Friday, October 30, 2009
1. The 7-4-1 scheduling model has been the subject of much heated debate amongst Irish fans since it was first announced back in 2006. This week the Fighting Irish will play the first neutral site “barnstorming game” in said model so now is as good of a time as any to weigh in on the controversial subject. What do you think about a) 7-4-1 as a whole, b) the neutral site/ barnstorming game in general and c) specifically playing Washington State in San Antonio.
a) Don't like it. In theory, especially as a student that doesn't have to deal with a ticket lottery, the more home games, the better. However, the schedule greatly inhibits ND's ability to schedule meaningful non conference games (see Western Michigan). Seeing Utah should be alright, but even the Utes won't agree to multiple trips to South Bend for nothing in return, and with BCS conference schools hesitant to give up their TV contract money to NBC, the quality of opponents will only get worse.
b) Not a bad idea. Especially for alumni in Texas, for example, that cannot normally attend an ND without a great deal of travel. If its a good venue and a good team, it can be a great tool to keep ND prominent on the college football map. That being said, I would much rather prefer to reinforce our prominence by winning games instead of putting on side show tricks, which brings me to...
c) Bat S*** Crazy. Scheduling a terrible football team whose fan's don't travel to games in Washington does not make any sense. This game does not build tradition. This is the least attractive opponent to bring recruits to (at least Nevada was the opener). If we were able to play A&M or Texas Tech in the Alamo Dome, it would have been awesome, but it suffices to say that this matchup falls short of what the barnstorming concept encourages.2. I have personally had this game circled on the schedule for quite some time as the one “sure thing.” After the last few games I have really been looking forward to a drama free victory. As luck would have it I started looking at the Cougars more closely this morning and it appears that freshman quarterback Jeff Tuel went 28 of 42 for 354 yards and 2 TD’s in a losing effort against Cal over the weekend. With the Irish secondary still struggling to get it together what are the chances that yet another freshman signal caller makes this one way more interesting than it should be on Saturday night in San Antonio?
I'll go easy on the secondary here. Weis has a tendency in his game plans to find what a team does best and take that away from them. Against BC, the focus was on defending the run, and we shut them down pretty well. In fact, a majority of our opponents have had strong ground attacks relative to their passing games. With only 3 TDs coming from runningbacks this year, WSU will probably try to throw the ball, and expecting this, I think Charlie/Tenuta/Corwin will put the secondary in a better position.
3. Assuming that the Fighting Irish are able to take care of business and put this one away early what non-starters would you most like to see get some reps this week? Why?
Jonas Gray and Theo Riddick. Lets keep Armando healthy, and give these guys a chance to show off their legs. I would especially like Jonas to get some carries to work on his ball handling because this guy has the chance to be pretty good in a year or two if he can make the next step.
4. With the game being played on Halloween Night chances are that if you are not traveling to San Antonio you most likely have a scheduling conflict. Whether you are supposed to be at a party dressed as Fat Elvis, taking your kids trick-or-treating or just dealing with your doorbell ringing nonstop how do you plan to watch the game? If you are going what are you most looking forward to?
Fortunately as students living in South Bend, the focus will definitely be on football, and with the TV close to the door (if you are planning on robbing my house please ignore that last comment), it will be easy to dish out candy to anyone that stops by (which will probably be no one). Afterwards its time for the always fun costume parties, which I hate to say is what I'm most looking forward to. For everyone that couldn't make it to the game though, here's a picture of the band compliments of my dad who found a way to sneak to San Antonio.
5. Trick or Treat? Predictions please.
Like Whiskey mentioned, Washington State was perhaps the most guaranteed victory coming into the season, and Weis has two options: run up the score and impress some recruits, or take another game down to the wire, starting the search for the next head coach. I highly doubt that this game will be close though. Notre Dame wins 41-17.
Monday, October 26, 2009
Running the ball 27 times against 39 passing attempts didn't do well to help us control the clock and put the game away, poor special teams coverage gave us bad field position, and our secondary digressed from their performance against USC, but we still won, and for now, that's good enough for me.
Sitting at 23rd in the polls, Notre Dame has arguably matched expectations (especially factoring in the loss of Floyd) to this point in the season with a 5-2 record, but there is much improving that needs to be done over the next two weeks to prepare for what is increasingly looking like a tough 3 games at #15 Pitt (7-1), UConn (4-3), and at Stanford (5-3).
