Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Along Awaited, Lesser Known Post Season Awards

Everyone knows this past Saturday that the most famous individual award in athletics was handed out, that of course being the Heisman Trophy. Sam Bradford, the sophomore quarterback of national championship bound Oklahoma walked away with the hardware, keeping Tim Tebow from being becoming the second player ever to win multiple Heisman's.

As you may remember (those of you who have followed in years past), here at WTTO we hand out the lesser known post season college football awards, so here it goes for 2008...

Eric Crouch Cup - Worst Throwing Quarterback

Top 4
1. Threet - MICH
2. Williams - ILL
3. Davis - IND
4. Bacher - NW

Faust-Ie-Ham - Worst Coaching Performance

Top 4
1. Tubberville - AUB
2. Weis - ND
3. Stewart - WV
4. Richt - UGA

Lance Harbor Award - Most "Catchy" Name as a Quarterback

Top 4
1. Dan LeFevour - CMU
2. Tim Tebow - UF
3. Chase Daniel - MIZZOU
4. John Parker Wilson - BAMA

Gordie Lockbaum Award - Heisman Finalist with Zero Chance
Awarded each year to that one finalist who you know will not win college football's biggest individual prize, past winners include the likes Darnell Autry of Northwestern, Randy Moss of Marshall, and Alex Smith of Utah. Unlike the other awards, this one is always clear as day. All knew coming in that with Oklahoma battling Florida in the national title it was a two horse race and that Colt McCoy, although being WTTO's pick, had the smallest chance of winning.

tOSU Sad Family Award - Home Loss that Hurt the Most

New to the award platform this year, this award goes to that team who's loss at home stings the worst. Named for the family shown to the left who was left in tears after Texas defeated tOSU in Columbus in 2005, it was a tough challenge to pick a winner in 2008.

Top 4:
1. Toledo 10 @ Michigan 7 - A bad season for Michigan turned horrible here.

2. Ole Miss 31 @ Florida 30 - So long perfect season, a national title berth keeps this from #1.
3. Oregon 65 @ Oregon State 38 - Rose Bowl Bound? Not so fast, Beavers.
4. Syracuse 24 @ Notre Dame 23 - First ever school loss for the Irish to an 8 loss team...ever.

There they are ladies and gentlemen. Be sure to stay tuned as this bowl season we will offer yet again more projections, reactions, thoughts, and stupidity. Until next time, happy holidays all.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Communicating with the "Charlie Must Go" Clan

After dealing with so many people who feel that Charlie has to go, that every little damn thing is his fault I have finally found a way to communicate with you people I think...and its really not as hard as I originally thought...

Publish Post

Friday, November 21, 2008

ND/USC - A Week Early???

This weekend may prove to be a very important one when it comes down to the Notre Dame/USC rivalry in the next few years with three players currently deciding between schools making trips to South Bend. Sure the teams do not play for another week but this weekend features an opportunity to take dead aim at the Trojans recruiting class of 2009 with both linebacker Manti Te'o, safety Byron Moore, and fullback Tyler Gaffney making official visits to South Bend this afternoon.

Manti Te'o is amongst the most highly saught after defensive recruits in the nation, earning a five star rating from both Rivals and Scout at the middle linebacker position. Te'o is being recrutied by nearly every college in the nation and has taken a visit to UCLA and has also attended two of USC's summer camps. Besides Notre Dame this weekend, Te'o is expected to visit the likes of Stanford and BYU as well as USC before he chooses a school so unless he is overly wowed by South Bend in the middle of November, don't expect a commit here this weekend. The Irish have been able to land some of the biggest names on the offensive side of the ball in recruiting wars the past few years but Te'o would be the first 5 Star recruit Charlie Weis will have been able to bring in on the defensive side of the football.

Byron Moore, a former UCLA commit and current commit to USC will be on Notre Dame's campus this weekend as well as he has recently sought after the Irish instead of the Irish going after him. Moore plays in the same district as Irish WR Commit Shaquelle Evans and the two sound like decent friends. After Evans committed to Notre Dame it was Moore who actually called Notre Dame, hoping to get noticed by the Irish. It payed off as Evans will also be on campus this weekend and don't think Charlie Weis wouldn't like to steal one of USC's charmed recruits right out from under him. To me Moore seems to have a real interest in Notre Dame and if the Irish are to see a commit this weekend it would most likely be from him.

The third and final high school senior visiting the Golden Dome this weekend is Tyler Gaffney, one of the most highly touted fullbacks in the nation. Gaffney also lists Stanford and USC as schools he is considering to attend. The Irish have been somewhat disappointing in what Asaph Schwap has brought to the table after playing now in his fourth year and would definitely like to get a fullback in whom they may have more confidence in to do a bit more. Gaffney is averaging over 10 yards a carry for Cathedral Catholic High School in San Diego this year as he has scored 30 touchdowns. With a visit already set for Stanford in January I feel it will likely go very close to National Signing Day before Gaffney decides where he will call home the next four seasons.

Also on campus will be juniors Corey Cooper (ATH), Kyle Prater (LB), and Chandler Whitmer (QB).


Monday, October 27, 2008

Bowl Projections, Meaningful Ones

For what its worth here's how I see the post-season shaping up. Just projections for now but by projecting what happens the rest of the season, I came up with this while thinking in advance...


National Championship:
Texas vs. Alabama
Unbeaten SEC and Big XII Champs

Fiesta Bowl:
Oklahoma vs. USC
This could attract a viewer or two...

