Friday, December 22, 2006

I have returned.

With the brutality of this year's final exams firmly in my rearview mirror and my sanity glued back together, I cna finally return to the blogosphere, and there is plenty to discuss.

First of all, I must say that I truly enjoy the subtle confidence of Coach Weis. He got some more outstanding recruits, all 4 and 5 star guys (except Dever, I think he might be an underrated 3-star). Also, he filled some gaping needs, getting a commit from one of the nation's top defensive tackles, Ian Williams. He is cruising along in recruiting, and lest we get concerned about guys like Benn and Wilson going to Illinois (WTF? Illinois? Zook must have some powerful rose-colored glasses...) Coach Weis has assured us of two things - (1) our fifth year guys will be back and (2) we've got some wicked good silent commits in recruiting.

Ronald Talley, who left the team earlier this year, ended up at the Delaware Blue Hens, where he has proceeded to bash his former team. Apparently, the coaching staff suggested that Talley put on a couple of pounds and move in from defensive end to tackle, where his speed (which wasn't enough for a Div. I-A DE) would become an asset, and he would help fill a need. However, rather than being a team player, the kid jumped ship. Even that is fine, until he decides to come out in the press and start ripping his former coaching staff. As far as I'm concerned, the kid is persona non grata in the Bend from here on out. Have fun in Delaware, Talley. Can you say: "Do you want fries with that?"

Of course, the most pressing matter is the impending showdown with LSU, a mere 12 days away. The hype is slowly starting to build, as I've heard a few sportscasters here and there let slip that that game is the game they really want to see. Oh, people will watch the National Championship game to make sure that tO$U doesn't lose, and there will be the usual suspects who always watch the Rose Bowl (aka the National Championship consolation round). But for all the ND-haters that gripe that ND doesn't belong in the BCS (again), people have quietly been circling this game on their calendar for quite a while.

Football people, the people who like X's and O's, are intrigued by the matchup.

On the one hand, you have LSU, a balanced team offensively and defensively. The have a short play ball-control offense that will try to establish the run first, and then pass enough to keep the running lanes open - they don't attempt as many passes as other teams. On defense, they show a lot of different looks, but prefer zone coverage to blitzing and man-to-man. They rely on their speed and athleticism to make plays, and have been burned in the running game, but never in the passing game. They aren't flashy, and don't chuck the ball all over the field, preferring to play a slow, steady game through to the end.

On the other hand, you have the Irish. A flashy, high-octane passing game is the undergirder of this team. They run the ball well, mostly because Darius only has 4 guys in the box half the game, as D-Cos look for ways to keep Brady from absuloutely crushing them (unless you're JoePa, in which case you stubbornly refuse to let Darius beat you, while Quinn explodes). The running game is passable, but not top-tier. The O-line has struggled at blitz pickup this year, and they have seen a LOT of blitzes as people try to rattle Brady (Note: it doesn't work - this kid has ice in his veins). Their defense is an enigma wrapped in a conundrum wrapped in a paradox, as they are spectacular about 90% of the time. The other 10%, though, is when this defense looks lost as teams with explosive passing games burn 'em deep.

Which is why this is such an interesting game. LSU's strengths butt up against ND's strengths. Neither one has shown an ability to exploit the other's weaknesses. It will be the nation's 3rd ranked pass defense against the nation's 10th best passing offense, by a fair margin the best passing offense LSU has faced this year, as well as the best passing defense the Irish have faced this year. LSU's pass offense has been very good, but it is not their bread and butter, and they don't chuck it deep dow the field, usually throwing on third and long to get a first down (which they do very well) but they don't air it out (until they fall behind). So they won't really challenge Notre Dame's glaring weakness, in coverage.

This will be a war of attrition, and in a game which will be grind-it-out close all the way through, the team with the better quarterback wins.

The X factor: Location - this is essentially a home game for the Tigers, and they don't often lose at home. Notre Dame doesn't often lose on the road. Something's got to give.