-1 in 1966, beating every opponent except No. 2 Michigan State, who they infamously tied 10-10.

The Irish lost 11 starters from the team the year prior, so new players had to step up. The Irish stepped up to the task, dispatching the Bears. Quarterback Terry Hanratty completed 15 passes for 203 yards and two scores. But he also lost a fumble and threw two interceptions. Receiver Jim Seymour and captain Rocky Bleier each caught touchdown passes. Cal Quarterback Barry Bronk had an awful day, completing just 2 of 20 passes and getting picked off twice.

By the time the fourth quarter hit, the reserves were in. Cal scored late in the fourth, upsetting gamblers who had backed the Irish as 35-point favorites. The Golden Bears had another middling season, going 5-5. For the second time, Notre Dame lost in an upset to Purdue the next week while carrying the number one ranking. The Irish finished 8-2, their other loss coming to USC.

When the game kicks off on Saturday it will be the first game in the series in 55 years. Cal has been dominated by the Irish in all four previous outings, mainly because they lost the turnover battles by wide margins. The 2022 Irish defense, which has not forced a turnover this season, surely is going to try to make history repeat itself.

Contact Joseph at jtunney@nd.edu

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Top 5 college football games to watch in week 3

Last week was another amazing week of college football full of upsets and extremely fun matchups. Texas gave Alabama a big run for their money. BYU got a marquee win over Baylor. Washington State got a shocking upset in Big 10 country against Wisconsin. Nebraska lost to Georgia Southern, resulting in the firing of head coach Scott Frost. Texas A&M fell victim to another monumental upset by Appalachian State. Notre Dame was stunned by Marshall. The slate this weekend provides us with a ton of action, so let’s get into the top five.

5. No. 6 Oklahoma at Nebraska (Oklahoma -11.0) noon, FOX

The former Big 8 rivalry is coming to Memorial Stadium for the first time since 2009. Oklahoma is at the beginning of the Brent Venables era, looking to contend for a playoff berth. However, there have been some hiccups already. The Sooners led by a score of just 7-3 at halftime against Kent State before a 24-point third quarter put the game away. Venables, the former defensive coordinator at Clemson, will surely be looking for a better performance against a big rival.

Nebraska is currently wandering in the wilderness after firing head coach Scott Frost on Sunday. Even though Nebraska could have waited until October 1st for Frost’s contract buyout to go from $15 million to $7.5 million, they decided to pull the trigger anyway. Interim head coach Mickey Joseph inherits a Husker team with talent but a penchant for falling short time and time again. Last week, the Huskers gave up 642 yards in a 45-42 upset by Georgia Southern.

Emotions are running high in this rivalry game. Last year, Nebraska struggled to a 3-9 record. But they played 11-2 Oklahoma extremely tight, ultimately losing by a touchdown. This one could be closer than records would predict.

4. No. 13 Miami at No. 24 Texas A&M (TA&M -6), 9 p.m., ESPN

This game would have had a great case for number one if not for the events of last week. If the Aggies took care of business against the Mountaineers, it would have been a colossal showdown with College Gameday in town. One has to wonder if the Aggies weren’t looking ahead to their marquee matchup this week against the Hurricanes. They shouldn’t have been, considering A&M is paying head coach Jimbo Fisher 75 million dollars over 10 years.

What is even more infuriating to Aggie fans is that Fisher is 35-15 in his first 50 games, whereas the man he replaced (Kevin Sumlin) was 36-14. A&M’s offense has been concerning, scoring just 14 points against Appalachian State, who allowed 63 points to North Carolina the week prior.

Miami comes in with two wins against inferior competition in Bethune-Cookman and Southern Miss. However, the Hurricanes were beating the latter just 10-7 at halftime. New head coach Mario Cristobal is looking for a big win to set a potential campaign for the ACC title. In order to win, both teams need to put together what they haven’t been able to do so far: a complete game.

3. No. 12 BYU at No. 25 Oregon (Oregon -3.5) 3:30 p.m., FOX

The other matchup between two ranked squads is in Autzen Stadium, where the Oregon Ducks face surging BYU. The Cougars are coming off an impressive 26-20 win over a ranked Baylor team in double overtime. Their defense came in clutch, making plays down the stretch to win the game. The Cougar offense was hurting, literally. Starting receivers Puka Nacua and Gunner Romney were injured, which ended up leading to a breakout game from Chase Roberts. Roberts caught eight passes for 122 yards, including a highly acrobatic catch for a touchdown.