Pass Defense: By this point in the season, our secondary has proven itself to be a major point of concern; we are ranked 117th nationally against the pass, and 3 freshman quarterbacks have had career days on us. This has inevitably led to some anti Corwin / anti Tenuta posts from the ND faithful. It was encouraging to see our front seven apply some pressure at the end of the game, and moving Harrison Smith to more of a nickle/backer roll helped some, but this needs to be improved for us to beat Pitt.
Robert Hughes: Hughes only got four carries, but thats about 3 more than he should have got. If Hughes or Alldridge are on the field, it should be in a fullback / dual halfback roll opposite Allen because Armando has proven to be the best back when healthy.
Red Zone: Like in the Washington game and the end of the USC game, the Irish continued to struggle with red zone scoring on Saturday, scoring a touchdown only once in four attempts. Tate's speed is somewhat negated by the short field, and Parris and Kamara have been unable to make the plays in the endzone this year. The problem with throwing the ball in the short field, though, also falls on Clausen. Jimmy has a tendency to stare down receivers in the three step game and often throws to a well covered first read. The solution? I know it won't work 100% of the time, but it would be nice to see a non-gimmick, hard nose running game from inside the 20 (or 1!).
Ben Turk: Notre Dame found itself on the wrong end of the field position battle in part due to poor kick coverage. However, it is obvious that Turk needs to do some improving, registering an average of 32.7 yards on 6 kicks (for comparison, my high school teammate, who wasn't recruited anywhere, had a net of 34 yards senior year). BC's Ryan Quigley was able to help his team out with a 42 yard average on 5 kicks (keeping in mind that he is kicking to Golden Tate) and a long of 56.
Manti Te'o: My friends used to jokingly ask whether we would rather take a bullet to the chest or get hit by Ray Lewis, the moral of the story being that there are good linebackers, and then there are linebackers that you are kind of scared to play against. Notre Dame hasn't had one of the latter in awhile, so it would be nice if Manti can continue his rapid development and start really taking some heads off.
Golden Tate: I try to mix up the players in this weekly post, but I can't seem to keep Golden off of the list. Hauling in a career high 11 receptions for 128 and Notre Dame's only two touchdowns, #23 was the game's most valuable offensive player.
Kyle McCarthy: The secondary has been struggling this year, but it is not because of Kyle McCarthy. With five interceptions so far this season (three of them meaning the difference between wins and losses), McCarthy gets my vote for game MVP.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
1. Coming off a very difficult loss to a rival that has now beaten them eight straight times, Notre Dame faces another that's beaten them six straight. Can Notre Dame end the losing streak against BC or will the combined weight of the USC loss and recent history against the Eagles be too much to overcome? Explain.
Boston College will play Notre Dame close like they do every year, but Vegas is slotting the Irish as an 8 point favorite for a reason.BC is 0-2 on the road this year, and in their two conference wins (Wake Forest and FSU), the Eagles nearly blew the game by letting the opponent rally in the second half. However, this game is really more about Notre Dame than Boston College. After playing USC down to the last second (BC was blown out 48-14 by then #5 Va Tech), the Irish find themselves in a cliché “gut check” scenario. Will the players rally behind their coach and play like they did last Saturday? If so, the Blue and Gold should come away with a 2 touchdown win.
2. Not unlike Notre Dame's defense, BC's offense has been pretty erratic this season. While in their most recent win, they rolled up 480 total yards and scored 52 points; in their two losses, they've averaged 109 yards and 11 points. Which BC offense and which ND defense show up on Saturday? Why?
BGS ranked BC’s offensive line second behind USC’s, and that doesn’t bode well for Notre Dame’s defense. BC’s 1.5 sacks allowed per game (much better than ND’s 2.3) leads me to believe that ND’s weak pass rush will be unable to pressure the quarterback, and with BC’s trio of quarterbacks demonstrating the ability to protect the ball, an Eagle air attack could spell trouble for the Irish. Once again, though, it is worth noting that BC’s two abysmal performances have come on the road, so a big crowd in
I would like to see Armando Allen return to his pre-Purdue form. After sitting out the game against the Boilermakers with an injury, Allen has only accumulated 90 yards on 24 carries in the last two games. The lack of a ground game amidst our offensive passing inconsistency caused a 4-1 squad to limp to a 6-6 record last season, so as we begin the road to January, regaining a player like Allen will help us survive some of the unexpectedly tough games that will inevitably come up.
