Yes, everyone, the Irish Blogger Gathering (IBG) is indeed back this season. We took last week off because:
- I was late in rounding everyone up this season.
- We decided that we beat the offseason to death already.
So now that Rice is in the books, it’s go time.
This year the IBG has a familiar cast of characters: myself, Mike Coffey of NDNation, Aaron Horvath of the official ND Football blog, Frank Vitovitch of UHND.com, and the return of The Subway Domer!
You may notice Keith Arnold of Inside the Irish (and now Bleacher Report) is not on the list this season. Sadly, Keith’s schedule has gotten a bit busier so he has bowed out. As someone also attempting to balance multiple writing gigs plus a day job, I can certainly empathize. Many thanks to Keith for all his IBG contributions, make sure you go visit him at both NBC and B/R.
For those asking what the IBG is, it was the brain-child of The Subway Domer in an attempt for many ND blogs to combine in a weekly effort for a round-table discussion and a traffic share. Since the IBG’s start, many blogs have come and gone and the IBG has morphed into a much smaller discussion that you now see today.
Each IBG member will ask a single question of the other members. We will then answer all these questions, save for our own, and link the responses of all other members. Since this year is the final hate week IBG, we are also adding in one bonus question.
So enough house-keeping, let’s do this.
My question to the IBG:
Everett Golson certainly put on quite a show against Rice. Should we temper optimism because it was just Rice or can we dare to dream of Heisman campaigns?
(Answers will be linked as they’re posted)
(Aaron Horvath, Official ND Blog) Let’s compare two games during the Brian Kelly era – the USF game and the Rice game. Does the way that the Irish systematically blew out the Owls show how far the Program has come since Kelly took over? What has he done to create a consistent winning environment? What does he still need to do?
Right out of the gate and Aaron is trying to skirt the rules on one question. Yeesh.
It’s hard to use a win again Rice as a measuring stick for the program overall, but a struggle or loss in such affairs do tend to give warning signs that something is wrong. In the case of USF, two things became clear: (1) Dayne Crist just wasn’t what we thought he’d be and (2) the Irish still had a ton of work to do in order to cut down dumb mistakes.
I’m surprised 2012’s opener Navy wasn’t mentioned in this question as well because the Rice game was certainly very similar. Not just in the blowout, but in the fact that a Kelly-recruited QB ran the offense and the Irish limited their mistakes.
So while I can’t say “look how far we’ve come because we beat Rice”, I will say that its become clear that this team is definitely Kelly’s team. He’s built them to the point in which the easier opponents should be easy games and not a struggle. That does speak well of the environment that he’s created, the talent that he’s recruited, and that’s he’s been able to coach them to execute and minimize mistakes.
What does he still need to do? Other than keeping this trajectory going, I’m not too sure. It’s hard to evaluate the Tommy Rees years because that was an exercise in BK holding things together rather than being able to implement his full vision for ND football. Saying that he needs to play the dual threat QBs with better physical talent is a rather obvious fact that I’m sure he realizes.
But, in an effort to answer the question, I’d say the next step is consistent wins over rivals and ranked opponents. I think we are past the point in which we can say “being competitive is okay” and that’s a good thing.
(The Subway Domer) Regardless to any historical or personal interest in this game, rate the level of importance this Saturday night’s matchup has for this season. What will define this season more, a win or a loss?
Honestly, the emotional investment and historical importance of this matchup is probably what defines this game in terms of season success. If you remove that game from the equation, what you have is a game against an opponent that has struggled the last few seasons, has your number, and always has the potential of being on the rise with the talent on their roster.
With that in mind, and considering that this matchup is so early in the season, winning here can separate ND from the rest of the pack and gain loads of initial respect from pollsters and the playoff committee. A loss will kick them down into a hole that they will have to claw out of the rest of the season, especially if Michigan falters later in the year.
(Frank Vitoitch, UHND.com) What must the Notre Dame defense do on Saturday to prevent Devin Garnder from having another career performance against Notre Dame similar to what we’ve seen happen in the past with both Gardner (last year) and Denard Robinson (2010, 2011) before him?
Don’t lose containment. Don’t let the play get behind you.
In each of the mentioned ND losses, the defense simply had some kind of lapse that allowed for big plays that would either keep a Michigan drive alive when they should’ve been off the field or result in a TD that shouldn’t have been surrendered.
