I've had a ton going on lately and with my head spinning at 1000mph it's tough to sit down and write the coherent column our loyal readers deserve. What I thought could jumpstart things a bit was a full-throttle, old school, Simmons-style Ramblings column where we can touch on just about everything that's been going on with Notre Dame, college football, and life in general in one fell swoop. Let's get to it!
Lou Somogyi's opening paragraphs in his article about Kelly's decision to pass at the end of the Tulsa game instead of kick the field goal almost perfectly reflected my feelings. I have a lot of confidence in Ruffer--as every fan should--but all I was thinking was, "he's due to miss...we've already had an extra point blocked...we're into the wind...please let's just score a touchdown." That's where we've arrived as Notre Dame fans: instead of believing the Irish will find a way to win no matter the odds we always brace and prepare ourselves for the worst case scenario. We're like Red Sox fans prior to 2004 when the entire Fenway crowd would pucker the first moment it seemed things could go wrong. I truly believe that rubs off on the players; it really is a palpable feeling in the stands. It needs to change in order for this team to be success and regain a true homefield advantage. Only twice in the past decade do I remember having confidence that we'd come up with the key play in pressure situation: 2002 (because of the defense) and 2005 (thanks to the offense). It's up to the team to flip the fans by coming up big and letting that snowball like it did in '02 and '05. Who will supply our moment that turned things around in fans' psyches like Dave Roberts' stolen base did for the Red Sox in 2004?
The loss to Navy was more embarrassing than the loss to Tulsa. Navy may be a better team than Tulsa, but Notre Dame completely rolled over in the Meadowlands. The Irish fought to the bitter end of the Tulsa game.
Notre Dame's in-stadium atmosphere is only lacking because the team isn't winning. When the product on the field is elite then the true homefield advantage will return. Anyone who was at the 2005 ND-Southern Cal game will tell you that no jumbtron is necessary to create a loud, hostile environment--you just need a team to believe in.
Every team in college football that wins a game has a speed advantage. Every losing team doesn't have enough team speed. Why? Because teams that execute well appear far faster since they're being aggressive and decisive on both sides of the ball. To listen to people say Alabama lacks team speed after their loss to LSU is laughable--same goes for Southern Cal after their losses this year. Both the Tide and the Trojans are undoubtedly stocked with enough team speed to be elite. Indecision leads to hesitation and hesitation can make any player appear slow.
I'm really sad to see Armando go. He'd blossomed into a really good back this year.
The Burger Joint in the Washington DC Metro Area blows away Five Guys. It's not even close. Their Southwest Burger might be the best hamburger I've ever had.
Is anyone remotely surprised that Jason Whitlock immediately stood up and wrote not one, but two articles calling for Brian Kelly's head after the tragedy that took Declan Sullivan's life? He has no idea what the true facts and no clear understanding of the circumstances, but that won't stop him from shooting off his mouth. I looked at his archives and surprisingly he tip-toed very carefully around the Duke Lacrosse Scandal when it came out, reserving judgment until more facts leaked out. Why is it that he chose the exact opposite route here in a scenario that involved no mal-intent like the Duke scenario? He talks of living in a bizarro world where the public would be outraged by Kelly's presumed negligence and not really care about Tiger Woods' infidelities. I'd buy him a ticket to that alternate universe if he'd just stay there forever and never stain the internet with his sensationalized garbage again.
There is a way too much smoke for there not to be a fire with the Cam Newton pay-for-play scandal. It's a shame that this will cast a pall over the Heisman race and the rest of the season. In terms of the academic fraud at Florida: who the hell cares? How is that relevant today? That's just an embittered school attempting to slander the kid. Of course fans of these SEC schools who are slinging serious mud in this situation will root for their hated rivals come bowl season for "the good of their conference." Bill highlighted how backwards and stupid that thinking is in a column earlier this year. I'm so glad Notre Dame isn't in a conference.
Notre Dame fans need to stop calling for Brian Kelly's head. Yes, year one has been a failure. You will get no argument from me or anyone with a reasonably objective pair of eyes. He's yet to show any clear sign during his nine games that he's capable of leading Notre Dame back into the sport's elite echelon. But deal in reality: he's going to be here AT LEAST through 2012. It's completely counter-productive for the people in the fan base to envelope the program in this toxic and venomous environment because they're convinced Kelly's doomed to fail. He has an ocean to cross to get back on track, but he should be given the chance to do so and should be able to count on the support of the Notre Dame Faithful. It does no good to turn on him right now, all it does it perpetuate this terrible, negative atmosphere that's existed since 2007 (with a brief BK honeymoon period breaking it up from last December through this Labor Day).
