Thursday, May 12, 2011
Even though the Irish are still a day away from playing their Quarterfinal matchup between the winner of Marquette-Seton Hall, I've sprung ahead to look at the possible matchups they could face in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Depending on whether Notre Dame stays put a #4 seed or moves up a notch to a #2, here are the likely list of candidates the Irish might play next week.
Belmont (24-8, 14-2) Atlantic Sun Champs
Quality wins: @ Cincinnati and @ Alabama
Bad loses: @ Kennesaw St. (324 RPI) and @ Campbell (311 RPI)
Last 10: 10-0
George Mason (23-10, 12-6) Colonial Athletic Association Champs
Quality wins: Dayton and Kansas St.
Bad loses: Georgia State (281 RPI)
Last 10: 6-4
San Diego (20-13, 11-3) West Coast Champs
Quality wins: @ Kentucky, St. Mary's (twice), and Gonzaga
Bad loses: California St. Bakersfield (317 RPI)
Last 10: 8-2
Oral Roberts (23-8, 16-2) Summit League Champs
Quality wins: Oklahoma State
Bad loses: Texas A&M Corpus Christi (260 RPI) and N. Dakota St. (196 RPI)
Last 10: 7-3
Siena (22-10, 13-5) Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference
Quality wins: Stanford
Bad loses: @ James Madison (220 RPI) and @ Manhattan (271 RPI)
Last 10: 8-2
Western Kentucky (25-6, 16-2) Sun Belt Conference Champs
Quality wins: Michigan and Nebraska
Bad loses: @ Northern Arizona (137 RPI)
Last 10: 9-1
Utah State (22-9, 12-4) Western Athletic Conference
Quality wins: Iowa and Oral Roberts
Bad loses: @ Cal Poly (197 RPI) and @ Hawaii (276 RPI)
Last 10: 7-3
Cornell (21-5, 14-0) Ivy League Champs
Quality wins: Siena
Bad loses: @ Bucknell (206 RPI)
Last 10: 10-0
Stephen F. Austin (21-4, 13-3) Southland Conference
Quality wins: @ Oklahoma and @ San Diego
Bad loses: @ Nicholls St. (247 RPI) and Texas-Arlington (177 RPI)
Last 10: 9-1
UC-Santa Barbara (22-7, 12-4) Big West
Quality wins: UNLV
Bad loses: UC-Irivine (twice, 182 RPI)
Last 10: 8-2
Since his arrival at Notre Dame, Mike Brey has good success getting out of the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Until last season's loss to Winthrop, the Irish were 3-0 in first round games. Overall the Irish are 4-4 during Brey's tenure at Notre Dame. Starting back when the field was expanded to 64 teams in 1985, the Irish are 8-10 overall in the Tournament. Here's the round-by-round breakdown:
First Round: 6-4
Second Round: 2-4
Sweet 16: 0-2
Under Mike Brey
First Round: 3-1
Second Round: 1-2
Sweet 16: 0-1
So how did the potential first round opponents fair in the NCAA Tournaments since 1985?
First Round: 0-2
First Round: 1-3
Second Round: 1-0
Sweet 16: 1-0
Elite 8: 1-0
Final Four: 0-1
First Round: 0-2
Play-In Game: 1-0
First Round: 1-2
Second Round: 0-1
First Round: 0-2
First Round: 4-4
Second Round: 1-3
Sweet 16: 0-1
First Round: 1-6
Second Round: 0-1
First Round: 0-1
First Round: 1-2
Second Round: 0-1
As each day inches closer to Selection Sunday both ND fans and the team can play the guessing game as to which team the Irish will face in the first round. Whatever team it will be, Notre Dame will be prepared and won't disappoint. They're in it to win it!
I felt I would add something new to Irish Band of Brothers. So here's my first installment of the IBB Weekly Motivator. I thought I would start this one off right with a tribute to IBB's most loyal fan, Mark Allen. You can get all the latest of Mark's man crushes, naked twister contests, and kissy face games, at Mark Allen of Granger is Fat and Gay (http://markallenofgrangerisfatandgay.blogspot.com).
