iSep 15, 2018; South Bend, IN, USA; A general view of the Golden Dome on the campus of the University of Notre Dame before the game between the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the Vanderbilt Commodores at Notre Dame Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Former Notre Dame standout Louis Nix III reported missing by family

Former Notre Dame standout and NFL defensive lineman Louis Nix III was reported missing in Florida by his family on Saturday.

The 29-year-old Nix was last seen at his father’s home in Jacksonville on Tuesday, according to a missing persons’ flyer posted by his family.

The family said Nix drives a 2014 gray Hyundai Azera. Nix’s mother told Action News Jacksonville that she believes her son is in danger as this behavior “…is out of the normal for him.”

Nix was shot in an attempted robbery in December when he said he was putting air into his vehicle’s tires at a Jacksonville gas station.

Nix posted the following on Twitter on Dec. 9: “I’m alive everyone. The bullet that hit me ricocheted off my sternum into my lung. Surgery is the next step so keep praying for me. Thank you all for the positive energy and prayers.”

On Dec. 19, Nix posted that he was released from the hospital.

Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly was among the many people putting out the call for help on Saturday.

“NOTRE DAME Nation: Let’s all do our best to reach out and connect with Louis Nix. Louis, let us know you are doing alright or that you may need your NOTRE DAME family and friends for assistance,” Kelly tweeted.

Nix, a nose guard, recorded 122 tackles in 34 games (30 starts) over three seasons (2011-13) for the Fighting Irish. He had 14 tackles for losses, including 2.5 sacks.

Nix recorded career highs of 50 tackles and 7.5 stops for losses in 2012. He was limited to eight games in 2013 due to a knee injury.

Nix was a third-round selection (83rd overall) by the Houston Texans in the 2014 NFL Draft.

He spent 2014 on injured reserve and the Texans waived him shortly before the start of the 2015 campaign.

The New York Giants picked him up and he played in four games that season. He played 22 defensive snaps and 16 more on special teams.

The Giants waived Nix just before the start of the 2016 season. He later spent time on the practice squads of Washington and Jacksonville in 2016.

–Field Level Media

Dec 7, 2019; Charlotte, NC, USA; Clemson Tigers head coach Dabo Swinney receives the championship trophy from Commissioner John Swofford in the 2019 ACC Championship Game at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

ACC returns to normal, Notre Dame independent again in ’21

The Atlantic Coast Conference hopes to restore a sense of normalcy to the 2021 college football season.

The league optimistically released its schedule Thursday, returning to a two-division format (Atlantic and Coastal) with members playing eight ACC games and four non-conference games.

Notre Dame, which played as a full member amid the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, returns to its traditional independent status and will play five games against ACC opponents.

“The return to a traditional schedule is contingent on national, state and local health guidelines allowing such competition to occur,” the league cautioned in its press release.

The ACC schedule kicks off on Labor Day weekend with games each day from Thursday, Sept. 2, through Monday, Sept. 6.

That includes two neutral site games in Atlanta as part of the Chick-fil-A Kickoff series. Miami will face defending national champion Alabama on Sept. 4 and Louisville will take on Ole Miss on Sept. 6.

Clemson, winner of six consecutive ACC championships, opens the post-Trevor Lawrence era against Georgia in the Duke’s Mayo Classic on Sept. 4 in Charlotte, N.C.

Notre Dame’s five ACC contests includes three road games: Sept. 5 at Florida State, Oct. 9 at Virginia Tech and Nov. 13 at Virginia. The Fighting Irish will host North Carolina on Oct. 30 and Georgia Tech on Nov. 20.

The 2021 schedule includes 13 playing weekends, giving each school one open date and potential flexibility should interruptions arise.

The ACC Championship Game will take place in Charlotte on Dec. 4.

–Field Level Media

Jan 1, 2021; Arlington, TX, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish head coach Brian Kelly looks on in the fourth quarter against the Alabama Crimson Tide during the Rose Bowl at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Notre Dame fined $5K, placed on one-year probation

The NCAA put Notre Dame on probation and fined the Fighting Irish $5,000 for multiple minor recruiting violations, the Committee on Infractions announced Thursday.

