Saturday, October 14, 2006


Halfway through the season is a great time to take a minute to assess where the rankings are at this point in the season. Before I get a bunch of comments complaining that there is no way Rutgers/Boise State is better than [insert 1-loss team here], please keep in mind that I'm ranking teams first by record, then by merit. If I were ranking by who I think is the better team, Notre Dame would be third. But then I'd be immolated by SC fans who would get their panties in a bunch 'cause they are undefeated.

1. Michigan (6-0)
2. Ohio State (6-0)
3. Southern Cal (6-0)
4. West Virginia (6-0)
5. Louisville (6-0)
6. Rutgers (6-0)
7. Boise State (6-0)
8. Notre Dame (5-1)
9. Texas (5-1)
10. Tennessee (5-1)
11. Georgia Tech (5-1)
12. Arkansas (6-1)
13. Auburn (6-1)
14. Florida (6-1)
15. California (6-1)
16. Wisconsin (6-1)
17. Clemson (6-1)
18. Oregon (5-1)
19. Pittsburgh (6-1)
20. Boston College (6-1)
21. Missouri (6-1)
22. Nebraska (6-1)
23. Texas A&M (6-1)
24. Wake Forest (6-1)
25. San Jose State (4-1)

Overall, there are a lot of teams that are seriously flawed, and only Michigan and Ohio State have shown themselves to be great complete teams at this point. Southern Cal is an overwhelming collection of talent, but an underwhelming team, with close wins over mediocre Pac-10 teams. Texas and Notre Dame are great but inconsistent. West Virginia and Louisville would get killed by anyone else in the top 15 on a neutral field, but they don't play anyone worthwhile, and one of them will go undefeated. Georgia Tech is a one-trick pony. Arkansas/Auburn/Florida/Tennessee are all classic SEC teams, very good all-around teams, but not great at anything.

Prediction revision:
Looking again at the remaining teams and games, I think that at the end of the season it will be the winner of the Ohio State - Michigan game versus the winner of the SC/ND game for the championship. The Big East will have a fit when their undefeated darling gets left out, especially if in favor of a 1-loss team.

Indiana 31 #15 Iowa 28

Excuse me for a moment while I bask in the glory of my alma mater accomplishing something during FOOTBALL season.

My Hoosiers, the perennial bottom feeders of the Big Ten, have just beaten a top 15 team at home. A Big Ten contender. And it is - wait for it - their SECOND straight victory in the Big Ten.

This is a young team, and a team without any depth. But I firmly believe that Coach Hoeppner has this team heading in the right direction.

More importantly, a big win like this can really kickstart the recruiting for a team like IU, giving them some additional tools to work with going forward.

Indiana, Our Indiana
Indiana, we're all for you!
We will fight for
the Cream & Crimson,
For the glory of Old IU
Never daunted, we cannot falter
In a battle, we're tried and true
Indiana, Our Indiana
Indiana, we're all for you!

Friday, October 13, 2006

Strength of Schedule

Many people are prematurely hailing the Florida schedule as "brutal" and "the toughest in the country." However, Florida's schedule doesn't even hold a candle to Notre Dame's.

Notre Dame Schedule
Georgia Tech: ACC Champion
Penn State:Big Ten
Michigan: Big Ten Champion
Michigan State: Big Ten
Purdue: Big Ten
Stanford: Pac-10
UCLA: Pac-10
Navy: Independent
North Carolina: ACC
Air Force: Mountain West Champion
Army: Independent
Southern California: Pac-10 Champion

Florida's Schedule
Southern Miss: Conference USA
Central Florida: Conference USA
Tennessee: SEC
Kentucky: SEC
Alabama: SEC
Auburn: SEC
Georgia: SEC
Vanderbilt: SEC
South Carolina: SEC
West Carolina: I-AA Southern Conference loser
Florida State: ACC basement

So, which is harder, a full slate of conference games (including Vanderbilt and Kentucky), a I-AA nobody, two Conference USA teams, and a Florida State team that could finish last in the ACC Atlantic division?

Or, a schedule against the potential champions of the ACC, Big Ten, Pac-10, and Mountain West, a full slate of BCS teams, and the military academies?

Notre Dame gets a lot of grief from haters about scheduling the academies, but would you rather play Army or West Carolina? Navy or Central Florida? Air Force or Southern Miss? I think I know who I would pick.

Notre Dame plays the toughest schedule year-in, year-out because they play the top teams from the major conferences without often getting an opporunity to feast on the Indianas, Vanderbilts, and Baylors of the world.

