Thursday, January 27, 2011

Irish Basketball: Something Special Brewing?

It's long overdue, but I've finally carved out some time to put down some thoughts on Notre Dame's great start to the 2010-2011 basketball season. The Irish currently sit comfortably at #14 in the polls and 17-4 overall in the midst of what essentially amounts to a bye week.

Monday's victory over #2 Pitt on the road has Irish fans convinced that great things are on the way while others are still very skeptical about the true ceiling of the team. Let's dive right into what's gone on over first few months of the year

True Grit

There is no debating that Ben Hansbrough is the heart and soul of this year’s Irish squad. He has taken the torch from Tory Jackson and become the de facto leader on the court, not only igniting the Irish offense but far more importantly awakening a long dormant (read: non-existent) Irish defense.

In almost every season of the last decade Notre Dame has been one of the worst defensive teams in the country. That has completely changed this year and it’s blatantly obvious to anyone that’s followed the team through the years.

Now there may be some non-believers out there that will claim it’s an illusion, but statistics support the theory that there's been marked improvement. Here is a list with the number of games Notre Dame allowed an opponent to score 80+ points in the past five seasons:

2009-2010: 5
2008-2009: 9
2007-2008: 10
2006-2007: 6
2005-2006: 7

You know how many times Notre Dame has allowed 80 points this season? ONE! And it was in a double overtime victory against Georgia. My safe assumption is that Mike Brey didn't suddenly have a some sort of defensive epiphany this offseason. Hansbrough is tough, gritty, and relentless and these traits have rubbed off on the rest of the team on the defensive side of the ball. In key spots Notre Dame has found ways to get the necessary stops.

Read that last sentence again. When’s the last time we’ve been able to utter that about the basketball team?

The team has taken on the personality of its leader and that’s making a colossal difference on a team that isn’t nearly as high-octane on the offensive end as in previous years. He’s not the fastest guy, he’s not the most athletic guy, but that doesn’t stop Hansbrough from hounding whoever he’s assigned to guard.

He is almost single-handedly debunking the myth that Notre Dame doesn’t have the athletes to play good defense in the Big East. Defense is not as much about having athletes as it is about effort and attitude. Ben Hansbrough proves that every time he takes the court and the result has been the best defensive team of the Mike Brey Era—or at the very least the best since Ryan Humphrey was sending shots into the fourth row.

Burn Baby, Burn

I know it's ugly, but I personally LOVE The Burn Offense. It's exactly what Notre Dame needs to do to compete with the upper echelon Big East teams (read: teams with loads of athleticism). If we line up against the Pitts and Louisvilles of the world and try to just go up and down the court with them we're going to win 1 out of every 4 times. By shortening the game we limit opponent possessions and over time begin to frustrate the living hell out of them.

Year in and year out we're one of the most efficient teams in the entire NCAA in terms of points per offensive possession and The Burn plays right into that. We're saying, "we're going to make it a game of first team to 60 and whoever is more efficient with the ball will win." Frankly, I like our odds in a game like that and the results prove that to be true. In the 8 games Notre Dame has used The Burn they’re 6-2 including three wins over Pitt and four total victories over ranked teams. The two losses? By a combined 3 points.

Hansbrough was masterful in his orchestration of the offense against Pitt even without his old backcourt mate Tory Jackson to aid him. Last year the combination of Ben and Tory was great at creating a quality opportunity under time constraints—this is where having that offensive chemistry that Brey raves about (at the expense of developing a bench) comes up big.

A lot of times the defense begins to press a bit if only because they're antsy and frustrated by how slow everything develops and how patient they need to be. That lack of patience creates a crease and when we convert it completely deflates the other team.

Just think about the mental letdown a defense experiences when an opponent hits a shot at the end of the shot clock. Now picture that happening once every few possessions over the course of the entire game...and when ND picks up an offensive rebound it starts all over again. That has a serious mental effect on the opponent and the collective result usually turns out in Notre Dame's favor.

The Fly in the Ointment

In a season full of so many pleasant surprises there’s been one somewhat baffling disappointment: Scott Martin. Mike Brey has raved about how he’s the best offensive player he’s ever coached. In the WNG basketball preview last year Kyle McAlarney said, “Scott is as talented a player as ND has had in recent years, the most talented player I ever played with at Notre Dame…He reminds me of Chris Mullen, he is a pure scorer.”

Needless to say my expectations were very, very high heading into the season. So far they’re about a few acres from even being approached.

Martin is a serviceable complementary player, but he’s hardly been the offensive force he was built up to be. He's been a below average shooter (36% FG and 30% 3-pt in Big East play), a relatively slow defender (tied with Cooley in steals with a whopping 5), has flashed mediocre touch around the basket, and is a marginal rebounder. That’s not Chris Mullen, it’s the poor man’s Dan Miller.

Now there are a variety of reasons for why he’s had such a tough time making an impact this season. First and foremost is the fact that he suffered a devastating knee injury last year. Is it possible that the step he’s certainly lost could have robbed him of his explosiveness? Absolutely, in fact it’s probable.

Another huge factor is the adjustment to the speed of the Big East after two whole years off from game action. There are times when he’s out there where you can tell he’s overwhelmed and has a hard time processing everything.

There were back-to-back possessions in the Syracuse game where Martin got the ball, panicked despite the fact that there really wasn’t a lot of pressure, and made a quick pass right into the hands of a defender. It was like the kid in 8th grade that barely plays and doesn’t want the ball in his hands because he doesn’t want to screw up.

I’m not ready to write off Scott Martin yet, but unfortunately my hope of him turning a corner this year is fading fast simply because we’ve yet to see any real flashes that indicate an arrival is on its way. I hope he proves me wrong, changes his number from #14 to #17, begins talking with a thick New York accent, and starts making it rain like this guy.

Uncharted Territory

Notre Dame is not a great team, but in a watered down year across the board in the NCAA it's certainly good enough to expect a berth in the Sweet 16. Who knows, depending on how the cards break in March the Irish could sneak even farther in the tournament. One of the ways to ensure the cards break is locking down a #3 seed.

Of course a team's objective is to earn as high a seed as possible, but this is particularly important for Notre Dame. Most projections have the Irish at either a #4 or #5 and in all honesty that's probably where they'll end up. But if they can manage to sneak into the bracket as a #3 they'll avoid a top seed in the round of 16 and open the door for a Cinderella run.

Look at the four top seeds in Bracketology right now and compare them to the next eight teams:

1: Duke, Kansas, Ohio State, Pitt
2: San Diego St, Texas, Villanova, UConn
3: BYU, Texas A&M, Syracuse, Purdue

Let's assume for the sake of this exercise that there's some sort of shuffling between the #2 and #3 seeds but the top seeds remain the same. The committee would shy away from putting an Irish squad in the same part of a bracket where they could face a fellow conference team in the Sweet 16. That means if ND is a #3 seed they could face San Diego St, Texas, BYU, Texas A&M, or Purdue. Those are all games that Notre Dame is absolutely capable of winning.

If Notre Dame lands as a #4 or #5 that means a date with Ohio State, Kansas, or Duke. Those three teams spell "good night" for Cinderella.

It's unrealistic to start making plans for Irish basketball in April, but it's time to heighten and embrace expectations in South Bend. Mike Brey has always been very reluctant to do that and in some instances I think that's sabotaged the team (specifically in '08-'09). This year's squad is different and one quote from Tyrone Nash after the Georgetown victory verifies it.

