The game lived up to the hype. Notre Dame gave Florida State everything they could handle last night in Tallahassee, with the winning touchdown being taken off the board on what turned out to be the correct call. Both Jameis Winston and Everett Golson were spectacular, and it seemed like whoever had the ball last would win. As it turned out, Notre Dame thought they had it but the refs called them out for a pick on the last touchdown to Corey Robinson.
Both teams were impressive, and frankly both are in good shape for the upcoming playoff. Florida State has a pretty easy road so all they need to do is take care of business in the ACC. Notre Dame will have to impress over other one-loss teams if they win out, but they have a tougher road which helps if they win them, but . . . . they have to win them! Road games against USC and Arizona State will be tough ones.
Here are some other observations from yesterday’s games:
It’s always difficult to predict the four teams out of 68 capable of making it deep in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament we refer to as March Madness. There’s always a bracket busting team that takes out a top competitor or even a Cinderella story making it to the Sweet 16 or even further. However, this year may be a little different and actually attending the games might just provide serious excitement for any fan. Here’s how this non-expert believes it could play out.
Small Schools Getting In
Akron and Bucknell are the most dangerous smaller schools with the ability to make it into the tournament. The reason these two top the list is due to the size advantage they bring to the game. Akron features Zeke Marshall at seven feet tall and Bucknell brings Mike Muscala standing 6’11″ tall. This will help even the playing field with any of the larger schools bringing a significant size advantage.
Other small schools with a great chance of making into the tournament include Middle Tennessee State, Belmont, Boise State, Davidson, Valparaiso, Weber State and Louisiana Tech. Although it is unlikely that all these schools will make the dance you always have to be aware of the ones that do sneak into the dance. A small school with momentum would be like the Kia Sorento winning the car March Madness Contest, unlikely but you never know! Make sure you pay attention to all the little guys before filling out your bracket.
Top Teams Most Likely for an Early Departure
The Jayhawks might take a top seed in the tournament, but they’re not as good as their record shows. They lost to a team with an RPI of 229 and nearly lost to another team they should’ve beaten easily. If they draw a team they don’t match up well against, Kansas could make an early exit.
2. Ohio State
Not considered a top five team, but in the top 20, the Buckeyes struggled in February. If this was any indication about how good they really are, this is another team potentially leaving the tournament early.
Showing their struggles on the road makes it hard to believe the Gators can go anywhere in the tournament. They’re tough to beat at home, but they won’t get a single game on their home court during the tournament. Look for Florida to fall victim to an upset early.
Final Four Predicted
Looking at all the top teams, potential Cinderella stories and those middle seeds with the ability to go deep, picking the Final Four is still difficult. However, an easy pick for one of the final four spots is the Indiana Hoosiers. This team is tough and has been ranked at the top most of the year. Another pick for the Final Four is Michigan. They’re ready to make a run and it seems they’ve already cleared their system of some of the losses.
The other two spots in the Final Four are a bit more difficult to predict. There will certainly be a middle seed, maybe a #5 or #6 involved. The team basketball of Notre Dame could support a deep tournament run, but they won’t be there in the Final Four. However, another Big East team will be out of a two or three seed in Georgetown. That only leaves one spot left and it goes to Saint Louis University.
Alabama’s domination of Notre Dame in the National Championship game didn’t offer much to remember, other than the lovely Katherine Webb of course, who became an instant celebrity after Brent Musberger got all excited when she was spotted in the crowd as AJ McCarron’s girlfriend.
Naturally she parleyed that fame into a great bikini spread in the new SI swimsuit issue, and you can see her showing off her pics as she attends a party with other SI swimsuit supermodels at Marquee Nightclub.
Of course they can. That’s not a prediction, but it’s foolish to think Notre Dame doesn’t have a decent chance of pulling off the upset. Alabama is currently favored by a whopping 9.5 points, which seems like a lot to me.
Of course there are plenty of reasons for Alabama to be favored, as the SEC has been on a roll and Notre Dame’s undefeated season had its share of close calls. But we also know that anything can happen in the National Championship game.
In arguing Notre Dame’s case, Bruce Feldman points out that Notre Dame stacks up well physically against Alabama, or any college team for that matter.
The Irish are No. 4 in the nation against the run. As I wrote last week, they look much like a top SEC team. Their D-line, anchored by 340-pound Floridian Louis Nix, is going to be a problem for anyone. Ends Stephon Tuitt and Kapron Lewis-Moore each are north of 300 pounds, and both — like Nix — are surprisingly nimble. The smallest of the ND’s four linebackers weighs 240 pounds, and the guts of the defense — Manti Te’o — would start at every program in the SEC.
He then makes a comparison that I’ve considered as well, being a die-hard Buckeye fan.
A few weeks ago, a buddy of mine who is an NFL player likened this year’s Fighting Irish team to the 2002 Ohio State squad quarterbacked by Craig Krenzel that won the BCS title by stunning a Miami team that was the defending national champs and riding a 34-game winning streak. That OSU team, like this ND team, was coming off a five-loss season and made it to the BCS title game after starting the season outside the preseason Top 10 by winning a bunch of close games.
I see similarities with that Buckeye team, but I don’t buy the notion that the Irish only beat Alabama by pulling off a Buster Douglas or Rollie Massimino shocker. I know the experts in Vegas have opened the line with Bama more than a TD favorite, but I just don’t see this Alabama team as invincible, or close to it.
Notre Dame’s season has been very similar to that Ohio State team, and both teams relied on a very physical defense. Yet while both are facing what many deem to be dominating opponents, the matchups are very different. That Miami team was loaded with NFL talent at the skill positions, but they cruised through the season without facing a physically dominating defense. When they faced Ohio State, the Buckeye defensive line manhandled an average Miami offensive line and thus controlled the game. Ken Dorsey was exposed as a mediocre quarterback as soon as he faced a pass rush and took some brutal hits.
With Alabama, the matchup is completely different. It’s really strength against strength, as Alabama has an awesome offensive line that now has to face a big and powerful defense. They’ve seen similar defenses in the SEC, but now we’ll see just how good Notre Dame’s defense can be.
Notre Dame is definitely back, and they pulled out a thriller in overtime against Stanford. Still, the call at the end of the game seemed like a gift for Notre Dame.
Notre Dame forced overtime on a late field goal, and then scored a touchdown on it’s first possession in overtime. The Stanford pushed the ball at the four yard line for first and goal, and the Irish put up an impressive goal line stand. Stanford ran the ball on fourth down from the one yard line, and the runner seemed to be stuff by the Notre Dame defense, but he kept fighting, and on the replay it appeared that he reached over the goal line with the ball.
The refs on the field had called him down short of the goal line, and the replay officials didn’t have the stones to overturn the call.