The NCAA also handed out a few minor recruiting restrictions as well.

“Any violation of NCAA rules is unacceptable and Notre Dame takes full responsibility for its actions in this regard,” Notre Dame director of athletics Jack Swarbrick said in a statement. “While we made clear to the NCAA that our view that the agreed-upon penalties exceeded the nature of the infractions, we accept the final outcome of the case.”

The penalties stem from a former assistant coach’s impermissible off-campus contact with a high school player in 2019 and his impermissible text messages to a different 2021 recruit, and coach Brian Kelly’s impermissible contact with a recruit in October 2019. In that case, Kelly posed with the player for a photo in Pickerington, Ohio.

Notre Dame and the committee agreed to the penalties through the NCAA’s negotiated resolution process.

The former assistant, who also sent the impermissible texts, was fired by ND in January 2020. He was given a show-cause through July 2021.

The assistant, per the ruling, “met privately with the prospect at his high school before July 1 after the completion of his junior year of high school. During that meeting, the former assistant coach expressed the school’s interest in recruiting the prospect. The former assistant football coach also had exchanged impermissible text messages with another prospect on 10 occasions.”

According to the report, the assistant mistakenly thought the recipient of his text messages was a 2020 recruit instead of an actual 2021 prospect.

The recruiting restrictions meted out include reduced football official visits for the 2020-21 academic year by one, reduced football unofficial visits by 14 days for the 2020-21 academic year, and a seven-day off-campus recruiting ban for the entire football staff during the 2020-21 academic year.

–Field Level Media

Jan 1, 2020; Pasadena, California, USA; Wisconsin Badgers quarterback Jack Coan (17) leaves the field after the 106th Rose Bowl game at Rose Bowl Stadium. The Oregon Ducks defeated the Wisconsin Badgers 28-27. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

QB Jack Coan announces transfer to Notre Dame

Former Wisconsin quarterback Jack Coan announced Monday night that he’s transferring to Notre Dame for the 2021 season.

Coan entered the transfer portal on Dec. 20.

“Extremely thankful for the opportunity,” Coan posted to Twitter.

“Thank you Wisconsin for the greatest four years of my life,” Coan said in a statement released by the Badgers.

Coan joins a crowded quarterback room in South Bend, Ind., to compete for the right to replace outgoing senior Ian Book. Coan will battle it out with junior Brendon Clark, sophomore Drew Pyne and freshman Tyler Buchner.

Coan was the Badgers’ starting quarterback until he injured his right foot in a preseason practice and subsequently underwent surgery. He returned to the club late in the season but didn’t receive any playing time with redshirt freshman Graham Mertz entrenched as the starter.

Coan guided Wisconsin to the Rose Bowl during a 2019 season in which he passed for 2,727 yards (third most in school history) to go with 18 touchdowns and five interceptions. The Badgers lost 28-27 to Oregon in Pasadena to finish 10-4.

Overall, Coan started 18 of 25 games played for Wisconsin and ranks 13th in school history with 3,278 passing yards. He had a 12-6 record as a starter, including 8-3 in Big Ten games.

Coan’s preseason injury opened the door for Mertz, who has passed for 1,108 yards, eight touchdowns and five interceptions in six games.-

–Field Level Media

Nov 7, 2020; South Bend, Indiana, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (6) celebrates after a touchdown in the second quarter against the Clemson Tigers at Notre Dame Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

CFP notebook: Can No. 4 Irish show they belong?

For No. 4 Notre Dame, Friday’s 1 p.m. Eastern semifinal against top-ranked Alabama in the College Football Playoff can’t come soon enough.

Finally, the Fighting Irish (10-1) will get the chance to show that they belong in the playoff, putting the controversy of their selection behind them. But to do that, they’ll have to at least slow down a juggernaut. Alabama (11-0) has averaged 49.7 points a game this season, trampling everything in its path.