"We expect to win every game. With this group of guys we should win every game."

That's a far cry from Brey's normal mantra that usually includes "we just want to be in the top eight teams in the Big East." That's a sign that this team is not shying away from success; in fact, they're expecting it.

The fact that Brey hasn't done any sort of "damage control" to reel in expectations may actually hint that even he thinks something special could be brewing in South Bend. It's a baby step toward embracing heightened expectations, but hey, it's a start!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Top Ten Irish Recruiting Classes of All-Time

Brian Kelly has come out this recruiting season with guns blazing, landing a consensus top ten class loaded with elite prospects along both sides of the ball. The recent stretch of success where three five-star prospects along the defensive line pledged their commitment to the Irish has led fans to break out the hyperbole and start talking about how this may be the greatest class in Notre Dame history.

Only time will tell how great this class turns out to be, but today we'll examine the ten classes they'll be measured against when their time on campus is complete. If it finds a way to crack this list there's a good chance Notre Dame will be back in the upper echelon of college football's elite.

#10 - CLASS OF 1999

Headliners: Julius Jones, Gerome Sapp

Four-Year Record: 29-19

Crowning Achievement at ND: Earned berth in 2000 Fiesta Bowl…10-win season in 2002

Post-ND Achievements: One First Rounder (Faine)…One Second Rounder (Jones)

Bob Davie’s best recruiting effort ironically helped set up Ty Willingham’s year of success in 2002. The backbone of that “Return to Glory” defense was entrenched within the class of 1999. Linebacker Courtney Watson, safeties Gerome Sapp and Glenn Earl, and defensive linemen Cedric Hilliard and Darrell Campbell were all starters that arrived on campus that offseason. Perhaps the most shocking member of the class was Sapp, a top ten national prospect that the Irish managed to lure out of Texas.

On the offensive side of the ball Julius Jones brought a game-breaking home run threat at running back Notre Dame had lacked since Reggie Brooks graduated. He would go on to break the school single game rushing record in his final season against Pitt before being drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in the second round of the NFL Draft.

Helping to pave the way for him were center Jeff Faine and fellow offensive lineman Brennan Curtin. Faine would go on to become a three year starter and eventually a first round draft pick.

This class even had two elite specialists! Kicker Nick Setta turned out to be a one-man offensive powerhouse in 2002 while Joey Hildbold provided consistent punting for four straight seasons—something Notre Dame fans have pined for (and not received) in quite some time.

The fruits of Davie’s labor ultimately laid the foundation for a ten win season and one of the best defenses in recent Irish history. The only problem was he wasn’t around to see the harvest.

#9 - CLASS OF 1995

Headliners: Kory Minor, Autry Denson

Four-Year Record: 33-15

Crowning College Achievement: 9-3 season in 1998

Post-College Achievements: Rosenthal went on to an 8-year career in the NFL

The Class of 1994 was Holtz’s weakest recruiting effort at Notre Dame when he failed to land a single Parade or USA Today All-American. He answered that hiccup with a monster class in 1995 where he landed a whopping 11 members of the combined aforementioned All-American teams—and that doesn’t include the verbal commits he couldn’t get by admissions like Randy Moss and James Jackson.

The biggest catch in this class was USA Today Defensive Player of the Year Kory Minor. His mother famously gave the following quote when he told her that he didn’t want to go to Notre Dame on his visit because the weather in South Bend was too cold:

“Kory, do you see that man walking over there? Do you see that young lady over there? Do you see those students over there? They can handle this weather and so can you. I can buy you a coat; I can’t buy you a Notre Dame education. You WILL tell Coach Holtz you’re coming to Notre Dame.”

In the crew that accompanied him to campus was a trio of All-American linemen (Mike Rosenthal, Jerry Wisne, Tim Ridder) and running back Autry Denson. By the time Denson left school he’d broken one of Notre Dame’s most revered records: most all-time rushing yards.

Unfortunately this class’ accolades in the press didn’t lead to an overly success tenure on the field. Lou Holtz left town after the 1996 season and in the next two seasons the Irish went to two mid-to-lower level bowls before bottoming out at 5-7 in ’99.

Many would argue that Bob Davie was the reason that this highly touted group underachieved, but it must be noted that many of the players that were so highly regarded turned out to be overrated.

In any case, this group sneaks on the list partially for the fanfare it received when it was signed and partially because they deserve the benefit of the doubt (after all, Davie was their coach when they were upperclassmen).

#8 - CLASS OF 1988

Headliners: Rocket Ismail, Rodney Culver

Four-Year Record: 43-7

Crowning College Achievement: 1988 National Championship…National Runner-up in 1989…Three major bowl victories (’89 Fiesta, ’90 Orange, ’92 Sugar)

Post-College Achievements: One First Rounder (Derek Brown)…Ismail signed the largest contract in North American football history out of college ($18.2 million over four years).

The 1988 class didn’t have a slew of superstar performers that other recruiting hauls had, but it had one man that more than made up for it: The Rocket.

Rocket Ismail burst onto the scene as a freshman, helping Notre Dame secure its 11th national championship. His electrifying speed dazzled fans and earned him two All-American honors as well as second place in the Heisman voting behind Ty Detmer in 1990.

Other major contributors included linebacker Devon McDonald, running back Rodney Culver, tight end Derek Brown, and cornerback Rod Smith. All spent time in the NFL and played large roles in notching the most wins over a four-year period in school history.

#7 - CLASS OF 1989

Headliners: Rick Mirer, Demetrius Dubose

Four-Year Record: 41-8

Crowning Achievement at ND: Three Major Bowl Victories (’89 Orange, ’91 Sugar, ’92 Cotton)

Post-ND Achievements: Two First Rounders (Mirer, Smith)…Two Second Rounders (Dubose, Brooks)

Lou Holtz used the momentum from the 1988 National Championship to help land one of the nation’s highest rated classes the following spring. The gem that landed on campus in August was the best quarterback in the country, Rick Mirer. Despite the fact that he was a dropback passer that was sought after by almost every major school, Mirer chose Notre Dame’s option attack for the education and the chance to chase championships.

After playing understudy to Tony Rice during the ’89 campaign, Mirer quickly emerged as a leader and seized the starting position for his last three years on campus. After taking Notre Dame to three major bowls as starter and setting a slew of passing records, he moved on to the NFL and was picked #2 in the 1993 Draft.

His battery mate in the backfield was classmate Reggie Brooks, brother of former Irish running back Tony Brooks. He wasn’t nearly as highly touted as Tony, but Reggie handed in one of the most spectacular seasons in Notre Dame history his senior year piling up 1,372 yards at a staggering 8.0 yard per carry. He would join Mirer in the NFL, getting swooped up by the Washington Redskins in the second round. Jerome Bettis, Mirer, and Brooks actually ended up 1-2-3 in rookie of the year voting their first year in the league, the only time three players from the same school ever swept the top three slots.

On the opposite side of the ball Demetrius Dubose and Junior Bryant helped anchor a defense that shut down Steve Spurrier’s high-flying attack in the Sugar Bowl after the ’91 season. After productive careers in South Bend they both went on to log substantial time in the NFL.

This class was essential to Holtz continuing the momentum he’d built in his first three years in South Bend and provided key building blocks to Notre Dame piecing together a six year run where they were arguably the best program in college football.

