Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Notre Dame v. Purdue Analysis

The Irish have really settled into their offense, consistently putting up 35-45 points per game with the lone exception of the Michigan game, which is always an ugly game. At this point, there is no reason to believe that there are any teams out there (with the possible of exceptions of Virginia Tech and USC) that have the talent on defense to slow down this offense. I expect the Irish to continue scoring at the pace they have been.
The defense, on the other hand, is not as consistent, and has shown several time this year that they are susceptible to the big pass play. They are extremely good against the run, and hit harder than most other teams out there.
Notre Dame finishes its 4-out-of-5 road game stretch at Purdue this week, with the opportunity to go 4-1 over those five games, a far cry better than any of the so-called-experts ever would have thought they would be at this point in the season. I thought going in that 4-1 would be exactly the record coming out of that stretch, although I expected Purdue’s offense to be as potent as Michigan State’s turned out to be. Instead, the Boilermakers have struggled somewhat on offense with their modified spread offense / option attack. Also, Purdue pass defense has been one of the worst in the nation.

Notre Dame Quarterback and Receivers v. Purdue Secondary
Edge: Notre Dame

Notre Dame's Starters:
Brady Quinn, QB, Jr., 95-154 1,181 yards, 10 TD, 2 INT, 23 rushes, 54 yards
Maurice Stovall, WR, Sr., 15 receptions, 254 yards, 1 TD
Jeff Samardzija, WR, Jr., 21 receptions, 346 yards, 6 TD

Matt Shelton, WR, Sr., 7 receptions, 91 yards
David Grimes, WR, Fr., 1 reception, 11 yards
David Wolke, QB, So., 1 rush, 22 yards

Rhema McKnight, WR, Sr., 5 receptions, 69 yards, 1 TD (day-to-day, should play)

Purdue Starters:
Brian Hickman, CB, Sr., 16 tackles, 1 INT
Zach Logan, CB, Fr., 10 tackles, 1 sack, 1 PBU
Bernard Pollard, S, So., 20 tackles, 1 PBU
Kyle Smith, S, Sr., 12 tackles, 2 INT

Paul Long, CB, So., 4 tackles, 2 PBU
Lance Melvin, S, Fr.
Brandon Whittington, S, Fr.

Purdue’s pass defense this year is as bad as ours was last year. With the possibility of Rhema being back in the lineup, I wouldn’t be surprised to see some 5-receiver sets if Purdue’s run defense re-appears after taking last week off. There is almost no depth to this unit, with only one backup corner. Purdue only has 5 players with statistics on the defensive secondary, which makes me wonder if they even run a dime defense. The 5-wide sets could result in pure man coverage all day long, and with our depth at receiver, this could be a key matchup problem for Purdue.

Notre Dame Running Backs and Tight Ends v. Purdue Linebackers
Edge: Notre Dame

Notre Dame's Starters:
Darius Walker, RB, So., 93 rushes, 479 yards, 2 TD, 16 receptions, 118 yards, 2 TD
Asaph Schwapp, FB, Fr. 9 rushes, 13 yards
Anthony Fasano, TE, Sr., 21 receptions, 219 yards

Rashon Powers-Neal, FB/RB, 23 rushes, 90 yards, 4 TD, 6 receptions, 55 yards
Travis Thomas, RB, 15 rushes, 92 yards, 1TD
John Carlson, TE, 3 receptions, 18 yards
Marcus Freeman, TE

Purdue Linebackers:
1st string:
Bobby Iwuchukwu, LB, Sr., 7 tackles, 1 TFL
Stanford Keglar, LB, So., 16 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 sack
George Hall, LB, Jr., 22 tackles, 1 TFL, 3 PBU
2nd string:
Cliff Avril, LB, So., 10 tackles, 1 TFL
Kyle Williams, LB, Fr., 17 tackles
Dan Bick, LB, So., 9 tackles, 1.5 TFL, 1 INT

After last week’s loss to Minnesota, which saw the nation’s number one rush defense dissolve, giving up 200+ yards to Minnesota’s stud running back, Coach Tiller said that this week he’s going to start his second unit. While I’m not sure I believe him, his confidence in this unit is clearly shaken. Look for this to be an area where Charlie tests the less experienced starting backers by shifting into and out of different formations.

Notre Dame Offensive Line v. Purdue Defensive Line
Edge: Draw

Notre Dame's Starters:
Ryan Harris, LT, Jr.
Dan Santucci, LG, Sr.
John Sullivan, C, Jr.
Dan Stevenson, RG, Sr.
Mark LeVoir, RT, Sr.

