Blue and Gold Illustrated

June July 2018

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

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Page 36 of 63 JUNE/JULY 2018 37 Notable Stat Last year Northwestern became the first team ever to win three consecu- tive overtime games (Iowa, Michigan State and Nebraska) since OT was in- corporated in 1996. The Wildcats won their final eight games overall, the lon- gest current streak among Power Five schools, and third overall to Central Florida (13) and Florida Atlantic (10). Summary Fitzgerald has achieved stellar work at Evanston, three times leading the Wildcats to 10-win seasons since 2012, and also winning the most recent meeting versus Notre Dame (43-40 in overtime in 2014). If Thorson can re- bound from the ACL tear, Northwest- ern can make a bowl again despite a tougher schedule overall. Florida State (7-6) — Nov. 10 Top Three Items Since January • Willie Taggart is the lone new head coach the Irish will face next sea- son. Taggart was 47-50 while upgrad- ing teams at Western Kentucky (16-20 from 2010-12), South Florida (24-25 from 2013-16) and then working one season at Oregon (7-5 last year). • No 2018 Irish foe lost more to the NFL than the Seminoles, which took huge hits on defense with the depar- ture of seven starters. Safety Derwin Jones was picked in the first round, and the line lost tackle Derek Nnadi and end Josh Sweat. Former five-star corner recruit Tarvarus McFadden was not even cho- sen. • Standout 2016 starting quar- terback Deondre Francois (3,350 passing yards) tore his left pa- tellar tendon in the opener ver- sus Alabama last year, but was able to do limited work this spring and could be back at full strength by the opener. James Blackmon (1,997 passing yards) went through a baptism of fire, but could be the better for it in a more up-tempo attack. Notable Stat The one-two running back punch of Cam Akers (1,024 rushing yards, 5.3 yards per carry as a freshman last year) and Jacques Patrick (748 yards, 5.6 average) could take some of the pressure of the quarterbacks in the new offense. Summary Florida State consistently re- cruits at a top-10 level, so talent is not really an issue. It's more so how a new staff melds with the personnel after an underachieving 2017, including a 35-3 loss at Boston College. The Seminoles are unranked this season by ESPN, but are rated as high as No. 13 by Athlon. Syracuse (4-8) — Nov. 17 Top Three Items Since January • Quarterback Eric Dungey, a three- year starter who has passed for 6,472 yards and rushed for 1,239, has been hampered by injuries each season and saw limited action this spring while recovering from foot surgery. Redshirt freshman Tommy DeVito took most of the reps in his place. • Replacing the entire starting line- backer corps was a primary focus, es- pecially after the Orange forced only 12 turnovers last season (tied for 115th nationally) and were 122nd in turn- over margin (minus-12 for the season). • Third-year head coach Dino Ba- bers' fast-paced attack took a heavy hit with the loss of four-year regulars Steve Ishmael (105 catches for 1,347 yards last season) and Ervin Phillips (89 catches for 904 yards in 2017). Notable Stat Syracuse's tempo game led the nation in plays run per game with 87.8 — but that didn't prevent a third straight 4-8 finish (15-33 overall the last four years). Summary After stunning Clemson last year, 27-24 in the Carrier Dome to improve to 4-3, Syracuse lost its final five con- tests while allowing 43.2 points per game. The Notre Dame game this fall was moved from home to Yankee Stadium for the Shamrock Series, but the Irish should still be a prohibitive favorite. USC (11-3) — Nov. 24 Top Three Items Since January • With Sam Darnold off to the NFL early and former quarterbacks coach Tyson Helton (brother of head coach Clay) accepting the offensive coor- dinator position with the Tennessee Volunteers, Bryan Ellis was promoted from offensive quality control at USC to QB coach. Top candidate Matt Fink had a mop-up role last season, while Jack Sears redshirted. Freshman J.T. Daniels, the Gatorade National High School Player of The Year, could take over at some point in the season. • Seven starters return on a defense that led the nation in sacks last year with 46, but was also 68th in total de- fense (395.6 yards allowed per game). The unit is led by a veteran linebacker corps of Street & Smith's preseason All- American Cameron Smith, plus John Houston Jr. and Porter Gustin, both five-star recruits in high school. • Running back Stephen Carr, the top candidate to replace 1,550- yard rusher Ronald Jones II from last season, underwent back surgery in the spring. Notable Stat Notre Dame has lost a school- record five straight regular-sea- son finales, either to Stanford (2013-15, '17) or USC (2014-16) over Thanksgiving weekend. Summary Head coach Clay Helton has won 21 games the past two seasons, but the natives remain antsy. The heat will be on early with back-to-back games at Stanford (Sept. 8) and at Texas (Sept. 15). This could be the toughest game on the Irish docket. The Trojans will be seeking ven- geance for the 49-14 shellacking at Notre Dame last year — sim- ilar to how the Irish bounced back with a 41-31 win over USC in 2015 after losing 49-14 at USC the year prior. ❏ Street & Smith's preseason All-American Cameron Smith, a three-year starter at inside linebacker for USC, racked up a team-high 112 tack- les (11 for loss) in 2017. PHOTO COURTESY USC

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