Monday, October 27, 2008

IBG: All's Hallow Edition

Welcome to another edition of the Irish Blogger Gathering. Here at Charlie's Nasties we don't have much besides a few rag tag college kids to our name, but this week we have the privilege of hosting the weekly IBG segment. Seeing as perhaps the most college-friendly holiday lies at the end of the calendar for this week, the IBG questions have a little Halloween twist to them. Enjoy!
1. A loss to Washington would have been spooky, but we were able to pull it out. What was your favorite part of the victory?

After offseason promises of having a power running game, it was very fulfilling to finally see Notre Dame impose their will on another team by using an effective ground attack; Irish backs averaged 5.5 ypc and ND scored 3 times (if you count Tate as a back) en route to a 237 yard performance. The Huskies looked physically inferior on the other side of the ball, but then again, earlier this year Notre Dame struggled to move the ball against SDSU and Stanford, who arguably had the same disadvantage. To paraphrase Dennis Green, the Irish running attack 'was what we thought it was' last weekend; it was just very reassuring to see it.
2. Charlie's Nasties does a Duds and Studs segment to reflect on every game. Name one player/coach that could have done better against the Huskies and one player/coach that stepped it up.

Dud: Jimmy Clausen
I don't want to be too tough on Clausen, especially considering that Weis was obviously trying to keep the ball on the ground for much of the game, but it was a small let down to see Jimmy put up very modest numbers (14/26 for 201 yards) after setting personal yardage records in each of the previous three games. While part of me really wanted Clausen to mimic the 4 TD performance against UW that Brady had his sophomore year, the game seemed more like a small hiccup than anything serious. Expect a motivated JC to put up better numbers against Pitt. (Sidenote: for anyone that normally reads Duds and Studs, I rarely cop out and only list one person, but I thought the team played so well overall this week that I had to rely on help from other bloggers... check the comments of this article to see the other Duds and Studs this week)

Stud: Harrison Smith
OC Domer broke down a couple years worth of info from the Blue Gold game, and one of the conclusions was that the game's MVPs generally went on to have a good (if not great) career at Notre Dame. When Harrison got the defensive honors this year, I was a little skeptical, attributing his spring performance more to playing a special position (see Ronnie Brown in the Razorback) than skill that would translate to the rest of the season. However, Smith has played extremely well the last two weeks in pass coverage, run support, and QB rushing (2 sacks against UW), which basically means that I was completely wrong in my Blue Gold assessment. This guy has a knack for finding the football, and I hope that he can keep playing at this level for the rest of the year.
3. Halloween involves people abandoning reality for awhile to dress up and imitate something that they are not. Pick one Halloween costume with traits you would like to see from the Notre Dame football team the rest of the season.

Over the past few weeks we've seen the Irish show flashes of being a very good football team. The 124 yards of total offense given up by the defense was the best by an ND squad since 1996, Allen rushed for 134 yards against Purdue, we had 6 takeaways against Michigan, and Clausen threw for 347 and 3TDs against Stanford. Despite these and other great performances, however, I still haven't seen the Irish put together a complete game, so I would like to see the running game working well with the passing game, the defense matching the offense, and the special teams working well on top of it all. I want to see all of ND's players all playing well together, which is why I'm picking the superhero tandem of Batman and Robin, who always work well together to win. Alright, maybe a more intimidating picture would have really stuck the point home, but I think you get my drift.

4. When trick-or-treating as a kid, there always seemed to be at least one house that handed out apples. What aspect of the football team this year is the biggest apple in your candy bag (aka biggest disappointment)?

As mentioned in my response to question 1, I have been pretty disappointed with our running game thus far in the season, especially considering the talent we have at the position and Weis' preseason pledge to focus on that aspect of our game. It was not very comforting as a fan to see our 'power running' mindset fail to yield a 4.0 ypc rusher against San Diego State, MSU, or Stanford in our first 5 games, but Allen and Aldridge have been running hard recently, and the O-Line seems to be having more success as less zone blocking plays are being used. Hopefully this trend continues and the Irish will be able to look to their ground game when the weather begins to get worse over the next few weeks.

5. This year, October 31st is coincidentally also the opener for ND's Mens Basketball team (preseason against Briar Cliff). Say a few words about one player that will make have the biggest impact on the success of the team this season (apologies to non-bball fans, but I couldn't resist).

