Monday, September 28, 2009

Purdue Duds and Studs

Sorry again for the delayed post... I'll try to throw up general thoughts about the game, coaching, and etc. a little later this week, but for now I'll head right into the Duds and Studs:Duds

Big Plays: 2 of Purdue's 3 touchdowns came on plays of 35 yards or longer. The first score featured perhaps the worst tackling I've ever seen from this defense, and the second was a blown coverage that allowed Jaycen Taylor to trot untouched for a 38 yard score. Domer Law Blog sums up my feelings on the big plays given up on Saturday:
I think that everything you need to know about this team is summed up in this quote by Weis:

"You know, they (Purdue) had a couple of carries where they got yards, and then the rest of the carries I mean, they gained 56 yards on three carries, and they gained 11 yards on the other 14 carries. They had a 26 yard run, a 15 yard run and a 15 yard run, and they were really the only runs that were over ten yards, and the rest of it averaged less than a yard a carry."

So to sum up, if we wouldn't screw up a few times a game, we could be really good.

Pass Defense: Joey Elliott shredded the defense for 289 yards and 3 TDs, and our lone interception was on a 4th and 3 where an incompletion may have been the better option. Robert Blanton had eight total tackles on the night, but the overall production is still not there. A better pass rush will help, but we need our talented corners and safeties to start producing some turnovers and better cover the opposition.Injuries: Purdue may have been the "wounded animal" after losing at home to Northern Illinois the previous week, but even though Purdue came out and played a great football game, it is obvious that while Notre Dame may be able to play without Floyd, putting points on the board without Floyd and Clausen and Allen will be a struggle. Kudos to Weis for using some creativity, but we need JC and AA back at 90% or better if we want to get to 9 or 10 wins.


Golden Tate: Everyone is quick to point out Brian Smith's enthusiasm and leadership on defense, but I never hear the same about Golden on offense. This cat never goes down easy and always seems to know how to get past the first down markers when its third and long. With 5 receptions for 55 yards and 9 carries for 55 yards, the versatile Tate helped keep Purdue's defense guessing for most of the game.Front 7: Who would have guessed that our run defense would have been doing better than our pass defense by the fourth game of the season? The 2008 recruiting class of Ethan Johnson, Darius Fleming, and KLM is starting to mesh nicely with young gun Manti Te'o. The unit held the nation's second leading rusher Ralph Bolden to a season low 67 yards on 17 carries. Now if only this group could start getting after the quarterback...

Kyle Rudolph: Check out this line about our tight end and tell me he didn't merit the title of "Stud" for this week:

“Kyle looked at me and said ‘Jimmy give me the ball,”’ Clausen said. “I said, ‘You better get open and catch the ball,’ and he made a big play. After that, I gave him a big hug and said all that work in the summertime out in California paid off.”
X Factor(?): Call it what you want: grit, guts, or will to win. The magic ingredient that many fans have accused former Irish teams of lacking appears to be strikingly present in this year's squad. Whether it's players like Rudolph demanding the ball on the most important play of the game, Robert Hughes dragging defenders with him into the endzone, or Sergio Brown and Manti Te'o combining to sack Elliott to end the game, this team has simply refused to lose.

Jimmy Clausen: Speaking of refusing to lose, in the last three games, JC has found his team down late in the fourth quarter and responded with three touchdown drives. It makes sense that a player currently 5th in ESPN's Heisman watch list should find himself in the Studs category week in and week out. At this point, if the Irish find themselves less than 1 score down and on offense as time is running out, I think that we have a good chance of winning because of this guy.

Thats it for this week. Go Irish!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

IBG: Better Late Than Never

I usually try to get my Irish Blogger Gathering posts up by Thursday, but a few things came up (one of which may or may not have been an impromptu screening of Hellboy II) so I missed my deadline. However, a night game at Purdue gave me the extra time I needed to answer Frank's questions from UHND. Here you go:

1. The obvious question for the week, how does Notre Dame deal with the loss of Michael Floyd? What wide receiver steps up? How, if at all, does the offense change?

