Saturday, September 24, 2011

GAMEDAY: PITT STOP


Last time the Irish rolled into Heinz Field it was the first game of the Charlie Weis Era. Things have changed a bit, huh?

The Irish won 42-21 that day. Almost de ja vu today as Michael Floyd goes bezerk.

Notre Dame 41
Pitt 17

GO IRISH

THE BODOGS ARE BARKIN: WEEK #3


Good bounce back from the boys in week two. Let's see if they can keep the momentum going in week three.

Week 2 Results

1. Hinkle: $109
2. Mattare: $87
3. Mikey: $67
4. Chuck: $6

Standings thru Week 2

1. Chuck: $23
2. Mattare: -5
3. Hinkle: -5
4. Mikey: -$75


ON TO THE PICKS!

Chuck

Same problem as last week. Don't judge me. Here are some winners.

Game 1: BYU -2.5 vs Ucf 77 to win 70

Trevor Matich told me to do it.

Game 2: Ok st +4 @ aTm 33 to win 30

Game 3: Arkansas +12 @ bama 22 to win 20

Game 4: Lsu -5.5 @wvu 33 to win 30

Mattare

Another big week on deck.

Game #1: Notre Dame (-7.5) over Pitt...$55 to win $50

The Irish are starting to hit their stride. Watch the national hype start to build up again after dismantling the Panthers today.

Game #2: Texas Tech (-16) over Nevada...$33 to win $30

Colin Kaepernick is not walking through that door.

Game #3: Southern Cal (+2.5) over Arizona State...$33 to win $30

Count me among the Arizona State unbelievers.

Game of the Week: LSU (-6) over West Virginia...$77 to win 70

LSU rolls.

Hinkle

Welcome to the world of gambling. ND vs Michigan seemed to be an easy obvious W in week 1. Nope. Pitt vs Iowa seemed to be an awful analysis by me and a loss in wekk 2. Nope. That's how the gambling Gods roll. Ill take hitting both big games last week and getting the ball rolling in the right direction. Let's keep it going.

Game 1: ND/PITT U 55 (44 win 40)

I am really surprised by this total. I saw this being more of a game in the 40's. ND tightened up on defense last week and Pitt has done a fairly good job of holding opponents down as well minus 4th quarter collapse at Iowa. I think both teams will rely heavy on the run game which should drain the clock at a fairly good pace. Throw in the fact that I liked this game at 53 and the public is pounding the over I will roll the dice even though I hate betting big on totals. Come on kids!

Game 2: PSU/ Directional Michigan East U 46 (22 win 20)

PSU is currently favored by 28.5. They have shown me nothing this year to prove they have the ability to score at will and blow a team out. The fighting Larry Birds had their first winning season since the Clinton administration (4th and Inches crew that is two references this week if counting) last year so beating them up does not count. They looked awful last week. What is going to click this week? Do they have a QB yet? Is Joe Pa alive? PSU football is depressing right now.
30-12.

Game 3: Turtle Helmets -8.5 vs Temple (66 win 60)

Temple put it all on the line last weekend. They almost owned the state for a year but lost it in the end. Letdown on the road as the Terps will rebound from a disappointing loss to the Mountaineers. Temple gives up 8 points a game but they have played not a soul. Villanova is not the same 1-AA powerhouse that they are this year. Akron is barf, just look at my pick last week, and PSU is more like a 1-AA in their own right. Terps come out chucking the ball all over the field and light up the scoreboard. 44-23.

Game 4: LSU -6 at WVU (33 win 30)

LSU is good. Real good. They are in the elite class of teams that I would really like to see my Broncos play to see how credible of a team they are. Their defense is solid. Their speed is off the charts. They play in the toughest league in the world next to the LVC. I mean Death Valley is no Rockne Hall but still. Do you think Mountaineer Stadium will shake the Tigers? Their size and speed will match that of the WVU WR corp and make it a long night for the potent offense. I see WVU realizing that the Little East is nothing compared to an elite SEC school who has already played two top 25 opponents and looked impressive in both. 24-13 Tigers

Mikey


Muuuuch better week last week going 3-1 and nearly 4-0 if FSU could've taken advantage of their 2nd half opportunities. Either way feeling alot more confident heading into week 3 and ready to lay all these picks down at a sportsbook in Vegas this weekend. Time to get after it:

Game 1: Penn St. (-29) over Eastern Michigan $22 to win $20

Penn St had an awesome 4 point win over Temple last week and left everyone impressed. Seriously though, the Lions can't be happy right now and they have Eastern Michigan on a tee to try and make them feel better. I don't see EMU putting up even one point while Penn St will be running up and down the field all day. 29 just ain't enough.

Game 2: Maryland (-9) over Temple $55 to win $50

Maryland proved me right last week by going down to WVa, and I'm going to try and cash in on them again. Temples coming off an emotional loss to Penn St and going on the road this week won't help them get over it. The terps will bounce back big against the owls at home.

Game 3: Colorado (+15) over Ohio St. $22 to win $20

This may be a bit of an overreaction to Ohio St getting pounded by the U, but I just don't think they're very good this year. Its going to take some time for them to recover from tattoo-gate 2010 and I think this season may just be a bit of a wash. Not really sure what Colorado's story is but chalk this up to education if they get blown out.

Game 4. West Virginia (+6) over LSU $22 to win $20

LSU gon win this game 5-0... now onto the Bellagio!!!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Conference Armageddon Roundtable

Instead of worrying about the Mexder futures that were expiring for my trade desk this afternoon, I was embroiled in a heated debate consisting of lengthy emails debating the pros and cons of Notre Dame joining a conference amongst former members of my dorm. Below is a transcript of those emails. My thanks to all those who unknowingly contributed to this column.

For the sake of privacy, the names have not been changed.

Shuttlecock (10:22am)

"ACC anyone?"

La Bamba (10:48am)

"The thought of not being independent is tearing me up inside. It looks awful. I can't go up against 'Cuse again and lose on the reg. They're just too stong. Too good."

Mattare (11:19am)

"Notre Dame still does not have to join a conference based on what's transpired over the past few days. Swarbrick needs to be proactive in finding a good landing spot for our olympic sports, but football absolutely can stay independent if that's the path we want to continue on. The notion that our hand has been forced at this juncture is completely false."

Panzer (11:23am)

"As far as landing spots for olympic sports, I think the pool would work best for the diving team and a sand pit would work well for all long jumpers/triple jumpers. As for the other sports, its not so much the landing that I'm worried about."

Mattare (11:25am)

"That logic is infinitely wiser than any Kevin White used during his tenure."

Sharky (11:42am)

"Say the Olympic sports find a way to work themselves out (landing in pools/sand pits etc) without the need for football to join a conference (is this even possible?).

I still dont think you can say at this juncture anymore we 'can absolutely stay independent', just like Texas can no longer 'absolutely' keep their network without some concessions. I think there are too many variables at play just to say we can remain with our status quo. I think it would be best to get our number one pick at a conference, rather than risk the whole landscape changing with us on the outside. I guess the counter argument could be the BCS right now is the the 6 conferences + ND, why couldnt it be the 4 Conferences + ND. I just think we've lost some sway in the past 15 years of mediocre football/slipping ratings."

C-Loss (12:03pm)

"Setting aside the ND part of this, I don't get why there have to be 416 team superconferences. Because some sportswriter wrote about it? 16 teams makes no sense at all for football, there's only 12 games a year. What's the point of a conference where you play barely half of the other teams in a given year? Why stop at 16, why not 20 or 25? I don't get this magic 16 number.

ND should do everything it can to stay independent in football. My biggest concern is scheduling... If they go to 10 conference games there will be less opportunities for the other teams to schedule out of conference games with us. But a 12-0 ND team is not getting shut out of an 8 team playoff just because they aren't in a super conference. And if they stick with the current 2 team playoff (BCS Champ game), we're not getting shut out unless there are 2 other undefeated teams or we run into major scheduling issues where we have a Boise like schedule since no one wants to schedule ND anymore. I don't think this is likely at all."

Mattare (12:29pm)

"In terms of football: Notre Dame hasn’t been relevant in the national championship race for 15+ years, but we’ve still got more sway than any other school because we still make other schools fistfuls of money. We’re the only sellout at Stanford every other year. We’re one of the only guaranteed sellouts at Purdue, Boston College, and sometimes even Pitt. We just drew over 110k for Michigan. We sold out Penn State (108k?) and North Carolina when we were HORRENDOUS. You realize the Pac-12 has a Notre Dame provision written into its bylaws to provide exemptions so that Southern Cal and Stanford can continue to play the Irish in November (because other Pac-12 schools aren’t allowed to schedule out of conference games after the third week of the season moving forward). Why? Because we make them money and provide big exposure on the opposite coast. You could argue they’re allowing the preservation of the ND-Southern Cal rivalry, but you certainly can’t make that claim about Stanford who we only started playing every year in the mid-to-late 90’s.

Glad C-Loss chipped in on the schedule before I sent this. The scheduling myth is just like the academic standard myth. We will always be able to find teams to play us as long as we’re willing to do home-and-homes for the aforementioned reasons (money and exposure). The Pac-12 has us written into their bylaws to accommodate our November games in California and I bet there will be provisions to allow Oklahoma and Texas to at the very least maintain their current contractual arrangements for games with ND if not permit it moving forward. Northwestern just broke Big 10 protocol and scheduled us in November because we were willing to do a home-and-home. I bet other Big 10 schools would as well. You’re telling me Boise State wouldn’t jump at a home and home whenever we wanted it? Same with everyone who’s left from the Big 12 and ACC. Even look at the SEC: Tennessee played us in November twice in ’04 and ’05. It can be done. It’s going to take work and creativity, but Swarbrick has already shown he’s adept to putting together compelling schedules moving forward and there’s no reason to believe that wouldn’t be possible with these new realignment shifts.