Friday, May 6, 2011
Although the NCAA has been treading lightly about Bushgate, the soon-to-be released book, "Tarnished Heisman", has been sent out to the media and the NCAA Infractions Committee.
Below is from an LA Sports Columnist's Blog who covers USC:
"The jacket of Don Yaeger’s “Tarnished Heisman”: “With the explosive information revealed in Tarnished Heisman, Bush stands to be ruled ineligible — a decision that could cost his alma mater the 2004 national championship title, force the forfeit of every game Bush played in after losing his eligibility, and potentially strip Reggie Bush of the shining prize of his college career: the Heisman Trophy.”
The first reax of Adam Rose of the LOS ANGELES TIMES, who covers USC for the outlet: “It doesn’t look good.”
Rose has yet to sift through every last word, but notes that Yaeger, a former investigative reporter for SI, claims in the book that “$47,000 went directly to Bush out of the overall $291,000 that went to his family. That makes it hard to deny he knew what was going on. While the photo section lacks any photocopied receipts, bank statements, or otherwise, the Author’s Note says that a website will publish much of it.”
That website, tarnishedheisman.com, has yet to go live.
Rose also notes that the book introduces a couple new ominous elements who were apparently present during Bush’s USC days: “memorabilia dealers and Suge Knight.”
It appears the advance galleys of Yaeger’s work give the media just enough to report on, and set the stage for what Rose calls the “hard evidence” rollout once promotion of the book begins.
As the evidence continues to mount against Bush, all we can really think of is where was Pete Carroll? Considering the myriad of entanglements (legal and otherwise) that allegedly ensnared Bush during his time at USC, it’s hard to believe that the coach knew absolutely nothing about what was going on. If he didn’t, he wasn’t doing his job, and should be held accountable.
While we despise most of what the NCAA stands for, this is one case that the normally overreaching organization can do some good, if there is indeed a mess to be cleaned up. It’s all but certain now that USC is going to do nothing."
I'm not an investigator, but with this book being released and possible NCAA sanctions to be coming down on the Trojans, I find it very interesting that Pete Carroll is interested in the Atlanta Falcons job. He has the keys to the castle at SC, so why leave?
The Poodle has been linked to NFL jobs before, but this time it seems more serious, and he's looking to bolt. Maybe he knows the writing on the wall and that his Trojans could be hit hard. Even though he is building a new house in sunny CALI-FOUR-NIGH-A, he is VERY INTERESTED in Atlanta and what Falcons owner Arthur Blank has to offer.
Time will tell on both the Poodle and Bushgate. If there is any justice in the world USC will go down like a crack whore in Compton!
Thursday, May 5, 2011
With seven games in the book, and the Irish standing at 6-1 with a quality win over Texas and a quality loss to #1 North Carolina, here are some burning questions leading into tomorrow's matchup with the Ohio State Buckeyes.
Q. Is Notre Dame on pace where they should be right now?
A. Absolutely! They've done everything they were supposed to do. When the schedule came out, you'd figure the Loyola Marymount game was going to be a little easier than what it turned out to be that night out in Los Angeles.
But other than that, they basically have done everything everyone has expected them to do. That's what it is going to make tomorrow so interesting down in Indianapolis, whether Luke Harandogy plays or not, because this is a confident, but young team they will face in Ohio State.
Q. Speaking of Harangody, what's the latest on his status?
A. I'd say if I was a betting man, and which I'm not because I'd finish dead last in all the NCAA Bracket office pools. If I had to make a guess, he will suit up and play tomorrow against the Buckeyes. Before practice yesterday he was shooting around with Ben Hansbrough, whom by the way, hit nine 3pt. FGs in a row. So don't worry folks, this kids shot will be in full swing come next season.
