November 26, 2008

Re-Defining Bowl Eligible

The term "bowl-eligible" is becoming a plague on the college football landscape, a term that's now synonymous with "mediocre" and "pedestrian." The influx of bowl games has watered down these holiday matchups to the point that a handful of "bowl-eligible" teams inevitably play with a bowl ineligible head coach as he's already been fired. Believe it or not, 34 bowl games now dot the map, which translates to 68 teams "earning" the right to another game. I was no math major, but if there's only 119 Division I schools, isn't there something inherently wrong with this system? Why should 57% of all programs play a bowl game? When is enough going to be enough?

So what does it truly mean to be "good enough for a bowl" these days? Different things to different entities. In the eyes of the bowls, it means your fans, presumptively, will travel and fill the stadium. And with game tickets come hotel reservations, dining and drinking in the locale du bowl. What "good enough for a bowl" doesn't mean anymore is having a team that earned the right to play one more game. Just because sponsors put up the money to pay for the right to host a game doesn't necessarily mean that it's good for the game. Who's on this committee that approves adding bowl games every year? 10 years ago, way back in 1999, the number of bowl games was a very desirable 23 games. For comparison's sake, at the conclusion of the '99 bowl slate, there were 9 schools with 7-5 records and 3 schools with 6-6 records; in 2007, we were left with 11 schools with 7-6 records and 4 schools with 6-7 records. The big difference is every "bowl-eligible" team in '99 entered with a winning record. Now, .500 is the targeted benchmark, with 1-2 of those wins against 1-AA teams. Is the NCAA that desperate to reward underachieving teams just so they can offer a pu-pu platter of games? Hopefully, one side-effect of this economic crisis will be sponsors pulling money out of the bowls and reducing the total number of games. Make a bowl invitation mean something for a program, not just showing up every Saturday to win every other week. Restore the pride of the bowl system while we still have it!

With this mind-boggling bowl expansion that includes any team with a pulse (read: not a losing record), Notre Dame secured their place on the menu of bowl offerings with a dynamic, heart-pounding victory over a fellow bowl-eligible team, the Naval Academy. Fitting that this win stamped their ticket to El Paso, or any other wayward destination giddy to host an apathetic Irish fanbase, because Navy is the only team with a winning record the Irish will have beat all season. (Yes, I'm already chalking up a lopsided loss to the Trojans this week. A win would be on par with J.C. multiplying loaves and fish.) You read that correctly. Notre Dame has beaten 6 teams this year, but only 1 has won 6 games. Talk about charting a course to mediocrity. Just who are the 5 schleps that the Irish were lucky to have on the schedule?

San Diego State: 2-10 (1-7 Mountain West) The Aztecs played within 25 points of their opponent in 5 games all season - their two wins, a 2-point loss to Cal Poly, a 4-point loss to Colorado State, and the 8-point loss at the hands of the Irish on opening weekend. Wow. What everyone wanted to chalk up to an offense shaking the cobwebs off turned out to be par for the course. I'll go on record now and say I'm very leery of Nevada leaving South Bend with a victory in next year's opener if Charlie is still on the sidelines.

Michigan: 3-9 (2-6 Big Ten) The Wolverines experienced, arguably, the worst season in the program's history. As satisfying as it is to beat Michigan, this win provided zero indication or hint of Irish success to come.

Purdue: 4-8 (2-6 Big Ten) The Joe Tiller Farewell Tour teased Irish fans with glimpses of what the offense was capable of producing. Purdue has posed as much threat as the Stay-Puff Marshmallow Man in stopping our offense since Charlie showed up. Sadly, he can't line up against the Boilermakers every Saturday.

Stanford: 5-7 (4-5 Pac-10) 2 of the Cardinal wins were over the pillow-fighting doormats in Washington and another over San Jose St. So this is, for all intents and purposes, a 3-win caliber team, even if they do play with pluck and gumption and any other tough adjective you wish to throw Captain Comeback's way. This game foreshadowed the maddening trend of not putting teams away as the offense grew stagnant in the 4th quarter. It's become Charlie's calling card to think that a W at the end of the day is good enough. Newsflash: you're not in the NFL anymore! You haven't been for four years. Better teams NEED to beat the living daylights out of inferior teams. That's what good college programs do. These aren't professionals lining up against each other. Talent disparities exist across the board and it's the job of the coach to exploit those. The fact that Charlie doesn't seem to understand this reality is only one reason why he's not the man for the job.

Washington: 0-11 (0-8 Pac-10) The fact that we didn't score 50 points in this game still irks me. I don't understand how it's a good thing to toy with college kid's emotions, turning off their edge by not playing to score every possession. It's a mentality the team as a whole lacks, and that's the responsibility of the head coach. As it is, Tyrone "held" the Irish to Washington's 4th lowest point total on the season.

Total: 14-45

The "we beat who was on our schedule" line holds little merit when you barely beat some of them and can't win against a single team with any merit (Navy reached 6 wins with victories over Towson, Temple, and SMU. Their schedule rivals ND's in softness). Factor in the wretched losses to teams they should have beat and this season leaves a worse feeling in the pit of my stomach than 2007. There was too much talk of progress that didn't materialize. Too much inconsistency. Too many head-scratching moments with too little effort in the right direction.