Texas has some sway, but it pales in comparison to ND’s brand—that’s not hubris or arrogance, that’s just reality. Swarbrick needs to operate knowing that which would be a stark contrast to White’s approach, which led to be bullied and come out on the wrong side of a deal with—of all schools—Purdue. We can maintain independence, it’s just a matter of whether we want to go to the necessary lengths to ensure it. There’s always going to be a spot for us in the Big Ten if “Armageddon” finally comes. We’re never going to be completely left out in the cold because we would bring too much value for people to just freeze us out—money rules everything and we’re the golden goose. Plus, it’s not like even if it goes to 4 16-team super conferences that a playoff is going to suddenly arise. In order for that to happen the 64 teams would have to break away from the NCAA which isn’t going to happen in this lifetime.

In terms of Olympic sports, that’s the much tougher riddle to solve and where Swarbrick will earn his money. Does he take the bull by the horns and try to spearhead a new conference? Does he attempt to slide into the Big 12/Big East mess? I think that colossal fustercluck is weak enough that ND could flex its muscle and join in everything but football. That obviously isn’t an option for any other major conference, but it’s certainly worth trying in this instance. One intriguing (albeit farfetched) idea was presented a couple years ago on the blog Domer Law.

http://domerlaw.blogspot.com/2010/04/conference-talk.html

I could absolutely live with that conference (with minor tweaks…get out of here Loyola, Chicago) for our Olympic sports. It would require us nuking the A-10 and poaching some other schools as well, but it still intrigues me and most importantly gives us a legit conference with 15 schools that have no D-I football team. Added bonus: the conflict CLoss (a die-hard Hawks fan) would deal with when ND played St Joe’s in basketball."

Sharky (2:34pm)

"You guys keep mentioning money, money, money, but is independence really the catalyst in providing all that money. Without really searching too deep, I feel like our NBC tv deal gives us less in TV revenue then each individual team in the big conferences (Again this is something I've heard, I dont have the facts on that). If you search Forbes most valuable football teams, we are no longer number 1 (It seems like Texas has clearly overtook us in that regard).

Scheduling: I agree won't be a problem, plenty of teams will always want to play us
Brand: Yes I believe we are still number 1, but again, is that really an independence thing?

I think the best thing to do would be to join a 'independent' conference with Texas, Oklahoma, BYU, etc, where we are affiliated with them (meaning we play these teams every year, but there's no conference) and each team does not have to share their revenue. But, it seems Texas is set on joining a conference.

So basically, which I think was my original email way back when today, do we join a 'weaker' conference for our 'olympic' sports, just to remain independent in football. I personally wouldnt, and that's also because I really don't see the perks of staying as an Independent any better than joining a conference. I dont see Independence as meaningful as it once was to ND. The money is in conferences now, and if we could maintain relations with NBC and the ACC, i bet it creates more revenue. Branding: I believe playing in a conference championship game against FSU, ontop of still ending the season with USC would be a huge boost to the ND brand.

The only drawback to the conference is we are maxed out at scheduling 2 awesome Non-Conference games (it would be USC, Navy, one other good team). But within conference play, if it is ACC (we woud play FSU, Miami, VATECH) every year, and if we join Big Ten (We'd play Mich, OSU, Nebraska, Penn State) every Year. I feel like both schedules are ridiculously good (whether its our independent or conference schedule)."

Mattare (3:46pm)

"I’m talking about money for other teams, not us. Money is driving all of this but it shouldn’t govern what we choose to do. You’re correct, the NBC contract makes us significantly less money than how much Big 10 schools allegedly make off the BTN and it’s less than the newly negotiated major conference contracts as well. But we’re not hurting for money and there comes a point where passing up dollars to preserve “the brand” in a specific way becomes more valuable in the long-term.

A good example is Augusta National with The Masters. AN probably makes ¼ of what they could off of The Masters because they want control of every last detail from the times the tournament is broadcast to the camera angles used to the graphics on the telecast even all the way down to terms used on the air to describe fans (patrons) and rough (2nd cut). They could bid out that tournament and come away with an ungodly television contract. Instead they have a one-year contract every year with CBS. They could sell PPV packages that would allow tv viewers to see every shot of every round that could make them an absurd amount of money. They could charge more than $1.50 for a pimento cheese sandwich on the property. They could have more than 2-3 sponsors every year.

Now it’s not a perfect comparison, but I think it works. Notre Dame would stand to make way more money than we do right now if we were in a conference, but we don’t need it. We’d stand to make more money by having seven or eight home games like OSU every year, but it’d be at the expensive of having a good, national schedule. We’d make more money by bullying schools like Wake Forest and Northwestern into playing at neutral sites instead of their home stadiums, but you can argue that’d be at the expense of some code of ethics. How much money could we make by allowing a sponsor to advertise in the Stadium? There’s a reason we don’t.

The Forbes list has us as the #3 most valuable football program (behind Texas and OSU), but if I remember correctly it was somehow weighted to favor schools with bigger enrollments (I’m not quite sure how that makes sense in terms of value, but I do remember someone doing a calculation of money generated per student in the school and ND’s was still the biggest…maybe it was just the effect of the football revenue? I don’t remember, but regardless we still make an absurd amount of money).

I’d love for Texas to join us as an independent, I just don’t think they have the cajones or desire to do it because conference membership is all they’ve ever known.

We’ll have to agree to disagree about the value of being independent. Notre Dame’s national popularity was forged by being an independent. Right now we basically set our own course in terms of scheduling, television deals, BCS provisions, etc. Once you give an inch of that up you can never get it back (see: Kevin White’s beyond moronic BCS concession in 2004 that has to date cost us $8mil). If we regionalize ourselves by jumping in a conference—and that’s exactly what joining the Big 10 would do over time—you kill a huge part of what made ND unique. Instead of sitting at a table of one making decisions that are best for the university and it’s football/athletic programs, we’d be sitting at a table of 16 with 1/16th the power. Sure, we’ll be allowed to keep our NBC contract on this go-around, but when it expires who says the remaining members can’t go “you have to give it up or we’ll boot you and all your other teams from the conference”? Then we’re completely screwed. We still have a ton of leverage and clout right now. That’ll dissipate as soon as we join a conference.

This entire process of realignment is created and sustained by greed. Conferences with 16 teams each and essentially zero geographical ties make little to no sense for just about every sport (the ONLY way they make sense in football is the fact that it makes more money…in every other regard it’s pretty terrible). Why not try to fight this and carve out a niche for all of our other sports that makes sense on every level while maintaining football independence? Swarbrick was a huge player—if not the most influential—in calming the seas last year. It’s time for him to step up and be even more pro-active this time around."

Sharky (4:45pm)

"I still dont think you are painting a picture of why independence has greater value anymore than joining a conference. You wrote: "scheduling, television deals, BCS provisions" as the main three reasons, as well as forging our popularity back in the day, and leverage at the tables.

I think scheduling is still fairly even being in a conference as and independent. Maybe even conference has the edge because its a higher probability we have bigger games during the middle and end of the season, plus a conference championship game.

Television Deals: I'm not good at arguing this point. I just feel like being on 'NBC' doesnt really have as much sway as it did 15 years ago. If our games are on ESPN2, B10 network, yes it doesn't sound as cool, but I feel like more people are going to tune into the b10 network to watch us play Wisconsin, then NBC to watch us play W Michigan. I think matchups dictate ratings now that for the most part. It is cool having inside stories on ND (like our professor, more interviews with our players that nbc has access too), but I dont know if most people really care about that. So my belief is go for the better deal when it comes to tv. I think that should be dictated by money (isn't that originally why we signed up with NBC?)

BCS provisions: You acknowledged our deal sucks now, so joining a conference won't hurt that.

More popular: Yes, being independent back in the day made us more popular. A big reason is because it allowed us to travel across the country. Again, thats not an advantage we hold over others now. Many choose not to play games coast to coast, but really the only way to get more popular is to win nowadays.

I'm just not convinced ND joining a conference ruins our uniqueness. We are unique because we are Catholic (that won't change), we have the most storied history (that won't change), we graduate our players (that won't change), we have a national fanbase (that won't change), we dont have naming rights on our stadium/jumbotron (that won't change), we consistantly have a tough schedule (that won't change). What conference votes will there be made that might not be best for our univesity (scheduling night games/adding a 10th conference game/splitting revenues (but ND doesnt care about the money suppposedly).

Joining a power conference is better for other sports, but that doesnt seem to be much of the focus here. If you are worried about geography, join the Big 10 over ACC."

Julie (5:36pm)

"Do any of you have real jobs?"

La Bamba (5:38pm)

"With 99 weeks of unemployment? Absolutely not. It's called "finding myself."

Mattare (6:10pm)

"I’ll dissect your thoughts piece by piece.

I still dont think you are painting a picture of why independence has greater value anymore than joining a conference. You wrote: "scheduling, television deals, BCS provisions" as the main three reasons, as well as forging our popularity back in the day, and leverage at the tables.

I think scheduling is still fairly even being in a conference as and independent. Maybe even conference has the edge because its a higher probability we have bigger games during the middle and end of the season, plus a conference championship game.


Look at our schedules from the 90’s look at our schedules for the next five years. Ignore the ones drawn up by Kevin White. Teams we’ve played and are scheduled to play: Texas, Washington, Georgia Tech, Southern Cal, Arizona State, LSU, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Texas, Miami, Nebraska, Northwestern, Penn State, Ohio State, Texas A&M, Florida State, UCLA…talk about nationwide, compelling schedules. Kiss that goodbye in a conference.

Television Deals: I'm not good at arguing this point. I just feel like being on 'NBC' doesnt really have as much sway as it did 15 years ago. If our games are on ESPN2, B10 network, yes it doesn't sound as cool, but I feel like more people are going to tune into the b10 network to watch us play Wisconsin, then NBC to watch us play W Michigan. I think matchups dictate ratings now that for the most part. It is cool having inside stories on ND (like our professor, more interviews with our players that nbc has access too), but I dont know if most people really care about that. So my belief is go for the better deal when it comes to tv. I think that should be dictated by money (isn't that originally why we signed up with NBC?)

