Thursday, September 16, 2010

IBG: the Aftermath of DRob

Almost the entire emotional narrative that was the Michigan game can be retold through the quarterback position. There was the authoritative first drive by Crist before his bizarre injury. There was the flea-flicker by Reese followed by an obviously inexperienced Nate Montanta. The second coming! More points by Crist! But in the end, the talented Denard Robinson dismantled the Irish entirely by himself.

So where does that leave us heading into the weekend? Was it a game of flukes with a strange injury and freakish opponent? Or are the echoes being woken similar to those of recent rather than historic coaching regimes? We Never Graduate helps tackle the Michigan State week of the Irish Blogger Gathering.

1)Status check: How deflating was the loss to Michigan? I could argue that Crist's injury makes this loss both easier to swallow and even more maddening for Irish fans.

In two words, I’d say that loss was ‘soooooo deflating.’ Every offseason stirs up a lot of hype and high expectations, and last Saturday unveiled some ugly aspects of this year’s squad that might be hard for some to swallow:

•We have NO depth at quarterback. Many people said this during the offseason, but the point was proven last weekend.
•Theo Riddick has not come as advertised. A phenomenal player, Riddick has not shown promise in the slot yet, and he or someone else needs to step up to take pressure off the other receivers.
•We can’t run the football effectively. Well, at least not when the defense doesn’t respect our passing game.
•Notre Dame still lacks crazy speed. True, Robinson is special, but the inability to slow Robinson down offered more evidence that the Irish lack elite speed on defense.
•Worst of all, Brian Kelly isn’t perfect. Not kicking field goals and failing to adjust defensive schemes at key points in the game are mistakes that led to the downfall of the last regime.
2) How critical is this Saturday's game? Walk away 2-1 and the Irish can feel good about taking on a very able Stanford squad at home next weekend. Walk out of East Lansing with a loss..?

Sorry for all the negativity, because with all that being said, MSU offers the Irish a great chance for a bounce back win. Like I said earlier, Robinson is a special player, and MSU doesn’t have a quarterback capable of taking over the game with his arm and legs. Our defensive line and inside linebackers have shown enough skill to give me confidence that they can stop a pro-style offense similar to what MSU will be running Saturday, and if Crist can stay healthy, we will score enough points to get the W.

3) Why does the rivalry with Michigan State seem to get so little respect?

Firstly, it’s tough to hate everyone. USC has been despicably shady for the past decade, and Pete Carroll is just about as scummy a football coach as Lane Kiffin or Rich Rodriguez. Secondly, while MSU is a tough game every year, the Spartans have averaged exactly 6 wins per season over the last 8 years. Even when they won 8 and 9 games, they beat just 1 ranked opponent, failing to win the crucial games to get to a Big Ten championship. MSU and ND have historically had a great and intense rivalry, but recently these two reasons may explain why the rivalry doesn’t get as much respect as some others.
4) It's hard to draw too many conclusions from victories over Western Michigan and Florida Atlantic, but what do you expect this Saturday night in Spartan Stadium?

Notre Dame always plays Michigan State at a difficult time in the schedule. While the Irish have usually played two quality opponents and are coming off the emotional Michigan weekend, Sparty typically is building momentum after rolling a few cupcakes. As such, I am expecting MSU to come into this weekend with a lot of confidence and play Notre Dame tough and down to the wire like they do every year.
5) Best case, worst case, most likely: The Irish's record after the first six games.

Best case: 5-1. Why not?
Worst case: 1-5. You saw our offense without Crist…
Most likely: 4-2. Like I said in the season’s first IBG post, this is a reasonable record after the first six games. It would be tough to pick who the Irish might lose to, but with a six game slate as tough as ours to open up the season, it would have been remarkable to make it through without some bumps and bruises. If Notre Dame makes it out with 1 or 2 losses, the back end of the schedule is set up to allow them a fairly good chance of a BCS birth.

6) Let's leave Michael Floyd out of this for a second. What Irish player needs to step up and play better football?

I’m going to go with Theo Riddick. The kid is too great of an athlete to be as unproductive as he has in the first two games. As a slot receiver in Kelly’s offense (and with guys like Floyd and Rudolph to distract the defense) the guy should be able to make some plays. If Crist stays healthy, the development of a third wideout is perhaps the position where improvement can most correlate to success in the win loss column.
Hopefully the Blue and Gold pull out a much needed win this week... Go Irish!

1 comment:

Gabby said...

well, good to see pops finally rolling out the long overdue blogs, work can't be that tough can it???