Rose Bowl:
Penn State vs. Oregon State (Pac 10 Champs)
Joe Pa gets pissed yet again over the lack of a playoff, and just wait those of you who are shocked to see the Beavers

Orange Bowl:
FSU vs. West Virginia
How did the Orange get so unlucky with the teams it draws?

Sugar Bowl:
Florida vs. Ohio State
Payback for the Buckeyes...or not

Non-BCS but Still Decent:

Outback Bowl:
Minnesota vs. Vanderbilt
Who would have ever thought this was possible?

Cotton Bowl:
Georgia vs. Oklahoma State
Can you be disappointing with one loss so far? Ask Georgia, this is counting on them losing Saturday against Florida and OK State's losses coming against Texas and Oklahoma

Gator Bowl:
Notre Dame vs. Virginia Tech
The ACC is a crap shoot and 2nd place projects to someone else each week, Notre Dame is a pretty safe pick

Capital One Bowl:
Michigan State vs. LSU
You know that team speed thing? Tune in and see how much of it the Big Ten lacks

Just a projection for now and likely forever...

Thursday, October 23, 2008

ND right about Willingham? You don't say...

"Everything Notre Dame warned us about, everything they told us about this guy has turned out to be true"

Go figure.

Go Irish Beat Huskies

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

How Bad is Washington's D?

How Bad is Washington's Defense?

When looking ahead to this Saturday and trying to think of what Charlie Weis and Notre Dame's game plan may consist of, its difficult to come up with much of an idea on anything because when you look at statistics, Washington is horrible all around.

The idea of running the football is a great one when it works but for Notre Dame that has been a major problem once again in 2008 as the offense is yet to be able to do so outside of the Pitt game. This could be a week where Notre Dame really gets the running game going based on the fact they are playing a horrendous run defense. How bad you ask?

Washington ranks 115th in the nation in run defense, allowing 232.8 yards a game on the ground.

So its simple right, just pound Hughes and Aldridge and get Armando some carries to spread things out a bit right? Well not so fast. That's because the Huskies improve rankings wise in the passing game but still:

Rank 98th in the nation in pass defense, allowing 250.17 yards a game through the air.

Ouch. So what will Charlie do, let Jimmy have the chance at a field day against the Huskies and air it out all evening long? Or will he stick with the ground attack? Or both?

Washington ranks 117th in total defense, allowing 483 yards a game and 40.7 points per contest.

When Notre Dame scheduled the Huskies a few years back the Irish thought they were getting an admirable opponent, as Washington was in the midst of eight straight bowl appearances. Turns out the Huskies turned into a cupcake, something nobody outside of South Bend saw coming when Willingham was brought in.

The only worry I have with this game is the team headed on a long plane ride west. So far this year teams who have traveled from the west coast to the midwest or vice versa have not fared well (Ohio State at USC, Michigan State at Cal, Cal at Maryland, etc...). What also concerns me is that under Willingham the Irish always came out at home jacked up and beat a team who was better than them (2004: Michigan, 2003: Washington State, 2002: Michigan) and I worry about that happening out west this year.

And by worry I mean maybe for a drive or two Washington looks like they belong on the same field as Notre Dame. Ladies and gentlemen, this one for all intensive purpose should be a romp.

Irish 44 Huskies 17

Sunday, October 19, 2008

What I Say About What You Say, Poll 1

It seems as if all you out there, including myself, want to see the Irish win a bowl game in 2008. Obviously there are ups and downs in whatever happens in the second half and end of this years campaign but on the first poll conducted here on WTO, 92% of you answered you would rather see the Irish win a mediocre bowl game (Ex. Independence Bowl) than to lose narrowly in a Non-BCS New Years Day Bowl (Ex. Gator, Cotton Bowls), or get destroyed in a BCS Bowl (The only "non bowl-win" votes were for this option).

So what good comes of any of the
se events playing out?

Winning a Mediocre Bowl Game (The Boston College Route): (92%)
It is fairly obvious that Notre Dame is a very average team this year. Winning a bowl game would stop all the ESPN references to the bowl losing streak and all the jokes sad on a
seemingly daily basis by Notre Dame bashers. How would it help the team? I would expect just the fact that you end the season on a high note, beating another above .500 team to close the year builds confidence going into 2009. When you have a team as youthful as Notre Dame, confidence can mean the worlds difference. After stumbling through 2007 and winning the Independence Bowl a year ago, look at what Alabama has been able to do; Notre Dame may not be as far away from that as some think.

Putting up a Solid Fight but Losing New Years Day, Non BCS Game: (0%)
This would show yet again that Notre Dame can play with slightly above average teams but it would do nothing in showing that Notre Dame is going to be a serious title contender any time soon. A scenario that plays out like this would be solely a remake of the UNC game from this year, very possibly against an ACC team in the Gator Bowl. Although a Gator Bowl matchup could be very winnable for the Irish, nothing is accomp
lished with this if the game is not won, no matter how close it was.

Getting Blown Out in a BCS Game: (8%)
In all honesty I feel there are teams out there that Notre Dame can compete with in the BCS in 2008. The bad news? Its highly doubtful that the Irish would draw any of these teams if Notre Dame were to somehow get into a BCS game in '08. Utah, Boise State, Big East Champ (TBD), and the ACC Champ (TBD) are all teams that
Notre Dame could very much compete with or even beat. However with the chances of playing one of these lower teir BCS teams would be pretty slim and instead the Irish would yet again be placed against a much more capable BCS team with a blowout being likely. This does nothing for confidence, momentum, nor does it make potential recruits think the Irish are any closer to becoming a powerhouse once again. This would be worst case for me, I feel that getting killed on national TV after being where ND has been of late would be that much more reason for off-season ridicule.