When Floyd went down, every Irish fan started having nightmares of last year when a respectable Irish offense went comatose without their young star wideout. Putting my emotions (mostly stemming from the loss to Syracuse) aside and looking at some numbers however, ND’s offensive efficiency (measured in a percentage of yards gained) dropped from 71.5% to 53% after Floyd left the game. Considering that 60% seems to be the benchmark for a good offense, and adding that Clausen and Armando were banged up, it looks like Notre Dame’s dip in offensive production will fortunately not be as severe as last season. Look for the veteran combo of Kamara and Parris to team up with Rudolph in replacing some of the production.

2. After seeing three games from Notre Dame in 2009 have your expectations increased, decreased, or remained the same?

Unfortunately, MSU put up a 60% offensive efficiency against ND, which is the highest opponent total in the last two years. Our inability to put pressure on the quarterback has decreased my expectations somewhat, and I think that my 10-2 regular season prediction will dip to at least 9-3 as a result.

3. The last two years against Purdue, a Notre Dame player has had their breakout game. In 2007 it was Golden Tate and in 2008 it was Armando Allen. Who do you think could have their breakout game against the Boilermakers this year?

Going on the road and potentially facing some bad weather, I think Notre Dame will still score points through the air, but I want to see the coaching staff mix in a little more ball control offense. With Armando coming off of a minor ankle injury, I think one of the backup runningbacks could take advantage of some extra carries. My breakout player is Theo Riddick.

4. How would you grade the three new coaches on this year’s staff based on the first three games?

As I mentioned in this week’s Duds and Studs post, I am pretty pleased with Alford and Verducci. The offensive line may have returned four of last year’s starters, but there has been a lot of position switching, and Verducci’s ability to manage this position flux while greatly improving the run and pass blocking gets him an A. Allen is running better than ever and protecting the ball, but Jonas Gray still has some work to do before I would feel comfortable putting him on the field, so Alford gets an A-. Hart is tricky because we haven’t been putting up great defensive numbers, but he doesn’t have the best talent pool to work with (lets be honest, John Ryan and Mo Richardson are no Pat Kuntz and Trevor Laws). All that being said though, I think our D Line does display better tackling fundamentals than our linebackers (which is scary), and I think the enthusiasm Hart brings to the table will lead to more improvement in the near future. He gets a B.

5. Your thoughts on Golden Tate’s stage dive into the Michigan State band? Was he trying to avoid running into the band? Was the whole thing intentional? Little of column A, little of column B?

From the experiences I’ve had with Golden, I’d have to go with 95% column B. And it was awesome.

6. How has your opinion of the Notre Dame schedule changed from how you felt about it in the pre-season?

I’ve spent this week ranting with my roommates about how the rankings system in college football is pretty flawed. Every year, perennial teams returning big names get over ranked. Think of Georgia last year sitting at preseason #1 because they were returning Stafford and Moreno, but even Georgia fans recognized that their returning talent on the offensive line would give them issues as the season progressed. I’m saying this because for all of the talk about Notre Dame having such as easy schedule, the Irish now have 3 ranked opponents on the schedule, and teams like Pitt are looking to crack the top 25 sooner rather than later. Especially with Washington pulling off a win over USC, I think you have to recognize that the schedule is a little tougher.

7. Should Jimmy Clausen be getting more hype for the Heisman?

JC has been playing great, but he needs to keep up his stratospheric numbers for the next few weeks. If Clausen comes out of USC averaging 3 TDs a game and maintaining his passer rating, the hype will definitely start coming.

I'm taking Notre Dame -7 @ Purdue tonight. Go Irish!

Monday, September 21, 2009

MSU Duds and Studs


Pass Rush:
ESPN described our defense as being in "code red crisis mode," and right now, I have to agree. Poor tackling and another lackluster performance in the secondary helped Michigan State throw for 305 yards (to put that in perspective, MSU only managed 316 total yards at home last week against Central Michigan). For now, I'll put most of this blame on the pass rush. Whether we sent 3 or 7, the defense was unable to record a sack; either our front seven is worse than everyone thought or the Big Ten is that much better.
Injuries: Jimmy got tangled up, Allen and Duncan also were slow to get up at times, and we lost this guy named Michael Floyd for (likely) the season. "You can never really replace Michael Floyd, a guy that caliber of player. "He's an A-flight player," Weis said. "What you have to do is put other people in position to go ahead and pick up some of that responsibility. Having some veterans in that mix certainly makes it easier to do that." UHND has some ideas of how ND might replace Floyd's production, but it will be an uphill climb for the offense without its best receiver.

