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12/26/2018

Vince Milum's Preview of the upcoming College Football Playoff Game between the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the Clemson Tigers

This is the fourth (and likely last) in a series of installments leading up to the semi-final game that, in turn, leads to the national championship (see previous installments further down on the Milum Sports Home Page). This installment is entitled "The Path to a Notre Dame Victory."

As we "go to press," three Clemson players are ineligible for this game due to their failing an NCAA test for performance-enhancing drugs. One of those ineligible is (arguably) their best player -- defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence. Previously I wrote: "This 84-16 winning percentage split [in favor of Clemson] is subject to change as more information develops prior to kickoff." If this (/these) suspension(s) is (/are) sustained, the victory percentage fulcrum moves in the Notre Dame direction at about 70-30 Clemson.

Converse to the Clemson news, Notre Dame Coach Brian Kelly announced in Dallas this week that ALL Notre Dame players made the trip, passed their required courses and were available to play (with the exception of Sophomore backup offensive guard Dillan Gibbons who sustained a foot fracture in practice) and they are getting back defensive tackle Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa (cousin of Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa) who has been injured nearly all of the season. In other words, Notre Dame is in a better post-season position than it has (likely) been in decades and thus we have an unanticipated positive surprise / development for the Irish. This further shifts the fulcrum in the Irish direction but with Clemson still more likely to win at 65% likelihood.

So, with the information currently available who do I predict to win and by how much?

Clemson is a very good team that SHOULD win this game absent the human condition. As to the human condition, Clemson has come to Dallas to win a football game and is preparing quite well to do so. Notre Dame, on the other hand, has come across (e.g., through the scores of internet videos I have watched in the last couple of weeks) as a group of young men on a do-or-die military mission. Their exams are over and now their focus reminds me of the war veterans with whom I was privileged to serve with in the military. To those men, war was not a "game" and it strikes me that the Notre Dame players are taking a similar "all-or-nothing" attitude. They seem willing to risk their lives / limbs to either win or die trying.

Within this last week I saw a similar spirit...

While I thought Brian Kelly was a good choice for Coach of the Year, I believed (then and now) that the better choice was Jeff Monken of the United States Military Academy (i.e., Army or West Point). On December 22nd, I saw a football team with even greater non-football demands upon it than Notre Dame, destroy a good University of Houston team 70-14 once the non-football demands were lifted from the future military leaders.

Notre Dame players have similar (though somewhat less) demands placed upon them that Clemson, Alabama, and Oklahoma players do not have to contend with. With these burdens lifted for this bowl game and the hunger I have seen in the eyes of the ND personnel, I am going to go out on a limb and predict an upset:

Notre Dame 31, Clemson 24.

(Reminder: see previous installments further down on the Milum Sports Home Page)
                                  

12/21/2018

Ron Worley's Wondrous Predictions - Bowl Games
By Ron Worley

As a graduate of Kansas State University, let me first provide an interesting contrast. On last Friday, incoming KSU Head Football Coach Chris Klieman led his current North Dakota State team to a lopsided 44-21 win over rival South Dakota State to gain a return trip to the FCS championship game January 5th. On Saturday afternoon North Texas State (9-4) lost to Utah State (11-2) by a lopsided 52-13 score in the New Mexico Bowl. The NTST Coach is the guy KSU almost but did NOT hire as their new Head Coach. He did have his QB injured in the first quarter but he really wants to be the next Oklahoma head Coach so I am glad we did not hire him.

Big 12 Coaching final score, 2 fired, 1 retired and 0 hired away. Don't expect any more changes until after next season.

Bowl Season

Dec 26

Cheeze-It Bowl: TCU (6-6) vs Univ. of Cal. (7-5). TCU has had a month to try to get well. I think they find a way to win this one for a positive finish to a down season.

Dec. 27

Texas Bowl: Baylor (6-6) vs Vanderbilt (6-6). This looks like a close game between two not very good teams. I am picking Vanderbilt to win by 3 points

Dec. 28

Camping World Bowl: West Virginia (8-3) vs Syracuse (9-3). W/V will have no Will Grier. I see that leading them to defeat.

Alamo Bowl: Iowa State (8-4) vs Washington State (10-2). ISU had injuries at the end of the season. I see Washington State winning by 10, maybe more.

Dec. 29

Orange Bowl: #4 Oklahoma (12-1) vs #1 Alabama (13-0). Winner gets to play the Notre Dame vs Clemson winner for the National Title. Everyone expects that to be Alabama. I am picking Oklahoma in a high score upset. If they do win this one they don't win the next one against Clemson.

[Bonus] Cotton Bowl: #2 Clemson (13-0) vs #3 Notre Dame (12-0). I read Clemson as the stronger overall team and the winner of this good game.

Dec. 31

Liberty Bowl: Oklahoma State (6-6) vs Missouri (8-4). OSU was hot or cold all season. I think this day they are cold and MU QB is hot and MU wins by 14 points.

Jan. 1, 2019

Sugar Bowl: Texas (9-4) vs Georgia (11-2). The Dogs look like a better team on paper. I think they will also be better on the field and win. This Texas team is a year away from being very good.
                                  

12/19/2018

Notre Dame has a Successful Signing Day


Today, we take a pause in previewing the upcoming playoff game between Notre Dame and Clemson to focus on National Signing Day.

Notre Dame was pursuing roughly two dozen players for signing today and (so far) has gotten 21 to commit to the university. For the full details of today's big event, see:

                                  

12/14/2018

Vince Milum's Preview of the upcoming College Football Playoff Game between the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the Clemson Tigers

This is the third in a series of installments leading up to the semi-final game that, in turn, leads to the national championship. This installment is entitled "ESPN agrees with me."

Just a short update to reinforce what I pointed out in my last write-up -- that being that this year's Notre Dame has more talent than the team that lost the national championship to Alabama on January 7, 2013. Rather than take my word for it, ESPN has just released its list of the Top 50 Players of FBS Football for the past season. Notre Dame accounted for four of them -- two each on offense (Ian Book and Dexter Williams) and defense (Julian Love and Jerry Tillery). Again, I repeat, "this year's Notre Dame team is more than one linebacker with a mythical girlfriend."

Here is the ESPN Top 50

12/12/2018

This is the second in a series of installments leading up to the semi-final game that, in turn, leads to the national championship. This installment is entitled PLETHORA, as in...

Clemson has a PLETHORA of experienced College Football Championship Players:

According to a tweet by Tim Bourret, "48 players on the Clemson roster have played in a College football Playoff game. That includes Mitch Hyatt and Hunter Renfrow, who have started five." In contrast, the aggregate experience of Notre Dame is ZERO! This is a HUGE ADVANTAGE to the Clemson team. At least ND Head Coach Brian Kelly has the experience of preparing one ND team for a national championship game -- though that turned out to be a blowout with ND on the losing side. (One could say that the game ND lost miserably to Alabama has produced a PLETHORA of nightmares for Irish fans.)

One could rightly argue (as I have many times) that the title game ND lost to Alabama (a few years back) was because Notre Dame sent its "Boys" to take on the "Men" of Alabama. That is again a concern along the offensive and defensive lines of ND versus Clemson. Clemson's front four can all anticipate big paychecks awaiting for them in the NFL. Two of the four are appearing on most All-American lists. And Clemson is also strong on its offensive line, and has fast receivers and a dominating All-American running back.

In short, the talent of Clemson -- plus its experience -- present a PLETHORA of headaches for the Notre Dame coaching staff and players. So, how can Notre Dame possibly compete?

This leads us to another PLETHORA...

Many of my friends got angry with me when I said Mike Golic, Junior, was more qualified to talk trash at a bar than to be a starting offensive lineman in the national championship game against Alabama. Needless to say, the results of that game back me up (which is why Golic now talks trash on ESPN instead of playing on Sundays like his dad did).

How does this relate to PLETHORA? In this manner...

There are now not only a PLETHORA of FBS / Division I College Football All-America Teams but a PLETHORA of them considered a PLETHORA of this year's Notre Dame Team worthy. I.e., This year, several Notre Dame players were recognized as All-Americans by various entities including CB Julian Love, DT Jerry Tillery, LB Tevon Coney, C Sam Mustipher, and TE Alize Mack. And, if one wants to look at ALL the teams out there, LB Drue Tranquill and K Justin Yoon were named to the "Google Cloud Academic All-America Team" (something I had never heard of before).

What does this mean?

Clemson is the better, more-experienced team but it is NOT a foregone conclusion that Clemson will win because this year's Notre Dame team is more than one linebacker with a mythical girlfriend.

Right now, I estimate that "on paper" Clemson has an 88% chance of winning but "off paper" I give Notre Dame four additional percentage points because they will finally be able to (a) (largely) set the books aside and focus on this game / opponent like no other, (b) get some much need rest and (c) physical healing.

This 84-16 winning percentage split is subject to change as more information develops prior to kickoff but, again for now, I predict:

Current chance of winning the Cotton Bowl College Football Playoff Game: Clemson 84%, Notre Dame 16%.

12/02/2018

This is the first in a series of installments leading up to the semi-final game that, in turn, leads to the national championship.

This first installment consists of three bullet points:

(1) Clemson has opened as an 11.5 point favorite. Both teams are led by top-notch head coaches and (virtually) rookie quarterbacks who are talented beyond their years of experience.

(2) The game -- designated as "The Cotton Bowl" -- will be played in Dallas at "Jerry-World" which is A VERY LONG DRIVE from both Clemson and South Bend, thus negating (somewhat) the advantage Clemson enjoys playing in the South. For example, had the game been played in Miami (the site of the other national championship semi-final) Clemson would have enjoyed a distance advantage for its fans as well as a climate advantage for its players. (The Irish tend not to do well in southern humidity late in the year.) The climate factor at Jerry-World is largely irrelevant since it is an indoor climate-controlled facility.

(3) Notre Dame is not only a semi-finalist for a national football championship, it is also an elite academic institution. As this is bowl season -- and based on historical precedent -- Notre Dame can expect some academic disqaulifications from its squad prior to the game. On the positive side of this equation, the Irish players who are not disqualified will be free of academic responsibilities the week of the game and (thus) should be able to focus more exclusively on playing football than at any other time in the season. (We will have to await further announcements from the university to discover if the academic factor turns out to be a net positive or net negative.)

STAY TUNED: Again, this is our first installment on the Cotton Bowl College Football Playoff Semifinal. Perioidically check back for updates leading up to the game. Go Irish!
                                  

12/02/2018

College Football Playoff Predictions & Analysis -- Final 2018 Edition
by Parker Milum

As I predicted on 11/25/2018 the Final Four in the College Football Playoff came down to a #2 Clemson playing a #3 Notre Dame and a #1 Alabama playing a #4 team between Ohio State and Oklahoma. The voters chose Oklahoma and, after watching the conference championships, I think they picked the more deserving team.

Where I disagreed with the voters is that they chose Georgia for the #5 team and Ohio State for #6. I had their order reversed because Ohio State won its conference championship and had one less loss than Georgia. (While Georgia had two losses to Ohio State's one, both teams suffered one large loss apiece.)

But since the empahsis is on who made the playoffs, I am pleased to report that -- this year -- the committee and I agreed.

Here is the full list of the Top 25 as ranked by the Committee:


                                  

12/02/2018

Ron Worley's Wondrous Postscript to the 2018 College Football Season
By Ron Worley

As I predicted in my penultimate column, (a) Oklahoma won the Big 12 Championship by double digits thus qualifying as the #4 team in the College Football Playoff and (b) Missouri did indeed make it into the final AP Poll coming in at #24.

(By the way, Iowa State defeated Drake 27-24 in a non-conference game to finish 8-4.)
                                  

11/29/2018

Ron Worley's Wondrous 2018 Season of Predictions in Review + Some Final Predictions
By Ron Worley

Last week 2-4
Season 60-27




I was correct about the top and bottom, not so correct about those in between.

The Conference ended with 4 good teams, 3 very average teams and 3 below average teams.

The Coaching score as of tonight is 2 fired, none yet retired and none yet hired away. By the end of the weekend I expect it to be 2, 1 and 1.

This weekend #25 Fresno plays #22 Boise, one will lose and #21 Northwestern plays #6 Ohio State. I expect Northwestern to lose. Those results should open space for Missouri to move into the AP Top 25 final regular season poll.

#5 Oklahoma (8-1/11-1) vs #9 Texas (7-2/9-3). I expect Oklahoma will win this rematch by about 10 points.

That SHOULD get OU into the final 4 just ahead of Ohio State. Surely the Committee would not put a 2 loss Georgia in the final 4 over a 1 loss Oklahoma or Ohio State. That would be two SEC teams and zero from the Big 10 and Big 12. I think that would be the beginning of the end of the current Final 4 agreement.
                                  

11/25/2018

#3 Notre Dame 24, USC 17. (See Commentary below)

Missouri 38, Arkansas 0.

Kansas 17, #14 Texas 24.

Kansas State 38, #25 Iowa State 42.

Sixth-seeded Northwest Missouri State lost to second-seeded Ferris State 27-21 in the second round of the NCAA Division II Playoffs in College Football. All Mo-Kan teams are now eliminated.

Notre Dame Undefeated

Vince Milum on the Notre Dame Victory: The Notre Dame Fighting Irish Football Team defeated the Trojans of USC 24-17 and finished the regular season 12-0. With the victory the Irish appear headed to the four-team playoff for the National Championship! After (surprisingly) being outclassed by USC for much of the first half and trailing 10-0 late into the second quarter, the Irish visited the ghost of LA's Jim Morrison and got their mojo risin'. With two key third-and-long runs by quarterback Ian Book and two long runs* for touchdowns by ND running backs -- one each by Dexter Williams and Tony Jones (Junior) (*the latter's long run the result of a short-catch and then long run) -- the Notre Dame Offense did just enough to secure the victory. While the Defense played poorly at first and gave up a late touchdown, in-between it played inspired football. And had Notre Dame not picked up a 15-yard penalty on a kickoff late in the game -- as well as a 16-yard net-punt, I was on the verge of awarding the game ball to Brian Polian* for the outstanding play of his "Special" Teams. As it stands, my game ball goes (instead) to "God" without whom even I am beginning to believe this "divine" season would not have been possible.

(*The Tale of Brian Polian has been a major subplot to the Notre Dame season which I have covered extensively.)

As for grades, the entire Notre Dame team (players + coaches + support personnel) get an A- for the game and an A+ for the season.

Additional Grades: (1) An A- goes to the officials who might have missed a call "here or there" but who (overall) called a good game. (2) A B+ goes to the ABC production crew who finally (at season's end) learned that they had a tool to share with home viewers known as "Instant Replay." (3) The grounds team at the LA Coliseum earned a B+ for the improvement in field conditions since the Chiefs-Rams MNF game. (4) The City of Los Angeles gets a B+ for crowd control (anyone who has watched late season USC home games -- particularly when they have had a bad season -- knows what I am talking about). (5) And finally, I would like to present a "Participation Award" to "Class" and "Dignity" for making a return appearance in college football thanks to the Fighting Irish. From Father Jenkins on-down, Notre Dame has demonstrated that one need not compromise on character to be a winner. Go Irish!

