Thursday, December 30, 2010

2010 Sun Bowl Preview

77th annual Sun Bowl
Date: December 31, 2010
Time: 12pm MST (2pm EST)
Location: Sun Bowl Stadium

El Paso, Texas

Broadcast on CBS


University of Notre Dame
Fightin' Irish
The Leprechaun


(vs. Miami):



University of Miami
Sebastian the Ibis

(5-3 ACC)

(vs. Notre Dame):


One of history's great rivalries, lain dormant for 20 years, will be rekindled on New Year's Eve. Should auld acquaintance be forgot, this rivalry should take you back to the 1980's. So put on some Ray-Ban sunglasses, tease out that hair, and lets take that Miami-Vice jacket and pastel T-shirt into the way-back machine...

The Notre Dame Fightin' Irish under Lou Holtz were a perennial powerhouse and proud representatives of history's greatest team, the pinnacle of amateur sport. 10 national titles, 6 Heisman trophy winners, more All-Americans than any other school, and a decades long history of being able to balance excellence on the athletic fields with excellence in the classroom and a commitment to religion and faith that never wavered. The Irish under Holtz would add another Heisman and another National Title before he left the school. Indeed, they could have added 3 of each.

However, "Da U," as they like to call themselves (likely due in part due to their inability to spell the word University), was the nouveau riche of the college football world. Having spent most of their existence as a doormat in college football, they actually considered dropping the sport. But then Howard Schnellenberger came along and changed the course of history. Unable to recruit with the Notre Dames, Michigans and Texases of the world, Schnellenberger decided to try and attract a new element to his team: the thug. Turning to the Florida ghettoes, the results were instantaneous and powerful. In his final year at Miami, they won their first national title in '83. Then, Jimmy Johnson showed up. Otherwise known as pig-faced Satan, Jimmy Johnson added fuel to the fire of the thug culture in South Beach, embracing it wholeheartedly. The hip-hop culture, racial tensions in Miami at the time, culture of criminality and unbridled success led to an intimidating swagger that da U brought with them wherever they went.

And it was under those circumstances that this bitter rivalry was born. During the late 80s, the Notre Dame - Miami game decided the national championship on a yearly basis. More than that, though, it was the quintessential matchup between good and evil. Catholics vs. Convicts South Beach arrogance, swagger, criminality, blatant disregard for recruiting rules, and a downright mean streak exemplified the Hurricanes. Class, honor, integrity, and winning the right way exemplified the Irish.

And now, nearly a quarter century after that rivalry burnt out in spectacular fashion, these two old bitter enemies square off again. This time, there are no National Titles on the line. Both programs are struggling to pull themselves out of an extended period of mediocrity, and the U is also trying to dig out from their inglorious reputation as college football's bad guys. (Thankfully, they now have USC, Florida and Ohio State fighting for the honors in that battle)

But both programs are on the verge of a new start.

The Irish, in their first year under new head Coach Brian Kelly, have fought through an extreme amount of adversity this season, but emerged in November as a stronger team for it, thoroughly dominating their final three opponents behind a vicious defense, a strengthening running game, and the slow development of a true freshman quarterback.

The 'Canes, having fired head coach Randy Shannon, are preparing for this bowl game under interim coach Jeff Stoutland. New head coach Al Golden is busy putting together a staff to build for next season. Miami has a lot of talent, and have been excellent pass defenders. However, they've struggled against the run. On offense, they are actually a little more run-heavy than Miami teams of the past, rushing for an average of 190 yards per game, while throwing for about 232 yds/gm. The lost a close game to Ohio State early in the season, and got blown out by Florida State and Virginia Tech. However, it was the loss at Virginia and at home against South Florida that cost Randy Shannon his job.

So here we are, two 7-5 football teams preparing to do battle in what should be a very emotional game for both teams. The needle appears to be pointing up for the Irish, who have been playing their best football in years down the stretch, while the Canes appear to have been backing their way into the bowl season.

On paper, I think Miami is better than Notre Dame. The Irish are without the services of their #1 QB, #1 TE, and #1 RB. They have a true freshman under center. Miami is relatively healthy, with Junior Jacory Harris leading the offense.

However, all of the intangibles point to the Irish. They are on a hot streak, and Kelly's system of conditioning and up-tempo practices have this team performing better than they have all season. The Canes are in a coaching transition, so the schemes they will be practicing will have limited value to them next season.

This game means more to the Irish. The Canes can lose, blame it on the transition, and then move forward with their new coach. If the Irish lose, a bitter taste is left in the mouths of the Notre Dame faithful, who still feel the sting of being demolished by Navy and losing an inexplicable game to Tulsa in the wake of the Sullivan tragedy.

Ultimately, I think the Irish get the edge here, as Coach Kelly's consistent approach to preparing his team, along with the weeks of preparation, make the Irish as well prepared for a football game as they've been in years. This team has steadily improved all season, and I expect them to come out and give a dominating performance. Miami's defense will keep them in the game, and Jacory Harris is plenty dangerous. But ultimately I don't think that Miami will have an answer for this defense, particularly on the ground. Standout sophomore Manti Te'o will be the player of the game in a contest marked by strong defenses.

Final Prediction

Notre Dame 24
Miami 17

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Domer Law's Bowl Special

It's the most wonderful time of the year - bowl season!  Before the first bowl game kicks off at 2:00 pm EST today, I thought I'd get my bowl picks out into the ether.  Here they are, in all their glory.

New Mexico Bowl
Albuquerque, NM
December 18, 2010 2:00 pm ET

Brigham Young University Cougars (6-6, 5-3 MWC)
University of Texas at El Paso Miners (6-6, 3-5 C-USA)

My pick: BYU

uDrove Humanitarian Bowl
Boise, ID
December 18, 2010 5:30 pm ET

Northern Illinois Huskies (10-3, 8-0 MAC)
Fresno State Bulldogs (8-4, 5-3 WAC)

My pick: Northern Illinois

R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl
New Orleans, LA
December 18, 2010 9:00 pm ET

Ohio University Bobcats (8-4, 6-2 MAC)
Troy University Trojans (7-5, 6-2 Sun Belt)

My pick: Ohio

Beef O'Brady's St. Petersburg Bowl
St. Petersburg, FL
December 21, 2010 8:00 pm ET

University of Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles (8-4, 5-3 C-USA)
University of Louisville Cardinals (6-6, 3-4 Big East)

My pick: Southern Miss

MAACO Bowl Las Vegas
Las Vegas, NV
December 22, 2010 8:00 pm ET

University of Utah Utes (10-2, 7-1 MWC)
Boise State University Broncos (11-1, 7-1 WAC)

