Wednesday, October 10, 2012
I know it is the middle of December, but it's never to early to discuss March Madness. With the Irish in the midst of final exams, Notre Dame's current five game winning streak has taken notice of several coaches and media alike. If the selection committee chose today, the Irish would be in at a #12 seed. With last week's impressive wins over Kansas State and Northern Illinois, the Irish were one of the last four in, while Big East rival Syracuse didn't make the cut. The Orange suffered another loss at the Carrier Dome to Atlantic 10 Conference member Rhode Island. Two weeks ago, SU lost a stunner to UMass.
According to CBSSports.com's Garry Parrish, the Big East leads the way with 8 teams: Georgetown, Marquette, Pittsburgh, Villanova, West Virginia, Connecticut, Louisville, and Notre Dame. Syracuse and Providence are currently sitting on the fence with identical 6-3 records. Notre Dame opponents and Big 12 counterparts, Baylor (11th seed) and Kansas State (9th seed) both made the field of 65.
With the way the Irish have been playing as of late, my prediction of 22 wins is definitely achieveable and hopefully surpassed! Parrish's field is strong with the usual suspects: #1 seeds Memphis (south), North Carolina (east), Kansas (midwest), and Texas (west). Georgetown (2 seed), Marquette (3 seed), and Pittsburgh (4 seed) are the tops in the Big East. In fact, the Big 12, ACC, and the Big East each have three teams seeded in the top four.
What's more interesting is what possible #5 seeds the Irish could face in the NCAA Tournament if it ended today. Currently, Parrish has Indiana, Vanderbilt, Villanova, and Oregon as his potential candidates. Wouldn't it be something if the Irish faced the Hoosiers in the first round.
Here's Parrish's Projected Field by Seeds:
1. Memphis, North Carolina, Kansas, Texas
2. Georgetown, Washington St., UCLA, Duke
3. Michigan St., Texas A&M, Marquette, BYU
4. Xavier, Pittsburgh, Clemson, Tennessee
5. Indiana, Vanderbilt, Villanova, Oregon
6. Gonzaga, Butler, Arizona, Southern California
7. Dayton, Rhode Island, Arkansas, Miami
8. West Virginia, Stanford, UConn, St. Mary's (CA)
9. Louisville, Wisconsin, Kansas St., Southern Illinois
10. Boston College, California, Missouri, Virginia
11. Ohio St., George Mason, Baylor, Florida St.
12. Florida, Creighton, Notre Dame, Western Kentucky
13. Davidson, Miami (OH), Nevada, Sam Houston St.
14. Winthrop, Belmont, Holy Cross, Hampton
15. Siena, Austin Peay, UC-Santa Barbara, Oral Roberts
16. Maryland-Baltimore County, Montana State, Robert Morris
Opening Round Game: Cornell vs. Alabama St.
Once the New Year comes around, the Irish will be going full-throttle on their way towards a second consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament. This time it will not be a one and done performance. You can count on that!
Note: Notre Dame opponents are in Italics
Tuesday, October 9, 2012
When the NCAA Tournament selection show was announced, Notre Dame didn't have much time to fill in their brackets. Within the first few pairings, the Irish were handed a #5 seed against the Colonial Athletic Association Tournament Champs, #12 seed George Mason. Yes, the dreaded 5 vs. 12 matchup that everyone and their mother wants to avoid come March. But for the Irish, is it really that bad?
The media pundits are convinced that George Mason will beat the Irish. In fact the Patriots are the "sexy" pick of the tournament. I guess going 14-4 in one of the toughest conferences in the country doesn't prepare you for the Big Dance. How about having one of the best big men in the country? Or two 3pt. shooters that can drain their shot over 40% of the time? Notre Dame is definitely going to need the Luck of the Irish to win, right?