Grades Codicil: The following is a colloquy between a follower of our sports coverage (Dave) and myself that was prompted by my original grading review above.

Dave: << Well done gentlemen. >>

Vince: Thanks.

Dave: << Vince you were a little kinder to the coaching staff then I would have been. That was a big game and they didn't have them well prepared for USC. >>

Vince: I disagree -- let me explain why...

USC is a deep-pass offense and the Irish prepared for them as such. When USC played against type and relied upon the short-passing game (as was apparently their game plan to "outfox" the Irish) the Irish made the necessary adjustments and started getting some stops.

Similarly, the USC defense played against type and blitzed on nearly every down. Once the pattern was definitively established, the Irish started using misdirection by having their linemen pull in the opposite direction of where the ball would be going. As part of this revised strategy they also began sending their backs on (very) short pass routes in the opposite direction of the pulling and hit them quickly and then they were "off to the races" as the linebackers who were needed to tackle them were in the Notre Dame backfield on unsuccessful blitzes or following the linemen in the wrong direction.

Dave: << You make a fair rebuttal, however the soft pass defense lasted too long. They did make some good half time adjustments. >>

More to Come: Owing to its undefeated record and difficult schedule, Notre Dame is likely to be chosen for the four-team playoff for the FBS / Division I Championship of College Football. Accordingly, I invite all of you to stay tuned as we anticipate a postscript or two to this season.
                                  

11/25/2018

College Football Playoff Predictions & Analysis After Week 13
by Parker Milum

Finally some CONTROVERSY and a shake-up in the Playoff predictions. Additionally, my prediction that Texas A&M would defeat LSU came true, though the way it happened could not have been foreseen by anyone.

(Just a reminder: these are projections of the top 4 teams as they will be placed in the FINAL College Football Playoff Rankings)

1. Alabama (13-0)

Back-to-back weeks, Nick Saban allowed football fans to get their hopes up by seeing Alabama in a close game at halftime, only to blow out their opponents in the second half.

2. Clemson (13-0)

Clemson should easily clinch the ACC championship and secure the #2 spot in the Playoff. The Tigers did give up 600 yards to the South Carolina Gamecocks, however, including 510 yards in the air.

3. Notre Dame (12-0)

It was ugly at times, but the Irish survived USC and remain undefeated. Notre Dame WILL be in the College Football Playoff. Another fact the Irish should be proud of is that they are the only team in College Football to be in both the Top 4 of the College Football Playoff AND in Graduation Success Rate.



4. Ohio State (12-1)

Because of Ohio State’s dominating triumph over Michigan, we see a real controversy between Oklahoma and Ohio State regarding who should be ranked higher. As poorly as Ohio State’s defense has played most of the season, they are still a higher caliber than that of Oklahoma’s. Most would argue the Sooners have the better offense, but the Buckeyes just scored 62 points against the statistically #1 defense in the country. Ohio State has made a very good case for themselves to be in the College Football Playoff.

4.5. Oklahoma (12-1)

I’m placing Oklahoma here at “4.5” because it’s a toss-up between the Sooners and the Buckeyes, though I believe Ohio State’s domination over the #1 defense in the nation gives them the edge in proving they are an elite caliber team (at least when they rise to that level for a game against a good team). If Oklahoma has an absolutely dominant win over Texas in the Big-12 Championship, Oklahoma would likely clinch the #4 spot over Ohio State.

Undefeated Teams after Week 13:
#1 Alabama (12-0)
#2 Clemson (12-0)
#3 Notre Dame (12-0)
#10 UCF (11-0)
                                  

11/21/2018

Ron Worley's Wondrous Predictions - Week 13
By Ron Worley

Last week 4-2
Season 58-23


Big 12 Comments: The two games on Friday are the only ones that matter to the league this week. If Texas wins over Kansas as expected they will be 7-2 and ranked # 11 or better. If KU wins then the OU @ W/V game will be just the first of two such back to back games and the last one will decide what bowl games the teams attend as neither will be in the final 4. A Texas win and an OU win, however, likely sends OU and Texas back to Dallas for a Red River Rematch! That result puts OU 8-1 against Texas 7-2 and leaves 6-3 W/V at home alone on December 1st. IF my pick below (W/V over OU) is correct things get interesting, Texas 7-2, OU 7-2 and W/V 7-2 and which two play again? Remember W/V just beat OU and also beat Texas 42-41. I would say they are first in, but Texas beat OU in October in Dallas, does that make Texas the second team in the Conference final? This Conference title game thing may make $ but many years it also makes one team very unhappy and can take someone out of the final 4 just as easily as it might put someone in it. Why do it, instead schedule an extra bye week and play the season final games the first weekend in December.

SEC Comments: In the East Division Tennessee plays at Vanderbilt to see which one East team is not bowl eligible. In the West Division if Mississippi State beats Old Miss, then they along with Arkansas are not eligible. That would mean 11 of 14 SEC teams are likely in bowl games. Impressive, but helped by the fact that the SEC teams play 8 Conference games and thus have 4 non-conference games in which they can schedule likely wins.

Overall comment: The Big-12 and the Pac-12 Conference teams all play 9 Conference games each season. Also note that neither Conference is likely to put the Conference Champion in the final 4 this year.

Friday

#11 Texas (8-3/6-2) at Kansas (3-8/1-7). Nice day for Kansas Senior Day but there are not many of them. Not enough to win the day. Texas needs this win and gets it and now what game is next for them, the Conference title game or the bowl game?

#6 Oklahoma (10-1/7-1) at #12 West Virginia (8-2/6-2). Senior Day and there are lots of them and W/V is a hard place for visitors. I think the result is a small upset win for the home team and another BIG problem for the Conference leaders! If they win W/V must be in the Conference final but who do you leave out and make very unhappy, OU or Texas, two of the most important teams to the Conference, a Hobson's choice. Leaving it to the polls will also only please one team.

Arkansas (2-9/0-7) at #29 Missouri (7-4/3-4). Looks like good Luck on Senior Day. Comfortable win to end the home season and get to 8-4 which should at last get MU into the Top 25. The only question is where is the bowl game?

Saturday

Oklahoma State (6-5/3-5) at TCU (5-6/3-5). In spite of Senior Day I see OSU as enough better to win on the road and put a sadly early end to what was expected to be a good TCU season.

Baylor (5-6/3-5) at Texas Tech (5-6/3-5). This looks very even. I think the T/T Seniors may think/know they are playing for their Coach's future and get him the home win and themselves a minor bowl invitation.

Kansas State (5-6/3-5) at #25 Iowa State (6-4/5-3). KSU playing better and ISU playing hurt. KSU has owned this game BUT this is a different ISU. KSU needs this win to get a bowl invitation. ISU has a final home game on December 1st. I think KSU wins one for Snyder in his final Big-12 game.

Comment about last week's KSU home win over Texas Tech: It was clearly COLD in Manhattan. For proof just note that Bill Snyder came out for the second half wearing not his first half and usual game day cream colored Big-12 short jacket but instead a black parka with a hood!

Happy Thanksgiving to all and hope for interesting pro games.
                                  

11/21/2018

Vince Milum's Quick-Look at the upcoming Football Game between the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the USC Trojans.

Overview: Notre Dame opened as a 10-point favorite over USC and is currently favored by 11 points. This is the final game of the regular season for the Irish and a victory is the only thing separating them from a date in the four-way playoff to determine the national champion of Division I* College Football (*that's FBS for those of you who cannot get dates on weekends). Unfortunately for the Irish, the game is on the road and USC is desperate for a win -- meaning they need a win just to be eligible for a bowl and failing to win means this is their final game of the year and thus is, in effect, their bowl game. In other words, USC has nothing to lose now as they enter this game and will be willing to do anything and everything in order to win while Notre Dame has to keep plenty in reserve -- both play-wise and player-wise (e.g., to guard against injury) -- as the prospects of an ND victory signal they will have one or two games to play toward a national championship.

The home field and freedom to play with no restrictions gives the advantage to USC. The weather forecast for Saturday's game is currently sunny, upper 60s, no chance of rain and very little wind. This would be relatively neutral but the humidity is predicted to be comparatively high for Los Angeles at this time of year, so I am going to give another advantage here to USC.

As Notre Dame has become an artificial turf team, the natural grass upon which they will be playing on Saturday again favors USC (though this will be somewhat offset by the fact that last week's Irish victory was successfully played on the natural green of New York's Yankee Stadium).

So, with all this going against it, how can Notre Dame (possibly) pull off the victory?

By embracing these three simple principles...

(1) As it has done all year, have a game plan tailored to perform well against BOTH the strengths and weakness of the opposition, in this case, the Trojans.

(2) Block out all mental distractions this week and focus exclusively on the immediate task at hand -- i.e., defeating / destroying USC (and doing so in a manner which brings honor to the Irish players and the University of Notre Dame).

(3) Be fundamentally sound by minimizing turnovers and penalties and by giving up no big plays.

Fail any one of the above and the Irish will lose. Master all three and the Irish are headed to the playoffs (caveated as usual by no new injuries, illnesses, or suspensions heading into the game).

Intangible Considerations: Due to the fact that I live nowhere near South Bend, I cannot ascertain the degree to which my three principles are being embraced and, therefore, I can only conjecture about these things. My hunch -- and it is only a hunch -- is that the coaches and players of Notre Dame are locked-in -- at least more so than the USC coaches who may lose their jobs after the game and the USC players who are pondering their own futures as a consequence. As a result, I am predicting against the tangibles (cited earlier) and placing my monopoly money on the intagibles and the Irish. To wit:

Notre Dame 30, USC 24.
                                  

11/21/2018

College Football Playoff Predictions & Analysis After Week 12
by Parker Milum

The Playoff Committee Top 4 as well as my own remain unchanged. As such, this will be a brief article.

(Just a reminder: these are projections of the top 4 teams as they will be placed in the FINAL College Football Playoff Rankings)

1. Alabama (13-0)

Who would’ve guessed The Citadel would be tied with Bama 10-10 at the half, but then the universe returned to the status quo as the Tide rolled through the second half, finishing 50-17. The good news for the other 3 teams likely to enter the playoff is that Alabama hasn’t looked as flawless offensively in their last few games as they had earlier in the season. As Bama’s young defense gains experience and gets better, defensive coordinators are getting the book on Nick Saban’s offense. If Michigan develops more offensively and Winovich is healthy, football fans shouldn’t just assume Alabama takes the W and advances to the National Championship game.

2. Clemson (13-0)

Clemson has little to worry about in their remaining games and secures the #2 spot with ease. That being said, while Clemson is clearly the better team than Pitt, the Panthers have developed tremendously on both sides of the ball in the last few games and could make the ACC championship more interesting than people are expecting.

3. Notre Dame (12-0)

After a DOMINATING performance by the Irish in a 36-3 victory over the Syracuse Orange, Notre Dame sits atop the nation with the #1 Strength of Record and the unanimous best performance of Top-4 teams in Week 12. USC is the final hurdle in Notre Dame’s bid for the College Football Playoff, and in all likelihood the Irish will “poke holes” in the Trojans’ bowl game hopes.

4. Michigan (12-1)

Michigan still has to beat the Buckeyes, but the Wolverines have shown they are the better team and should claim the Big Ten title, securing the #4 spot assuming Notre Dame doesn’t fall to USC.


Undefeated Teams after Week 12:
#1 Alabama (11-0)
#2 Clemson (11-0)
#3 Notre Dame (11-0)
#10 UCF (10-0)

Upset Watch for Week 13:
#22 Texas A&M thumps #7 LSU and forces the Playoff Committee to finally put LSU where they belong.
#13 West Virginia knocks #6 Oklahoma and the entire Big-12 out of the Playoff race with a win at home.
                                  

11/18/2018

#3 Notre Dame 36, Syracuse 3. (See Commentary below)

Missouri 50, Tennessee 17.

Kansas State 21, Texas Tech 6.

Kansas 40, #6 Oklahoma 55.

Sixth-seeded Northwest Missouri State upset third-seeded Grand Valley State 42-17 to advance to the second round of the NCAA Division II Playoffs in College Football.

Division II Tournament Brackets


Vince Milum on the Notre Dame Victory:
As I predicted in my original pre-game analysis:

"While both Notre Dame and Syracuse prefer to play on artificial turf, the fact that Yankee Stadium has a grass field may slightly favor the Irish as this should reduce the impact of Syracuse's fast-strike offense." Though Syracuse Coach Dino Babers demonstrated class (in his post-game press conference) in denying that the grass field slowed down his team, it seemed obvious (to this observer) that the grass field favored the bigger and stronger Irish over the smaller and quicker "Orange" of Syracuse.

As I further pontificated:

"And although Syracuse is fairly highly ranked (at #12) and has been known to put up plenty of points on their opposition, I am not (overly) impressed with those opponents they have defeated and one must remember that Clemson was experiencing a quarterback tsunami when they played Syracuse. So, this may be the first game of the season that allows for an accurate gauging of how good 'The Orange' are. This level of ambiguity this late in the season makes the Syracuse football team a Rorschach test as much as anything. As I am not one to read too much into an ink blot, I will distill the outcome of this game to one key uncertainty (among many)... Is the Notre Dame defense capable of stopping -- or significantly slowing down -- the Syracuse offense? If yes, the odds favor an Irish victory. If no, there will be a long-flight back to South Bend from Notre Dame's last 'home' game of the season."

With the game played, the verdict on whether "The Notre Dame defense [is] capable of stopping... the Syracuse offense?" is in with a resounding "YES!" But for a token field goal by Syracuse with 10 seconds remaining in the game, the Notre Dame Defense "pitched a shut out" at Yankee Stadium. By gathering in 2 of the 3 interceptions by the Irish (and for his all-around excellent play on Saturday) Alohi Gilman was chosen as the Walter Camp Defensive Player of the Week for all of "Division I" football. (What the hell is FBS?) As for the lone Irish miscue, it was an interception thrown by Ian Book on a failed fourth down. (In other words, Book was about to be sacked on fourth down leading to a change of possession, so he figured, what the hell, why not throw it into the end zone and hope for the best -- "no-harm, no-foul" in this instance.) As for the ride home, I think the Irish were equally (a) satisfied with the win and (b) already focusing their attention on next week's foe, USC.

Now for some grades...

Vince Milum: I get a thumbs-up in perceiving the degree to which Syracuse was over-rated and the fact that the natural grass field favored the Irish. I get a thumbs-down on anticipating how big of a blow-out the game would turn out to be. My overall grade for myself is a B-.

Notre Dame Coaching Staff (less Brian Polian) and Offense + Defense: Although the Irish offensive line committed too many penalties and the offense overall performed unsatisfactorily in the "red zone," I am still giving the staff and offense + defense a combined score of A+. (If you watched the game, you know why. If you did not watch the game but saw the final score, you have a good inkling of why I am awarding such a high score.)

Brian Polian and his "Special" Teams: On the negative side: A bungled Irish extra point attempt that failed, too many long returns on ND kickoffs, and some short punts by ND. On the positive side: Justin Yoon made three field goals and no points were surrendered by Polian's Guys. Overall Grade: B.