Although we will likely be bringing multiple blitzes at Gardner, we can’t go into full “pin your ears back” mode and allow him to extend plays or escape the pressure. The moment Gardner finds an open throwing or running lane is the moment ND is in danger of giving up a back breaking play.
If Gardner does roll away from pressure, every throw should at the very least be off-balance. Preferably, such throws are also met with a nice hit to get in his head.
The secondary has a huge job here as well. They can’t allow a receiver to become wide open downfield and give Gardner an easy out that turns into points.
I have no doubt the Gardner and Funchess combination will make some plays regardless of what we do. However, we have to make them work for each one. We simply can’t make it easy on them as that’s what has led to each “Michigan QB has a career day” game.
(Mike Coffey, NDNation) Given that this is the last scheduled game, how do you feel about the series with Michigan ending, and what priority should ND put on getting them back on the schedule?
I’ll be honest, I’ll miss it. Hate week is fun, especially from a blogging perspective. I eventually want to see it come back, but I certainly don’t want ND bending over backwards to do so.
I’d prefer the focus remain on scheduling opponents like Texas and Georgia. I’m certainly not going to miss games in Ann Arbor if traveling options to Austin and Athens are on the table.
From a hate perspective, we get to kindle that in the ACC with Miami and Florida State rotating regularly on the schedule. They aren’t rivals per se like Michigan, but a similar hate level is there to fill the void. As an added bonus, there won’t be a decades long gap between those matchups.
From a logistical perspective, to hell with Jim Delany and his ridiculous ideas about how the B1G should work. A watered-down nine-game conference schedule that must be played at the end of the season? That’s absurd. There needs to more flexibility available, even our more restrictive ACC scheduling agreement allows for ACC games to happen early in September (see 2015 with two ACC games in the first three weeks). They can blame ND forever for not playing ball anymore, but the B1G has to realize there are better games on the table for us and the rest of CFB on those dates.
From a historical perspective, to hell with Michigan. The history of Michigan blackballing ND off of their schedule is well known. Their history of detesting that Notre Dame was even on their schedule is well known. They even postponed two future games before ND canned the series. This series has always been about what they want, when they want it.
So now that the B1G has expanded and includes Rutgers and Maryland as annual opponents, they are crying foul. It’s like having a significant other that treats you like crap and, when you’ve finally had enough and see better options, you call it off. Once they see you with a new person, all of a sudden they want you back and you’re the heel for throwing away something special.
Screw that. We’re not crawling back to you.
Bonus: Go on a Michigan hate rant and/or give a favorite memory of the series.
For my favorite memory, I’m going to go to the start of the Weis era in 2005. I was a student manager and assigned Michigan as one of my two away games. I had never been to the Big House, much less Ann Arbor. My first experience would be on the sidelines.
The entire week of practice, Weis put loads of focus on the first drive. The Irish would go out, no huddle, and have a simple numbering system for calling plays. Combined with silent snap counts, Michigan would have no idea what hit them.
12 plays and 76 yards later, Notre Dame was celebrating in the endzone and the Big House fell silent.
ND would add another TD before the end of the half, while Michigan offered only a FG and five punts in resistance. As we waited by the tunnel for Michigan to leave the field first, Michigan fans turned on Lloyd Carr. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard more four-letter bombs thrown at a home team’s coach in my life and I witnessed the Ty era.
The second half didn’t fare much better for the Skunkbears. Late in the fourth quarter, down 17-3 it looked like they were on their way back. In fact, Michigan’s PA announcer announced a Michigan TD after one particular play. The actual result was much, much different:
Chad Henne’s goal line fumble all but sealed Michigan’s fate and led to a running “Henne was in!” joke among Irish fans as Michigan fans simply couldn’t believe the video evidence.
Instant replay would also show that, on the ensuing ND drive, Brady Quinn’s knee hit the ground before a fumble that Michigan recovered. ND kept possession and bled more time off the clock.
Notre Dame didn’t need much help to beat the Wolverines for the third time in four years, but instant replay overturned two calls in its favor in the fourth quarter.
Each time, Michigan’s student section responded by throwing water bottles and other debris on the field.
That game was an absolute pleasure to be a part of. I took so much joy in being on the sidelines while part of Michigan’s soul died.