The next time that Kirk Herbstreit says that Florida's schedule should be illegal, I think I might vomit. (And Kirk is usually so well-spoken - he must have a man-crush on the entire SEC)

Thursday, October 12, 2006

DE Ronald Talley leaves team

Ronald Talley, who started two games this year at defensive end before being premanently replaced by Chris Frome, has left the team.

There isn't any information on why this is, and I won't even begin to speculate.

However, this is a disturbing trend from Ty Willingham's last full recruiting class.

Here is a list of that class:

Darius Walker, starting tailback
Maurice Crum, starting linebacker
Terrail Lambert, backup cornerback / starting nickel back
Anthony Vernaglia, backup/starting linebacker
Leo Ferrine, backup defensive back
Junior Jabbie, on team, not playing
Darrin Bragg, on team, not playing
Justin Brown, on team, not playing

Abdel Banda, left team
Tregg Duerson, left team
Justin Hoskins, left team
Chauncey Incarnato, left team
John Kadous, left team
Brandon Nicholas, left team
Chris Vaugn, left team
David Wolke, left team
Ronald Talley, left team

Now, as I said before, I'm not going to speculate as to why any individual players have left the team.

But, I would like to point out that of the players that have left the team, nearly all of them would not be starting because of more athletic players that have been recruited by Coach Weis. While I personally think it is a low-class move to abandon the team instead of pushing yourself harder, I think most of the kids that have left from this class simply realized that they had no business being on the Notre Dame football team, as they are not big enough, strong enough, fast enough, or quite simply good enough to cut the mustard at Notre Dame.

That class was the 32nd ranked class in the country by, 30th by

The year after, during the transition from Willingham to Weis, was ranked 40th and 27th, and had only 15 players.

Last year's class had 28 players, and was ranked 8th and 5th.

This year's class is already up to 9 - dead even with USC in terms of talent and numbers.

I guess they are just reading the writing on the wall.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Bye week - none too soon.

So, much like the Notre Dame football team, I am in need of a break. I am currently sitting at home right now, sicker than a dog.

Apparently, stress can depress your immune system, thereby rendering you susceptible to infection. Who knew?

So, as we cruise into the halfway point of the season, what do we know?

We know that I suck at predicting Notre Dame games. When I think we are going to win big, we play uninspired and far underperform my bold predictions. But then, I also thought that the Michigan game would be very close. Who knew?

But, my prognostication shortcomings aside, we do have some hope going into the second half of the season.

On the injury front:

Ambrose Wooden, Tom Zbikowski, and Travis Thomas were all injured coming out of the first half of the season, and none of the three saw the field against Stanford. It is amazing how different a defense looks wothout their All-American safety and two other starters. On the bright side, all three should be ready to go coming out of the bye week when we welcome UCLA into Notre Dame Stadium to kick off the second half of the season.

Superstar recruit James Aldridge is finally 100% after knee surgery, and showed it with some impressive runs in garbage time against Stanford. While I don't think we need Aldridge to get into the starting rotation, I think that alternating him and Prince will provide them with valuable experience when Darius needs a breather. The fresher we can keep Darius, the better.

The Polls:

The Irish are back where they deserve to be with their record, ranked #8 in the ESPN/USA Today poll, and #9 in the AP poll, where we were leapfrogged by a deserving Tennessee team.

As I said before, the Irish whould be heavily favored in every game until USC, and there are plenty of pitfalls for the teams ahead of us. For those of you that want to know when the teams ahead of us are most likely to fall, here are the remaining slates of the top 10 (AP) teams:

