Jerry Hinnen: ‘Schedule Is Too Deep For Notre Dame’

After Malik Zaire exited with a broken ankle, Notre Dame couldn’t have felt good about its chances of beating Virginia this past Saturday, even though the game was in South Bend.

But then DeShone Kizer happened.

The backup quarterback – with his team trailing 27-26 in the final minute – threw a 39-yard touchdown pass to Will Fuller will seven seconds to go to give the Irish a 34-27 win.

Luck of the Irish? You better believe it.

“Absolutely,” CBSSports.com college football writer Jerry Hinnen said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “DeShone Kizer, yeah, I was not expecting a pass like that. I don’t think anybody thought, ‘Well, we’ll bring the backup – the third-stringer last year – out there, and he’ll just be able to launch this 40-yard strike right into Will Fuller’s hands.’ It may be the best pass of the season so far. But in the long term, Zaire was going to be the guy. We know what he can do with his legs. We learned that against LSU last year. But the way he looked in that first game against Texas throwing the ball so efficiently – it’s just a crushing loss.”

Zaire, who will miss the rest of the season, can cheer his teammates on against No. 14 Georgia Tech (2-0) this weekend, but that’s about it.

Kizer, a Toledo native who had scholarship offers from Alabama, LSU and Michigan State, among others, will be the starter going forward. While Kizer was an elite recruit, Hinnen believes Zaire’s injury will prevent the Irish from making the playoff.

“Maybe they can get through (Georgia Tech), but this schedule is just so deep,” Hinnen said. “You got USC, you got Stanford, you got a lot of other very quality teams on there. Long-term, it sucks. Injuries suck. But the bottom line is, I have a hard time seeing them negotiate that entire schedule without the Mailk Zaire that we saw through the first six quarters of this season.”

Staying in the Midwest, Hinnen’s summer prediction is well on its way to becoming a reality. If any conference gets two teams in the playoff, Hinnen wrote a few months ago, it’s not going to be the SEC or the Big 12; it’s going to be the Big Ten, especially if Michigan State beats Oregon.

Well, the Spartans beat the Ducks 31-28 this past Saturday.

“I think people suddenly realized there’s nobody else on their schedule other than Ohio State,” Hinnen said. “I said if they win this game and Oregon goes on to win the Pac-12, Michigan State is going to have dibs on that payoff berth certainly before Oregon does. They beat them straight up on the field, a very close game. Still, if you say, ‘Okay, we’re 11-1 and our only loss is on the road at Ohio State,’ that’s going to be tough to argue with if you’re an ACC team with three losses (or) if you’re an Oregon team that’s lost to them straight up (or) if you’re an SEC team that’s got a couple of losses. So yeah, I think Michigan State’s in great position. I don’t think they’re probably as good as they’ve been the last couple of years, but with some of the decline of the middle class in the Big Ten, the path is there for Michigan State to make a serious run at making the Big Ten (a conference) that has two teams in the playoffs.”

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