And slowing down Alabama means the Irish will have to bring their best in the semifinal, something they have been unable to do in their two previous trips to college football’s biggest stage when they were woefully outclassed.

And this time, they’re nearly underdogs by 19.5 points.

“We hear it,” senior linebacker Drew White said Thursday. “We’re aware of the noise, we call it.”

That noise sounds like 30-3, which was the drubbing Notre Dame absorbed at the hands of Clemson two years ago in its other trip to the CFP semifinals.

The noise also sounds a lot like 42-14, Alabama’s drubbing of Notre Dame in the national championship game at the end of the 2012 season.

And the noise sounds like the howls following Notre Dame’s 34-10 loss to No. 2 Clemson just two weeks ago, when more than a few critics felt No. 5 Texas A&M (8-1), No. 8 Cincinnati (9-0), or even No. 12 Coastal Carolina (11-0) were more deserving of a CFB berth this season than Notre Dame.

“We’re playing for each other,” White said. “We’re not playing for credit to the media or whoever’s thinking we don’t deserve a spot. We’re playing for each other. We want to get to the national championship. We want to win the national championship for our teammates. So that’s really what’s propelling us is that right there.”

A close semifinal game would be a rarity in the six-year history of the CFP, as the 12 previous semifinals have been decided by an average of three touchdowns.

With Elliott out, Streeter on Clemson headset

With Clemson offensive coordinator Tony Elliott missing the game against No. 3 Ohio State with COVID-19 issues, coach Dabo Swinney will have quarterbacks coach Brandon Streeter upstairs helping with play calls.

Elliott has worked the headsets calling plays through Swinney since 2011, so this could be a significant adjustment for Clemson, but Streeter is hardly new to the system. He is in his 13th in the program as a player, grad assistant, and assistant coach.

Vanderbilt’s new ‘holistic’ coach

Notre Dame Butkus Award winner Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah credits defensive coordinator Clark Lea as a key to his improvement this season as a “holistic football player.” Lea was hired in December as Vanderbilt head coach, but will still be with Notre Dame through the playoffs.

“He’s been a difference-maker,” the senior linebacker said Thursday. “He’s been a different type of coach. I’ve never had a type of coach like Coach Lea. He doesn’t yell much. He doesn’t complain much.

“All my life I’ve had coaches that had that aggressive nature, that yell, and that has what made me who I am today and I’m appreciative of that. But Coach Lea has a different style. He’s more a technical, analytical type of guy who wants you to understand the philosophies of the world, wants you to understand the philosophies of football.

“And I think that approach has ultimately made me reach this kind of almost holistic football player. I haven’t got there yet, nowhere close. But I think that’s ultimately led me in the right direction with him being a difference-maker for me in every area of my life.”

Roses in the Lone Star State

Although the Alabama-Notre Dame game is being played in Arlington, Texas, it’s still being called the Rose Bowl. The game was moved from California to AT&T Stadium because COVID-19 protocols in California banned fans — including family and friends — from attending.

Only 3,000 fans will be permitted to attend the Sugar and Rose Bowls, primarily family and friends of the teams.

–Field Level Media

Oct 31, 2020; Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA;  Alabama wide receiver DeVonta Smith (6) and Alabama quarterback Mac Jones (10) celebrate a touchdown pass from Jones to Smith at Bryant-Denny Stadium during the second half of Alabama's 41-0 win over Mississippi State. Mandatory Credit: Gary Cosby Jr/The Tuscaloosa News via USA TODAY Sports

Alabama historic favorite in expected shootout vs. Notre Dame

The biggest favorite in College Football Playoff history is understandably being backed by the vast majority of bettors, but can Notre Dame put up a fight against No. 1 Alabama in Friday’s first semifinal?

That’s where bettors are more split ahead of the New Year’s Day clash.

