Notre Dame had plenty of occasions to celebrate during Saturday’s decisive win over rival USC.
Which one-loss team is the most dangerous? Mel Kiper and Todd McShay find themselves in agreement: It’s Notre Dame, after the Fighting Irish’s impressive win over USC on Saturday.
Kiper and McShay discuss what makes Notre Dame a playoff contender.
Kiper: Look, I hope I don’t jinx my favorite college football team by doing this — I’ve been a Notre Dame fan all of my life — but I have to go with the Fighting Irish here. They’re playing with supreme confidence right now coming off a beatdown of USC. This is a completely different team since it lost to Georgia by a point in South Bend in the second week of the season.
McShay: Kiper going with Notre Dame? Why am I not shocked. Unfortunately, I agree with him, especially with the Irish coming off that 49-14 win on Saturday. Notre Dame has only that loss to Georgia on the season as a blemish on its résumé, and I think Georgia is the nation’s second-best team behind Alabama. Head coach Brian Kelly met personally with every returning player after last season, and he seems to have changed the culture there.
Kiper: They’re healthy and playing really well. Quarterback Brandon Wimbush is back after missing a game with a foot injury. Josh Adams, who is averaging 9.2 yards per carry and has eight touchdowns, is a sneaky Heisman contender. The offensive line — particularly the left side, with Quenton Nelson and Mike McGlinchey — is one of the best in the country. They have talent all along the defense, plus one of the deepest secondaries in the nation. Their turnover margin is tied for third in the country (10), so they create takeaways on defense and limit giveaways on offense.
McShay: Their personnel is terrific, Mel, and it seems like Kelly is more overseeing the program instead of just being an offensive coach. New coordinators on offense, defense and special teams, along with a new strength/conditioning coach, have helped all those top players play to their potential. My only concern is the schedule. They can win out, but it will be tough.
Kiper: Absolutely. At home vs. NC State, coming off a bye, next week. Games at undefeated Miami and Stanford, which has been rolling, next month. The Irish can make the College Football Playoff if they win out — and they will have earned it with that schedule.
Prospect on the rise
Kiper: Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame
McGlinchey and the Fighting Irish rushed for a whopping 377 yards and five touchdowns in the win over USC, and the game was never close. The 6-foot-8, 315-pound McGlinchey was dominant on the left side. The fifth-year senior, who was on my Big Board last year and might have been a first-round pick in the 2017 draft, just drives people off the ball as a run-blocker. You don’t see that often in the NFL — tackles who can step in as rookies and be dominant run-blockers and good pass-blockers. That’s McGlinchey. He has solid technique, and he can get to the second level for combo blocks. He has made 33 career starts — 19 at left tackle and 14 at right tackle — so he has experience. And the versatility will help him in the NFL, where I think he’s a lock for the first round in 2018. One more fun fact on McGlinchey: His first cousin is 2016 NFL MVP Matt Ryan.
McShay: Josh Adams, RB, Notre Dame
He put up 191 yards rushing against a solid USC defense on Saturday. A downhill runner, Adams doesn’t have a lot of wiggle, but I like his size (6-2, 225), power and acceleration. I’ll be interested to see how he performs over the rest of the season.
Kiper: LT Brandon Parker, North Carolina A&T
You might be thinking that North Carolina A&T sounds familiar. That’s because it’s where Bears rookie Tarik Cohen, who burst onto the scene this season, starred. Parker was an important part of Cohen’s rushing for 5,619 yards and 56 touchdowns in his career. Talk about a guy with experience, durability and athleticism. Parker could earn his third straight MEAC offensive lineman of the year award this season. He has started 44 straight games. At 6-7, 309 pounds, he’s a knee bender in pass protection with long arms and good feet. He mirrors well against pass-rushers and plays with an edge. The Aggies are undefeated, and Parker is a key cog. Obviously, the NFL is a step up from the MEAC, so Parker will need some time to adjust. But he’s a high-upside, developmental option in the middle rounds.
McShay: TE Dallas Goedert, South Dakota State
My top-ranked tight end coming into the season, Goedert has the athletic ability and size (listed at 6-4, 260) to cause linebackers issues in coverage. He caught eight passes for 170 yards and a TD in a 62-30 win over Missouri State. I continue to be impressed by his development.