Notre Dame facing a daunting task at Oklahoma

922597.png

Notre Dame facing a daunting task at Oklahoma

Bob Stoops has coached 83 games at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in his 14-year tenure in Norman. His teams have only lost four times.

Thats a fairly daunting number for the No. 5 Irish to face this weekend, with plenty of BCS implications on the line against the No. 8 Sooners. But Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said Tuesday he doesnt think his team is frightened by that 79-4 mark.

We've got so many other things our guys have to worry about, whether they're stepping with their right foot or left foot, Kelly said. Those numbers are really not something we bring up. But clearly we know how good they are.

If Notre Dame does pull off the win, itll be with a quarterback whos only started five collegiate games. But Everett Golson wouldnt be the first inexperienced signal-caller to beat Stoops in Norman.

In 2001, freshman Josh Fields -- who went on to play third base for the White Sox -- replaced junior Aso Pogi early and piloted Les Miles' Oklahoma State squad to a 16-13 win. Pogi threw two interceptions in his first nine passes and was yanked for Fields, who only threw one interception the rest of the way.

Texas Tech's Seth Doege, in his first year as a full-time starter, went into Norman and threw for 441 yards in a shocking win over then-No. 3 Oklahoma last year -- but he at least had some game experience dating back to 2009. TCU's Tye Gunn was a senior when the Horned Frogs became the second team to defeat Stoops at Owen Field in 2005. And K-State senior Collin Klein, who led the No. 3 Wildcats to a 24-19 win in September, is arguably the favorite to win the Heisman Trophy this year.

While Stoops' 79-4 home record certainly appears intimidating, half of those losses have come in the last two years, and it's important to note the Red River Shootout is annually played in Dallas -- so OU doesn't have to play Texas in Norman.

In fact, Saturday's game will mark just the fourth time Stoops has faced a team ranked in the top 10 at home:

Oct. 28, 2000: 31-14 win vs. No. 1 Nebraska
Oct. 19, 2002: 49-3 win vs. No. 9 Iowa State
Nov. 22, 2008: 65-21 win vs. No. 2 Texas Tech

Still, four losses in 83 home games is just one way the strength of Oklahomas program has materialized. Stoops has taken OU to a bowl game in each of his 14 years, including two BCS bowl wins and a national championship in 2000. Make no mistake, its Oklahoma -- not Texas -- thats been the class of the Big 12 for the last decade and a half. Few schools can boast the success Oklahoma has enjoyed under Stoops, and its something Kelly and Notre Dame are shooting for.

That's where we want to be, Kelly said. We want that consistency. Year in and year out you know Oklahoma is going to be part of the conversation. And that's where we want to get our football program. We're nowhere near that yet. We think we're moving in the right direction. We're trending the right way.

But I think the hallmark of great programs is that consistency, the consistency that we saw here for a number of years that we haven't seen, we want to be able to bring that back. And that takes time. And that takes a lot of winning, and that's why there's so much pride and tradition in their program as well.

Northwestern quarterback Clayton Thorson gets some love from NFL Draft guru Mel Kiper Jr.

Northwestern quarterback Clayton Thorson gets some love from NFL Draft guru Mel Kiper Jr.

Is Northwestern becoming QB U?

Trevor Siemian and Mike Kafka have already been drafted this decade, and Clayton Thorson — the team's current signal-caller — could be next.

ESPN's noted NFL Draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. ranked Thorson as one of his top five underclassman quarterbacks ahead of the 2018 draft.

Now that doesn't mean much right now. Kiper himself dubbed his position-by-position rankings as "way too early." Thorson's stock could soar or fall depending on what happens next season. And Thorson will still have one season of NCAA eligibility remaining after the upcoming 2017 campaign, meaning he might not even be in the 2018 NFL Draft.

But it's solid praise for a quarterback who looked much better in his second season as the Wildcats' starter than he did as a redshirt freshman the year prior.