We have our own national television network. There is one school that has an entire major network devoted solely to it and it’s Notre Dame with NBC. That’s pretty powerful, it’s just that we’ve been so mediocre to crappy over the past fifteen years that we haven’t really taken advantage of it. This is once again about branding, not necessarily grabbing for the biggest wad of money. Was money the original reason for signing with NBC? It was certainly a big factor I’m sure, but it also provided us exposure that had never even been fathomed previously. Things have changed since then (obviously), but I think the NBC deal suits us just fine right now and will be extraordinarily valuable when we start posting top ten finishes consistently again.

BCS provisions: You acknowledged our deal sucks now, so joining a conference won't hurt that.

Kevin White is an idiot. That being said, we still have a specific automatic qualifier provision for ND written into the BCS despite White handing away our boatloads of potential cash. That disappears in a conference.

More popular: Yes, being independent back in the day made us more popular. A big reason is because it allowed us to travel across the country. Again, thats not an advantage we hold over others now. Many choose not to play games coast to coast, but really the only way to get more popular is to win nowadays.

Agreed that winning is the most important thing. But the fact that we “barnstorm” and play all over the country is something that’s unique and once again distinguishes us. Does it help recruiting that we can tell recruits moving forward that we’ve got a game in Texas, California, and Florida (that will be monsters if we’re good) over the course of their four years? You can debate that, but I say it can’t hurt in a world where we need every last inch in recruiting battles.

I'm just not convinced ND joining a conference ruins our uniqueness. We are unique because we are Catholic (that won't change), we have the most storied history (that won't change), we graduate our players (that won't change), we have a national fanbase (that won't change), we dont have naming rights on our stadium/jumbotron (that won't change), we consistantly have a tough schedule (that won't change). What conference votes will there be made that might not be best for our univesity (scheduling night games/adding a 10th conference game/splitting revenues (but ND doesnt care about the money suppposedly).

I don’t know what to tell you if you don’t see how it cuts into our uniqueness. Right now the college football world has provisions in everything that

Independence is a huge part of our identity and that “storied history;” abandoning that moving forward will change how future generations view the history we write from this day on. In terms of conference voting: don’t put your fate in someone else’s hands when you have the ability to completely control your own—which we still do. Joining a conference is the lazy way out. If the spineless Monk Malloy along with an incompetent AD (Mike Wadsworth…though not to the level of Doc White, White has a Phd in incompetence) could stand up to the Big 10 like they did in ’99, then someone with the juice of Fr. Jenkins accompanied by someone with the smarts of Jack Swarbrick can navigate this turmoil and bring us out the other side of it in a way that preserves everything we value.

Joining a power conference is better for other sports, but that doesnt seem to be much of the focus here. If you are worried about geography, join the b10 over acc.

I mean, this entire plague known as super-conferences has nothing to do with other sports. If it did then one of the top five college basketball programs of all-time (Kansas) wouldn’t be sitting on the sideline completely helpless as the new landscape takes shape. What good does this new realignment really bring fans or the student-athletes? Nothing, it’s a giant money grab. There are some delusional people that see this as the next step toward a playoff, which is completely ridiculous.

Notre Dame should fight against what’s become a ridiculously non-sensical trend of super-conferences. Once we take the plunge into them there’s no going back and we head down a path of becoming “just another school.” No, we’ll never devolve into an also-ran and the name will always carry weight, but it will lose something—and that’s something we should fight against tooth and nail."

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Dear Diary...Notre Dame - Michigan State

The running diary is back for another dance with the state of Michigan, coming to you live from the Lehigh Valley. Last week’s epic collapse in The Big (and Not So Loud) House provided a boatload of fodder for the trolls to come over and unload in response to the running diary. I tip my cap to the more than 7,000 people that made it over from the MGOBlog, Michigan Rivals, and Michigan Scout sites. You win this round…but your team is still terrible.

Now, let’s move on to Sparty. I’m surprisingly upbeat and optimistic about this game. The law of averages says there’s no way we can continue to completely implode with turnovers....right?

Don't answer that. Let's just get to it.

3:38 And Tom Hammond is back in the booth close talking Mike Mayock in a way that has to result in therapy. Uggggggggggggggh.

3:41 ND will receive from a Michigan State kicker that has a nice, developed beer belly. Or maybe he’s pregnant.

3:44 Notre Dame converts a 3rd and 2 out of the gate with a quick swing pass out to Michael Floyd.

3:45 Cierre Wood rips off a 15-yard run to pick up another first down. It was a little delayed hand-off where he had acres of room to work with—great playcall.

3:47 Cierre Wood picks up another big gain on a quick pitch and he’s already rolled up 37 yards on five carries.

3:48 TOUCHDOWN IRISH!!!!!!!!!!! LADIES AND GENTS, WELCOME TO THE CIERRE WOOD SHOW! GREAT RUN THAT HE BOUNCES OUTSIDE FOR 22-YARDS AND HITS PAYDIRT TO PUT THE IRISH ON TOP! Six carries, 59 yards on the first drive alone. Yeah, that’ll do. 7-0 IRRRRRRISSSSHHHH!

3:51 Tom Hammond comments on Brindza’s fluorescent green shoes. Really? Green?!?!?! You can see that those things are yellow from space! Maybe he was blinded by the glow of our silver helmets? Meanwhile Brindza beats it through the back of the endzone.

3:53 Notre Dame intercepts Cousins’ first pass but it’s coming back due to a holding on Blanton. Damn.

3:55 Three more plays for Sparty and they get absolutely nothing. I’ll chalk that up basically as a three and out. The team and stadium both seem about ready to explode—there’s a lot of pent up rage from the first two weeks of the season that’s hitting a levee pretty hard right now. Irish take over.

3:58 NBC shows a replay of the fake field goal that won the game for Michigan State last year. Speaking of pent up rage…

4:00 Very nice run by Jonas Gray has ND over midfield. That’s three carries and 27 yards for Jonas. The Irish are rollllllling on the ground right now, dominating the line of scrimmage.

4:01 Tommy Rees is sacked and fumbles. Michigan State ball. He was completely lit up from the blindside. The turnover train is running right on schedule.

4:06 NBC flashes a stat that ND hasn’t allowed a third down conversion in the first half through two games. That’s a pretty amazing stat. Remind me how the hell we're 0-2 again?

4:06 FUUUUMMMBBBLLELEEEE AND THE IRISH RECOVER!!!!!!! AARON LYNCH COMES BUSTING IN FROM THE BLINDSIDE AND DESTROYS COUSINS FOR THE FIRST SACK OF HIS CAREER! Notre Dame takes back over at the Sparty 49. I LOVE IT BABY!

4:10 Interception Spartans and it’s returned deep into Irish territory. This turnover problem is like a virus that won’t we just can’t shake. If Rees puts air until that throw it’s a touchdown. Come on defense, step up again.

4:13 Three plays, four yards for the Spartans. They trot out the placekicker and split the uprights on a field goal to cut the deficit. Notre Dame 7, Michigan St 3.

4:16 TOUCHDOOOOOWWWWNNNN IRRRRRRIIIIISSSSHHHHH!!!!!! GEORGE ATKINSON TAKES THE KICKOFF TO THE HOUSE FOR SIX AND THE IRISH ARE BACK IN CONTROL! HOW ABOUT THESE FRESHMEN MAKING AN IMPACT!?!?!?! 14-3 IRRRRRRRISH!

4:22 Great catch by Cunningham picks up a third down conversion for Michigan State. The quarter draws to a close and at this point you’ve got to be thrilled with how things are going for Notre Dame—with the obvious exception of another two turnovers to add to our gaudy and disgusting total for the year. I know I’ve probably said this 15 times over the last three seasons, but I’ll say it again: LET’S STEP ON THEIR THROATS AND BURY THEM.

4:25 Another completion on a slant to Cunningham picks up another first down and Michigan State is at the Irish 27.

4:27 Cunningham again for 15 yards and Michigan State is knocking on the door of the red zone.

4:28 Sparty’s got some rhythm going and they’ve got first down at the 11.

4:29 Touchdown Michigan State. Freshman Troy Niklas fell down and got beaten by the tight end. I can practically feel the fifty posts on Rivals going up about switching to field turf. Ugh. Notre Dame 14, Michigan State 10.

4:35 Three and out for the Irish. Guess what? Ben Turk is coming out to punt. Guess what he does? He unleashes a crappy punt. Imagine that. I give up. Tell me how Brindza can be worse? Michigan State ball at their own 45.

4:40 The defense holds and forces a punt. Lynch and Ethan Johnson get in to disrupt Cousins on third down and force a bad throw. The Irish get the ball back inside their own 10 with 8:25 to go in the half. Let’s put together a nice little drive here, shall we?

4:45 Notre Dame gets bailed out with a pass interference call on third down. We look completely out of sync. This happened a lot last year too; we get out of rhythm on offense and go into a funk for 3-4 drives. Come on, snap out of it.

4:47 Rees converts a big third down with a pass to Eifert on 3rd and long. The drive continues with about six minutes left in the half.

4:51 Big completion from Tommy Rees to Michael Floyd for 33-yards and Notre Dame is into Spartan territory.

4:52 Another big run on first down by Jonas Gray for 13 yards and suddenly the Irish offense is rolling again.

4:52 First down at the five yard yard line after Rees completes a dart to Tyler Eifert. Great throw. First and goal.

4:53 TOUCHDOWN IRISH! CIERRE WOOD BULLS INTO THE ENDZONE WITH AUTHORITY! The play is reviewed and confirmed. Ruffer rips the extra point through the uprights and the Irish go 92 yards to extend the lead to 11 with 3:36 to go. Notre Dame 21, Michigan State 10.

4:59 So for whatever reason Brindza bounces a short kick and Sparty responds with a 42-yard return. I’m just kind of confused. Michigan State ball at their own 47.

5:01 On the first play of Sparty’s drive, a Michigan State offensive lineman gets his leg rolled up on by…Louis Nix. If there was a fill-in-the-blank that started “Of everyone in the entire stadium, I would not want my leg to be rolled on by ________,” the name Louis Nix would probably be #1 on my and most people’s lists. Tough break for the kid.

5:06 Cousins completes a 21-yarder and the Spartans are driving inside the Irish 20. Come on defense, tighten up.