The great thing about this year's squad is that there are so many players with the potential to make an impact this season. Just to give you an idea, I'm really excited to see Jonathan Peoples and Carlton Scott play this year, and they likely won't even be in the top 6 or 7 in minutes. To answer this question, though, I'm going to pick Tory Jackson. Jackson has the best ability to penetrate from the half court set, and having the option to slash and dash to the basket will create some higher percentage shots when Harangody is struggling (so we don't have to go into the 3-point offense), and Tory's great passing game will result in a lot of great assists. I've also really enjoyed watching Jackson D up on some of the best guards in the Big East, and I think his perimeter defense will be key to shutting down some of the better teams.

That's all for this issue of the Irish Blogger Gathering. Make sure to check out Her Loyal Sons next week. Go Irish!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

IBG: Tailgate Edition

Welcome to another edition of the Irish Blogger Gathering. Bad Trade came up with this week's questions, so take some time to read their responses as well as the responses from other members of IBG (links in the comments section). Also, make sure to check out Charlie's Nasties next week as we get our chance to host the Gathering. Enjoy, and as always, Go Irish!

1. You're having some beers and brats outside Notre Dame Stadium, just chilling with friends. If you could have one Notre Dame player or coach drop by to share a drink, a brat and some stories with you, who would it be?

If I was choosing from the current team, the coach would probably be Tenuta. He’s got this crazy look in his eyes that, if nothing else, would be good for keeping the excise police away. The no-brainer for best player from this year is definitely Pat Kuntz. Tell me this guy doesn’t look like a good time:
2. What was your best experience ever with a tailgate party?

I had some good experiences last year traveling to Purdue, and Michigan, but it seems strange to trump a day of ND tailgating in favor of a day with one of our rivals. So instead I’ll go with the Boston College game from last year. The weather was nice, and the mingling with friends was fun as usual, but a bus full of amicable BC alums that puts this day at the top. Anyone can sit around a tailgate with friends and have fun talking football, but how often do you get to sip Hot Damn 100 out of a soup ladle with people you’ve never met before and happen to be exuberant fans of a rival school?

3. There are lots of great tailgate experiences around the country - what school's tailgate tradition do you most want to experience?

I actually haven’t heard of too many specific tailgate experiences (besides schools where the ‘experience’ is just drinking a lot), so from the very limited library of tailgating knowledge that I have, I’ll choose Purdue. Apparently, the rowdiest of the Boilermaker faithful gather at a local bar in the pre-sunrise hours of gamedays, clad in ridiculous costumes to pregame the tailgates in an even known as The Breakfast Club. Good ole’ fashion Kegs and Eggs is alright, but isn’t everything better when you get to dress up?
While I may not have too much tailgate experience under my young belt, I will get to take in what should be a very interesting experience in the couch-burning city of Columbus this weekend for the OSU / Penn State game, and if I uncover any unique tailgating experiences, I’ll be sure to share them.

4. Indiana decides that their drinking laws are far too un-draconian (I'm from Wisconsin. I don't understand these things like "kids aren't allowed in bars," "your parents can't give you liquor if they are supervising" and "no alcohol purchases on Sunday"), and drinking is now forbidden on Saturdays. The Excise Police stop by your tailgate, and proceed to dump out the liquor you were attempting to hide from them. What do they pour out?

Being a poor college student, this one’s easy. Maybe if we were feeling particularly classy, a handle of McCormick’s vodka would be confiscated, but the drink most likely to be found at our tailgate would be Ten High, the best price/value combination of whiskey that Meijer has to offer.
You know it's good when the bottle cap is a plastic twist off
5. OK, I couldn't leave it alone completely. How do you feel about the impending end of the Coach Willingham era at Washington?

Over the past 3 seasons at Washington, Willingham’s average signing classes have consisted each of 4 Four Star players, and 7.6 Two Star players. Weis’ classes during the same time period (keep in mind that one of these classes came during a historically bad 3-9 season) averaged 14.6 Four Star players and only .6 Two Star. Ty’s first two season’s at ND consisted of fairly decent recruiting numbers, but after the success of Stanford and the 2002 season faded, Willingham pulled in a miserable 2 Four Stars to 6 Two Stars in 2004. As for this season, Charlie is working on another Top 10 recruiting class while Ty currently only has 4 ranked commits for the 2009 class.
The moral of the story? You can’t win without talent, and keeping someone around for four years that recruits poor talent will often result in a few 0-6 starts. I have full confidence that the Irish will make it 0-7.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Clausen/Quinn Midseason Breakdown

Last offseason, this site came up with a three part article attempting to draw some comparisons between the freshman seasons of Brady Quinn and Jimmy Clausen. I thought that while we're in the middle of a slow bye week, it would be interesting to take a look at where the two stood after the first half of their sophomore seasons. From this high-tech Excel breakdown, it looks like Clausen is throwing (on average) more passes at a higher completion rate. JC is throwing for more yards per game, but his passes are averaging less yards per attempt.

