Thursday, August 28, 2008

Catching Up

Sorry for the brief absence of posts. There was so much intense book reading going on before classes started that I found it tough to get on the lap top. I'm so far behind on Notre Dame football that readers should be advised to check out a site that has been keeping up. I recommend Section 29, who has been counting down 12 important factors heading into the 2008 campaign.

While I may not be able to talk too much football right now, I can at least offer some campus news to all the domers that haven't made it to South Bend in the past few months. Up until recently, the sidewalk maze on West Quad was one of the eight wonders of the world; never before has a civilization been able to construct so many concrete paths that do not offer a straight path to anything. Over the summer, ND installed a 'knoll' between Keough/O'Neil and Reckers to replace the sidewalk jungle, and I have to say that it looks pretty nice. However, the University appears quite intent on keeping it looking nice, having erected a 15 foot mulch bunker aimed at stopping drunk Reckers' traffic from trampling the new grass.
Speaking of everyone's favorite food stop, Reckers has apparently unleashed a new menu for this year. I haven't had the chance to sample anything yet, but I'm told they basically renamed everything on their old menu to sound more organic/Italian. As long as I can still score a #33 late night, I think I'll be ok.

Not to leave this post totally void of football, here's a great quote I saw a couple days ago at SubwayDomer:

"I try to style my own play after the guys I watched on TV growing up: the nasty guys. It's something that gets me motivated; it gets me excited to maul somebody. It's real important. You have to be nasty in the trenches. If you can't bring that attitude to the table you're just going to get tossed around."

-Eric Olsen
My man. Go Irish!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Monday Nite!

The Browns haven't had a Monday night game since I got my driver's license, and even though it's still the preseason, I was pumped to see the Brady Bowl Part Deux on display in prime time last night. Little did I know that bush league penalties, and a future fantasy stud (Domenik Hixon - draft him while you still can) would crash my party harder than paparazzi at the Beer Olympics.

On the brighter side of a 23 - 3 first quarter drubbing, Irish alumnus Justin Tuck enjoyed some Janice-McAlarney-esque face time. While the Giants lost a very good defensive lineman and a great personality in Michael Strahan, they seem to have an excellent replacement in Tuck, who in addition to playing a major role in the G's super bowl win, also caused a very good (I think...) Browns offensive line considerable trouble last night. At one point the announcers even hypothesized if the Giants could eventually become "Justin Tuck's team" (rather than Manning's). Go get 'em you beast.
The Brown's inability to defend the Giant's rush resulted in Anderson taking a pretty hard hit from Osi Umenyiora that knocked him out of the game and gave Quinn the opportunity to take some extra snaps. Brady looked pretty good overall, completing 7/12 passes for 124 yards and a touchdown (although the TD would have been a pick if not for a great play by all-name receiver Syndric Steptoe), and he also displayed good mobility in the pocket when he was pressured.
After earning praise from the coaches for his play in summer practices, Travis Thomas continued his struggles in live play against the Giants. The former Irish RB/LB was pushed back into his punter to force a safety, and he looked a little lost on offense, getting only 2 carries for 7 yards and being a non-factor in the screen game.

In relatively unrelated news, I'm happy to announce that one of my favorite Notre Dame blogs, The House Rock Built, has been resurrected after a deathly long offseason and is back to cranking out some good stuff. So if you're not getting enough laughs here, give it a read.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

1st Half Predictions

The Nasties crew has put some thought into the first half of the 2008 season, and here are the results (click on each link for details):

San Diego State: W 31-9

Michigan: L 10-17

MSU: L 17-21

Purdue: W 35-24

Stanford: W 24-13

UNC: W 21-14

Previews for the second half of the season should be on their way, but seeing as things are picking up with me getting ready to head back to school, they may come a little slower.

Go Irish!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Way Too Early UNC Preview

Over the next several weeks, Charlie's Nasties will be giving readers previews of the 2008 Irish opponents.

2007 record: 4-8

2007 conference record: 3-5

Returning starters: 10 on offense – 8 on defense

In 2007, there was a team that won an embarrassing 3 games against division 1 opponents.

Their running game didn’t help the cause; three running backs split carries all season to lead this team to a bottom 20 rushing attack. Not one of these three has really distanced themselves from the rest, although a rising sophomore did finish strong with over 200 yards in the final two games, albeit it wasn’t against top competition (see Duke).

A freshman started the majority of the year at quarterback, and performed pretty well for a freshman, especially considering he was not 100% healthy.

The defense was decent, but not good enough to make up for the offense’s lack of production.

But for some reason this coach isn’t on the hot seat. Perhaps it is because the school has faith in his NFL background. Perhaps it is because they have too much money invested in him to cut him loose. Or perhaps it is because this team appears ready to make a big jump from 2007 to 2008.