Ian Book and Brandon Wimbush in the backfield together: "I" for "Incomplete" but "Intriguing." In short, "I" like the concept and want to see how this develops over this weekend's game (against USC) and whatever the post-season holds for Notre Dame.

Additional Grades: (1) I award the City of New York and the New York Yankees organization an A+ for creating a bowl-like atmosphere for the game and for having the field in football-ready condition. (2) Despite all the naysayers who cannot relate to young men, I give this year's Shamrock uniforms an A+ -- I thought they looked great and would make an excellent addition to the choice of uniforms regularly available to the Fighting Irish. (3) I also want to recognize -- with an A+ -- Syracuse Head Coach Dino Babers who was a total "class act" in his post-game press conference and for explaining his reasoning for attempting two late field goals (rather than attempting to score touchdowns) -- the game was out-of-reach and he thought there was less chance for injury for both teams by going the field goal route. (4) One last grade for Free Pancakes when least expected: A+ when the chef is Chase Claypool and he is delivering to a neighborhood "away from the action." Let's hope USC can receive some just desserts next week!

                                  

11/15/2018

Vince Milum's Quick-Look at the upcoming Football Game between the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the Syracuse "Orange."

(What is it with these politically-correct universities and their B.S. team names? Admittedly, the previous name "Orangemen" carried a lot of baggage -- especially if you are Irish Catholic and your relatives were murdered by these guys. Still, "Orange"? Why not "Corn"? Or, better yet, "Corn Flakes"? This probably explains why I remain a fan of the FIGHTING IRISH! Not politically-correct, I grant you, but descriptive of many of my family members who would not be caught dead with a "fruit" for their mascot.)

Overview: Notre Dame opened as a 9.5-point favorite over Syracuse and is currently favored by 10.5 points. This is supposedly a home game for Notre Dame but it is being played in Yankee Stadium which is located 254 miles away from Syracuse (by car) in its home state of New York. The current forecast for NYC on Saturday afternoon* is for partly cloudy skies, with 0% chance of precipitation, less than 10 MPH winds, and temperatures in the mid- to upper-40s. (*This, in itself, may prove tricky for the Irish as they have become accustomed to playing in prime time.)

While both Notre Dame and Syracuse prefer to play on artificial turf, the fact that Yankee Stadium has a grass field may slightly favor the Irish as this should reduce the impact of Syracuse's fast-strike offense.

And although Syracuse is fairly highly ranked (at #12) and has been known to put up plenty of points on their opposition, I am not (overly) impressed with those opponents they have defeated and one must remember that Clemson was experiencing a quarterback tsunami when they played Syracuse. So, this may be the first game of the season that allows for an accurate gauging of how good "The Orange" are.

This level of ambiguity this late in the season makes the Syracuse football team a Rorschach test as much as anything. As I am not one to read too much into an ink blot, I will distill the outcome of this game to one key uncertainty (among many)...

Is the Notre Dame defense capable of stopping -- or significantly slowing down -- the Syracuse offense? If yes, the odds favor an Irish victory. If no, there will be a long-flight back to South Bend from Notre Dame's last "home" game of the season.

So, what will it take to stop or slow down Syracuse? A clever defensive scheme that, to date, the Irish have yet to unveil. Why? Because Syracuse runs a no-huddle offense that is equally adept at running AND passing. And its play selection is based upon the "pick-your-poison" defense its opponent chooses. If ND goes standard package (with three linebackers and four defensive backs), Syracuse will be pass-happy. If ND goes nickel (with five defensive backs and only two linebackers), look out for some punishing runs by Syracuse.

My Overall Prediction on how this all shakes out (or is it wishful thinking?)...

Notre Dame 34, Syracuse 31.
                                  

11/15/2018

Ron Worley's Wondrous Predictions - Week 12
By Ron Worley

Last Week 6-0
Season 54-21


Coaching score remains 1-1-1, maybe some change after this weeks games but at this point change now more likely only after end of season games.

This came to my attention this week: Twenty years ago this week Nov. 1998, KSU beat Neb.40-30 in Manhattan ending 29 straight losses to them. I was at the previous 1968 12-0 win in Lincoln. After the 1998 win KSU was ranked # 1 in the nation for the first and only time. Given the current college football world and the Big 12 Conf. makeup I doubt that I can live long enough to ever see KSU ranked # 1 again and for reference I am giving myself 20 more years.

Full Big-12 Schedule

TCU (4-6/2-5) at Baylor (5-5/3-4). I expect the Bears to win a close game at home and become bowl eligible. That would also make TCU not eligible and their coach deeper in trouble.

Texas Tech (5-5/3-4) at Kansas State (4-6/2-5). Senior day for Wildcats. I think/hope they can play well enough on both sides of the ball to get what I expect would be a close game win. Many of them have to think this will be Bill Snyder's final home game. No announcement as yet and at this point it will not come until , depending of the outcome of this game, maybe before the final game next week at Iowa State.

#9 West Virginia (8-1/6-1) at Oklahoma State (5-5/2-5). Another hard game for OSU after OU last week. They almost won that one. They will not win this one. W/V wins and stays in contention for the Big 12 final.

Kansas (3-7/1-6) at #6 Oklahoma (9-1/6-1). OU by a lot still OU will let up on this one after 3 quarters and save starters for next weeks game against W/V. Their win sets up 7-1 vs 7-1 next week.

#16 Iowa State (6-3/5-2) at #15 Texas (7-3/5-2). This is the game to watch this week ! A lot at stake. The winner is 6-2 in the Conf. and both have winnable games next week. The non winner of OU @ W/V next week will be 7-2 as will likely be either Texas or ISU. Note also that ISU beat W/V 30-14 and Texas beat OU 48-45. So if OU beats W/V could ISU jump over W/V and into the Conf. title game ? If W/V beats OU could Texas jump over OU and into the Conf. title game ? Would not either one of those games be more fun than an auto rematch of the week before ? P.S Yes, ISU does have a makeup game scheduled Dec. 2, BUT, I bet they would cancel it in favor of a Conf. title game ! Sorry about getting into the weeds. Ok, so who wins this one this week ? It is a home game and Senior Day for Texas. I pick them to win in a low scoring game.

Missouri in the SEC

Missouri (6-4/2-4) at Tennessee (5-5/2-4). It appears that MU has found their way and will win this road game and improve their vote totals and maybe get into the Top 25 at 7-4.
                                  

11/15/2018

College Football Playoff Predictions & Analysis After Week 11
by Parker Milum

Without a single loss by a Top 10 team in Week 11, the Playoff Committee Top 4 as well as my own remain unchanged. As such, this will be a very brief article.

(Just a reminder: these are projections of the top 4 teams as they will be placed in the FINAL College Football Playoff Rankings)

1. Alabama (13-0)

Everyone acts as though Alabama losing to Georgia will cause headaches for the Playoff Committee, but it shouldn’t. Ohio State was left out of the playoffs last year because they accrued TWO losses, one of which was a blowout loss to Iowa. But this season, a one-loss Big Ten Champion Michigan, or one-loss Big-12 Champion Oklahoma/West Virginia would get in over an Alabama team who loses the SEC Championship. Under such a circumstance, I predict the rankings would be: 1. Clemson, 2. Notre Dame, 3. Georgia, 4. Michigan… Nonetheless, there’s no reason the Crimson Tide shouldn’t steamroll over the Bulldogs.

2. Clemson (13-0)

Clemson has little to worry about in their remaining games and secures the #2 spot with ease.

3. Notre Dame (12-0)

Syracuse moves up to #12 in the rankings, giving the Irish another possible Top-15 win on their résumé, but also appear as a more credible threat to upset Notre Dame. Nonetheless, the Irish should still finish undefeated but, without a conference win, will end up at the #3 spot in the playoff.

4. Michigan (12-1)

Michigan still has to beat the Buckeyes, but the Wolverines have shown they are the better team and should claim the Big Ten title, securing the #4 spot assuming Notre Dame doesn’t fall to Syracuse or USC.


Undefeated Teams after Week 11:
#1 Alabama (10-0)
#2 Clemson (10-0)
#3 Notre Dame (10-0)
#10 UCF (9-0)

Upset Watch for Week 12:
NONE, thanks in large part to the SEC’s frankly-disgraceful “cream puff” of a Week 12 schedule.
                                  

11/11/2018

#3 Notre Dame 42, Florida State 13. (See Commentary below)

Missouri 33, Vanderbilt 28.

Kansas State 21, Kansas 17.

Notre Dame players embrace the cold  Dexter Williams "Peaces Out" for a Touchdown
FSU Eskimos  ND Celebrates

Vince Milum on the Notre Dame Victory: As I predicted in my original pre-game analysis, the COLD(!) South Bend weather (the temperature was 27 degrees at kickoff) would be the deciding factor. As I further predicted, (like the 2010 Miami team I had referenced) the Seminoles came out dressed as if on an arctic expedition. What even I did not foresee was the Fighting Irish players (mockingly) "warming-up" in gym shorts and shirtless bare chests and backs. I believe this is likely the most in-your-face exhibition of one group of athletes not only saying but proving to an opponent: "you're not worthy to be on the same field with me!" And, "man" did the Irish prove it, by scoring three times in the first few minutes of the game (two touchdowns and one field goal) and causing two turnovers in the same time-span.

Thanks to his support team, Brandon Wimbush made me look like a fool when I revised my pre-game prediction from blow-out Notre Dame victory to blow-out Florida State victory once I learned that Brandon would be substituting for Ian Book. For the first half at least, Brandon looked like a championship quarterback throwing for three touchdowns and executing to near-perfection some timely quarterback runs such that thanks to (a) Brandon, (b) great offensive line work, (c) excellent running by Dexter Williams and (d) superb Irish defense, Notre Dame had taken a 32-6 halftime lead.

But, like Cinderella, Brandon's fairy tale life did not make it past midnight -or- in this case, the end of halftime. Instead, Wimbush reverted to his (individual) mean, throwing two interceptions and enabling the Irish to score only 10 more points the remainder of the game. Still, thanks to some timely stops by the Irish D, Notre Dame prevailed by the convincing score of 42-13 and easily covered the 18.5 point betting-line-spread set when Ian Book was presumed to be the starter.

So, the overall conclusion?

For one half, Brandon Wimbush was one of the best quarterbacks in America on Saturday and I should have just stayed with my original write-up.

Now for some grades...

Brandon Wimbush gets a B+ for his two halves combined.

The ND offensive line gets an A.

Dexter Williams gets an A+.

The Notre Dame Receivers get an "Incomplete" due to the limited number of passes thrown by Wimbush and the limited number of targets. However, due to the difficult nature of the catches that were made -- particularly on touchdown throws, I am awarding a provisional A.

The Irish Defense -- and I am including nearly everyone on this* -- gets an A+. *Not only was the Irish D great as a whole, there were numerous** examples of individual fantastic play. (**In fact, too numerous to cite everyone who played well.)

So, you are asking, what about my problem child -- Brian Polian and his "Special" Teams? Well, while I cannot prove it, I believe they were abducted by aliens and replaced by some first-rate Klingons or something. While there was an occasional foul-up (such as a missed extra point and too many punts that were not fielded before hitting the ground) there was, for the first time, signs of a championship team on this unit as well. For instance, Jerry Tillery blocked a Seminole extra point which Julian Love ran back for a 2-point defensive conversion and Chris Finke discovered how to (a) field a punt, (b) eat spinach, and (c) run 28 yards with several Blutos on his back. For this improved effort, I am awarding Brian and the Boys a B (keeping in mind that, for this review, I am largely overlooking some of the lingering effects of their historically bad play).

So, what grade do I give the coaches (other than Polian)? To have had the level of confidence that they displayed -- in spite of losing the nation's leader in pass completion percentage -- and to have played as well as they did, the players were obviously prepared very well by a first-rate coaching staff (across the board with my usual Polian caveat). To Kelly and (nearly) all of his assistants, I award an A+.

Additional Grades: I award the Notre Dame fans and students an A+ for braving the cold and for providing outstanding support to the team (especially in light of how cold it was). A further A+ goes out to all the parents (especially the mothers) and other loved ones who helped make this one of the best Senior Days ever in the history of Notre Dame Football.
                                  

11/08/2018

Vince Milum's REVISED Quick-Look at the upcoming Football Game between the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the Florida State Seminoles.

STOP THE PRESSES...

As I wrote in my original preview (reprinted below and which was submitted three hours ago as I submit this revision for publication), this was the most important caveat to that original prediction:

"Most of all, pray for the health of Ian Book!"

Well, that did not last too long...

Per numerous sources and confirmed by ESPN, Ian Book will not play against Florida State due to an injury to his ribs and back sustained in the Northwestern game.

As I wrote but just a few hours ago...

"Overview: Notre Dame opened as an 18.5-point favorite over Florida State and is currently favored by an even 18."

That line is now down to 16.5 (and likely to drop further). As news of this development spreads, I would not be surprised if the betting houses take this game offline (entirely). As for my own estimate of how this all ends up...

Revised Prediction: My new prediction (based on unreliable Brandon Wimbush playing QB instead of Ian Book) is Florida State wins 28-10.
                

Vince Milum's [Original] Quick-Look at the upcoming Football Game between the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the Florida State Seminoles.

Overview: Notre Dame opened as an 18.5-point favorite over Florida State and is currently favored by an even 18.

Normally at this point in my write-ups, I give a brief summary of the weather forecast and what role (if any) I see it playing in the outcome of the game. However, this week, as I perceive it, the forecast is not "part" of the story but is the story itself (at least for now)...

Before discussing the forecast, let me issue my standard caveats that also must be considered...

Notre Dame must minimize mistakes (such as turnovers, blocked punts, kicks returned for touchdowns and penalties) and not suffer any significant injuries (or "targeting" ejections) -AND- the Irish need to optimize the usage of BOTH Dexter Williams AND Jafar Armstrong in their offensive attack (note: Jafar saw only limited action last week due to an injury the preceding week). (And, most of all, pray for the health of Ian Book!)

Now, with my caveats out-of-the-way, why am I fixated on weather this week? Because...

As I write this, the forecast for South Bend this coming Saturday night is for the temperature to be in the 20s -- i.e., BELOW Freezing! (Snow is also likely along with strong winds.)

This forecast harkens to my mind when ND played another Florida team in similar weather...

I remember ND playing Miami in an unusually-cold Sun Bowl on December 31, 2010.

The Miami players were dressed as if they were on an arctic expedition while the Notre Dame players were in shirt sleeves.

While ND was playing offense and defense, the Miami players spent most of their time trying to warm themselves. The result? ND jumped out to a sizeable early lead and -- by the time the Miami players were finally warm enough to play -- the game was nearly over.