The Crimson Tide are nearly three-touchdown favorites over the Fighting Irish at most sportsbooks, easily breaking the previous record held by Alabama as a 14.5-point favorite over Oklahoma in 2018-19.

While the Crimson Tide are being backed by 80 percent off the moneyline bets at DraftKings (-1115), the Fighting Irish have been backed by 56 percent of the spread bets. Of the total money bet, 64 percent has been on Alabama on the spread line and 56 percent on the spread.

The line had moved to 20 points at FanDuel, where 79 percent of the moneyline bets (Alabama -1000) and 65 percent of the spread line bets have backed the Crimson Tide.

The Rose Bowl, moved from Pasadena to the Dallas area due to California’s COVID-19 protocols, is a huge mismatch on paper.

The Over/Under has been set at 65.5 points, with the action backing the Over at more than 80 percent at both sportsbooks.

The Crimson Tide have topped 50 points in each of their past three games. The Fighting Irish (10-1) don’t want to get into a shootout, but they did top 40 points six times this season.

Notre Dame, which ranks 14th in scoring defense (18.6 points per game), was superb early in the season by limiting five of the first six opponents to 13 or fewer points. But it sprung many leaks down the stretch by allowing more than 30 in three of the past five games, including a 34-10 whipping at the hands of Clemson in the ACC title game.

“We’ve been humbled about the way we play,” said Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly, “and this team has always come back with a resilience and an edge about them, and they will against Alabama.”

The Crimson Tide (11-0) topped 50 six times and averaged 49.7 points — second-best nationally — while being led by a trio of big-time performers.

DeVonta Smith has the opportunity to be first receiver to win the Heisman Trophy since Michigan’s Desmond Howard in 1991. He has 98 receptions for 1,511 yards and 17 touchdowns. During the 52-46 win over Florida in the SEC title game, Smith (3,620 yards) passed Amari Cooper (3,463 from 2012-14) as Alabama’s all-time leader in receiving yardage.

Quarterback Mac Jones also is in the Heisman mix and has thrown for 3,739 yards and 32 touchdowns against four interceptions. Najee Harris has rushed for 1,262 yards and 24 touchdowns and also has three receiving scores.

“We’ve certainly been very productive on offense,” Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban said. “This has been an unusual year for a lot of teams but I think our players have stayed focus on the right things amid a lot of abnormal things.”

The offensive fireworks aren’t just limited to the current season. Alabama has scored 35 or more points in a major-college record 24 consecutive games since losing to Clemson 44-16 in the CFP title game to end the 2018 season.

The Crimson Tide are 22-2 during the stretch but Saban isn’t interested in hearing about how the semifinal matchup with Notre Dame is going to be some type of easy stroll in the park.

“I know they have a really good team,” Saban said on ESPN. “I know they have a really good quarterback. They have a tough defense. They have some skill guys who can make plays.

“You don’t win 10 games in a season without having really good players.”

Quarterback Ian Book has a 30-4 record as a starter for the Irish. He has passed for 2,601 yards and 15 touchdowns with only two interceptions in 314 attempts.

The winner of this game will face either No. 2 Clemson or No. 3 Ohio State in the national championship game.

–Field Level Media

Dec 19, 2020; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban running back Najee Harris (22), and offensive lineman Alex Leatherwood (70) celebrates with the SEC Championship trophy after beating the Florida Gators in the SEC Championship at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hagy-USA TODAY Sports

Report: CFP contingency dates set

The College Football Playoff has set contingency dates for the national semifinal and championship games, should any of the four teams not be able to compete, ESPN reported Wednesday.

CFP executive director Bill Hancock said last week that the games could be postponed if COVID-19 issues impacted any of the teams’ ability to play.

No. 1 Alabama and No. 4 Notre Dame are scheduled to play in the Rose Bowl Game in Arlington, Texas, on Friday at 4 p.m. ET. That game is set to be followed by the Sugar Bowl between No. 2 Clemson and No. 3 Ohio State in New Orleans.

