Hansen: Sizing up potential Notre Dame bowl opponents and tracking Mike Collins' recovery

Eric Hansen
South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND — Is there a Chuba in Notre Dame’s future?

The closer the Irish football team gets to bowl/playoff Selection Sunday, Dec. 8, the more that possibility grows.

Heading into its regular-season finale Saturday at Stanford (4 p.m. EST; FOX), AP No. 15 Notre Dame (9-2) remains on a firm trajectory for a berth in the Camping World Bowl, Dec. 28 in Orlando, Fla.

That remains the case even if ND can’t hand the host Cardinal (4-7) their first non-conference loss in Stanford Stadium in a span of 23 games, going back to the Jim Harbaugh Era in Palo Alto, Calif. Current Stanford coach David Shaw, incidentally, has presided over 17 of those wins.

The last non-conference foe to win at Stanford? Notre Dame, and with the losingest team in its history (3-9), back in 2007.

Chuba Robert-Shamar Hubbard and his Oklahoma State teammates also seem to be trending toward a berth in the Camping World Bowl, as ND’s postseason opponent, though there are many more alternate scenarios still in play for OSU than there are for the Irish.

Hubbard is the nation’s leading rusher, and has 1,152 yards after contact, according to Pro Football Focus. That’s 480 yards more than Notre Dame’s leading rusher, Tony Jones Jr. has, period.

Overall, the 6-foot-1, 207-pound redshirt sophomore from Alberta, Canada, has amassed 1,832 rushing yards on 182 carries and 20 touchdowns. And he has 41 runs of 10 yards or more.

The 21st-ranked Cowboys (8-3) finish their regular season Saturday night at home against rival and No. 7-ranked Oklahoma (10-1).

The other likely bowl opponent for the Irish, at the moment, is Iowa State (7-4), which concludes its regular season Saturday night at Kansas State (7-4). But the results of Saturday’s games and the Big 12’s fairly unrestrictive bowl-selection process could push Texas (6-5) and/or Kansas State into play.

The only one of those four teams the Irish have ever played is Texas.

In fact, Notre Dame hasn’t played many Big 12 teams at all in the 2000s — just a pair with the Longhorns (2015-16), two with Oklahoma (2012-13) and two with current member West Virginia when the Mountaineers (2000-01) were playing in the Big East.

Overall, ND has enjoyed much success against the 10 current members of the Big 12 all time, going 29-6-1 (.819).

As for the Big 12 bowl pecking order, it goes as follows: Its top team in this cycle plays in either the College Football Playoff or the Sugar Bowl. Right now, the only two teams in contention for that, Oklahoma and Baylor (10-1), are on the outside-looking-in for the playoff.

So the winner of the Big 12 title game is projected to end up in the Sugar Bowl. From there the other bowls affiliated with the Big 12 (in order, Alamo, Camping World, Academy Sports + Outdoors Texas, Liberty, Cheez-It, SERVPRO First Responder) can pick whichever bowl-eligible Big 12 team they prefer. They don’t have to go in order of conference finish.

Even then, the Big 12 Championship Game loser likely gets snapped up by the Alamo Bowl, with the Camping World Bowl picking next.

If it does come down to Oklahoma State and Iowa State, which would be the best matchup for the Irish?

Either would represent the highest-ranked team in terms of total offense the Irish have faced this season. The Cowboys are 13th and Iowa State 12th. USC is tops among ND regular-season opponents at No. 18.

But Oklahoma State and Iowa State have very different strengths offensively. The Cowboys — 3-0 since losing All-America wide receiver Tylan Wallace to a season-ending knee injury — lean to the run.

They’re 15th nationally in rushing offense, 70th in passing offense. Iowa State is 86th in rushing offense but sixth in passing offense. Iowa State is the better defensive team (50th in total defense to OSU’s No. 80 ranking).

Even though ND has faced the No. 3 (Boston College RB AJ Dillon), No. 4 (Navy QB Malcolm Perry) and No. 11 (Louisville RB Javian Hawkins) rushers nationally, the Irish defensive rankings (No. 76 in run defense, No. 5 in pass-efficiency defense) align better for a potential matchup with Iowa State.