Well luck has it, Notre Dame has reached the Sweet 16 both times the Irish were a #5 seed. The last time, 2003, Notre Dame escaped the first round beating Bruce Pearl's Wisconsin-Milwaukee squad on a last second tip in goal by Torin Francis at the RCA Dome in Indianapolis. The Irish then went on to beat the 4th seed Illinois en route to their Sweet 16 appearance against top seeded Arizona. Overall the Irish are 4-2 in the #5 slot, winning both the first and second round games.
History is still on the Irish's side. Since the field expanded to 64 teams, the #12 seed team has won 29 times out of the 92 games vs. #5's. That's the same percentage as the 6 vs. 11 during that same stretch of time, while the 4 vs. 13 matchup is not too far behind (18 wins).
As for the CAA's history of the NCAA Tournament, George Mason has made the biggest splash when they squeezed into Cinderella's slipper all the way to the 2006 Final Four. Here is a breakdown of the CAA's tournament history:
9-18 (33%) First Round
3-6 (33%) Second Round
2-1 (66%) Sweet 16
1-1 (50%) Elite 8
0-1 (0%) Final Four
Maybe you should look elsewhere for that 5 vs. 12 upset this year!
Monday, October 8, 2012
A day after Gene Smith declared his allegience to the dark side, or should I say Scarlet and Grey side, he was named the top collegiate AD by the National Football Foundation (NFF).
Here's the exerpt from the NFF:
Director of Athletics, Ohio State University
In only three years at Ohio State University, Gene Smith has successfully continued the legacy of Buckeye sports, quickly establishing himself as one of the country's most respected athletics directors in college sports.
Smith oversees the nation's largest Division I-A athletics program, featuring 36 varsity sports, more than 900 student-athletes and an operating budget of $97 million. OSU's athletics department is completely self sufficient, receiving no tax dollars, university money or student fees. In the fiscal year 2007-08, Buckeye athletics will contribute nearly $22 million in assessments to the university, including more than $12 million in grant-in-aid reimbursements. Equally impressive, the OSU athletics department has recently been selected to receive one of the NCAA's Diversity in Athletics Awards in the category of Overall Excellence in Diversity, which is based on achievement in the areas of diversity strategy, gender and racial diversity of departmental employees, minority graduation rates and more.
Under Smith's watch, Ohio State has garnered three straight Big Ten titles and has been invited to three BCS bowl games, including the last two national championship games. The Buckeyes have finished in the Top 5 nationally since 2005 and boast the 2006 Heisman Trophy winner, Troy Smith. OSU players have been named First Team All-America picks seven times and First Team All-Big Ten selections 23 times.
Named one of Black Enterprise Magazine's "50 Most Powerful African Americans in College Sports," Smith was named the first African American president of the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA) in 2007. He serves on numerous NCAA committees, including the Football Rules Committee, the Committee on Infractions and the Management Council. The Cleveland, Ohio, native attended Notre Dame on a football scholarship and joined the Irish coaching staff following graduation. He has also served as the athletics director at Eastern Michigan, Iowa State and Arizona State.
Friday, October 5, 2012
I guess we can finally get some closure to the whole AP All-America Team fiasco. Like I promised, here's South Bend Tribune and AP voter, Eric Hansen's response as to why Trevor Laws was not on any of the AP All-American Teams:
"I think Trevor had an amazing year and his numbers were better than most defensive tackles. But in ND's system, they labeled him as an end. And in that light, his numbers didn't compare. We could not just simply vote for defensive linemen. We had to vote for two tackles and two ends on the first and second teams. (We did not vote for the third team or honorable mention -- those selections came from the points system associated with the voting). I think Trevor was hurt by playing on a 3-9 team and not on a dominant (although improved) defense.
Hope that helps.
There are a few things that just don't sit well with me on this issue. First, every All-America Team can decide whether they can just choose any defensive linemen like AFCA Coaches All-America, FWAA Football Writers Association of America All-American, CBSSportsline.com All-America, Rivals.com All-America, and the Walter Camp All-America; or be more specific like the AP squad. Also where is the Honorable Mention team? It is nowhere to be found!