Backups: Jonas Gray struggled with pass blocking on Saturday, and after seeing a few snaps against Michigan, Shaq Evans couldn't get himself on the field this week despite Floyd's first half injury. With injury attrition setting in, the backups will need to step it up.

End of Game Clock Management:
Safety Kyle McCarthey described the last series as "freakishly similar" to last week's loss to Michigan. Part of the similarity was in Weis electing to throw the ball during the last series instead of running clock. Michigan State would have been less of a threat to score a game winning touchdown without an extra 40 seconds.


Armando: Allen has my vote for most improved player right now. Previously ridiculed for going down easily, #5 has shown the ability to consistently get the tough yards this year. His pass blocking is good, he's catching the ball out of the backfield effectively, and to borrow a Friday Night Lights line, he can throw the ball, too! (Play is at the 5:12 mark, sorry its the only one I could find).
#9s: Kyle Rudolph put up a career high 95 receiving yards and Ethan Johnson blocked an extra point that forced MSU to try and score at the end of the game instead of kicking a game winning field goal. With games like that, these two are giving Zibby jersey owners a good ROI.

New Coaches: Allen is looking better than ever, and a suspect O-Line from last season is providing good protection (3 sacks all year*) and good running lanes. Its about time to throw some props to Tony Alford and Frank Verducci, who have done a great job improving the offense.

Kyle McCarthy: Kyle is the only player in our secondary that tackles well, and his interception at the end of the game was the difference maker in the ball game. Every ND fan should be thankful that this athlete came back for a 5th year.Wildcat: On the one year anniversary of the Miami Dolphins using this formation to beat the Patriots, it looks like Weis has finally cooked up something close to a schematic advantage.

Sorry for the lack of intro / outro - busy busy. Go Irish! Beat Boilermakers!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

IBG: They were who we thought they were

Sarah over at Bad Trade had the questions this week:

1. Still trying to get the taste of last weekend's game out of my mouth, so let's start with something fun. With Sparty on its way into South Bend, give me your favorite memory of the ND-MSU series. I don't care what it is: John L. Smith losing it, the image of MSU guarding against nothing, an actual game memory, whatever.

This was probably going to be the first year that I didn’t link to this wonderful Michigan State postgame show, but with a question like this, I can’t help myself. Here you go.
2. Since 1997, Michigan State has won 9 of 12 games against the Irish. I view this as a classic case of Sparty having ND's number. What worries you most about Michigan State this weekend?

MSU’s O-Line returns three quality starters on the left side of the line including Freshman All-American guard Joel Foreman, and while the Spartans must replace their best linemen from a year ago, RG Jared McGaha (RS Sophomore) and RT J’Michael Deane (RS Junior) are the same age or even older than our young defensive front. Freshman runningback Caulton Ray is no Jevon Ringer (as evidenced by putting up only 122 yds and 1 TD against Montana State and Central Michigan), but Spartans have a way of stepping it up against the Irish, and our run defense will be a point of concern until proven otherwise.

3. Between my lingering bad feelings from last weekend and the history of this series in the last decade plus, give me a good reason or two or three to feel optimistic about a change in fortune for the Irish, because right now, I could use some optimism.

1. I'm throwing out the history for this question because this Irish squad has a knack for record breaking (bowl streak, most points scored @ Mich, etc) - the home team will finally win.
2. Our offense is sick nasty - the defense is still suspect, but we will put up 30+ week in and week out.
3. MSU's QBs shouldn't give us the problems that UM's did last week. Both put up good numbers over the past two games (7TDs no INTs), but they lack the footspeed to break big plays against our defense, who should be reinvigorated playing at home.