BYU certainly grinded out an impressive win. But now they face an Oregon team looking to reassert themselves. Oregon took good use of their get-right game against FCS opponent Eastern Washington, winning by a score of 70-14. After getting shut down at every level in a 49-3 drubbing by Georgia in week 1, quarterback Bo Nix and the Oregon offense responded by amassing over 600 yards. Nix made much better decisions in his second game, crucially avoiding a turnover as well. Are the Ducks ready to get back on track and derail a BYU team that is riding high? Or can the Cougars keep their momentum rolling?

2. No. 11 Michigan State at Washington (Washington -3) 7:30 p.m., ABC

The Spartans go out west to face a Washington team that has a lot to prove. Michigan State is looking to continue its resurgence under head coach Mel Tucker, finishing 11-2 and ranked No. 9 in the country in Tucker’s second season behind the helm. Although the Spartans lost star running back Kenneth Walker to the NFL, new transfer running back Jalen Berger has filled his shoes admirably in routs of Western Michigan and Akron. Defensive end Jacoby Windmon has 5.5 sacks in two games for the Spartans, making him a player to watch.

Washington is in the third game of the Kalen DeBoer era. DeBoer came to the Huskies by way of Fresno State, after the Huskies fired Jimmy Lake. The Huskies finished 4-8 last season but have convincingly beat two inferior schools in Kent State and Portland State to open the year. The new quarterback for the Huskies, Indiana transfer Michael Penix Jr., has experience beating the Spartans (back in 2020).

The Vegas line favoring Washington is a bit of a surprise. But they do have a tremendous home-field advantage. A win for DeBoer and the Huskies would be a major shift in the program. But Tucker and the Spartans need the win for national implications.

1.  No. 22 Penn State at Auburn (Penn State -3) 3:30 p.m., CBS

Big Ten and SEC powers clashing in non-conference play: I love it! The Nittany Lions are 2-0, coming off of an easy win vs. Ohio which was preceded by a barnburner against Purdue. Quarterback Sean Clifford has been busy fending off incoming freshman Drew Allar for the job. His game-winning drive against Purdue seems to have locked it up for the time being. But it will be interesting to see if head coach James Franklin pivots to the freshman if Clifford struggles.

Auburn also enters at 2-0 under head coach Bryan Harsin. The Tigers opened with a 42-16 win over Mercer and won 24-16 over San José State last week. The latter game was a bit of a wake-up call, as Auburn was actually losing at halftime. Although the Tigers have had struggles, they have been lights out in the red zone. Every trip to the red zone for Auburn has led to a touchdown.

Last fall, Auburn went up to Penn State and played at Beaver Stadium for the annual White Out game. The Nittany Lions came out on top by a score of 28-20. This year, both schools want to send a message that they are here to contend for their respective conferences. A win for either would be a major boost.

The views in this Sports Authority are the views of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer. Contact Joseph Tunney at jtunney@nd.edu

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Week 2: Top 5 college football games to watch

Last weekend was a great weekend for college football. Besides Georgia’s annihilation of Oregon, most of the games that received media attention answered the bell. Week 2 presents an interesting slate of games, as some teams begin conference play. Many other Power 5 teams have tune-up games against lesser programs. Without further ado, here are my top 5 games to watch for week 2 of college football. (Lines are as of opening.)

5. USC @ Stanford, 7:30 p.m., ABC (USC -9.5)

After the Irish get done with Marshall this weekend, Notre Dame fans should turn to this game. This game will provide the first real look of the new USC under head coach Lincoln Riley. Riley was a home-run hire for the Trojans, after going 55-10 at Oklahoma and making the College Football Playoff three times. Joining him at USC via the transfer portal is quarterback Caleb Williams, also from Oklahoma, and star wide receiver Jordan Addison from Pittsburgh. In their first game, the Trojans dispatched a hapless Rice squad to the tune of 66-14.

Stanford should pose a greater challenge. Head coach David Shaw has a 94-45 record with the Cardinal but has struggled in recent years. Stanford is just 12-19 since the start of 2019. Leading the charge for the Cardinal is running back E.J. Smith, son of NFL rushing yards leader Emmitt Smith. The younger Smith ran for 118 yards and two touchdowns in a 41-10 rout of Colgate last week. A win for Stanford would put them back into a potential conference championship discussion. A win for USC keeps their hype train rolling as they pursue a return to greatness.

4. Iowa State @ Iowa, 4 p.m., Big Ten Network (Iowa -3.5)

The intrastate rivalry for the Cy-Hawk trophy kicks off for the 69th time this weekend in Kinnick Stadium. Head coach Matt Campbell has built the program from the ground up since his arrival in 2016, leading what was a perennial doormat in the Big 12 to five straight bowl games. Quarterback Hunter Dekkers threw four touchdowns in his debut as Iowa State’s starting QB, a 42-10 win against Southeast Missouri State last Saturday. Running back Jirehl Brock looks to continue to fill big shoes left for him by NFL second-round draft pick Breece Hall.