This is how Wikipedia reported the 2010 Sun Bowl matchup:

"This was the first ever postseason bowl meeting between the Irish and the Hurricanes. The game sold out in 21 hours, the fastest in the Sun Bowl's 77-year history, and the crowd of 54,021 set a bowl attendance record, despite the temperature being below freezing. Tommy Rees passed for 201 yards and two touchdowns to Michael Floyd as Notre Dame beat Miami 33-17. The Irish reached the end zone on three of its first four possessions. Rees tossed TD passes of 3 and 34 yards to Floyd and Cierre Wood broke free on a 34-yard scoring run. David Ruffer added field goals from 40, 50 and 19 yards. The Irish defense picked off Miami starting quarterback Jacory Harris 3 times and logged 4 total interceptions in the first half to help the team jump out to a 27-0 lead in the first half."

While Tallahassee is not quite as far south as Miami, I still think freezing weather will disrupt the collective psyche of the Seminoles. (E.g., This week's average high in Tallahassee is 80 degrees -- quite a contrast from what they will experience Saturday night!)

My prediction (provided temperatures are near or below freezing and the playing surface is not overly slick or covered with snow):

[Previous Predicted Outcome that is no longer valid:] Notre Dame 34, Florida State 17.
                                  

11/8/2018

College Football Playoff Predictions & Analysis After Week 10
by Parker Milum

LSU never deserved to be in the #3 spot after their loss to Florida (who was just DOMINATED by Mizzou, in spite of the officiating), and I knew there was no reason to predict them making the playoff when they were about to face Alabama. As predicted in my previous columns, the CFB Playoff Committee’s Top 4 is now copacetic with my own.

(Just a reminder: these are projections of the top 4 teams as they will be placed in the FINAL College Football Playoff Rankings)


1. Alabama (13-0)

I might be the only talking head in the nation to fathom this thought, but so be it… LSU may have just exposed Alabama as being of the mortal realm, and the Crimson Tide are not unbeatable. LSU’s offense has not impressed me in the slightest all year, and to be shut out by one of Alabama’s least experienced defenses of the Saban era is embarrassing… But, at least for the first half of the game, LSU’s defense contained Alabama’s “God-Tier” offense to just 16 points. LSU’s defense predictably slowly crumbled as their offense just couldn’t generate any points whatsoever, and the demoralization factor must be considered. But a team who can match or exceed LSU’s defense while providing a vastly superior offensive threat (e.g. Michigan or Clemson, in that order) could seriously upset this Alabama team. Nonetheless, Alabama should easily finish the regular season undefeated and claim the SEC title from a lackluster Georgia Bulldogs team. Alabama gets the #1 spot because right now they deserve it.

2. Clemson (13-0)

Boston College is up next on the Tigers’ chopping block, and the game will likely be over in the first half. Clemson “has the look” of a Top-2 team, which they lacked until about week six but have consistently demonstrated ever since. Clemson gets in at #2 with great ease.

3. Notre Dame (12-0)

Syracuse moves up to #13 in the rankings, giving the Irish another possible Top-15 win on their résumé, but also appear as a more credible threat to upset Notre Dame. Nonetheless, the Irish should still finish undefeated but, without a conference win, will end up at the #3 spot in the playoff.

4. Michigan (12-1)

Is there any question now that Michigan is the best team in the Big 10? The Wolverines made Penn State look like an FCS team in what can only be described as murder on the football field. Michigan has THE BEST defense in the nation, and vastly more effective offense than LSU. Clemson may or may not be a better team than Michigan, but Michigan might be the best overall matchup to defeat Alabama in the playoffs. The Wolverines can contain Tua and his receivers enough for Shea Patterson’s offense to score on Alabama’s defense and keep the game manageable. Michigan gets the #4 spot, much to the benefit of Clemson and Notre Dame if the Wolverines were to pull off the upset.


Undefeated Teams after Week 9:
#1 Alabama (9-0)
#2 Clemson (9-0)
#3 Notre Dame (9-0)
#10 UCF (8-0)

Upset Watch for Week 11:
Texas Tech crushes the spirit of #19 Texas
#18 Michigan State defeats #10 Ohio State
                                  

11/03/2018

#4 Notre Dame 31, Northwestern 21. (See Commentary below)

Missouri 38, #11 Florida 17.

Kansas 3, Iowa State 27.

Kansas State 13, TCU 14.


Vince Milum on the Notre Dame Victory: As I have indicated in a number of my previous articles, Brian Polian is (arguably) THE WORST Special Teams Coach in the country as he proved yet again Saturday night. With a 17-point lead into the fourth quarter, Notre Dame saw it quickly shrink to three points thanks in large part to a blocked punt in Irish territory. For contextualization of Polian's ineptitude on Saturday, read this tweet by Carter Karels: "Notre Dame previously had 3 special teams gaffes tonight (missed FG, kickoff out of bounds, illegal formation on a kickoff). But none were as costly as this blocked punt by Northwestern."

Notre Dame is now 9-0 on the season (despite Polian and his "Special" Teams) with three regular season games remaining.

If Notre Dame fails to win any of their remaining games, they will finish with the same record as last year (prior to the bowl season).

In my opinion, Notre Dame must do no worse than 2-2 for the remainder of this season and post-season play for this year to be considered a success. I believe this is doable but I strongly doubt both (a) that the Irish will finish the regular season undefeated and (b) they will make the college playoff. Should ND do the unlikely and finish undefeated and/or make the college playoff, it would seem to me that Ian Book would be deserving of strong consideration for the Maxwell and Davey O'Brien Awards which are presented to the nation's top player and top quarterback (respectively). (While deserving of Heisman consideration, the "gods" have predetermined that it MUST go to Tua Tagovailoa.)


Time for Grades...

Notre Dame Rushing Offense: D

Notre Dame Passing Offense: A+

Notre Dame Rushing Defense: C-

Notre Dame Passing Defense: C-

Notre Dame Special Teams: D-

Notre Dame Coaching (Other than Polian): C+

Brian Polian's Agent: A+ (never has a man made so much for such an underserving client)

Brian Polian: F as a coach; A as a candidate to star in a remake of The Music Man
                                  

11/01/2018

Ron Worley's Wondrous Predictions - Week 10
By Ron Worley

Last Week 3-3
Season 44-19

Full Big 12 schedule


Iowa State (4-3/3-2) at KU (3-5/1-4) Unusual game in that ISU & KU are both coming off wins! ISU defense will win this road game for them. A must win for them to have any chance to get to 6 wins and another bowl game. With being one game light on the schedule they still might not get there.

Kansas State (3-5/1-4) at TCU (3-5/1-4). Neither team expected to be where they are, a make or break game for both. Like to be wrong on this but I expect the frogs to win this home game. If they do it likely will be the turning point in Bill Snyder's last season as head coach at KSU. Not the way it should end.

Oklahoma State (5-3/2-3) at Baylor (4-4/2-3). Can OSU put a big win over Texas behind them and play well on the road? I think they manage that to a 10 point win and become bowl eligible.

#12 West Virginia (6-1/4-1) at #15 Texas (6-2/4-1). Only the winner stays in the hunt for the conference title game. Texas is the betting favorite but I think W/V has the mo from last week and gets a road win.

#7 Oklahoma (7-1/4-1) at Texas Tech (5-3/3-2). OU wins on the road and also stays in the hunt for the conference title game. That title likely only gets you a slightly better bowl game but not into the final four.

Missouri in the SEC

Missouri (4-4/0-4) at #13 Florida (6-2/4-2). Sad last play loss last week against a not as good ranked team as they play this week and now also on the road. Big game for the Tiger program but they fall to 0-5 in the conference and raise reasonable doubt about if they can save the season and make a bowl game. A loss also brings the future of the head coach into question.
                                  

11/01/2018

College Football Playoff Predictions & Analysis After Week 9
by Parker Milum

My week 9 upset predictions were two for three, and would have been three for three had it not been for SEC officials making a bogus pass interference call against Mizzou on the last play of their game against Kentucky, as the Wildcats went on to score a game-winning touchdown on the following untimed down. Nonetheless, Texas fell to Oklahoma State as I predicted, as well as NC State being upset by Syracuse.

As for the Playoff Predictions this week, my projections will differ from the current CFP Rankings until next Tuesday when the new Rankings account for LSU’s loss to Alabama this coming Saturday. It is important to note that my Playoff Predictions represent my projection of where the teams will be placed in the FINAL CFP Rankings.


1. Alabama (13-0)

‘Bama continues to dominate and until proven otherwise, they are invincible. LSU fans better be hitting the squats working on their high-jump, because they’ll need to be registering on a seismograph all game long to rattle ‘Bama into an upset situation (For Reference).

2. Clemson (13-0)

Just give Clemson the ACC Championship Trophy already. The Tigers made Florida State look like an FCS team that only showed up to get their school some much-needed funding. Boston College is about the only team left that might keep their point-deficit under 30 when Clemson shows up to dish out a beating. Moving to Trevor Lawrence at quarterback appears like a better and better decision each week.

3. Notre Dame (12-0)

The Irish will find out just how persistent and pesky Northwestern has been for ranked opponents this year, but Northwestern is likely to come back down to Earth this Saturday as they attain their fourth loss. Notre Dame should run the table with their remaining schedule, but a good Syracuse and an unpredictable USC could prove troublesome along the way.

4. Michigan (12-1)

Michigan is the best team in the Big 10, and the best defense in the NCAA until proven otherwise. Unranked Purdue dominated Ohio State, whose only “quality win” was a 1 point victory over Penn State. Big whoop! Penn State lost to Michigan State in Happy Valley, and Michigan State lost to unranked Northwestern (and was dominated by the Wolverines in Week 8). Technically Purdue lost its season opener to Northwestern, so you could say by the law of association that Northwestern beat both Ohio State and Penn State. By that logic, Michigan should be able to win out. If they succeed in doing so, they will be in good shape for the #4 spot in the College Football Playoff. I predict the Wolverine defense will make Michigan the best matchup against a Tua-led ‘Bama offense. Shea Patterson and his receivers will have to play their absolute best to stay in a high-scoring game, but it is doable.


Undefeated Teams after Week 9:
#1 Alabama (8-0)
#2 Clemson (7-0)
#3 Notre Dame (7-0)
#10 UCF (7-0)

Upset Watch for Week 10:
No upsets I feel like calling this week. #17 Texas might defeat #13 West Virginia, but they are so close in ranking (#15 & #12 in the AP Rankings, respectively) that I wouldn’t really call it an upset.
                                  

10/30/2018

Vince Milum's Quick-Look at the upcoming Football Game between the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the Northwestern Wildcats.

Overview: Notre Dame has opened as a 7.5-point favorite over Northwestern which, like Notre Dame, is an elite academic university and near Chicago. The forecast is on the cold side but moderate for this time of year -- i.e., 10-15 degrees above freezing with little chance of rain (or snow) and mild breezes.

While the home field advantage favors Northwestern, I would not be surprised if at least 20% of the crowd was pro-Irish in this prime-time matchup. The fact that (a) Notre Dame had to sleep-over in San Diego (following the Navy game) and thus "lost a day" this week and (b) Northwestern will be rested by playing a second-consecutive home game, gives an advantage to NW. With these factors considered in toto, the advantage goes to NW but...

If Notre Dame can play mistake-free football and not suffer any significant injuries, then I think the Irish will prevail given their newly-discovered balance in their offense -- particularly in having BOTH Dexter Williams AND Jafar Armstrong available.

As for the Irish Defense, I am concerned as to the availability (both for this game and into the future) of Drue Tranquill (who was injured against Navy).

If weather becomes an issue (such as the Irish offense becomes limited) and / or injuries (or ejections) become a factor (again, pray for the health of Ian Book), then I predict a Northwestern triumph.

On the other hand, should the weather forecast hold up and ND finishes the game with the players with which it started, ND will win.

My overall prediction: Notre Dame 34, Northwestern 27.
                                  

10/27/2018

#3 Notre Dame 44, Navy 22. (See Commentary 3 below)

Missouri 14, #12 Kentucky 15. (See Commentary 2 below)

Kansas 27, TCU 26. (See Commentary 1 below)

Kansas State 14, Oklahoma 51.


Commentary #1 -- Parker Milum on the KU Victory: As a proud senior at the University of Kansas, I congratulate my fellow Jayhawks for defeating the Horned Frogs for the first time since 1997. With 3 wins under their belt for the 2018 season, even if the Jayhawks lost all their remaining games (which is not unlikely) they'd still have their best season record since 2014.

Commentary #2 -- #MoToo -- The ending of the Missouri vs Kentucky football game: In the era of exposing assaults by powerful men and institutions, add the State of Missouri and its flagship university to the growing list of victims (thus the hashtag MoToo). Watch the last timed-play from Saturday's game where Missouri held a 14-9 advantage which should have been the final score. Between the Kentucky receiver and Mizzou defensive player, the only reasonable pass-interference call would have been against the offense (thus ending the game). The Tigers were [BLEEP]ed by the SEC officials to protect a one-loss Wildcat team to make for a more exciting and revenue-generating game between Kentucky and one-loss Georgia next week. Watch the following video (from the 17:30 mark) to see if you agree:



Commentary #3 -- Vince Milum on the Notre Dame Victory: As I indicated in my pre-game write-up, the opening point-spread of 22.5 points in favor of the Irish over Navy (which grew during the week) seemed ambitious but -- if Notre Dame could exceed the spread, they would be a legitimate national title contender. By the end of the first half, Notre Dame actually held a 27-0 advantage and looked every-bit-worthy of an invite to the national championship playoffs. In the second, half, however, ND played down to Navy's level, a team which finished 2-6 in the record books at the end of the night. So, who are the Irish? In many ways, we still do not know, but here is some perspective.

Notre Dame is now 8-0 on the season with four (regular season) games and at least one bowl game remaining. If they were to end the season on a five-game losing streak, they would finish 8-5 and be in danger of losing their coaching staff and many prized recruits. Should they win but one more game, things would still be very problematic. Winning two of the next five would make Notre Dame 10-3 like last season -- a good season but unsatisfying after an 8-0 start. Should the Irish finish 11-2 (i.e., 3-2 the rest of the way) they would likely finish in the Top 10 (if not higher) with the program on strong footing. If Notre Dame were to win four or more games the rest of the way (and not be embarrassed in any loss(es) they might suffer) the Irish program will be considered restored to elite status drawing the interest of top-notch coaches and recruits alike.

Why am I laying out the possibilities? Because, after completing two-thirds of their regular season, I am still not sure who the Irish are and / or which team will show up on any given Saturday or even half of a game (as Notre Dame has failed -- in my opinion -- to put a complete game together this season). So, for me, the past is insufficient prologue to predict where Notre Dame is headed and thus, I await further data to draw an intelligent conclusion.

(In other words, after next week, ND will be three-quarters of the way through the season and I hope to be able then to finally write a coherent post-game analysis. To have done so this week would have required far-too-much column space.)

Grades: For this week, I am awarding but two grades...

(1) The entire Notre Dame team and coaching staff earned a B+ for their superior (but not perfect) work on Saturday and the days and months which went into preparing for Saturday and Navy's unique offense.

(2) The Navy program earns an A+ for demonstrating (along with America's other military academies) the ultimate in sportsman-scholarship and sacrifice throughout their daily lives and careers.

One last note: Everyone please keep (Notre Dame linebacker) Drue Tranquill in your prayers as he appeared seriously injured in the first quarter of the game. Despite the apparent seriousness of his injury (which forced him to miss the remainder of the game) post-game reports suggest he may not have suffered a season-ending injury.
                                  