If both semifinals need to be postponed, the Rose Bowl will be moved to Jan. 11 and the Sugar Bowl to Jan. 12, ESPN reported. If only one game is postponed, then the other semifinal will be played on Jan. 11.

The CFP national championship game then would be moved to Jan. 18 at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla.

The title game currently is set for Jan. 11.

“Everyone is planning to play the games as scheduled,” Hancock said, per ESPN. “The teams, schools’ staffs and bowl staffs have been working really hard to provide an opportunity for the players. COVID procedures are in place at hotels and stadiums. We have prepared thoroughly, and we are ready. But it always makes sense to be prepared, even for circumstances we don’t believe will happen.”

All four teams lost games in the regular season because of COVID-19 issues among their teams or an opponent.

–Field Level Media

Dec 28, 2019; Orlando, Florida, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish head coach Brian Kelly reacts to the referee against the Iowa State Cyclones during the second half at Camping World Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Irish coach Kelly defends program as playoffs approach

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly is well aware that his team has sustained lopsided losses on the national stage in recent years.

Still, Kelly is not about to apologize for the No. 4 Fighting Irish heading into their Friday game against No. 1 Alabama in the College Football Playoff semifinal at Arlington, Texas.

“We’re knocking at the door every year, playing really good teams and great opponents, and they’re elite football teams,” Kelly said. “I don’t know why this narrative continues to pop up when we’re always in the game. No, we haven’t won a national championship. That’s correct. And, you know, I’m not changing the record. But we are there every single year and we are grinding it out just like everybody else.”

Notre Dame lost 30-3 to Clemson two years ago in the semifinal. In the 2012-13 championship game, the Fighting Irish lost 42-14 against Alabama.

Oddsmakers have pegged Notre Dame as 20-point underdogs for Friday’s game.

“It’s motivating,” Fighting Irish running back Kyren Williams said. “Not everybody in the world believes in us, and it’s OK because we don’t want anybody to believe in us besides us. We’re going to go out there on Friday and do what we do best. Being an underdog is nothing new to us, and we’re going to keep proving to the world who we are.”

Kelly said he would not let Notre Dame’s history dictate its future.

“Only one team gets to celebrate at the end of the year,” Kelly said. “We’re going to keep banging and we’re going to keep getting back here, and that’s our job. That’s our challenge each and every year is to compete for a national championship, and we’ll continue to do that.”

–Field Level Media

Dec 19, 2020; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban walks on the field before playing the Florida Gators in the SEC Championship at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hagy-USA TODAY Sports

Alabama, Notre Dame matched in unique Rose Bowl

It’s a huge mismatch on paper and No. 4 Notre Dame can only hope it doesn’t lead to another bad memory when it takes on No. 1 Alabama in the College Football Playoff semifinal on Jan. 1 at Arlington, Texas.

The powerful Crimson Tide, who have topped 50 points in each of the past three games, are overwhelming 19 1/2-point favorites in the contest, also known as the Rose Bowl after the game was moved from Pasadena to the Dallas area due to California’s COVID-19 protocols.

When the teams last met eight seasons ago in the BCS title game, Alabama trampled the Fighting Irish by scoring the first 35 points of a 42-14 romp. The Crimson Tide pummeled Notre Dame in the trenches, leading to a 265-32 edge in rushing yardage.

“We’re much better prepared than we were in 2012 in terms of the physicality on both lines,” Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said on a video call. “I think we have the ability to move the football, certainly.”

Notre Dame (10-1) doesn’t want to get into a shootout with the Crimson Tide, but it did top 40 points six times this season.

Its defense, which ranks 14th in scoring defense (18.6 points per game), was superb early in the season by limiting five of the first six opponents to 13 or fewer points. But it sprung many leaks down the stretch by allowing more than 30 in three of the last five games, including a 34-10 whipping at the hands of Clemson in last Saturday’s ACC title game.

“We’ve been humbled about the way we play,” said Kelly, “and this team has always come back with a resilience and an edge about them, and they will against Alabama.”