One thing interesting to draw from last season's comparisons is that during freshman year, Quinn was attempting more passes and throwing for more YPG, and this trend has appeared to flip this season. Also, while JC is throwing 2.3 TDs to BQ's 1.5, the pair are virtually even in TD/INT ratio with Jimmy at 1.75 and Brady at 1.8. Feel free to chime in with any observations you have from the data above, but the most interesting info I got came from looking at YPG and Attempts Per Game:
Both squads were 4-2 through 6 games, and I have gone through and marked the losses of both teams. You'll notice that there seems to be a weak positive correlation between pass yards per game and losing, and although it may not seem that significant in the above graph, the chart marking attempts per game makes it fairly obvious.

The magic number seems to be 40 attempts: stay at or under and the team winds, go above that mark and you're itching for a loss. The tricky thing here is that equating passing to losing is sort of a 'chicken/egg' situation (i.e. are you losing because you're passing, or are you passing because you're losing?), but for this season, I think it is decently easy to resolve that dilemma. Against MSU, Notre Dame wasn't passing because they were down early, they were passing because they absolutely could not run the ball. At North Carolina, Weis and Co. came out with guns blazing, throwing on 14 of their first 18 plays (and the other 4 plays were 3 qb draws and a sack).

The bottom line is that numbers are just numbers, and they can't really ever tell the whole story, but maybe this chart suggests that these quarterbacks are still too young to shoulder 40+ attempt responsibility. Maybe Weis needs to learn how to incorporate his three-headed RB team and improving run blocking later in the game (what if the first play in the second half of the UNC game was a run?). If the aerial assault is to continue in 2008, Weis and Clausen need to figure out a way of eliminating the increased interceptions that come with increased pass attempts, otherwise we could be in for more disappointing losses in the second half of the year.

The good news that comes out of this post is that Jimmy is very comparable to Brady through the first season and a half, with Clausen arguably out performing Quinn. After sitting on my couch watching Big Ten football all weekend, I can tell you that Irish fans under appreciate a sophomore's ability to throw catchable balls on every attempt. The future has the potential to be very bright for Notre Dame, let's hope that the team can find a way to crank up the light switch.

Go Irish.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

IBG: Bye Week Edition

A few weeks ago, Subway Domer suggested that a few Notre Dame bloggers combine heads every week to ponder over a few Irish-football-related questions. Each week, a different blogger comes up with 5 questions, and the other members of this segment (called the Irish Blogger Gathering) do their best to come up with answers. Frank at came up with some good questions for the bye week. Enjoy...

1. With our beloved Irish on the bye this weekend, how much college football will you be watching Saturday and what games are you most looking forward to watching?

There’s some great Big 12 action that I might be tuning into (16 Kansas at 4 Oklahoma or 11 Missouri at 1 Texas), but seeing as I’ll be back in Ohio for fall break, the game of focus will definitely be No 12 OSU at No 20 Michigan State (3:30 pm abc). Ohio State has been pretty inconsistent on offense (see: scoring 16 points against Purdue), so if the Spartans can muster up 20+ points of offense, they have a great chance of upsetting the Buckeyes in East Lansing. However, this week in the football season usually marks the implosion MSU, causing a semi-talented top 25 team to slip to the level of a 7-5 or 6-6 team, so something’s got to give.
2. Not to look too far ahead… but in looking at the 2009 schedule, do you think the Irish will be set up for a title run if they continue to improve each week as they are doing now?

