Friday, September 07, 2007

Release the Hounds!

**WARNING: Parental Advisory, Explicit Lyrics**

Screw my past predictions. My damaged emotional psyche couldn't handle the crushing defeat last Saturday, and I lashed out against Coach Weis and the football team, predicting that they would lose to Penn Fucking State.

What the hell was I thinking?

This is Penn State, that wannabe team from out East who is coached by a fucking zombie, and lost to us 41-17 last year.

Robot Charlie is in control, and after a minor malfunction last week, he has realigned his gameplan and is ready to annihilate Joe Pa, and send him running for the crapper before the game even starts. He's drawn up a top secret, eyes only super plan that will make Star Wars look like child's play. He's gonna go inside 'em, outside 'em, inside 'em outside 'em, and once he gets 'em on the run, he's gonna keep on the run, and he ain't gonna stop until we get over that goal line!

Yeah, we had Brady Quinn, The Shark, and D-Walk last year, and they are all gone. But this year we have the NEW Golden Boy, making his world premiere as Notre Dame's quarterback - the big JC, the boy with a golden arm. He's going to come tearing out of the gate like a hellhound, bent on mass destruction. Jimmy C is going to crack open this passing game, throwing for 500 yards to 12 different receivers and 6 touchdowns. He's going to make the United States' "shock and awe" offense in Iraq look like firecackers. John Carlson is going to break the all-time single game NCAA record for receiving yards by a tight end in a single game.

James Aldridge, the baddest motherfucking Hoosier in history, is going to have his back, and will beat down anyone who would dare threaten Jimmy "Golden Boy" Clausen. And then Aldrdge is going to take that football and shove it down the throats of those overrated pansies at so-called Linebacker U. He's going to make big, bad Danny Boy Connor look like Mr. Fucking Rogers, running not just over him, but through him to the tune of 250 yards.

And when Penn State goes on offense, they are going to look worse than we did last week.

Tom Zbikowski is getting pissed off. He's getting angry.

And you won't like him when he's angry...

Morelli better not wander out of the damn pocket, 'cause Zibby is going to hit him so hard his momma cries. He's going to send that pansy ass to the fucking HOSPITAL. We're talking snot bubbles here, people.

Walls, Zibby, and Lambert are going to take turns running the pick 6 drill all over whoever Penn State trots out at QB. Mo Crum is going to eat Austin Scott for dinner, and then pick his teeth with the bones of an offensive lineman. Laws is gong to get 9 sacks all by himself just to make up for the offensive line's performance last week.

And to top it all off, Corwin Brown is going to put a lickin' on that damn Lion that'll make his hit on KeyShawn look like pee-wee football.

Good news, bad news. Bad news: Armando Allen is going to get only 5 touches. Good news: they'll all go for touchdowns.

I don't care about the so-called experts and their doomsday predictions. I don't care if Mark May thinks we'll lose by 18 touchdowns. I don't care if it's white-out conditions, or if it snows like Christmas fucking day.

This is Notre Dame football, baby, and if you think we're gonna roll over and die for anyone, you've got another thing coming.

'Cause what tho' the odds be great or small, ol' Notre Dame will win over ALL.

And on Saturday night, all her loyal sons will be marching onward to victory.



Notre Dame 77
Penn State 0


Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Notre Dame at Penn State Preview

University of Notre Dame
Fighting Irish (0-1)

Head Coach: Charlie Weis
Coaching Record: 19-7, 3rd season
Last Year: 10-3, Lost to Louisiana State in Allstate Sugar Bowl (#17 AP / #19 Coaches postseason ranking)
Last Week: Lost to Georgia Tech, 33-3 (Biggest home opening loss in ND history)


The Pennsylvania State University (aka Penn State)
Nittany Lions (1-0)

Ranking: AP: 14 Coaches: 15
Head Coach: Joe Paterno
Coaching Record: 262-121-3, 42nd season
Last Year: 9-4, Beat Tennessee in Outback Bowl (#24 AP / #25 Coaches postseason ranking)
Last Week: Beat Florida International, 59-0 (FIU ranked dead last [119th] in NCAA by Sports Illustrated, ESPN)