My pick: Boise State

San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl
San Diego, CA
December 23, 2010 8:00 pm ET

United States Naval Academy Midshipmen (8-3)
San Diego State University Aztecs (8-4, 5-3 MWC)

My pick: SDSU

Sheraton Hawaii Bowl
Honolulu, HI
December 24, 2010 8:00 pm ET

University of Hawai'i Warriors (10-3, 7-1 WAC)
University of Tulsa Golden Hurricane (9-3, 6-2 C-USA)

My pick: Hawaii

Little Caesars Bowl
Detroit, MI
December 26, 2010 8:30 pm ET

Florida International University Golden Panthers (6-6, 6-2 Sun Belt)
University of Toledo Rockets (8-4, 7-1 MAC)

My pick: FIU

Advocare V100 Independence Bowl
Shreveport, LA
December 27, 2010 5:00 pm ET

Air Force Academy Falcons (8-4, 5-3 MWC)
Georgia Institute of Technology Yellow Jackets (6-6, 4-4 ACC)

My pick: Air Force

Champs Sports Bowl
Orlando, FL
December 28, 2010 6:30 pm ET

West Virginia University Mountaineers (9-3, 5-2 Big East)
North Carolina State University Wolfpack (8-4, 5-3 ACC)

My pick: WVU

Insight Bowl
Tempe, AZ
December 28, 2010 10:00 pm ET

University of Missouri Tigers (10-2, 6-2 Big XII)
University of Iowa Hawkeyes (7-5, 4-4 Big Ten)

My pick: Missouri

Military Bowl pres. by Northrupp-Grumman
Washington, D.C.
December 29, 2010 2:30 pm ET

East Carolina University Pirates (6-6, 5-3 C-USA)
University of Maryland Terrapins (8-4, 5-3 ACC)

My pick: Maryland

Texas Bowl
Houston, TX
December 29, 2010 6:00 pm ET

University of Illinois Fighting Illini (6-6, 4-4 Big Ten)
Baylor University Bears (7-5, 4-4 Big XII)

My pick: Illinois

Valero Alamo Bowl
San Antonio, TX
December 29, 2010 9:15 pm ET

Oklahoma State University Cowboys (10-2, 6-2 Big XII)
University of Arizona Wildcats (7-5, 4-5 Pac-10)

My pick: Oklahoma State

Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl
Dallas, TX
December 30, 2010 12:00 pm ET

United States Military Academy Black Knights (6-5)
Southern Methodist University Mustangs (7-6, 6-2 C-USA)

My pick: Army

New Era Pinstripe Bowl
Bronx, NY
December 30, 2010 3:20 pm ET

Kansas State University Wildcats (7-5, 3-5 Big XII)
Syracuse University Orange (7-5, 4-3 Big East)

My pick: K-State

Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl
Nashville, TN
December 30, 2010, 6:40 p.m. ET

University of North Carolina Tarheels (7-5, 4-4 ACC)
University of Tennessee Volunteers (6-6, 3-5 SEC)

My pick: Tennessee

Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl
San Diego, CA
December 30, 2010, 10:00 p.m. ET

University of Nebraska Cornhuskers (10-3, 6-2 Big XII)
University of Washington Huskies (6-6, 5-4 Pac-10)

My pick: Nebraska

Meineke Car Care Bowl
Charlotte, NC
December 31, 2010 12:00 pm ET

South Florida University Bulls (7-5, 3-4 Big East)
University of Clemson Tigers (6-6, 4-4 ACC)

My pick: Clemson

AutoZone Liberty Bowl
Memphis, TN
December 31, 2010 3:30 p.m. ET

University of Georgia Bulldogs (6-6, 3-5 SEC)
University of Central Florida Knights (10-3, 7-1 C-USA)

My pick: UCF

Chick-fil-A Bowl
Atlanta, GA
December 31, 2010 7:30 p.m. ET

University of South Carolina Gamecocks (9-4, 5-3 SEC)
Florida State University Seminoles (9-4, 6-2 ACC)

My pick: FSU

TicketCity Bowl
Dallas, TX
January 1, 2011, 12:00 pm ET

Northwestern University Wildcats (7-5, 3-5 Big Ten)
Texas Tech University Red Raiders (7-5, 3-5 Big XII)

My pick: Texas Tech

Outback Bowl
Tampa, FL
January 1, 2011 1:00 p.m. ET

University of Florida Gators (7-5, 4-4 SEC)
The Pennsylvania State University Nittany Lions (7-5, 4-4 Big Ten)

My pick: Florida

Capital One Bowl
Orlando, FL
January 1, 2011 1:00 p.m. ET

University of Alabama Crimson Tide
Michigan State University Spartans

My pick: 'Bama

Progressive Gator Bowl
Jacksonville, FL
January 1, 2011 1:30 p.m. ET

Mississippi State University Bulldogs (8-4, 4-4 SEC)
University of Michigan Skunkbears (7-5, 3-5 Big Ten)

My pick: MSU

Rose Bowl game presented by VIZIO
Pasadena, CA
January 1, 2011 5:00 p.m. ET

University of Wisconsin Badgers (11-1, 7-1 Big Ten)
Texas Christian University Horned Frogs (12-0, 8-0 MWC)

My pick: TCU

Tostitos Fiesta Bowl
Glendale, AZ
January 1, 2011 8:30 p.m. ET

University of Connecticut Huskies (8-4, 5-2 Big East)
University of Oklahoma Sooners (11-2, 6-2 Big XII)

My pick: Oklahoma

Discover Orange Bowl
Miami, FL
January 1, 2011 8:30 p.m. ET

Leland Stanford Junior University Cardinal (11-1, 8-1 Pac-10)
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University Hokies (11-2, 8-0 ACC)

My pick: Stanford

Allstate Sugar Bowl
New Orleans, LA
January 4, 2011 8:30 p.m. ET

The Ohio State University Buckeyes (11-1, 7-1 Big Ten)
University of Arkansas Razorbacks (10-2, 6-2 SEC)

My pick: OSU Bowl
Mobile, AL
January 6, 2011 8:00 p.m. ET

Middle Tennessee State University Blue Raiders (6-6, 5-3 Sun Belt)
Miami University RedHawks (9-4, 7-1 MAC)

My pick: MTSU

AT&T Cotton Bowl
Arlington, TX
January 7, 2011 8:00 p.m. ET

Louisiana State University and Agricultural and Mechanical College Tigers (10-2, 6-2 SEC)
Texas A&M University Aggies (9-3, 6-2 Big XII)

