What's next for Manti Te'o?

988709.png

What's next for Manti Te'o?

With less than a month separating Manti Teo from the NFL combine, the focus continues to be on his off-the-field girlfriend hoax rather than how his football skills will fit on an NFL club.

Lennay Kekua isnt going away, even though she never existed. Teo has now spoken on and off camera about the situation, making his case that he wasnt involved in any part of the hoax.

Now that Teo is likely done with interviews for a bit, his full attention can turn to preparing for the NFL combine next month in Indianapolis -- where questions about the hoax are sure to resurface.

Teo would be well-served to speak to reporters at the NFL combine and be open and honest about the Kekua hoax, but hes not required to meet the media in Indianapolis. He could just as easily deflect questions about the saga and only answer football-related queries, too.

But thats public questioning. Each team will have plenty of questions for Teo, with some probing into the Kekua hoax more than others.

One former NFL player told CSNChicago.com the best thing for Teo would be to be honest and forthright about the Kekua story, since NFL teams are likely just as willing as he is to move on from it.

The worst thing Teo could do, the former player said, was offer excuses about the story -- and, too, use Kekua as a reason for his poor play against Alabama in the BCS Championship. His off-the-field character wont be of much concern to teams, either, and theyll judge him on his football character -- in other words, his dedication, work ethic, love of the game, etc., the former player explained.

That doesnt mean Teo wont be questioned at all about the Kekua hoax by NFL teams. Some teams may dig deep to find the truth outside of interviews with Teo. But another former player told CSNChicago.com the linebackers saving grace is his agent, Tom Condon, who can keep the focus on football for his client in Indianapolis.

The Kekua saga likely wont affect Teo from a football standpoint, even in the hyper-scrutinized nature of the next three months leading up to the NFL Draft. From a personal standpoint, he and his family certainly want this saga -- one thats led the Teo name to become the butt of jokes from coast to coast -- to go away.

Teos interview with Couric wont close the book on this story, not with a bevy of questions lingering. Most of the evidence thats out there supports Teos claim, but yet questions remain regarding plenty of aspects to this bizarre story.

On Thursday, before Teos interview with ABCs Katie Couric hit the air, the lawyer of alleged perpetrator Ronaiah Tuiasosopo said it was his client who was talking to Teo the entire time -- in other words, Tuiasosopo was impersonating a female.

A trio of voicemails were released Thursday as well, with the messages purportedly left on Teos phone from the person he thought was Kekua certainly sounding like a female voice. Right now, the last part of this story yet to be filled in is from Tuiasosopos end -- when we hear from him (and hear his impression of Kekua, too) perhaps well move closer to closure on this saga.

But the complete details of everythings surrounding this saga may never be known. A large gray area will exist in which observers can draw conclusions one way or the other on Teo, Tuiasosopo and the entire story.

Bowl eligibility no sure thing for Notre Dame, especially with a loss to Syracuse

Bowl eligibility no sure thing for Notre Dame, especially with a loss to Syracuse

Notre Dame hasn’t fallen short of bowl eligibility since 2007, a year that invokes visceral reactions around South Bend. But at 1-3, Notre Dame’s chances of getting to six wins aren't necessarily healthy in 2016. 

S&P+ gives Notre Dame a 21 percent chance of going 6-6, a 9 percent chance of going 7-5 and a 2 percent chance of going 8-4, so added up that’s only a 32 percent chance of becoming bowl eligible. The most likely records, according to S&P+, are 5-7 (30 percent) and 4-8 (25 percent). Notre Dame has a better chance of finishing 2-10 (3 percent) than it does 8-4, by these numbers. 

(For more on S&P+ and the methodology behind it, click here)

The reason behind those, in all honestly, shockingly low numbers: only three games in which S&P+ favors Notre Dame to win going forward. Those are Syracuse (65 percent), Navy (71 percent) and Army (78 percent). Win probabilities for Notre Dame’s other games: 40 percent (N.C. State), 31 percent (Stanford), 28 percent (Miami), 36 percent (Virginia Tech) and 39 percent (USC). 

FEI is more optimistic about Notre Dame’s bowl chances, giving the Irish a better than 60 percent chance to win games against Syracuse, N.C. State, Miami, Navy, Army and Virginia Tech. But FEI also gave Notre Dame a 90.8 percent chance of beating Duke heading into last week, which is less an indictment of the numbers and more an indictment of how poorly the Irish played against the Blue Devils. 

Syracuse, though, looks like it’ll present a difficult challenge for Notre Dame. The Orange rank 36th in offensive S&P+, largely due to their excellent passing game (15th in success rate). Notre Dame ranks 78th in defensive S&P+ and 121st in passing success rate, which certainly looks like a concerning matchup.

Syracuse’s defense is bad, though (101st in S&P+), so Notre Dame’s top-15 offense should be able to put up some points. In short: Expect a shootout if Notre Dame does win on Saturday at MetLife Stadium. 

But if Notre Dame loses to fall to 1-4, sound the alarms. Or start planning your football-less vacation during bowl season. 

Notre Dame needs mistake-free play from receivers

Notre Dame needs mistake-free play from receivers

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Last year, Notre Dame receivers combined to fumble twice in 13 games. Through four weeks in 2016, Irish receivers already have fumbled three times, losing two of them.

Sophomore C.J. Sanders’ fumble against Michigan State sparked the Spartans’ 36-point run, and fellow sophomore Equanimeous St. Brown lost a fumble that stunted Notre Dame’s offense in a three-point loss to Duke. Freshman Kevin Stepherson also fumbled against the Blue Devils, but impressive hustled back to recover it. 

In 2015, only Torii Hunter Jr. and Chris Brown fumbled (Hunter’s came at the goal line against USC; Brown’s came in that rainstorm at Clemson). That was a veteran-heavy receiving corps, while Notre Dame’s 2016 group only has two upperclassmen in it: Hunter, a redshirt junior, and Corey Holmes, a redshirt sophomore (who doesn’t have much playing experience). 

“A lot of young guys out there, a lot of young guys,” coach Brian Kelly said. “It's unacceptable, but a lot of young guys out there.”

[SHOP: Get your Notre Dame gear]

Sanders’ fumble, Kelly said was more careless — he didn’t have three points of pressure on the ball when it was knocked out. St. Brown tried to make a play despite having a second defender converging on him and should’ve gone down before the ball was dislodged. 

Guys like Sanders and St. Brown, who are seeing the first real college action at receiver this year, were probably able to make plenty of defenders miss with ease while in high school. But that’s nowhere near as easy to do now. 

Notre Dame needs its offense to avoid these unforced (yet, technically, forced) errors while its defense remains an ineffective work in progress. There isn’t much room for error as Notre Dame aims to pull out of its 1-3 tailspin and reach a bowl game. 

“At this level everybody is bigger and faster,” Sanders said. “So you have to kind of have that notion in the back of your head, okay, you know if there's three guys in the area and I don't know where to go, get down. We made that mistake which we learned from it, so now we know.”