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COLLEGE FOOTBALL 2013 PRESEASON TOP 25

#10

NATIONAL FORECAST

#10

Independent PREDICTION

#1

HEAD COACH: Brian Kelly, 28-11 (3 years) | OFF. COORDINATOR: Chuck Martin | DEF. COORDINATOR: Bob Diaco, Kerry Cooks

OFFENSE

The Fighting Irish offense was dealt a huge setback in late May, as quarterback Everett Golson was suspended from the team for the 2013 season due to academic issues. Veteran Tommy Rees will assume the top spot on the depth chart, but Andrew Hendrix and true freshman Malik Zaire should have an opportunity to push for playing time in the fall.

While losing Golson is a huge setback, Notre Dame returns three-fifths of the starting offensive line from ’12, and some exciting young skill position players.

Notre Dame scored 22 points or less in regulation in eight of its 12 victories. Most of their problems stemmed from a 48.3 touchdown percentage in the red zone (which ranked 112th in the nation).

The Irish lost 304 carries, 1,659 yards rushing, and nine TDs with the graduation of Theo Riddick and Cierre Wood. But junior George Atkinson III leads a pack of talented young backs.

Senior TJ Jones, who caught 50 passes for 649 yards, headlines a young receiving corps that will have to increase its production to help offset the loss of tight end Tyler Eifert. Sophomore DaVaris Daniels will have a prominent role.

The offensive line will be a strength. Left tackle Zack Martin is back for a final year of eligibility after projecting as a second-round NFL pick.

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DEFENSE

It’s rare that Notre Dame boasts NFL talent along the defensive line, which is a big reason why the Irish hadn’t competed for a national title in nearly two decades. But with juniors Louis Nix III at nose guard and Stephon Tuitt at left end, the Irish are capable of dominating at the point of attack.

Linebacker Manti Te’o will no doubt be missed, but his replacement, Jarrett Grace, is the type of downhill run-stopper with size that defensive coordinator Bob Diaco covets.

The Irish secondary is deep and talented. Matthias Farley, a former wide receiver, is the leader of a solid group of safeties that also includes sophomore Elijah Shumate and freshman 5-star prospect Max Redfield. Notre Dame struck gold last year with first-time cornerback starters Bennett Jackson and KeiVarae Russell. Lo Wood is back after missing last season with an Achilles injury.

Key Player

Tommy Rees, QB – With Everett Golson suspended for 2013, Rees will assume the starting spot under center. Rees has 18 starts and 4,413 passing yards in his career.

Louis Nix III, NG – The proverbial immovable object in the middle of the line holds the point of attack as well as any nose guard in the country.

Stephon Tuitt, DE – Despite battling a sports hernia the second half of the season, he still led the Irish in sacks with 12.

Schedule

SPECIALISTS

Kyle Brindza started the 2012 campaign as the backup to Nick Tausch, who waited his turn as David Ruffer ran roughshod over the Irish kicking record book in ’11. But Tausch suffered an injury before the second game, and Brindza stepped in and set a school record with 23 field goals. Alex Wulfeck, a senior transfer from Wake Forest, is in line to take over the punting duties.

FINAL ANALYSIS

All the stars aligned last year for the Irish — at least, until they ran into Alabama. They were 5–0 in games decided by one score, and they went from a horrid minus-15 turnover ratio in 2011 to a more desirable plus-8. The Irish caught some breaks and created the ones they didn’t.

The 2012 defense was the best at Notre Dame since the 1966 national championship squad. Even with the loss of Te’o, the inside linebacker corps is solid, and in Nix and Tuitt up front, the Irish have a couple of future NFL performers.

It is conceivable that the Irish could be as good if not better in more facets of the game in 2013 but fail to duplicate last year’s magical, unscathed run to the national title game. The Irish face another challenging schedule that includes Michigan, Michigan State, Oklahoma, Arizona State, USC, Pittsburgh, BYU and Stanford.

The Irish are a deeper team with a year of success upon which to build. Anything shy of 10 wins will be a disappointment.