#6 - CLASS OF 2003

Headliners: Brady Quinn, Victor Abiamiri

Four-Year Record: 30-19

Crowning Achievement at ND: Earned back-to-back berths in BCS Bowls (’05 Fiesta, ’06 Sugar)

Post-ND Achievements: One First Round Pick (Quinn)…Two Second Rounders (Abiamiri, Laws)

This was Ty Willingham’s only recruiting effort that would land in the Top 100 All-Time Recruiting Classes at Notre Dame. Riding the wave from a successful 2002 campaign he reeled in elite prospects from coast-to-coast and the Irish surged to one of the highest rated classes in the country.

The jewel of the class was defensive end Victor Abiamiri. A five-star prospect by every recruiting outlet, he would go on to become a solid two-year starter for the Irish before being drafted in the second round in the NFL Draft. Joining him along the line was Trevor Laws. In his redshirt season of 2007 he was about the only bright spot for arguably the worst year in school history. He notched the best statistical season for a Notre Dame defensive linemen since Ross Browner, registering 112 tackles.

Also on the defensive side of the ball in the class of ’03 was the safety tandem of Chinedum Ndukwe and Tom Zbikowski. Both had a slew of highlight reel plays in the secondary and the return game and have been contributors for their respective teams in the NFL.

While Abiamiri was the big name coming to campus, the biggest name at the end of four years was undoubtedly quarterback Brady Quinn. A four-year starter, Quinn rewrote the Irish passing record books under the guidance of Charlie Weis. He finished in the top four of the Heisman voting during his junior and senior seasons while engineering back-to-back BCS berths.

Fellow classmate Jeff Samardzija was on the receiving end of 27 of Quinn’s record 95 touchdown passes. The receiver did plenty of his own rewriting of the Irish record books in two prolific seasons under Weis.

While this class was the foundation for back-to-back major bowl berths it was not a harbinger of prolonged success. The bottom fell out the year after most of this class graduated and the result was the worst three-year stretch in school history. The Class of 2003 didn’t permanently launch Notre Dame back into the national championship landscape, but the steep fall the followed highlights just how impactful and strong the class really was.

#5 - CLASS OF 1987

Headliners: Chris Zorich, Ricky Watters

Four-Year Record: 41-8

Crowning Achievement at ND: 1988 National Championship

Post-ND Achievements: One First rounder (Lyght), Two Second Rounders (Watters, Zorich)

When Lou Holtz was recruiting after his first season at Notre Dame he approached prospects with this simple line:

“Son, you have two options: you can join me and take part in Notre Dame’s return to glory or you can watch it on television.”

Dr. Lou’s pitch landed a well-rounded group blended with hard-nosed grapplers and talented skill players. On defense, the duo of nose tackle Chris Zorich and linebacker Michael Stonebreaker stepped in as major contributors as sophomores on the 1988 national championship squad. Both helped transform on to earn All-American status by their senior seasons.

On offense the running back duo of Ricky Watters and Tony Brooks helped ignite the Irish offense, filling the void left by Heisman Winner Tim Brown. Watters led the national championship team in receptions and the next season was the second leading rusher behind Tony Rice as he shuttled between receiver and running back.

This class was the first clear indication that Notre Dame was going to be a force on the national recruiting scene under Lou Holtz and set the stage for a five-year stretch of highly acclaimed hauls. The result was a 23-game win streak, a national championship, and the removal of all doubt that Notre Dame could be a power once again.

#4 - CLASS OF 1973

Headliners: Ross Browner, Luther Bradley

Four-Year Record: 38-8*

Crowning College Achievement: National Championship in ’73 and ‘77*

Post-College Achievements: One First Rounder (Browner)

*= Browner and Bradley were among five players who played a fifth year in 1977, the year they won the national championship.

In 1972 the NCAA ruled that freshman were eligible to compete in D-I college football. Ara Parseghian seized that opportunity shortly thereafter and corralled a slew of instant impact players on the defensive side of the ball that would help push his Fighting Irish over the top and earn his second national championship.

The keystone of the class was defensive end Ross Browner, who made his presence felt instantly as a freshman. He actually scored the first points of the 1973 season as a freshman when he blocked a punt that went through the back of the endzone for an Irish safety. By the time he left South Bend he’d pieced together one of the most productive and dominant careers in Irish history, racking up 340 tackles—including 77 tackles for loss—and the Outland and Lombardi Awards en route to being selected in the first round of the 1978 NFL Draft.

Defensive back Luther Bradley went on to set the Notre Dame record for interceptions in a career with 17. Defensive end Willie Fry was a standout contributor as well. When the trio of Bradley, Browner, and Fry wrapped up their careers they had won a pair of national championships, the only group of players to do it since Frank Leahy left town.

#3 - CLASS OF 1963

Headliners: Alan Page, Kevin Hardy

Three-Year Record: 25-3-1*

Crowning Achievement at ND: 1966 National Championship

Post-ND Achievements: One NFL Hall of Famer (Page), Four First Rounders (Page, Hardy, Regner, Seiler)

* = Were not eligible to play as freshman in ‘63

The groundwork for Ara Parseghian ultimate “return to glory” in 1966 was actually laid the year before he arrived when Hugh Devore lured four stellar linemen to campus: Alan Page (DL), Kevin Hardy (DL), Tom Regner (OL), and Tom Seiler (OL).

The Class of ’66 burst onto the scene during Parseghian’s opening campaign in ‘64, the first year they were eligible. They contributed greatly to Notre Dame’s record turnaround from 2-7 in ‘63 to 9-1 in ‘64. Under Ara’s guidance they breathed life into a sleeping giant and immediately reestablished Notre Dame’s presence on the national stage.

Two years later Page, Hardy, and fellow classmate Jim Lynch anchored a dominant defense that allowed only 38 points the entire 1966 season. Meanwhile on the other side of the ball, Regner and Seiler made life a easier for sophomore quarterback Terry Hanratty and helped pave the way to a consensus national championship.

The 2011 recruiting class certainly has an impressive group of offensive and defensive linemen committed, but they have a lot to live up to if they are going to surpass the success and sheer dominance of the ’63 group.

#2 - CLASS OF 1990

Headliners: Bryant Young, Jerome Bettis

Four-Year Record: 40-8-1

Crowning College Achievement: 11-1 season and #2 final ranking in 1993

Post-College Achievements: Five First Rounder (Bettis, Bryant, Taylor, Burris, and Carter)…One Future NFL Hall of Famer (Bettis)

Lou Holtz’s greatest recruiting class was chock full of superstars on both sides of the ball. Quarterback Kevin McDougal was the sparkplug and leader of the ’93 squad that controversially finished runner-up to Florida State in the polls. His main target was big-play wide receiver Lake Dawson, who averaged almost 18 yards per catch over the course of his career.

The most well-known member of this class is without a doubt “The Bus, ” Jerome Bettis. As a fullback in Holtz’s option attack he punished the middle of defenses to the tune of 5.6 yards per carry. His performance in the ’92 Sugar Bowl where he decimated Steve Spurrier trash talking Florida Gators down the stretch has a special place in Irish lore. Clearing the way for Bettis was 1993 Lombardi Award winner and All-American offensive tackle Aaron Taylor, one of the best Irish linemen ever, and long-time NFL starter center Tim Ruddy.