4. As it is my week, I get to address my current ND obsession. Have the last two games changed your opinion/reinforced your opinion re: Charlie in the box versus Charlie on the field?
Weis is an offensive coach, and from what I've seen this year, there isn't much to complain about on offense, so I think the climb in production is correlated more with the maturity of his players, not from where he calls the plays. Similarly, the lack of production on the defensive side seems to be a reflection of the youth and lack of talent, not schemes. Weis can call plays wherever he wants in my opinion.

5. If nothing else, I can count on one thing to look forward to on Saturday - tailgating. Anyone have a good recipe for me to try? I make no limitations on what it can be - a drink recipe, dessert, appetizer. So long as it can be made on a grill, camp stove, or ahead of time, I am happy to listen. The better the suggestion, the more likely you are to get invited to my own tailgate.

Walking Tacos: Pour chili into a bag of Fritos. Add sour cream and cheddar cheese as needed. Eat with spoon – a Dayton tailgate staple, this will give you that taco taste without the mess.

And if that is a little too tame for your tailgate try some:

Grimace: UV Grape Vodka and Mountain Dew – they call it a grimace cause that’s what it’ll make you do. Be careful though, you don’t want to end up like this guy I saw at the Nevada game.6. Finally, any predictions for the game? I encourage your predictions to involve something other than a final score, but otherwise, I make no suggestions.

The offense is going to keep doing what its doing. Tate is due for a big game, and Shaq will start seeing some more quality PT as Floyd is afforded the opportunity to take a few less snaps. Our defense will feed off of the home crowd and make a few big stops to quiet the MSU offense. Notre Dame takes this one 35-17.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

NFL Irish Duds and Studs

Notre Dame alum's had some ups and downs in the first week of the NFL season. So just for fun, here are the Duds and Studs from week 1:


Anthony Fasano:
Per ESPN's AFC East Blog: In Sunday's opener, he caught two passes and fumbled them both -- one of them on the Falcons' 16-yard line.

John Sullivan: Replacing All-Pro center Matt Birk is hard enough, but having to face All-Pro Shaun Rodgers in week 1 may be harder. Sullivan showed Vikings fans that he still has some learning to do after being dominated by Rodgers Sunday, the low point coming when Sully was called for holding and still let up a sack.Brady Quinn: On the other side of the Browns / Vikings game, BQ got his first season-opening start with the Browns. While managing the game adequately in the first half, an interception and fluke fumble in the second half served as turning points in the game. On the bright side, BQ did lead the Browns on their first touchdown drive at home since Week 9 of last season (yikes!).


John Carlson:
It looks like Carlson will be able to surpass his mark of 5 TD receptions last season. The ND grad hauled in six passes for 95 yards and 2 TDs in week 1.
Julius Jones: While Carlson led the Seahawks in receiving yards, Jones set the tempo on the ground to the tune of 117 yards at 6.2 YPC. Hopefully this is a sign of Jones finally getting the breakout NFL season Irish fans have been waiting for.

Justin Tuck:
1.5 sacks a game is almost the norm for this pro-bowler.

Victor Abiramiri:
Perhaps the least likely out of all of these players to score a touchdown in week 1, Abiramiri aided in the Eagle's throttling of the Panthers by scooping and scoring on Sunday. Nice job Vick!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Michigan Duds and Studs

The Nasties crew was lucky enough to score some tickets to the game in Ann Arbor Saturday, and to say the least, we were able to take in an exciting football game. Unfortunately for Irish fans, the game ended in a bad way, leaving ND stunned with a loss heading into the game against MSU next weekend. With that, we head into another Duds and Studs post.


Weis: I can't point the blame more at any one else for this loss. Allen was killing it, and Jonas Gray gets 3 carries for net zero yards and a crucial fumble. Worse was the clock management at the end of the game. I'm aware that Clausen may have checked to Tate's fade route and that if Shaq ran a better route, we would probably have won. However, it makes no football sense to take those risks when we can call three consecutive run plays (throw in a screen if you want to pass) and give Michigan's rookie quarterback no timeouts and short clock to drive the entire field. Kudos to Charlie for putting up a lot of points, but his clock management at the end of games boarders on the inept.Special Teams: Tausch missed his first collegiate field goal, and poor pursuit angles combined with a missed tackle gave UM seven free points on a kick return. I will be interested to see OC Domer's breakdown of average starting field position; I have a feeling Notre Dame lost this pivotal statistic Saturday.