Last season, I did a breakdown comparing how Quinn and Clausen performed during their freshman seasons, and my army of child labor data compilers has been hard at work crunching numbers for a sophomore midseason analysis that I should be able to put up over fall break. Let me give you a hint: the comparisons are pretty dog gone similar. What’s more, the 2009 offense will return starters at nearly every position, so the tools are there for our offense to develop into one of the more dangerous units in the country.
The schedule also looks pretty favorable: MSU, USC, and BC at home, and Michigan / Pitt on the road look to be the toughest games. So the big question is if our defense can make the leap and start competing at the next level… Plan on reading several hundred articles during the offseason as to whether or not the defense will be able to do so, but for now, I say why not? Notre Dame will go to the 2009 National Title game if they can beat USC.

3. If you could take 1 recruit we missed on from each of the last 4 years (1 from each year), who would they be and how differently would this team look like right now if we had gotten that 1 player each year? (Note, the players should be players the Irish either led for at one time or were at least a finalist for).

Anyone interested in recruiting that doesn’t have a rivals subscription can check UHND’s recruiting board to see how ND stands with the top prospects in the country. I have to applaud Frank and co. at UHND blog for this question as I think it’s a pretty interesting one. Here’s my stab at it:
2005: In this coaching transition year, the Irish did not have any commits from the Rivals Top 100 (even Stanford did). So really landing any prominent commit would have helped, but I’m going to go with Alex Boone, a top tackle that now dominates in the Big Ten for OSU. While he may not have helped us in his first two years, Boone could have teamed up with Sullivan and Young during last season to help the Irish field a better offensive line, and perhaps we could have mustered a few more wins in 2007.
2006: Here I have to go with Gerald McCoy, the top DT prospect that earned Big 12 Freshman of the Year Honors last season (redshirted 2006, though I doubt that would have been the case if he went to ND) for the Sooners. A go to DT to compliment Laws/Kuntz/Williams would have helped last season, and having a disruptive force in the middle this season would greatly aid Tentuta’s blitz schemes this year.
2007: The Irish hauled in a great class in 2007, with 7 players in the Rivals 100, but out of those 7, only CB Gary Gray was on the defensive side of the ball. Again, I think Notre Dame would have gotten the most benefit from hauling in a big D-Line recruit. #1 DE prospect Carlos Dunlap finished with the Irish 3rd on his list, choosing instead to go to Florida.
2008: Another year, and 7 more Domers in the top 100, but only 2 on defense. After watching so many highlight reels of Omar Hunter before he de-committed, I can’t possibly choose anyone else. Why pick 3 D-Linemen in three years, you ask? Remember when Abirimiri, Laws, and Landri were all starting for Notre Dame? That’s why.
4. If Notre Dame could only land 1 more recruit on each side the ball in this recruiting class, who would you like it to be? (Again, it should be someone we have a reasonable chance with).

Def: Why Jelani Jenkins? Because he’s the #1 LB? Because he’s the #4 overall recruit in the country? Maybe… but I really want this guy just because he goes to Our Lady of Good Counsel in Maryland, the alma mater of one of my good friends, and because she’s currently saving the world in Uganda, I feel obligated to throw props to her high school in absentia. Furthermore, this guy is BIG, FAST, and loves contact. I think he would be a great addition to the Irish LB team.
Off: Shaq Evans is the obvious choice, not only because of this kids play making ability at WR, but also because it would be great to see a top California recruit to spurn USC in favor of Irish. Top tackle prospect Xavier Nixon is an attractive pick, but this class already has 3 OL commits, so I feel that it would be a little more beneficial to land a receiver, a position where ND currently lacks any true position prospects.

5. If you could take one of Notre Dame’s bowl losses since the 1994 Cotton Bowl win over Texas A&M and turn it into a win, which one would it be? Why? And What if any impact do you think that win would have had on the Irish.

For me, it would definitely be the 2006 loss to OSU in the Fiesta Bowl. I have already described why that game was my first Irish 'heartbreaker' in the last IBG post, but it would also be a good bowl to reverse for a few reasons. First, it would give Notre Dame a win over the pride of the Big Ten, putting members of that conference in their place, but more importantly, it would have established Weis' teams as ones that come out and compete in big games. After nearly beating what some people thought was an unbeatable USC team, it would have been great for the program to give a good showing in their first BCS bowl with Weis. The streak would be snapped, and the Irish would (hopefully) reestablish themselves as a program that is supposed to win the big games.

Monday, October 13, 2008

UNC Duds and Studs


Lambert / McNeil: This was the first game where missing Walls has really hurt us. Lambert had a good breakup in the endzone, but for the majority of the game, our starting DBs failed to contain the UNC passing attack. I think that (especially against a QB like Sexton), we should use more press coverage; it is excruciatingly painful to see a Tarheel receiver catch a five yard hitch time and again only to turn it up field and break poor tackles from our cornerbacks.