Scott Raridon, G, Sr.
Brian Mattes, G, Sr.
Michael Turkovich, T, Fr.
Paul Duncan, T, Fr.

Injury: Bob Morton, C, Jr. (will not play, should be back in 1-2 weeks)

Washington Starters:
Brent Grover, DT, Sr., 9 tackles, 2.5 TFL
Brandon Villareal, DT, Sr., 18 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 sack
Ray Edwards, DE, Jr., 9 tackles, 4.5 TFL, 1 sack
Anthony Spencer, DE, Jr., 4 tackles, 2 sacks

Ryan Baker, DT, Fr., 3 tackles, 0.5 sack
Alex Magee, DT, Fr., 3 tackles
Rob Ninkovich, DE, Sr., 7 tackles, 1 sack
Eugene Bright, DE, So., 4 tackles, 0.5 sackT

he reason that Purdue had the best run defense the first two weeks of the season is stellar play by this unit. They were shedding their blocks and stuffing up holes. Last week, against a tougher O-line, they weren’t nearly as effective. I expect this unit to be effectively neutralized by our line, but I called it a draw simply because this is the only unit that has performed for Purdue, and if this D-line can play like they did the first two weeks, Darius could get a breather this week.

Purdue Quarterback and Receivers v. Notre Dame Secondary
Edge: Purdue

Purdue Starters:
Brandon Kirsch, QB, Jr., 44-84, 638 yards, 4 TD, 3 INT, 19 rushes, 81 yards
Kyle Ingraham, WR, Jr., 8 receptions, 133 yards
Dorien Bryant, WR, So., 18 receptions, 247 yards, 7 rushes, 49 yards, 1 TD
Ray Williams, WR, Sr., 2 rushes, 13 yards, 1 TD

Curtis Painter, QB, Fr., 1-3, 15 yards
Brian Hare, WR, Sr.
Kevin Noel, WR, Sr., 1 reception, 8 yards
Andre Chattams, WR, Jr., 2 receptions, 27 yards, 1 TD

Notre Dame's Starters:
Mike Richardson, CB, Sr., 16 tackles, 3 TFL, 1 sack, 2 PBU
Ambrose Wooden, CB, Jr., 29 tackles, 4 PBU, 1 INT
Tom Zbikowski, SS, Jr., 27 tackles, 2 INT, 4 PBU, 1 forced fumble
Chinedum Ndukwe, WS, So., 19 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 INT, 4 fumble recoveries, 1 forced fumble

LaBrose Hedgemon II, CB, Jr.
Leo Ferrine, CB, So., 3 tackles
Terrail Lambert, CB, So., 3 tackles, 1 PBU
David Bruton, S, Fr., 1 tackle
Kyle McCarthy, S, Fr.

Notre Dame’s pass defense has been suspect to say the least the last couple of weeks, and Purdue’s basketball-on-grass offense woulld normally be perfectly set up to challenge this unit again. However, Kirsch is more of an option-oriented QB, and Tiller has revamped his offense this year, looking to Urban Meyer’s success at Utah. That said, Purdue hasn’t completely forgotten last year’s game, and could still burn this unit, especially if Zbikowski gets over-anxious to cover the option.

Purdue Running Backs and Tight Ends v. Notre Dame Linebackers
Edge: Notre Dame

Purdue's Starters:
Jerod Void, RB, Sr., 36 rushes, 240 yards, 5 TD, 2 receptions, 15 yards
Charles Davis, TE, Sr., 9 receptions, 130 yards, 1 TD

Kory Sheets, RB, So., 32 rushes, 195 yards, 3 TD
Brandon Jones, RB, Sr., 19 rushes, 88 yards
Dustin Keller, TE, So., 3 receptions, 53 yards, 2 TD

Notre Dame Starters:
Brandon Hoyte, WLB, Sr., 37 tackles, 10.5 TFL, 4 sacks, 1 PBU, 1 forced fumble
Corey Mays, MLB, Sr., 20 tackles, 3 TFL, 1 sack, 2 PBU, 1 fumble recovery, 1 forced fumble
Maurice Crum, Jr., Apache, Jr., 19 tackles, 1 forced fumble

Joe Brockington, LB, Jr., 2 tackles, 1 TFL
Mitchell Thomas, LB, Jr., 1 tackle
Anthony Vernaglia, Apache, So.
Steve Quinn, Apache, Fr.

Purdue’s modified option/spread attack plays right into the strength of this defense – the linebacking corps. Hoyte will by all over Kirsh like white on rice this week, and will force Purdue to beat us through the air. Purdue’s running backs and tight ends are unspectacular, but do get enough production to make this work. Kirsch, for all his supposed running skills, does not produce much on the ground game, but has excellent timing on his pitches and fakes.