4. It's been an and up-and-down year for
Currently sitting on top of the weak ACC Atlantic division, the Eagles will be in position to play for the ACC crown and a BCS berth. The remaining schedule include a tough MAC opponent in Central Michigan, and winnable games @ 3-3 Virginia, 4-2 UNC, and @ 2-5
5. While most Irish fans refer to BC as "Fredo", tell me to which other cinematic character you would compare the Eagles.
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Pass Rush: Barkley is going to be a special player, but a true freshman should not light up a defense the way he did on Saturday. Weis has done a great overall job of recruiting since he started coaching, but he has had trouble pulling in D-Linemen, and specifically D-Tackles. Having a Gerald McCoy or Omar Hunter in the trenches would help apply some pressure, but Hart and Tenuta need to find a way to get pressure with what they have.
Pass Blocking: A year after USC sent 10 defensive players to the NFL, the Trojans were still able to field a menacing pass rush. Clausen was brought to the dirt five times, but the bigger issue was that Weis continually had to keep a runningback in for protection instead of sending a player like Allen on routes.
Darrin Walls: While Blanton earned the dud DB award last week, Darrin Walls seemed to shoulder the most blame for the aerial beat down this week. With as mush experience as Darrin, has, one would expect him to better close on routes that he is leaving wide open, and he had a tough time bringing down USC’s big receivers as well.
Heart attack: With the way the past five games have gone, the mean age of Notre Dame alumni could very well drop 2 years over the course of the season. Out of all of the close games, though, it is worth noting that we probably had the best shot of winning against
Trick Plays: There is more or less a consensus that if a team needs to use trick plays, then they are usually an inferior opponent. That being said, I felt that Weis did a good job of playing with what he had. The fake field goal kept the Irish from being on the bad end of a first half blowout, and even the Wild-Goodman served as a good means of keeping USC off balance. I’m not saying Charlie called a perfect game, but he did install some clever stuff over the bye week.
St. Ignatius: Speaking of the Wildcat, two former Wildcats had good games against the Trojans. Johnny Ryan came up with a critical sack in the closing minutes of the game that gave the Irish their chance to tie the game. Robby Parris might as well have been wearing the #3 this week; with 9 catches for 92 yards, Parris stepped up to prevent USC from locking down Tate and freezing the offense like they did a year ago. Saying that it was unfortunate to see Robby get injured (on a late hit) at the end of the game would be an understatement.
Golden Tate: With only 2 catches for 15 yards against USC last season, Tate may have boosted himself into All-American discussion with his play against USC this year. His 8 receptions for 117 yards and 2 touchdowns kept the crowd (and the team) in the game. I feel like this post is lamenting too much on what could have been, but can anyone even comprehend what this offense would be like with a healthy Floyd and Arrelious Benn at Clausen’s arsenal?
Tackling (!?): Going off the grid / into the wild / rogue / Get in the Bronco Shawn! has prevented me from rewatching the game, but it seems like our tackling improved against USC (3.7 YPC was better than I expected). Granted, we did not shut them down, and a few missed tackles led to some big plays that should not have been. Again, I stand to be corrected, but if this is true, then this is more evidence that the bye week was well spent. If the defense can build off of this performance in the coming weeks, we have a good shot of finishing with 10 wins.
Photos from the AP.
Monday, October 19, 2009
The Charlie's Nasties' recruiting desk correspondant known as "The Franz" first allerted me Friday that the speedy recruit Tai-ler Jones would be attending the game against USC, and was having doubts about his verbal comit to Stanford. Sure enough with a good performance Saturday from Weis's offense, and a fantastic stadium atmosphere during the game, the WR Jones changed his comittment to Notre Dame. This is an awesome pick-up for the Irish since his speed and elusiveness will complement well the other playmakers in the WR core, and it comes at the loss for his hometown Florida Gators, and the rising Stanford. Mark my words, Jim Harbaugh is going to build a very competitive program in the next few years, and the Cardinal will/won't be a pushover game.