My pick: Texas A&M

BBVA Compass Bowl
Birmingham, AL
January 8, 2011 12:00 p.m. ET

University of Pittsburgh Panthers (7-5, 5-2 Big East)
University of Kentucky Wildcats (6-6, 2-6 SEC)

My pick: Pitt

Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl
San Francisco, CA
January 9, 2011 9:00 p.m. ET

University of Nevada, Reno Wolf Pack
Boston College Eagles

My pick: Nevada

Tostitos BCS National Championship Game
Glendale, AZ
January 10, 2011 8:30 p.m. ET

University of Oregon Ducks (12-0, 9-0 Pac-10)
Auburn University Tigers (13-0, 8-0 SEC)

My pick: Oregon


And last, but certainly not least, my pick for the most important bowl game of the season:

Hyundai Sun Bowl
El Paso, TX
December 31, 2010 2:00 pm ET

University of Notre Dame Fightin' Irish
University of Miami Hurricanes

My pick: Notre Dame


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Irish Blogger Gathering: BEAT S.C.

1. Notre Dame played perhaps its best game of the year in a win over the Utah Utes two weeks ago. Utah remains ranked at #23 in the Associated Press poll. Notre Dame likewise took Michigan State (AP #11) to overtime before losing on a fake field goal. Therefore the Irish should have no trouble with this unranked Trojan squad. Agree or disagree? Show your work.

Agree. And since you asked me to show my work, I'm going to engage in one of my favorite activities when it comes to Notre Dame football - being a Notre Dame homer and apologetic.

This is a good football team, that is getting better as time passes. Indeed, if we were even remotely healthy, this team would be extremely dangerous right now, and capable of beating damn near anybody. Here's why:

First game of the season, we were still clearly trying to figure out the new systems on offense and defense. Thankfully, we were playing a decidedly mediocre Purdue squad, who will get destroyed this weekend by my Hoosiers. (shameless alma mater plug, sorry)

Second game of the season we outplayed Michigan, but it was asking too much for this offense to be effective for half the game this early in the season with a walk-on or true freshman.

Third game of the season, we appeared to be starting to figure this thing out, and if not for an overtime fake field goal that took place after the play clock expired (and therefore should have been flagged), we win that game.

Fourth game of the season we were outmatched by an excellent Stanford team whose only loss is to an elite Oregon team that is ranked #1 in the country.

We then rolled through BC, Pitt and Western Michigan, with a steadily improving offense and what is starting to look like a very good defense. Against Western Michigan, we lost one of the most dangerous offensive weapons in the country in Kyle Rudolph, widely regarded as the best tight end in the country, for the season. We also lost our #2 wide receiver in Theo Riddick for all but the last game against USE. Oh, and our #1 offensive weapon in Michael Floyd for the week after as well.

Then, what had been an excellent defense had no answer for the nation's #5 rushing offense, who employs a triple option attack that is extremely difficult to prepare for. And early on, we lost Ian Williams, our nose tackle, for the year. And, our #1 running back as well in Armando Allen. Our offense struggled to find it's groove without it's top receiving and rushing targets, and we lose badly. Injuries happen, but when you lose that much firepower all at once, you are going to struggle.

Then, the bottom dropped out. Declan Sullivan's tragic death shook this team, and then while trying to muster the focus needed for Tulsa, we lose our #1 QB for the year in the first quarter. These kids had just watched one of their friends die a grisly death right in front of their eyes only days prior. And then they saw their team leader head to the locker room with a season-ending injury. That we were able to continue the game and keep it close under such adversity speaks volumes about the character of this football team.

And after that game, this team came together, stopped feeling sorry for themselves, and decided to remember that they are called the Fighting Irish for a reason. We fight.

And so, a bruised and battered team welcomed the vaunted Utah Utes, ranked in the top 5 only the week before. Nobody for nobody believed the Irish would win. Except for those guys that put on the gold helmets that morning. The result: a complete dismantling of the Utes.

Follow that up with a workmanlike destruction of Army, and you can see what this team is supposed to be.

And now you ask me whether this team will be able to beat a 7-4 USC team that has nothing to play for, when we are playing for a good bowl game and the chance to end the USC dominance over us for the past decade? You think any of the upperclassmen on this team have forgotten the 38-3 drubbing in 2008? This team is hungry, feeling disrespected, and they've learned to embrace Coach Kelly's vision. Rudolph out? Next man in. Riddick out? Next man in. Floyd out? Next man in. Williams out? Next man in. Allen out? Next man in. Crist out? Next man in.

We live as a team, we die as a team. But one thing has become clear - Kelly has transformed this talented bunch or primadonnas left over from the Weis era into a team. And this team will win on Saturday. Come hell or high water.

2. It is almost time for the OC Domer Player of the Year to be named. This award is intended to recognize the Notre Dame football player or players who played the best when it mattered the most. Suffice it to say that the primary criterion is a consistently high level of play, with significant bonus points awarded for exceeding expectations. Injuries have taken many of the pre-season favorites for this prestigious award out of the running. Who is your nominee for this award, and why?

David Ruffer, and this isn't even close. He's quite literally perfect this season, and his kicks have made the difference between winning and losing multiple games this year. He's set to run away with the Lou Groza Award this year. Oh, and did I mention that this kid is a walk-on?

3. With a delicate flavor similar to beef, though slightly sweeter than other meats, horse meat can be used to replace beef, pork, mutton, and any other meat in virtually any recipe, though most aficionados prefer it in marinated or spicy dishes. Nutritionally, horse meat has around 40 percent fewer calories than the leanest beef, while supplying 50 percent more protein and as much as 30 percent more iron; and horse fat is considered an excellent health-conscious deep-frying alternative, especially for delicately-flavored foods that are easily overpowered by heavier oils. What is your favorite horse meat recipe?

I call this dish "Irish Traveler"

As shown, will serve 6. One mascot will feed approximately 100 people.

21/4 pounds ground horse meat
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2-1/2 ounces ground cured lard (or pancetta)
2 onions, minced
1 glass dry white wine (though some Italian chefs prefer broth)
6 ripe tomatoes, blanched, peeled, seeded, chopped, and drained
2 bell peppers, ribbed and seeded, then diced
2 Tbsp. minced fresh herbs (basil, sage, and rosemary in proportions to taste)
1 clove garlic, minced
salt and freshly ground pepper

Heat the oil, lard, and onion in a skillet. Sauté until the onion has become golden but don’t let it get really brown. Add the horse meat and brown it, stirring frequently. When it has browned, sprinkle in the glass of wine and reduce the heat to a bare simmer. Cover it, and let it cook for at least an hour. Mix in the chopped tomatoes and diced peppers, and continue cooking for another half hour.