Purdue Offensive Line v. Notre Dame Defensive Line
Edge: Purdue early, Notre Dame late

Washington Starters:
Mike Otto, T, Jr.
Robbie Powell, G, So.
Matt Turner, C, Sr.
Jordan Grimes, G, So.
Sean Sester, T, Fr.

Garret Miller, T, Fr.
Nick Fincher, G, So.

Notre Dame's Starters:
Victor Abiamiri, DE, Jr., 16 tackles, 5 TFL, 2 sacks, 1 PBU
Trevor Laws, DT, Jr., 4 tackles. 1 PBU
Derek Landri, DT, Sr., 8 tackles, 3 TFL, 1 sack, 1 PBU
Chris Frome, DE, Sr., 5 tackles, 1 sack, 2 PBU

Brian Beidatsch, DT, Sr., 6 tackles, 1 sack
Dwight Stephenson, Jr., DT, Jr.
Ronald Talley, DE, So., 5 tackles, 1 PBU
Justin Brown, DE, So., 2 tackles

Purdue’s offensive line is good, but not deep. Their starting tackle is also a backup guard, and a starting guard is the only backup center. The only players besides the starting five that could see the field are underclassmen, and as the game wears on, expect the line to start getting meaningful pressure on Kirsch. Early on, though, the D-line will struggle.

Notre Dame Head Coach v. Purdue Head Coach
Edge: Notre Dame

Notre Dame's Head Coach: Charlie Weis, 1st year, 3-1

Purdue Head Coach: Joe Tiller, 8th year, 2-1 (62-37 at Purdue)

Tiller has had recent success against Notre Dame, largely due to the fact that he was simply a better coach than either Davie or Willingham. Tiller is a lot like Lloyd Carr at Michigan, in that Purdue comes into each year with high hopes and expectations, but by mid-season, Purdue is eliminated from the National Title hunt. However, unlike Michigan, Purdue inevitably goes on to fall out of the BCS picture by season’s end. You can count on Tiller to get a couple a win against a top team, but also a couple of losses against evenly matched opponents. Sadly, if the game is close at the end, you can almost always count on Purdue to lose. Weis will out-scheme, out-prepare, and out-coach Tiller, and squeak out a win.

Final Prediction:
Notre Dame 38
Purdue 27

I expect the Irish to come out and run their offense with the usual methodical and efficient success they have all year. Notre Dame will get up by a couple of scores in the second half, at which time Purdue will discover that they can pass the ball. After cutting it to a one-score game (or perhaps even a tie), their inability to stop the Notre Dame offense will spell their eventual doom, as they simply won’t be able to keep up.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

More proof that the BCS is useless.

The latest addition to the BCS formula, replacing the venerated AP poll, who no longer wanted to be associated with this pile of dung, is the Harris poll. This laughable poll is made up of a panel of persons nominated by the 117 Div-I football programs. There are no qualifications for a spot in this poll, you simpply get nominated and accept.

I was optimistic about the Harris poll going in. I had hoped that these people would not bring a bunch of agendas to the table, as the coaches and writers certainly do. But then the first round of rankings were released.

At first glance, they don't seem that bad. USC #1 - no surprise. As a matter of fact, most of the top 25 was acceptable, except for the fact that .500 Michigan was still ranked, as was Louisville that just got smoked by pernnial powerhouse: South Florida. South Florida? And by 31 points no less.

But I can swallow all of that. I don't agree with it, but I can deal with it.

The real lunacy is farther down, in the list of other votes.

Down near the bottom, the University of Idaho Vandals got 5 votes. That means that either 5 people voted them as the 25 th best team, or more likely, someone thought they were the 21st best team in the nation.

Idaho is 0-4.

Yes, 0-4. That's not a typo. They have yet to win a game. And they haven't exactly played stellar opponents. They lost to 1-3 Washington. And 1-3 UNLV. And 1-2 Hawaii. They've handed three bad teams their lone victory this year. And there is no hope in sight.

The BCS just became even more of a laughingstock than they ever had been before.