Personally I just want to see the bowl losing streak snapped. There is no doubt in my mind that Notre Dame will win at least two more games (one coming this Saturday) and be bowl eligible. I prefer the Irish get a matchup in which they are not overmatched like they have been in recent memory and in only because they are "Notre Dame" ('07 Sugar Bowl, '01 Fiesta, '95 Fiesta, etc..). An evenly matched opponent is what Notre Dame needs, not necissairly the spotlight of New Years Day or beyond.

Whether it were to happen in Jacksonville in the Gator Bowl like many experts expect or in the Sun Bowl on the afternoon of New Years Eve, the Irish must win a bowl game this year, no "if's", "and's", or "but's" about it, this has got to stop, I agree with all voters in saying Notre Dame just needs a bowl win this year, no matter where it comes from.
I was Seven.

Be sure to check out the latest poll asking "Who is Notre Dame's worst coach of the past twenty-five years?"
, posted above, to the right.

Sorry haters, Charlie is not included.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Basketball School Only No More, Irish Prepare to Travel to Chapel Hill

It was two years ago when Notre Dame was in the midst of a BCS season and North Carolina was right at the bottom of the ACC. Two years later the roles have changed as Notre Dame hits the road for only the second time in 2008 this coming Saturday, this time against a potential BCS team, as crazy as it sounds to say. Butch Davis has done a great job at UNC and credit him in turning the program around.

Notre Dame has shown growth offensively, specifically in the passing game where quarterback
Jimmy Clausen has had career games in each of his last two contests. How will Clausen fare this weekend in Chapel Hill? Tough to say because he will be facing a defensive scheme that he is not used to seeing.
North Carolina will likely not be going after Clausen which is a changeup compared to what Clausen has seen this year. Sure the Irish have only allowed only five sacks so far in 2008, but Clausen has been blitzed fairly heavily as well. Instead of looking for immediate openings due to the forthcoming blitz Clausen will have to not get overly anxious. It will also be up to the offensive line to not allow the defensive front of UNC to get to Jimmy. Despite only getting to the quarterback six times this year North Carolina has forced 12 picks, something Notre Dame must avoid in order to win on Saturday. Leading the way in the defensive backfield for UNC has been Trimane Goddard
who is responsible for four interceptions and 22 tackles. Mark Paschal has pulled in two picks himself while the other six interceptions have been brought in by six separate Tar Heels. Its important that if Clausen does make multiple mistakes that his wideouts in Floyd, Tate, Grimes, and company not only make plays but also play pass defensive and knock away potential interceptions when necessary.

Statistically North Carolina has averaged 200 yards allowed through the air while just under 150 a game on the ground. This defense has talent but as long as the Irish are patient and don't fall victim to the turnover game, the offense should be fine in continuing to put points on the scoreboard. Running the football will be key against this defense since they won't likely be sending linebackers or safties too often, it's up to the offensive line and running backs to take advantage.
Notre Dame will catch a break defensively where North Carolina is stuck with their second string quarterback from the start of the season, Casey Sexton. A week ago Sexton threw for only 117 yards but much of that is due to the fact North Carolina led from early in the first half and was able to run the football.

Two of the biggest playmakers on the field this weekend have the same last name. Notre Dame of course brings Golden Tate, the playmaking wide reciever to the table while North Carolina counters with Brandon Tate. The latter Tate is one of two excellent wide outs for North Carolina (16 Rec, 376 Yds, 3 TDs) who is accomponied by Hakeen Nicks who is just as daunting of task to try and cover (24 Rec, 412 Yds, 4 TDs). It can be argued that this pair is the best group of wideouts Notre Dame will see in 2008 so David Bruton and company please come ready to play.

The running game of North Carolina is no great shakes, especially after seeing the powerful running scheme that Stanford brought to Notre Dame Stadium a week ago. Former Notre Dame verbal, turned Tar Heel commit on Signing Day '07 Greg Little leads the Tar Heels with 223 rush yards on the season. Shaun Draughn has only two thirds the carries as Little but averages a yard more per carry with 4.7 per. After seeing a strong running game a week ago I expect Notre Dame will be able slow down these two.

What scares me in a game like this is how important special teams will be in the outcome. Obviously the Irish kick/punt coverage has been a strong point during the season. However, the times Notre Dame has been pressured in the punt game they have either had balls deflected or come very near to having them blocked. That won't fly this weekend as UNC is coming off a game where Bruce Carter blocked three punts himself in route to a blowout win over UConn and former Irish quarterback Zach Frazer. Notre Dame let a team back into the game last weekend due partly due to bad special teams play when Brandon Walker had two chances to wrap things up and failed in both. Jay Wooten is by no means great but gives the Tar Heels an advantage in special teams by converting 4/6 field goals this season with a long of 43.

Prediction Time:

Man Oh Man...At the start of the week I had extreme doubts in the Fighting Irish coming into this weekend. "Is Notre Dame back?" is a question many of us have heard the past week with the 4-1 record but not really a "marquee win" as the pollsters love to see. Can it change this weekend? The rest of the Notre Dame fandom may think I'm nuts in saying this but here it goes...