Ten minutes before removing the dish from the stove, sprinkle the minced herbs over everything. Serve it hot with salt and pepper to taste.

4. Do you miss Pat Haden, who left the Notre Dame television broadcasts to become athletic director at USC?

No, as his replacement is a far better broadcaster. Also, I have hope that Pat Haden will bring back some modicum of respect to this rivalry. His predecessor let cheating run rampant through the football and basketball programs, which damaged what was once a rivalry based in mutual respect. There isn't much respect for this program right now, who just had to forfeit a championship, return a Heisman trophy, and who is on a multi-year probation.

5. USC is the Notre Dame rival I love to hate. What Notre Dame rival do you most despise, and why?

Michigan. While they are an excellent school, the past and present of the football program consistently demonstrates everything that is wrong with college football. It goes way back to the days of Fielding Yost, and has continued through Bo Schembechler, Llloyd Carr and into the current regime under Rich Rodriguez. Their graduation rate for African-American football players is abysmal, most of their fans are the scum of the earth, and they have an arrogant history of wanting things their way, or else they'll take their ball and go home.

USC is a rival.

Michigan is a nemesis.

6. Reggie Bush got a car, his parents a house. Cam Newton's Dad was looking for $180,000 in straight cash homey. Can Notre Dame compete for athletic recruits in this environment? Or do you believe these incidents are the exceptions to an otherwise clean recruiting landscape?

I think that there are rampant recruiting violations that fly under the radar at programs all across the country. However, at the end of the day the most elite recruits know that the best way to fulfill their dream of the NFL is to go to a program that wins. And Notre Dame's recruiting hasn't exactly suffered since Weis started getting some of the elite athletes to believe. If we can get the program back to its rightful position among the elite by winning football games on Saturdays, the recruits will be kicking down our door.

I have never, and will never, espouse any movement towards reducing the standards of this University for a football player or anyone else. We are who we are because we don't just believe, but we KNOW, we can be the best football program in the land - while still standing as a beacon of all that is right and good in the world of amateur sport.


Go Irish!

Beat S.C.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Beat S.C.

IBG should hopefully be forthcoming, but it's game week, and the greatest intersectional rivalry in all of college football kicks off this weekend.

Those evil bastards at Southern Cal have earned their way onto probation, and don't have anything to play for.

We're coming off of back-to-back dominant wins, and appear to have righted the ship.

A win, and we get into the Champs Sports bowl to play a quality ACC team (Florida State, perhaps?) in preparation for next year.

We've lost 8 straight to the damn Trojans, and now that they've been knocked off their cheater's perch, it's time to use them as a stepping stone to greatness.

Bruised, battered and bloodied (quite literally in some cases - check Manti's nose if you don't believe it), we've managed to persevere through injury, heartache, a tragic death in the family, negativity, suspicion, and downright embarassment. Yet still we rise.

And this weekend, we have the chance to show that this team is ready to take the next step.

So enjoy your turkey and trimmings, and watching the Cowboys get their Thanksgiving day beatdown. Rest up on Friday - no need to wade into the holiday shopping frenzy. We need to maintain our focus. Forget all of the holiday distractions.

Because come Saturday, everyone in ND Nation needs to come together with one singular focus:


Monday, November 15, 2010

Irish Blogger Gathering: The Return

I've been on hiatus for a little while, feeling unmotivated to blog about what has been a very disappointing season prior to Saturday. Also, I've been working an insane amount lately. I apologize for the lack of posting, but as things settle back down at work, I should be able to get back on track. Here are this week's IBG questions and answers:

1) Saturday’s result against Utah was a very pleasant surprise, but an unexpected one, to say the least. What was the biggest positive you took from the win over the Utes, and what concerns you most as the Irish head into their final two games of the regular season?

I think that this Notre Dame team got up off the mat and came out swinging. The loss to Tulsa was a low point for our program. With the Declan Sullivan tragedy, the kids weren't emotionally prepared to play a football game. With the loss, the prospects of a bowl game and a winning season were on life support. Our All-American tight end was out for the season, along with our 3-year starting running back, one of our most dynamic wide receivers and our only seasoned quarterback. And, we had the #14 team in the country coming to town.

It is times like these when you learn about the character of a team.

They could have come out flat, let Utah roll over them and limped their way into the offseason to lick their wounds. But instead, they showed their pride and came out and destroyed Utah. This gives them some momentum with a very winnable game against Army before we travel out to Southern Cal to take on an underachieving Trojan squad. A win in the Coliseum would make this, in my eyes, a successful season.

There is always the chance for a let-down, however, and a loss to Army would put us right back down in the dumps. If we can maintain the focus and intensity we had against Utah, we will be a very dangerous team.

2) The Irish will have to take a completely different approach against the Army option than they did against the Navy attack a few weeks ago. Who do you see playing the biggest role in slowing down the Black Knight attack? Who will be the big performer on offense?

We need someone on the defensive front to get pressure up the middle and take away the dive. If we can do that, the team speed to the outside should do much better against Army than we did against Navy.

I'm expecting Michael Floyd to do the heavy lifting for this offense for the remainder of the season, so look for Tommy Rees to have a very big day.

3) Should Notre Dame win one of their final two games, they’ll likely be going bowling. There are a lot of tie-ins that may or may not be fulfilled from other conferences that will likely end up deciding their postseason fate, but what bowl do you see the Irish playing in?

If we win out, the last game against USC should give us enough momentum, along with our innate popularity, to put us in the Champs Sports Bowl.

4) This isn’t a question any of us thought would be an issue at the start of the season, but who do you see as Notre Dame’s starting quarterback against South Florida next year?

I think we'll see Dayne Crist. He'll have his hands full with the way Tommy Rees is playing, and Andrew Hendrix has arguably more potential than either of them. But, I think that Dayne's physical and mental maturity will put him under center come opening day next year.

5) We’re all very excited for Saturday night at Yankee Stadium, which is a nice turn towards some pretty exciting neutral site games (Miami at Soldier Field, Arizona State at Cowboys Stadium) after a rather lackluster start (Washington State in San Antonio). What are three neutral site games you’d like to see down the road?

Alabama in Nashville

Texas in St. Louis

Indiana in Indianapolis

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Declan Sullivan: Rest in Peace

I was getting ready to post my weekly Irish blogger Gathering post this morning when I read the horribly tragic news about Declan Sullivan, a 20-year old student at Notre Dame, whose life was cut short when the scissor lift that he was in fell over, causing mortal injuries. He died later at Memorial Hospital. Declan was filming football practice.