And how much better did the student's section look this week with everyone just wearing green. Pick your favorite green t-shirt and wear it, and wow, it looks better than just about anything we've thrown out there in a while. Who knew that any real shade of green (not the 2007 shirt) would look better than a pasty/sandy gold shirt?
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Over the past few USC games, the traditional answer would probably be a cats-and-dogs downpour mixed with sleet and flurries. However, I feel that our passing game is better than USC's passing game, and that our running game is not as good. That being said, I'm probably just rooting for the ground to be cold and slopping to slow down Joe McKnight, and the air will stay clear so we won't lose much on our passing attack.
2. Irresistable Force or Immovable Object? Notre Dame's offense is ranked #10 in yards (470 per game) and #27 in points (32.6 per game). USC's defense is ranked #6 in yards allowed (238.6 per game) and #4 in scoring allowed (just 8.6 points per game). In 2008 Notre Dame had just 91 total yards against USC. Will the Notre Dame offense be able to move the ball on Saturday? If so, how?
At this point in the season, the team stats are usually pretty skewed, for example, ND and USC both had stunning performances against Nevada and San Jose State, respectively, but they are perhaps weighted a little more heavily than they should be. That being said, the best defense ND has faced all year has been Michigan State, who is nowhere near the caliber of USC, and the sobering fact that 70% of our current roster has never scored a touchdown against the Trojans unfortunately points me towards the immovable object.
3. USC's offense is #22 in yards (430.6 per game) and #53 in scoring (28.8 points per game). Notre Dame's defense is #100 in total defense (403.2 yards per game) and #59 in scoring defense (allowing 23.8 points per game). Will the Notre Dame defense be able to slow down the USC offense? If so, how?
Short of a few incredible goal line stands, the defense has not shown much to make me think we will be able to slow the Trojan ground game. However, I would be content with letting USC pick up 4 yards and a pile of dust because if we prevent a big play, that will keep us in the game and give the offense a chance. The problem is in the passing game. Barkley is a true freshman and should make some mistakes if we are able to apply pressure, but our pass rush has been non existent, leading me to believe that USC will be able to attack by land and air.
4. In 2008, with Michael Floyd unable to play due to injury, Golden Tate had 2 catches against USC for a team-high 15 receiving yards. How do you expect Golden Tate to play against USC this year?
Tate is better, Jimmy is better, and (most importantly) the O-Line is better than last year. Combined with the emergence of Kyle Rudolph and Weis' creative ways of moving Tate around (he lined up as a fullback once last game), Golden should have the opportunity to make more plays than he did last year.
5. Jimmy Clausen has started to get some Heisman buzz. In your opinion, which Notre Dame player is the most deserving of Heisman attention, Jimmy or Golden Tate? Why?When Larry Fitzgerald was denied the Heisman a few years ago, I came to terms with the fact that the award no longer goes to the best college football player, but to the best QB or RB (who usually plays for the best team). I still think other position players can win, but it would take an abnormaly spectacular season for another position to win. So for now, JC should be getting more talk.
6. Overrated or Underrated. Notre Dame cracked into the AP Poll at #25 this week. Are they overrated or underrated at #25? Where would you put them in your poll?
Watching Boise State play last night causes me to scream underrated. I'm not saying that ND would beat the Broncos, but when a top 5 team goes on the road and barley beats an unranked team from Conference USA, it makes me cringe. So much of the AP vote is linked to media bias (such as preseason rankings, which are pretty much BS) and the strength of out of conference scheduling is not factored enough into the equation. Take Utah for example, who shocked everyone by beating Alabama at the end of last season. The AP placed the Utes one slot ahead of ND for beating Utah State, San Jose State, Louisville, and Colorado State - all by less than 2 possessions. I think it is much easier to play 10 easy games a year and get all the players hyped up for one or two really big games than to consistently face legitimate opponents week in and week out like the Irish do. If these flaws in the current system were better accounted for, I think ND would only be 1-2 slots higher, but the top 25 as a whole would look a lot different (sorry for rant).
7. USC Song Girls: Ambassadors of Collegiate Goodwill or Anachronism from a bygone era of oppressive sexist stereotypes?
8. Green Jerseys? There's a lot of "green" talk coming from campus this week, and it raises the question of whether the team will be wearing green on Saturday. Do you want to see the green jerseys or not? Why?