Notre Dame 28 #22 North Carolina 24

And no, just in case this actually happens it doesn't mean the Irish are a top-20 team.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Brain's Bowl: ND (3-1) vs. Stanford (3-2)

Coming off an impressive second half showing against Purdue which made the Irish 3-1 on the young season, Notre Dame welcomes the Stanford Cardinal to South Bend this Saturday afternoon. Coming one week before the Irish visit Chapel Hill, and likely their toughest opponent before USC, this turns into an immediate trap game for the Irish in my eyes. So, what does Notre Dame have to do on Saturday to be ensure a 4-1 record when they travel to North Carolina next week?

In order to win Saturday the Irish will have to slow down the Cardinal running game, something Notre Dame failed to do in their only loss of the season at Michigan State. Stanford is just as much run-dominated as MSU, but the Cardinal lack the talent MSU offered. Toby Gerhart will get the bulk of the carries for the Cardinal as he enters this weekend with 74 carries for 421 yards this season, an average of 5.7 per. Stanford will also look to Anthony Kimble who ente
rs with 248 rush yards on the season and an average of 5.3 yards per rush. Simply put, Stanford is going to try and use the run to beat Notre Dame and keep the game as low scoring as possible. It will be up to the defense to be able to answer the call and stop Stanford. Force them into third and longs, obvious passing downs because:

Led by quarterback Tavita Pritchard (61/108 for 691 yds, 4 TD, 4 INT) do not expect to see the Cardinal relying on their passing game to win the game. Pritchard is an average college quarterback at best and will cough the ball up under pressure, so I would like to see a score or two set up by way of the interception on Saturday for Notre Dame. Get to Pritchard and make him make a mistake or two, its bound to happen...again.

The wideouts Stanford brings to South Bend are not quite as talented as the grouping we saw a week ago from Purdue, but they bring mor
e depth at the position. Ryan Whalen is the go-to receiver, but four other receivers (Doug Baldwin, Richard Sherman, Tony Gerhart, and Austin Gunder) all have eight or more receptions. These wideouts will leave a mark if not taken seriously, but are a very average group that the secondary should be plenty-able to handle.

On offense we will likely see Notre Dame attempt to run the ball as they try to find the same success they had in the second half of the Purdue game. Armando Allen enters the weekend as the number one tailback after his coming out party last weekend. Let's hope this wasn't a one time thing for 2008 and that Allen can begin to be counted on to pick up yards. A week ago he wasn't trying to be fancy, just using his speed and outrunning defenders. Depending on whether or not the offensive line shows up to play the same way, Allen and company may be in for another big day on the ground, Stanford has allowed over 3.5 yards per rush three separate times already this year, going 1-2 in those games. As usual, Robert Hughes and James Aldridge should also see carries.

What about the passing game of Notre Dame - how will it effect the outcome of Saturday's game? Any time you have playmakers left and right like Notre Dame has in Tate, Floyd, and Kamara, expect them to be a major par
t in the contest. Arizona State was able to pass the ball all over the field against Stanford and won going away. This week we will use the run to set up the pass and see close to the same results, I have to figure. Stanford does not offer the same kind of athletes that Notre Dame does in the position matchup here and, if given time, Jimmy Clausen could be in for another big afternoon.

Notre Dame enters this weekend with the best kick coverage in the nation, in large part because of the play of everyone's favorite grinder, Mike Anello. Sadly, the field goal unit is amongst the worst statistically. The good news is that Brandon Walker made a field goal to put the Irish up by three possessions last week. Let's hope that helps his confidence and carries over to this week. Aaron Zagory enters Saturday as a true weapon on special teams for Stanford as he has been good on 6 of 7 field goals this season. Give the edge to Stanford there.

In order to win Notre Dame can't get caught looking ahead to North Carolina next weekend and I am scared to death of this occurring. If the Irish are able to not entirely stop, but simply contain the running game of Stanford, it should be a runaway. If not, the Irish may be in for a scare.

I expect to see Notre Dame struggle defensively in much of the first half before they find success in slowing down Stanford. However, I do not see any way that Stanford slows down Notre Dame enough to win it at the end.

Nick (4-0) Says: Notre Dame 39 Stanford 27

Sidenote: Anyone else want to see David Grimes catch a touchdown pass to make up for last year's BS that occurred out west?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

ND vs. PU - A Battle of 2-1's

College Football, Big Ten Football, Independents Football, Purdue Football, Joe Tiller, Charlie Weis, Jimmy Clausen, Notre Dame Football, Curtis Painter, Kory Sheets, Preview/Prediction

Like the shirt? Get yours here!

By Nick Shepkowski

A year ago we remember the match up in which the Irish waited until they trailed 23-0 before showing any signs of life in West Lafayette. That game was a coming out party of sorts as Golden Tate emerged on the scene with a touchdown on three receptions for over 100 yards receiving. As the story goes, we all remember that it would take until week one of 2008 to hear from Golden in such a way again.

When the Boilermakers enter South Bend this Saturday they will be led under the Golden Dome one last time under the reigns of head coach Joe Tiller. Tiller, who will retire at the end of the season became Purdue's all-time winningest coach last week, passing Jack Mollenkopf. Tiller looks to finish his career against Notre Dame right at the .500 mark as he enters Saturday 5-6 all time against the Fighting Irish, but only 1-4 in South Bend. Often under appreciated, one can not argue that Joe Tiller has put Purdue football back on the map after a rough start to the 1990's.

The Boilermakers come in fresh off of a come from behind win against familiar foe, Central Michigan. Trailing by one with under two minutes to go, Kory Sheets took a handoff 46 yards to give Purdue their second win of the season. What must Notre Dame do in order to keep Purdue from leaving South Bend with a 3-1 mark Saturday? Lets take a look...