I'm 50% sure that Les Miles is a crappy coach and 50% sure he's truly a mad genius. I'm 100% sure I want Michigan to hire him rather than Jim Harbaugh when Rich Rod is inevitably shoved out the door. In fact, I'd greatly appreciate if Jerry Jones would just bite the bullet and put Harbaugh in Big D so the Irish don't have to worry about facing him again.
I think the only person who likes to hear himself talk more than Colin Cowherd is Rush Limbaugh. Cowherd's rant about how John Wall dancing before his first home game means he'll never be a great point guard was in the Epic Fail Hall of Fame.
One the thing that drives me nuts is when fans are so negative, irrational, and sometimes downright nasty about how Kelly is terrible and the program is dead...but then they hedge it with "I hope that I'm wrong." So they come across like a complete jackass, but thanks to internet anonymity and that hedge there's no downside. If they're right they'll be the first to pound their chest and portray themselves as a prophet. If they're wrong and people point it out they say, "well I didn't want to be right anyway." Is there another arena in life where you can so passionately and blindly argue and pontificate about one opinion, then turn around and just wipe your hands clean of the dirt you smeared without consequence when the opposite happens?
Oregon is probably the most explosive offense I've ever seen. I can't imagine anyone slowing them down this year. And I don't care how good their video "Return of the Quack" is (it really is good), if my roommate Don plays it one more time I'm going to tear his ACL with the DVD controller.
Did anyone catch the newspaper article that flashed during the 30 for 30 on Marcus Dupree that's headline was "Is it time to let Switzer Go?" The first line was something to the effect of "Switzer is too busy making himself money to coach the football team." This was three games into the 1982 season when he was only one year removed from a string of eight straight Big 8 conference championship. This is almost identical to the hysterical meltdowns happening on the Texas fan site Orangebloods this week after another Longhorn loss. Just a few of the topics were, "All the good Mack Brown had done in 12 years has been erased in one season" and "Is this loss grounds to fire Mack Brown?" It's good to know that complete and utter morons with typewriters existed back then as well as now.
My Wake Forest Demon Deacons ended up 8-5 with a victory over Nevada in a bowl game I can't remember in the first year of our NCAA Football 2011 Dynasty. Congrats to frequent reader/poster Lord of the Shots for leading his Texas Tech Red Raiders to the national title. I hope he enjoys the Sears Trophy until I shatter his dreams in year two.
I think that Father Jenkins has done an excellent job handling the Declan Sullivan tragedy and his heartfelt letter to students and alumni was extremely well done. I have the utmost faith in him--the man is a great leader who has shown a spine in some difficult situations, something Monk never seemed to do.
It amazes me how many people seem to think the Notre Dame Administration's sole purpose is to take your money and they don't care about the football program and whether it wins. Is there a high overlap in this group of "fans" with people who where tin foil on their heads because the US Government is spying on them?
I recently heard the "My Wish" song they play for that heartwarming SportsCenter segment at a wedding which was completely bizarre. Rascall Flatts has to know that there are millions of men who now associate that song with terminal illnesses, right?
WHY AARON LYNCH? WHYYYYYY?????????
Like many people I don't like Kelly's pass-to-run ratio, but I really think this is a scenario where he needs to get the right players in place for his scheme in order to maximize the running game. I've posted it here a few times previously and I'll post it again: during his final national title season at Grand Valley State 60% of his plays were runs, only 40% passes, and the yardage breakdown was literally almost 50-50. I'm still optimistic that we'll become more balanced as time goes by. A lot of that is coaching along the offensive line; once again it appears we're regressing over the course of the year after a strong start.
I'm glad Conan O'Brien's back. Chances are that I'll barely ever watch it, but I'm still glad it's there. It's identical to how I feel about the NHL prior to the playoffs.
It feels way too early for college basketball. I'll do a much more in-depth preview soon, but I really think if this team can get some consistent interior depth from Jack Cooley and possibly Mike Broghammer then the Irish can make serious noise. Look at the Top 25 and the preseason All-American teams; this is a very watered down year across the board. Brey of course is on record as only shooting for a top eight finish, but this has a chance to be a very special year. I really, really like this team. I'm sure it's not as much as Billy likes his Nittany Lions, but still...