As for Harangody, he's going to take it slow as Mike Brey and the training staff are saying all the right things that it will be a game time decision. I think he has had enough of sitting there and watching those guys have all that fun like the Irish did against South Dakota.
Q. If he does play, will he be at or near 100%?
A. I understand what Coach Brey is saying how they want to take it slow and don't want to rush him back. But look, this is a really good game they need to get, and if Luke Harangody can give them only 13 points and seven rebounds like he did the other night against UNC, which was almost good enough to get the job done; It should definitely be good enough tomorrow.
He'll still have plenty of enough time to rest all of December until Big East play starts New Year's Eve at the AllState Arena against DePaul. So if he can give them something, a little low post presence to give the Buckeyes a little something more to think about, it will be a positive.
Nobody thinks he'll go for 28 points and 15 rebounds or 30 and 18 like he has been doing so far. If he can give this team a few good minutes, that will be good enough to get the victory against Ohio State.
Q. What has this team learned the last two games without Harangody?
A. Actually you could say two and a half games, because of his health condition against North Carolina.
First and foremost, this team knows how to shred a zone defense. Get the ball to Kyle McAlarney, and get the ball to Ryan Ayers.
They've also learned that Tyrone Nash can give this team some good minutes. He has played very well the last two outings, setting career highs in minutes and had nine points and eight rebounds against South Dakota. I know that game was so lopsided so early, but if they can bring a guy like Nash along and give them another body in the low post that can use up five fouls especially in Big East play. That's going to be a real boost for this team.
Q. Can we expect more of the same from Ryan Ayers after he set a career high 35 points?
A. I have always liked Ryan Ayers. He's a great kid, but the bottom line is, just like the case with guys like Luke Zeller and Jonathan Peoples; is that he needs to do this against better competition (Big East competition!). Let's see him six, seven, or eight 3-pointers against Pittsburgh or Connecticut or Seton Hall or Louisville, or any other important game where McAlarney maybe be smothered or when Harangody might not be getting it done.
When they needed Ayers big time last week in Maui where he had six points each against Texas and North Carolina, he just didn't get it done. He had a lot of open shots against the Tar Heels in the first half that could have made a big difference in the game.
It's great that he did this against South Dakota, but he needs to step that performance up where they need it along the lines in conference action.
Q. With the emergence of Ayers as a scorer, is there enough basketballs to go around, especially with an All-American (Harangody) and almost All-American (McAlarney)?
A. The way Notre Dame plays they'll get enough possessions to where their should be enough shots to go around. The fact that if Ayers' misses a shot, he goes in a funk, and the next time down the court if he gets an open look he'll hesitate and give the defense enough time to recover. That's when he would kick it down the post to Harangody or swing it around to McAlarney for a better shot.
If Ayers can shoot more like he did the other night, that will give Harangody more confidence where if he is facing a double team in the low post, he doesn't have to just look for Kyle for a shot. Ryan Ayers is almost too nice in the fact that he is the ultimate fit in guy, where he doesn't want to stray from the norm and not take the game over.
Just like Coach Brey said the other night, that he wants Ayers to be an assassin like McAlarney was against North Carolina. If Ayers can do that on a night where one of these guys isn't hitting, this makes this team a lot more difficult to defend.
Q. Is there anything that we've seen after seven games where the Irish can take it to the next level?
A. Not really. It was good the way we saw them against Texas and bring that "A" effort in a game where they were mentally tough. Even when they were down to UNC, they didn't fold in like Michigan State against the Tarheels.
They believed that they belonged on the court with a team like North Carolina, unlike last year against Washington State. ND felt overmatched in every area.
So we've seen glimpses a little bit last week in Maui against Texas and North Carolina, but we won't see how this team differs than last year until Big East play where it really means something.
