Brian Kelly is believed to be for Notre Dame, the man who, eventually, will end the Irish football famine. Well, he was before the season anyway. After the first two weeks, the sentiment sounds a lot like Charlie Weis circa 2006. Noted alum Skip Holtz already submitted his resume to replace him. Yes, Kelly has a tremendous track record at his previous stops, but he must be judged on what he’s done at Notre Dame. So far, it has been consistently losing games with a talented team, that won them on the field.
Notre Dame gained more than 500 total yards, had 28 first downs and was 8/14 on third down conversions against Michigan. The Irish entered the fourth quarter with a 17-point lead. They lost. The final quarter strategy, using common sense with an inexperienced quarterback and turnover prone team, should have been to simplify the game, to slow it down and to keep Denard Robinson off the field. Notre Dame played most of the game with a significant lead. Michigan was allowing six yards per carry. Why, exactly, did Tommy Rees throw the ball 39 times? Notre Dame’s mistakes are fixable, but the worrying sign is they are the same problems that should have been fixed after last season and, certainly, should have been fixed after the initial loss to South Florida.
Kelly has already gone mental on the sidelines this season. He took all summer to name a starting quarterback, before reversing the decision almost immediately. He’s 0-2 this season, in games where he was favored. Combine that with his handling of sickening off-the-field issues and it’s easy to see he hasn’t been a paragon of stability. It’s not yet time for hot seat talk. Last year’s win streak should buy him some breathing room. But, keep in mind, that win streak came against three teams in disarray (Utah, USC, Miami). The fourth win was against Army. Kelly still has much to prove. Michigan State next week would be an opportune time to start.
SEC East Showdown. Saturday’s game against South Carolina was all but must win for Mark Richt. He didn’t win. The Bulldogs lost 45-42 at home. The team did play decently. Georgia showed spunk and some talent. The trouble is they also looked sloppy and poorly prepared. Catastrophic mistakes, including two turnovers for touchdowns and a farcical 68-yard fake punt – cost them the game. They did show the “ingredients” for success. The question is whether Mark Richt is the ideal man to do the cooking. South Carolina was a better stocked team than Georgia, but that’s only a further indictment of the school’s malaise.
Georgia plays neither Alabama, LSU nor Arkansas. The Bulldogs should still be in with a shot at the SEC East title. They may need to win it to save Richt’s job.
Then there’s South Carolina. The Gamecocks have pulsated with talent, putting up 101 points in the first two games. They’ve also been erratic and incoherent. Fifth-year senior Stephen Garcia looks the part, rolling in less hirsute and sober, but he’s handled games with the poise of a 14-year-old fumbling with a bra strap. Steve Spurrier has looked more antsy and addled than usual. The defense has allowed 79 points. They resemble a freight train rumbling down a creeky track at full-tilt with screws flying off.
The pessimist would wonder why this team isn’t playing well and when they will be caught out. The optimist would wonder how nasty this team will be if they find something resembling rhythm.
Not so BIG Weekend. The Big Ten had a fitting weekend, for the Big East. Nebraska’s blackshirts defense gave up 444 total yards as the Cornhuskers needed three fourth quarter touchdowns to escape from Fresno State. Ohio State came some better play-calling on the final drive away from dropping a game at home to Toledo. Penn State was somehow ranked. Alabama’s defense smothered their conservative game-plan with only a late touchdown keeping the score respectable. The best part was Penn State burning through three timeouts and half a quarter to plot their way down the field for a field goal.
Iowa fell on the road to Iowa State, dropping to 6-7 all-time against the Cyclones. Peeved, Iowa’s regents will only approve a $500,000 per year raise and a four-year extension after this season. That’ll light a fire under him. Purdue lost to Rice. Jerry Kill collapsed a seizure (he’s going to be okay), but his Minnesota team lost to New Mexico State at home.
Happy Trails. Texas has seen enough. Five-star recruit and Friday-night legend Garrett Gilbert is out as Texas’ starting quarterback. He has been busted down to third-string behind Colt McCoy’s little brother Case and David Ash, three-stars who spearheaded the 17-16 win over BYU. Yeah, 7-7 career record at a school that recruits a top-five class every year probably isn’t going to get it done. Malcolm Brown will also start at tailback next week. Looking forward to the third McCoy-Shipley combo receiving their own reality show on the Longhorn Network, hosted by Mack Brown.
Ice Cold: sometimes coaches outsmart themselves. Missouri’s coaching staff noticed that Vontaze Burfict was timing snaps a little too closely and was a jump risk. Before kicking the potential game-winning field goal, the Tigers tried to catch him out, twice. This forced Gary Pinkel to call timeout, twice, and to ice his kicker, twice. The kick went wide left. Missouri lost in overtime. Smooth.
Decided Schematic Advantage. Keep an eye on this when the Gators travel to Tennessee next week. Florida has outscored dangerous duo Florida Atlantic and UAB 80-3 this season, but Weis’ offense has not quite clicked yet. Florida has scored touchdowns on just 58 percent of their red zone possessions this season. That’s worse than their 60 percent last year, which was worst in the SEC. Yes, it’s a small sample size, but it’s also against terrible opponents.
Instant Impact. Florida International wideout T.Y. “Goodbye” Hilton sped for touchdowns of 74 and 83 yards, accounted for 201 of FIU’s 293 total yards on Friday. The rest of the team didn’t turn the ball over. It was enough to score a surprise 24-17 upset over Louisville.
[Photo via Getty]