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?