M.O.E.s: To borrow a stat often used at Blue Gray Sky, major offensive errors killed the Irish on Saturday. Holding penalties and dropped passes jerked our offense to a stop. A missed blocking assignment aided in causing the Jonas Gray fumble, and Allen stepped out of bounds on what would have been a vital touchdown.

Defense: I tried to narrow this down into secondary and front seven, but the problems I noticed were largely the same in both. On too many occasions, defenders either took a bad pursuit angle to the ball, incorrectly played a route, or displayed the same poor tackling we saw against Nevada last week. If anyone wants to argue in favor of our defense, keep in mind that we just let a freshman quarterback complete 70% of his passes and average over 5 yards per carry.


Jimmy Clausen*: JC gets the asterisk here because if I find out that he checked out of a run to throw a deep ball to Tate, all of his statistics are shrouded by a terrible awareness decision. That being said, Jimmy has yet to throw a pick this year, and he would have probably put up more than 330 yards and 3 TDs if it weren't for some of the M.O.E.s mentioned above. The best aspect of Clausen's performance, however, was his ability to reinvigorate a stagnant offense that was 11 points down in the fourth quarter and put the team in position to win.

Michael Floyd: Michigan had no answer for Floyd on Saturday. Registering over 300 yards and 4 touchdowns in the first two games, this guy is a freak of nature. Fortunately, he should be back for MSU this weekend.

Armando Allen: With 139 yards on 21 carries, you wonder why Jonas or Robert were ever in the game. Allen showed speed to the outside, vision on the inside, and bounced off of would be tacklers for most of the game. After scoring the go ahead touchdown in the final minutes and following with a 2 point conversion run, Allen's penalty put an unfortunate damper on an otherwise spectacular game. It's unfortunate that such a minor hand gesture (I'm not even talking about the bird) could have such a large impact on the outcome of a game...Offensive Line: Allen and Clausen didn't do it all by themselves. The O-Line put together one of its better performances against a quality opponent in recent memory. 5.1 YPC against a team like Michigan is a solid effort.

Closing Thoughts:

Overall, I think our offense put together a good game. Key errors, however, kept the performance from being dominant. If ND can play smarter football on offense for the rest of the season, we should be able to move the ball well against our opponents. The defense, on the other hand, showed why most Irish fans listed our front seven as a weakness during the offseason. The youth up front was unable to make the proper reads and too slow to react. The veterans continue to move too slow (or in the case of Brian Smith, over pursue) to contain the opposition. This side of the ball must improve if Notre Dame wants to beat MSU or Pitt, let alone USC.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

IBG: giver er, then you git UM

Her Loyal Sons (who are definitely loyal in their hatred of Michigan) had the IBG questions for this week - thanks,!
1) Being that you're a ND blogger, and thus follow a Catholic university's football team religiously and/or are Catholic yourself, you're probably very familiar with the notion that bad things happen to good people. For a concrete example of that, look to every Irish player, coach, and fan who had to suffer through the last 2 seasons. But never forget that bad things can happen to really rotten people too. For a really fun example of that, look to Rich Rod going 3-9 in his big debut season in Ann Arbor. Now let's mess with your heads a bit: Give me one very good reason why great things might happen to very bad people by explaining to me A) How and why Michigan (sucks!) might beat ND this weekend and B) How Michigan (sucks!) will compete for a BCS berth in 2009.

Although Notre Dame shut out Nevada, the Irish allowed 6.3 YPC to the feature back, and while considered a team strength heading into the season, the secondary did not play up to expectations against the Wolfpack receivers. Add into the mix that our tackling was inconsistent at best to fundamentally bad at worst, and it is easy to develop a scenario where a grind it out / dink and dunk UM offense could spring a big play or two and upset the 18th ranked Irish on Saturday.

