Subway gave us the opportunity to pose the questions for this week’s Irish Blogger Gathering. And we’d just like to let the other participants know that it hurts us more to ask these questions than it hurts you to answer them.
- Being that you’re a ND blogger, and thus follow a Catholic university’s football team religiously and/or are Catholic yourself, you’re probably very familiar with the notion that bad things happen to good people. For a concrete example of that, look to every Irish player, coach, and fan who had to suffer through the last 2 seasons. But never forget that bad things can happen to really rotten people too. For a really fun example of that, look to Rich Rod going 3-9 in his big debut season in Ann Arbor. Now let’s mess with your heads a bit: Give me one very good reason why great things might happen to very bad people by explaining to me A) How and why Michigan (sucks!) might beat ND this weekend and B) How Michigan (sucks!) will compete for a BCS berth in 2009.
A) ND could find themselves on the wrong end of the score because, unlike Nevada, Michigan (sucks!) doesn’t really care as much about making the passing game part of the script. Nevada may have had 3 1,000 yard rushers last year, and yet they still put the ball up in the air 419 times (and made 593 rushing attempts) or 42% of the time. Michigan, on the other hand, put the ball in the air 338 times, or… 42% of the time. Wait. What? Hold on. I’m getting there. Think about the respective schedules and the offensive output of these 2 squads in 2008. Nevada was a force, Michigan (sucks!) a farce. And yet, for all of the losses in 2008, and all that time playing from behind, Michigan didn’t exactly suddenly feel “forced” to throw the ball. Nope. They stuck with that read-run offense of theirs and just kept trying it. And that’s a problem for ND. The general consensus of ND fans and pundits seems to be that if ND can get a lead and/or slow down the rush, then Michigan will go to the air, and ND will then have the skunkbears where the Irish want them. That may not be true. Yes, Nevada was held to a very low rushing output compared to their 2008 average, but 1 game does not make a trend, and we’ve got an awful lot of 2008 reminders in the hopper making it difficult to believe the Irish are much improved enough against the run to make the run a problematic offensive weapon for a team like Michigan (sucks!) to utilize regardless of the score. B) Notice that tOSU nearly lost to Navy? Perhaps Navy is far better than expected, and we do hope that’s true, but if it was really a case of Navy getting underappreciated by the bucknuts while they looked ahead to thier SoCal game, then it might just be that tOSU is far weaker than previously thought. Notice Iowa’s first week? Yes, PSU, MSU, and even Northwestern had good opening weeks, but we get the feeling that the normal hierarchy of Big Televen football is a bit jumbled right now, and thus the Big Televen Quasi Championship is up for grabs and all Michigan (sucks!) would need to do to get to a BCS game is win the B11. Remember, the B11 has to send someone, even if that someone has an awful OOC record. Ain’t conference affiliation cushy? Perform well for about half a season and you’re in!
- After week 1, just as in 2008, the leading tacklers for the Notre Dame fighting Irish are both safeties: Kyle McCarthy with 7 and Harrison Smith with 5. DE Kerry Neal isn’t even on the stat sheet, Brian Smith, while making 2 very big plays, didn’t make a single other tackle, and Ethan Johnson had 1 tackle all game. Convince me that Michigan (sucks!) wont just run a “9 yards and a cloud of dust” offense against ND all freaking game.
Last year, after 2 games, ND’s 2 top tacklers were both the starting safeties. We took note of it and kinda freaked out. We were right to do so. The rush defense last year sucked and had a lot to do with certain losses that should have been wins. Here we are, 1 game in, and it feels pretty familiar. But this time I’m not freaking out. Not just yet. After 2 games last year, the safeties accounted for 35% of all tackles made. After the Nevada game, against what we expect to be a rather strong rushing team, the safeties, once again, accounted for about 35% of the tackles, but in this single game, 17 guys were credited with solo tackles. Versus SDSU last year, only 13 guys got credit for solo tackles while there were 10 more solo tackle credits available. Sure, this is a pretty fuzzy stat analysis, but I think it foretells some improvement and more guys managing to make plays during a game rather than just hoping the safeties can clean everything up. So, in short, so far we see more people on the field capable of making a play and stopping a runner.
We’ve now got the concrete data of 1 game to bat around. Aside from any answers involving T’eo, tell me what position changes/depth chart engineering you hope to see the staff at least tinker with during the Michigan (sucks!) game.
I want more Burger! The more I see of the dude, the more I see a guy who takes real pride and joy in his blocking. That one holding call, as has been mentioned by every ND fan and unbiased observer, was the most blatant make-up call in the history of make-up calls. If I were making a textbook of blocking technique, I bet I could use a lot of photos of this kid after this season. And so I don’t so much want to see any DCE as much as I just want to see any plays that utilize this kid get a little more attention in the next game.
- The state of Michigan has decided that they’ve ripped off the Rudy soundtrack long enough and need a new advertising scheme to attract people to their state and support tourism. “Pure Michigan (sucks!)” is so two-thousand-and-late. Give me the new hotness. Give me your best new tourism slogans for Michigan (sucks!).
- Michigan: Featuring far less industrial pollution than ever before!
- Michigan: They Names a Lake For Us!
- Michigan: When You’re Here, You Know It’s Time To Turn Around.
- Navy took tOSU down to the wire, Washington actually looked like a team that’s coached to play football games, WSU put up some fight. After Week 1, do you now feel like the Irish ’09 schedule is tougher or easier than you felt heading into last week? Why?
Absolutely tougher. While we mentioned earlier that Navy’s near miss may have been helped along a bit by tOSU looking forward to their “big game,” Navy certainly looked better throwing the ball than we expected and just looked like they’re not getting worse for lack of Paul Johnson. Washington looked far better against a possibly-overrated-but-probably-still-top-30 LSU than they looked against anything for the last 2 years. WSU actually has a pulse and some capabilities. Michigan (sucks!) doesn’t suck as much as previously expected. MSU seems to have an idea of what to do without Javon Ringer. Granted, the win versus Nevada came easier than we expected, but even if they’re not quite as good as we thought they might be, the apparent improvement of so many other squads on the schedule really makes it difficult to look at Week 1’s easy win and, in an unbiased way, expect 10 more. The season could well be much more of a grind as relatively higher-quality-than-expected-opposition takes their best shot at ND week in and week out.
Other responses to these questions can be found (IBGers, let me know when you’ve answered, and I’ll add ya to the list.)…
- Here, where Domer Law refuses to do things I’m forcing him to do.
- Here, where Brawling Hibernian isn’t buying anything from week 1.
- Here, where One Foot Down stomps on the throat of Michigan
- Here, where Subway Domer is fighting with himself. Again.