On the defensive side of the ball the squad had three future first round picks: defensive tackle Bryant Young and defensive backs Jeff Burris and Tom Carter. Defensive linemen Jim Flanigan and Oliver Gibson were

Top to bottom this was a loaded class that was full of superstars (Bettis, Young, Burris) and valuable role players alike. When all was said and done, 14 of its 21 players landed in the NFL. They never brought home a national title, but many consider the ’92 squad to be the most talented Irish team in the last 50 years to fall short of the championship and the ’93 outfit was essentially robbed of their rightful title.

What they won’t be robbed of though is their rightful title as the best Notre Dame recruiting class of the last 60 years.

#1 - CLASS OF 1946

Headliners: Leon Hart, Jim Martin

Four-Year Record: 36-0-2

Crowning College Achievement: What, 36-0-2 isn’t achievement enough? Included in those 36 wins were three national championships (’46, ’47, ’49)

Post-College Achievements: #1 overall pick of the NFL Draft (Hart)

This wasn’t just the best class in Notre Dame history, but by just about any metric used it’s the greatest class in the history of all college football.

Four years. Three national titles. Zero losses. Not even Notre Dame fans could find anything wrong with that!

The cherry on top? Defensive end Leon Hart won the Heisman Trophy in 1949, which earned him the distinction of being one of only two linemen to ever win the award.

If you’re talking about production on the field in college then this class will always be the gold standard. There’s only one chance to top it: go undefeated and untied for all four years. Good luck with that…

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


It came three weeks after Christmas, but Santa Claus dropped off the mother of all gifts for the Irish Faithful. The package was 6 feet 3 inches tall, weighed 227 pounds, and its name was Michael Floyd.

In a press conference today in South Bend, Floyd announced his intentions to return for his senior season at Notre Dame. In a prepared statement Floyd declared, "I’m returning to Notre Dame for three reasons: to earn my degree, return Notre Dame to the top, and improve myself as a player."

The rest of his comments throughout the brief conference made crystal clear that his priorities are exactly in line with what Notre Dame preaches about its student-athletes.

First, he understands the value of his degree and what the doors it will open down the road. He promised his mother he'd graduate and he's fulfilling that promise. He reiterated a big reason why he chose Notre Dame in the first place was "because I knew it was a 40-year decision and not a four-year decision" and that "graduating from Notre Dame will help me for the rest of my life."

(If you really "get" what Notre Dame is about then you can't help but smile ear-to-ear when you hear him say that. This is why Notre Dame doesn't lower its standards to SEC levels in an attempt to compete. There are plenty of world-class, elite athletes out there that want to be a part of Notre Dame, it's the coaches job to go bring them to South Bend.)

Next, he puts Notre Dame before himself. He says he feels the Irish are close and that "he wants to be part of something great."

(How is that for an indication that the culture of Notre Dame Football is changing? He's not giving lip service, he's passing up hundreds of thousands of dollars to return to his team. This is a far cry from the atmosphere that Brian Kelly walked in to last December.)

Lastly, Floyd made a declaration that should send shivers down the spines of every defensive back on the 2011 Notre Dame schedule: "I want to show the country that I'm the best receiver in college football in 2011." He's committed to working his butt off to become the best receiver in the country and when you blend one of the most physically gifted and talented specimens in the sport with that drive only great things will happen.

(He's going to have to go to confession after what he does to Michigan's secondary. Call him Hand Banana...and for those that get that Aqua Teen reference, I nod in approval.)

The ceiling for the 2011 squad was immediately raised. No matter who emerges from the quarterback derby will have one of the best receivers in the country to reel in their throws.

Michael Floyd, thank you. Today was a terrible day at work and as I watched everything go wrong from the power shutting off in our building to contracts falling through to having to lug a security system down nine flights of stairs only to have the customer not even want to see it, I did it with a smile on my face because of your decision.

You're going to go down as the most prolific receiver in school history and shatter every record in the book. You deserve it all.


Thursday, January 6, 2011

Two Dudes, One Post: The Bowl Edition

Two Dudes, One Post returns with some bowl awards, a quick reflection on the ND-PSU bowl games, and some analysis of the coaching catastrophes in Ann Arbor and College Park, MD.

Let's get to it!

1. It's time for Bowl Awards! What was the best game you watched, best individual performance, biggest shocker, biggest disappointment (player or team), and one team that didn't play in a major bowl that you predict will emerge as a contender next year?

Best Game: North Carolina 30, Tennessee 27 (OT)...Poor Derek Dooley had the rug yanked out from under him twice this season. First it was the comedy of errors at LSU and now it's the terrible break against North Carolina. In both instances the clock hit zero and Tennessee had more points than the opponent, but the refs allowed for an additional play in each game and the result was ultimately an overtime loss. Exciting, ridiculous, absurd, heartbreaking finish.

Best Individual Performance: I'll give the nod to Damaris Johnson of Tulsa. On Christmas Eve in the Hawaii Bowl he was the leading rusher (98 yards and 2 TD's on just 5 carries) and receiver (101 yards and a TD on 4 catches) for the Golden Hurricane as they throttled Hawaii in paradise. He was a one man wrecking crew.

Biggest Shocker: Iowa showing up and finding a way to knock of Missouri. Kirk Ferentz is one of the most uninteresting coaches around, but man what a masterful performance keeping his team focused amongst controversy and suspension.

Biggest Disappointment: Nebraska. What began as a very, very promising season spiraled into one surrounded in controversy and turmoil and crash landed in the Holiday Bowl where they were whipped by a team they'd embarrassed back in September. Rematches are terrible in college football and the team that won the first game has everything to lose in game two, but there's no excuse for the giant turd they laid on the field against Washington.

Team on the Rise: Look no further than the Notre Dame Fighting Irish! If they can figure out the quarterback position--and Michael Floyd comes back (pleasepleasepleasepleeeeeeeeease)--then they're going to make serious noise in the fall.

Best Game: I want to pick the National Championship because I have high hopes for that game, but I'll go with last night's Ohio State-Arkansas game. A little disappointed with the outcome though.

Best Individual Performance: Andrew Luck throwing for 4 tds in the Orange Bowl.

Biggest Shocker: Alabama's beat down of Michigan State. Just wanted more out of this one for our conference's sake. Not even a big conference proponent but a 11-1 Big Ten team losing by 40 to a 10-3 SEC doesn't look good.

Biggest Disappointment: John Clay not trucking TCU's defense

Team on the Rise: Texas!

2. The bowl season has had plenty of exciting games (Music City Bowl) and plenty of duds (Liberty Bowl). Has the excitement of the three week bowl extravaganza had any effect on your stance of bowls vs playoffs? Are the bowls the best thing for college football because of their inclusiveness?

Mattare: I love college football so I love the bowls, but the proposal laid out by Wenzel has completely flipped me to a playoff guy. The bowls are good for college football and the legitimate ones not named after a pizza or could (and would) exist outside the proposed playoff. They're nice rewards for teams and perhaps more importantly allow for 15 extra practices in December which can pay huge dividends down the road.

Bill: "Inclusive" might not be the right word here. Bowls are great for the players and the die hard fans who aren't contending for a title. It extends the season by a month, they get to go somewhere warm and play a team they don't usually play. Once you get to the elite teams however, the bowl system is far from inclusive as we all know, that's why I want a playoff. And I like that dude's idea about incorporating the bowls into the playoff rounds (i.e. Sugar Bowl is the semi-final).

3. Pretend you're the Michigan Athletic Director. Do you fire Rich Rod? Do you risk putting all year eggs in the Jim Harbaugh basket? Who would you turn to if you fire Rodriguez and Harbaugh says no?