The Purdue offense enters dangerous as usual, led by very possibly the most pro-ready quarterback in next years NFL Draft, Curtis Painter. Painter may not have the same kind of weapons around him like he has in years past but is still a dangerous quarterback who will not let the hectic Notre Dame blitz get in his head. Painter is coming off of an impressive 27/36 showing against Central Michigan where he threw for 261 yards and a touchdown. One negative of Painter so far this fall, his interception total matches his touchdown total with three a peice. Don't worry too much about him fleeing the pocket, but when Notre Dame blitzes it will be important they get to him in a hurry because he will make them pay if they fail to.

Kory Sheets carries the bulk of the weight in the Purdue run game as he enters leading the team in touchdowns with six, and two of them coming one week ago. Personally I would like to see the Irish slow down Sheets and make Painter beat them. I'm not saying Painter is a bad quarterback by any means as I have already stated how pro-ready he is, but his receivers this year aren't quite the receivers of previous Purdue teams.

Kevin Smith, Greg Orton, and Desmond Tardy are Painters go to guys, all averging over 50 yards a game this season. On third down and long Irish fans be weary as these will be the weapons of choice, don't expect any of these three to be the reason Purdue may walk out victorious on Saturday, if they do it will because of Kory Sheets.

The inability to run the football killed multiple drives early on in this past Saturday's game against Michigan State. This is a game where there should be no excuse for the Irish to not be able to run the football effectively. If they fail to there will be nobody to blame besides themselves.

Purdue enters this week having major problems stopping the run. A week ago Central Michigan was able to spout off just under four yards a carry for the entire afternoon against the Boilers. Previous to that, Oregon ran all over the Purdue defense in a game they averaged 7.1 yards per carry on their way to a 306 yard day on the ground. As I stated, expect Charlie Weis and Notre Dame to try and use the combination of Robert Hughes, Armando Allen, and James Aldridge. If Notre Dame can't run the football against Purdue then I am scared to see what the rest of the season brings in this department.Although Purdue is better against the pass than they are the run, they have still had troubles this season in stopping teams through the air. The Ducks of Oregon aired out right at 200 yards of passing offense while Central Michigan's Dan Lefevour threw for 291 yards a week ago. The defensive line is the strong point of the Purdue defense but if the Irish line can give Jimmy Clausen time, much like they did against Michigan, expect Clausen to have a big day if the running game fails.

Remember the game plan against Michigan which was to try and use playaction early on to take advantage of the weak secondary of the Wolverines? Expect the exact opposite this Saturday. I fully expect to see Notre Dame come out and try to pound away at the Purdue defense on the ground, then setting up a playaction deep ball. Then again, if the Irish have success running they may not stop either.

Special teams on both sides of the ball will be an exhibit in what not to do this Saturday. Both Purdue and Notre Dame enter this weekend with subpar field goal units. Sadly the edge probably does go to Notre Dame in this department as they have at least covered kicks slightly better than Purdue to this point in the season. I hope this game does not come down to field goals because it could last until eternity if it did.

I would like to see a few things from the Fighting Irish this Saturday that would let me breathe easier and be able to expect a win.

1 - Stop a Third and Long...Please!
Each opponent has converted a third down and long this season and wound up getting points as a result. It would be nice to see the Irish not allow a Purdue first down this weekend when they give the Boilermakers over seven yards to get.

2 - No Dumb Penalties...Enough said but I'll say more!
A week ago we saw Sam Young get called for a personal foul while the Irish were setting up show in their first possession of the game. It may not have directly amounted in points for Michigan State but it killed any hopes of Notre Dame picking up a third down and did not help in the field position battle. Its a little thing but it goes a long way at the end of the day.

3 - Turnovers...Must win this battle!
The last two weeks Notre Dame has been given a free lesson in winning the turnover battle. Michigan was obviously for the better and MSU for the worse. Win the turnover battle, convert turnovers into points and 9 out of 10 times you win the game.

4 - Let Golden make a play!
Golden Tate has emerged as legit playmaker on this offense. There aren't a whole lot of go-to guys like this on Notre Dame for the time being. He's a weapon and a proven go-to guy so far this season. When he gets touches good things happen, so make sure he gets the ball in his hands.

Prediction Time:

The Irish run game takes steps in the right direction while mixing in some long passes along the way as well. After seeing amongst the best running games in the nation a week ago Notre Dame slows down Purdue in that aspect...

Nick (3-0): Notre Dame 27 Purdue 21

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Notre Dame Road Show: Irish Travel to Take on MSU

Two years, its really been that long? It seems like just yesterday I was sitting by my computer in my dorm room, listening to all the things in the world that went wrong for the Spartans in East Lansing by none other than Mike Valenti. In a way, that was a turning point for MSU as they struggled the rest of the season and replaced John L. Smith with Mark Dantonio after 2006. Needless to say, its been a change for the better in Spartan-land.
The Fighting Irish of Notre Dame hit the road this weekend for the first time in 2008 as they enter East Lansing in hopes of improving to 3-0 on the year. Fresh off of a 35-17 victory over Michigan, the Irish must improve on a few aspects of the game if they hope to pull an upset as they enter as 8.5 point underdogs to a 2-1 Michigan State team.