Iowa is coming off of a game that would be atypical for any other program but is relatively par for the course for them. The Hawkeyes won an absolute slugfest with South Dakota State by a score of 7-3 last week. However, they did not score a touchdown. That’s right, the Hawkeyes scored a field goal and two safeties. Big Ten football. Linebacker Jack Campbell recorded 11 tackles and a safety to lead the Hawkeye defense. Punter Tory Taylor had seven punts downed inside of the 20-yard line. Can Iowa’s offense wake up and get the job done? Or will Matt Campbell record his first win in the rivalry? 

3. Kentucky @ Florida, 7 p.m., ESPN (Florida -4.5)

After a phenomenal upset win over then No. 7 Utah in Week 1, the Gators welcome another ranked foe into the Swamp. QB Anthony Richardson proved to everyone that he was not only capable of starting last weekend but that he could be a potential star in the making. Richardson rushed for three touchdowns and 106 yards in addition to completing 17 passes for 168 more. WR Ricky Pearsall, transferring in from Arizona State, made a great first impression by hauling in four catches for 67 yards. The Gator defense came up with crucial stops in their win over Utah last week, capped by Amari Burney’s game-sealing pick in the end zone.

They’ll have to keep the momentum going against Kentucky this week. The Wildcats are coming off of a 10-win season, tied for the second-best win total in school history. Last weekend, they trounced Miami (Ohio) by a score of 37-13. Quarterback Will Levis has been receiving NFL attention. Wide Receiver Tayvion Robinson impressed in his first game since transferring from Virginia Tech, catching six passes for 136 yards. Both teams desperately need the win in order to keep chase with Georgia for status as the top dog in the SEC East.

2. Baylor @ BYU, 10:15 p.m., ESPN (BYU -3.5)

A top-25 matchup in the late-night Saturday viewing window. What’s not to love? Baylor is coming off of a highly successful season, going 12-2, winning the Big 12, and finishing fifth in the country last year. Quarterback Blake Shapen has been on point ever since taking over the job in the conference championship game last year. The Bears opened their season with a 69-10 shellacking of Albany, extending their winning streak to six games since last season. Last year, Baylor beat BYU by a score of 38-24, but the Cougars are back with a vengeance this season.

BYU returns 97 percent of its offensive production from last season. Quarterback Jaren Hall looked great in a 50-21 win against South Florida, going 25/32 for 261 yards and two touchdowns. The offense looks explosive, and the defense can get it done. The Cougars are looking for a New Year’s Six bowl this year, loading up their schedule with the likes of Baylor, Oregon, Notre Dame, Arkansas and Stanford to appeal to the pollsters. This is the last year of independence for the Cougars, who are slated to join the Big 12 next season. Could this be a preview of future battles for Big 12 supremacy?

1. Alabama @ Texas, noon, FOX, (Alabama -20)

A giant clash in the heart of the Lone Star State. The Longhorns are coming off of a 52-10 win over Louisiana-Monroe in week 1 as quarterback Quinn Ewers gets used to the college game. Highly recruited out of high school, Ewers transferred to Texas after one year as a backup at Ohio State. He has the help of running back Bijan Robinson, who is one of the best running backs in college football this season. Head Coach Steve Sarkisian is looking to overcome the odds to bring home a massive win against his former boss, Nick Saban. 

Alabama is the class of college football. Quarterback Bryce Young is coming off of a Heisman-winning season. Linebacker Will Anderson is coming for blood this season after a ridiculous 17.5 sacks in 2021. The Crimson Tide destroyed their sacrificial lamb (Utah State) in a 55-0 game that might’ve been somehow more lopsided than the score indicated. There is no doubt that Saban, who is arguably the greatest coach in college football history, will have his team ready. The game is a noon kickoff, and weather forecasts predict a temperature of 95 degrees, which could feel even hotter on the field. College Gameday and Fox are bringing their pregame shows. Everything is bigger in Texas, and this game is no different.

Joseph Tunney

Contact Joseph at jtunney@nd.edu

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Tunney: The Brian Kelly experience

On Sunday night, at about 11:15 PM, Brian Kelly held up a single finger. It proved to be a decision he may come to regret. Quarterback Jayden Daniels had just led the LSU Tigers on a miraculous 99-yard drive with just 80 seconds left in the game, culminating in what appeared to be the game-tying touchdown as time expired.