DE/OLB: From what I could see, Johnny Ryan wasn't playing much at his DE/OLB spot, and while he is usually pretty ineffective, extra reps from Kerry Neal didn't seem to change anything. Justin Brown also looked slow to react at times as the front 3 (or 4) failed to shed blockers and allowed a pretty inexperienced quarterback too much time to throw.

Late Game Officiating: I almost left to get dinner during the overturned UNC 3rd down reception; I was convinced that there was no way the call would get over turned. I guess the refs were so disappointed with our 4th quarter scoring struggles (0 points with over 10:00 of possession) that they felt obligated to give us another shot. Also, regardless of what did or didn't happen at the end of the game, the refs did not do a good job of explaining it. I saw a ref signaling Floyd down and blowing his whistle. As we all know from the Broncos/Chargers game a few weeks ago, if this was the case then ND should have retained possession where UNC recovered the fumble (watch the replay - do you think Turkovich would have acted differently if he didn't think the play was over?). BUT, this point should be moot because the Irish got up to the line and snapped the ball before the refs stopped them and snapped it while a UNC has 12 men on the field. As I know as a Browns friend circa the Dwayne Rudd helmet rule, the game cannot end on a defensive penalty, so ND should have been given an untimed down... I realize that my writing tone must seem pretty upset about this, but to tell you the truth, I don't mind much because in the end, the Irish did not deserve to win based on their performance late in the game (and because of the botched call I mentioned that went ND's way)... What I'm more upset/confused about is that in a game where about seven plays were reviewed, why did no one look at Blanton's forced fumble?
Clausen: Before the team left for halftime, Weis said the most important thing to do was to come out and score to start the 3rd quarter because we couldn't afford another 3 and out like we had against Purdue... Another pick and a fumble allowed UNC back into a game that they were out of at halftime.
WRs: Not sure if Floyd takes the chance of fumbling that ball after his rookie year, but his 93 yards and TD make up for it. The Jordan-esque look Tate had in his eye for the entire final drive and his ability to change an interception into a big completion are two of the reasons why I love watching him play, and DUVAL (5 rec. for 58 yards) finally looked close to what he was last season. It is scary to think that all of these players are underclassmen.
Clausen: I don't want to be too harsh on Jimmy. Completing 65% of his passes and registering a career high in passing yards (383) for the third week in a row are almost enough to trump his turnovers, but what seals the deal to make me feeling confident about Clausen is the fact that he recovered from throwing a terrible interception in the 4th quarter to cover 60 yards of field in a minute and gave his team a chance to win. Look for JC to have a coming out party against Washington just like our last quarterback did.
Coaching: I liked the scheme of attacking UNC through the air and complementing it with runs as the game went on. I remember hearing the announcers say something like:
"It looks like Notre Dame can only throw against the Tarheels" followed by, "Now the Irish have come out running and are also picking up yards" and after a screen play, "Well now Notre Dame is just picking apart the defense all kinds of ways."
The game plan (at least offensively) gave us a chance to win.
Walker: It's always a little strange to give someone extra credit for doing what they're supposed to do, but 4/4 kicking (including a career long 42 yarder) will hopefully propel Walker into a strong second half of the season.

Tarheel Puns: How can you not like reading all of these story titles:
Achilles' Heel, Tobacco Road-block, Wheels Come Off on the Tobacco Road, Carolina Bruised...
Why can't I be more witty?

Now off to watch my Brownies in a Monday Night massacre probabilistic loss...

Go Irish!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Belated Quote

I meant to put this up earlier and use blogspot's auto-post feature to get it up in time for Thursday in an attempt to revive the struggling 'Quote of the Week' segment, but a couple midterms unfortunately got in the way.

Anyways, here's a segment from Charlie's presser earlier in the week talking about what JC needs to do for ND to be successful against UNC this weekend:

"Clausen is going to have to be patient this game. UNC does not blitz as much as the other teams this year because they trust their front four. It really challenges a young QB to be patient and go through a progression when there are seven guys dropping back in coverage."