The quarterback appears to be healthy, and is poised to widen the gap between his touchdown / interception ratio with a year of experience under his belt.

A plethora of experience returns at receiver, with nearly 100% of the team’s receptions returning, and an offensive line with a lot of experience is ready to gel and give the QB time to throw.

The defense will mourn the loss of it’s two best players (including a very talented DT taken during the first day of the draft), but enough talent returns that most fans do not view the unit as a concern heading into the fall.

What’s more, this year’s schedule is notably easier than last year’s. Rutger’s, Virginia Tech, and Rutgers (all currently unranked) replace No.23 USF, No. 17 Va Tech, and No. 7 South Carolina as the toughest games on the schedule.

Wait a second… Notre Dame doesn’t play any of those teams....

That’s right. The University of North Carolina Tar Heels enter the 2008 season in a way so similar to Notre Dame that it is almost eerie. What’s more scary is the fact that in the early Vegas lines, Notre Dame is actually an underdog against the Tarheels this year, and this is probably due to a few reasons:

While both teams return sophomore quarterbacks, UNC’s T.J. Yates had the benefit of not getting knocked on his ass every play. The freshman threw for 2,655 yards on 218 of 365 attempts (good for the single season UNC passing record) on a nagging elbow injury. While off season surgery could affect his performance, Yates should be able to repeat his passing numbers while improving on his 14:18 TD/Int ratio.

Both quarterbacks will benefit from a large quantity of returning talent along the offensive line, but the Tar Heel’s hog mollies performed considerably better than ND’s squad last year. In addition to not allowing 58 sacks last season, this line actually returns more age and experience than ours. Kyle Jolly, Aaron Stahl, Calvin Darity, Garrett Reynolds, and Lowell Dyer all return with starting experience, and measuring in at 6'4.5", 302 lbs. on average, this unit that was a weakness last season may end up being a strength in 2008.

The offensive line play is one of the reasons that Notre Dame’s receivers were not as productive as North Carolina’s, but UNC still returns 218 of 220 receptions while ND’s graduation of John Carlson is a big loss. Junior Hakeem Nicks will look to build off of his 900+ yard, 5 TD season from a year ago.

Former WR Greg Little switched running back for the last two games, (where he rushed for 89 yards against Georgia Teach and 150 yards against Duke) and looks to be the frontrunner to start in the backfield this year.

UNC’s defense took some big hits at the end of last year, losing DT Kentwan Balmer to the NFL draft (1st round to the 49ers) and Durell Mapp (leading tackler in 2007) to graduation, but the Tarheels should have enough talent returning to be competitive (if not the best in the ACC Coastal). E.J Wilson will look to step up in Balmer’s absence (he was second on the team with 5 sacks last year), and Marvin Austin (former 5 star recruit) looks to build off of an impressive first year at DT, registering 4 sacks.

Aleric Mullins is the favorite to win the other DT starting job, and he also appears to be ready for a good 2008:

“Mullins is capable of getting to the quarterback, closing running lanes, and wreaking havoc on opposing offenses”

And that isn’t just a section football reference.

In the secondary, return 4 starters, including ACC defensive rookie of the year FS Deunta Williams. Pressure from the Tarheel’s front seven will allow these playmakers in the secondary more opportunities to make plays; the group of four finished with 6 interceptions last year.

In conclusion, UNC looks to actually be in a better situation heading into 2008. Notre Dame may have an advantage at running back and linebacker (hopefully quarterback, too), but the Tarheels appear to be as good or better at every other position. Because the 2008 final records for both of these teams depends so much on to what extent they fulfill their potential, this game is somewhat difficult to predict this early in the season. I would like to think that Kerry Neal and Brian Smith will be able to cause some carnage in the backfield and Notre Dame will ride it’s strong secondary to a win, but if UNC starts the season off strong and wins some tough games (@ Rutgers, home against VaTech) before this matchup, the Irish could be in for a struggle in Chapel Hill. For now, I’ll take the optimist route and give Notre Dame a 21-14 victory.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Quote of the Week

As jy mentioned, I'll be checking out of my summer internship tomorrow and heading to the big mitten to do some unwinding before I return to my studies in the fall. But I would be slighting the Notre Dame party scene to not briefly comment on the Brian Hamilton gossip column.

To sum up the story for any cave dwellers out there, Hamilton is 'reporting' that these ambiguous pictures of Jimmy Clausen, Armando Allen, James Aldridge, and Brian Smith rocking some nice uni's at a Beer Olympics party could threaten their standing with the university. Here are some of the better reactions I've read about this obvious non news:

From Blue and Gold Illustrated:
There are some serious rumors going around that some of the Irish football players might engage in drinking alcoholic beverages. Also, the sun rose in South Bend this morning.

From the Rock Report:
"I hope he's drinking Jack, Notre Dame needs more whisky drinkers."