Mattare: You have to fire Rich Rod. He's been a terrible match since the day he stepped on campus and at this point it's more a matter of "when" than "if." Obviously target number one needs to be Jim Harbaugh. He's a former All-American, he played for Bo, and he teaches a brand of football that makes all Wolverine fans salivate. He also is holding a serious grudge against his alma mater and seems more interested in the NFL so a backup plan needs to be in place.

Popular opinion is that Brady Hoke is the next target thanks to his previous ties to Michigan, but that's not exactly a slam dunk hire. People claim that they need to go find a "Michigan Man" who has ties to the school, but I don't think that's necessarily true at all. What they need is the best coach they can find that understands and embraces all the tradition and history in Ann Arbor. Lou Holtz had no ties to Notre Dame before he arrived but he threw himself into the University and now he's more beloved than any alumnus not named Hesburgh or Parseghian.

Short List of the "Non-Michigan Man" to Call - Bobby Petrino (he's slimy enough to bail on Fayetteville), Charlie Strong (great, young defensive minded coach), and Kyle Whittingham (his teams play a hard-nosed brand of football).

Bill: I would fire Rich Rod. No encouraging signs on defense after year three? You're out. Everyone quickly forgets about Denard Robinson's staggering numbers when they start dropping conference games. Can't win without defense. Defense, defense, defense.

4. Your teams had opposite bowl experiences. What are the three big takeaways from your team's performance in terms of what the future holds?

1 - Our defense is really, really good and should only get better. Kudos to Bob Diaco for going back to the drawing board after the Navy debacle and getting his unit to play the best stretch of Irish defense since the 2002 campaign.

2 - Brian Kelly is not as bull-headed and inflexible as originally thought. Over the last few games he gave opponents and heavy dose of the run game because it gave ND the best chance to win. The balance the Irish began to achieve will be huge next season as the offense takes strides toward reaching its enormous potential.

3 - We're definitively headed in the right direction and for the first time in what seems like an eternity there's a palpable sense of optimism heading into the offseason. It's not only a wonderful feeling, but an enormous relief.

1 - McGloin cannot start ever again. There's just no point. Trying really hard not to spiral into a Bolden transferring rant here...

2 - Defense played well. Setting aside MyGroin's pick 6 and the blocked punt TD Penn State only let up 23 points against a faster Florida team that had many short fields.

3 - LB Hodges saw plenty of time and looked like our most explosive linebacker while Astorino spent most of the game on the sideline despite having a year left of eligibility. I like where this is going.

5. Let's go back to the Coaching Carousel for a bit. What's your take on what happened at Maryland? The Terps fire the ACC Coach of the Year Ralph Friedgen, allegedly for the glamor hire of Mike Leach, but suddenly end up with Randy Edsall. Did they handle the situation correctly? Is Friedgen for Edsall a huge upgrade? Was passing on Leach a smart move?

Mattare: What an unbelievable display of mismanagement. I feel like the Maryland athletic director played the role of the Cleveland Indians owner in Major League all season, privately rooting for the team to fail so Friedgen could be junked for a flashier hire.

Friedgen had probably hit his ceiling at Maryland and the program had become somewhat stale, but he deserved more respect than he received from his alma mater (which, oh by the way, he resurrected from the ashes when he took over). Edsall is a fine coach (who made his own terrible decision in notifying his UConn players he was leaving via text message), but he's the polar opposite of a "glamor hire." He'll piece together a solid program that has 9-10 win peaks and some 5-6 win valleys...just like the guy he replaced (2009 notwithstanding).

Should they have hired Leach? Well, he's a hell of a football coach, but he's also a well-documented blowhard (and a borderline whackjob_ with an odd obsession with pirates. He sure would've made a splash, but there's a good chance his mouth would've made more national headlines than his team the first couple years on-campus. Why? Because no one really cares about Maryland football since they're a middle of the road team in a mediocre conference. That's their ceiling. Reality can hurt sometimes, but that's the truth.

Obviously the AD weighed the pros and cons and decided the baggage Leach brought was too much to overcome the fannies he'd put in the seats. There must have been a whole lot of baggage when all was said and done.

Bill: I'm not going to pretend to know who's the better coach here since I'm no coach myself but firing your conference's coach of the year doesn't make sense to many people. I think this move may have had something to do with the offensive coordinator jumping ship to Vandy and trying to take the staff with him.

Edsall did a great job at Connecticut and maybe Leach still carries a stigma from the Matt James incident but I do think Leach's offense would have taken the weak ACC by storm. No I don't think Maryland handled the situation correctly but time will tell with Edsall's performance and when we see where Freidgen ends up.


Mattare: Allentown Central Catholic quarterback Brandon Nosovitch was the 2010 Pennsylvania Player of the Year. Notre Dame's offensive coordinator was at 4th and Chew visiting him this week but Penn State doesn't seem interested. Are the Irish about to poach him from under JoePa's nose?

Bill: We are interested, we just don't offer early. You answer: No Way! He's a PSU lifer, I can feel it.

Bill: Why is Chuck Weis trying to go back to coaching at the college level when he clearly excels as a coordinator in the NFL?

Mattare: Because it was a package deal where his son is going to be a "student-coach" for Florida. Get ready for Gator fans to constantly bitch about Charlie Jr on the sidelines even though he does no harm being there.

Mattare: Last night Ashley Schaeffer BMW registered a big W in the Arlington Men's Basketball League to even our record at 1-1. How much do you think our mutual friend and occasional blog reader Aggon contributed to the victory?

Bill: 5 minutes played, 2 rebounds, 0-1 shooting, technical foul, ejection.

Bill: How much did he actually contribute?

Mattare: 1 assist, 1 rebound, 0-2 shooting with 2 airballs, 2 unforced falls due to a loss of balance, and a lack of athleticism that would've made a bowler shake his head.

Mattare: The unthinkable happened in our NCAA Dynasty League and MY WAKE FOREST DEMON DEACONS WON THE NATIONAL TITLE. Are you finally prepared after getting smacked around two years in a row that I'm just better than you? And what's your prediction for year three?

Bill: Absolutely not. I will chug that duck in 2011 and then paint it blue. My prediction is what it always is: Dukie Domination.

Bill: When am I getting paid for my contributions to the blog?

Mattare: When you start contributing. You're 7th in line to get paid behind Hinkle, Chuck, Mikey, Lord of Shots, Dip, and that dude from El Paso that threatened me in the running diary.

Mattare: Got any New Year's Resolutions?

Bill: To write less.

Bill: Remember when we were just going to open a bar instead of working 9-5's? Let's make it happen. I have like $200...

Mattare: Why didn't you ask me this before I bought an engagement ring? If we pool the $80 I've made from WNG with your $200 and Hinkle's tips from The Melting Pot we can open a

Monday, January 3, 2011

Dear Diary...Notre Dame - Miami

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the final running diary of 2010! This one comes to you live from La Casa Del Blomstrom, the same location where we witnessed the Lane Kiffin Face in full effect as Notre Dame knocked off Southern Cal a little over a month ago. Adding to the fun will be the “No Country For Bold Men” game that is described in this link here.

As we covered in the pregame, I’m a bit worried about Miami’s talent and speed on defense and how Tommy Rees will handle it. That being said I’m pretty confident in Jacory Harris’s ability to keep us in the game with boneheaded decisions. If Tommy’s able to limit his mistakes and play more like the first two games of this three game streak then we should be in good position to win this game.