Q. Are you concerned about the Irish's ability to make free throws, and to make them in clutch situations?
A. Oh absolutely! Coach Brey really hasn't addressed it, and he doesn't want to get it into his team's head. But if they hit free throws that way they did that night in Los Angeles, they're going to lose at least two Big East games down the road and down the wire.
Loyola Marymount was just bad enough to where they didn't know how to capitalize. I don't care who you do that against, but if you do that in a conference game against Seton Hall, Rutgers, or South Florida, those teams will find a way to beat you if you don't make your free throws.
I know Mike Brey doesn't want to address it, but that is a problem area because the Irish are going to get to the line enough where they really need to be one the top free throw shooting teams in the Big East.
Even against Texas, where all you need is one free throw from Harangody or Tory Jackson and they are moving on without any desperation shot from AJ Abrahms that bounced off the front of the rim. You just can't live that dangerously with this team. A college basketball season is too fragile to have to give a team like Texas so many opportunities to win a game like that because you can't do something that is so basic like making a free throw.
Q. Is the Irish pretty much the same defensively like they were a year ago?
A. No, they are not as good defensively. I think they are soft. If you look at the stats against the rest of the Big East teams , Notre Dame is in the bottom three in FG% defense and 3pt. FG% defense. They give up way too many shots. The South Dakota game the other night was just basically a church league game in the second half where they were giving the Coyotes any three point shot they wanted. And they were knocking down shots, where a 34 point game all of a sudden turned into a 19 point game.
I think defensively this team has some strides to make. Maybe that has to do with the competition they have faced. Maybe it has to do with focus when you're up 20 or up 40 and you really don't need to sting a few stops together. But this team really does need to get a lot better defensively if they want to better last year's team.
Q. What about the other Big East Teams. Are you sold on Louisville being one of the better teams in the conference or the nation?
A. Louisville is not right now. That's historically the way Rick Patino coaches his team. He takes them along slowly and they are a difficult team to figure out right now. If you look at the standings, Syracuse is 8-0, Pittsburgh is 8-0, ND has played seven games, and Louisville is only 2-1. They've played three games and it is December 5th.
So they're starting slowly. Historically Pitno doesn't like his guards, and he wants to throw nine guys off the team because of their practice habits. He hates what he has, and then you look up at the end of February, Louisville has a chance to win the Big East.
Right now they're not the #3 team or the # 13 or whatever they are right now. But by the end of the year they could be a scary team once he figures out what he has and throws it all together and says alright guys this is what it's going to take to be successful. They'll probably be in the top four in the conference with everything is all said and done come March.
Q. If Harangody is in the lineup tomorrow, who is the favorite, and if he's not in the lineup, who's the favorite?
A. You've got to go with Notre Dame in both situations. I think Ohio State has done a lot with that win the other night against # 21 Miami could go a long way later down the line. But looking at tomorrow in that atmosphere against a veteran team, Ohio State still has eight new faces from last years team and they have never been in this type of atmosphere. With what ND has seen already in Maui, and even that game against Loyola Marymount because that was one of the toughest games they have had to win on the road. Those three games right there, Notre Dame should really understand what it takes to go in there and take care of business to get a big time victory.
Wednesday, May 4, 2011
Even though this is Friday, I had some time to stew over a few things that really got under my skin lately. If any of my loyal readers are from the South Bend area and listen to sports talk radio, you should be familiar with WSBT Radio 960 AM's Weekday Sportsbeat with hosts Rick Carter and Darin Prichett that runs daily from 5:30-7:00. Wednesday's episode really got me fired up after the whole Omar Hunter decommitment. Both Rick and Darin were piping their two cents in about how Notre Dame shouldn't complain about this Hunter decommitment because the Irish did the same with verbal commits Jonas Gray and Trevor Robinson from Nebraska. If you are interested in hearing this past Wednesday's Weekday Sportsbeat, click on the title.