When Michigan State has the Ball:

Irish fans meet Javon Ringer.
Remember him? Hes the guy who has been tormenting the Irish for the past decade or so it seems when its really only been the past three seasons. He will enter Saturday just shy of 500 rushing yards with a total of 498 as he runs for just under five a carry at 4.8 yards per attempt. Simply put, stop him or even slow him down and the chances of pulling out a win in East Lansing sky rocket.
What is concerning about the fact that Ringer is the go-to man offensively is how the Irish performed last week against Sam McGuffie of Michigan. Only a freshman, McGuffie was able to scrap off 131 yards on twenty-five carries. Ringer is bigger, stronger, faster, and more experienced than McGuffie so the Irish defensive front will have no choice but to improve before this weekend.
Michigan State fans were very high on Brian Hoyer entering this season after he showed potential in his first season as the starting quarterback a year ago. Unfortunately for Spartan fans, Hoyer has struggled through the first three weeks of 2008, completing only 44% of his passes with just one touchdown thrown. The good of Hoyer? He's thrown just one pick so far in 75 attempts. It's obvious what this means Irish fans - make Michigan State put the ball in the air. Be able to do so and the Irish should be in business.
The Irish will also find a very capable deep threat in East Lansing this Saturday with Mark Dell. He has been the go to man for the Spartans in passing situations as he has hauled in over a third of the teams 36 receptions with thirteen of his own for 320 yards. BJ Cunningham is thrown to about half as much, but has still pulled in eight catches, averaging 17.4 yards per reception. Sure the stats with this are a bit intimidating, but remember, Hoyer's percentage of completed passes and know that getting pressure on the quarterback will be key. If the Irish can "make" him make a play instead of "let" him make a play they should be okay in pass defense.
To sum up the defense as a whole this weekend, I feel the Irish should do all in their power to control the running game and take their chances against Michigan State's passing game. Hoyer hasn't seen quite a defense like Notre Dame's so far this season. Do I mean the Irish bring that great of one to East Lansing? No. I mean what Notre Dame's gameplan consists of, which is blitz, blitz, and blitz again for the most part. To a quarterback that has not seen it before or at least - this season, this can reek havoc, expect the Irish to try and use that to their advantage in obvious passing downs.

When Notre Dame has the ball:

We saw Jimmy Clausen come alive in the fourth quarter against San Diego State and keep the momentum going into the first half against Michigan. Obviously, the weather and score of the game changed the Notre Dame gameplan for the second half, but the key stat to me from one week ago was the number 3.3. The Irish entered with a struggling running game and faced one of the best front-seven units in college football with Michigan, a team that was allowing right at one yard a carry against opponents entering last Saturday.
The Spartans bring a defense to the game Saturday which struggled very much against Cal in week one. Allowing 467 yards of total offense that day, as Michigan State struggled to find a way to slow down the Bears. I hope to see good weather this Saturday in East Lansing because this is a game where I feel the Irish are capable of throwing the ball around once again.
Coming off of last week it is easy to say this, but against Michigan State, I feel that it will be crucial for Notre Dame to get an early lead and to not turn the ball over. Golden Tate has been the go-to guy so far when the Irish have needed a play and for the most part he has come through for the Irish in 2008. The defense of Michigan State has allowed big plays this year, there is no reason why the Irish shouldn't be able to break one or two again this week.
Michigan State brings in talent, but a lot of question marks still lie in their defense where experience is not there in most respects. I feel that this game is going to turn into a shootout to some degree based on both teams defenses.
Notre Dame is facing a front-seven which is not nearly as talented as that of Michigan was. What does that mean exactly for the Irish? Success in establishing a running game as well as the ability to give Jimmy Clausen time to throw the ball down field. I would be surprised if the Irish offense can't put at least 24 points on the board this weekend.
Looking at special teams, that of Notre Dame's has come on very strong this season. Last week there were only two real mishaps, one when Armando Allen fielded a ball that was going out of bounds and gave the Irish poor field position, the other when a third quarter punt was partially deflected. Other than that special teams came up huge for Notre Dame, keeping Michigan deep in their own territory, something they need to do to Michigan State again this week.
I'll be honest, before writing this article and researching Michigan State a bit more, I did not like the Irish's chances too much in East Lansing. However, if Notre Dame can catch a couple of breaks and be able to do the things I talked about they should be in it late in the ballgame and we all know anything can happen then.
Unfortunately, I feel this week will be a bit of a hiccup for Notre Dame as Javon Ringer will prove to be just too much to handle.

Michigan State 34 Notre Dame 28

Sunday, September 14, 2008

WWR 2.0

A few short years ago the campus of Notre Dame was blessed by the presence of the likes of Maurice Stovall, Jeff Samardzija, and Rhema McKnight, forming WWR (Weis Wide Receivers) 1.0 . My fellow followers of football under the watch of Touchdown Jesus, a new core of receivers has shown its face on Notre Dame's campus and in my eyes looks to be even better than the aforementioned names. That's right, Duval Kamara, Michael Floyd, and Golden Tate will not only equal what Stovall, Shark and McKnight offered, they will be better.
How scary this young group o
f wide outs has to be for opposing defenses can't be fun to think about. We saw flashes in the pan of what Kamara can do in a jump ball situation against a cornerback in the endzone, with notable catches against Navy last year and Michigan this past week. Need someone to go to in one-on-one coverage? Kamara is amongst the best in the business in the college today, as a sophomore.
What Jeff Samardzija was able to do in a Notre Dame uniform is unbelievable considering how unknown he was a very short time before bringing on his stardom. Samardzija is the kind of receiver I expect to see Michael Floyd be one day. As a freshman Floyd was shown the awareness and leaping ability you expect to see from
a veteran, not a player who has now seen the field in only two career college football games.
Michael Floyd already does many things very well but has time to get even that much better. Floyd has shown his ability to go up for a jump ball much like Kamara is able to do, but he also shows the ability to run away from defensive backs just like we saw from Samardzija. Already seeing valuable playing time as a freshman, expect Floyd to turn into amongst the best wide outs in the nation before his tenure under the Golden Dome is complete.
The biggest play maker of the youthful group so-far in 200
8 has to be none other than Golden Tate. Whether it has been a late fourth quarter drive where the Irish face an obvious passing down while needing a first down, or in a surprise deep fly route, Golden Tate has continued to impress early in 2008.
When Tate came onto the scene against Purdue la
st season he seemed like he was plenty capable of running a fly route but what scared me was how he struggled in getting open if he wasn't trying to run right by a defender. It is safe to say that Tate has figured out how to go about doing just that.
Whether it was being a key cog in two fourth quarter drives against San Diego State or the receiver of the third touchdown in the win against Michigan, Tate has turned the corner. Not only has he improved in his ability to run routes, he has become the best route runner on this Notre Dame team. He has caught on very quickly, learning proper separation techniques that are even more key because of his lack of height compared to others.
Notre Dame fans have cried about not having anyone to throw the ball to since the departures of Samardzija and McKnight at the end of 2006. The wait is over folks and WWR 2.0 is currently in development and will be much better than its original in due time.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