Location: Beaver Stadium (aka Happy Valley)
Date and Time: September 8, 2007 6:06 p.m.
Series Record: Notre Dame leads 9-8-1 overall, trails 2-5-1 in Happy Valley

Notre Dame Quarterback and Receivers vs. Penn State Secondary
Coach Weis has pulled his head out of his proverbial arse, and named Jimmy Clausen the starter for this week. Long term, Clausen is the solution at quarterback, and he should have this offense moving much cleaner than it was under Sharpley and Jones. That said, this secondary is sickeningly good, and there won't be much room for Jimmy to thread the ball downfield. However, we may see a lot of out routes this game, as Jimmy is a very accurate passer and it's an easy route to beat the corners on for our smaller faster receivers.
Edge: Penn State

Notre Dame Offensive Line vs. Penn State Defensive Line
As badly as our offensive line looked last week (finishing dead last in the NCAA in sacks given up with 9), I'm still not willing to concede this victory to Penn State. Penn State's D-line is young and has been decimated by injuries. Notre Dame has the advantage early on of being much bigger and more seasoned by last week's trial by fire. I'm sorry, but Florida International barely qualifies as a warm-up. That said, I won't be giving the edge to our offensive line against anyone until they prove that they deserve it.
Edge: Draw

Notre Dame Running Backs and Tight Ends vs. Penn State Linebackers
Penn State is considered by many to be Linebacker U, the place where players go to learn to be studs in the NFL. This year is no exception, as the field the nation's top inside linebacker, and one of the nation's top 15 outside linebackers in the starting lineup. This unit is better than the unit we faced last week, and has the potential to give us fits in the running game. Our best chance here is for the Penn State defensive coordinator to out-think himself and go blitz happy, as that is not what this unit is trained to do. This unit is much better in their base defense. Either way, Thomas, Aldridge and Allen are going to have a tough time running on these guys.
Carlson needs to step up and have a big day bailing Jimmy out over the middle for us to make hay on offense. If he wants to make All-American again this year, this is the game where he earns it. If he can beat Dan Connors in one-on-one over the middle matchups, we can (and probably will) win this game. For now, I'm not holding my breath.
Edge: Penn State

Notre Dame Defensive Line vs. Penn State Offensive Line
Penn State returns a veteran interior line, but is starting a pair of fresh tackles. Look for Corwin to test the edge of this line with several blitzes, leaving Kuntz inside to hold his own. I liked what I saw early on last week from this unit, and I expect good things if Coach Brown can keep them out of the tank.
Edge: Notre Dame (barely)

Notre Dame Linebackers vs. Penn State Running Backs and Tight Ends
Last week, I said that this matchup would decide the game, and it did. The linebackers (and defensive ends and cornerbacks) could not "set the edge" against Georgia Tech, and Tashard Choice feasted on the outside run. I'm expecting our defense to do a much better job of setting the edge in this game, and Penn State's Austin Scott is no Tashard Choice. I'm going out on a limb here, considering the rushing yards we gave up last week, but I expect that this unit will hold against a far less talented running back. Oh, and Penn State's starting TE is suspended, so we're facing their top backup at tight end.
Edge: Notre Dame

Notre Dame Secondary vs. Georgia Tech Quarterbacks and Receivers
Although Georgia Tech didn't need a passing game to beat us, and basically scrapped it once they got up big, our secondary showed up to play last week. This week, I expect a harder test as the Penn State rushing attack won't be as potent against us as it was against Florida International. Morelli is a hit or miss QB, and could struggle with our secondary and blitzing. However, he has a trio of experienced and talented receivers to choose from, so expect a few growing pains for our secondary in addition to our marked improvement over last year.
Edge: Penn State

Notre Dame Coaches vs. Penn State Coaches
Joe Paterno is only rivaled by Bobby Bowden in how long he's been pacing a football sideline. He's getting a little senile in his old age, but he's forgotten more football than most of us will ever know. He's got a good staff, well seasoned and knowledgeable.
Coach Weis was on the top of my coaches list, but last week's fiasco knocked him down a couple of pegs in my book. Until he shows me he can coach up this team, I've got to give the edge to the more experienced coach, as Charlie keeps making rookie mistakes.
Edge: Penn State