If that wasn't good enough, here's a quote that HRB was kind enough to publish from last weekend's game:
On a side note, it looks like Brandon Walker won the kicking competition hands down this week, proving that a 1/7 kicker is the best that ND's 8,000 undergrad population can produce... Word on the DL is that Robby Parris was messing around at the end of practice and connected on 6 straight FGs, including a 52 yarder... just saying...
Go Irish!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

IBG: Heart Of Darkness Edition

Welcome to another edition of Irish Blogger Gathering. The questions this week are from OC Domer. Enjoy!

Who was your first Notre Dame hero?

Julius Jones… what can I say, I’m a young college kid, and while I generally remember the awesomeness of attending ND games as a kid, I can’t say that I remember specifically too many of the names. I do, however, remember a sick nasty runningback reeking havoc on opposing defenses. #22 for life.
When was the first time the Fighting Irish broke your heart?

January of 2006. Growing up in a suburb of Cleveland, all of my friends constantly talked about the great sweatervest and tOSU, so it only seemed fitting that weeks after receiving my ND acceptance letter, I host all of my Ohio State friends for the ’06 Fiesta Bowl in order to bask in glory as my Irish stomped all over their program. Needless to say, Ted Ginn and Co. had other ideas, and I spent the rest of the night surrounded by my exuberant red jersied friends and drowning my sorrows in buffalo chicken dip.

3. Let's suppose for just a moment that for whatever reasons the Notre Dame football program begins to slide into what looks like long term mediocrity, or even long term suckitude:
  • NBC doesn't renew the television deal, and the package offered by the Versus network makes it clear that remaining independent will mean a lot less $$$ than joining a conference and sharing in their TV deal. Should the Irish join a conference? If so, which? Why that one?

I think that the U should stick it to the man on this one and preserve it’s independence, holding tradition over bigger bucks. This school has the unique capability of scheduling a big game every week, and if it wants to continue earning money without NBC, all it needs to do is kick ass against good teams week in and week out. Good football will always find its way onto TV... (Besides, we had something like a 25% return on our endowment fund last year… why do we need money?)
  • Over time, Notre Dame becomes the football peer of Duke and Syracuse, lucky to win four games a year, rarely posting a winning season. What should the University do? Drop football? Join a conference (or a lesser conference)? Drop down to Div-IA (the FCS Division)? Schedule 12 cupcakes each season?

    I we absolutely become unable to win games for decades at a time, I would have to agree with OC and join the Ivy league. I’d much obtain wins by competing against top academic institutions than by attacking the MAC, Sunbelt, and Mountain West (SDSU) on a consistent basis to post wins.

    The Indiana legislature has been taken over by a coalition of tee totaling, non-violent religious groups that outlaw both beer and football, and the University is forced to end the football program. To which college football team do you switch your allegiance, and why?
    I would never be able to root for the in state Buckeyes, and seeing as Ohio (especially the norther part) is pretty void of football power, I would have to turn to my neighboring states. Michigan and Indiana are full of rivals, so they're out of the question. In Pennsylvania, I would probably have to side with Penn State over Pitt. The school is full of (up until recently) generally positive tradition, and I would still get to butt heads with my in-state friends once a year.

  • 4. While on campus on a football Saturday you stop by the Knights of Columbus building to get your traditional steak and gristle sandwich. You also take the opportunity to pop inside the building to use the restroom before following the band over to the stadium. While waiting in line for the bathroom and watching the endlessly running Rudy on the K of C television you make the acquaintance of an older gentleman with a beard. He's rather short, but very energetic for his obviously advanced age. You allow him to cut in line in front of you. When he comes out of the restroom, obviously relieved, he thanks you and then steps in really close to you and whispers in your ear. "I'll grant you two wishes. The first - Notre Dame will beat any team you choose for the next ten seasons. The second, the Irish will also lose for ten straight years to any team you name. Quick now, what two teams will they be?!" You blurt out your two answers, and he disappears into the crowd. What two teams did you pick, and why?

    I have to pick USC for the first part of the question. 5 years of thumping the perennial California powerhouse in So Cal should give us an edge in recruiting that part of the country, and I could perhaps see Pete Carroll actually go crazy.

    After trying to escape the second part of the question by holding my breath until I passed out, I would probably say something like “Oh my!” which the old man may confuse for “Roll Tide,” starting a decade of losses to Saban’s boys in Bama. The end result of this scenario wouldn’t be all that bad though, as ND and Bama could start up an exciting ND / SEC rivalry that would hopefully be entertaining for more than ten years.