1. Ohio State
at Michigan State - the Spartans appear to be collaping as usual, but have the talent to challenge the Buckeyes if they can regain some confidence
vs. Michigan - after surviving MSU, the Buckeyes get to feast on Indiana, Minnesota, Illinois, and Northwestern before welcoming the Wolverines (who I think will knock off the Buckeyes).
2. Florida
at Auburn - the recently #2 (now 11th) Tigers are coming off of an embarassing loss to Arkansas, and will want some revenge. Also, the #2 slot hasn't been friendly thus far this year.
vs. Georgia - arguably the nation's toughest schedule, Florida gets no breather if they survive Auburn by welcoming an overrated but talented Georgia team to town the next week.
vs. South Carolina - Teh Ol' Ballcoach may have a thing or two up his sleeve for his former team. The Gamecocks will be ready.
at Florida State - FSU is down this year, and actually unranked, but they should be a much improved team by the time Florida comes calling. And rivalry games never go as planned.
SEC Championship game - could very well cost the Gators a shot at the Championship.
3. Southern Cal after a close call against Washington, suddenly nobody in the Pac-10 looks like a gimme. Except for Stanford, of course.
Arizona State - with their only losses to ranked teams, ASU won't roll over until the 3rd quarter
at Oregon State - Nobody wants to play in Corvallis. But SC will win.
vs. #18 Oregon - The Ducks couldn't handle Cal, but they did beat Oklahoma.
vs. #10 Cal - They got stomped by Tennessee in the opener, but are certainly capable of winning this game.
vs. #9 Notre Dame - Michigan proved this year at Notre Dame that every streak must come to an end. And the Irish will be the best-equipped team to end their losing streak against the Trojans in the Coliseum.
at UCLA - Playing UCLA after the Irish means that SC will have to try to regain their focus after what promises to be another epic battle.
4. Michigan Michigan must lose to either Iowa or Penn State (or preferably both) for us to get into the national championship.
at Penn State - Rumor has it that speedster Mario Manningham won't play, and the Nittany Lions are far better than we made them look.
vs. Iowa - Iowa lost a hard fought game to Ohio State, and would like nothing more than to beat the Wolverines to get that taste out of their mouth.
at Ohio State - This is really the only game left on the Buckeye's schedule that could be a loss. The Wolverines MUST win this game.
5. West Virginia
This team pisses me off. If Notre Dame played this schedule, they'd be undefeated at the end of the season, no question about it. This easy of a schedule just isn't fair to the Notre Dames, Floridas, and USCs of the world.
at #7 Louisville - their only real challenge on the schedule, the winner of this game will be odds-on favorites to go undefeated.
at Pittsburgh - Pitt doesn't have the horses to win here, unless they get the breaks that Michigan got against the Irish this year.
vs. #24 Rutgers - Rutgers' running game could keep them in this game, and they have an outside chance of playing the spoiler in the Big East's hope of getting into the championship game.
6. Texas Texas won't be ahead of Notre Dame at the end of the season if the Irish win at USC.
With Oklahoma in their rearview mirror, this team doesn't have many challenges remaining.
at #21 Nebraska - The Huskers are improving, and could hang with the Longhorns. I hope that freshman Colt McCoy chooses this game to make some freshman mistakes.
at Texas Tech - Tech doesn't have the talent that Texas does, but their pass-heavy scheme could keep them in this game far longer than they have any right to be.
Big 12 Championship - Watch out for old Mizzou or a Nebraska rematch.
7. Louisville
vs. West Virginia - Louisville must win this game. If they don't take out the Mountaineers, nobody will.
at Rutgers - Louisville, with Michael Bush out, could struggle against the Rutgers running attack
at Pittsburgh - Pitt has got to win a game it's not supposed to this year, and this is my pick.
8. Tennessee having just beaten Georgia, here's what Tennessee looks forward to:
vs. Alabama; at South Carolina; vs. LSU; at Arkansas - Tennessee doesn't survive this four week stretch. I'm not sure anybody would.
9. Notre Dame
Having already played the toughest part of their schedule, Notre Dame's only challenge should be USC. They get UCLA after the break, with an extra week to prepare, this team should dismantle the Bruins. After ND wins the President's Cup, and dismantles a pitiful North Carolina team, the Irish get to invade Troy.

So, as this all shakes out, the Irish have an outside shot at the championship game. They need Michigan to lose to either Penn State or Iowa, and then beat the Buckeyes. Alternately, they need the Big East to have no unbeatens at the end of the year. If either or both of these things happen, the Irish could play for the championship.

However, my feeling is that the Irish do not get their championship shot this year, and the bowls will shake out something like this:

Michigan takes on the Big East winner West Virginia in what appears to be the easiest Championship game in history for the Wolverines. West Virginia upsets overly conservative Llloyd Carr.

The Rose Bowl takes the loser of the OSU-Michigan game against the one-loss Trojans, passing on the Irish because nobody wants to see the ND-SC rematch.

The Irish fall to the Sugar Bowl because the Rose Bowl doesn't want a ND-USC rematch, and plays Florida. Coach Weis gets his chance to dismantle Urban Meyer's quirky offense and prove once and for all that he was the better choice for the Notre Dame coaching job.

The Fiesta Bowl gets Texas versus Tennessee.

The Orange Bowl gets Georgia Tech versus Boise State.

Now, I have to go get some sleep so I can finish my Accounting for Lawyers midterm. Yawn.