Quarterback and Receivers vs. Secondary: Edge Penn State
Running Backs and Tight Ends vs. Linebackers: Edge Penn State
Offensive Line vs. Defensive Line: Draw
Defensive Line vs. Offensive Line: Edge Notre Dame (barely)
Linebackers vs. Running Backs and Tight Ends: Edge Notre Dame
Secondary vs. Quarterbacks and Receivers: Edge Penn State
Coaches vs. Coaches: Edge Penn State

Analysis and Prediction
Walking into Happy Valley, with 107,000 screaming fans in full whiteout mode, playing against a top 15 ranked team, with the sting of a home shellacking fresh on our minds, and the sting of last year's shellacking fresh on theirs, I think that a win is just too much to ask for my beloved Irish.
Penn State is overrated this year, and will finish somewhere around the Outback Bowl like they always do, but on Saturday I expect them to play like they're in the god-forsaken Rose Bowl playing for the national championship. Don't expect them to buy into the "Notre Dame sucks during their rebulding year" talk. Too many familiar faces from last year to fall into that trap.
However, I think that the team will make improvements in leaps and strides from last week, and we'll see glimpses of the potential this team has once they develop some chemstry and gain some experience. I even expect we'll make a late push in the game, once the initial buzz and excitement have passed. Ultimately, however, an experienced linebacking corps and secondary is going to stymie young Skywalker, er, -ahem- Clausen. Our defense will put up a valiant fight, but in the end won't be able to win it by themselves.
Our only hope is for Zibby and Armando to shake things up on special teams to keep us in this game.

This pains me, loyal alum and die-hard Irish fan as I am, but:

Notre Dame 14
Penn State 24

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Coach may know what the heck he is doing...

I don't claim to be the smartest football brain around, but as I posted on Saturday night, Clausen should be the starter this week and going forward, and Coach Weis agrees.

Clausen, coming out of spring practice, was the most polished passer of the three. Another thing I've seen from Clausen, which is something Sharpley just plan lacks, is pocket presence. Watch the Georgia Tech tape, and you'll see that the only sack of Jimmy was a lucky trip by a defender on the ground. Several times you'll also see Clausen feel the pressure coming and deliver the ball just before it could arrive.

Expect the offense this week to look much more like what we are used to seeing under Brady, but not as efficient. Clausen hasn't had a lot of time to rep with the 1st team due to his rehab, but I'm willing to give him some time to develop his chemistry with the receivers.

As we'll see later this week, I still think there is so much that needs to happen with this team that we won't waltz into Penn State and get a victory. However, and long time Notre Dame fan knows the kind of magic that can happen with a new starter (remember Powlus' performance? and LoVecchio's run?).

This week's challenge will be a test by fire against Penn State. Their linebacking corps is not a one-man band like Georgia Tech's was, and their best player (Dan Connor) is better than Phillip Wheeler, who nobody could block last week. In fact, Dan Connor is the best inside linebacker in the country. The defensive line shouldn't be as tough, but the secondary should be the toughest we'll face outside of USC.

It's a tall task to ask Jimmy to beat this team, and an even taller task to ask for enough improvement from the offensive line to win the game on the ground. Expect a couple of exciting plays from Jimmy as well as a couple of blown plays and turnovers.

My expectations from this week? To stem the bleeding and stay competitive against Penn State, losing by less than 2 touchdowns. The more I watch the Georgia Tech game, the more of a pessimist I become.

On the bright side, I'm counting the days until USC rolls into town with all of their swagger and confidence. We are setting up to be a classic trap game for them.

And the starter is...

Jimmy Clausen.

NCAA Roundup

With week 1 in the books, this season promises to be nothing if not exciting.

The top story? Nothing short of the biggest upset in college football history. Michigan finally stooped to the level of its peers, paying I-AA Appalachian State $400,000 to come to the Big House and take their beating. But the two-time defending I-AA champs had other plans. They walked into the Big House and beat the Skunkbears on their own turf. And this wasn't any more of a fluke than Georgia Tech beating ND - the Mountaineers were better prepared, better coached, and executed better throughout the game. If Appalachian State had played like that with I-A top 25 athletes, they'd have spanked the Wolverines by 40.