As a redshirt sophomore, Thorson completed 58.6 percent of his passes for 3,182 yards and 22 touchdowns (fourth in the Big Ten in both of those categories) compared to nine interceptions. Thorson also rushed in for five touchdowns on the ground.

His quarterback rating skied from 95.9 as a freshman to 125.9 as a sophomore.

Now, there's little telling where Kiper might rank Thorson among all quarterbacks for the 2018 draft. He ranked five seniors and five underclassmen, with Thorson ranked fifth among underclassmen, behind Southern California's Sam Darnold, Wyoming's Josh Allen, UCLA's Josh Rosen and Louisville's Lamar Jackson, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner.

But certainly the Northwestern quarterback has captured the attention of draft evaluators and could follow Siemian and Kafka as recent Wildcats signal-callers to hear their name during the draft.

Jose Quintana rocked as White Sox swept by Diamondbacks

Jose Quintana rocked as White Sox swept by Diamondbacks

PHOENIX -- Jose Quintana looked as if he might be on the way to a second consecutive gem on Wednesday afternoon before it quickly took a turn for the worse.

After three perfect frames, Quintana got hit hard in the middle innings and was forced out of the contest. The Arizona Diamondbacks offense awoke from an early slumber against Quintana to complete a sweep of the White Sox, who fell 8-6 in front of 18,002 at Chase Field. The eight earned runs allowed by Quintana are the most he has yielded in a start in two years.

None of what transpired in the first three innings Wednesday offered any indication of what was to come. Quintana picked up where he’d left off on Friday night in Seattle when he combined with David Robertson on a one-hitter.  

His offspeed was diving and Diamondbacks hitters had no chance. Quintana induced checked swing after checked swing and racked up five strikeouts in three innings. He even made a smooth defensive play on Gregor Blanco’s bunt-base hit attempt to start the fourth inning with the White Sox leading 2-0.

But then it all went south.

Nick Ahmed doubled to left and red-hot Paul Goldschmidt doubled to deep center to make it a 2-1 game before Chris Owings tied it with an RBI single. Things only got worse for Quintana in the fifth inning when he hit the first hitter Brandon Drury with a 1-2 pitch. Quintana then left a 1-0 fastball over the middle and Jake Lamb didn’t miss the mistake, driving it the opposite way for a two-run homer and a 4-2 lead. Four batters later, Ahmed doubled in a pair and the rout was on. Goldschmidt’s single knocked Quintana from the game.

[VIVID SEATS: Get your White Sox tickets here]

Owings had a sac fly off Anthony Swarzak to score one inherited run and Drury singled in the other to put Arizona ahead by six.

Quintana allowed eight hits and struck out seven. The eight runs he allowed were the most he’d allowed in a start since the Detroit Tigers tagged him for nine runs on April 19, 2015.

The poor outing raised Quintana’s earned run-average by nearly a point from 3.92 to 4.82. Even though it’s still more than two months until the Aug. 1 nonwaiver trade deadline, Quintana’s inconsistent start to the season has also almost certainly harmed his perceived trade value. Not only has Quintana pitched poorly, but shifts in the plans of other clubs could provide contending teams with more trade options. However, with teams still focused on the upcoming draft and the deadline a way off, Quintana has more than enough time to get back on track.

One player who has continued to stay hot for more than a month now is first baseman Jose Abreu, who blasted his 100 th homer on Tuesday night. For an encore, Abreu matched his career high with four hits, including a two-run homer in the sixth inning that got the White Sox to within 8-4.

Melky Cabrera had an RBI groundout in the seventh inning and Abreu singled in another to make it an 8-6 game. But the White Sox would get no closer.

Leury Garcia’s solo homer in the second inning gave the White Sox an early lead. Abreu doubled in the fourth and scored on a double play to make it a 2-0 lead.

From April 19th on, Abreu is hitting .347/.404/.677 with 10 home runs and 22 RBIs in 136 plate appearances. He’s currently on pace for 36 home runs, which would tie the career high he established in 2014.