    5. I'm a terrible predictor. I'm pretty good at analysis, but I'm no good picking games because I almost always pick the Irish. But we need to get on the record here. Notre Dame has games left against North Carolina, Washington, Pitt, Boston College, Navy, Syracuse, and USC. Pick the winner of each of those seven games. Assign each pick points based upon your level of confidence in the pick. Most confident pick gets a 7, least confident pick gets a 1. Each value 1 through 7 must be used once. A perfect score of all picks correct would be worth a total of 28 points. The member of the Irish Blogger Gathering with the highest point total wins a prize of my choosing at the end of the regular season. In case of a tie, the tiebreaker is the member who has the best overall season based on quantity and quality of posts to their blog from now through the end of the season, as voted by the members of the Gathering.

    Per my previous predictions:

    UNC: W 1

    Washington: W 7

    Pitt: L 2

    BC: W 3

    Navy: W 5

    Syracuse: W 6

    USC: L 4

    Monday, October 6, 2008

    Stanford Duds and Studs

    Coaching: It was great to see the team respond to some of the smack talk coming from the Cardinal players. The result was an amped up unit that created 3 turnovers in the opening minutes and jumped out to a quick lead. Unfortunately, the coaching staff was unable to maintain this great energy late into the game. The Irish team that came out of the locker room for the third quarter seemed a little flat and deflated, and when Stanford was getting back into the game in the fourth quarter, backups were being subbed in at multiple positions. I understand the value of experience, but this team is so young that all of the starters still need experience. Lastly, everyone is aware of ND's kicking struggles, so what better way to get Walker's confidence up a little bit than giving him a 27 yard chip shot at the end of the game? Not only was it an easy attempt, but it would have eliminated any chance Stanford had of winning the game, putting them down 10 with no time left. Instead, a failed 4th down run by Aldridge was a slap in the face to an already demoralized Walker, and gave Stanford a chance to tie the game on a big play.
    Special Teams: Walker had another tough day, but that is to be somewhat expected now. The reason the whole unit makes this list is that the coverage (other than Anello, who took some great pursuit angles to make tackles all the way across the field) was uncharacteristically weak. Particularly, the 38 yard punt return in the second half gave momentum to Stanford when we should have been putting them away.

    LBs: Recording 5 sacks and 3 interceptions, the front seven had a very good day on the sexy end of the stat sheet, but missed tackles and poor pursuit angles allowed Stanford's two runningbacks to average 6.3 yards per rush, including a 13 carry, 100 yard day for Gerhart. It was fortunate that the Irish were able to get ahead quickly, otherwise the Cardinal ground game could have been used more often.

    Pat Kuntz: When you rock a beater and jorts for your pep rally speech, you better back it up with a good on the field performance, and Kuntz was up for the challenge. With an interception, a fumble recovery, and a sack, this animal was a bright spot for the Irish defensive front.

    Clausen: Completing 75% of his passes en route to a career 347 yards passing, JC continued to show why playing with a good haircut is better. Since the MSU game when Samson cut his locks, Jimmy is 49/75 for 622 yards and 6 TDs. Additionally, Clausen is finally starting to take over the team as a leader; it was pretty fun to see #7 pacing the ND sidelines and raising his arms (Father Doyle style) to amp up the players and the crowd.
    Floyd: It makes it easier to throw for 347 yards when you're lofting the ball to a freak of nature. 5 catches for 115 yards has Darius Walker jersey wearers happy that double D's freed up the #3 spot.
    Rudolph: Ragone missing the entire season had a lot of people worried about the depth at the TE position, but fortunately, Kyle Rudolph has stepped up in a big way the last two games. He is on the same page as Clausen, connecting five times for 70 yards and a score, but perhaps more importantly, his blocking has improved a lot since his struggles early in the season.

    Allen: Armando's 9 rushes for 33 yards are average, but his involvement in the passing game (7 catches for 66 yards) elevates him into the Studs category this week. Scoring a TDs by the land and the air, it's exciting to see Armando using his improving field vision to attack holes as well as make moves in space.Notes: I think that this game was the closest our team has come to actually having a 'nasty' attitude in a couple of years.; the hard hitting and intensity really made Stanford eat their words, and it was fun to watch. It's been great to watch the development of the passing game; lining up Tate, Floyd, and Grimes with Rudolph and Allen running intermediate routes gives Jimmy 5 very good receivers to throw to. Sergio Brown hasn't been great in coverage this year, but he has some excellent play making ability. Add another forced fumble to his resume.