I am deeply saddened by this tragedy, and as a member of the Notre Dame and South Bend community, my heart goes out to the friends and family of Declan Sullivan. There will be a mass on campus tonight at 10 o'clock p.m. at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart.

There will be no IBG post this week, as now football has taken a back seat to this tragedy. Indeed, I no longer care whether we win or lose against Tulsa, or even if we play the game.

Also, I am infuriated that this young man was even up in the lift yesterday. As I was walking down the street in South Bend yesterday, I literally had to lean into the wind to stay upright myself. It was the worst wind storm I've ever seen in my time living here. The person who was responsible for asking that young man to take a mobile scissor lift 60 feet into the air under such conditions should be held accountable for their gross negligence. This is an inexcusable tragedy that could have been prevented by a little application of common sense.

I cannot imagine the pain and suffering his family is going through right now. Please say a prayer for them in their time of need.

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. May the souls of Declan Sullivan and all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Irish Blogger Gathering: Tailgating Hall of Fame Edition

Matt over at We Never Graduate is hosting this week's Irish Blogger Gathering, and with a MAC team on their way to town, we're going to examine some bigger picture issues surrounding the program. Like whose friends are the most awesomest tailgating companions ever. (Answer: mine)

1. The Irish have posted back-to-back victories over teams that have given us fits the past decade to pull back to .500, but when you head to the message boards on ND Nation, Rivals, etc. all you see is unrelenting negativity. Some cry Kelly's in over his head and doomed to fail, others bitch and moan about the run-to-pass ratio, and many more say that even though we've won the last two there's no improvement over last year's team. What's your take on the negativity that's swirling around the program on the internet? What message would you like to convey to ND Nation?

I think that the negativity of many of these posters stems from the roller-coaster ride we've had with our last few coaches.  Almost every true Notre Dame fan has drunk the Kool-Aid with at least one of the last three coaches, and gotten burned as a result. This time around, many people wanted us to hire a proven winner, like Bob Stoops or Urban Meyer, to ensure that we wouldn't have to go down this road again. However, luring one of those coaches away from their top-tier job is easier said than done, while still holding true to our ideals.

What I would like to convey to NDNation is to take a deep breath, relax, and let the season play out.  We're not winning it all this year, so sit back and enjoy the ride.  Coach may make a few mistakes, and we may not be as good as we're capable of being.  That said, a firestorm of negativity won't be good for the psyche of this program.  Give them some leash, and let them go out there an play.  Support your team for once and let these kids have some fun.  We should see improvement throughout the year, and next year this team should be clicking along on all cylinders.

And believe me, whether you like the spread or not, it will score enough points to win every game on the schedule.

2. When Western Michigan and Tulsa were announced as 2010 opponents last fall there was a full-throttle meltdown among ND fans that was surpassed only by The F-Word Incident in April in terms of sheer outrage. Well, if the opinions expressed then are the same now the apocalypse has finally arrived and a MAC squad is about to forever sully our field by stepping foot on it. Have your thoughts on the Western Michigan/Tulsa games changed since they were announced? Would you rather ND Stadium sell out and continue the streak that extends back almost 40 years or see the streak broken so that the powers-that-be know just how disrespected you feel by the audacity they showed in scheduling such inferior opponents?

Honestly, I want the stadium to sell out, beat the ever-living crap out of these teams, and use it to build confidence moving forward.  I'm not a big fan of watering down the schedule, but picture the difference between the team this year sitting at 5-3 heading into Utah versus 3-5 had we scheduled Oklahoma and Miami for those two games.

And for those people that are so pissed at the scheduling, Western Michigan was only added because the deal with TCU fell through - think anybody would be complaining if the #4/5 team in the country were on it's way to town? Scheduling is difficult as an independent, and the transition at athletics director left us with a couple of holes to fill.  At least we didn't slot in any FCS teams.

Swarbrick has done some really good things to improve the schedule going forward, but ultimately this season sets up well for a young and developing team.  These will be confidence games where the team can hopefully find a rhythm on offense, do some spectacular things on defense, and build up the psyche of the team heading into the showdown with Utah.

3. Most people painted AD Jack Swarbrick as the villain when the Western Michigan/Tulsa games were made public. Since then he's made drastic moves in locking down opponents on future schedules, went through the process of firing Weis and hiring Kelly, and navigated ND through the murky waters of conference realignment. Has your personal opinion on Swarbrick been altered over the past year?

I was high on Swarbrick when he was hired.  Too many people were quick to lay the blame on him for trying to fill the holes left by his predecessor.  Indeed, most of the people that didn't like Swarbrick didn't like him because he talks like a lawyer.  He's never going to say that conference membership won't happen, because things could change drastically.  He's not going to throw his predecessor and colleague under the bus, because he may need Kevin White at some point in the future if we wanted to try and schedule a basketball game with Duke.  He's quietly dismantled the 7-4-1 model while not throwing it in Kevin White's face.  He made the best possible decision regarding the coaching hire.  He has shown a commitment to creating a schedule worthy of Notre Dame.  He's a big-time player with the clout to lead this athletics program through the often rough waters of college football independence.  Do you really think that BYU would have gone independent without the support of Swarbrick and Notre Dame?

This guy is a Notre Dame man who understands far better than any of us the position we occupy in the college football landscape.  He has the connections and the leadership ability to put this program back at the top of college football.  But Rome wasn't built in a day.  Give him time, and he'll right the ship.

4. We're at the halfway point so it's a perfect time to step back real quick and evaluate what's happened thus far. What have been your two biggest surprises at this juncture of the season? Choose one positive and one negative.

Positive:  We can kick a field goal.  I talked about this last week, but it's amazing what a decent field goal unit can do for your ability to win games.  Just look at the Pitt game - we went 3-3, they want 1-2. They make that chip shot they missed, and we miss the 50 yarder, and all of a sudden we're looking at an overtime game.  Ruffer is perfect on field goals this year - 11/11.  For the record, that puts him tied for second among kickers that are still perfect, with only the Southern Miss kicker having kicked more field goals without a miss (he's tied with the kicker from Oklahoma State).

Negative:  This offense is still horribly inconsistent.  We turn the ball over too often, stagnate for long stretches of the game, and aren't as efficient as we ought to be at this point.  This offense is loaded with weapons, but they still haven't gotten to that unconscious competence point yet.  You'll notice that the faster the offense plays, the better they do.  That's because we aren't giving them time to think.  Once this team can settle in and stop thinking about it, we can be a very explosive offense.  But thus far, I've been very disappointed. 