The Greatest Moments Captured by ESPN

If you're looking for a greatest games type thing then you are in the wrong place and can move along now if you like. If you are looking for priceless things seen on the worldwide leader in sports, more commonly known as "Fuck-Ups" by ESPN in things that were shown that should not have been shown or just someone speaking a way they shouldn't be, then you're in the right spot.
Number 5: "Two for One"

...Not only is a certain part of the male body drawn with a telestrator but listen closely shortly after that mishap. Awkwardness, anyone?

Number 4: "Rick has No Idea"

...Was it staged or does Rick Majerus have no idea what he just said? Whatever the case Steve Lavin has a priceless reaction.

Number 3: "Lee Corso is a What?"

If you have to play it back a few times but look in the background and notice why some SEC fans are proven to have functioning brain cells.

Number 2: "West Fucking Virginia"

Short and straight to the point. Well done, sir. If a camera man or producer didn't lose a job over this one I'm shocked.


Oh I bet mom and dad are oh so proud of their youngsters. Did the idea of a blanket ever cross either of their minds?

Don't agree with me about these five or have one to add? Let us know about it by right away by posting a comment below.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Close Calls that Still Hurt...A lesson in Notre Dame History

Close calls and what might have been is a good way to put what Notre Dame has gone through since their last National Championship title in 1988. Sure there were close calls along the way, plenty of them. They could have played for a title a year later had they won in the Orange Bowl. Who can forget a week after beating #1 FSU, the loss that occurred at home against Tom Coughlin and Boston College?

2000 was the year we saw Notre Dame come back onto the map (albiet a short time) in the college football ranks. An overtime loss against Nebraska then kept the Irish from chasing what could have been a national title game appearance. Sad, but actually true if you go back and look at that season.

Lets take a look back at heartbreaking Notre Dame losses over the past twenty years and see which ones really were the worst.

1989 vs. Miami
Many expected Notre Dame to repeat as National Champions in 1989 as they entered the season #2 in the nation, behind only the Michigan Wolverines. After defeating UM 24-19 in the Big House the Irish soared up to #1 in the nation. What stood between them and another national title though were the Miami Hurricanes, the defending champs the Irish had to knock off in South Bend the year before.

Although this game did not come down to a last second play it showed the Irish they were not the best team in the nation that year. Miami cruised to a 27-10 win in the Orange Bowl and finished the year as National Champs. Although it was not as heartbreaking as other Irish losses, it was still a day that Irish fans can look back at and just wonder.

1991 Orange Bowl vs. Colorado
1991 has two offerings for the Irish, one coming on the first day of the year in the Orange Bowl against Colorado. Although Notre Dame entered the game not capable of winning a national championship themselves in all likelyhood, they still had the opportunity to defeat the Buffs and keep them from being the champs. Well, long story short the Irish were held in check by the Colorado defense throughout. Trailing 10-9 late in the game there is no way Colorado would kick to the Rocket...right? This pains me to post but why not, its still a hell of a run back.

1991 vs. Tennessee
In 1991 the Irish seemed primed for another title run before the Tennessee Volunteers came to South Bend and started off the game down 14-0 before most fans in the stands even blinked. The Irish continued to pile on, gaining a 31-7 advantage at one point in the matchup. However the Vols came storming back and defeated the Irish 35-34 as Reggie Ho missed a last second field goal that would have won the Irish the game.

The Irish would have had to have other things work out which did not in order to gain a trip to the title game in 1991 but this loss still pains Irish fans to think about to this day. The loss sent the Irish in a downward spiral that set up the dramatic Sugar/Cheerios Bowl game against Florida.

1993 vs. Boston College
The Irish were championship chasers once again in 1993 and gained the #1 ranking after defeating previous #1 Florida State in South Bend. All Notre Dame had to do was beat Boston College and they were headed to Miami to face Nebraska and play for the national title. That's all they had to do and what happens?

A defense that held Heisman Trophy QB Tommy Ward in check for the most part a week before goes out and gives up 41 points to BC. The Irish lose 41-39 and settle for date in the Cotton Bowl where they in turn beat Texas A&M for a second year in a row.

This is the first Irish heartbreak I remember watching first hand. I was seven years old and to this day can't describe what happened that day. Notre Dame had no answers defensively for most of the afternoon while Tom Coughlin and Glenn Foley had all of them. Thinking of this kick will prevent me from being able to sleep tonight.