Oklahoma State is coached by Mike “I’m a man; I’m 40” Gundy, who now happens to be 52. Iowa State is coached by Matt Campbell, who, ironically, turns 40 on Friday.

Mike Collins on the mend

The longest active streak associated with Notre Dame Stadium these days — now that the sellout skein has been snapped — may belong to public address announcer Mike Collins.

It continued Saturday for its 38th year and more than 240 games, but it took a scary turn before and during ND’s 40-7 dismissal of Boston College.

Collins started, but didn’t finish, the game in the booth. Notre Dame assistant director of marketing Darin Ottaviani filled in during the second half Saturday after Collins’ nose began to bleed uncontrollably.

I caught up with Collins, a 1967 Notre Dame grad, via email on Monday afternoon. He responded at first while in the waiting room to see a specialist about his condition and finished his recounting after the appointment was concluded.

Here’s his update on the situation, in his own words:

“Earlier in the week I had a couple of mild episodes of bleeding,” Collins wrote. “On Friday, before we did a senior (day) run-through, I alerted Mike Bonner (ND’s executive producer of live events), since we work so close.

“We devised a backup plan, and I think he got approval from (athletic director) Jack Swarbrick.

“At halftime, just as I finished a short interview with NBCSN, my nose opened. The (backup) plan was put in place.”

Collins was taken from the booth to a room for medical treatment.

“This is most important — the medical care at the stadium,” Collins continued. “It was incredible. I think, in all, 11 people, three doctors. I felt like the patient in a TV medical show. I was SO impressed.

“And this is amazing. My fill-in, Darin Ottaviani, has been my right-hand man for a decade, like a brother. AND this now means that in 38 years there have been only two PA announcers at Notre Dame Stadium — and both of us are from Ellwood City, Pa.!!! Swear to God.

“Saw a specialist in Sarasota (Fla.), and (the) problem on its way to being resolved.”

Notable names and numbers

For all the consternation from ND Nation about the seven teams with open dates (bye weeks) before they played the Irish this season, here’s how that turned out:

Notre Dame won all seven games, and by an average score of 48-13.

USC’s Clay Helton had the best post-bye week record among the seven opposing coaches coming into the season, at 3-0. Boston College’s Steve Addazio had the worst, at 2-6. Collectively, the head coaches at New Mexico, Bowling Green, USC, Virginia Tech, Duke, Navy and Boston College had a .531 overall winning percentage coming into this season, but .508 in games in which they had the supposed advantage of an extra week to prep.

• The parents of Notre Dame senior safety Alohi Gilman will find themselves seated in a bit of an awkward spot at Stanford Stadium on Saturday — surrounded by fans of the Cardinal.

Alohi’s younger brother, Alaka’i, is taking an official recruiting visit to Stanford this weekend, per father Asai Gilman, though the younger Gilman is verbally committed to Washington State.

The 5-11,180-pound safety from the Punahou School in Honolulu did not receive a scholarship offer from the Irish.

• The Irish didn’t completely whiff on making the finalist lists for the various individual national awards. Senior long snapper John Shannon is one of three finalists for the inaugural Patrick Mannelly Award, which will go to the nation’s most outstanding senior long snapper.

• No Brady Quinn on FOX’s announcing team for Notre Dame-Stanford. Instead drawing the assignment are Tim Brando (play-by-play), Spencer Tillman (analysis) and Coley Harvey (sideline).

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The nation’s leading rusher, Oklahoma State running back Chuba Hubbard (30), may be in Notre Dame’s future if the Irish, as expected, land in the Camping World Bowl.
Notre Dame Stadium public address announcer Mike Collins (left), here pictured with Indiana State Police Sgt. Tim McCarthy, had a scary Saturday last weekend in the booth.

WHO: AP No. 15 Notre Dame (9-2) vs. Stanford (4-7)

WHEN: Saturday at 4 p.m. EST

WHERE: Stanford Stadium; Palo Alto, Calif.


RADIO: WSBT (960 AM, 96.1 FM), WNSN-FM (101.5)

LINE: Notre Dame by 16.5