5:09 Notre Dame holds the Spartans and forces a field goal attempt from the 2-yard line with 52 seconds left. I guess I should say “apparent field goal attempt” when dealing with Michigan State. They call timeout.

5:11 Michigan State attempts the fake and it’s STUFFED. TAKE A SEAT DANTONIO. Kelly would’ve been fired on the spot by about 1.4 million Notre Dame fans if we would’ve given up another successful fake field goal. Irish ball.

5:15 Notre Dame takes a couple knees and we’ll head to half leading 21-10.

As a Notre Dame fan you’ve got to be very happy with the first half. Offense and defense both look good, though once again we’ve turned the ball over twice. For the most part we’ve locked down the Spartan attack—and stopped a fake field goal that would’ve given me a stroke had they converted—and have moved the ball pretty effectively.

Yet again the Irish will have a chance to bury a team. Don’t let them hang around—it’s time to just put them away and restore a modicum of confidence not only within the locker room but in the stands as well (which is more important than some people realize…a toxic environment outside the locker room is only counterproductive).

5:39 Notre Dame forces a three and out on Michigan State’s first drive. Good start! The anti-Joey Getherall fair catches the punt and the Irish take over at their own 29.

5:42 TJ Jones converts a 3rd down on a quick slant. Good throw, good catch.

5:43 A nice little completion to Theo Riddick is good for seven yards and it’s followed by an offsides by Michigan State, which means another first down for ND.

5:45 Another third down conversion, this time 22 yards to Michael Floyd.

5:46 TOUCHDOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOWN IRISH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! TJ JONES REELS IN THE TOMMY REES CATCH AND THE IRISH JUMP OUT TO A 28-10 LEAD. BUUURRRRYYYYYYYYYY THEMMMMMMMMM!!!!!!!!!!!!! TJ Jones is whacked with an absolutely absurd penalty when he puts his gloves up to signal to the fans. That's the dumbest call I've ever seen that didn't happen in The Big House.

5:54 Michigan State picks up a big third down. Dan Fox was there but was worried about getting there a little early for pass interference and didn’t tackle him.

5:55 RJ Blanton with a sack on the corner blitz, loss of 11. BOOM BABY!

5:56 Lynch draws an offsides on third and a mile, making it third and a mile and a half. Ladies and gentlemen, meet Tuck 2.0.

5:56 Michigan State is forced to punt. Goodman tries to return it, which naturally turns into a negative play. Whatever. Let’s turn this bad boy into a BEATDOWN.

5:58 While serving me my fourth margarita of the game, my Dad informs me that he’s three margaritas ahead of me. When I call bullshit, he responds that he’s just stating facts. Challenge accepted. You definitely won’t regret this one, Dad.

6:01 The Irish are rollllling. Another first down to Michael Floyd, described by the HD Gremlin as “an easy 13 yards.” I love 13 easy yards.

6:03 Alex Flanagan randomly lets us know that Michael Floyd was in trouble this offseason and now lives on-campus. Yes, that was completely appropriate at this juncture of the game and season. Go pound sand, Alex. Seriously.

6:04 Notre Dame is forced to punt. It’s hard to complain when you’re up by three possessions, but I sure would’ve loved to have driven home the dagger on that drive. If there’s anything we learned from last weekend it’s that three possession leads aren’t always safe.

6:09 In the blink of an eye Sparty is punting once again. Lovely. After blasting it into the endzone the Irish will take over at the 20 with another opportunity to drive the final nail in the coffin of this game.

6:13 Three and out for the Irish takes us down to the end of the third quarter. Annoyed that we couldn’t officially away, still pleased to be up by 18 points.

6:16 Ben Turk lets loose a 44-yard punt that Tom Hammond describes as ugly. If the HD Gremlin describes something as ugly then God-DAMN it’s probably really ugly.

6:17 Friend of the blog and former O’Neill Hall resident Farva chips in with the text of the day: “I want to waterboard Mr. Turk.” I can’t say I disagree.

6:22 Michigan State has a ho-hum drive that ends in a field goal. Notre Dame 28, Michigan State 13.

6:26 Tommy Rees is picked off buuuuuuuuuut that’s going to be pass interference because the defensive back was basically molesting Michael Floyd. Give us all 15 of those yards and a first down, thank you very MUCH.

6:29 Notre Dame’s drive stalls, which means it’s time for the Ben Turk Experience…and he lays down a BEAUTIFUL coffin corner kick that pins Sparty on the 1! LOOK AT YOU, BEN! WELL DONE!!!!!!

6:35 Alex Flangan lets us know that Kirk Cousins is an internet sensation because he has a video on YouTube that has 110 hits. #headexplodes

6:41 Michigan State is forced to punt with 4:30 left…and John Goodman fumbles. You have got to be KIDDING me. YOUR ONLY JOB IS TO FAIR CATCH PUNTS, WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU!?!?!??!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!??!?!?!?!?!? I FEEL LIKE PUNTING MY DOG. NOT A BIG PUNT, JUST AN AVERAGE BEN TURK PUNT…SO 28-YARDS OFF THE SIDE OF MY GODDAMN FOOT. Michigan State ball knocking on the door of the red zone.

6:42 Quick throw has Michigan State first and goal inside of the 10-yard line. You’ve got to be kidding me.

6:44 INTERCEPTION ROBERT BLANTON!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! YEEEEEEEEESSSSSIIRRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! HE TAKES IT BACK ALL THE WAY TO THE MICHIGAN STATE 12. PUT THIS GAME ON ICE BABY!!!!!!!!

6:48 Notre Dame chooses to go really, really conservative and just take three points. Ruffer rips it through the uprights and the Irish lead 31-13. Boo-yaaaaaah baby!

6:57 Michigan State is slowly working down the field as Aaron Lynch terrorizes Kirk Cousins basically every time he drops back to pass. Sparty is inching toward the goal line but they’re running out of time

6:59 Michigan State turns the ball over on downs and THAT my friends, is the ball game. WELCOME BACK NOTRE DAME FOOTBALL!!!!!

7:00 QUEUE ME UP SOME JOHNNY DRAMA…

7:01 Oh my God, disappear Alex Flanagan.

7:03 LOOOOOVE THEE NOTRE DAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAME! People who hate on the alma mater at the end of the game and say it's too dreary or melancholy obviously don't know what it's like to belt it out after a victory. I'm not saying there have been all that many opportunities to belt it out after W's over the past few years, but it's great when it happens. Thumbs up to Weis for starting this.

7:04 Oh God, I love this exchange between Robert Blanton and Dr. Alex Flanagan so, so much:

Dr. Flanagan: You played a great game. Was it the best game of your life?

Blanton: (Pauses and thinks)...No. No m'am.

(More pausing)

Dr. Flanagan: Have you heard about Kirk Cousins' video on youtube? It has 110 hits. It's an internet phenomenon.

(Aaron Lynch blindsides Flanagan with a steel chair...student body goes wild as the band plays the angry, aggressive drum cheer that happens after big defensive plays)

Alright, well at least the first three lines of this encounter happened in real life.


Great win. It'll be nice to head into work with a bounce in my step Monday. One down, nine to go...

GO IRISH

Saturday, September 17, 2011

GAMEDAY: BACKING AWAY FROM THE LEDGE

The Irish are a better team than Michigan State.

I think that. Brian Kelly thinks that. Vegas thinks that.

I want to think this will be an explosion of Utah-esque proportions where ND just drops the hammer on Sparty, but I know better than to expect that out of this game. It's always close, which is why I shied away from the -5 ND line.

Look for another big day from Michael Floyd, only two turnovers (ugh), the first Aaron Lynch sack of the year, and a successful play action pass on 3rd and 1.

It's going to be stressful, it's going to take a year or two off our lives (if you calculate how many years have been taken off my life since 2009 it means I have about...four years left to live...crap), but Notre Dame brings its season back from the brink today.

Notre Dame 34
Michigan State 28

GO IRISH

THE BODOGS ARE BARKIN: WEEK #2

As a Notre Dame fan, I know all about brutal starts. And damn, was last week a brutal start for The Bodogs...

Chuck is the only one who survived the weekend in the black. The quartet of degenerates tries to dig out of a hole and answer the bell in round two.

Week 1 Results

1. Chuck: $17…Winner of the tallest midget award this week.
2. Mattare: -$92…Two epic collapses by ND and UVA submarine a potentially good week.
3. Hinkle: -$114…Rough start for the Mouth of the South(west).
4. Mikey: -$142...The logic behind his picks was so sound...how did this happen?

Week 2 Pick Summary

Hinkle: Boise > Tol, Iowa > Pitt, Akron > Cin, OU-FSU (Over)
Mattare: Army > NW, GT > Kans, Az > Stan, OU > FSU
Chuck: Mia > OSU, Az > Stan, Navy > SC, FSU > OU
Mikey: WV > Mary, ND > MSU, Stan > Az, FSU > OU

ON TO THE PICKS!

Chuck

I won't lie to you. I'm too hungover to come up with detailed analysis. Don't I get a free pass after last week's gem? So glad I had such a huge start last week to stake this big lead.

Game #1: Miami (-2.5) over Ohio State...$33 to win $30

If there's any justice in the world of NCAA, these two schools should be known as Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the time the infractions committee gets through with them.

Game #2: Arizona (+10) over Stanford...$22 to win $20

Nick Foles. So hot right now. Nick Foles.

Game #3: Navy (+16.5) over South Carolina...$22 to win $20

A vote for America and a vote against the terrorists at the same time. Sounds like a plan to me.

Game of the Week: Florida State (+3.5) over Oklahoma...$22 to win $20

Because Corso has picked the correct headgear in week three on College Gameday 13 years in a row. Guess who he's picking today.

Mattare

Woof. Brutal week on every level. Special thanks to the 7,000 Michigan fans who stopped by this week to tell me burn in hell among other things. There were some winner comments that made me laugh out loud...though the funniest comments were the ones that inferred Denard is a good passer. You're all loooooccccoooooo.

Tryin' to get that BACON money this week.