10/23/2018

Ron Worley's Wondrous Predictions - Week 9
By Ron Worley

Last week 3-0
Season 41-16


Full Big 12 schedule

Thursday

Baylor (4-3/2-2) at #13 West Virginia (5-1/3-1). West Virginia is tough to beat anywhere especially so at home. The Mountaineers win this game to stay in the race for the Big 12 Title.

Saturday

Kansas State (3-4/1-3) at #8 Oklahoma (6-1/3-1). Oklahoma looks too strong for a Wildcat upset this year. Sooners get a home win to also stay in the Conference Title race.

TCU (3-4/1-3) at Kansas (2-5/0-4). So far a disappointing season for TCU, but even so, they are better than a KU team that can't stop making mistakes which keep them from winning.

Texas Tech (5-2/3-1) at Iowa State (3-3/2-2). Good offense (T/T) against good defense (ISU) equals a good game. I expect the Red Raiders to score enough to win this and keep their surprise season going at least for another week. P.S.: The win makes them bowl eligible.

#6 Texas (6-1/4-0) at Oklahoma State (4-3/1-3). Texas season going well. OSU season not so well. That continues with a Longhorn win to also keep their Conference Title hopes alive.

Missouri in the SEC

#12 Kentucky (6-1/4-1) at Missouri (4-3/0-3). Why is Kentucky the underdog? Maybe because they can't / don't pass and Mizzou does. Maybe home field for the Tigers. Mizzou has yet to win against a good team.* I do not think this is the week that happens. Kentucky keeps their national ranking and maybe even moves up a spot with the road win.

*Vince and Parker beg to disagree... Missouri beat Purdue at Purdue (in a close one) and, as most people now know... Purdue annihilated the (previously) projected Big 10 winner, Ohio State last week.
                                  

10/23/2018

Vince Milum's Quick-Look at the upcoming Football Game between the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the Midshipmen of the US Naval Academy.

Overview: Notre Dame has opened as a 22.5-point favorite. Like Notre Dame's last game (against Pittsburgh) this seems to me to be (very) ambitious given that Navy plays (extreme) ball-control offense making sure that Naval Academy opponents (usually) have but a few possessions (e.g., 4-6). Unlike recent years, however, this year's Navy team is of a lesser quality. Although it has been "competitive" in many / most of its games, its record is but two wins against five losses.

Unknown: As I have previously written, before the bye week, Notre Dame had mid-term exams along with mid-term papers being due. That physically and psychologically drained the Irish players. With the bye week, they have had plenty of time to recover, HOWEVER...

What is unknown is if there were any academic casualties who will be declared ineligible for the rest of the season and, if so, how many and who were they?

I will monitor pronouncements from the University this week and may update this section if warranted.

Prediction: If Navy is able to effectively control the ball -OR- there are significant Irish players disqualified, I predict a Notre Dame Victory by the score of ND 28, Navy 24.

If Navy is able to effectively control the ball -AND- there are significant Irish players disqualified, I predict a Navy Victory by the score of Navy 35, Notre Dame 23.

Assuming Navy is NOT able to dictate the speed and tempo of the game and there are minimal (to no) Irish academic casualties, I say the Irish win by the margin of 38 to 24.

Overall prediction: Notre Dame (again) "fails to cover" but wins 28 to 24.

Bonus Prediction: If Notre Dame does cover by winning by 23 or more points, you may indeed be looking at a national title contender.
                                  

10/22/2018

College Football Playoff Predictions & Analysis After Week 8
by Parker Milum

My premonition that Georgia and West Virginia would not survive with a 12-0 regular season record proved true two weeks ago, just as Oklahoma fulfilled my premonition the week before against Texas. The big story of week 8, however, was Purdue’s DOMINATION over Ohio State in a stunning 49-20 upset. The instant classic may be worth its own article tearing into Urban Meyer's coaching decisions in the second half and in the week leading up to the game. For now, here are our playoff predictions (including expected end-of-season records going into the playoff):


1. Alabama (13-0)

Tua finally threw a pick! Oh wait, that was Jalen Hurts. Tua continues to define perfection at Quarterback, despite a knee sprain impeding his performance two weeks ago against Mizzou. ‘Bama is invincible, until proven otherwise. LSU fans better be hitting the squats working on their high-jump, because they’ll need to be registering on a seismograph all game long to rattle ‘Bama into an upset situation (For Reference).

2. Clemson (13-0)

Clemson has proven to me that they deserve to be a top 4 team. No, not because they dominated an NC State that should’ve never been a Top 20 team. It’s because the Tigers showed me they’ve developed a great passing game and aren’t relying on the run as exclusively as we’ve seen much of the season. Florida State may be the toughest game Clemson has left before the postseason, and I do predict they’ll be a bigger challenge than NC State.

3. Notre Dame (12-0)

The Irish have no excuse not to run the table with their remaining schedule. Nonetheless, Navy can be a tough game for any Power 5 Team (or equivalent caliber, in Notre Dame’s case) due to the Triple Option and how they eat the clock. USC and Northwestern are also better teams than their records would imply (in the same vein as Purdue, which Ohio State learned the hard way).

4. Michigan (12-1)

Michigan is the best team in the Big 10, and the best defense in the NCAA until proven otherwise. Unranked Purdue dominated Ohio State, whose only “quality win” was a 1 point victory over Penn State. Big whoop! Penn State lost to Michigan State in Happy Valley, and Michigan State lost to unranked Northwestern (and was dominated by the Wolverines in Week 8). Technically Purdue lost its season opener to Northwestern, so you could say by the law of association that Northwestern beat both Ohio State and Penn State. By that logic, Michigan should be able to win out. If they succeed in doing so, they will be in good shape for the #4 spot in the College Football Playoff. I predict the Wolverine defense will make Michigan the best matchup against a Tua-led ‘Bama offense. Shea Patterson and his receivers will have to play their absolute best to stay in a high-scoring game, but it is doable.
                                  

Undefeated Teams after Week 8:
#1    Alabama       (8-0)
#2    Clemson       (7-0)
#3    Notre Dame    (7-0)
#10   UCF           (7-0)
#21   South Florida (7-0)

Notable One-Loss Teams in Contention:
#4    LSU           (7-1)
#5    Michigan      (7-1)
#6    Texas         (6-1)
#7    Georgia       (6-1)
#8    Oklahoma      (6-1)
#9    Florida       (6-1)

Upset Watch for Week 9:
Oklahoma State outscores #6 Texas (due in part to Longhorn QB Sam Ehlinger’s shoulder injury)
Missouri topples #12 Kentucky
Syracuse beats #22 NC State


10/19/2018

This is Bye Week for Notre Dame and joining the Irish on their bye is our ND correspondent Vince Milum whose semi-weekly column will be back next week. Joining Vince in celebrating bye week is ace reporter Parker Milum whose column on the College Football Playoff is also taking a week off. Parker's column will also return next week.
                                  

10/19/2018

Ron Worley's Wondrous Predictions - Week 8
By Ron Worley

Last week 3 - 2
Season 38 - 16


Week #8 is a bye week for most of the Big 12 teams.

My Big 12 + Mizzou Predictions for this weekend:

#9 Oklahoma (5-1) at TCU (3-3). OU is rested and angry after the loss to Texas. I expect the Sooners to win by 2 touchdowns on the road against an under-performing TCU.

Kansas (2-4) at Texas Tech (4-2). Tech has been better than expected and continues that trend with a home win. KU getting better but not fast enough to win.

Memphis (4-3) at Missouri (3-3). Close to an MU must win to stay alive for a bowl bid. Mizzou gets this home win.

October is football homecoming month. Television contracts are making those games less fun by pushing kickoff times around, especially to those 11 or 11:30 AM kickoff times. Usually it is the lesser record teams that are pushed to those early time slots. Such as KU two weeks ago and KSU last week. Couple those times with not knowing a kickoff time until a week in advance and making plans for fans keeps getting harder and more expensive. The only concern seems to be to make as much $ as possible from the TV contract and to do that the Conference and the schools give up time control to the networks. Not very fan/alumni friendly in my view.
                                  

10/13/2018

#5 Notre Dame 19, Pittsburgh 14. (See Commentary below.)

Missouri 10, #1 Alabama 39.

Kansas (did not play)

Kansas State 31, Oklahoma State 12.


Vince Milum on the Notre Dame Victory: As I indicated in last week's post-game write-up --- Brian Polian may be a good recruiter but he is absolutely one of the worst Special Teams coaches in the country and is, perhaps, the worst in Notre Dame history. Polian confirmed my view again this week (which I will discuss in my write-up on Special Teams below). As I also indicated, while Notre Dame was projected by prognosticators to win by 21, my "sixth sense" told me this was going to be a much closer game and indeed it was. Even my ten-point margin turned out to be overly optimistic thanks to how horribly Polian's punt-return team and kickoff team performed. (Again, I will discuss these issues below in my Special Teams Review.)


Now for the grade reports...

Vince Milum: I give myself a B for pretty accurately gauging the margin of victory and for epistemologically knowing how god-awful ND's special teams are. The reason I am down-graded from an A is that I failed to see how poorly the ND offense would play in the first half.

Grading of (Some of) the Coaches:

This was mid-term exams and papers week at Notre Dame and Notre Dame is a "real" university (unlike most schools where many athletes can barely read-and-write), meaning the players were physically and psychologically exhausted BEFORE the opening kickoff. Because of this, I am going to give all the players a "PASS" this week and focus (almost exclusively) on their coaches.

Head Coach Brian Kelly gets a C+. His team was not as prepared as it should have been BUT -- besides the weariness of his players from several near-sleepless nights in a row...

I give two big credits to Kelly (a) for refocusing Ian Book (after uncharacteristically poor play -- including two interceptions) such that he had a very decent second half thus enabling the Irish to secure the come-from-behind victory -and- (b) for NOT going for it near midfield in the fourth quarter -- despite what his "analytics" told him to do. As people at my watch party can attest, as ND lined up to run an offensive play on fourth down, I was screaming at the ND television to punt the damn thing. (We have multiple big-screens going at my watch parties.) When Pitt called a timeout, my hostile reaction must have been heard all-the-way-to South Bend, as Kelly then changed his mind... Notre Dame punted... Irish Defense held Pitt Offense... ND drives down the field and wins the game! (I will not take a bow though I feel entitled to one.)

As for coordinators, defensive coach Clark Lea gets an A because -- had ND's Special Teams not screwed-up -- the Irish Defense might well have "pitched a shutout" (pardon the mixing of sports terminology).

Offensive coordinator Chip Long gets a C+ for a decent game plan but one which critically failed at times.

Offensive line coach Jeff Quinn gets a D -- there was so much pressure on Ian Book due to horrific blocking and blocking-schemes, that it almost cost the Irish the game.

Defensive line coach Mike Elston gets a C because Notre Game failed to get a sack until near the end of the game. While Book was feeling pressure throughout the contest, the Pitt quarterback had time to send text messages while dropping back. I would give a lower grade but the score is what counts and Mike and his fellas did a good job there.

Finally, we look at the one man most capable of derailing Notre Dame's national championship aspirations -- Brian Polian. Rather than start from scratch, I am going to simply update last week's write-up of the Boy Blunder...

As I said before, Special Teams Coordinator Brian Polian is a fantastic recruiter (which is why he is on the payroll) but is an absolute bust on Saturdays overseeing Special Teams. Against Pitt, some extremely-long-haired-idiot (not your typical Irish player) jumped offsides on fourth-and four when Pitt was punting. This restarted the Pitt drive which -- after what-seemed-like the length of a feature film -- resulted in a Pitt touchdown and nearly all of the first quarter gone. One (as in me) had visions of Navy-upsets-past where they possess the ball nearly an entire quarter each time they have the ball thus eliminating the rhythm of the Irish offense and reducing how often ND has the ball. These factors have commonly combined to result in Navy upsets over Notre Dame.

So what else could go wrong?

How about the Notre Dame offense driving the length of the field, only to be lucky to get a field goal. And then, to start the second half, kicking off poorly and watching a team with minor talent run it back for a touchdown to take a 14-6 lead? Talk about demoralizing. And don't forget, the ND long-snapper -- who rolled a snap last week that resulted in catastrophe -- almost sent one over Tyler Newsome's head this week.

Now (to spare me a complete rehash) let's look at some of what I wrote last week about Mr. Polian:

Two bad punt snaps last week against Virginia Tech to go with the one this week. For the second week in a row, kickoff specialist Jonathan Doerer had to be replaced by Justin Yoon. TWICE this year Notre Dame kickoffs have been returned for touchdowns and BOTH times they nearly cost the Irish the respective games.

Last week I concluded my Special teams review by saying: "Having said all of the foregoing, I am going to render two grades for BOTH Notre Dame's Special Teams AND their coach: D+ for Saturday and I for 'Incomplete' for BOTH the season and the Kelly-Polian relationship."

Let me update and revise the preceding by saying that, for the Pitt Game, Polian gets a D (he is spared an F due to the decent play of Chris Finke as the Irish punt returner). However, he also gets a US Army Grade of "Failure to Repair" which can lead to dismissal if not corrected very soon. As I have said previously, unless Polian gets it together (very) soon, I find it difficult to see Notre Dame reaching the College Playoff with him still in command of Special Teams. It is this simple -- either he and his special teams significantly improve -or- he must be gone.

One Last Grade: Notre Dame is a special team with a large national and international following. In my opinion, the Notre Dame victory may very-well have been possible because of how many friends and families gathered together to watch the game in loving goodwill and because of all the prayers that were being offered up by those friends and families and the many souls who prayed alone. If you were one of them (and trust me, we had a few at our house), give yourselves an A+ because I "believe" that helped will the Irish to victory.
                                  

10/12/2018

Vince Milum's Quick-Look at the upcoming Football Game between the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the Pittsburgh Panthers.

Notre Dame opened as a 21-point favorite and remains so. While that seemed ambitious to me at first, Pittsburgh announced Wednesday that a knee injury has ended the season of the Panthers leading tackler, Quintin Wirginis (the middle linebacker suffered the injury during Tuesday's practice). This late-breaking development favors the Irish not only because of the degree of impact Wirginis would have had but the disruption in defensive game-planning and the hardship the Panthers face in adjusting that game-planning ("at the last moment") are doubly impactful.

As for the Irish, the academic casualties from this week's midterm exams will not be felt until after the bye when the Irish play Navy. As for injuries, the Irish appear to be coming out on the plus side of where they were last week plus they gain back defensive end Julian Okwara from a targeting penalty in last week's game against Virginia Tech. (Okwara's presence this week should "amp up" Notre Dame's pass rush.)

With these factors in mind, it seems making Notre Dame a three-touchdown favorite makes sense. Except for one thing...

The fact that Pitt upset (respected) Syracuse last week. Was it a fluke or a sign of things to come? Frankly, I haven't a clue. So, I will leave it hanging there and move on...

This week's game is at South Bend and currently the game-time forecast is for sunny 50° weather with single-digit breezes and no chance of precipitation. Other than the sun possibly affecting receivers, this should be perfect weather affording neither team any appreciable advantage or disadvantage.