Since that day one can argue the Irish have not made a serious run at a national championship. Although it is safe to say they were not the best team in the nation any of the years since then it is fair to say they have had their title opportunities if one thing or another went just slightly different.

2000 vs. Nebraska
Not a whole lot was expected of the Irish in 2000 but after beating Texas A&M convincingly they found themselves in the top 25 with number one coming to town. In a game where the Irish cashed in on Special Teams they found themselves tied late with a chance to win the game.

Instead Bob Davie and company decide not to risk anything and to play for overtime. Nick Setta steps up and gives the Irish the lead once again, sure. However, Eric Crouch leads the Huskers right down field and into the endzone.

I was not watching this game at the time, instead was in a car headed home listening to the whole thing. As a freshman in high school I knew Davie was wrong for sitting on the ball and to this day I feel the same way.

2000 vs. Michigan State
Two weeks later the Irish traveled to East Lansing looking to move to 3-1 and improve their rankings. A game that was back and forth until the end, Notre Dame losses on a touchdown pass over the middle that goes for big yards.

I may be wrong but I remember this play occuring on a fourth down. At the end of the year this loss did not matter, it didnt prevent Notre Dame from a BCS game or a national title but it was an extremely tough pill to swallow nonetheless.

2005 vs. USC
October 15, 2005 will be a day I will never forget. The atmosphere of Notre Dame that day was unmatched and there was just the feeling in the air something was different on that afternoon. Early in the game both teams trade a few scores before Tom Zbikowski brings the house down with a punt return for a touchdown to put the Irish ahead (I specifically remember nearly passing out during this play).

The game goes on, both teams convert 4th downs in their own territory. Late in the game with the Irish trailing Brady Quinn scores on a keeper and the Irish are one stop away from the upset of the century.

First two downs are an incomplete pass and a one yard gain. 4th and 9, no timeouts for USC who is trailing 31-28 at the time. That's when Matt Lienart and Dwayne Jarrett hook up on a perfectly thrown ball to keep hope alive for the Trojans.

Shortly after the Irish hold USC and time winds out on the scoreboard with ND winning 31-28. After order is restored on the field Pete Carroll is seen signaling to his team to get to the line and spike the ball. Instead Lienart takes the ball on a sneak and gets some extra help from Reggie Bush to find the endzone.

34-31, USC Wins. As mentioned earlier in this article, I am still pained in this loss and it was the toughest pill to swallow of any that I have ever had to when it comes to my team and losing.

So that's that for that. What do you think, which one of these losses was the worst for you since the Irish last won a title? Do you have a loss not mentioned that you feel is deserving? Go ahead Irish fans, let me know how you feel.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Notre Dame '08: It Starts up Front

It seems idiotic to even imply that Notre Dame could be the biggest surprise team in 2008 but the statement alone makes everyone realize how far it is the Irish have fallen. One year ago they were coming off of back-to-back BCS appearances and seemed primed for the spotlight for years to come once again. However, 3 wins and 9 losses later they enter 2008 looking to gain back some of the respect that was lost on the national level a year ago.

So what does Notre Dame have to do to at least get back to a bowl game? What do they have to avoid to make a sure a repeat of 2007 does not occur? Its pretty simple with Notre Dame in '08, the Irish need to get back to the basics and that starts up front.

Jimmy Clausen will never come within shouting distance of All-American status and Robert Hughes and the rest of the Irish stable of running backs won't reach their full potential if the offensive line does not improve. If we learned one thing towards the end of last year it was that Notre Dame has more talent on their roster than a 3-9 record should have. However, the offensive line was amongst the very worst in the game. If that does not change then the results in the win column will fail to as well.

Rightfully so there are a ton of questions marks about this offensive line. Irish fans wish it was as simple as a years more experience means that the line will be that much better but the truth of the matter is that it does not work that way. Sure the experience may help but to what degree? Time will tell.

On the line Notre Dame will see its anchor back in Sam Young.

The former 5-Star recruit will be playing right tackle this year and will be counted on heavily in giving Jimmy Clausen more time to throw while also opening up running room for the Irish backs. Young was a pleasant surprise his freshman year of 2006 but '07 saw him take a step back. Young getting back to his form at right tackle in 2008 will be key for Irish success.

Joining Young on this years offensive line are expected to be Paul Duncan, Michael Turkovich, Dan Wenger, and Eric Olesen from left to right, with Young being the RT. This has turned into an older and more experienced group for the Irish, both something that will be helpful for 2008. Like I mentioned before though, experience will not matter if these guys did not gain anything from last years debacle.

What needed to be done is that the Irish offensive line learned from mistakes they made last year. The coaching staff needed to learn what they may have done a poor job with while working with the O-Line a year ago.

Nobody knows yet what the Irish offensive line may entail in 2008. They could be the reason the Irish disappoint again or they could very well be the reason Notre Dame flies in under radar on their path back respectability. As far as I am concerned, this is the only important question Irish fans need to ask themselves about for the time being.

If the line has not improved from a year ago there is no need to worry about the development of Jimmy Clausen or the skill of the running backs on the roster. Without an offensive line these young men will not prosper on the football field and will not have to be worried about to make plays because they once again will not be able to.

Only if the offensive line is improved should Irish fans begin to even have doubts about what happened to the skill positions of Notre Dame last fall. If the line gets better and Clausen and company still struggle, then you can begin to question player development at those positions. However, without an offensive line it is impossible to be critical of the rest of the offense, including the play calling because it does not have a chance when the line doesn't hold up its part of the bargain.