Game #1: Army (+9.5) over Northwestern...$44 to win $40

I'm a big believer in Army's head coach Rich Ellerson. The Black Knights lost a heartbreaker last weekend at San Diego State and the general thinking seems to be that Northwestern has this game in the bag (to the point where people are speculating as to whether they should rest their starting quarterback Dan Persa). Don't sleep on Army. They may not win this game outright, but they'll keep it tight in the home opener on the Hudson.

Game #2: Georgia Tech (-14) over Kansas...$55 to win $50

The Yellow Jackets are going to absolutely shred Turner Gill's Jayhawks. Kansas gave up over five yards per carry last week against Northern Illinois. Paul Johnson's triple option attack is already clicking on all cylinders which means bad, bad things for the visiting team.

Game #3: Arizona (+10) over Stanford...$33 to win $30

Give me the home-dog points. It's just a matter of time before Stanford slips up without Jim Harbaugh.

Game of the Week: Oklahoma (-3.5) over Florida State...$33 to win $30

There's still a pretty big gap between these two teams. Florida State appears to be on its way back...but it's not there yet.

Hinkle

Well that was an interesting start to the year. I think I went less than .500 once last year and it was not until late. Alabama turned out nice. Point went flying on the board Stillwater on Thursday then trickled. Hard to spot Auburn 14 points in 2 minutes at home and then try to cover, although it was close with an opportunity at the end. AND FOR THE LOVE OF GOD NOTRE DAME! At worst should have been 2-2, maybe 3-1 but close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades so time to put the pieces of the puzzle back together and get in the black. Here we go:

Game #1: Boise State -20 @ Toldeo...$55 win $50

I know what you are thinking...shocker he is taking Boise. "Not so fast my friend"!!!! I rarely take them because I think their spreads and totals are usually outrageous and I hate betting on my own team, but I really do like them in this spot.

Toledo gave one heck of an effort last week at Ohio State, almost coming away with a monster victory but they fell short at the end. Many of their opportunites came off of Buckeye mistakes due to sloppy play. Fundamental mistakes that the Broncos will not make.

Next, Boise was put on probation this week for silly violations in tennis and giving kids a floor to sleep on and not enough money to put 5 gallons of gas in their car. BCS Busters need to pay for that! Auburn, OSU, and THE U should be given about 100 years probation for all of their crap but were not. You think the underdog will have an even bigger chip on their shoulder this week? I do.

Game #2: Iowa (-3) vs Pitt...$77 win $70

Pitt struggled for most of the game versus Maine last week and did not look great against Buffalo the week before. Iowa on the other hand has played "real" games like the one last week where they were in a battle against in state rival ISU. They have proven they can put up points and yards. Pitt is giving up almost 23 points a game to teams you cannot even name 1 player on their roster. I think both institutions will score points, but Pitt will give up much more than the Hawkeyes. Iowa 38 Pitt 24.

Game #3: Akron (+35) @ Cincy...$33 win $30

Cincy blew out Austin Peay and then got rolled at Tennessee. Akron lost at Ohio State 42-0 and then only scored 3 vs. Temple last week. At some point they have to score points (right?). Having the ability to see two weeks of game film on an opponent has to give them the benefit of exposing some sort of weakness. Something worked for UT to put up all those points. Do I think they will win? No! Do I think they will put up one heck of a fight against another in state opponnent and try to get their offense rolling? Yes. I see this one being competitive early on with Cincy pulling away late.

Game of the Week: FSU vs Oklahoma (OVER 55)...$11 win $10

Game of the Week should be a great one. Two solid teams early on. I would much rather be a "fan" than a "handicapper" for this one because to be quite honest I see this game going 1 million different ways. With that being said, let's hope for an ole fashioned shootout. FSU 67 OK 66 5 OT!

Mikey


Off to a beautiful start at 1-3 (and should've been 0-4) but it's early in the season and there's still plenty to learn about every team in D-1. Let's continue the education:

Game #1: West Virginia (+1) vs Maryland...$55 to win $50

Not even knowing West Virginia's roster this season I guarantee they have an incredibly fast running back and a mobile QB, or maybe they've switched to the West Coast offense. The Mountaineers are a rock solid program and will be looking for a marquee out of conference win before they begin play in the Big East. Maryland beat a depleted Miami team in a game that I actually watched a few weeks ago and wasn't that impressive. I think a full WVa squad can go on the road and stomp the terrapins before conference season begins.

Game #2: Notre Dame (-5.5) vs Michigan St...$33 to win $30

Yes I'm a big hypocrite for going with ND this week, but you've got to be in the land of college football. Situations change so drastically week to week that it's possible for a terrible team to go on the road and take down a giant given the right circumstances (see USC/Stanford 2007). The Irish have showed great flashes of talent this season and it's really been turnovers that have led them to an 0-2 hole. Michigan St. is a solid team but going on the road in a mini rivalry game will be an extremely tough test for Sparty. ND has got to bounce back in a big way from those 2 crushing defeats and I think they make a statement this week by protecting the football and stuffing Mich St.'s O all afternoon.

Game #3: Stanford (-10) vs Arizona...$22 to win $20

Stanford may have been the best team in the country last year (needless to say I got screwed after picking Andrew Luck to win the Heisman preseason in 2010 and it going to that fraud from Auburn) and may be again this year. I was at the game where they squashed Notre Dame into oblivion and made my wallet a little lighter for betting on the Irish. No more. I'm riding the Cardinal starting this week and into the future as they have a real chance to go undefeated and play for the national title.

Game o the week: Flo-rida St. (+3.5) vs Oklahoma...$33 to win $30

I just can't see any way that this game doesn't go down to the wire. Florida St. is an incredible defensive team and will be fired up playing at home in their biggest game in recent memory. The Sooners haven't been tested yet so they've had to be looking forward to this one for a while.Couple that with Bob Stoops being as good in big games as the Buffalo Bills and the only way this is a blowout is if OU is the one getting trounced. Either way I'll be at Oktoberfest in downtown Cincinnati and trying to find a bar around 8 PM to tune into this one, I suggest everyone else do the same.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Irish Blogger Gathering: Role Play Edition

1. Let’s go ahead and talk about the big pink elephant in the room. After two absolutely horrid, heart-breaking, and downright mind-boggling performances, how do you feel about this team moving forward? Are we simply a bad team or a team that just hasn’t put it together yet? This is your chance to talk Irish fans of the ledge…or push them over.

The fact that any chances of a dream season have been completely shattered by mid-September puts a pall on the rest of fall. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't used to it happening each September--which is depressing in and of itself--but it doesn't make it any easier to swallow. The maddening thing is this is one of the most complete Notre Dame squad in years. There's talent on each side of the ball and the potential for greatness on both lines, but much like the high octane 2009 squad this one seems completely hell-bent on self-destructing in the most excruciatingly torturous ways possible.


You can't say we're a good team because good teams don't commit 10 turnovers. Good teams don't commit 10 turnovers in a year, let alone two games (see: the 2000 Fiesta Bowl squad). But there is undeniable potential on this squad. If Kelly can coerce some discipline out of it then--as ridiculous as it sounds--10-2 is not out of the question. Has there been anything in the first two weeks that suggests suddenly we're going to squash those mental lapses and realize the potential? Noooooope.

I'm not here to sugarcoat anything nor am I here to push anyone over the ledge. The silver lining right now is the fact that Notre Dame has the talent to compete on an elite level. There are still some positions that are lacking depth (see: cornerback...please for the love of God don't bail on me Ron Darby), but at its core in terms of personnel and direction this is a healthy program.

Yes, just like in the last couple years of the Weis Era a toxic cloud still hovers around it thanks to an unrelentingly negative and vocal section of the fan base. The difference right now though is the chasm between mediocrity and elite is more mental than physical. It’s not easy to take that last step, but if Kelly can drill the necessary discipline, focus, and mental toughness through his kids’ skulls through teaching, yelling, paddling, or any other means necessary then this team is still at least in theory capable of making some noise on a national level. That’s not something you could legitimately say about any other Irish squad since Brady Quinn graduated.

2. It’s time to put on the headset and step into the shoes of Brian Kelly. In the first quarter, it seemed like your message and plan to recover from the USF disaster worked, and then the rest of the game happened. How do approach this week? What message do you give your players?

It all comes down to mental focus. If Notre Dame didn’t self-destruct in each of the first two games they would be 2-0 and ranked in the top ten. Instead, the Irish sit at 0-2 and the majority of national media and fans are having a funeral for the future of the program. Focus and play with discipline. A 10-game win streak is not impossible if they can start winning the game played on a six inch field between the players’ ears.

3. Keep that headset on, you are still playing Kelly. Based upon what you’ve seen these last two games, do you see players that need to start riding the pine or are you still confident in your depth chart?

Sorry, let me put the headset back on. I’d taken it off to unhinge my jaw and eat Ben Turk whole. One cause of my aneurysms solved. In all honesty, think I just ate the only player I really would liked to see planted on the bench through the first couple games. Gary Gray has had a HORRENDOUS start to the season, but I still want him out there. Prior to this year I thought he was the best corner we’ve fielded since Shane Walton. He’s done everything in his power to try to kill that claim, but I still have a little faith left to spare on him.

I just want everyone to start playing smart. Apparently that’s a lot to ask.

4. Overall, how do you feel about Rees’ performance against Michigan?

The kid is mistake prone and his unforced fourth quarter error in the red zone was a colossal turning point in a game that was still completely in Notre Dame’s control. That being said, he does a fantastic job keeping his poise in the pinch. The offense clearly moves better with him at the helm, it’s just that turnovers will continue to be an issue as long as he’s the trigger man. If I were to give it a grade I’d go with B—great out of the gate, sputtered in the middle, a terrible turnover in the fourth quarter, and a clutch drive that should have been the game-winner.

5. Let’s talk about something happy: the Irish running game. After a 198 yard performance by the Irish do you feel that this rushing attack led by Cierre Wood (134 yards) is for real or have we not run into a tough enough defensive test yet?

It’s legit with a caveat. Stats don’t lie—Notre Dame is running the ball effectively out of the spread, especially on first and second down. The eyes don’t lie either though: we’re still atrocious in short yardage situations where we line up under center. Yes, it’s incredibly predictable as to what we’re going to do. But elite offensive lines and elite running games can line up and will their way to a single yard even when everyone in the world knows where it’s going.