Let’s get to it!

2:08 Our first image of the El Paso area is one covered in snow. Snow?? I was under the impression that the one redeeming thing about going to a bowl in the El Paso area was the warm weather. I’m sure a lot of fans were thrilled when they checked the forecast after booking their flights. On the field this will have a much larger effect on Miami than the Irish.

2:10 Nice montage covering the old 80’s rivalry. Our friend Andrew asks, “why do they embrace the convicts moniker?”

My hypothesis is that much like Philadelphia sports fans love to embrace the “we’re tough, nasty fans to the opposition,” they embrace it only on their terms…but when someone else criticizes them for it they get very defensive (just listen to the responses on Philly Sports Talk Radio when a national talking head blasts Philly fans). Did you see the 30 for 30 on Miami? They loved calling themselves the bad boys, but as soon as they started talking about ND comments like “there were just as many convicts on their team” and “they started the fight in the tunnel, not us” flew around. The big, bad boys always have a sensitive underbelly.

2:12 The Canes come out arm in arm. They are not hard, tough “U” of old. Somewhere (probably in line at a soup kitchen), Randall “Thrill” Hill is watching and shaking his head in disgust.

2:15 Danielson spends the next couple minutes gushing about Tommy Rees and Jacory Harris. His big point on Tommy is that “stats don’t matter, he just wins.” I’d disagree—turnovers matter and if we want to win he’s got to make sure his throws end up in the right team’s hands. I don’t care if he throws for 300+ yards, we just need him to manage the game and not hand it over like he almost did against Southern Cal. Danielson ends his analysis of Harris by saying he’s prone to make some decisions that make you say, “come on Jacory, you’re better than that.” Let’s hope for lots of those throws!

2:17 It’s 36 degrees at kickoff, which is almost 20 degrees colder than the temperature in South Bend right now. Gross. The Irish will receive the opening kickoff.

2:18 GREAT RETURN by Austin Collinsworth gives ND some great field position out of the gate.

2:19 Tracy Wolfson delayed interview with Kelly…My former roommate Brad cracks his first terrible “where’s the rest of his hat?” visor joke of the day. It’s a joke older than Joe Paterno that lacks intentional or unintentional comedy.

2:20 False start on Dever. That’s a sign of how antsy he is about Miami’s speed on the edge.

2:21 Great third down pickup by Rees, hits Eifert for a great gain but it’s coming back thanks to a crappy and borderline inexplicable penalty for illegal player down field. ND has to burn a timeout prior to what’s now 3rd and 15. So far we’ve had three penalties called and a timeout—sharp is not a word that would describe either team at the moment.

2:25 CBS flashes a graphic for “Great moments at the Sun Bowl”…but it’s not old game highlights, it’s just a bunch of crazy people from both fan bases excited about being on TV. There seem to be an inordinate amount of people who dress like Sam Elliot. That was just a bizarre, from out of nowhere 20 seconds.

2:26 Michael Floyd catches a quick slant, breaks a tackle and rumbles for a big gain! First down Irish, a great block by Theo Riddick sprung him for an extra 10 yards.

2:27 Another target to Floyd draws a pass interference and ND is inside the 10. The offense is picking up some steam here.

2:29 TOUCHDOOOOOOOOWN IRISH!!!!!!!!!! MICHAEL FLOYD WITH A QUICK OUT AND THE IRISH STAKE AN EARLY LEAD FOUR MINUTES INTO THE GAME. Floyd is clearly here to dominate in what could be his last game in the blue and gold. Miami better make some significant and immediate adjustments.

2:33 The kick return goes nowhere and the returner gets shoved into a boom microphone which makes a loud noise. A Miami player (#84) is doing a lot of barking. Could we have a new brawl brewing? The entire room is on edge and rooting for some sparks to fly.

2:33 Good stick by Darrin Walls on the first play.

2:34 CBS rolls back some highlights of when Jacory Harris’s brain got packed in on a hit against Virginia. I watched that live and wondered whether he’d ever get up.

2:35 The Irish force a three and out. Great start on both sides of the ball.

2:39 Theo uncorks a great little 7-yard run out of the Wildcat. Another 7-yarder picks up a first down. He needs to get the ball in this capacity at least 5 times a game.

2:41 Robert Hughes busts a 15-yard run down the right side. Beautiful.


2:47 Bennett Jackson snuffs the return at the 14-yard line. Well one team showed up to play today—the Irish are FIRED UP.


2:53 Unfortunately the drive stalls and Ben Turk predictably unloads a crappy 29-yard punt. Miami will take over at their own 15-yard line.

2:56 Miami picks up a first down with back-to-back runs. It looks like they’re going to be able to run effectively off-tackle if they actually commit to doing it, which worries me a bit. Hopefully they try to unleash Air Jacory in an effort to catch up which will play right into our hand.

3:03 Miami is starting to find some rhythm on offense. Come on boys, stiffen up.

3:04 INTERCEPTION HARRISON SMITH!!!! JACORY FLOATS ONE AND HAYSEED COMES OVER THE TOP AND SNIPES IT. Tack on a 15-yard facemask and the Irish will take over at the Miami 39-yard line. STOMP THEM IRISH.

3:07 CBS puts up a nice little Jacory stat: three completions, two INT’s for Jacory. That’ll do Donkey, that’ll do.


3:14 ANOTHER INTERCEPTION HARRISON SMITH! This is so wonderful that my CAPS lock is getting fatigued, what a thing of beauty. Jacory Harris is playing even worse than we could have hoped. The Irish take over just short of midfield. Now let’s jam it down their throat and punch it over the goal line again. Don’t let up.

3:18 Three and out for Notre Dame. Miami muffs the punt but recovers because ND long snapper Jordan Cowart has a colossal brain fart. He was right there to make the play and the ball popped right into his hands, but for some reason he flinched backwards like he wasn’t supposed to touch it. It’s so much easier to let things like that slide when you’re up 21-0 though.

3:21 Jacory Harris has been yanked and Stephen Morris is in. He’s wearing a horrendous turtleneck that makes his neck look Dino Flintstone-esque long.

3:24 Miami is driving into Irish territory again.


3:30 Rees hits a wide-open Michael Floyd across the middle for a huge gain. Tack on another 15-yards for a late hit.

3:32 Robert Hughes bruises for another first down. Damnit, why did it take 3.5 years for his lightbulb to go on?

3:33 Rees delivers a great ball to Floyd deep for what should’ve been a touchdown, but Floyd only goes for it with one hand and he drops it. Come on Michael, no hot-dogging necessary right now.

3:35 Drive stalls, Ruffer comes out to rip yet another field goal through the uprights. Somehow he continues to overcome the statistic that flashes about him never missing a field goal every time he comes on to the field. Notre Dame 24, The U 0.

3:42 Miami’s drive stalls quickly and the punter shanks it, which means Notre Dame will have 1:49 to try to extend their lead before the half.

3:43 A Brian Kelly at Cincinnati reference means that in our No Country for Bold Men game, Paul has become the Chili Boy. He’s sporting a lovely sombrero and will no be in charge of getting us food/beverages until the next ‘Nati reference.

3:44 Hughes takes a draw up the middle for 9.9 yards on second down.

3:46 Another great draw play—this time Cierre Wood—nets 17 yards and Notre Dame is on the verge of field goal range with just under a minute left.

3:49 Drive stalls and Ruffer DRILLS a 50-yard field goal that would’ve been good from 65. Notre Dame is laying the smackdown on The U right now.