The Crimson Tide (11-0) topped 50 six times and averaged 49.7 points — second-best nationally — while being led by a trio of big-time performers.

DeVonta Smith has the opportunity to be first receiver to win the Heisman Trophy since Michigan’s Desmond Howard in 1991. He has 98 receptions for 1,511 yards and 17 touchdowns. During last Saturday’s 52-46 win over Florida in the SEC title game, Smith (3,620 yards) passed Amari Cooper (3,463 from 2012-14) as Alabama’s all-time leader in receiving yardage.

Quarterback Mac Jones also is in the Heisman mix and has thrown for 3,739 yards and 32 touchdowns against four interceptions. Najee Harris has rushed for 1,262 yards and 24 touchdowns and also has three receiving scores.

“We’ve certainly been very productive on offense,” Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban said on a video call. “This has been an unusual year for a lot of teams but I think our players have stayed focus on the right things amid a lot of abnormal things.”

The offensive fireworks aren’t just limited to the current season. Alabama has scored 35 or more points in a major-college record 24 consecutive games since losing to Clemson 44-16 in the CFP title game to end the 2018 season.

The Crimson Tide are 22-2 during the stretch but Saban isn’t much interested in hearing about how the semifinal matchup with Notre Dame is going to be some type of easy stroll in the park.

“I know they have a really good team,” Saban said on ESPN. “I know have a really good quarterback. They have a tough defense. They have some skill guys who can make plays.

“You don’t win 10 games in a season without having really good players.”

Quarterback Ian Book has a 30-4 record as a starter for the Irish. He has passed for 2,601 yards and 15 touchdowns with only two interceptions in 314 attempts.

Book ranks second in school history with 8,719 yards and 72 touchdowns. Brady Quinn (2003-06) is the leader in both categories (11,762 yards, 95 TD passes).

Kyren Williams has excelled on the ground with 1,061 yards and 12 touchdowns for an offense averaging 35.2 points, which rates 22nd nationally.

Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah had a team-best 11 tackles for loss and he was named winner of the Butkus Award on Monday as the nation’s top linebacker.

Malachi Moore has three interceptions for the Crimson Tide, who are 20th nationally in scoring defense (19.5).

The winner of this game will face either No. 2 Clemson or No. 3 Ohio State in the national championship game.

–Field Level Media

Dec 5, 2020; South Bend, Indiana, USA; Syracuse Orange running back Sean Tucker (34) is tackled by Notre Dame Fighting Irish linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (6) in the third quarter at Notre Dame Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Notre Dame’s Owusu-Koramoah wins Butkus Award

Notre Dame senior linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah on Monday was named the 2020 winner of the Butkus Award, given annually to the top linebacker in college football.

Owusu-Koramoah tied for the team lead with 56 tackles and led the Fighting Irish with 11 tackles for loss. He also forced three fumbles, recovered two fumbles, collected an interception and scored on 23-yard fumble return during Notre Dame’s upset over then-No. 1 Clemson in a 47-40 double OT win on Nov. 7.

Owusu-Koramoah, who was also named the ACC defensive player of the year, was selected from a pool of five finalists, which included Missouri’s Nick Bolton, Tulsa’s Zaven Collins, Utah’s Devin Lloyd and Georgia’s Monty Rice.

Owusu-Koramoah is the third Irish player to win the award in program history, and all have come in the last decade. Manti Te’o (2012) and Jaylon Smith (2015) also took home the Butkus Award.

Owusu-Koramoah could yet earn more hardware. The Hampton, Va. native is a finalist for the Nagurski Trophy, and is a semifinalist for both the Bednarik Award and the Lott IMPACT Trophy. All three awards are given to the ‘best’ defensive college player in the country according to each voting block.

Notre Dame (10-1) finished fourth in the final College Football Playoff rankings and will face No. 1 Alabama (11-0) in a CFP semifinal on Jan. 12 at Arlington, Texas.

–Field Level Media