Currently, the Irish are acres from being elite.

When ND gets to the point where fans expect them to come through and get a yard when they need it, we can start talking about an elite running game. Until then we can tip our cap to marked improvement while hoping for more.

6. Looking ahead to Michigan State, how do you gauge them? Is this the best team that we’ve faced off against yet or is this just an untested team that beat up on two cupcakes in Youngstown State and Florida Atlantic?

They’re definitely better than Michigan, which may be one of the five worst teams we’ve lost to in the past decade (and that’s an brutal label to carry). They haven’t been tested and are overrated as of right now in terms of ranking (Vegas agrees…line open at ND -3.5 and jumped almost immediately to -5 which means the sharps loaded up on the Irish), but they’re no pushover by any stretch. If Notre Dame plays well they should handle Sparty. That’s a huge “if” though, compounded by the fact that Sparty normally throws their best game of the season at the Irish. Look for another tight slugfest.

7. Is the key to winning simply not turning the ball over or do you see other crucial keys to beating Sparty?

DON’T SHOOT YOURSELF IN THE FOOT. JUST STOP DOING IT. It’s not just turnovers, it’s mental mistakes in general. Stupid penalties, missed blocking assignments in short yardage situations, broken coverages that lead to 60-yard passes with under 30 seconds left that are stroke-inducing.

8. Obviously every week should be a must win, but I think there is definitely more of an urgency this week. How crucial is this game for the rest of our season?

Believe it or not, this season is salvageable if we win this game. The team needs to get things snowballing in the right direction and it starts with one win. A victory over a team ranked in the Top 15 is just what the doctor ordered.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Dear Diary...Notre Dame - Michigan

Ladies and gents, the running diary is back! We’re coming to you live from a new college football headquarters in The Big Apple. We’ve got a crowd of five here to witness the first night game ever in the history of the biggest and amazingly not loud Michigan Stadium. Let’s get to it!

7:59 Our first look at The Big House. IT’S NOT EVEN NIGHT YET! YOU FAILED! There have still been zero night games in The Big House.

8:01 First look at the retro jerseys. They’re fine, I just hate the helmet. Why the hell are we bringing back anything from the Kucharich Era?

8:07 And here come the Wolverines tapping their little sign. Will Hoke try to get up and touch it? Yes! He gets there! A victory for fat people everywhere! Good for him!

8:08 HEEEEEERE COME THE IRISH! They don’t seem particularly fired up. I’m hoping that it’s just because they’re focused and ready to kick some ass.

8:11 Catholic School Girl Throwback Cheerleader Outfits? Meeeeeh…

8:12 There was a lot of buildup for how sweet the flyover was going to be. What’d they do? An old cargo plane. Sweet, Michigan. You want to impress me do something like Iowa.

8:14 Dr Flanagan gets the week off, it’s Erin Andrews’ time to shine! BK is rocking a phenomenally stylish visor. He seems so in control, I bet he doesn’t yell at all this whole game. The Irish have won and deferred.

8:16 Manti Te’o STUFFS the ‘Nard Dog on second down. IN YOUR GRILL ALL DAY #16!

8:18 Three and out for the Skunkbears. Couldn’t ask for a better start. My heart stopped a second when Goodman fielded that punt, but we’ve successfully not screwed up out of the gate. I feel like the fact that my reaction right away is “good, we haven’t screwed up yet” is a sign we’ve still got a long way to go.

8:19 One play, one first down on the ground. Cierre for 11. Beautiful.

8:21 Great throw by Tommy to Michael Floyd for a huge gain.

8:22 Rees fumbles the snap and disaster almost strikes, but we recover.

8:23 TOOOOOUUUUCCCCCHHHDDDDDOOOOOOWWWNNNNNN IRISH!!!!! REES TO RIDDICK ON 3RD AND GOAL FOR A TOUCHDOWN. TALK ABOUT YOUR BEST CASE SCENARIO. Ruffer splits the uprights and it’s 7-0 good guys.

8:28 The defense has come out with guns blazing. Back-to-back tackles by KLM and it’s third and long.

8:29 Another three and out for the Skunkbears. Uhhhhh ohhhhhh….you’re not in San Diego anymore, Mr. Hoke.

8:30 Most conservative fair catch ever there. Whatever, we’ve got the ball.

8:33 One play, another first down on a dump to Jonas Gray.

8:34 Another big run for the Irish. The offensive line is MAULING Michigan right now.

8:37 Musberger comments that “Brady Hoke’s defense is under fire from the Irish early.” Yeeeeeeeep!

8:40 A slant to Michael Floyd has the Irish inside the 10-yard line with 2:40 left in the half. Come on boys, pound it in there.

8:42 TOUCHDOOOOOOWWWNNNN IRISH!!!!!!! CIERRE WOOD BUSTS UP THE MIDDLE BASICALLY UNTOUCHED TO ADD TO THE NOTRE DAME LEAD. The Irish are MANHANDLING the Skunkbears right now. Talk about just what the doctor ordered. Bust out the whine and cheese in The Big House. 14-0 IRISH.

8:45 Denard tries to roll out and make something happen but he’s completely swarmed by Ethan Johnson and Ishaq Williams among others for a loss. Good to see Ishaq cracking the lineup.

8:46 Robinson takes a quarterback keeper on the next play for a first down. Damn he’s fast.

8:47 INTERCEPTION GARY GRAY!!!! Denard can’t even complete a screen pass let alone a real pass. He sails it on the last play of the corner and Gray dives to make the easy pick. GAS THEM IRISH, SEND 114,000 PEOPLE HOME IN TIME TO CATCH THE START OF MADTV.

8:53 Three and out for ND. Damn, what a lost opportunity there. Out trots the shankopotomus who thankfully doesn’t completely blow it. Michigan ball at the 13.

8:58 Big run by the ‘Nard Dog.

9:02 The Irish hold and it’s another punt for the Skunkbears. A negative return for Goodman. That brings his career averge to -1.0 yards per return with 18 fair catches. Ugh.

9:06 HUGE play for Floyd on first down taking a swing pass in the flat, undressing the DB, and picking up 25 yards.

9:08 ND burns its final timeout with 11 minutes left in the second quarter. Wow, I hate to say this out loud but that’s Davie-esque. I hope it doesn’t come back to bite us in this footbawww game.

9:10 Interception Tommy Rees. Terrible throw, terrible decision. This is the big reason I haven’t been able to buy into him. He’s very turnover prone for a guy that’s a purported “game manager.” Michigan ball at the ND 45.

9:12 Touchdown Michigan. Bomb/prayer to the left sideline. Crap. 14-7 Irish. Need to bounce back and put together a drive here. Get back to pounding the ball.

9:20 And BK answers my request with a handoff to Cierre Wood—huge run on second down.

9:23 Back-to-back penalties from Notre Dame 2nd and 26.

9:24 Well, time to go back to the well that is Michael Floyd. Big #3 snares a lob down the right sideline for 25.9999999 yards, bringing up a 3rd and one inch.

9:25 First down, Irish.

9:26 I just noticed the Ben Hogan referee hats. Do you think they refer to the players as “laddie?”

9:29 Michael Floyd picks up another third down. Irish rolling.

9:30 Interception on the goal line. DAMNIT TOMMY. Rees if 4 for his last 10 with 2 INT’s.

9:32 Three and out for the Skunkbears. Denard is just a terrible passing quarterback. He’s made for the spread and nothing else.

9:35 Jonas Gray picks up a first down on 3rd and 5 right up the gut.

9:38 Drive stalls. Ruffer comes in and splits the uprights and ND goes up 17-7 with 1:45 left. I can’t say I’m upset.

9:42 Michigan takes a knee and we head to the half. Brady Hoke gets interviewed on his way into the locker room and once again everyone is reminded of how he has such an unfortunate voice for a big, burly dude.

Let’s take a look at the halftime stats.

Total Yards: Notre Dame – 268…Michigan – 94
(43 Yards of that came on a prayer…what a performance by the defense)

Denard’s Statline: 2 of 9 for 48 yards…7 carries for 40 yards
(He is a TERRIBLE passer…completely hopeless)

ND Rushing: 18 rushes for 102 yards, 5.7 per carry
(Great job by the Irish offensive line…75 yards for Cierre…thrilled about this)

Turnovers: Michigan – 0…Notre Dame – 2
(Dumb Dumb Dumb Dumb)

We need to step on their throats. The gap between these teams is very large; we can’t let them hang around. It’s time to start developing a killer instinct tonight.

10:07 The Irish receive the second half kickoff and they’re already on the march. Cierre Wood rips off another big run and he’s up to 98 yards for the evening.

10:09 The drive stalls and Turk actually does a great job fielding a terrible snap—Jordan Cowart, wake the hell up and remember how to snap a football, IT’S YOUR ONLY JOB—and pins the Skunkbears at the 11 yard line.

10:13 First play is a 39-yard run by the ‘Nard Dog. Shit.

10:15 Hoke has given up his offense and is going back to the “Here Denard, just take it and run” offense. The Irish have responded and it’s 3rd and long.

10:16 The Irish hold and it’s time for another punt. WAY TO STEP UP DEFENSE!

10:20 HUGE RUN by Jonas Gray, 38 yards. JAM IT DOWN THEIR THROATS BOYS!!!

10:22 Fumble Cierre Wood and Michigan recovers. COME ON, GIVE ME A GODDAMN BREAK. WHEN ARE WE GOING TO LEARN TO STEP ON A TEAM AND BURY THEM.

10:25 Michigan picks up a conversion on third down on pass. Whenever something good happens through the air for them I’m completely shocked.

10:25 INTERCEPTION ZEKE MOTTA! ‘NARD DOG IS SOOOOO BAAAAAAAD.

10:26 First play is a huge run by Cierre Wood…24 yards. Way to bounce back #20.

10:28 Michael Floyd picks up another conversion on third down. PUNCH IT IN IRISH.

10:30 Dayne does a great job helping Cierre stretch his wrist on the sideline. See, he’s the consummate team player.

10:31 That should’ve been pass interference in the endzone on Floyd. Bullshit.