(Let me channel my inner James Lipton)


The bad news is that Tommy Rees is hurt and limping to the locker room. I’m not ready for Nate Montana to take the field again for ND, not one bit.

3:53 VERNE LAUGHS AND I HAVE SEIZED THE BOLD GRAND DAD TITLE (Refer back to the rules for how crucial this is)! Paul unbelievably finishes his entire bowl of beer with a spoon in less than a minute. Disappointing, but impressive nonetheless. I will embed the video once I get it off of my girlfriend's camera.

3:56 Miami sneaks into field goal range just before the half and gets on the board. Bummer. Notre Dame 27, Miami 3 at the midway point.

Could you have imagined a better start for the Irish? Notre Dame has completely dominated both sides of the ball, forced Miami to yank their quarterback, avoided mistakes, and beatdown the Canes with a well-balanced attack (113 Passing Yards, 116 Rushing Yards). I’m not going to lie, I’m a bit worried about the Nate Montana Experience that we appear destined to go through…but we’ve given him a huge cushion to play with.

What I’m looking for in the second half is a lot of the same on defense and a serious dose of bruising ground game. Miami is going to be in full-throttle attack mode on Nate and dare him to throw in the face of pressure. It’s going to get a bit bumpy if that’s the case; hopefully it doesn’t get to the point where we’re holding on for dear life.

Let’s make everyone feel better with a flashback…

That was great, I'm reenergized. On to the second half!

4:24 Well apparently Tommy Rees is going to play which is phenomenal news.

4:26 Ruffer crushes one through the endzone on the second half kickoff for a touchback. Wow. I’m used to our kickoffs landing around the 10 so when Ruffer beats it out of the endzone it’s borderline startling.

4:29 Miami goes three and out but the absolutely terrible news is that Manti Te’o is down and it looks bad. SHIT. My stomach just did a cartwheel. Please for the love of God be ok.

4:33 Huge run by Robert Hughes. He has the ball knocked out from behind but it ends up out of bounds, which means it’ll be spotted back where the fumble occurred. It’ll still go in the books as a 25 yard run and ND is over midfield at the Miami 40.

4:35 Another good 7-yard strong run by Cierre, very good blocking by the offensive line. This is a good sign for the second half. If we dominate the line like this then this will get ugly quick for Miami.

4:36 Gary Danielson goes on a rant about how Taylor Dever was highly touted and chose between Notre Dame, Nebraska, and Michigan…but in reality he’s given a description of the recruitment of Trevor Robinson. Get your head in the game Gary.

4:42 Michael Floyd catches a 10-yard pass for another first down. He’s now over 100 yards and ND is down to the Miami 16.

4:43 Theo fumbles out of the Wildcat but the Irish recover. Come on, can’t be that careless with the ball. Let’s get some points here.

4:44 Rees somehow gets the ball past a defender and into the arms of Tyler Eifert for a first down to the 3-yard line. Punch another one in Irish.

4:46 Hughes gets stoned three straight times and Notre Dame is going to have to settle for a field goal. Ruffer converts the chip shot and Notre Dame extends their lead. Man, this is ’08 Hawaii Bowl relaxing. Notre Dame 30, Miami 3.

4:53 Manti is on the sideline asking to get back in the game which is even better news than the fact that we’re beating the crap out of Miami. I am indescribably happy that his injury doesn’t appear to be serious. He better be growing roots on the sideline because there’s no reason for him to reenter the game at this juncture.

4:56 Notre Dame STUFFS Miami a fourth down attempt at midfield and will take over with 5:02 left in the third. Irish ball at the 50. This is glorious.

4:58 First play of the drive is a Theo Riddick reverse that goes for 18 yards. Miami looks about as interested in playing this game as a vegan at a Brazilian Steakhouse.

5:04 The drive stalls and Ruffer misses the first field goal of his career. Honestly I’m somewhat relieved. I’m a pretty superstitious fan and to say the constant statistics flashing about his streak wore thin would be a colossal understatement. I also feel like this will free him up a bit. It’s human nature for him to think about the streak as it’s in progress, almost like a bowler during a potential 300 game. Miami ball at the start of the 4th quarter.

5:10 Three and out for Miami. What a pitiful performance.

5:15 Three and out for Notre Dame. This is a pretty boring final half with Miami waving a giant white flag and the Irish concentrating on bleeding the clock.

5:19 Nice little Catholics vs Convicts video means I get to flex my Old Grand muscle and go Luther Campbell all over someone’s ass. Predictably I choose Paul (who is still the Chili Boy). This game is adding so much to the day, I love it.

5:21 Miami drives down the field and scores to cut Notre Dame’s lead to 20 points with 10:36 left in the game. Let’s respond with a solid, dominating drive here boys. Notre Dame 30, Miami 10.

5:27 Tommy Rees finds John Goodman dragging across the middle on third down and he streaks down the sideline for a 31-yard gain. Big pick-up, we don’t want do give them even a sliver of hope. Amazingly there has been no mention on the broadcast of The Bard of Bergen County—Duval Kamara—being absent for the game.

5:30 Well, the drive stalls again and ND has to punt. Good news is the idiot Miami returner attempts to bring it out from the 2-yard line and it leads to a -1 yard return. Only 99 yards to paydirt for The U.

5:35 “You have to be tough to play quarterback at Miami” – Gary Danielson. He proceeds to list everybody who used to play for Miami and talks about how tough they were, including (of course) Gina Torretta. Why was it tougher to play QB at Miami than other places? Was it the beautiful climate? The endless arsenal of talented weapons at their disposal? Was uber-dork and national championship winner Ken Dorsey tough? How did I never realize how terrible Danielson as a color guy? Perhaps he’s just completely phoning this one in.

5:36 My buddy Supercrombie sends me the following text: “Someone better get these announcers off the air before I stab myself in the eye with a #2 pencil.” Better yet, someone just stab Danielson in the eye with a #2 pencil.

5:36 Touchdown Miami on a deep 41-yard pass down the left side. Their quarterback Dino Flintstone is chirping at the Notre Dame sideline, which is ridiculous given how we’ve beaten their ass all day long, but whatever. Miami has cut it down to 30-17. This better all be window dressing.

5:39 Cierre Wood recovers a half-assed onsides kick and Notre Dame takes over with 3:59 left on the 35-yard line. Come on boys, ice this.

5:43 Tommy Rees picks up a huge first down with a throw to TJ Jones on the left sideline. That’s a dagger to the slim chances of a Miami comeback.

5:44 Cierre Wood rips off a 26-yard run. It looks like that previous first down conversion sucked the life out of the Canes. ND ball at the 21.

5:48 For whatever reason they trot out Nick Tausch for a field goal instead of Ruffer. SEE WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU MISS A FIELD GOAL DAVID???? I’m just joking, please come back next year. Tausch bangs it home and Notre Dame extends its lead. Notre Dame 33, Miami 17. Shut’em down and end this game Irish.

5:53 Gary Danielson is just raving about Miami’s effort as the drive down the field with only seconds remaining. He sounds like Andy Dick’s character in Old School. “Way to give it 110% Miami!”

5:55 The game ends with a Morris pass that leads his receiver straight into a concrete wall behind the endzone. He’s not seriously hurt—just his pride and ego—which makes it infinitely funnier. What a perfect ending.