Personally, I feel like the program hasn't earned the jerseys since the 2005 USC game. If they wear them Saturday and we win, the jeresey-wearing will be (duh) justified, but ever since I've been at school, the green adidas moneymakers have somehow worked their way into games where we get blown out or play a clearly inferior opponent. I want the team to just go out and play hard for four quarters. Don't tell me how the team is really sure they are going to win, and don't give me the green jeresy bs. Just go out there and play like you mean it.
9. Name the next number in this sequence: -3, -20, -38, -35, _______. Explain.
-7. Unfortunately, the holes in our defense cannot allow me to pick an Irish win. If Barkley can't be forced into making 2-3 game changing freshman mistakes, or if our defense can't find away to play with the resilliancy of a goal line stand for the entire game, I think that the Trojans will extend their winning streak to a depressing 8 games over the Irish.
Monday, October 5, 2009
On that note its time to begin another segment of Duds and Studs:
Brian Smith: The Kansas City product is the vocal leader of the defense, and he is putting up just over 5 tackles a game, but his tackling fundamentals still drive me crazy. A play before the goal line stand (in the 3rd quarter) exemplified Smith's improper technique: his athleticism and nose for the football proved true as he shot the gap and collided with the runningback 3 yards in the backfield. However, because he failed to wrap up with his arms and drive through the tackler with his legs, the runningback bounced off and turned the play into a 10 yard gain.
Robert Blanton: On the same play, Blanton got juked out of his shoes. More than that though, RJ had a rocky game in coverage, surrendering the 37 yard completion to James Johnson that set Washington up for the game tying field goal. Blanton is a tough kid with a good work ethic, so I have confidence that he can improve, but as of right now, it looks like McNeil and Gray are our two best corners.
Robby Parris: The senior made the most out of his two receptions with 46 receiving yards, but a key drop in the endzone puts him in my doghouse for now.
Red Zone Offense: Notre Dame's first 5 trips to the red zone resulted in 5 field goals. It's always dangerous to let a lesser opponent hang around until the end of the game, and when Notre Dame failed to score a touchdown until there was 3:00 left in the first half, it let Washington do exactly that. Not having the big targets of Floyd and Kamara hurts, but the Irish must find a way to punch it in if we want to have success.
Defense: 281 yards through the air for Locker, and 176 yards on the ground, including 136 yards on a 6.2 yard average by Chris Polk. The bye week is a golden opportunity to work on tackling and coverage fundamentals, and I hope that our coaching staff takes advantage of it.
JC: As you've probably read on ten other sites, Jimmy's performance against UW was good enough to make him the most efficient quarterback in the country through five weeks and earn him O'Brien Quarterback of the Week honors. For those of you keeping score at home, this is the fourth straight week that Clausen has found his team down in the fourth quarter and the fourth straight week he has responded with a touchdown drive. What suprises me most is that his 422 passing yards is a career high; the way Jimmy is airing it out I expect him to break that this year.
Tate: His 244 receiving yards is a game high among D-1 receivers through 5 games, and the mark is second in the Notre Dame record books. What I continue to like best about Tate though, is his ability to fight through and break tackles. Listed at 5'11" 195 lbs (yeah..right), this receiver is one of the toughest to tackle in the country.
Young Diesel: Even with Darius Flemming out, the young defensive ends Kapron Lewis-Moore, Ethan Johnson, and Kerry Neal all had big games. Kerry Neal had the key sack in overtime, and Johnson lit up Locker after a Clausen interception to cause a fumble. Like the offense from last year, the youth up front still yields to some inconsistency, but there are definitley bright spots. And speaking of tackling... did you hear that we have this kid named Manti?
Defense: 3 goal line stands and a jarring hit when the game was on the line. Yes the overall tackling is a concern, but since folding in the Big House, this defense has found a way to fight when its backs are up against the wall, and that fire under pressure is what will keep us in every game.
Nick Tausch: 5 field goals out of 5 red zone trips is much better than nothing. While I was frustrated that we couldn't score, I agree with Weis' decision to kick the field goals instead of trying to go for it. Anytime you get stuffed at the line 3 plays in a row, you're probably not going to power it in on 4th down anyways. Props to the freshman for giving us some consistency in the kicking game.