The rest of the weekend was as good as the matchups, which is to say not so good. The slew of I-A and I-AA matchups resulted n embarassing scores across the board. The winner of the "Show No Mercy, Have No Shame" Award? Oklahoma, with their 69 point shellacking of North Texas eking out Louisville's 63 point win over Murray State. Even my perennial underperforming alma mater Indiana feasted on Indiana State to the tune of 55-7.

There were two decent games - Cal vs. Tennessee and Florida State vs. Clemson.

Cal got their revenge against the Volunteers by scoring on offense, defense, and special teams, making up for an inability to stop the Vols from scoring. Cal has a lot of weapons this year, which should let them keep winning despite a mediocre defense.

The Florida State game looked to be another harbinger of mediocrity for Florida State this season through most of 3 quarters, as they fell down 21 to the Clemson Tigers. But then the Seminoles woke up, shut down the Tiger rushing attack and found an identity on offense. It was ultimately too little too late, though as the Seminole charge fell short, 24-18.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Breaking down Weis' presser

I've been home sick in bed the past two days (Notre Dame losing is bad for the health), so I haven't had much chance since Saturday night to break down game film.

Today, I've felt a little better, enough to watch the game again and catch Coach Weis' press conference from yesterday.

The press conference was not encouraging. The only positive Coach Weis mentioned on offense was no dropped balls by the receivers. That was it.

Weis will announce the starter for Penn State on Tuesday. However, having read a little bit more post game media clippings, I'm becoming more and more confident that Clausen will start. To balance the fact that Clausen was playing against the second team in garbage time is the fact that that crisp timing and on target play came after Jimmy took NO snaps in practice this week. I can only imagine how much he could improve after developing chemistry with his receivers. Also, Weis as much as admitted to the media that the number of reps in summer ball will not impact the week-by-week decision making going forward. However, Weis is playing it close to the vest until Tuesday. But once he names a starter on Tuesday, expect him to stick with it.

On defense, the positives were our production against their passing game, and against the inside run. Every play that gashed us against Georgia Tech was an outside run (and there were ALOT). However, that is the type of thing that can be fixed. Maybe not all the way by Penn State, but it is something specific to work on, and can go a long way to shore up our defensive problems. That said, Georgia Tech didn't have to attack our secondary or pound the ball inside, so whether those are strengths or unproven commmodities remains to be seen.

The biggest improvement I expect for next Saturday is ball protection. The strength of this offense will be the running game, even if Clausen starts, because we have the talent and size up front to kill people on the ground. (We need to throw some passes to keep the running lanes open, though) Because of this, expect some physical practices this week where the running backs and quarterbacks are pounded on.

My biggest worry going into next week is that the team will be so focused on fixing problems, that we won't spend enough time establishing a new offensive identity. If we pick up every blitz and don't have any fumbles next week, we still lose if we throw 5 picks. Likewise, if we shut down the outside run, but can't stop the deep ball, we lose.

Last week's loss should be placed firmly behind us. Coach Weis needs to name the new starter (Clausen), and focus this offense on it's new identity. An identity that includes throwing the ball to our All-American tight end. A lot. Coach Brown needs to get in the face of this defense and question their manhood - they got abused by Tashard Choice. Going into this Saturday, Brown better have these boys believing that Austin Scott is the lovechild of Jim Brown and O.J. Simpson, and has been training since he was in diapers with Sweetness and Barry Sanders.

This week is where the heart and desire of this football team is tested. Their inexperience was evident throughout the game, and they played flat and without a lot of heart. This week is where these players remember why they came to Notre Dame and learn to wake up the echoes. 'Cause there's over 100,000 people in Happy Valley that have already chalked this week's game up as an easy win. They won't look past us, 'cause they are drooling at the opportunity to make us pay for last year. They'll be ready to go, and will have a sea of blue and white there to back them up. Even die-hard fans like myself will be picking against the Irish this week. Nobody, and I mean nobody, outside that locker room thinks they can pull this one out of their ass.

This week is where we find out if anyone IN that locker room still believes they can.