This was a great way to end the year. Let’s highlight two big stats before we go:

Turnovers: Miami – 4, Notre Dame - 0

This game was over at halftime thanks to the turnovers. Jacory, way to come through for us buddy!

Time of Possession: ND – 37:11, Miami – 22:49

Wow. I’d love to see a stat that shows the most a BK team had possessed the ball in the last five years. What this tells me is that dominating out of the spread offense in the way many fans want to see (control the clock, balanced attack) is predicated largely by the defense’s ability to make stops and force turnovers. Kind of interesting.

Thanks for following along with the diaries all year and thanks to all that contributed texts/emails/commentary to make them more interesting. Maybe we’ll fire up a diary for one of the basketball games in Big East season.

Only nine months until the next kickoff…


Sunday, January 2, 2011


Boy oh boy, the Bodogs have been turned upside down in the past month. Hinkle's giant lead has not only evaporated, but now he has his own mountain to climb heading into the final slate of games. Tulsa's huge moneyline victory has propelled Chuck into prime position for an unlikely season victory. Mattare has continued his steady rise since the third week of November and finally has taken over the top spot. Mikey

Mattare, Chuck, and Hinkle are all in the hunt heading into the BCS games. Here's a quick breakdown of the standings followed by the final week of picks.

Non-BCS Bowl Results
1. Chuck: $566…Holy Bang-a-rang, Chuck's back!
2. Mikey: $95…Could he make a Cinderella run at breaking even?
3. Mattare: $57…Could being conservative come back to bite him?
4. Hinkle: -$198...Epically bad timing for a terrible week

Updated Season Standings
1. Mattare: $447.10…The question becomes will he hold on.
2. Chuck: $338.90…No one saw this coming, not even GJ Kinne.
3. Hinkle: $200.50…First time he's not the leader since Week #2.
4. Mikey: -$299…Not even Tim Tebow could will him to a victory.

BCS Picks Summary
Mattare: Stanford > VT, Wisconsin > TCU, Oregon > Auburn
Chuck: Wisconsin > TCU, UConn > Oklahoma, Oregon > Auburn
Hinkle: Arkansas (ML), UConn (ML), Oregon (ML)
Mikey: UConn > Oklahoma, Stanford > TCU, Auburn > Oregon


It's good to be in the top spot. One more week to victory...

Orange Bowl: Stanford (-3) over Virginia Tech...$110 to win $100

In my mind Stanford is one of the three best teams in the country. Virginia Tech has done a great job digging themselves out of the crater they created when they lost to James Madison in September, but they're just not in the same class as the Cardinal. My only worry is that Stanford will be distracted by all the Harbaugh-to-Michigan rumors...but I'm not that worried.

Rose Bowl: Wisconsin (+3) over TCU...$77 to win $70

Wisconsin has been steamrolling over opponents at the end of the year after looking shaky early on. If this game were played the first week of December I'd say Wisconsin rolls but normally teams that are so Jeykll & Hyde from the beginning and end of the season sputter out of the gate in the bowl game. I think Wisky gets it done but in a tight one.

National Championship: Oregon (+3) over Auburn...$66 to win $60

The Ducks have been absolutely unbelievable from start to finish this season. They had a taste of the BCS stage last year and that experience where they got their doors blown off in Pasadena will do them a lot of good this year. I'm surprised how most people seem pretty dismissive of Oregon. In what will go down as the best title game in five years, The Quack will come out of the gate strong and hold on for dear life in the end.



Rose Bowl: Wisonsin (+3) over TCU...$280 to win $254.55

The Badgers have looked mighty powerful in steamrolling through the Big Ten following their loss to Michigan State. For the loyal readers, you will remember that I took Indiana against the spread versus Wiscy and the Badgers proceeded to hang 83 points. I will not make the same mistake in this one. Andy Daulton scares me a bit with his heady play under center and his ability to make plays with his legs, but the Wisconsin offense can simply outscore the Frogs. TCU has one of the best defenses in the country, but they have not seen as powerful and balanced of an attack as they will see from the Badgers. I LOVE Wisconsin in this one.

Fiesta Bowl: UConn (+17) over Oklahoma...$10 to win $9.09

Bob Stoops has proven time and again that his teams do not perform well as heavy favorites in BCS games. The Sooners gifted Bill Stewart the head coaching job at West Virginia with the way they choked in the desert aginst the Mountaineers three years ago. You might also remember a little school called Boise State that made some noise against them in the very same game four years ago. The bottom line is that UConn is well-coached, gritty, and has a very underrated and scrappy running back in Jordan Todman. I think they easily keep this game within two scores, and might do just enough to pull out a win.

National Championship: Oregon (+3) over Auburn...$10 to win $9.09

First, let me say that this is the most I've looked forward to a National Championship game since Michael Vick and the Virginia Tech Hokies took on FSU in the 2000 Sugar Bowl. This is a classic case of the spread being crafted based on the conference that the teams play in, and not necessarily the quality of the teams themselves. The SEC deserves respect given their track record in National Championship games, and Auburn has certainly proven that they are one of the best teams in the country. It is just hard for me to think that Auburn's defense can legitimately slow down Oregon's Blur offense. Auburn simply cannot afford to fall behind in this one like they did in several games this year (cough, Clemson) because the Ducks will keep the peddle to the metal.

On a somewhat related note, I watched Mighty Ducks 3 this week for the first time in ten years and might have witnessed a moment in pickup artist history. Charlie Conway was talking to some hippy biscuit and stated that he couldn't believe she hadn't heard of the Mighty Ducks. Conway then slipped in, "They even named a professional team after us." If that doesn't work, I don't know what will.

Happy new year everybody, and remember that it was Hans who taught us to fly.


This is where I am not good at gambling. I knew big moneylines would be taken so I had to try to do something to get a nice lead and I failed miserably. Thats okay, in my books I was solid all year long but this "bowl season", catch-up, bet unrealistic crap is for the birds.

Sugar Bowl: Arkansas ML (+145) over Ohio State...$280 to win $406

I was thinking of taking Wisconsin so if the "small" school fails I would have something to cheer me up but I do not want to be put out of my misery yet. I want this losing streak to drag on for a few more days. Ryan Mallet former Wolverine will outplay Pryor and get the job done. Its that simple.

Fiesta Bowl: UConn ML (+475) over Oklahoma...$10 to win $47.50

Big Game Bob? How 'bout no.

National Championship: Oregon ML (+115) over Auburn...$10 to win $11.50

Newton runs out of Cammy Cam Juice.


Fiesta Bowl: Connecticut (+17) over Oklahoma...$165 to win $150

If you pick against Bob Stoops in the BCS it seems to work out pretty well. Let's keep it going.

Orange Bowl: Stanford (-1) over Virginia Tech...$82.50 to win $75

Virginia Tech finished its season on fire, going undefeated in the ACC and winning the conference title game. Stanford's been playing so consistently good all season, though, that it's hard not to be impressed and think they'll want to cap their best season ever with a BCS win. Harbaugh is a great coach and he keeps his guys motivated for thier most important game yet, making Stanford pride felt throughout the nation.

National Championship: Auburn (-2.5) over Oregon...$82.50 to win $75

Would Oregon even be close to the best team in the SEC? As they play now I think they would've had 3 or 4 losses in the SEC and somehow Auburn went through with none. A team going through the SEC undefeated should be handed a national title instantly, but Auburn will still earn theirs with a W over the Ducks. (Over/under on how many days Auburn will actually get to keep their national title: 7)