Provided the weather forecast proves accurate and injuries (such as a possible one to Ian Book) play no significant factor, I predict a Notre Dame victory -- though by a smaller margin than 21.

My final score prediction is: Notre Dame 31, Pittsburgh 21.
                                  

10/11/2018

Ron Worley's Wondrous Predictions - Week 7
By Ron Worley

Last week 1 - 4 (weeks seem to run very hot or very cold)
Season 35 - 14

My Big 12 + Mizzou Predictions for this weekend:

Thursday night


Texas Tech (3-2) @ TCU (3-2). Both have been in the Top 25, the winner may be again. I look for a high-scoring, but close, game and a TCU home win.

Saturday

Oklahoma State (4-2) @ Kansas State (2-4). An 11:00 kickoff for Homecoming. More about that another time. Neither team is doing as well as they expected to be. These games are almost always close. The Wildcats may be able to pass on the Cowboys. I think that will give them a 7 point win, which they badly need. Without a win this game may well be the beginning of the end of many things in Wildcat Land.

Baylor (4-2) @ #9 Texas (5-1). Texas keeps getting better. They win this home game to keep pace in the conference race.

#6 West Virginia (5-0) @ Iowa State (2-3). The Mountaineers winning out is the best hope for the Big 12 to get into the College Football Playoff. They win this road game, later games are more of an open question.

Missouri (3-2) @ #1 Alabama (6-0). Bama is everyone's #1. They win this by 21 or more. The Tigers just need to get out healthy enough to play the rest of the season where they can win some games.
                                  

10/10/2018

A Milum Sports Video Special:
Notre Dame vs. Virginia Tech - Ultimate Irish Highlights


Video Production by Parker Milum


                                  


10/08/2018

College Football Playoff Predictions & Analysis After Week 6
by Parker Milum

We have reached the halfway point in the regular season of College Football, and already we have seen chaos for top 10 teams. My prediction last week that Oklahoma would be upset before the playoff has come to fruition at the hands of the Texas Longhorns in the highest scoring Red River Rivalry game in the history of the series. In addition, LSU and their playoff hopes were drained in the swamp of the Florida Gators. Clemson faced no trouble at Wake Forest, and my prediction that the Tigers would be upset before the playoff is now unlikely (though not impossible) as Trevor Lawrence finds his rhythm leading the offense and with their remaining schedule being pathetically easy. (More on that to come -- see below.)

For now, here are our playoff predictions (including projected final records immediately prior to the start of the playoffs).

1. Alabama (13-0)

The sports media praised Alabama’s blowout 65-31 victory over Arkansas, and questioned Nick Saban for being so upset at the Tide defense with such a huge margin of victory. But I understand Saban’s fury, and it reinforces why he is the best. In his mind, his team wasn’t playing Arkansas, they were playing against Georgia or Ohio State. In this mental simulation, the Tide’s defense gives up over 50 points to a playoff contender with a much more talented offense than that of Arkansas, and Bama’s offense putting up less than 45 points against a much more talented defense than that of Arkansas.

Arkansas' 31 points is the most they have scored this year and is also the most that Alabama has given up this season as well. Furthermore, the team that tested Alabama has a mere 1-5 record.

The real reason Nick Saban was so upset...

Saban left the game not seeing the 12-0 regular season ahead of him, but rather the loss they could face against an elite team. When you are number one in the same way Saban’s Bama is, anything short of consistent uninterrupted perfection is unacceptable. The big question that may determine the BCS Champion is: will Saban iron out the defense to the consistent championship level that he has set as his base standard.

2. Ohio State (13-0)

Indiana put up a surprisingly impressive performance for the first half in Ohio Stadium, trailing the Buckeyes by only 8 points (20-28). Indiana ran out of gas on both sides of the ball by the fourth quarter, however, as Ohio State's "SEC size" wore them down. This allowed the Buckeyes to bolster the final score to 49-26. Ohio State still faces challenges ahead against Michigan and Michigan State and a (likely) conference championship (possibly against Wisconsin), though the Buckeyes should embrace the opportunity to showcase that they are an elite caliber team and run the table unscathed.

3. Clemson (13-0)

Clemson’s 63-3 victory over Wake Forest is the ammunition they needed for the Playoff Committee to witness a blowout victory expected from a Top 4 team. This final score, however, fails to tell the whole story. Clemson scored six of their nine touchdowns on the ground while gaining 471 yards rushing. Wake Forest’s decimation may partly be explained by the dismissal of their defensive coordinator after a 56-27 loss to Notre Dame in Week 4. Clemson showed no weakness against the Demon Deacons on the field, but I still have my doubts about the Tigers. No Top 5 team would allow Clemson the kind of offensive numbers they put up on the ground, and would likely render the Tigers modest passing game ineffective. Nonetheless, I project Clemson to receive the third spot in the playoff by virtue that they will most likely win out and the Playoff Committee will exercise a bias against the better Notre Dame team because Clemson is in a (not-so-powerful) Power 5 conference. Still, Notre Dame will not be left out with a 12-0 record. See next.

4. Notre Dame (12-0)

After a lackluster and sloppy first half, Notre Dame displayed absolute DOMINANCE in their second half performance against Virginia Tech as a hostile Hokies crowd was successfully pacified. The Irish leave week 6 with the best résumé in college football, but in order to secure their playoff spot they will have to run the table. This SHOULDN’T be a problem as they are heavily favored in every game here on out, but Notre Dame is infamous for losing games late in the season to teams who should’ve posed no threat. Additionally, if Ian Book gets a season-ending injury at any point, the luck of the Irish is over. Barring these possibilities, however, the Irish will get the fourth spot (even though they are arguably the second best team in college football).

Wildcards:

Georgia: I predict Georgia will lose to LSU, Florida, Kentucky, -OR- Auburn. None of these teams are as good as Georgia (especially Auburn), but all of them are “good enough” to pull off a singular upset between them. If Georgia wins out and repeats their victory over the Crimson Tide in the SEC Title game, they both get into the playoff again (Clemson would get left out). If Georgia loses to Bama even in a slight loss and Clemson runs the table, Clemson gets in over Georgia even though Georgia will have deserved it more.

West Virginia: The Mountaineers WILL lose in the regular season. Baylor is about their only easy opponent left. Iowa State, Texas, TCU, Oklahoma State, and Oklahoma all have a serious shot at taking down the only undefeated team in the Big 12. If West Virginia miraculously wins out, they should get in over a 13-0 Clemson on strength of schedule.

Texas: If the Longhorns manhandle the rest of their very difficult schedule, they have a reasonable chance of getting in. The Playoff Committee tends to be more forgiving of early losses (unless you’re Alabama), and a 12-1 Texas would be more impressive than a 13-0 Clemson who might as well call themselves “UCF 2.0” because the ACC looks worse than the AAC this year. Even if they get left out, a Texas team with at least 10 wins in the regular season will confirm to any Longhorn fans still hibernating since 2010 that “TEXAS IS BACK”.

Michigan: If Michigan runs the table, including an unlikely upset of the Buckeyes as well as Penn State, Michigan definitely gets in with their one-loss being by a single-score to a playoff contender Notre Dame in a season-opener in South Bend. Shea Patterson’s development at Quarterback is coming along very well, and the Wolverines defense remains among the most dominant in the nation. Watch out, Urban Meyer, you could be looking at a “Red Dawn” situation near the end of November. “WOLVERINES!”

UCF: Don’t hold your breath, Knights fans. UCF isn’t getting in, but frankly with a 13-0 record having beaten two ranked teams (Cincinnati and South Florida), UCF would have my vote over a 13-0 Clemson for the playoff. The ACC is so bad this year, whereas the American Athletic Conference is the ONLY conference with three undefeated teams halfway through the season. Couple this with the fact that the Knights went 13-0 last year capping off the season with a convincing bowl game victory over Auburn (ranked #7 at the time, and a much better team than this year). The culmination of these facts lead me to conclude with the following: If undefeated teams are to be punished for being in an un-respected conference that routinely proves itself of being worth respect, maybe it is time we rethink who is truly deserving of respect.
                                  

10/06/2018

#6 Notre Dame 45, #24 Virginia Tech 23. (See Commentary below.)

Missouri 35, South Carolina 37

Kansas 22, #9 West Virginia 38

Kansas State 34, Baylor 37


Vince Milum on the Notre Dame Victory: As my sources indicated to me before the game --- and which I published in advance, storms were an issue throughout much of college football on Saturday. As for the Irish, they were mostly impacted by being limited in pre-game reps due to a pre-game storm. In addition (owing to a 100% humidity during the game) though there was no "rain" per se, there was a tremendous presence of persistent London-like fog. Per my (pre-game) final prediction, the Irish were able to deal with the "moisture" issues and, much like the Stanford game, stepped on the pedal in the decisive second half to win convincingly over the Hokies who played the Irish very close for the first half.

Now for the grades...

Vince Milum: I give myself a B for correctly factoring in the weather and for "forecasting" an Irish victory before a hostile Hokie crowd. I am denied a higher grade because I did not call the Superman (Part II) performance of Dexter Williams, nor the "big plays" that decided this game. As fans at my party can attest, however, on the 97-yard run by Williams, I said the (entirety of the) Tech defense was playing too-close to the line of scrimmage and that -- if Williams could escape the first-level -- he might be headed for a touchdown because Tech (arrogantly, in my opinion) eliminated this big-play protection for themselves in their lust to make their own big play near the Notre Dame goal line. (In summary: Bad "bet" by Virginia Tech triggers Notre Dame victory and a cheer from my own "home" crowd for my calling it out in advance.)

Coaching: Head Coach Brian Kelly and Special Teams Coordinator Brian Polian had a couple of exchanges of heated words. Polian is a fantastic recruiter but I (implicitly*) side here with Kelly in his criticisms of Polian as a special teams coach. The coaching staff -- minus Polian -- gets a B+ for preparing the Irish to deal with the Hokie crowd much better than last year's Miami crowd and for "creating" the kind of athletes who are making big plays look routine this year (and last). (*For elucidation of the Polian exception, see my Special Teams write-up below.)

Offense: Ian Book and the Irish Offense were a mixture of hot and cold. When hot, they were a fine-tuned machine that could not be stopped. When cold, they were either stopped by the Tech defense or themselves. Notre Dame "beat" writers were criticizing the Irish during the game (via Twitter) for throwing so many long, incomplete passes by Book. I said and say, keep throwing them -- only work on the timing better and know that an adrenaline-filled quarterback can throw farther in a game than one going through the motions in practice. While the ND offense is deserving of a grade between a B and a B+, I am awarding them a B+ because of the second half performance before a hostile crowd and for not giving up.

Defense: The defense -- like the offense -- was either hot or cold with little in-between. There were too many third-down (and fourth-down) conversions to my liking. That said, the stripped-ball / fumble return for touchdown and the interception late in the game did not "just happen" -- they were CAUSED by an aggressive and opportunistic defense that continues to be physical. Due to the humidity, Notre Dame substituted often yet there was little degradation in performance by those substitutes. Because of the crowd and the "us-against-the Hokies AND their crowd" attitude of the Irish defense -- as well as their continuity while substituting freely, I award them a strong B.

Special Teams: Justin Yoon is now your career scoring leader at Notre Dame. And thus ends the good news. Now for the not-so-good news...

As for whoever the punt-snapper is for Notre Dame, he has some work to do (he had at least two bad snaps -- one of which ensured that Tyler Newsome was unable to get off even a bad punt and gave Virginia Tech the ball in Notre Dame territory when Newsome was preparing a punt to pin Tech near its goal line). And how good was the Irish kickoff specialist Jonathan Doerer? He performed so poorly that he was replaced by Yoon late in the game. Q: And who coaches the long-snapper and Doerer? A: Brian Polian. Q: And whose head did Brian Kelly nearly take off (more than once on Saturday)? A: Brian Polian. Q: And who --- if he was not a great player-recruiter -- might be in need of a job-recruiter? A: Brian Polian. (NOTE to Readers: Also, do not forget that in the opening game of this season, Polian's special teams gave up a kickoff return for touchdown that let Michigan back into the game against the Irish.) Q: Where is all this headed? A: I do not know but Kelly ripping into Polian is becoming a (all-too) common occurrence (on the Notre Dame sideline) and may lead to a less-than-amicable divorce at the end of the season -- if not sooner. As I said above, I IMPLICITLY side with Kelly (in his criticisms of Polian as a special teams coach) because I do not know what is (actually) being said at any given time, I can only glimpse an occasional non-verbal volcano eruption. And I do remember the infamous (on camera) forehead kiss that Kelly rendered to Polian that gives some hope of a deeper / better relationship than the one we see on Saturdays. Having said all of the foregoing, I am going to render two grades for BOTH Notre Dame's Special Teams AND their coach: D+ for Saturday and I for "Incomplete" for the BOTH the season and the Kelly-Polian relationship.

One Last Grade: Though I consider the ABC announcing team of Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit to be among the best in college football, on Saturday I thought they performed poorly (e.g., telling jokes late in the game and not calling ANY of the play-by-play). They also did a poor job of discussing questionable penalties and doubtful catches that were not reviewed. This aspect of the ABC production was exacerbated by a crew that chose to (only) very rarely show replays thus serving to leave the home viewer with angst all-too-often. Finally, the camera crew and director way-too-frequently had poor camera angles during live play leaving one to miss the action and then being prevented to see it on replay because (again) ABC was not showing many replays. For these reasons, I give ABC a D- for its telecast.
                                  

10/05/2018

Vince Milum's Quick-Look at the upcoming Football Game between the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the Virginia Tech Hokies.

While Notre Dame opened as a 5-point favorite (and is currently a full touchdown favorite), three negative factors weigh against the Irish this weekend...

- The loss last weekend (to a season-ending injury) of Notre Dame's best offensive lineman, Alex Bars (at left guard).

- The inordinately loud crowd that attends Virginia Tech games and is known for being a disruptive force much like last year's hostile crowd in Miami.

- The possibility of thunderstorms that could derail the Irish offense -- particularly if its up-tempo offense has to (repeatedly) stop due to the necessity for people to seek shelter.

Similar to something I have done before, this time I am offering a trifurcated "forecast":

(1) If EITHER thunderstorms OR the Tech crowd are successful in disrupting the Irish, I predict a narrow Tech victory.

(2) If BOTH thunderstorms AND the Tech crowd are successful in disrupting the Irish, I predict a significant Tech victory.

(3) If NEITHER thunderstorms NOR the Tech crowd are successful in disrupting the Irish (and assuming no major Irish injuries -- particularly to Ian Book) I predict a moderate Notre Dame victory.

Having said the above, I will now "forecast" the weather and the final result: I predict that though there may be rain, it will not overly impact the Irish game. If Notre Dame can move its offense quickly and / or can get out to an early lead, the Tech crowd will be (much) less effective than last year's Miami crowd. With all that said, I predict the final outcome to be:

Notre Dame 31, Virginia Tech 23.
                                  