 

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL 2012 PRESEASON TOP 25

#7

NATIONAL FORECAST

#7

PAC-12 North PREDICTION

#2

HEAD COACH: David Shaw, 23-4 (2 years) | OFF. COORDINATOR: Mike Bloomgren | DEF. COORDINATOR: Derek Mason

OFFENSE

Stanford relies on its power running game to set up play-action in its pro-style attack. Replacing departed tailback Stepfan Taylor, a three-time 1,000-yard rusher, is a huge priority. Seniors Anthony Wilkerson and Tyler Gaffney look to be the top options. Gaffney is back with the team after a one-year stint in professional baseball.

Whoever wins the job — and don’t rule out a by-committee approach — will be running behind one of the best offensive lines in the nation. With four of five starters returning, including consensus All-American David Yankey, Stanford will continue its ground-and-pound approach.

Directing the offense will be sophomore Kevin Hogan, who went 5–0 as a starter — with four of the five wins coming against top-25 teams — after taking over for Josh Nunes last season. Hogan is a dual-threat who rushed for 263 yards on 55 attempts.

With so much emphasis on the running game combined with the heavy use of tight ends in the passing attack, the wide receiver position hasn’t been too productive at Stanford in recent years. In 2012, true wideouts accounted for only 33 percent of Stanford’s receptions, with the rest going to backs, tight ends and fullbacks. Junior Ty Montgomery is the only wideout with legitimate game experience. Montgomery showed explosiveness as a true freshman in 2011, when he averaged 14.6 yards on 24 catches, but he was slowed by injuries in 2012 (8.2 yards on 26 catches).

Tight ends accounted for 39 percent of the passing production last year, headlined by unanimous All-American Zach Ertz and his 69 catches. With Ertz and Levine Toilolo jumping early to the NFL Draft, Luke Kaumatule is next in line to be the No. 1 tight end target.

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DEFENSE

Stanford’s aggressive 3-4 scheme, which ranked No. 1 nationally last year in sacks, second in tackles for a loss and fifth against the run, returns many of the stars who made 2012’s edition one of the best in the country. The front seven should feature three preseason first-team All-Pac-12 picks — outside linebacker Trent Murphy, inside backer Shayne Skov and defensive end Ben Gardner.

The strength of the defense could be the secondary. Ed Reynolds and Jordan Richards form possibly the top safety duo in the country. Reynolds hauled in six interceptions last year and returned three of them for scores. While Reynolds had the picks, Richards roamed centerfield as one of the most dangerous hitters in the league. 

Key Player

Kevin Hogan, QB – Hogan won at Oregon, which should tell you something about how he handles pressure. Threw only one INT in last four games.

Shayne Skov, ILB – Will be almost two years removed from torn ACL and should be one of the best at his position in the country.

David Yankey, LG – All-American moves back to his natural position on what should be an elite offensive line.

Schedule

SPECIALISTS

Kicker Jordan Williamson, who took some flak for his performance in the Fiesta Bowl two years ago, traveled the road to redemption in 2012, hitting a clutch field goal in overtime to beat Oregon and then drilling a pair of field goals in the Rose Bowl. Ben Rhyne looks to be top candidate to replace Daniel Zychlinski at punter.

FINAL ANALYSIS

Expectations have never been higher for Stanford and David Shaw, the Pac-12’s Coach of the Year in both 2011 and ’12. What Jim Harbaugh, Toby Gerhart and Andrew Luck started, Shaw has taken to the next level by leading the Cardinal to the 2012 Pac-12 championship — the school’s first since 1999 — and topping Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl.

The Cardinal will once again be in the hunt for the Pac-12 title, thanks to their run-based pro-style offense that grinds out yards and a defense that has been among the best in the league in recent years.

The schedule is not easy. Stanford hosts Oregon but has to play three of the best teams in the Pac-12 South — Arizona State, USC and UCLA. The Nov. 7 date with Oregon could determine both teams’ championship fate. 

 

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The Debate

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