Photos from the AP
Thats it for now. Go Irish!
Thursday, October 1, 2009
Sorry for that... now into the IBG:
1. Describe your worst nightmare coming true on Saturday. Can that nightmare become a reality?
Losing to Washington would be bad for a couple of reasons. First, it would obviously drop us to 3-2 on the season, but more importantly, it would be another example of Notre Dame struggling against (or losing to) a team that they should (on paper) beat by at least two touchdowns. Michigan State lost to Central Michigan, and Purdue lost to Northern Illinois, but for some reason, they took our team right down to the wire. Losing to a Huskie squad that lost at Stanford last week would not be a good thing.
While getting a win is always the most important objective, coming out of this weekend injury free would be huge. Clausen has already said that he won't be 100% until after the season, and without Armando Allen, our run game lacks big play potential.
So can it become a reality? Of course: Clausen and Allen are already banged up, and Washington beat friggin' USC! Let's just hope the Irish come out ready to dominate and can shut the Huskies down early.2. Can we all agree that Jake Locker will be the best quarterback that we have/will face all season?
A few IBG's ago, I picked Locker as the number one quarterback we will face, and I'm going to stick with that statement. BGS ranked Locker and Kaepernick as the top 2 QBs followed by USC's QB rotation. After watching two Nevada games this year (@ Missouri in some crazy Thursday night football a week ago), I would bump Kaepernick down a few spots (he has more interceptions, 4, than TDs, 2). Also, Michigan was ranked 11th out of twelve opponents in terms of quarterback strength, but after Forcier has led UM to a 4-0 start, I have to put him into at least the top 5. However, Locker's athleticism, arm strength, and (Tebow-esqu?) leadership skills cement him as the #1 in my book.
Offense: Trevor Robinson replaces 4 year starter Sam Young. #74 has been a staple of the ND line since 2006, but he has been a little disappointing as a senior with too many personal fouls and false starts for someone who is supposed to be a leader on the line. A game sitting out might help him get his head on straight (and I think T-Rob would do fine in the replacement role).
Defense: I would expect the IBG answers to be fairly unanimous in lobbying to move Brian Smith to the middle and start Te'o at the Will. Toryan Smith is on the short end of the stick here, but he is slow against the pass and is not seen in the pass rush. Smith's tackling against the run still worries me, but Te'o is one of the best tacklers on our defense (wait a sec, you're supposed to keep your feet under you when you tackle someone?), so the trade off there shouldn't be too bad.
In the many interviews Swarbrick has had to face regarding Weis' job security, he continually references an evaluation process he conducts at the end of the season. Coaches are judged on wins (duh), but also a series of other criteria such as academic performance, trend of the program, and recruiting. Journalists are quick to point out the win loss similarities between Willingham and Weis, but I don't think it would be much of a stretch to claim that Willingham probably didn't do that great on portions of the review that Weis excelled in.
After watching Ty drive Washinton to a 0 win season, I think the nation has finally acknowledged that perhaps Notre Dame made the right move with letting him go, and if he shows up at the second quarter, I don't think much would happen outside of some obligatory face time on NBC.
I'm impressed... as long as the run game is featuring Armando Allen. With over 100 yards per game, Allen is actually making me believe that we can ram the ball down (some) team's throats this year. While Hughes and Co. put together a good effort against Purdue, I still think that Purdue's because the Boilermaker's defense is so suspect that you have to file the performance under a similar bucket as Stanford and Duke in 2007 rather than a prequel to the highly anticipated (insert "lighting & thunder" cliche) tandem with Allen.
Gotta go with EA here. Maybe its just from the new NCAA game (the "...with Erin Andrews! Yes, Erin Andrews!" tagline is definitely creepy). I'm also not sure what to make of the offensive / defensive portion of the question, so I'll just have to go with special teams.
Vegas has ND as 13 point favorites this game. The question is, do the Irish continue to play cardiac style, or does the team assert itself and let the fans have a good time while they coast onward to victory? In the words of Lee Corso (not to endorse anything he says or does...) "Not so fast! Notre Dame pulls out the win, but CLOSER than the experts think!"
Notre Dame: 31 Washington: 21