It had been a tough game for the Tigers. But they now stood an extra point away from taking a shell-shocked Florida State Seminoles team into overtime. Then, special teams reared their ugly head. A Florida State player burst through a hole in the left side of the line and blocked the extra point try, sending it careening off the bottom crossbar. Game over. Seminoles win.

A blocked extra point in itself is indicative of a terrible game for a special teams unit. But this was not the first mistake that the unit had made in the course of the game. Returner Malik Nabers fumbled two punts, twice setting the Seminoles up with amazing field position. Fortunately for LSU, the defense stiffened. On the first possession, the Tigers forced a turnover on down. On the second, they recovered a poorly executed pitch to kickstart the 99-yard drive.

However, the Tigers also could have won the game had they not let a previous field goal attempt also get blocked by Florida State. Kelly said a “switch in personnel” was made after the first block. But the issue was not corrected. If you compare the two blocked kicks, they look remarkably similar. Both tries resulted in the left side of the line caving in, allowing a defender to step in and get a hand on the football.

To add further insult, Florida State’s special teams unit was ranked 106th in the country last season. To put it simply, it could not have gone worse in the kicking game for special teams coordinator Brian Polian, who has seemed to be Kelly’s right-hand man. When Kelly left South Bend for the Bayou, Polin was the only assistant coach who followed.

For Irish fans, Kelly’s loss on Sunday had many familiar overtures. Special team woes seemed to strike the Irish at unfortunate times throughout Kelly’s tenure. One only has to look back to 2016 to see multiple similarities. In what Irish fans now call the hurricane game, Notre Dame lost 10-3 to NC State. The culprits? A blocked punt and (predictably) bad snaps. Or you could go back to Kelly’s first season in 2010. A blocked extra point returned for two points and punt return TD helped to doom the Irish against a markedly inferior Tulsa team.

Apparently, bad snaps also followed Kelly down to Baton Rouge. On LSU’s first possession they looked destined for the end zone until a bad snap at the Seminoles’ five-yard line eventually led to a field goal. LSU’s slow start versus the Seminoles allowed them to amass a 17-3 lead. Again, for Irish fans, it seemed eerily similar. Just look back to 2020, when the Irish amassed a total of seven yards in a win against Duke in the first quarter.

What was not similar (and even worse for LSU) was offensive line play. Throughout Kelly’s tenure at Notre Dame, the Irish prided themselves on quality offensive line play. Just look at the NFL, it’s littered with Notre Dame linemen. For the Tigers last night, their offensive line got handled at the line of scrimmage. LSU was able to run for 139 yards last night. But the vast majority of the yards were on scrambles from Daniels after the line had broken. Having your quarterback lodge 16 rushes a game is not going to be a healthy proposition.

Furthermore, the decision to go for the extra point requires close scrutiny. Perhaps Kelly had bad memories of the Irish playing Northwestern in 2014. Kelly decided to go for two up 11, a call that failed and eventually led to Northwestern winning in overtime. Could that have been the reason why he took the ball out of the hands of the player who had willed his team to that point? One can only speculate.

The old saying goes that a leopard can’t change its spots. Maybe that’s true for tigers, too. Welcome to the Brian Kelly Experience, LSU.

Joseph Tunney

Contact Joseph at jtunney@nd.edu

The views expressed in this Sports Authority are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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Top five games to watch in the first week of college football

Move over Nebraska and Northwestern, the big boys are ready to play this weekend. Week 1 of college football offers a flurry of games from Thursday through Monday, which is a treat for all sports fans. Without further ado, here’s my top five games to watch this weekend.

5. Florida State @ LSU — Sunday, Sept. 4 at 7:30 p.m. on ABC

Without NFL action this week, this game will serve as Sunday Night Football, featuring two proud programs in a neutral site game in New Orleans. The Seminoles are looking to regain their footing in the ACC this season and take a step forward under head coach Mike Norvell’s third season at the helm. All-ACC safety Jammie Robinson is a great player for the Seminoles, adept at patrolling the middle of the field. Winning this game would put them in a good position to have their first winning record since 2017. LSU boasts the likes of wide receiver Kayshon Boutte, a player who is likely to be drafted next April, and quarterback Jayden Daniels, transferring in from Arizona State. This is also the debut game of new LSU Head Coach Brian Kelly, a name undoubtedly very familiar to Irish fans. This will be the first time Kelly has ever coached in any capacity a team located south of Ohio. Will Kelly continue to build momentum in his pursuit to dethrone the titans of the SEC West? Will the Seminoles put his tenure off to an inauspicious start? Irish fans will surely want to know.