Secondly, I thought in the 3-4 scheme, there was a Nose Guard and two defensive tackles. Maybe I'm wrong in that terminology, but that's what we called it during my playing days. Why did ND label Trevor an end? It's not right, and every Irish fan will agree. This just frustrates the heck out of me. Oh well, that's it about this whole BS we call the All-America Teams!
In the end, Trevor will get his time to shine on Sundays. Here's to the Bears making a great first day draft selection!
The great Knute Rockne was killed in a plane crash in Bazaar, Kansas. Rockne, a convert to Catholicism due to the witness of his players and Holy Cross priests, was the head football coach at Notre Dame in the 1920s and early 1930s. His record of 105-12-5 is unsurpassed in college football history. He lived a couple blocks from where I am typing this. Though flawed in some ways, he was known for his great love for people. I got the following list from a blog named Fighting Irish Thomas. He has an very interesting post on Rockne. It is linked by the headline above.
Top Ten Telegrams/Eulogies Mourning Knute Rockne's Death
10 "Mr. Rockne so contributed to a cleanness and high purpose in athletics that his passing is a national loss."—President Herbert Hoover
9 "One man like Rockne means more to our country than a million reformers, and if football produces one Rockne in each generation, the nation can ill afford to curtail football."—James L. Knox (President of Harvard)
8 "He was a king among men. We have never met a man with greater personal magnetism, not even William Jennings Bryan."—North Carolina Christian Advocate (Methodist)
7 "I read that youth has no idols nowadays. But they had one at Notre Dame."—Sportswriter Westbrook Pegler
6 "Knute Rockne was a strong moral force and an inspiration to the youth of our land. Fourteen hundred orphan children of Mooseheart Illinois will always remember his timely and inspiring talks to them."—James J. David, President of Mooseheart
5 "When I heard of Rockne's death, something unusual happened; tears came into my eyes that I thought long ago had shed all they could hold. Now I know I was only one of a multitude who never spoke a word to Rockne but loved him. Rockne was Sorin without a cassock or breviary."—Rev. Francis Clement Kelley, Bishop of Oklahoma
4 "In the past generation, it was Buffalo Bill. For this generation, it was Knute Rockne. The boy had a profound respect for Knute Rockne, and Rockne for the boy. Each read each other's minds, and they were heroes to each other. Millions of boys (and men, girls and women) bow in grief at the news that Rockne is dead, because for millions he was greater than the president."—Cleveland Press
3 "No other death could have brought more universal sorrow than this. Knute Rockne's name was a household word. Boys who could not yet read could tell you about Rockne ... there have been big figures in sports but none who have attained the size of Rockne ... the game has ended, but in every department of play, Knute Rockne has won."—The Denver News
2 "We thought it would take a president's death to make a whole nation, regardless of age, race or creed, shake their heads in real sincere sorrow ... Well, that's what this country did today Knute for you. You died a national hero ... Notre Dame was your address, but every gridiron in America was your home."—Will Rogers
1 (tie) "Knute Rockne has had a wider influence in developing the ideals of fair play than any other man in his generation, and he did it under the banner of the Mother of God."—Rev. John F. O'Hara, University of Notre Dame
1. (tie) "What was the secret of his irresistible appeal to all sorts and conditions of men? I do not know the answer. But in this hour of piteous loss and pained bewilderment, I find myself recalling the words of Christ, 'Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart ... and thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.' Knute loved God and neighbor with a genuine deep love, and his case verifies the Christian paradox—he has cast away to keep, he has lost his life to find it."—ND President Charles O'Donnell, from his eulogy at Knute Rockne's funeral Mass
The 79th Blue and Gold game came and went and left somewhat of a bad taste in a few fan's mouths. Even though the contest itself was intense as the Blue (offense) defeated the Gold (defense), 47-46 on a last second touchdown, my overall impression of the team was not too optimistic. A lot of factors played into that sentiment, but it leaves one wondering, did the Irish show or reveal much? To sum it up briefly, not really.