All of WSBT (radio and television), as well as, the South Bend Tribune are owned by the same company. I'm not sure about you, but everything they have been putting out about Notre Dame football since this summer has been garbage. Yes, I know our beloved Irish had a shitty year, and want to put the blame on someone, but WSBT definitely has put a vendetta on Weis and Co. For instance, columnist Jeff Carroll gets a major chubby anytime he gets a chance to poke a jab at Charlie, even it if is a somewhat positive article. And then both Darin and Rick can't make up their minds about the football team or Coach Weis. One day, he's the best recruiter, the next he should be fired. I understand fully about making money and trying to lure listeners to your show, but after a while it gets old. Especially Darin's grasp, or lackthereof, the English language. Anyone that has listened to him on radio will agree, that he does not use proper grammar. But that's beside the point.
Anyway, I felt I would pay homage to Peter Griffin of Fox's Family Guy, and give my take on What Grinds My Gears.
You know what grinds my gears..............
1.) People chastisizing Notre Dame for so-called poaching other school's verbal commitments. First off, Notre Dame did not steal Jonas Gray and Trevor Robinson from the Cornhuskers. Once word was out that Bill Callahan was not going to be Nebraska's head coach, Notre Dame pursued them hard. Heck even in the summer, Robinson wasn't sure about what school he wanted to join.
2.) Sneaky Verbal Commits that are not truthful and get caught in the act. Omar Hunter's explanation about decommiting from the Irish was complete and utter bullshit. Saying that he likes the coaches, but is not sure about them is fine, I guess. But saying that his style of play does not mesh with Notre Dame's, is ridiculous. He knew from day one that ND was playing a 3-4. If he's a little slow on the uptake, fine, but the boy is not retarded. Secondly, he says he wants to play closer to home, so his family can go and see. I totally understand that. But having USC in the mix does not make sense whatsoever! And last, but not least, Omar got caught about being a silent verbal to Florida. Once Charlie heard that, he took away Hunter's offer, and the marriage between the two was null and void. I say good for Charlie to sticking to his guns. He made it clear to all of these young men that if you're looking, we're looking. Weis gave Omar every opportunity to make it right, but in the end, Hunter is not or will never will be a Notre Dame man, period.
Omar I hope you enjoy being in the company with Urban Liar. Just ask Justin Trattou what he promised him. Trattou dumped us because of the 3-4, and was told that he would be playing as a stand up end, not on the line as a tackle. Well surprise, surprise, guess what Justin is playing?? Have fun with that Omar, you and Urban are made for each other.
3.) Coaches who get outcoached in a bowl game, where they're heavily favored and lose, and then throw his team under the bus! Urban Meyer's postgame comments after his Gator's loss to Michigan were priceless. If he feels this way about his players, what are future recruits and players going to feel about him? If I was a parent of a prospective recruit, I would be leery of sending him to Gainsville and having Meyer take care of my kid.
4.) Former AAU coaches that think they can do a better job than Mike Brey. I'm not going to officially call this person out (Georgia Irish), but this dumbass thinks he knows everything about Notre Dame basketball. All he does is bitch and complain and his only backup to anything, when you rebuttal is ND's out of conference wins that he has recorded. Well I hate to break it to him, but the vast majority of Division I basketball plays pasties. So for every Long Island and North Florida victory, Brey has recorded a win over such opponents like Maryland, Texas, Illinois, to name a few. Mark, get off your high horse. Brey is the only coach in ND history to have taken his squad to the NCAA tournament in his first three seasons, which included a trip to the Sweet 16, a Big East West Division Championship, and some Big East Tournament wins. Yes, they might not be significant, but being a student in the MacLeod days, will make this look huge. Anyway, brighter days are definitely ahead for Brey's boys!
5.) That old fart in section 10 that said Notre Dame was lucky last night in beating West Virginia. If it wasn't for the company that was sitting with me at the game, Old Man River was going to get it. I'm not sure what game he was watching, but ND only trailed once in the game (at the early part of the first half, 12-11), and lead throughout the rest of the way. In the second half, Notre Dame led under double digits, roughly around 4 minutes and 32 seconds. The Irish also held the Mountaineers to a season low in points (56), which was well under their average.
