Blue and Gold Illustrated

June July 2018

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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Page 34 of 63 JUNE/JULY 2018 35 Ball State (2-10) — Sept. 8 Top Three Items Since January • Ball State ended 2017 on a nine- game losing streak under head coach Mike Neu, who is entering his third season at Muncie, Ind. • The Cardinals are projected to finish last in the six-team West Divi- sion of the Mid-American Conference (MAC) again. The team that finished fifth last year in the division, Central Michigan, beat Ball State 56-9. • Among 129 Football Bowl Sub- division teams in 2017, Ball State fin- ished 121st in scoring offense (17.9 points per game) and 124th in scoring defense (40.7 points surrendered per game). The good news is quarterback Riley Neal and running back James Gilbert, who rushed for 1,332 yards in 2016, are back after getting sidelined the final nine games of 2017 with in- juries. Notable Stat BSU lost its last seven MAC games by an average of 47-13, while allowing at least 55 points five times in that span. Summary The game was scheduled to provide a breather, a la UMass in 2015 (62-24), Nevada in 2016 (39-10) and Miami (Ohio) last year (52-17). Vanderbilt (5-7) — Sept. 15 Top Three Items Since January • Fifth-year head coach Derek Ma- son, who coached defense at Stanford from 2010-13, has finished 3-9, 4-8, 6-7 and 5-7 his first four seasons. Prede- cessor James Franklin had back-to- back 9-4 campaigns in 2011 and 2012 while finishing in the Associated Press poll both times. • Mason is relinquishing defensive play-calling duties to new coordina- tor Jason Tarver, who held that post at Stanford in 2011 and with the Oakland Raiders from 2012-14, and was senior defensive assistant for the San Fran- cisco 49ers from 2015-17. • The entire starting offensive line returns for quarterback Kyle Shurmur, whose 26 touchdown passes last sea- son were a school record. Notable Stat Only four starters return on a de- fense that allowed 43.3 points per game during a 1-7 season in the SEC. Summary Vanderbilt is projected to finish last (seventh) in the SEC East. With a vet- eran line and quarterback, the offense could keep the Commodores competi- tive, but the defense is laden with con- cerns, despite Mason's background on that side of the ball. At Wake Forest (8-5) — Sept. 22 Top Three Items Since January • Replacing a four-year starting quarterback — the highly efficient John Wolford — was a top priority. The front-runner is dual-threat Ken- dall Hinton, who has passed for 1,502 yards and rushed for 705 during his college career. • Offense is expected to remain a strength with the return of all five starting linemen, USA Today Fresh- man All-American wideout Greg Dortch (53 catches, including nine touchdowns), who played only eight games before getting injured, and run- ning back Matt Colburn (904 yards, 5.4 yards per carry last season). • The defense that brought Notre Dame its two most recent coordina- tors — Mike Elko in 2017 and now Clark Lea in 2018 — took a step back last year, finishing 112th in to- tal defense (457.3 yards allowed per contest) and 76th in scoring defense (28.3 points given up per game, in- cluding 37.0 in its last nine). It also lost its top two playmakers in safety Jessie Bates III (a second-round pick) and end Duke Ejiofor (a sixth-round choice). Notable Stat Last year the Demon Deacons set a single-season school record in points per game (35.3, including 37 at Notre Dame) and total offense (465.8 yards per outing). Summary Fifth-year head coach Dave Claw- son has established himself as a program builder at several schools, including the first-eight-win cam- paign with a bowl win at Wake Forest since 2008. Getting to .500 and a third straight bowl could result in some major offers. Stanford (9-5) — Sept. 29 Top Three Items Since January • After coordinating the Stan- ford offense from 2013-17, Mike Bloomgren was named head coach at Rice and was replaced by Tavita Pritchard, who was a quarterback for the Cardinal in 2006-09 and has been on the staff since 2010. • Heisman Trophy runner-up Bryce Love (2,118 rushing yards, 8.1 yards per carry and 19 touchdowns last year) sat out the spring because of an injury, and so did starting quarterback K.J. Costello (14-of-22 passing for 176 yards with four touchdowns in the win versus Notre Dame last Novem- ber) and his backup, Davis Mills. That earned walk-on Jack Richardson a lot of reps — and a scholarship. • Last year's defense had the worst overall showing at the program since 2010, although the opponent scoring average of 22.7 points per game was still a decent 34th nationally. More pronounced was the No. 68 ranking versus the run (169.0 yards allowed per game) — and that was with third- round NFL Draft pick Harrison Phil- lips' dominant presence up front. The Cardinal also must replace secondary standouts Justin Reid and Quenton Meeks. Notable Stat Stanford finished No. 4 nationally last year in turnover margin (com- mitting only 15 while forcing 31 for a plus-1.14 per game). Summary Head coach David Shaw has com- piled an extraordinary 73-22 (.768 winning percentage) ledger at Stan- ford, and the Cardinal is 7-2 against Notre Dame since 2009, winning the last three. This preseason it is ranked No. 13 by Street & Smith's, No. 14 by ESPN and No. 18 by Athlon, not far behind where the Irish are projected. Virginia Tech (9-4) — Oct. 6 Top Three Items Since January • Despite the presence of vener- ated defensive coordinator Bud Fos- ter, who has been at Virginia Tech since 1987 and the coordinator since 1995, that side of the ball is rebuilding with the loss of seven starters. Among them are linebacker Tremaine Ed- munds and safety Terrell Edmunds, the first pair of brothers to be selected in the first round of the NFL Draft in the same year. • The seven returning starters on offense are headlined by quarterback Josh Jackson, who as a redshirt fresh- man last year accounted for 2,991 passing yards and 20 touchdowns tosses. • Third-year head coach Justin Fuente finished 10-4 his first year and 9-4 last season, and preseason rank- ings so far have the Hokies No. 14 in ESPN and No. 16 by both Athlon and Street & Smith's.

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