Here is the IBB report card for the Irish after the game:
Jimmy Clausen definitely is 100% healthy and it showed with some zip! Clausen's numbers weren't stellar, 10-of-27 for 183 yards and 1 Touchdown and 1 interception. He definitely would have better numbers if it weren't for a few drops here and there. One trend that will have to be straightened out before the start of the season will be Clausen's ability to not "Lock" on a receiver too soon. He didn't look off any receivers and it showed on several throws, including the 22-yard interception return by Harrison Smith.
Overall Jimmy is improving and will only get better!
The Blue rushing attack started and ended with offensive MVP Robert Hughes. Hughes picked up where he left off last season by gaining 100 yards on 22 carries, including the first touchdown of the game. He put in a workmanlike effort and was rewarded for his output.
Armando Allen gave a good change up for the bruising Hughes with 11 rushes for 53 yards. Just like last season, Allen was a tackle or two away from breaking a big one!
James Aldridge saw limited amount of carries, which makes me wonder if A) he's not fully 100% healthy, or B) he's slipping down the depth chart. Either case, Aldridge didn't provide much spark when he did carry (3.0 average per carry).
The Barry Gallup Jr. experiment at running back turned into just that, an experiment. Even though he got almost as many carries as Aldridge, Gallup Jr. is probably not going to get much time on the field next season unless the injury bug hits either the backs or receivers.
Asaph Schwapp didn't touch the ball at all, which might not be a bad thing. He did a so-so job of lead blocking or protecting Clausen on a few pass plays. Not too much to go off of for Schwapp's evaluation.
This was a unit I felt showed a bit of everything on Saturday. It had its ups of great catches (Ragone's spectacular 23-yard reception; Tate's 57 yarder to set up the game winner, and Kamara's jump ball TD) and its downs with several dropped passes.
When it did matter, the receivers stepped up against the best unit on the Irish squad (secondary). New captain David Grimes will spearhead this group in the right direction, as incoming freshman Michael Floyd will add more depth and star power to the Irish's arsenal.
I think I was more dumbfounded than anything with the o-line's performance on Saturday. First off, all that you hear and read about Sam Young's poor play was pretty much on the mark. Mental mistakes of false starts, holding calls, and allowing a few missed assignments, didn't bode well for a player that wants to be a leader of this team.
With that said, there were signs of life from the offensive line, especially when the little skirmish broke out. Eric Olsen has a little, Jeff Faine, mean streak about him that is much needed. Chris Stewart looked fairly decent, but still the offensive line gave up four sacks to a defense that is missing some valuable parts.
Help is on the way, but will it be enough? Time will tell.
The defensive front was the hardest hit from graduation (Trevor Laws), suspension (Patrick Kuntz), and injury (Darrell Hand); however they had a pretty good outing. End Morrice Richardson and tackle Justin Brown led the charge with 12 tackles, including one and a half sacks, respectively. Incoming freshman Sean Cwynar and Freshman All-American, Ian Williams, had three and two stops as well.
They clogged up the middle and put some pressure on Clausen, which means the arrow is definitely pointing up on this unit, especially with the return of Kuntz in the fall.
It was all Smith, all the time for the linebacking corps, as Harrison Smith shored up the game's defensive MVP honors after returning an interception for a touchdown. Jon Tenuta's placement of Harrison Smith as a linebacker proved to be genius as he was everywhere on the field for five tackles.
Scott Smith led the group with six tackles, while Brian Smith (3 tackles) headed the charge with two sacks and Toryan Smith added three stops.
The non-Smiths, Kevin Washington had four tackles, and both Kerry Neal and Maurice Crum each had two stops apiece.