Outside of the matchup against ND, Michigan returns its three leaders on defense in rush end Brandon Graham (UM defensive MVP in 2008), Obi Ezeh at LB, and Donovan Warren at CB. Leadership in these three positions can maximize production out of newcomers. Michigan’s O-Line went through trial by fire in 2008, and now four starters return, and the youngest player on the line is a RS Sophomore. The freshman quarterback combination of Forcier and Robinson can both run (3.3 ypc not including Robinson's 60 yard outlier), and perhaps DickRod can figure out how to use the two together a la Tebow and Leak in 2006/2007. Lastly, all UM needs to do to reach the BCS is win the Big Ten, and with OSU struggling against Navy, perhaps this is their year.

2) After week 1, just as in 2008, the leading tacklers for the Notre Dame fighting Irish are both safeties: Kyle McCarthy with 7 and Harrison Smith with 5. DE Kerry Neal isn't even on the stat sheet, Brian Smith, while making 2 very big plays, didn't make a single other tackle, and Ethan Johnson had 1 tackle all game. Convince me that Michigan (sucks!) wont just run a "9 yards and a cloud of dust" offense against ND all freaking game.

UM’s O-Line in 2008 was similar to ND’s line in 2007, so theoretically, we could expect out of Michigan this year what our line produced last year. Also consider that their running quarterbacks each only averaged 3.3 YPC against Western Michigan’s vaunted defense and that Brandon Minor is banged up, and suddenly the scary spread offense doesn’t seem that bad. This game will come down to ND’s defense containing Michigan’s offense; without the benefit of the big play, I feel that we will keep the skunkbears from scoring more than we will.

ND must contain Robinson on Saturday

3) We've now got the concrete data of 1 game to bat around. Aside from any answers involving T'eo, tell me what position changes/depth chart engineering you hope to see the staff at least tinker with during the Michigan (sucks!) game.

I was curious about BGS’s tracking of the offensive line rotation and the use of our tight ends not named Kyle Rudolph. Rotating three linemen into the game should keep legs fresh and injuries to a minimum while using multiple TE sets will allow Weis to get back to his favorite formations from 2005/2006, granting ND full access to the sweet spots of the playbook. More than anything, I hope the coaching staff keeps this up.

How could I not include this picture?

4) The state of Michigan has decided that they've ripped off the Rudy soundtrack long enough and need a new advertising scheme to attract people to their state and support tourism. "Pure Michigan (sucks!)" is so two-thousand-and-late. Give me the new hotness. Give me your best new tourism slogans for Michigan (sucks!).

Michigan… Better than Detroit

5) Navy took tOSU down to the wire, Washington actually looked like a team that's coached to play football games, WSU put up some fight. After Week 1, do you now feel like the Irish '09 schedule is tougher or easier than you felt heading into last week? Why?

I really feel that the schedule is about the same. The majority of our opponents beat up on 1-AA patsy teams just like every other season, and teams like LSU and OSU, who are used to beating up on 1-AA teams to open the season, showed signs of struggle against more formidable opponents. I told my OSU friends all summer that they would understand that playing the Academies every year is harder than everyone thinks; Navy’s discipline (except for one unfortunate 2 point conversion) and hard work gave the Buckeyes more than they expected, and as a result, OSU was playing on its heels. The benefit that the Irish get when facing all three of these opponents is that Navy, Wash, and WSU do not have the entire offseason to prepare for Notre Dame, and as long as the Irish don’t get caught looking ahead, we should be able to pull Ws in all three games.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Duds and Studs: Nevada

With Notre Dame recording its first shutout since 2002 and Jimmy Clausen producing the best D-1 quarterback ranking of the week, it seems that the Hawaii bowl was more of a prediction than an aberration, and at least for now, its good to be an Irish fan. Saturday really couldn't have gone much better; the tailgating was great on and off campus, Notre Dame (finally) dominated its opening opponent, and the Nasties crew even got a chance to spend some time with a Notre Dame legend:
A passion for the Irish establishes some common ground between a Browns fan and a Steeler's Super Bowl winner

One thing to keep in mind while reading the first segment of Duds and Studs is that not all Duds are created equal. When I started doing this feature back in 2007, it was obvious to see the players that struggled, but even in blowout losses, I had the pleasure of picking one or two diamonds in the rough every game. Now, even in convincing wins, I am forced to highlight a few things the Irish could work on, so don't take it the wrong way.