5. Which player that hasn't contributed much to this point in the season do you see emerging as a contributor down the stretch?

Michael Floyd.  This may seem a bit disingenuous for a guy that is our leading receiver (in yards), but we all know that Michael Floyd is capable of being one of the dominant receivers in the country.  He simply hasn't been that player yet, and I'm expecting for him to start getting it in the second half of the season, especially as Theo Riddick continues to develop his reputation as a playmaker, and hopefully as Kyle Rudolph gets back to 100%. [Note: Breaking news from South Bend - Kelly says Kyle Rudolph shutting it down for the season]

As far as players that really haven't contributed much, I'm going to go with Prince Shembo.  The kid has shown a play-making ability, as he has 2.5 sacks already in limited playing time.  He'll see a lot more minutes and show his disruptive ability as the season wears on.

6. Scholarships are running thin and some tough decisions are going to have to be made this spring when it comes to offering 5th years to current seniors. If you're Coach Kelly who do you offer and who is left out in the cold to make room for the incoming freshman class?  Here's a link to the 2011 scholarship chart for a list of potential 5th years.

Offered (in order of preference):

Harrison Smith, Safety
Safety depth is a huge problem for this team, and bringing Harrison Smith back for his 5th year would be a great move.  He seems to finally be settling in at the position, and he's really stepped up as a leader for this team.  I fully expect to see him on the field next year for the Irish.

Gary Gray, Cornerback
Gary has shown himself to be a very coachable player with a lot of speed and natural athletic ability.  While there is plenty of talent coming up behind him, I'd be very happy to see him suiting up at corner again next year.

Taylor Dever, Matt Romine, and Andrew Nuss, Offensive line
There is no way you let a 5th year eligible player with significant playing experience go on the offensive line.  Playing time is by far the best single indicator of future performance here, so I think you bring all of them back to compete.  Especially Dever.

Mike Ragone, Tight End
Talented kid who is doing some pretty solid work in Kyle Rudolph's shadow.  He hasn't put himself in the position to be a NFL prospect yet, but he has the athletic ability to cause some pretty big matchup problems next year if he continues to develop towards his potential.

Passed on:

Steve Paskorz & Emeka Nwankwo
Both of these players have essentially been buried on the depth chart, and there is plenty of young talent behind them that can push for starting time in their stead.  Thanks guys, but we do have scholarship limits to deal with here.  At least you'll have that Notre Dame degree to fall back on.

7. *****BONUS***** You've been challenged to a Tailgate Olympiad by some chaunce from Southern Cal and you need to assemble a dream team of your fellow Irish fans to compete in the following events: 
Full Beer Flip Cup (four-man team), Beer Pong, Hamburger Eating Contest (two-man team), Cornhole/Bags/Whatever You Call It, Individual Case Race, and Thunderdome (one shotgun per minute until someone can't answer the bell). Your captaincy role on this team is Ryder Cup style so you'll be monitoring the proceedings rather than actually partaking. Throw some internet love out to your fellow tailgate All-Stars that have delivered through the years and let us know who you'd put in each slot to make sure Troy fell in the parking lot as well as on the field...and while you're at it, tell us what three songs you'd be blasting as you rolled to victory.

Full Beer Flip Cup (four-man team)
Lacey - 30th Birthday flip-cup champion
Libbie (that's right, Wes, I picked your wife over you.  Deal.)

Beer Pong
1. Laura Waechter
2. Chris Waechter
First alternate:  Lisa Waechter
Shout-out to my family, who have proven time and again their ability to focus even after many rounds of beer pong.  The Waechters are unstoppable at beer pong, my friends.  Don't even try...

Hamburger Eating Contest (two-man team)
1. George Kalber
2. Len Kalber
First alternate: Dave Grimm
Second alternate: Tim Kelly (if he can eat hamburgers even remotely like he can eat spaghetti, this wouldn't even be close)
Believe me, if you saw these guys, you would just forfeit on the spot.

Cornhole/Bags/Whatever You Call It
Briege Gish, Good Guys, Team Captain
Brad 'Hoss' Jordan - Oldest and best tailgating partner in crime

Individual Case Race
Any one of the crazy Canadians Hoss and I tailgated with that one time.  They got out of the car, and there were 3 of them.  There were 7 cases of beer.  They invited us to join (we had one case of our own), and there was nary a drop left by gametime. Anything involving cases of beer, I'm going to draft those guys.  Bonus points for also sporting the ND tats.

Thunderdome (one shotgun per minute until someone can't answer the bell)
Andrew LaBreche
First alternate:  Jason Weaver

Three songs
Notre Dame Victory March - Can never get enough of this on gameday, so this will always be on heavy rotation.  That said, I'm not taking away one spot of the precious three for so obvious an answer.

1.  Dropkick Murphys - Shipping Up To Boston

2.  Guns 'N Roses - Welcome to the Jungle

3.  AC/DC - Thunderstruck (Live)

Friday, October 08, 2010

Irish Blogger Gathering: Teaching the Wannestache a Thing or Two...

Irish Round Table is hosting this week's Irish Blogger Gathering, and he's making me into a fortune-telling teacher this week.

1)Grade Brian Kelly's performance to date. We're not interested in how you think he will perform going forward. How has he done through the first five games? Grade scale is A+ to F-.

I'd give Coach Kelly a B-. He's clearly upgraded the fundamentals of this team, especially on defense. It's a sound football team that is capable of competing with anybody except for the elite teams in the country.

Of course, we still have a losing record. And what really matters is winning and losing on Saturday. We turn the ball over too often, which is one of the few fundamentals that we are not sound in. Clearly, we've practiced form tackling and tip drill on defense, and we are blocking better overall and running better routes. But we need to work on ball security.

2)Much has been made of Brian Kelly's sideline rants. Some fans like the excitement and energy others are worried that they are excessive and will wear thin on the players. Where do you stand?

He's a football coach. He's been a football coach for 20 years. He knows when to teach, he knows when to coddle, and he knows when to dress somebody down. Now, would his approach work in a boardroom? No. But this isn't a boardroom, it's a football field. And these kids are going from moment to moment in a high stakes, high adrenaline, high emotion fast-paced high pressure environment. Taking 10 minutes to calmly critique the mechanics of a kick or a catch is not really an option on gameday. Telling a kid that if he doesn't get his act together, there are three kids sitting on the bench waiting to take his spot is often appropriate.