4. No. 7 Utah @ Florida — Saturday, Sept. 3 at 7:00 p.m. on ESPN

Continuing the PAC-12 vs. SEC showdown is another matchup that could drastically affect the course of each teams’ seasons. Utah, coming off of a 10-4 record last season, returns a bevy of talent. Quarterback Cameron Rising and running back Tavion Thomas have earned All-PAC-12 honors. Clark Phillips is seen as one of the best cornerbacks in the country. Some have projected Utah as a playoff team this season. 

Florida is coming off of a disappointing 6-7 record last season that resulted in the firing of Dan Mullen. New head coach Billy Napier would love nothing more than to get his tenure at Florida started with a marquee upset win. Quarterback Anthony Richardson will have to prove he is capable of starting. Linebacker Brenton Cox is coming off of an All-SEC season. The ingredients for an upset are there, with the game being held in one of college football’s most hostile environments. Can Utah endure for four quarters in the muggy humidity and with the roar of opposing fans against them? In order to accomplish their goals for this season, they’ll have to do just that. 

3. No. 23 Cincinnati @ No. 19 Arkansas — Saturday, Sept. 3 at 3:30 p.m. on ESPN

An intriguing out-of-conference matchup in Fayetteville, Arkansas between two teams looking to prove themselves. The Razorbacks, under head coach Sam Pittman, look to continue their rise after earning a 9-4 record last fall, their best record in a decade. Quarterback KJ Jefferson has drawn comparisons to Cam Newton with his skill at both running and passing. Center Ricky Stromberg anchors an Arkansas line that looks to bully the Bearcats. Linebacker Drew Sanders is earning preseason All-SEC hype. 

Cincinnati, meanwhile, comes off the best season in program history, going 13-1 and earning a trip to the college football playoff, bowing out to runner-up Alabama. Notable losses to the NFL Draft include quarterback Desmond Ridder and cornerback Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner. Their main strengths this season should be a bruising offensive line for LSU transfer running back Corey Kiner to run through, in addition to a punishing defense. The Bearcats are set to join the Big 12 after this season, so a win here would prove without a doubt that no matter what conference they’re in, that they’re here to stay. A win for the Razorbacks would set their season off to a jumpstart headed into SEC play.

2. No. 11 Oregon @ No. 3 Georgia — Saturday, Sept. 3 at 3:30 p.m. on ABC

Immediately preceding the No. 1 game of the week is a titanic game in its own right. Dan Lanning’s first game as head coach of the Ducks comes against the defense he previously coached for the Bulldogs. Oregon, coming off a 10-4 season, has experience beating marquee teams on the road early, knocking off Ohio State just last year. Georgia is coming off a wildly successful year which saw them go 14-1, earning a National Championship in the process. In addition, the Bulldogs saw 15 of their players selected in last April’s NFL Draft. 

Stars remain on Georgia’s roster, however. Tight end Brock Bowers is the only player in the country comparable to Michael Mayer for the Irish. Stetson Bennett IV returns as quarterback. Oregon is experiencing a quarterback competition, but Auburn transfer Bo Nix is seen as the projected starter. Linebacker Noah Sewell is a consensus preseason All-American. The game is technically at a neutral site — Atlanta — but the crowd will surely be primarily Georgia fans. With a win, Oregon immediately becomes the favorite in the PAC-12 and a college football playoff contender. A win for Georgia is the first step toward back-to-back national championships. 

1. No. 5 Notre Dame @ No. 2 Ohio State — Saturday, Sept. 3 at 7:30 p.m. on ABC

The stakes couldn’t be higher for a Week 1 showdown. Notre Dame returns potential first round picks in the upcoming NFL Draft in tight end Michael Mayer and defensive end Isaiah Foskey. Ohio State possesses what many believe to be the greatest offense in college football this year with quarterback CJ Stroud coming off of a Heisman finalist season. Running back TreVeyon Henderson and wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba give Stroud no shortage of weapons. 

Questions still remain, however, for both sides. How will new starter Tyler Buchner look under center for the Irish? Buchner was unable to play in this year’s spring game and was reserved to a backup role last season. Meanwhile, can the Buckeyes solve their own defensive issues from last season? Their fans hope the hire of former Oklahoma State defensive coordinator Jim Knowles is the solution. It all shapes up for a potential classic in the Horseshoe. 

Ohio State is looking to avenge a “disappointing season” which resulted in losses to Oregon and Michigan. Notre Dame is looking to prove that they are a legitimate force under new head coach Marcus Freeman. A win for either team would set each up for a playoff run.

Joseph Tunney


Contact Joseph at jtunney@nd.edu.