6.) So-called Hoops fans that complain, but yet, don't show up to the games. Hey folks, this isn't Burger King. You can't have it your way. Either you put up or shut up. Support the team and put your fanny in the seats. This groups is very exciting to watch, and will do very well come March!
PHEW!!!!!!! Enough of my ranting and raving. Have a wonderful TGIF!
Monday, May 2, 2011
January 20, 1925: Three of Notre Dame's legendary "Four Horsemen" - HB Jim Crowley, FB Elmer Layden and QB Harry Stuhldreher - earn consensus All-America status after the 1924 season. HB Don Miller is named to three All-America teams, but falls short of consensus status. The players' legendary game against Army earlier in the season inspired Grantland Rice to pen the nickname.
Cheer, Cheer for Old Notre Dame!
This was definitely not the same George Mason squad that made that magical run to the Final Four two years ago, that's for sure. What also can be said is that this is not the same Notre Dame bunch that bowed out of last year's first round of the NCAA Tournament either, as they dominated the Patriots 68-50 last night. Right from the start the Irish jumped on George Mason and never looked back as they advance to the second round against #4 seed Washington State.
Big East Player of the Year, Luke Harangody, paced the Irish with another double-double (18 points and 14 rebounds), as he rebounded from a not so stellar performance a week earlier at the conference tournament. Guard Kyle McAlarney led the Notre Dame attack from the outside with 15 points, while the game's X-factor, Zach Hillesland had six points, 11 rebounds, and kept the Patriots' leading scoring Folarin Campbell to four points!
Much can be said about the Irish's offense, but it was the defense that did the most damage to George Mason. Campbell who shot 1-of-12 from the floor acknowledged that Notre Dame kept at him all night long.
"If I would get past or have one [defender] on my hip, there was another big guy right beside him," Campbell said. "I mean, Notre Dame just played great defense. All my shots were contested. I tip my hat off to their defense."
Notre Dame made no doubt who was going to win this contest as they advanced into the second round for the fourth time in five tries under Mike Brey. The Irish contested every shot, got after loose balls, and won the battle of the boards against the smaller Patriots. Notre Dame out rebounded George Mason 42-31, that included guard Tory Jackson's eight rebounds!
George Mason did not have an answer on defense to stop the inside and outside of the Irish, as Notre Dame connected on 9-of-21 from behind the arc and shot 45.6% overall.
Next up for the Irish is a 6:40 pm contest with Washington State, who crushed Winthrop 71-40. The Cougars held the Eagles to just 11 points in the second half after being tied 29-29 at the half.
All week long leading up to last night Brey reminded his boys of last year's one and done in the tournament and last week's short stay in New York City. It definitely struck a cord as they pushed the clock forward to midnight way too soon on George Mason.
Sunday, May 1, 2011
Good teams find a way to win the close ones. Notre Dame dug down deep last week to gut out two conference wins to solidify second place in the Big East standings. Against Providence it was a gutsy last minute heroics by all-everything Luke Harangody and Tory Jackson in regulation to salvage their home court winning streak. On Saturday it was a total team effort from the Irish to brush off the pesky Blue Demons.
Even though there are skeptics out there that say the Irish are soft, can't put anyone away, and can't hold a lead; has really not been watching Notre Dame. Out of the eight games that Notre Dame has played that have been decided by 10 points or less, the Irish have been on the winning end six times (Kansas State, San Francisco, Connecticut, Villanova, Providence, and DePaul). Statistics don't lie, and defensively, the Irish are having a breakout season. Out of 328 Division I schools, Notre Dame is 45th in FG% Defense (40.3%), 8th in rebound margin (8.2), and 22nd in scoring margin.