This was Notre Dame's strength last season and should be the pillar once again. Kyle McCarthy will fill in nicely for Tom Zbikowski at safety, while David Bruton should be on a few preseason honor lists. Depth will also be a valuable weapon for this unit, as Ray Herring, Raeshon McNeil, Jashaad Gaines, Sergio Brown, and Gary Gray, will be battling more this fall for playing minutes.
The hit of the day went to senior Terrail Lambert. Armando Allen ran into the brick wall of Lambert to stop the Blue from scoring. That hit definitely woke up the crowd from its early slumber! The only knock of this group was that it let up at the end for the Blue to escape with the win and the Steak dinner.
Overall this unit is going to be solid and will improve on last year's numbers!
Brandon Walker looked a lot better than last season, which isn't saying much, and Eric Maust had some good punts and some not so good punts. If Walker didn't hit the upright of his 46 yard field goal, this unit would have had a better day.
Overall I'm not sure if the Irish showed a lot because of adjusting to new personnel assignments (Mike Haywood calling the plays) and lack of depth problems. There were signs of improvement at several positions, but was it enough? We shall see in 136 days!
Thursday, October 4, 2012
Tomorrow night's contest with Northern Illinois will be one for the records as the Irish try to make it 25 consecutive victories at the JACC. After their resume building win over Kansas State last Tuesday, the Irish start the first of a six-game homestand- their longest of the season. ND will roll on Saturday, as NIU is very young and doesn't really have a consistent scorer. In just eight games this season, six different players have led the Huskies in scoring.
As for the Irish, the team has been hitting lights out since their losses to Baylor and Georgia Tech. Notre Dame has shot 119-244 (.488) from the field and 35-80 (.438) from three-point range. Leading the way so far has been Kyle McAlarney and Luke Harangody. McAlarney was brilliant in New York, scoring the final nine points for Notre Dame in their win over Kansas State. The junior guard is averaging 21.8 points in his past four outings, and that's probably why the Irish have rebounded from a 2-2start and reeled off four consecutive victories. The new streamlined Harangody single-handidly took control of the game against the Wildcats by scoring scoring 19 points and pulling down 14 rebounds in front of a national audience.
Harangody leads the Fighting Irish in both scoring (17.5 ppg.) and rebounding (8.9 rpg.). McAlarney is chipping in 14.6 points-per-game, followed by 12.9 points from senior forward Rob Kurz.
Notre Dame 94
Keys to the Game
1) Pressure the young Huskies. NIU has sent out a starting line-up of three freshmen guards over the past two games that includes Darion Anderson, Jeremy Landers and Michael Patton. If the Irish can rattle them early, this contest should be over by half.
2) Run at will! Notre Dame needs to push for an uptempo game. NIU currently has a streak of three consecutive halves of holding their opponents under 30 points. This will be the only streak broken on Saturday.
~ Notre Dame holds a 2-1 advantage over the Huskies in their all-time series.
~ Northern Illinois is 2-3 all time against Big East opponents. Their last win over a Big East opponent was a 77-68 triumph over DePaul at the NIU Convocation Center on November 28, 2005.
~ Irish teams are 52-17 (.754) all-time versus teams that now comprise the Mid-American Conference.
Wednesday, October 3, 2012
Tuesday, October 2, 2012
From the national ballot of 75 candidates and a pool of hundreds of eligible nominees The National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame announced the 2008 College Football Hall of Fame Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly Division I-A) Class, which includes the names of 13 First Team All- America players and two legendary coaches. Notre Dame Legend Lou Holtz was among the chosen few to be enshrined to College Football immortality.
Archie Manning, Chairman of the NFF and CFOH said,
"The 2008 class represents six decades of football's finest athletes, and they are all exceptionally worthy of having their accomplishments preserved forever in the College Football Hall of Fame."
The only coach in NCAA history to lead six different programs to bowl games, Coach Lou Holtz was a fixture in the college football coaching landscape for more than three decades.