10:32 TOUCHDOOOOOOOOOOOWWWWNNNNNN IIIIRRRRRRIIIIISSSSSHHHHHH! TJ JONES ON THE CROSSING PATTERN! THE IRISH HAVE TAKEN COMPLETE CONTROL OF THIS GAME. Let’s see if ‘Nard Dog can pass them back.

Wait, let me think about that…HAHAHAHAHAHA.

10:37 Of course the first play is a huge pass and it’s first and goal Michigan. Robert Blanton saves a touchdown coming across from the other side of the field. Well ain’t that some shit.

10:40 It’s 3rd and goal from the one foot line as the 3rd quarter ends. If we could get a stop here the game is over. As well as we’ve played I don’t feel good about containing Denard short of the endzone here.

10:45 Michigan gets STONED AT THE LINE, FUMBLES, AND PICKS UP THE GODDAMN BALL AND SCORES. You. Have. To. Be. Kidding. Me. That’s the luck of Notre Dame football over the last two decades. Unreal. Notre Dame 24, Michigan 14.

10:48 Terrible return by Riddick backs ND at the 10-yard line.

10:51 Wood picks up 8 big yards on 2nd down. Setting up a third and short.

10:51 Cierre Wood is dragged down behind the line and it’s three and out for Notre Dame. This is what happens when you let them hang around. The feeling nausea of nausea from 2009 is rumbling…

10:52 Ben Turk shanks a punt. This is the 54th time I’ve written that in two years. Still no one has stepped up and maimed him. That should basically count as a turnover. How the hell can you be Reggie Roby in practice and be this incredibly terrible whenever we need you to show up???? Michigan’s ball with momentum and great field position.

10:55 Dan Fox snipes ‘Nard Dog on first down for a five yard loss. COME ON BABY, BURY THEM.

10:55 Play action throw to the fullback goes for 15 and a first down. Damnit.

10:57 Michigan’s fifth play of this drive means it’s the longest drive of the night. They have not had a drive longer than four plays all night and yet they’re still alive. Unbelievable.

11:00 Touchdown Michigan. Gary Gray gets burned. Unreal. Absolutely terrible. Notre Dame 24, Michigan 21. This is atrocious. That sickening feeling is back in full force.

11:02 Great return by Theo Riddick gives the Irish good field position.

11:03 Holding on second down backs Notre Dame up for a 2nd and 15.

11:05 Zero yards on a pass to Floyd. Third and a mile. And then we burn a timeout.

11:06 REES DELIVERS A STRIKE TO EIFERT FOR 20 YARDS. LADIES AND GENTS, THAT’S YOUR FIRST BOB DAVIE DROP THE H-UUUUUUUUUUUUUUGE OF THE NIGHT!

11:08 Another first down on a slant to Floyd, Irish at the Michigan 30.

11:10 Another Irish first down thanks to pass interference on TJ Jones. Irish ball at the 6-yard line. PUNCH IT IN.

11:11 Fumble, Tommy Rees. Michigan recovers. WOW. He just dropped the ball as he tried to throw. Mark it down, this is the first moment where I feel like we can lose this game. Please for the love of all that’s holy make it not so.

11:12 Denard delivers a strike for a first down BUT there’s a holding call. Huge call. COME ON IRISH, DIG DEEP.

11:14 Denard throws a jump ball into double coverage and Hemingway comes down with it at midfield. Tack on another 15 yards for a late hit and Michigan is on the 30 with under five minutes left. Harrison Smith and Zeke Motta…what the hell were you doing?!?!?!

11:15 INTERCEPTION ROBERT BLANTON!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! WHAT A PLAY BY RJ, HOLY SHIT, THAT’S A POTENTIAL GAME SAVER.

11:18 Notre Dame once again gets stuffed on 3rd and 1 and has to punt. Turk actually gets off a good punt, but a good return gives Michigan decent field position with two minutes left. Can the defense actually come through or will this be an exact replica of the 2009 game in The Big House? I need a handful of Xanax washed down with a gallon of Makers Mark.

11:22 Third and 2. Please stop them. Please.

11:23 MANTI THROTTLES DENARD but he gets the first down by a nose.

11:24 First down Michigan at the 21-yard line.

11:25 Touchdown Michigan. I’m going to throw up. Michigan 28, Notre Dame 24. Let’s see what kind of winner you are Tommy. 1:12 left, one timeout.

11:26 Nothing gets me jacked up at a football game like Taio Cruze. See, this is why we need a jumbotron at ND! Because we need to blare DY-NO-MITE to jack up the students! God Michigan sucks.

11:27 Good return for Riddick gives the Irish the ball at the 39. COME ON IRISH.

11:28 First play is a pass interference on Michael Floyd. If he wouldn’t have been held that’s easily six points. Safety help? What’s that? Irish ball at the 46.

11:29 Great throw to Eifert. First down at the 34.

11:29 Quick throw to TJ Jones and out of bounds. 2nd and 5.

11:30 Incomplete with 36 seconds left. 3rd and 5.

11:31 TOUCHDOOOOOOOOOOOWWWWWWWWNNNNNNNNNNN IRRRRRRIIIIISSSSSSHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!! HOOOOOLLLLLYYYYYYYY MOTHER OF GOD, TOMMMMMYYYYY RREEEEEEESSSSSSSSSSSS TO THEO RIDDDICK!!!!!!!! REDEMPTION! EUPHORIA! I JUST RAN AROUND THE ROOM LIKE JIMMY V LOOKING FOR SOMEONE TO HUG!!!!

11:33 BRINDZA BOMBS IT OUT THE BACK OF THE ENDZONE. COME ON IRRRRRRRRIIISSSSSHHHHHHHHHH!

11:35 Michigan completes a bomb on second down. They’re in field goal range. I just swallowed my tongue.

11:37 Touchdown Michigan with two seconds left. Fade to black. I’m going to go kill myself now.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

GAMEDAY: A PURE MICHIGAN BEATDOWN


That was fun.

Bottom line is that Notre Dame is capable of being a top tier team if they play well. Michigan is mediocre team if they play well. As long as the Irish don't completely implode they're going to win this game. If they play well they're going to win handily.

Let's go get it done Irish.

Notre Dame 27
Michigan 14

Friday, September 9, 2011

Irish Blogger Gathering: Heal Me, Britney

I know it's last second, but I can't just let an IBG pass me by without weighing in. Thanks to HLS for putting them together. Head over there for other responses.

1) Well that result really sucked. Please describe how you feel about the loss using lyrics from a pop diva (eg Brittany Spears, Rihanna, etc) song. Bonus points for video or pictures. (something good has to come out of last week)


Do I need to expand on the song? Or are you just busy watching and rewatching the video? It's self-explanatory. I got my hopes up and once again they came crashing down before October 1. Bollocks.

2) While we all want to move on, last week's game can teach us many things about the '11 Irish. After seeing what Week 1 brought us, do you find yourself more confident, less confident, or still confused as hell about our chances vs the Skunkbears? Why?

I think we are a far, far superior team to Michigan at every single position except quarterback. If we don't take a shotgun and unload it on our feet and head like we did last week we will win this game.

3) Other than QB, which position group pleasantly surprised you this past week? Which disappointed? What player absolutely MUST see more time in Week 2? Again, no QBs.

I guess you could say I was pleasantly surprised with the offensive line. They basically mauled the South Florida line, giving Tommy plenty of time in the second half (with only 1-2 exceptions) and giving Cierre some serious real estate to play with when BK called his numbed.

The disappointment was the special teams crew. I had a terrible feeling about Ruffer getting Nick Setta'd early on (Setta went through a huge cold spell once everyone realized he was the best offensive weapon we had before bouncing back) and in a game where everything went wrong he pulled his only field goal attempt. Riddick was the most unnatural looking returner I have ever seen and I don't even really know who I'd put at #2. Throw in the shankopotomus Ben Turk and you've got yourself a giant disappointment.

I'd like to see Robby Toma out there getting some reps instead of Riddick at PR and WR. Why? Because he's Riddick Lite in terms of slipperiness and he has great hands, something Theo does not.

4) Tommy Rees will lead the Irish Offense this week. Do you agree with Coach's call? Either way, what part of Crist's game will the Irish O miss the most, if any?

Yes, I agree with him. Obviously the team responds better to Rees. I was in the "Crist Camp" just because I don't think Tommy has the ceiling to be a national championship quarterback and will always struggle against elite defenses (go prove me wrong, TR), but I'm pulling hard for the sophomore now.

The one thing they'll miss about Dayne's game is his ability to stretch the field vertically. It's not that he throws a necessarily great deep ball, but arm strength a clear weakness of Rees (weakness in the sense that there are just some deep throws you can't expect him to make). I don't think they'll miss him much though.

5) What's the key to beating the Wolverines this week? Just 1 thing. Not 2. 1.

Don't beat yourself. Don't beat yourself. Don't beat yourself. Michigan cannot win this game, we can only lose it. That's how big the talent gap is.

6) Make your Over-Under Picks:

Over-under on Floyd's receiving total for this coming weekend: 154 - OVER...Floyd Fest 2011!

Over-under on Robinson's rushing total: 100 - OVER...'Nard Dog will get his.

Over-under on ND Number of Turnovers: 2 - UNDER...Only one stupid throw from Tommy.

Over-under on Number of Times Kelly is caught Purple Monstering Out: 2 - OVER...Way over.

Over-under on ND Total Yards: 425 - OVER...South Florida has a better defense than the Skunkbears.

7) Michigan: Just Another Opponent, Enemy, or Rival? Explain. 1 Bonus point for each use of the word 'suck'.

Enemy and Rival. Every Notre Dame fan cares about this game more than any game except Southern Cal. Michigan Sucks.

8) It's Michigan week. Name 1 thing in the world that sucks as much as Michigan, if you can.

Carlos Mencia's standup.

9) RichRod is back, announcing for CBS. Can't wait to see how that goes. Bet he's horrible.

Bet you're right. Bet he cries.

THE BODOGS ARE BARKIN: RELOADED

My gambling brethren: we're back. Better than ever? Settle down, let's be reasonable with the expectations.