I don't believe for one second that Kelly will lose his team by yelling at them. He's a fiery guy in the heat of battle, and he wants his team to have that same mentality. You're also going to see him get just as animated when a player makes a great play, and he'll be effusive in his praise at those times as well.

3)What is the best storyline for Notre Dame football this year? The best storyline in college football?

Notre Dame: David Ruffer becoming a clutch kicker. I can't remember the last time I didn't have to hold my breath on every single field goal attempt. Plus, you add in the Rudy-esque background story, making the team after kicking for the Siegfried Hall inter-hall team, and this is my favorite story-line this season.

College Football: I'm not really sold on any of the storylines developing this year in college football. Right now, I think that Oregon's juggernaught of an offense may be the best thing going.

4)We are going to test your prognostication skills with a little IBG prediction contest. Predict the following for this week's Pitt game:

Kyle Rudolf receptions: 6
Points scored by Notre Dame's defense: 0
Carries by Robert Hughes: 3
Points Notre Dame wins by: 9
Tackles Manti T'eo registers: 12
Pass attempts by Tommy Rees: 0
Taylor Swift in Attendance(for 2 points at 5:1 odds; a correct "Yes" equals 10 points a correct "No" equals two): Yes (of course I'm gonna go for the 10 spot here)

Winner will receive a prominent post on the Irish Round Table extolling their website and awesomeness.

5)What would you like to see in place of the yellow mums on the Notre Dame sidelines?

Why would I ever want to change the yellow mums? They are as much a part of this stadium as anything. Maybe we could add in some blue flowers for the blue/gold combo. But really, if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Irish Blogger Gathering: Backing into Backup College

1. After 3 straight losses, there appear to be two camps of fans: A. The sky is falling. Coach Kelly is not a good coach, not a good fit, probably won't ever win a game and should be fired today. B. Coach Kelly is still totally awesome, and you had to expect some bumps and bruises as he builds the team - remember Holtz's first year?
Which camp do you fall into, and why?

I'm still firmly in the "Kelly is still awesome" camp, but that position took a huge blow this week. I thought we were the better team each of the first three weeks (despite the two losses), but last week I never really felt that way. Of course, there's a reason Stanford is ranked in the top 10, but it hurts that we're simply not in that class right now. I'd say that this team is fully capable of being a top 20 team this season, but their inexperience in the system is going to cost us a good year. Also, I think that if we can get wins in the next two weeks, the ship will be righted and the fan-base will become reunited in their support of Coach Kelly.

2. With the current state of the program, put yourself in a recruit's shoes. If you had offers from all 12 schools on our schedule and Notre Dame, which would you pick right now and why? Who would your top 3 be?

I'd pick Notre Dame, but then I'm an alum and a total homer. So I'm going to discount my personal bias and pick from the rest.

And I'm going to spend my football career at: the University of Utah.
They are an up and coming program that's poised to enter the Pac-10 and really make some waves. I like Coach Wittingham and I like that the program is 86-30 since 2000 and has a 12-3 record in bowl games, tops in the nation among teams that have played 10 or more bowl games - and that includes their two wins in BCS games (both years where they should have had a shot at the title.

I wanted to go to Stanford, but then I met Coach Harbaugh, and got physically ill at the thought of spending four years around him.

And to round out the top three, I spent some time seriously considering the Naval Academy. But then, I'm not really a morning person.

3. What's the trajectory of this season? Is this going to spiral downward into a 2007-esque kind of year, or will the team rally and start winning some game against quality opponents?

I know I've picked the Irish to win every game this year, and they're sitting here with a 1-3 record. I've watched enough of this Irish football team to know that they're good, but not great. We will win the games against Western Michigan, Tulsa and Army. We will lose to USC, Utah and probably Pitt. We should beat BC and Navy, but there's no guarantees there, as we still continually shoot ourselves in the foot. Which means a 6-6 record.

That said, if this team gets better as the season progresses (which they have somewhat, until they regressed this week) - this could still be a solid season. This team is capable of winning out. But until I see some evidence that they've learned that killer instinct, I'm going to withhold judgment.

4. Give me your top 5 reasons why you'd rather go to Notre Dame than Backup College.

5. Boston College sucks.

4. BC people are assholes.

3. Academics.

2. No respect for how difficult it is to maintain a real grass field.

1. I like football.

5. I'm depressed after our third straight loss. Do your best to cheer me up and convince me that I should still be excited about this weekend's game.

Since I hosted this week, I feel I should be exempted from answering. However, I will post my favorite answers as they roll in...

One Foot Down weighs in (via Michael Collins, Irish revolutionary leader), telling me it's my job to get myself excited about the game this weekend - he'll have nothing to do with it.

Matt at We Never Graduate submits that if I can't get fired up for Notre Dame football, there's something wrong with me. And this is the correct answer. I don't care if we're 0-11 and playing a D-II school, I'd still be fired up come gameday.

Subway Domer, Safety, 6'1" 210 lbs, commits to the IBG. "Drink up, and fire that shit up." Well said, my friend.

Keith Arnold from NBC Sports gets a little testy. Apparently, Backup College is offensive to those people who couldn't get into ND. (I kid, Brian!) He does a pretty good job of trying to get me fired up, but Matt and Subway had pretty much already fixed that.

6. If you could ask Coach Kelly any one question, what would it be?

I'm also going to hold out on this one, as I'm working on actually having Coach Kelly answer the questions posed during the bye week. So tune in then to find out...

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Irish Blogger Gathering: Fear the Cardinal?

1. After suffering through back to back heart breaking losses how have your expectations for this season changed? Has the rough start affected your expectations for the Brian Kelly era?

Expectations for the season have changed somewhat. I still believe this is a pretty darn good football team, but they haven't quite developed that killer instinct necessary to close out an opponent when they get the chance. There's still a sense that the team waits for the other shoe to drop, as it has so many times in the past couple of years. I'm hoping that eventually these kids will get sick of losing close, last-second games and finally come out and beat the ever-living shit out of someone.

Until they do, though, the quality BCS teams on the schedule will continue to give us fits. Does anybody else wish we could swap the Western Michigan and Stanford games right now?

As far as the Brian Kelly era, my expectations haven't changed. We haven't gotten blown out of any games, and the fundamentals of this team continue to be strong. I am concerned about the number of turnovers we've had, but that's exactly the kind of thing you'd expect from a young inexperienced offense. Once we start taking care of the ball, these games should start to take care of themselves.

2. Our defense has given up 28 points in both of our last two games. But our defense has also forced a few three and outs and has looked fairly stout out times. So on D, are we Jekyll or Hyde? Or are we just a work in progress?

