Notre Dame defense back atop college football

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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."

Wintrust Athlete of the Week: Fremd's Grace Tworek

Wintrust Athlete of the Week: Fremd's Grace Tworek

This week's Wintrust Athlete of the Week is Fremd senior Grace Tworek. 

Tworek has led the Vikings on and off the court this season. Last week, the Harvard commit put up a career-high 29 points in a win over Wheeling. 

Learn more about Tworek's success in the video above. 

Saturday on CSN: Loyola, Illinois State host Missouri Valley opponents

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Saturday on CSN: Loyola, Illinois State host Missouri Valley opponents

CSN will have two Missouri Valley Conference games with local teams on Saturday. 

The first game tips at 3 p.m. live on CSN as Evansville heads to Loyola. The second game tips at 7 p.m. and is also live on CSN as Drake will play at Illinois State.

Loyola (13-7, 3-4) is coming off of a tough road loss in double overtime to Northern Iowa. The Ramblers have been led by senior Milton Doyle this season as the former Marshall star is one of the better guards in the Valley.

Evansville (10-10, 1-6) has dropped five straight games as they're struggling to gain any momentum in conference play. Senior guard Jaylon Brown is having an outstanding season for the Purple Aces as he's putting up 21.2 points per game.

The second matchup has Drake (6-13, 4-3) traveling to Illinois State. The Bulldogs have won three of four games and junior guard Reed Timmer is dangerous while former Saint Viator product Ore Arogundade is having a solid sophomore season. 

Illinois State (15-4, 7-0) is leading the Valley after a huge win over Wichita State as they've won eight straight games. The Redbirds are hoping to make a run to an NCAA tournament bid with another home win.