Notre Dame defense back atop college football


Notre Dame defense back atop college football

BOSTON -- A week after allowing a season-high 26 points to Pittsburgh, Notre Dame surrendered just a pair of field goals to Boston College on Saturday. And with that, the Irish moved into a scoring defense tie with Alabama, with opponents averaging 11.1 points per game.

Notre Dame is the only defense at the FBS level to allow fewer than 10 touchdowns this season -- opponents have only found the end zone nine times against the Irish defense, compared to 14 against Alabama, Florida and Rutgers. The Irish are allowing the eight-fewest yards per game (295.2), have the 10th-most sacks (30) and the 11th-most interceptions (14).

"I like where we are," coach Brian Kelly said. "I think you have to play great defense to be No. 1 in scoring defense in the country over the long haul, and against BC, that's the first time they hadn't scored a touchdown this year. We felt like (Chase) Rettig was an outstanding quarterback.

"I'm really pleased with what we're continuing to build on defensively, and again, I think there's some young players that are playing even better at this point. I think Bennett Jackson probably had his best game, and Prince Shembo was outstanding."

On paper, Notre Dame's defense won't be challenged much this weekend against Wake Forest -- the Deacs are 113th among FBS teams in total offense, averaging just 309.7 yards per game -- but their season finale against USC in Los Angeles will be tough, to say the least. While Matt Barkley hasn't looked much like a Heisman contender, wide receiver Marqise Lee has.

While Notre Dame has had much more success on the road than in South Bend, one would figure the Irish should beat a Wake Forest team that hasn't been competitive against most of the quality competition it has faced this year. So that'll leave USC as the big test for Notre Dame, and while the Trojans may finish the year with four or five losses, their offensive firepower is tough to question.

Notre Dame's calling card this year has been its defense, and while the Irish will still need help to reach the title game, perhaps shutting down USC will quiet the already-building (legitimate or not) cacophony from SEC country about how Alabama or Georgia deserve a BCS Championship bid over an undefeated Notre Dame.

"I think if you look at National Championship caliber football, you've got to look at a defense, and so that's why we feel strongly that our football team has put themselves in the discussion," Kelly said. "We'll let others decide, but I think we've played our way into the discussion."

Bears are only slight favorites over Lions on Thanksgiving


Bears are only slight favorites over Lions on Thanksgiving

The short week has Las Vegas oddsmakers less optimistic about the Bears as they head to Detroit to take on the Lions.

Even after an impressive win over the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday night, Chicago still opened as only three-point favorites for their Thanksgiving matchup, according to Vegas Insider.

This comes only two weeks after the Bears were favored by nearly a touchdown over the Lions back on Nov. 11.

Playing on the road instead of at Soldier Field may be a factor in the betting line, but the tighter spread is still surprising considering Chicago’s last few results.

Perhaps even more surprising is that the number hasn’t moved even with the unknowns surrounding Mitchell Trubisky’s shoulder injury.

Either Las Vegas doesn’t think he’s going to miss the game, or they don’t think there will be much of a dropoff with backup Chase Daniel in his place.

The over/under of 44 points is also a little bit on the low side compared to other lines in Week 12, especially since these two teams combined for 56 points just two weeks ago.

The short week of preparation will have both teams scrambling, likely with neither at their best, so maybe the matchup does have potential to be a little more close with a little less scoring.


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Donovan McNabb’s advice for Mitch Trubisky: ‘You have to slide feet first’

Donovan McNabb’s advice for Mitch Trubisky: ‘You have to slide feet first’

Donovan McNabb spent a dozen years as one of the best rushing quarterbacks in the NFL, finishing his standout career with 3,459 yards on the ground with 29 touchdowns. 

So when he saw how Mitch Trubisky went down to the ground on the play on which he injured his throwing shoulder Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings, McNabb had some advice for the Bears’ quarterback. 

“You have to slide feet first,” McNabb said in an appearance on SportsTalk Live Tuesday. “Like, you’re nowhere near getting the first down. Just slide feet first. And when you do that, now that takes everything out of the question. No one’s coming down to spear you, no one’s coming down to make the tackle. But if you go face first, then they’re going to go after you. So I think for him, either utilize the out of bounds or get down.”

McNabb’s right about the down and distance — the Bears had a first and 10 on their own 44-yard line when Trubisky took a zone read handoff moving to his left. It was sort of an awkward run — as Trubisky crossed the line of scrimmage he was already falling forward. Committing to a slide, as McNabb said, would’ve lessened the risk of being awkwardly (and illegally) hit by Smith. 

Bears coach Matt Nagy, though, didn’t criticize Trubisky’s sliding ability or feel for when to do it. 

“I think you see it in every game with quarterbacks that can run, that’s a part of the risk-reward,” Nagy said. “You’ve got to make sure they understand how to not put their body in harm. To me, what happened the other night when he got hit, there’s nothing he could’ve done different. He’s playing the game of football and got a late hit.”

One thing both McNabb and Nagy mentioned is teaching quarterbacks how to slide by using a summer backyard favorite.

“What (coaches) used to do is bring you the slip-n-slide,” McNabb said. “They teach you how to slide because most of these guys, they’ve never played baseball, these guys they were always the biggest guy on the football field so they would try to run everybody over.”

Only four quarterbacks — Cam Newton, Lamar Jackson, DeShaun Watson and Dad Prescott — have totaled more rushing attempts in 2018 than Trubisky (51), who enters Week 12 as the NFL’s leading rushing quarterback (363 yards, nine more than Newton — on 26 fewer attempts). But as we saw Sunday night, those attempts can be dangerous if a quarterback exposes himself to hits, even if they’re deemed illegal. 

“He's good at (sliding),” Nagy said. “Because he's running more often than others, there's different times that he slides and different ways that he slides. I've been around some bad sliders, including Michael Vick, and he'd laugh at it. He couldn't slide to save his life. We used to go out and put the slip n' slide out after practice and try to teach him and he couldn't do it. 

“Then you've got these baseball players that have played baseball in high school that know how to do it. Mitch knows how to do it. He knows how to slide. Sometimes you'll see him slide certain ways because of angles of where you're at on the field and when you're trying to get down or not get down. Again, it comes with territory.

“… He is good at it. I don't think it, I know he's good at it.”

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