Run Defense:
One element that Weis has been preaching this offseason is the aspiration of attaining the sacred 4.6 YPC that BCS caliber teams achieve year in and year out. Nevada put up an impressive 5.3 YPC, and Notre Dame allowed starting pistol back Vai Taua 149 yards and an average of 6.3 YPC. Ryan still looks slow in lateral adjustments and Brian Smith had some issues breaking down and consistently making form tackles, which contributed to these stats. With Brandon Minor and Shoelace Joe Jackson coming up next week, Notre Dame needs to improve against the run.

The New Scoreboard:
Not sure how much I like the new color graphics on the scoreboard. There was a particularly strange TechmoBowl-Like animation that gave me chills in the wrong way...
Secondary: Colin Kaepernick's 12/23 for 149 yards doesn't look great at first glance, but drops on multiple passes show that a shutout probably wouldn't have been possible if Nevada's receiver's brought their A game. Placing our secondary on the Duds list may sound harsh, but for all of the offseason hype about our DBs being a team strength, they came short of what I felt was expected. (Note: Weis may have had our DBs playing safe this week, and if this is the case, they probably shouldn't be getting this criticism).

Manti Te'o: Until ESPN's #2 overall recruit starts putting up 5 sacks and an interception every week don't expect me to be impressed.
Thanks to RocketShark for the last two images

Jimmy Clausen:
Notre Dame averaged 8.3 yards per play, the highest of the Weis era, and Clausen's decision making at quarterback significantly contributed to this achievement. Averaging 17.5 yards per pass attempt, JC was able to carve up this Nevada defense for four touchdowns and not committing any turnovers.Michael Floyd: You've probably read it everywhere else, but Floyd put on a heckuva show Saturday. To put it one way, Minnesota Slim touched the ball four times and was only tackled once, finding the endzone on each of his three other receptions en route to a 189 yard day.

Pass Blocking:
BGS speculated that the Wolfpack's DE tandem of Kevin Basped and Dontay Moch might be the second toughest end combo the Irish will face this year. This makes the zero sacks (and few QB pressures) even more impressive. Now if only we could get this kind of production while run blocking...
Good Youth: It has been touched on elsewhere, but the past two seasons, freshman and sophomores have played more because of a lack of competition in the older classes than anything else. So it was nice to see couple sophomores, redshirt freshman, and true freshman get a few snaps because Weis wanted to get them experience, not because we needed them to win. The best part about the depth? Our starters are finally starting to practice against a pretty capable scout team.

That's it for now, Go Irish! Beat Wolverines!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Gotta get the predictions up before the opener...

It’s always is difficult to use game by game predictions as a means of predicting a team’s final record. Looking at the Irish slate one game at a time, I think the majority of the country would pick Notre Dame to win every game head to head except for USC. The problem is that the odds that Notre Dame beats all 11 other opponents this year are probably a lot lower than the certainty of these head to head predictions might indicate.

Last year, my game by game predictions had Notre Dame finishing 8-4, but if I could have done a different format, they would have looked more like this:

SDSU: 1-0

Stanford, Washington, Navy, Syracuse: 3-1

Michigan, MSU, Purdue, UNC, Pitt, BCU: 3-3

USC: 0-1

This prediction, which is what I threw around with my classmates last year but didn’t post on the blog, put the Irish at a more reasonable 7-5 because it included some sort of inconsistency factor that I feel should be present for a team with a couple question marks. Everyone knew that Notre Dame had more talent than the bottom 5 team on the schedule last season, but Division 1 football is tough, and stringing together five wins against teams your supposed to beat can be a challenge for a team with a lot of inexperience.

ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreet said acknowledged last week that while many people are talking about Notre Dame’s soft schedule, there are a few games in addition to USC that could cause some problems, namely @ Michigan, MSU, and @ Pitt. If the Irish had a one game season against any of these three opponents, I would bet Blue and Gold every time, but I think this is the group of teams that combine to put at least one loss on the board.