10/04/2018

Ron Worley's Wondrous Predictions - Week 6
By Ron Worley

Last week 5 - 0
Season 34 - 10


Week #6, Big 12 Conference Comments: This week's news is BAYLOR vs NCAA and the big question is "do they get the death penalty"? If so, what does/should the conference do? If given the death penalty, Baylor plays NO Football for 2 or more years. Do the other 9 teams just add a 4th non-conference game for 2 or more years? This could start as early as the 2019 season. Or does the Big 12 kick out Baylor and look for one or more new members for 2019 or later ?

I vote for 9 teams and see if there is life after death for Baylor. There was for SMU (another former SouthWest Conference member) but not really as they have never been any good since they were executed many years ago. Houston would likely want to join the Big 12 and I would say yes to them if we need a 10th member.

Now onto my Big 12 + Mizzou Predictions for this weekend:

Kansas (2-3) @ #9 West Virginia (4-0). A KU road game which they don't win. This could be bad. W/V by 5, touchdowns that is.

Kansas State (2-3) @ Baylor (3-2). Baylor did not look that good against KU (who have some problems ahead, see above). KSU wins in a mild upset on the road.

#18 Texas (4-1) vs #7 Oklahoma (5-0). Red River shootout and annual Texas State Fair game. Winner takes the early lead in the Conference title race. OU gets the win this year.

Iowa State (1-3) @ #25 Oklahoma State (4-1). Looks closer to me than you would think given the records. OSU gave up points to KU and ISU usually plays good defense. OSU wins at home.

Missouri (3-1) @ South Carolina (2-2). Looks like a good game. MU gets a close road win to keep their season on a positive track.
                                  

10/02/2018

A Milum Sports Video Special:
Notre Dame vs. Stanford - Ultimate Irish Highlights


Video Production by Parker Milum


                                  

10/02/2018

College Football Playoff Predictions & Analysis After Week 5
by Parker Milum

As we enter Week 6 of the College Football season, we have seen a significant sample of performances by top 10 teams -- both good and bad. With each passing week, we draw closer to being able to distinguish the playoff contenders from the playoff pretenders. At this point, we can assess the strengths and weaknesses of the top 10 teams, and to present our predictions as to who among them makes it to the championship semifinals (including what their records will be at that time).

1. Alabama (13-0)

No introductions needed, 'Bama will "roll" through even the toughest games on their schedule with few mistakes and reinforce why Nick Saban is simply the best. Furthermore, we predict Tua Tagovailoa will take home the Heisman trophy (barring the unforeseen).

2. Ohio State (13-0)

After surviving Penn State, Ohio State faces little adversity on the way to claiming the Big Ten Title and a 13-0 season. With that résumé, the Buckeyes will handily claim the #2 spot. Michigan and Michigan State are good (not great) teams, but will struggle to put up points against a Buckeye defense that held Penn State to just 26 points (less than HALF the average number of points the Nittany Lions put up in their first 4 games). Furthermore, Penn State may have been the best-equipped Big Ten defense to halt the freight train of an offense led by Dwayne Haskins as they did for three quarters.

3. Notre Dame (12-0)

After a STUNNING perfomance by Notre Dame on all fronts against #7 Stanford, the Fighting Irish have established themselves at the forefront of the College Football Playoff conversation. If Notre Dame can defeat the Virginia Tech Hokies in the hostile environment of Lane Stadium this Saturday, the Irish will have no excuse not to finish the season undefeated. We predict the inability of Ian Book to effectively audible early in the Virginia Tech game (due to a raucous Tech crowd) will make for the first unimpressive performance we've seen from him, but the Irish will survive and dominate the remainder of their season and claim the #3 spot with confidence.

4. Georgia (12-1)

Georgia is a great team, but they have not proven themselves a Top 5 team to our satisfaction -- thus far. Their coming performances against LSU, Florida, and Auburn could and should show us that they're the 2nd best team in College Football. Nonetheless, we predict they lose to Alabama in the SEC Title game. We believe Oklahoma and Clemson will both suffer upsets before the playoffs, however, so a Georgia team whose only loss is to #1 Alabama will have earned the #4 spot with but a few objections (from UCF fans, no doubt).

What-ifs:

(1) If Oklahoma OR Clemson finish 13-0, but not the other, then the undefeated team would replace Georgia by virtue of the Bulldogs' hypothetical loss to Alabama in the SEC Title Game.

(2) If Oklahoma AND Clemson BOTH finish 13-0, then Oklahoma will take the #4 spot and Clemson will be left out due to a lesser strength of schedule and a sloppy ACC this season.
                     

Comment on Clemson: Playing in front of a boisterous home crowd in Death Valley, Clemson miraculously survived a competitive Syracuse team (who previously upset the Tigers in the 2017 season at the Carrier Dome) because of an excellent 4th Quarter performance by Clemson's 3rd-string Quarterback, Chase Brice, and Running Back Travis Etienne. Even with a win, however, the Tigers' weaknesses have been exposed for the world to see. If their remaining opponents can effectively abuse Clemson's weak secondary, even an unranked ACC team has a shot at knocking Clemson out of contention for the playoffs.
                                  

10/01/2018

Kansas City Chiefs 27, Denver Broncos 23.

Down 10 points in the 4th Quarter, Patrick Mahomes led the Kansas City Chiefs to a stunning victory on Monday in the Mile High Stadium of Denver. This brings Kansas City to a 4-0 record, tied with the Los Angeles Rams as the only undefeated teams in the NFL.

While the Chiefs defense has much to improve upon if they are to maintain the team's trajectory throughout the season, Kansas City currently leads the Western Division of the AFC by two games.
                                  

9/29/2018

#8 Notre Dame 38, #7 Stanford 17. (See Commentary below.)

Missouri (did not play)

Kansas 28, Oklahoma State 48.

Kansas State 14, #18 Texas 19.


Vince Milum on the Notre Dame Victory: As my sources indicated to me before the game --- and which I published in advance, Jafar Armstrong did not play due to an infected knee. I have subsequently been informed that he is scheduled to have surgery on that knee -- to address the issue -- and that he is likely to miss two more games. Now on to the core issues...

Let's start with an evaluation of me and two cornerstones of my pre-game analysis. I intelligently perceived that the last-minute pre-game loss of ND all-purpose back Jafar Armstrong would have an impact on the game. What I unintelligently FAILED to perceive (or anticipate) was how well his newly-activated replacement -- Dexter Williams -- would play. I will do a little breakdown of what I saw on Saturday in a moment but first some grades:

Vince Milum: I give myself a D+ as I was pretty much on the mark for most of the first half but the closing drive of the first half by Notre Dme and the entire second half prove to me that I vastly underestimated how well the Irish would play.

Coaching: But for some dangerously stupid timeouts by Coach Kelly near the end of the first half (when Stanford had the ball and the Irish were on defense), I would have given the coaching staff an A+. Because of the timeouts, I give them an A-. Both the offensive and defensive game plans were just what the doctor ordered and electing to place offensive standout Chase Claypool on Special Teams (as well as offense) is looking absolutely brilliant.

Offense: A look "inside the numbers" in a subsequent section will explain why the Irish offense earned themselves an A+. For now... While Jews "pray for the peace of Jerusalem," my advice to Irish Catholics who want continued success is to "Pray for the Health of Ian Book!" (How important is Ian to the revived Irish Empire? Let me put it to you this way... Should Ian stay healthy and ND "win out," I have him penciled in as my "dark-horse" Heisman winner.)

Defense: Remember that pre-game gibberish I wrote about the uber-talent Stanford had at running back and their tight-ends? Me neither! Just kidding, the Stanford players are that good -- they just had the misfortune of meeting multiple ND defenders who descended from Mount Olympus shortly before kickoff. Tillery was a pass-rush stud, Tranquill -- in one play -- demonstrated how to "form tackle" and how to breakup a pass. Coney made a beautiful interception (and nearly "took it the house"). In short, all 11+ starters and key reserves who played defensively are worthy of praise but I am space-limited in so doing. So, please forgive me, fellas. The best I can do is to give all of you an A+.

Special Teams: Justin Yoon made a 37-yard field goal and all of his extra points. His lone miscue was a narrow-miss of a 50-yard field goal attempt which was "absorbed" by a breeze which wasn't sure which way it wanted to blow. Again, Tyler Newsome punted well (though I can only recall him having to do so once or twice). Kickoff specialist Jonathan Doerer did well with most of his kicks either non-returnable or returned to no greater than the 25 yard line (which is where non-returned kicks are placed). As I eluded to before, Canadian Chase Claypool is a superman on special teams coverage. Overall, I am torn between a B+ and an A- for special teams. Because special teams helped enable a 21-point victory over a higher-ranked team that has beaten the Irish three games in a row, I am going with an A-.

Offensive Numbers: Ian Book was 24 of 33 for 278 yards and four touchdown passes against no interceptions or fumbles. Miles Boykin caught 11* passes for 144 yards (*the most since All-American Michael Floyd). And newly-activated Dexter Williams ran 21 times for 161 yards, including a 45-yard touchdown on his very first carry of the season. Notre Dame's total offensive yardage was an incredible 550 against a top ten opponent.

One Last Grade: This was a tough loss for Stanford. Do not let the score fool you -- Stanford is a very good team. Usually, however, when very good teams lose by a wide margin, they become menacing acts of undiscipline. Credit Stanford Coach David Shaw and the entire Stanford team for maintaining their sportsmanship throughout the game and even into the locker room and post-game press conference. For this, I am awarding Stanford and Shaw an A+ for class -- you are a credit to yourselves and those you represent.
                                  

9/27/2018

A Milum Sports Video Special:
Ian Book Takes The Fighting Irish PLUS ULTRA

Video Production by Parker Milum


                                  

9/27/2018

Ron Worley's Wondrous Predictions - Week 5
By Ron Worley

Last week 3 - 4 (My upset picks did not happen)
Season 29 - 10

Week #5, Big-12 Conference Games (Plus Mizzou) Only. I don't expect any upsets this week.

Oklahoma State (3-1) @ Kansas (2-2). OSU is not as good as I thought BUT KU is just not good, period. I think OSU by 17. But nice fall day for a game.

#18 Texas (3-1) @ Kansas State (2-2). Texas looks impressive in its last two wins. KSU has beaten ranked Texas teams in past years but, again would be happy to be wrong but I think this Texas team is 14 points better than KSU, even at home. Also a nice fall day game but not one KSU fans will enjoy.

#12 West Virginia (3-0) @ #25 Texas Tech (3-1). This looks like a high score close game. I think WV remains undefeated with a not impressive road win by 10.

Baylor (3-1) @ #6 Oklahoma (4-0). Baylor is not very good but OU needs to refocus after a near loss last week. I think OU wins by 21 to stay undefeated and in national discussion.

Iowa State (1-2) @ TCU (2-2). A must win game for TCU at home. I think the Frogs do win by more than the 10 point line. My guess is by 17-21.

MU (3-1) plays next on Oct. 6th.
                                  

9/28/2018

Addendum to ND - Stanford Review and Prediction: Late-Breaking News -- Notre Dame Running Back Jafar Armstrong will miss Saturday's game against Stanford due to a knee infection, per Tim Prister of Irish Illustrated. Milum: Jafar is arguably ND's best offensive weapon. Accordingly, I revise my prediction to a Stanford Victory 24-21.
                                  

9/27/2018

Vince Milum's Quick-Look at the upcoming Football Game between the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the Stanford Indians / Cardinals (plural) / Cardinal (singular) / Trees (it takes too long to explain) / Milum : Oh, grow up with this mascot stuff, will you, Stanford?:

Irish Offense: In Christianity, the history of mankind is divided between BC (Before Christ) and AD (the term "anno Domini" is Medieval Latin and means "in the year of the Lord"). For the Fighting Irish, this season is (thus far) a 3-to-1 ratio of BW (Brandon Wimbush) and IB (Ian Book) with the Ian Book era (at quarterback) looking much more divine -- albeit only one game (thus far) in duration.

So, here is the obvious part of the Irish offensive equation: the more successful Ian is -- assuming he starts and is not injured in the game -- the more successful the Irish will be. This means up-tempo play, balanced passing and running (with all three major running backs -- including newly activated, Dexter Williams -- getting meaningful snaps) (and with at least five different receivers catching passes).

Irish Defense: Stanford has arguably the best running back in college football, two of the best tight ends in college football (who are tall / very tall), and one of the best quarterbacks in college football, as well as good receivers and a good offensive line. In other words, there are no defenders for the Irish who can afford to play anything but an outstanding game.

ND Special Teams: Last week, Tyler Newsome and Justin Yoon did their jobs but, because of ND finally scoring touchdowns, Tyler had little punting to do and Justin was relegated to only kicking extra points. What stood out most was the 50+ yard return by Chris Finke and an intelligent fair-catch by Chris. Steady special-teams play is especially necessary this week.

Prediction: The betting line opened with the Irish favored by 2.5 points (basically home field advantage). As I write this on Thursday, ND is favored by 5.5 points.

Because I foresee ND either playing very well (across the board) -or- struggling (across the board), I am offering a bifurcated prediction.

If Notre Dame plays very well, they will win 35-24. If the Irish struggle, they will lose 38-19. I see both outcomes as equally likely. So, I will resolve this dilemma by canceling out these two outcomes, call it a tie, and say...

Notre Dame wins by a field goal, 24-21 -- thanks to home field advantage -- but by a narrower margin than the current betting line.
                                  

9/23/2018

Kansas City Chiefs 38, San Francisco 49ers 27.

Patrick Mahomes throws five touchdowns passes for the Chiefs on Sunday and sets a New NFL Record for the most in the first three weeks of the season with thirteen.
                                  

9/22/2018

#8 Notre Dame 56, Wake Forest 27. (See Commentary below.)

Missouri 29, #2 Georgia 43.

Kansas 7, Baylor 26.

Kansas State 6, #12 West Virginia 35.

Army 21, #5 Oklahoma 28 in Overtime.


Vince Milum on the Notre Dame Victory: As my sources indicated to me before the game --- and which I published in advance, Ian Book did make the start for the Irish and he looked absolutely terrific throwing two touchdowns (against no interceptions) and running for three more scores.

The Irish were improved in all areas including special teams where Punt-Returner Chris Finke not only learned what a fair catch was, he also returned one for over 50 yards.

About the only thing the Irish FAILED to do this weekend (per my pre-game look) was for their Defense to play four quarters and that was because -- before the third quarter ended -- the Irish were playing nearly all reserves -- and that was as a matter of choice! Prior to the playing of its reserves, ND's first team defense held the up-tempo, high-octane Wake Forest offense to a mere 13 points.

As for the Irish offense, as I predicted Notre Dame did indeed achieve their highest point total of the season (though I underestimated it would be 35 points).

Rather than belabor the all-around excellent play of the Irish, let me just give some grades...

Offense AND Ian Book BOTH get A+.

Defense gets an A+.

Special Teams gets an A- with a small deduction for a "running into the kicker penalty" after a missed field goal by Wake Forest.