Dammit, NCAA, just get up off of your pansy, politically correct duffs and institute a playoff. The best sporting league in the world deserves as much.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Rankings - Week 5

Ranking - School - Record - This Week - Next Week
1 - Southern California - (3-0) - W @ #18 Oregon - @ #20 AZ State
2 - Texas - (3-0) - Bye - @ Missouri
3 - Virginia Tech - (4-0) - W 51 -7 #10 Georgia Tech - @ West Virginia
4 - Georgia - (4-0) - W @ Mississippi State - @ Tennessee
5 - Florida - (4-0) - W 49 – 28 @ Kentucky - @ #13 Alabama
6 - California - (4-0) - W @ New Mexico State - Arizona
7 - Ohio State - (3-1) - W 31-6 Iowa - @ #21 Penn State
8 - Michigan State - (4-0) - W 61-14 Illinois - Michigan
9 - Texas Tech - (4-0) - W 63-7 Indiana State - Kansas
10 - Virginia - (3-0) - W 38-7 Duke - @ Maryland
11 - Notre Dame - (3-1) - W 36-17 @ Washington - @ #25 Purdue
12 - Alabama - (4-0) - W 24-14 Arkansas - Florida
13 - Tennessee - (3-1) - W 45-14 #4 Louisiana State - #5 Georgia
14 - Florida State - (3-0) - Bye - Syracuse
15 - UCLA - (3-0) - Bye - Washington
16 - Miami - (2-1) -W 23-3 Colorado - #25 South Florida
17 - Louisiana State - (1-0) - W #22 Tennessee - @ Mississippi State
18 - Wisconsin - (4-0) - W 23-20 #23 Michigan - Indiana
19 - Minnesota - (4-0) - W 42-35 #7 Purdue - Bye
20 - Iowa State - (3-0) - W 28-21 @ Army - @ Nebraska
21 - Arizona State - (3-1) - W 42-24 Oregon State - #1 USC
22 - Penn State - (4-0) - W 34-29 @ Northwestern - #8 Ohio State
23 - Purdue - (2-1) - L 35-42 Minnesota - #12 Notre Dame
24 - Georgia Tech - (3-1) - L 7-51 @ #5 Virginia Tech - NC State
25 - South Florida - (3-1) - W 45-14 #8 Louisville - @ #16 Miami

Dropped from rankings:
#8 Louisville (L 45-14 South Florida)
#18 Oregon (L 13-45 Southern California)
#23 Michigan (L 20-23 Wisconsin)

Honorable Mention: Vanderbilt (4-0), Indiana (3-0)

Notre Dame 36, Washington 17

It wasn't a pretty win, but it also wasn't nearly as close as the score suggests.

The Irish defense struggled all day to contain Washington's passing attack, giving up over 400 yards passing. Maybe this secondary isn't as far removed from the horrible unit of last year, but they were effective in keeping Washington out of the end zone. The Irish held the Huskies to only a field goal until late in the game, during garbage time, when Washington was able to put up two scores. The Irish rush defense was stellar, holding the Huskies to only 41 yards on the ground. Also, the defense is showing a real intensity in the red zone, garnering two more red zone turnovers this week, a fumble recovery on the 1-foot line, and an end-zone interception. The Irish also forced a tunover on downs and another fumble inside their 40. The Irish defense 1st string didn't give up a touchdown, but did give up plays of 39, 69, and 49 yards.

The offense moved the ball all day, but sputtered early in scoring position. The first drive, which started at our own 1-yard line (see the picture below for a related story), ended with a muffed field goal attempt. The second drive ended with a field goal from the 7, after failing to punch it in after a first and goal on the 7. Finally, our third drive resulted in a touchdown (although a botched XP). Our final drive of the first half sputtered again, resulting in a 39-yard field goal.

After turning the ball over on downs inside our 30-yard line twice to start the second half, the going was much smoother for the offense. The next four drives were TD, FG, TD, TD, including a beautiful 52-yard strike to Samardzija, who is quickly establishing himself as an All-American receiver.

Notre Dame finally punted the ball for the first time with seconds left on the clock, the final play of the game.

Special team were inconsistent this week. A botched field goal and extra point, and a fumble on a punt return (which we recovered) marred the effort. High points were a nice looking 31-yard kickoff return by David Grimes, and a blocked punt by Chase Anastacio.

Overall, the team was sloppy, but good enough to give the reserves a couple of series. If the Irish expect to win next week at Purdue, they need to improve their pass defense and pass rush, but Purdue's pass defense is even worse than ours was last year, and what was the nation's best rush defense the first two weeks against weak opponents for Purdue gave up over 300 yards to Minnesota, who has a similar caliber rushing attack to our own.

Exciting news

I have been selected to participate in the new ND Nation, Blue-Gray Skay, Irish Eyes top 25 poll.

My weekly rankings will be combined with other voters to create an alternative poll to the traditional AP and ESPN / USA Today polls. I will continue to post my rankings here, as well as a link to the results of the combined poll.

For a brief moment, one brave young man looked down from heaven and gave this team wings.
Rest in Peace, Montana Mazurkiewicz, 1995 - 2005
Story here