    Go Irish! Beat Tarheels!

    Wednesday, October 1, 2008

    At Least Some People Like Me...

    I guess Subway Domer of sailor mouth fame started up something to pool together some of the Notre Dame blogging sites in a segment (? blogpoll? not sure what to call it) titled 'Irish Blogger Gathering,' and while the IBG may not have a ring to it quite like the KGB, I was intrigued by the idea. That being said, here is the Nasties response to the first set of IBG questions:

    1. This is Notre Dame. Notre Dame is the game circled on just about every opposing teams schedule. They hate us and want to destroy us. So, it is safe to say that if ND plays a team every year, that game will become a big game for ND and an even bigger game for the opponent. So, pick any team that ND does not currently play and make that team a rival and create a rivalry trophy to go along with your rival of choice.

    Subway listed Penn State for this one, and I think that it is a very legitimate opponent to rival with, especially considering that we are apparently at conflict with some of our student section cheers (my mouth dropped down a good half foot when I saw that an ND student actually wrote this article). However, because of more recent matchups, I'm going to have to go with Pitt. The past decade has been full of some high scoring thrillers and a few good upsets between the Irish and the Panthers, and there will always be some bitterness between the coaches after Weis ruined Wannstedt's homecoming in the ever memorable 2005 matchup. In order to commemorate that win, I think it is only fitting that the mythical trophy for this prospective rivalry should be a flattering bronze bust that combines Wannstedt's awesome mustache with Charlie's underrated flat top. Tell me you wouldn't want to see this on display somewhere in the Gug:
    2. What current rival of ND (Michigan, Michigan State, Purdue, Boston College, Stanford, Southern California- all trophy games) would you take off of the schedule and never play again?

    Although I love the MSU game from the standpoint that it is close enough to easily travel to for an away game and there are always plenty of side stories surrounding the game year to year, I would have to eliminate this game because the Irish stand to gain the most from removing the Spartans from their schedule. Every season MSU plays ND at a level that could knock off some top tier teams, but if Notre Dame wins these tough dog fights, they are never really rewarded because MSU always tanks it at the end of the year, leading people to believe that ND plays a ‘weak schedule.' If ND wants a tough game on their schedule, I would suggest booking a team that can play well past October.

    3. What entertainment rival (whether it be TV, movies, or celebrity) would you compare to ND and one of its current rivals?

    Pulling from the college video game scene, I'd equate USC to Niko Bellic (of GTA4) and Notre Dame to the Liberty City Police. Right now, everyone is drawn to the flashy life of fast cars, faster women, and machine guns. And despite their best efforts, an innumerable mass of the LCPD are unable to stop the havoc wreaking Niko. While I cringe a bit by comparing the Irish to a comically bureaucratic law enforcement agency, the truth is that over the last two season specifically (and the last few years in general), we have looked stiff and incompetent against the Trojans (not to mention anything about the Indiana Excise Police...). But fear not Irish faithful, ND will regain power in this rivalry soon enough. Like turning families against each other in the Mafia, Notre Dame is slowly getting top talent from California to spurn USC for South Bend, and these recruits will help the Irish start showing up to gun fights properly equipped.
    4. List your top 5 historical college football rivalries. After that, list your top 5 college football rivalries as of 2008.

    1. ND USC (I’m told the games were good a long time ago)
    2. OSU Mich (I’m also told these games used to be close)
    3. Navy Army
    4. ND Mich
    5. Bama Auburn

    1. ND Mich
    2. Florida Georgia
    3. Texas Oklahoma
    4. OSU vs. the SEC
    5. USC vs. the PAC-10

    5. There are a lot of rivalry games out there. What is a great rivalry game that may not be as well known as the ones in your top 5 and explain why it so fantastic.
    Kansas vs. Kansas State. You have to love interstate rivalries, and seeing as the Jayhawks and the Wildcats are the only respectable teams in their state to begin with adds that much more heat to the fire. While KSU has held the edge most recently, Mangino and a resurgent KU squad has been upping the competitiveness the last few years, and if that wasn’t enough, just watch the glory that is the KSU Wabash Cannonball:

    That's it for this week's Irish Blogger Gathering... I hope mine was worth the read. Go Irish!