Every Day Should Be Saturday also looked further into Clausen's photo vault and found some even more incriminating pictures.

For those of you that prefer a more serious response to the article, I highly recommend taking some time to read the responses of Jeff Carroll (SBT) and Michael Rothstein (Journal Gazette). Both writers spread the blame quite fairly on Hamilton (shame on you for taking advantage of 20 year olds to increase your readership), who ever leaked the pictures (are you holding a grudge, or are you just dumb?), and the players (have a good time, just be a little more aware).

My Brownies are currently in a rain delay, but hopefully they'll be back on soon. Go Irish!

Pre-Season Retreat

As the Fall semester nears bringing along with it the highly anticipated Irish Football Season, the Nasties team will make a soul-searching and relaxing trip to the shores of Lake Michigan this weekend. Pops and I hope to continue negotiations with Brugg to end his hold out over the past year as well as discuss strategy for our blog's future and the upcoming breakout year for Keough Roos Football.

Monday, August 4, 2008

The Way Too Early Stanford Preview

Over the next several weeks, Charlie's Nasties will be giving readers previews of the 2008 Irish opponents.

2007 record: 4-8

2007 conference record: 3-6

Returning starters: 9 on offense – 11 on defense

Despite downing the Trojans in a massive upset last year, Stanford only finished ahead of the 4-9 Washington Huskies in the PAC-10. Jim Harbaugh, despite scaring every potential recruit’s mother by playing two injured quarterbacks against the Irish last season, is taking the necessary steps to begin moving this team in the right direction.
"Of our accomplishments in 2007, first and foremost is that we have begun to change the football culture to one that appreciates competitive, winning football," Harbaugh said, adding that the team’s one goal for this season is to bring a physical presence, especially along the offensive and defensive lines.

The defense returns 12 players that have at least 4 starts, the offense returns plenty of experience at nearly every position besides receiver, and if these developing players can buy into their coach’s winning mindset, better days could be ahead for the Cardinal.

However, if Stanford wants to be competitive this year, they need to settle on their starting quarterback. The capable (1,100 yards and 5 tds in 6 starts) but inconsistent (9 ints) Travita Pritchard looks like the frontrunner to start in the opener against Oregon State, but transfer Jason Forcier and Alex Loukas will look to keep the quarterback carousel moving if Pritchard falters early on.

The reason that Stanford must settle on a quarterback early to be successful is that the team does have some tools that can be used to win this season. Center Alex Fletcher is on the Outland Trophy watch list, and the quarterback will likely have two solid receiving options in TE Anthony Kimble and WR Richard Sherman. Fletcher will also be joined with three returning starters along the O-line, so the signal caller should have time to throw.

Senior Anthony Kimble will get the first chance at running back, but if injuries continue to plague him, Stanford has other backs with 105, 64, 12 career carries to rely on. While Stanford isn’t lacking experience at this position, they are still lacking something; Irish Eyes lists the Cardinal rushing attack as the 9th strongest on ND’s schedule. Not exactly the type of stuff that keeps a defense up at night.
A legitimate darkhorse All-American candidate (hey – just cause it’s from a Stanford message board doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen…) returns at the defensive end position in senior Pannel Egboh, who racked up 13.5 tackles for loss last season. Egboh will be joined by junior Erik Lorig in what seems to be a good combo at defensive end. However, even our enthusiastic Stanford fan admits that the position is fairly weak behind them, so if Notre Dame can get the ground game going early, we should be able to wear down the defense as the game goes on.

It would be nice if the Irish line can handle the defensive line, because according to the same message board poster, they should have their hands full with the linebackers:

“In all, I actually think it ranks with USC and Cal as one of the better linebacker groups in the country. If you had me rate Stanford's position groups, I'd put most in the bottom couple of the conference with OL, RB, and DE better than that and maybe closer to middle of the pack. But linebacker I don't think the question is whether it's top half of the conference, it's whether it's top 20 or 25 in the nation.”

Stanford returns experience at every position on defense in 2008, but the unit ranked 98th in the country in total yards allowed (435.5), so they have a lot of room to improve. Harbaugh lured experienced defensive coordinator Ron Lynn out of retirement to shore up a unit that was capable of confusing the likes of Cal and USC last season under Scott Shafer. When a team returns a lot of talent at any position, there is an opportunity for a big jump in production, but Stanford has a considerable ways to improve on this side of the ball, and Cardinal faithful shouldn’t expect much more than a top 50 defense next year.
The bottom line is that a Notre Dame team that struggled mightily throughout a disastrous 2007 campaign was able to beat the Cardinal in Palo Alto by a deceivingly decisive margin of 21-14, and both teams are essentially returning most of the same young players that played each other last year. While Notre Dame had the more severe losses of Carlson, Laws, and Zibby, there isn’t any reason to believe that the Irish won’t win again this season in South Bend. Notre Dame takes this one 24-13.