The biggest issue I have with the Brian Kelly system is that by de-emphasizing time of possession, the defense is on the field a lot. There are going to be more possessions in a game, and more opportunities for the opponent to score, thus resulting in more total points (on both sides). The biggest issue I've seen on defense is that we still occasionally make boneheaded plays that cost us the game.

3. I've heard that Bill Walsh believed that if he saw a player make one great play, he and his staff could coach that player to consistently make great plays. The Irish offense clearly made some great plays against State. Our Offense also unfortunately disappeared at critical times. Are we just witnessing the process of Kelly and his staff teaching the lads to consistently make great plays?

This question pretty much hits the nail on the head. This is a work in progress, and we're still crafting some of the pieces we need for this machine to run smoothly. For example, Theo Riddick finally learned how to play receiver, and that's another piece of the puzzle that we have put into place. We need the quarterback to do a better job of reading coverages and progressions. We need our #1 receiver to stop fumbling the ball in the end zone. We need to develop some depth at safety so we don't get beat by the occasional big play. We need to learn how to limit turnovers generally.

4. Where would you rank Stanford among the Irish opponents? Would a defeat of the Cardinal be the biggest win of the last six years?

I don't know if it would be the biggest win, but it would certainly be a big confidence booster for this program - especially if we find a way to do so convincingly. The problem with so many of the wins the last several years is that they have been close wins over what turned out to be over-rated opponents. If we can go out on the field and beat a top 15 Stanford team by two touchdowns, then it will be the biggest win in the last 6 years. It will inject some confidence into the team heading into two other big games against BC and Pitt. I think Stanford is the third best opponent on the schedule, behind Pitt and Utah, and slightly ahead of USC. A win would be very very good for this program.

5. While many outsiders and a contingent of fans have cited ND's academic standards as a hindrance to football success, many Irish supporters consider Notre Dame's unique combination of strong academics and big-time football (and faith) as an advantageous niche in the college football world. With stricter admission standards and far-less football notoriety, Harbaugh's Cardinal have burst onto the national recruiting scene to again prove that plenty of really good football players welcome academic challenges as long as they come with a chance to compete at the highest level. Could you foresee sustained excellence by Stanford Football and would you perceive a perennially strong Cardinal program as any kind of a threat to Notre Dame's niche?

I think that Stanford is capable of building a very strong perennial program, but I don't see them getting to the elite status of Notre Dame of years past, or the Florida,
Texas, Southern Cal and Ohio State teams of the past decade. Sure, they can compete for the Pac-10 crown year-in and year-out, but I don't see them as perennial national title contenders. Notre Dame's uniqueness comes from a history of overcoming the challenges presented by maintaining your academic integrity while fielding an elite football team. Stanford does have some ancient history of elite football success, but they aren't built to sustain it, due to the unique nature of the college football beast compared to the Olympic sports programs.

If the Cardinal find a way to compete at that elite level, they will certainly present a challenge to Notre Dame's niche, but the Irish also have the Catholic identity, which comes with the infamous "parietals" governing student behavior. Stanford is a good academic institution, but they hardly have the restrictions on student life. Parents love Notre Dame not only because of it's football tradition and strong academics, they also know that their sons will become Notre Dame Men.

6. Let’s talk statistics. Will they matter this weekend?

a. Coming into the game, Stanford has the #3 ranked Scoring Offense nationally (51.67 pts/gm) with the 14th ranked Rushing Offense (242.33 yds/gm). Notre Dame's Scoring Offense ranks 73rd (26.00 pts) with the 99th ranked Rushing Defense (197 yds/gm).

Will the Irish be able to contain Stanford's rushing attack?

This is really the key question to this weekend's matchup. Last year, Toby Gerhart mowed us down en route to nearly winning the Heisman trophy. This year, sans Gerhart, the Cardinal are still rolling. We let Denard Robinson make us look like fools, and Michigan State ran for over 200 yards against us.

However, there are signs of improvement. In the fourth quarter, Michigan State only ran for 11 yards. And in OT, they were -4 yards. So, our defense got stronger as the game progressed. If we can avoid giving up the big play, we may be able to stop this Stanford rushing attack.

b. Notre Dame's Passing Offense is 8th nationally (318 yds/gm) and Stanford's Passing Efficiency Defense is 3rd nationally (74 yds/gm).

Will Stanford be able to contain the Irish passing attack?

No. This offense is growing every week, and Stanford hasn't seen anything like the talent that Notre Dame has at their disposal. With Riddick starting to play like a complete receiver, Floyd will get more touches, TJ Jones will sneak out some good plays, and you know that Kyle Rudolph can be counted on in a pinch. This should be a high scoring game for the Irish, as long as we don't turn the ball over.

c. Stanford gave up 170 yds rushing to UCLA and 265 yds rushing to Wake Forest. Notre Dame has averaged 133 yds/gm so far.

Do you expect Kelly to utilize the Irish rushing attack more?

I do. With the tape Kelly has on Stanford, I expect to see a lot of Armando Allen until they bring a safety down in the box. I expect to see some explosive pass plays as a result if the Irish can move the ball on the ground.

d. Stanford is ranked 4th in Red Zone Defense (50%) while the Irish have the 65th ranked Red Zone Offense (82%). Stanford's Red Zone Offense is tied for 1st (100%) in conversions and the Irish Defense's Red Zone conversions allowed is 36th (75%).

Will the Irish be able to stop Stanford's RZ conversions and improve theirs? How would you do that?

Notre Dame will stop Stanford in the red zone on Saturday. And the Irish don't need to worry about their red zone offense, they need to worry about ball security.

7. 1-2 is pretty tough to deal with for a football team still trying to find its identity. Meanwhile, Stanford is looking like a well-oiled machine thus far. Do you think this Irish squad can really bounce back from another heart-breaking loss against the Cardinal? What if it's not all that close?

I tell you what, if this game gets out of hand and the Irish get spanked by the Cardinal, my confidence in Kelly will be badly shaken. I still think that the Irish are better than MSU and Michigan, but their own mistakes (blown coverages and turnovers, specifically) kept them from winning the game. If Stanford beats us soundly, then that means that we will have regressed as a team, as I think we are fully capable of going toe-to-toe with Stanford.

Will we win the game? I don't know. The Cardinal offense has put up some pretty sick numbers so far. And I thought we'd be able to contain Denard Robinson, so I'm not exactly perfect here.

In the end, though, I think that this team is frustrated because they know they are better than their record says. And they want to get out there and prove it.


Notre Dame 45
Stanford 42