Nevada, Washington, and WSU: 3-0

Purdue, Navy, UConn, Stanford: 4-0

Michigan, MSU, BCU, and Pitt: 3-1

USC: 0-1

So employing the grouping method, here’s my prediction for how Notre Dame is going to get to ten wins this year, starting with a close game against Nevada tomorrow. Go Irish!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

IBG: Law of the Land

The Irish Blogger Gathering is back for another season. Domer Law blog took the honors of starting us off this year. Here we go:

1. My season preview included music video footage for each position group. What song or video do you feel typifies this year's Notre Dame team heading into the season? Embed a youtube or other similar video if possible.

I don't know why
All the fiction of your sleeping

Doesn't visit you awake
I don't know how to get your storybook sunrise
To follow you above your cloudy day

May all your visions turn to gold
To have and hold

I decided to go with an unreleased Audioslave song, Turn to Gold. The songs lyrics take the listener into a time of uncertainty and anxiety as the protagonist attempts to rise out of his dark past into a promising situation, which is more or less what Notre Dame is trying to do this season. Also, the song says the word Gold a lot.

2. Post a picture that to you portrays the attitude of this year's team and discuss.

I struggled surfing around Google images for this question, but I finally landed on some version of the running man. The mantra this year is “Show me;” the players aren’t looking back at 2008, but are pushing themselves forward to excel in 2009.

3. What do you perceive as the team's biggest weakness heading into the season?

Even though it is a hugely complicated answer, I’m going to go with the running game. Notre Dame should be able to throw the ball well, defend the pass well, and should improve on special teams this year (I can't wait to see Theo Riddick return kicks). However, running the ball and defending the run have many question marks heading into the season: Will Allen emerge as a dominant back? How will the O-line handle the offseason musical chairs position switches? How will Verducci and Alford impact the running game? Can our young D-linemen play above their age? Will Hart be able to get his players to penetrate and make the big plays? I am more optimistic about our offensive running game, but the number of question marks make it a glaring weakness in my eyes until I see that they are answered on the field.

4. With the exception of the 1990s, Notre Dame has won a National Championship in every decade since the 1920s. What are the chances (a) that Notre Dame wins a championship this year, and (b) if not this year, when do you predict the next championship for the Irish?

A) Gotta go with a harsh 0% here. I still see us losing to USC, and even if we make it to the national championship game, the top teams (which will be starting Heisman winning QBs instead of true freshman) would be too much to handle.

B) Is there any other answer than next year? The offensive and defensive lines will still be a little weak, but everyone else should be back, so why not?

5. Nevada runs the Pistol offense, Navy the Triple Option, and Michigan the Spread Option. Which offensive scheme do you think is the most difficult to prepare for, and why?

I have always thought that while Weis may be an offensive coach, he has been ahead of the curve with understanding how to stop the various spread offenses in college football: get speed on your defense. Through recruiting, it is clear that the Irish have acquired LB speed at DE, fast speed at the linebacker positions, and quick, hard hitting DBs that can make solid tackles. Therefore, I would say defending the option attack, which takes place in the trenches, is probably a little harder for Notre Dame to prepare for because the slow developing plays are counterintuitive to what our defense was recruited to do: run and hit.

6. Is Colin Capaernick the best quarterback we'll see this year? If not, who is?

He’s got the numbers to back it up, but I’m going to go with Jake Locker of Washington. A dual threat quarterback like Capaernick, Locker is such a tough guy that when he injured his hand last season his coach played him on defense. I also feel that going up against teams like USC every year hardens a quarterback a little more than (not to slight the Bronco’s too much) Boise State. However, Capaernick is definitely in the top three quarterbacks the Irish will face this year and it will be fun to watch him on Saturday.

7. Prediction time. We have to get on the record before the season kicks off. Give me:
(1) Overall prediction for wins/losses.

(2) Projected bowl game and result.
Orange Bowl loss to Virginia Tech
(3) Predicted final ranking.
(4) Best player on the team.
Sam Young
(5) Heisman trophy winner.
Tim Tebow
(6) National Champion.
(7) Prediction for Nevada game, including score.
Notre Dame wins in a shootout 37-24