Offensively, the Irish are even more lethal: 3rd in Assists (14.8 apg), 8th in Assist-to-Turnover ratio (1.41), 14th in 3 pt. FG% (40.4%), 25th in scoring (79.8 ppg), 38th in FT% (74%), and 8th in the nation in personal fouls per contest (14.8). Only three Irish players have fouled out in their 20 contests this season. That's not only good discipline, but a seasoned team that is cool under pressure. Notre Dame could have easily folded in the second half after seeing their 13 point lead against DePaul diminish to two points. Instead, the Irish nailed a 3 pt. bucket by Kyle McAlarney. After a Blue Demon basket, ND applied the pressure by trapping which resulted in this turn of events: Ryan Ayers jumper from the baseline, a tip-in bucket from Luke Harangody, a steal by Tory Jackson, which resulted in a poster picture dunk from Ayers.
Good teams adjust and find ways to get it done. After having a week off in between games, Mike Brey installed a 1-2-2 defense that he has shelved for two seasons. Not only has that worked real well, but it was key in their current three game winning streak. Both Villanova and Providence shot well below their averages, while the Irish forced DePaul to beat them from the outside. Even though the Blue Demons shot uncharacteristically from three, ND still nearly led the game for the full 40 minutes.
Basically, Brey's boys are getting it done with an electrifying offense, led by one of the best big men in the country, and a ever evolving defense that makes key stops at all the right times. Teams are taking notice, as the bullseye is on the Irish's back. Good thing for us, Notre Dame is gelling at the right time.
The 2008 season is still a couple of weeks away from fall camp, but it is never too soon to talk about the upcoming schedule. IBB has complied its list of the easiest to toughest contests on the Irish schedule. So without further adieu, here's the rundown of the #1 easiest game to the #12 toughest game for Notre Dame:
#1) San Diego State: The Aztecs lost their best player, Quarterback Kevin O'Connell, and their entire offensive line. Also SDSU had one of the worst rushing defenses in the country.
The Irish will want to wipe away any memory of last season with a blowout. It's a home game, in front of a national television audience, so SDSU could be in for a long day. Notre Dame will want to explode on the Aztecs. This should happen. No, in fact, it needs to happen!
#2) Syracuse: The Orange are coming off a 2-10 campaign, and lost their two best players to graduation and academics. Out of SU's 24 total offensive touchdowns, Mike Williams and Taj Smith combined for 15 scores. It will be late in the season, and the Irish should be in full stride to make a run at a bowl game.
Syracuse quite possibly has the worst coach in college football, next to the Washington Huskies. Greg Robinson is so bad that the last time ND faced the Orange in 2005, he was quoted as saying that he was surprised that the Irish went no-huddle against them. HELLO? Did he or his staff watch any game tapes of the Irish prior to their contest? YIKES!!!!
#3) Navy: The Midshipmen lost their best weapon in Coach Paul Johnson. He just elevates his teams to a different level. His successor has some big shoes to fill.
Paybacks are a you know what! Here's a start to a new streak against Navy.
#4) Stanford: The Cardinal are picked to finish near the bottom of the Pac 10 Conference again. Despite having 16 starters returning, including 9 on defense, Stanford will have plenty of personnel issues. Heck the Irish beat the Cardinal with a pretty bad team by two touchdowns (Yes, I'm counting David Grimes diving grab as a TD, eff the refs!).
Tavita Pritchard will be under center after his stellar 4 TDs, 9 INTs season in 2007. Look for the Irish to stuff the run and force Pritchard and the Cardinal to throw a lot to Notre Dame's best attribute, their pass defense.
#5) Washington: This will be a tiring trip to say the least. A week right after the Irish faced North Carolina, ND will go to the West Coast and face their former coach Ty Willingham. It will also be tiring to hear everyone make comparisons to him and Coach Weis, and his remaining players (3- 5th year seniors).
Although Washington might have one of the best Quarterbacks the Irish will face all season in Jake Locker, the Huskies do not have a lot of depth.
