Thursday, September 30, 2010

Irish Blogger Gathering: Backing into Backup College

This week the IBG questions come from Domer Law. Head over there to check out his answers and a compilation of responses from the other IBG-ers at well.

Tough week to be an Irish fan...but no matter how tough it gets it'll always be better than being a BC fan. Let's get to it!

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?

For the record, people in Camp A wear helmets, headphones, and don't like it when people touch their ears. That being said, it's ok for fans to express some doubts as to whether Kelly is the right guy. In the first few weeks there have definitely been some coaching blunders that deserve critique and the flat, uninspired team that took the field Saturday certainly raised an eyebrow. Expressing doubt is reasonable; it's also totally different than already declaring Kelly is doomed for failure.

Personally, I still believe in Coach Kelly. He has almost two decades of head coaching experience, a winning pedigree, and an acute understanding and appreciation for the uniqueness of Notre Dame. I'm not ready to guarantee he's going to win national titles at Notre Dame, but I am more than willing to be patient and see what he can build.

Time and time again people rush to hand down long-term judgments despite the fact that there's little to no basis for them. The sports world we live in requires an over the top, immediate reaction to every win, loss, pass, rush, or facial expression. Some are ready to deem Kelly a failure based on three games. Simply put: they're morons. Give him some time and let's see what happens.

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 because it's the greatest school on the planet. Now I'm incredibly biased, but my reasoning would be two-fold. Football-wise, there's a huge appeal in being a part of the resurrection of a sleeping giant. The Notre Dame fan base is more far reaching than any other in collegiate sports and it's desperate for a truly legitimate return to glory. A player who evolves into a key contributor in pulling the Irish off the mat and helping them ascend to the top of the college football world will forever be a legend--just ask Tony Rice, Rocket Ismail, and Michael Stonebreaker.

Outside of football, you graduate with one of the most respected degrees in the country and have an extensive, powerful, and accommodating network of alumni there to offer help and guidance for the rest of your life. The combination of that rolled in with the fantastic academic support system in place, the beauty of campus, and the deliciousness of CJ's Pub Burgers and consider me committed.

If I were a recruit and removed all my biases (because I'd never let any of my children attend Michigan or Southern Cal and I feel like it goes without saying that they wouldn't want to go to Purdue or Michigan State), the three most appealing schools (not including ND because there's no way to remove that bias) are Stanford, Michigan, and Pitt.

Stanford is an elite school academically, has a great coach (though who knows how long he'll stay), a team on the rise, and a gorgeous campus (paired with far better weather than South Bend). Michigan is a traditional power and a fan base that's truly passionate (something Stanford can't offer). Lastly, I chose Pitt because they play in a weaker conference that paves the way to the BCS and they've had some success sending guys to the League. I'd rather them than Southern Cal because the Trojans are on probation and coached by a smug douche bag.

No matter what my situation or biases though, BC would be my safety school.

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?

It won't get as bad as 2007 simply because that was a collection of players totally devoid of developed talent or direction. I think this year's squad has both talent and direction, though if Nate Montana becomes our starting quarterback at any juncture it'll be time for everyone to head to the fallout shelter.

If you have faith in Brian Kelly then you have to believe this team is going to progress as opposed to go down the toilet like the previous two. One big thing we have going for us this year is that the schedule allows us to come up for air with some cupcakes (Western Michigan, Tulsa, Army) that should help build confidence. While the team took a step backwards last week against Stanford there was clear progress each of the first three games. Hopefully that was just a bump in the road and not something indicative of what the rest of the season will look like in terms of production and effort level.

There are plenty of young starters (namely the one heading the offense and the guys protecting him) that are going to experience growing pains but should get better as the season wears on. Some great coaches have had rough starts in their first seasons at major schools. Lou Holtz started 1-4 at Notre Dame (including a 28-10 whipping in ND Stadium at the hands of Alabama) while Nick Saban started 6-6 at Alabama (including a loss at home to Louisiana-Monroe).

One thing those disappointing seasons shared in common though was a strong finish that hinted at the success that would eventually come. Holtz's squad had an inspiring last second comeback victory over Southern Cal in the Colosseum while Saban and the Tide won their bowl game. If Brian Kelly is who we hope he is then we'll see that same sort of strong finish that gives us some momentum into the offseason.

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

5. ND has Notre Dame Stadium, The Grotto, The Dome, TD Jesus, The Basilica. BC has...the Mods?
4. They worship Doug Flutie and celebrate Music City Bowl berths. ND has Joe Montana, 7 Heismans, and 11 Titles.
3. Because Frank Leahy chose ND over BC and Frank Leahy is a smart man.
2. I've really tried and I can't think of a single reason why I'd rather go to BC than Notre Dame.
1. Only a moron would want to be Fredo Corleone when they could be Michael.

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.

I love Notre Dame Football and whether we're 4-0 or 0-4 I'm going to be excited to watch the Irish play. If it happens to be a rough year then that means maybe I'll have to tailgate a little harder to convince myself that we're going to win that day...but if that's what it takes so be it.

There are 12 days out of every 365 that you're going to be able to watch Notre Dame play football. That's 3% of the days in a year. Come on man, you can't find a way to fire yourself up? You never know when something memorable will happen even in a tough year (like ND over SC in '86, ND over LSU in '97, ND over Tennessee in '04, and ND over SC in '10).

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

It's going to take awhile to set up the actual question so stay with me...

"You've been quoted as saying that the reason you chose to sling the ball around the yard so much at Cincinnati was you felt you were outmatched talent-wise most weeks and the best opportunity to win was "shoot and make as many 3's as possible." You went on to say that you'd much rather have a balanced, more traditional offense in terms of run-to-pass ratio.

Some people may look at the splits of your offenses at Cincy and Central Michigan and not believe you, but I went back further and looked at the statistics of your 2003 D-II championship team at Grand Valley State. The Lakers actually ran the ball 60% (!!!) of the snaps on offense, essentially averaged equal yards passing and rushing (223.7 passing, 215.9 rushing), and held the ball on average about five minutes longer than opponents (32:20 to 27:36).

My question to you is do you see the team evolving over the next few years into a style of play more reminiscent of your Grand Valley State teams, where there was a heavy commitment to the run in a much more balanced attack? Is it just a matter of getting the right type of players in place that fit your scheme better? Or has your offensive philosophy evolved a bit over the last seven years to the point where you think it's more beneficial to pass more than run?"

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