1. Let's go ahead and talk about the big pink elephant in the room. After two absolutely horrid, heart-breaking, and downright mind-boggling performances, how do you feel about this team moving forward? Are we simply a bad team or a team that just hasn't put it together yet? This is your chance to talk Irish fans of the ledge...or push them over.
This is really the question, isn't it? There's the camp of pessimists, who wail and gnash and rend their clothes and declare the end of the Kelly era. And there are also those that BELIEVE! We will overcome, because HERECOME THE IRISH!!!!>?! lol
But the real truth is that this is a talented team in transition. While we were completely capable of winning either of the last two games, Irish fans have tasted the bitter pill of defeat once again. Gone, our national title hopes. Gone even, our hopes for a BCS win. Disappointed? Hell yes. But the reason I'm not a knee-jerk "FIRE KELLY!?!!>!!" fan is that I watched these games...
This team is good. REAL good.
4.5 turnovers per game. Let's talk about the big pink elephant in the room, okay? Averaging over 500 yards of offense per game (13th in the NCAA, far ahead of any of the opponents on our entire schedule). And our total defense is 52nd in the country, not too shabby...
But we have one glaring issue. -9 - our turnover ratio. We have controlled the majority of the game, but then our offense has this bad habit of turning the ball over. Especially in the red zone. Until we correct this, we are a terrible team that can't beat anybody. Give a freshman a shot at QB at this point. Find somebody who will take care of the ball.
And don't get me started on the stupid penalties by upperclassmen.
So, for right now, let's just let our legs dangle over the cliff. If we win tomorrow, we can back away from the edge. We lose again? I'll be the first lemming over. This is where we separate the men from the boys.
2. It's time to put on the headset and step into the shoes of Brian Kelly. In the first quarter, it seemed like your message and plan to recover from the USF disaster worked, and then the rest of the game happened. How do approach this week? What message do you give your players?
Just hammer it into their heads that they would be 2-0 if they could hold onto the damn bowl. They are already a disappointment in the eyes of the Irish faithful. How do you want to be remembered? As a team that played like the Keystone Cops and bumbled away an entire season? Or as a team that has learned how to win, running off 11 straight victories en route to a number 1 preseason ranking next year?
Both of these options are still on the table. It's time to step up and remember that you are Notre Dame. WE are Notre Dame. What tho' the odds be great or small, ol' Notre Dame WILL win over all. Get it done, boys.
3. Keep that headset on, you are still playing Kelly. Based upon what you've seen these last two games, do you see players that need to start riding the pine or are you still confident in your depth chart?
I have no confidence whatsoever in the quarterback depth chart. Run full live scrimmages in practice this week, with full contact on the QBs, 1s-vs-1s. Give each quarterback five series to start from their 20 yard line. Best stat line wins the starting job on Saturday.
4. Overall, how do you feel about Rees' performance against Michigan?
4th Quarter drives: 3 and out. Rees fumble at Michigan 7 yard line. 3 and out. Rees 29 yard pass for a touchdown. Not a bad finish to the game, put us in the lead with 30 seconds left. But the dismal performance in the 4th quarter prior to that last drive cost us the game.
5. Let's talk about something happy: the Irish running game. After a 198 yard performance by the Irish do you feel that this rushing attack led by Cierre Wood (134 yards) is for real or have we not run into a tough enough defensive test yet?
It's for real. And I would do nothing but run the ball in the red zone. I'd rather come out with a field goal than nothing. If we'd gotten field goals instead of each of the redzone turnovers this year, we'd be 2-0. When you're in range, run the ball down their throats.
6. Looking ahead to Michigan State, how do you gauge them? Is this the best team that we've faced off against yet or is this just an untested team that beat up on two cupcakes in Youngstown State and Florida Atlantic?
Both. They will be a good football team, but they don't know that yet. They know that they were beating up on cupcakes. They know they're going to get some stiff competition this week. But we are far more battle tested that MSU.
7. Is the key to winning simply not turning the ball over or do you see other crucial keys to beating Sparty?
Just hold onto the ball. We can do exactly what we did the last two games, just don't turn the ball over. We fix that, this team will roll over people.
8. Obviously every week should be a must win, but I think there is definitely more of an urgency this week. How crucial is this game for the rest of our season?
Critical. This game makes or breaks the season. Win, and we can be this year's Virginia Tech. Lose, and everybody starts to lose faith.
We'll see if this team has what it takes tomorrow. All the chips are on the table. Don't know about you, but I'm betting on the Irish.