Best known for his tenure at Notre Dame, Holtz led the Fighting Irish to the 1988 National Championship and 100 wins. He won conference championships at William & Mary, North Carolina State and Arkansas and is the only coach to guide four different programs to final Top 20 rankings. The Follansbee, W.V., native produced the best four-year win-loss record in NC State history and led Arkansas to six straight bowl games and four Top Ten finishes.
Holtz received Man of the Year laurels from the Walter Camp Foundation in 1997 and twice earned the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) Academic Achievement Award, which annually honors the school with the highest graduation rate among members of its football team. He also coached Heisman Trophy winner Tim Brown and College Football Hall of Fame inductees Chris Zorich and Billy Ray Smith.
Here is the list of the 2008 class:
TROY AIKMAN- QB, UCLA (1987- 88)
BILLY CANNON - HB, LSU (1957- 59)
JIM DOMBROWSKI- OT, Virginia (1982- 85
PAT FITZGERALD- LB, Northwestern (1994- 96)
WILBER MARSHALL- LB, Florida (1980- 83
RUEBEN MAYES- RB, Washington State (1982-85)
RANDALL McDANIEL- OG, Arizona State (1984-87)
DON McPHERSON- QB, Syracuse (1984- 87)
JAY NOVACEK - TE, Wyoming (1982- 84)
DAVE PARKS- SE, Texas Tech (1961- 63)
RON SIMMONS- NG, Florida State (1977- 80)
THURMAN THOMAS- RB, Oklahoma State (1984- 87)
ARNOLD TUCKER- QB, Army (1944- 46)
JOHN COOPER- 192-84-6 (.691) -- Tulsa (1977-84), Arizona State (1985-87), Ohio State (1988- 2000)
LOU HOLTZ- 249-132-7 (.651) -- William & Mary (1969-71), North Carolina State (1972-75), Arkansas (1977-83), Minnesota (1984-85), Notre Dame (1986-96), South Carolina (1999-2004)
Speaking of Brown, Tim was just short on his first try of making the Hall of Fame. Only one Heisman Trophy winner, Billy Cannon (LSU), was selected for the 2008 class. Below is a breakdown of recipients' accomplishments:
- One Heisman Trophy winner (Cannon)
- Three players who placed in the Top Three in Heisman Trophy voting
(Cannon - 1st and 3rd, McPherson - 2nd, Aikman - 3rd)
- Nine consensus First Team All-Americas
(Aikman, Cannon, Fitzgerald, Marshall, Mayes, McDaniel, Novacek, Simmons, Thomas)
- Three unanimous First Team All- Americas (Cannon, Dombrowski, McPherson)
Four multiple-year First Team All-America honorees (Cannon - 2, Fitzgerald - 2, Marshall - 2, Simmons - 2)
- One Maxwell Award winners (McPherson)
- One Walter Camp Player of the Year (Cannon)
- One Sullivan Award winner (Tucker)
- Two Davey O'Brien Award winners (Aikman, McPherson)
- One Nagurski Award winner (Fitzgerald - Two-time recipient)
- One Bednarik Award winner (Fitzgerald - Two-time recipient)
- Two members of National Championship teams (Cannon, Tucker)
- Five conference Players of the Year (Aikman, Cannon, Fitzgerald, Mayes, Thomas)
- Eight multiple-year First Team All- Conference selections
(Cannon - 3, Dombrowski - 2, Fitzgerald - 2, Marshall - 3, Mayes - 2, McDaniel - 2, Parks - 2, Thomas - 3)
- Six first round NFL Draft picks
(Aikman - 1st Overall, Cannon, Dombrowski, Marshall, McDaniel, Parks - 1st Overall)
- Six Decades Represented: 1990s (1) - Fitzgerald; 1980s (8) - Aikman, Dombrowski, Marshall, Mayes, McDaniel, McPherson, Novacek, Thomas; 1970s (1) - Simmons; 1960s (1) - Parks; 1950s (1) - Cannon; 1940s (1) - Tucker