Coaching gets an A+ for (a) choosing to start Book, (b) having Book prepared, (c) spreading the ball around to ND's offensive playmakers thus forcing Wake Forest to constantly have to "pick its poison" when defending the Irish, (d) a superb game plan by the defensive coaching staff (matched by outstanding play by the Irish defensive personnel), and (e) the decision by Kelly and Company to not only match, but to exceed the up-tempo nature of Wake's offense by the Irish offense. This last one caught me off-guard and proved how well the strength and conditioning coaches have been doing their jobs -- particularly in the off-season.

In summary, I give an overall grade of A+ to the Irish -- in particular because ND finally got their reserves some important game experience before the tough game this Saturday against Stanford.
                                  

9/20/2018

Vince Milum's Quick-Look at the upcoming Football Game between the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the Wake Forest Demon Deacons:

Irish Defense -- Can They Last for Four Quarters?: Wake Forest runs (possibly) the most up-tempo offense in college football. 100+ plays by the WF offense are possible this weekend. This will tire the ND defense (especially given the predicted heat and humidity) and will prevent the Irish from rotating personnel as much as they would like. Expect Coney and Tranquill to tire early.

The principle way to slow the WF offense is for the Irish defense to feign injuries. We'll see if Kelly decides to go this route. Another way to reduce the number of plays for the Irish defense, is for the Irish offense to maintain control of the football. In other words, (few or preferably) no "three-and-outs."

Irish Offense: Brandon and the fellas made great strides last week everywhere but where it counts most -- on the scoreboard. Because of this recurring pattern of failing to adequately score and complete games, there is a (possibly) significant late-breaking development...

Per Tim Prister of Irish Illustrated: "Some gamesmanship going on at Notre Dame as [in his Thursday press conference] Brian Kelly refuses to name a starting QB for Wake Forest. [He] would only say both (Brandon Wimbush and Ian Book) will play."

Per Irish beat-writer Pete Sampson: "Asked from the reps between Brandon Wimbush and Ian Book in practice, Brian Kelly says it's been closer to 50-50 than his usual 60-40."

If the offense -- irrespective of the starting quarterback -- can finish its drives consistently, they may be able to score 30 or more points.

ND Special Teams: Last week, Tyler Newsome delivered one of the greatest performances ever for an NCAA punter and was the best in Irish history. Even a close second of last week's performance would greatly enhance the Irish chances for victory as would another steady performance from placekicker Justin Yoon. Significant improvement was also made on the kick-off front for the Irish. Still lacking are the kickoff return and punt return teams. Improvement is needed this weekend from both.

Prediction: 35 to 31 Notre Dame beats Wake Forest (which is narrower than the opening eight-point betting-spread in favor of the Irish).
                                  

Milum Sports™ is proud to announce the newest member of the Milum Sports Team, Ron Worley. The following is Ron's initial article for us...

9/20/2018

Worley's World of Wondrous Predictions
By Ron Worley

Last Week 6 - 3
Season 26 - 6

Week #4

KSU (2-1) @ #12 West Virginia (2-0). Like to be wrong but this is a hard road win for anyone. Wildcat defense is not able to keep the score low enough for the offense to win it.

Kansas (2-1) @ Baylor (2-1). If KU wins a Big 12 game this season this may be it. Jayhawks get another road win in a mild upset. Baylor looked less than good in loss to Duke.

Akron (2-0) @ Iowa State (0-2). This will not be a walkover but ISU at last gets a win after a rainout and 2 defeats.

#17 TCU (2-1) @ Texas (2-1). Texas looked good in win over USC last week. This could be close but Frogs must win to stay in Conf. title chase and they do win by 10.

Army (2-1) @ #5 Oklahoma (3-0). Well, 60 years ago in 1958 this would have been the game of the season. Today it's just another 30 point win for the Sooners.

Texas Tech (2-1) @ #15 Oklahoma State (3-0). OSU defense "holds" T/T to 35 and Cowboys win by 10. P.S. The o/u is 80, you call it.

#2 Georgia (3-0) @ Missouri (3-0). BIG game for MU, not so much so for Georgia. Tigers win home game for the upset of the week!
                                  

9/16/2018

Chiefs 42, Pittsburgh Steelers 37
                                  

9/15/2018 Outstanding Day for Milum Sports Favorites...

Division I

Notre Dame 22, Vanderbilt 17 (See the following article for more info)

Kansas 55, Rutgers 14

Missouri 40, Purdue 37

Kansas State 41, UT San Antonio 17

Army 28, Hawaii 21

Navy 51, Lehigh 21

Air Force (Did Not Play)

Division II

Northwest Missouri State 63, Missouri Southern 0.
                                  

Vince Milum on ND: Despite the low margin of victory, my past criticisms, and the hand-wringing by unsophisticated pundits after the game, Notre Dame actually played pretty well and, in fact, very inspired at times -- particularly the rushing of Tony Jones, the punting of Tyler Newsome, and (to these eyes, the most inspiring) the play of the Notre Dame secondary.

So, what accounts for the close score?

From where I sat, the failure of the referees to call egregious holding of Notre Dame pass rushers by the Vanderbilt offensive line. Had the ND pass rush not been "illegally" impeded, the Irish victory would have been much more comfortable.

Milum's Key Takeaways: Although the score does not reflect it, I thought the ND offensive play-calling was much better against Vanderbilt (than last week against Ball State). I thought the offensive execution was improved -- both at the so-called "skill positions" as well as along the offensive line. The "positive plays" by the Notre Dame defensive backs were among the best I have ever witnessed as a college football fan. The linebackers (in particular Te'von Coney and Drue Tranquill) continue to impress and the defensive line gets a "pass" because they were cheated by the referees. Despite the quality play of the offense and defense, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the Irish Punter Newsome got the Game Ball as I chose him as my "Player of the Game."
                                  

9/13/2018

Vince Milum's Quick-Look at the upcoming Football Game between the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the Vanderbilt Commodores:

Fixing Last Week's Biggest Problem: Based on the pressure Ball State placed on ND's Offensive Line (all game) last week -- BOTH up the middle AND on the edges, one solution (that will likely escape the ND coaching staff) is to tighten the offensive line splits AND to bring in ("Big Men") Boykin and Claypool as pseudo-tight ends who can help "rub" outside pressure before beginning their pass patterns (thus giving the Irish Quarterback -- presumably Wimbush -- more time to drop back and survey the field).

Weather: Mostly Sunny with Temps in the Low (to possibly Mid) 80s with Wind playing little to no factor.

Irish Injury Report (UPDATED): As I write this, two players will be unavailable for the Irish...

(1): As was discussed in my post-game write-up last week, ND Starting Tight End Cole Kmet was Injured Late in the Ball State Game when he should have been on the bench enjoying a Big Victory. Per Angelo DiCarlo of 95.7 Redeemer Sports, "Brian Kelly says tight end Cole Kmet is out for Saturday's game vs Vandy with a high ankle sprain." (Though out for this game, that leaves open the possibility that he did NOT sustain a season-ending injury as previously believed and thus may be available later in the season.)

(2) Per Eric Hansen of the South Bend Tribune, "Brian Kelly [also] said Rover Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah suffered a broken foot this week and is out for the year."

Prediction: Despite Their Poor Performance Last Week against Ball State, Notre Dame opened up as a 14.5 Betting Favorite against Vanderbilt. As I write this, ND is currently (little-changed at) a 14 point favorite. In light of the incompetence ND displayed last week, I believe being a single-digit favorite is more appropriate. (In fact, ND won both its first two games by only one score.) Being optimistic, I'll say the Irish win by nine, thus marking their first victory of the year by more than one score (albeit by the smallest margin of victory to do so):

30 to 21 Notre Dame beats Vanderbilt
                                  

9/9/2018

Kansas City Chiefs 38, Los Angeles Chargers 28.
                                  


9/8/2018

Notre Dame 24, Ball State 16. (See below for Vince Milum commentary)

Missouri 40, Wyoming 13.

Kansas 31, Central Michigan 7.

Kansas State 10, Mississippi State 31.
                                  

9/8/2018

Notre Dame Performs Poorly in 24-16 victory over Ball State; Unless Radical Changes Occur for the Irish, the National Title is now a Moot Point

By Vince Milum

In my September 6th write-up BEFORE the Notre Dame versus Ball State football game, I listed five broad outcome potentials. By winning by only one score (8 points = touchdown + two-point conversion) Notre Dame "achieved" the dubious distinction of a "non-catastrophic failure." (See the original write-up below.) Further, because they almost lost this game, ND FAILED to get adequate playing time for their Reserves and it appears their starting tight end (Cole Kmet) is lost for the season due to an injury sustained late in the game when he should have been relaxing on the bench with his buddies.

While I am about to excoriate a number of individuals, it should be noted that Clark Lea, Notre Dame's Defensive Coordinator, did have his men ready to play, and overall, I would grade the Irish Defense a B+ for their effort. The score (of B+) could / would have been higher but -- thanks to an inept Irish offense -- the ND Defense was on the field for 97 plays and made some tired miscues.

Now for Excoriation Time...

Between Head Coach Brian Kelly, Offensive Coordinator Chip Long, and Starting Quarterback Brandon Wimbush, there was conceived a BAD Game Plan and a Purposeful / Bullheaded Intent to Stick With It Despite Its Not Working (in the case of the coaches) -OR- a GOOD Game Plan and a Purposeful / Bullheaded Intent to Ignore It by Wimbush Who Chose Instead to be a Reincarnation of Johnny Unitas (by playing drop-back passer instead of the master of the pass-run option) against a savage Ball State rush that would have none of his reinvention. (The Numbers: While Wimbush did throw for 297 yards, he also threw three interceptions which cost the Irish to lose points on drives that appeared to be headed for the end zone.)

As we publish this story (after having watched several post-game interviews)...

My guess -- and, at this moment, it is only a guess (albeit an educated one) -- is that the coaches came up with a BAD Game Plan and tried to change it (during the game) but that Wimbush was fixated on the original plan. In other words -- plenty of fault to go around.

Of course, it would have helped had the Irish had a quality backup who could have come into the game to replace Wimbush, but...

Oh, that's right. Ian Book, who rescued Wimbush and the Irish in January's Citrus Bowl, was ready, willing, and eager to do the same against Ball State -- but the Great Visionaries who don't recognize the obvious, refused to put him in. (So, how has Ian done this year? Although the coaches have not allowed him to pass, he has deftly handed off three times -- each handoff resulting in a touchdown!)

Grading the Offense: After the game, Wimbush gave himself a "D+." From what I saw, the Wimbush-led offense deserves a D- given the level of competition AND for how long they made the Irish defense be on the field.

Addendum to Grading the Offense: Although I have focused on Wimbush and the Coaching Staff, I cannot emphasize enough how poorly the ND offensive line play appears to me -- both against Ball State (this weekend) and last week against Michigan. For that reason alone, I think it is foolish for Irish fans to contemplate a national championship. If I was to assign a grade for this past week to the offensive line alone, it too would be a D- because, although they did set up a few decent runs, they made a below-average Ball State defense appear to be "gods" throughout most of the game. An offensive line that cannot dominate Ball State is an offensive line that may even prevent Notre Dame from having a winning season.

Summation on the Offensive Line: Either the current line needs to dramatically improve its play -OR- it is (near) time to try some new guys.

Next, let's review the so-called "Special Teams."

The ND kickoff man, Jonathan Doere, (who gave up a kickoff return for touchdown in week one) kicked another one out-of-bounds this week (like he did last week), place-kicker Justin Yoon was one for two, and Chris Finke not only appears to think that there is some rule that you must allow a punt to bounce at least once before fielding it, but then you MUST field it after it bounces so you can test the chances of you not fumbling it (which he appeared to do at least once though no call was made). Note to Chris: There is this provision in both college and pro football that allows one to "fair catch" a punt, thus preserving field position and protecting one's self from getting hit. As for a Special Teams Grade, I am giving them a C-. But, my grade would have been D+ had the officials ruled one of Finke's punt-fielding attempts a fumble.

Recipe(s) for going forward:

Except for their exhaustion due to how long they had to play and the inability to play a number of reserves -- all thanks to the Irish offense and coaching staff on Saturday -- the Irish defense appears ready for next week against Vanderbilt.

As for special teams, Justin Yoon will never be great but he is fairly reliable, Chris Finke needs to field balls while they are in the air, and Jonathan Doere needs more exposure before large crowds which will only come with time (but there may not be any unless the ND offense makes a miraculous turnaround).

The solution for the Irish offense seems to be obvious to everyone but Brian Kelly -- Give Ian a Chance! However, since logic has little hope of prevailing here, let me try one alternative that even Kelly might consider. "Tommy" Rees was a pretty good quarterback not long ago at Notre Dame. Even Kelly knows that -- so much so that Kelly's quarterbacks coach is "Tom" Rees (the same guy just a slight change in how he is addressed). Purportedly, Rees has a good working relationship with Wimbush (as well as Ian Book). But, up until now, Rees has been up in the coaches' box during games.

I propose that Kelly bring Rees down to the sideline for (at least) the first half of the Vanderbilt game where he (Rees) can perform the equivalent role of a "horse whisperer" to Wimbush by calming him (Wimbush) down, reassuring him, and talking over with him (Wimbush) any issues he might be having during the Vanderbilt game.

Again, my main offensive solution is to start Ian Book at quarterback but, given the unlikeliness of that happening (thanks to Kelly's stubbornness), my next-best option is to put Rees on the sideline to work with Wimbush during the game.

-END
                                  

9/6/2018

Vince Milum's Projections for the upcoming Football Game between the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the Ball State Cardinals:

Here is my margin-of-victory analysis for this coming weekend.

Notre Dame opened as a 39.5 betting favorite and the line was soon bet down to 34.5 where it has remained for several days. But remember, this is a betting line -- not, necessarily, a prognosticator's projection of victory margin.

Now for my analytical prognostication with multiple contingencies...

(1) If Notre Dame loses to Ball State, this will be (near) catastrophic for the Irish (and, perhaps, for Kelly's job security).

(2) If the Irish win by 16 or less, it will be considered a non-catastrophic failure by the Irish.

(3) A win by the Irish by 17-23 points will be deemed acceptable.

(4) If the Irish win by 24-29 points AND* get in plenty of their Reserves, the game will be deemed a success.

(5) If the Irish win by 30 or more AND* get in plenty of their Reserves, the game will be deemed a great success.

*If the Irish FAIL to get in plenty of Reserves, this will signficantly limit the long-term strength of the Irish.

My Prediction (assuming decent weather and no significant Irish injuries): Notre Dame by 18 with some (but not enough) use of Reserves.
                                  

9/1/2018

The 2018 Football Season is upon us and Milum Sports is here to bring you the coverage.

We will be getting up to full speed soon but, for now, here are the scores of the games our fans are most interested in from Week 1 of the College Football Season...

Notre Dame 24, Michigan 17.

Missouri 51, Tennessee-Martin 14.

Kansas 23, Nicholls State 26.

Kansas State 27, South Dakota 24.


NOTE 1: MoKan Division 2 Coverage Begins About Midseason once contenders are identified.

NOTE 2: For season-ending coverage of the 2017-2018 College Basketball and Hockey Seasons, CLICK HERE.
     

     

 

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