* One interesting side note: It was rumored after Willingham let go of long time Defensive Coordinator Kent Baer, Washington was going to get Jon Tenuta as their man. Thank goodness Tenuta went for the better coach and better program! Definitely a win-win situation.
#6) Pittsburgh: Two words for everyone - Dave Wannstedt! Good old Pornstache will most likely have his Panthers in a lot of preseason Top 25 polls, but he'll always find a way to screw it up somehow. Pitt is 2-12 against the Irish since 1988, and only averaged 98 yards on the ground last season.
The Panthers do have on the best passing defenses in the country, however Charlie is good at knowing his opponents tendencies; especially one he faced numerous times in the NFL. Too bad you can't say the same about Wannstedt. Hell he can't even remember his previous players. In 2005 before the Irish manhandled Pitt, Wanny talked about how great Bernie Parmalee will be as ND's linebackers coach as he was a great one when playing for him. I hate to break it to Dave, but Bernie didn't play linebacker for ya; he was on the other side of the ball running.
#7) Boston College: The Eagles could be the Notre Dame of last season. They lost most of the their top weapons, including quarterback Matt Ryan. You never know what BC is capable of; and since it is in the later portion of the season, the Eagles could possibly have a decent signal caller. Who knows, maybe they have another Hasselback hidden in their roster.
The Irish will always have a hard time with BC, but what is in the Irish favor this season is that Notre Dame is the middle game of a brutal and important stretch of the ACC. Clemson, a possible ACC front runner, will be before the Irish, and Florida State will be BC's opponent after the ND game. Talk about a murder's row!
#8) Michigan: Notre Dame is playing the Wolverines at the right time of the season for once. If this was in November or middle of October, maybe it would be a tougher game. But with a new coach, a new QB, and a new system, it will be tough sailing for Meechigan. You just don't know how good the Maize and Blue will be at the start.
It's going to be a big mental hurdle for the Irish. Most of the guys on the Michigan roster are back, and 38-0 will still be fresh on their minds. Charlie and Co. will have the boys full attention, that's for sure.
#9) Purdue: This game definitely means a lot to Wilfred Brimley, err, I mean Joe Tiller. He will have them ready for his last time against the Irish. The Boilermakers always have a dangerous offense, especially with Curtis Painter behind center.
Notre Dame has better talent from top to bottom, but that doesn't mean everything. There definitely is no love loss between Tiller and Weis. Charlie would like nothing better to give Joe and PU a proper sendoff back to West Lafayette.
#10) North Carolina: This one has all the makings for a trap game. The Tar Heels are not as good as Michigan and Purdue, but they have a defensive genius in Coach Butch Davis. A ND scheduling birdie said last season if they [coaching staff and administration] knew Davis was going to be their coach, they wouldn't have scheduled it at all.
UNC will have 18 starters back from a squad that went 4-2 at Kenan Stadium. The Tar Heels beat a not so impressive Miami squad at home, and nearly pulled off upsets at Virginia and South Carolina. This could be the game that makes or break Notre Dame's season as either a major player or an average joe.
#11) Michigan State: Brandon Hoyer, Javon Ringer, and three returning offensive linemen return from a team that put up 31 points against the Irish last season. D'Antonio is a good coach, but doesn't have a lot of great elite players on offense.
This is another dangerous game for Notre Dame because the Irish could be back in the National Spotlight if they start off the season 2-0 with wins over SDSU and Michigan. Just think of it, ESPN College GameDay at East Lansing and the ABC Saturday Night Game of the Week.
MSU has been giving the Irish fits the last decade, however the road team has been the winner most of the time. This one will be real close in East Lansing.
#12) Southern Cal: USC is still talented, still well coached, and still beating the NCAA system by paying their players. Notre Dame hasn't won at the LA Coliseum since 2000. This could be the game that pushes the Trojans into the National Championship game.
Well SC, get your licks in now, because the tide is turning!