We've got some rules tweaks to make it interesting:

Maximum of $200 bet per week.

You can only go "All In" ($125 or more) 1 time during the regular season.

You must bet a minimum of 4 games.

You must bet wherever College Gameday is and feature it as the game of the week.

Moneyline bets max of $40 (We call this The "Hinkle is bitter about Chuck's Tulsa ML victory last year" Rule)

Gambling Playoffs! (It's like the FedEx Cup! Except more likable and makes less sense.)

You must be in the black to qualify.

Week 1 we will play the regular season rules. Two Highest totals advance to week 2.

Week 2 we will keep the rules the same as regular season.

Championship:

Must make 4 bets on the National Title Game (prop, moneyline, total, spread, half, quarters, game...etc)

$300 Bankroll

Got it? Good. ON TO THE PICKS!!!!!

Mattare

Fresh off a ridiculous comeback in the last six weeks of the season, I am back to defend my crown as the greatest gambler on this prolific website.

1. Alabama (-10) over Penn State...$44 for $40

Billy Boy is going to be in Happy Valley to witness what is sure to be an ass-whooping for the ages. All the white tee wearing fans in Pennsylvania won't be able to keep the Nittanys close in this one, because screaming loud doesn't get your team first downs. Bama by 21.

2. Boston College (+7) over UCF...$33 for $30

Everyone likes to hate on BC, but this spread is too much to pass up. The Fighting George O'Leary's may win this game, but Fredo will find a way to grind it out and keep it close.

3. Virginia (-6.5) over Indiana...$33 for $30

Two reasons for this pick. First is that good coaches usually take big steps in their second year in a program. I think Mike London is a very, very good coach. Second, Indiana is so bad. So, so, so bad.

4. Notre Dame (-3) over Michigan....$66 for $60

Guess what? The Irish are bouncing back and they're bouncing back in a convincing fashion. The only hope Michigan has is the 'Nard Dog going off--which, of course, you can't rule out. The Irish are a legitimate top ten outfit if they play smart football. The Skunkbears are a mediocre team at best if they pitch a perfect game.

Mikey

All lines from covers.com.

1. Mississippi St. (-6.5) over Auburn...$66 to win $60

The Bulldogs are looking gooood and are my big sleeper for the SEC this season. Auburn is still ranked somehow but should have lost to Utah St. last week at home- a rather unimpressive start. I think Miss. St. makes their first statement this weekend when they take on a Tigers team that lost nearly every key component from last year's title run.

2. Oregon St. (+20.5) over Wisconsin...$33 to win $30

If there was one game I wish I could've seen last week it was Sacramento St. beating Oregon St. College sports is all about the upset baby and that one came out of nowhere for the Beavers, who were probably looking forward to this weeks matchup at Wisconsin. Well if they're going to put all their eggs into the beating Wisconsin basket I think they'll keep it within the points and wake up from the trance that allowed them to lose so badly. The Badgers are a very good team with Russell Wilson running the show now but they've got to come back to Earth from that beatdown they laid on UNLV a week ago.

3. Virginia (-6.5) over Indiana...$77 to win $70

I'll be at this game on Saturday in Bloomington so it was a must pick. Have no clue who's on either of these team, who coaches them or even how to get to the stadium but if UVA is favored by almost a TD on the road they must be the much better team. Rock solid logic, bet your shirt on this one.

4. GAME O' THE WEEK Michigan (+3.5) over ND..$33 to win $30

This is a bet against Notre Dame rather than one for Michigan. The Irish fall flat every single time you think they have the pieces and are going to be relevant in the national title scene (that should make this site's readers happy). Last week proved to be the same story with the boneheaded loss to So. Fla. and I don't think it will end there as they go on the road to face Michigan in a heated rivalry game. Brian Kelly's face will be even redder than last week as they go down in Ann Arbor and he names Dayne Crist his week 3 starter.

Hinkle

To all my fans around the world, I AM BACK, live from Tucson, AZ............

.....With a vengeance. After a runaway season last year capped off by a a ridiculous "Bowl Season" which cost me the throne, I am poised to take the title this year. New rules in place to regulate the outlandishness we saw last year will not happen. Your champ will give you winners each and every week. No chasing, no craziness, just a steady diet of winners.

Obviously, college football is back. Same great game with the same great standard results. Examples.

1. Notre Dame chocking at home and me having to send Mattare what seems to be my standard weekly "checking for a pulse" text to make sure he did not commit suicide over another devastating loss. Don't worry ND nation I am sure you can still go 12-1 since for the "x" year in a row all I heard from the media and your fans is "this is our year".

2. Boise State wins ANOTHER big game, this time versus the SEC. Now what? Ohhh okay haters Georgia isn't that good? SEC East contenders to start the year ranked in the top 20. I get they don't play an SEC season, but give my boy Kellen Moore some credit. Does he throw incomplete passes? I really hope they run the table this year and get a shot at the likes of Alabama, Oklahoma, or Oregon (2-0). I mean come on, who doesn't want to see what would happen?

I said my peace with those two teams...now on to Week 1 picks from scoresandodds.com

1. Arizona @ Oklahoma State OVER 66...($55 win $50)

My boys in the backyard exploded on offense last week. Nick Foles put up Kellen Moore like numbers throwing for 80+% and 5TD's. Oklahoma State put up a huge 61 spot in week one while giving up 31 to an offense no where near the capability of the Wildcats. I look for both teams to drive up and down the field with a ton of big plays. Should be an entertaining game to watch on commericals of Saints/Packers. TONS of points!

2. Alabama (-10) @ PSU...($44 win $40)

I had the awful pleasure of watching PSU last week on the Big Ten network. Their QB play is worse than any I saw coaching in the Colonial League last year. Seriously, who is their QB? If I was starting a team, I would not want any of them to run my scout team. Inconsistency all over the board. Are they going to split time again? If one gets the nod, they will be playing with their eyes over their shoulder, not on the defense. No chance PSU hangs in this game at all.

3. Mississippi States (-6.5) @ Auburn...($33 win $30)

I really do not think Auburn will finish above .500 this year. Cam Newton was Auburn. No Cam is like no Peyton Manning (gulp). Last week vs. Utah State they made so many mistake that will not allow them to stay competitive in the SEC week in and week out. They got embarrassed. Winning in the last 3 minutes as a defending champion in that fashion is absurd. I will lay the points in a game that is a double digit loss, the first of several, for the Tigers of Auburn.

4. Game of the Week: ND -3 @ Meeeeeeeeeechagin...($66 win $60)

Tommy Rees is a solid QB. I was impressed by his play last week and if he would have been under center the whole game I think they win the game. Red zone turnovers are the death of any team, but I still think Rees has the "it" factor that the Irish need to be successful this year. Michigan won a sloppy, rain filled, ugly, delayed, I don't know what in the world that was but I am not sold on their play. Some big plays versus a directional Michigan team doesn't tell me much. Coach BK MUST have said "F#%$" at least 25 times on national television so I can only imagine the ear raping they took all week. If the Irish do not come out and dominate this game, and for some reason lose, OMGGGGGGGGGG! I do not even want to know what will happen. I like the Irish in this spot a ton. They would have been a play for me even if they were not the site of Gameday in Ann Arbor. I mean come on, even they play with half the intensity as their fans do in "Full Beer Flip Cup", this game should be over by half!

Chuck

This week's slate of games are like the collection of girls you find at a local sportsbar. There aren't many of them, they're haggard around the edges, and often already taken. But after hanging around for a while and sloshing through $1 PBR drafts, you find that one girl who you're going to try and go home with despite her bountiful gut, cankles, and Eli Manning jersey. Auburn: do you wanna come back to my place and have a drink?

1. Arizona (+14) @ Oklahoma St...$33 to win $30

The scoreboard will be lit up like the Fourth of July in Stillwater on Thursday night. Everybody knows about the prolific Weedon to Blackmon connection for the Pokes, but don’t forget about Nick Foles and Juron Criner who connected for 151 of Foles’ 412 passing yards in opening week trouncing of Northern Arizona. I fully expect the Pokes to win this one, but I like the Cats and the points.

2. Mississippi St. @ Auburn (+7)...$66 to win $60

Before everybody piles on me for this pick, yes, I did watch Auburn against Utah State on Saturday. To put it politely, they did not deserve to win that game. But they did, and that seems to be the M.O. of Auburn under Gene Chizik. After a slow start, their offense heated up and moved the ball well in the second half. Barrett Trotter looked capable of making plays in the pocket, and you know Gus Malzahn will have a solid game plan dialed up for their SEC opener.

Mississippi State got their season started by handling one of the worst teams in the FBS, Memphis. Not much stock should be placed in this game, and I am interested to see how the Bulldogs respond to the pressure of being ranked early in the season. The bottom line is you have to love a home underdog, especially in the SEC. Tigers lose a close one to the Bulldogs.

3. Northern Illinois (-7) @ Kansas...$33 to win $30

In a week where there’s not too much free money on the board, I am going to introduce you to my 2011 Tulsa: the Northern Illinois Huskies. Loyal readers might remember my fascination with Tulsa last year and the way they put points on the board. Well, this year my small conference crush is the NIU Huskies led by dual-threat stud Chandler Harnish. In opening week action last week against Army, Harnish only had 195 yds and 5 TD’s through the air to go with 80 yds rushing and 1 TD on the ground. That was not a typo. Huskies roll in Lawrence.

4. Notre Dame @ Michigan (+3.5)...$22 to win $20

These new rules put a gun to my head, and there is simply no way I can pick my Irish. I would probably feel pretty good about this pick if I was not a Notre Dame fan, but given my allegiance there is no way I can plunk down serious change on this one. So what do I like about the Wolverines in this one? 1. Michigan is 5-1 in their last 6 against ND in Ann Arbor. 2. The first night game in the Big House will have Wolverine fans jacked out of their minds. 3. Noting Maryland’s victory over Miami on Monday night and Oregon’s recent success, I have developed a very unscientific theory that ugly uniforms win games. Michigan’s seemingly rugby inspired “retro” unis are hideous and definitely beat out ND’s rags in this one.