Notre Dame should decline every bowl invitation they receive, as a matter of principle. Earn it on the field. That goes for the coaches and players alike. If you don't improve and get better during the season, you shouldn't get to "keep trying" for 3 more weeks just because your team technically reached a minimum level of victories. If Charlie wanted to procure another month of practice for his team, then they should have played the last 4 weeks with that in mind. They should have been hungry to get better as a team and keep moving forward, not fall ass backwards into a game that they clearly have not earned. Notre Dame preaches holding themselves to a different standard than the rest of the institutions in the NCAA. Why should bowl games be any different? If anyone on the team and coaching staff can explain with a straight face why they deserve to play a bowl game, I would love to hear that explanation. I'm afraid it doesn't exist.

Week 14 picks

Apologies for getting the picks up early this week, but the holidays have cut us short. Look for Dan's picks later in the week.

Not much to say here other than hope everyone has a great Thanksgiving.

Go Irish. Bring home a Maui title tonight over the Heels.

Thursday November 27, 2008:

Texas A&M (+35) at Texas (flip-flopped from its usual Friday spot with the Backyard Brawl) (ESPN 8pm)

Dan: Texas -35

Going to have to apologize in advance for the abbreviated analysis this week. I am enjoying balmy Florida and my mind is on college basketball these days rather than college football. Texas A&M is still not good and Texas needs style points if it at all hopes make the BCS championship.

Texas 55 Texas A&M 17

Matt: Texas -35

I could do without all of the campaigning that is going to be taking place the next two weeks between Bob Stoops and Mack Brown. Texas is going to be looking to be make a huge statement against a hapless Aggie team that sports the 100th ranked pass defense in the country. Colt McCoy will be padding his Heisman stats.

And for all of the ND fans that are clamoring for Mike Shanahan or Jon Gruden or Tom Coughlin (HAHAHA…Tom Coughlin is going to leave the New York Giants for South Bend. Right), take a good hard look at what is going on in College Station under Mike Sherman. Those pro guys are just not cut out for teaching 18 year old kids. There are the rare exceptions like Pete Carroll, but I would argue that Pete was never cut out for the pros and his personality is perfect for dealing with college players.

Texas 52 A&M 13

Mike: Texas A&M +35

This game will now be played on Thanksgiving, as opposed to its usual spot on the Friday after Thanksgiving. Since I am a creature of habit and a fervent fan of tradition, I am not pleased about this change. After all, Thanksgiving evening has always been a time for digesting and reflecting upon one’s eating habits while enjoying the Backyard Brawl, whereas Friday afternoon has always been a time for pairing leftovers with some good old fashioned Texas football. Oh well.

Texas 45 Texas A&M 14

Doug: Texas -35

Texas has no choice but to run up the score here. If they can somehow get themselves into the national title game (it is looking more and more unlikely), check out this 2009 football schedule.

09/05 Louisiana Monroe
09/12 at Wyoming
09/19 Central Florida
09/26 Texas El Paso
10/10 Colorado
10/17 Oklahoma (at The Cotton Bowl)
10/24 at Missouri
10/31 at Oklahoma State
11/07 Texas Tech
11/14 at Baylor
11/21 Kansas
11/26 7:00p ESPN at Texas A&M

That is an absolute abomination. It is essentially a 1-2 game season. How can any Texas fan look themselves in the mirror when they are playing a nonconference schedule of Louisiana-Monroe, Wyoming, UCF, and UTEP?? Completely pathetic, and I will be rooting against Texas with a passion next year simply for the reason that they don’t deserve to be playing for a title when they deliberately set up a garbage schedule like that. Texas is a young team, so I expect them to be very good. It is unfortunate that they have decided to take on the path of least resistance instead of pursuing a championship-level nonconference schedule. There is NO EXCUSE for not playing at least one BCS school in your nonconference.

How is that Mike Sherman hire working out?? 4-7 with a blowout loss to Baylor. Obviously way too early to get a read on his career, but he has not been a home run by any means so far.

Might as well throw in my opinion that I want nothing to do with these pro coaches that are be discussed by ND fans as a replacement for Charlie Weis. First of all, chasing after a current pro head coach is fool’s gold. There is no chance that a pro coach is going to leave an NFL head coaching job for ND. NO CHANCE. The NFL is the pinnacle for these guys. If they get fired, I can understand why they might have some interest in going to college if they have some history in college football. But a guy like Gruden who has won a Super Bowl and is currently a head man in Tampa?? Or a guy like Cowher who is going to have his pick of jobs in Cleveland and others?? Or a guy like Shanahan who has been in the NFL for 25 years?? Does anyone really think those guys are going to freaking Notre Dame?? Cmon, what a load of nonsense.

Secondly, I would only want an NFL head coach if the guy has been a head coach in college or has some major assistant experience. No name really jumps out to me from the NFL. Maybe somebody like Mike Nolan who was an assistant at Stanford and Oregon a long time ago?? Maybe somebody like Steve Mariucci?? Maybe somebody like Jim Mora, Jr.?? Those are the types of guys we’d be looking at from the NFL. Guys who didn’t succeed in the NFL but still know how to lead and might be more suited for the college game.

So I’d be willing to listen to some NFL names, but we need to be realistic and need to find the right fit. I’d still prefer a college coach though.

Texas 42 Texas A&M 7

Friday November 28, 2008:

West Virginia (-1.5) at Pitt (ABC 12pm)

Dan: -1.5

I still have trouble having much faith in this Pitt team despite my reluctance to pick Bill Stewart. Talk about someone who just is not capable of handling the responsibility of being a head coach. The guys always looks so clueless. However, WVU still has Noel Devine and Pat White, and that is enough offensive talent to win this game.

WVU 23 Pitt 21

Matt: West Virginia -.5

I love the Backyard Brawl. You know that West Virginia is going to be looking for revenge against Pitt this year. On a side note, having watched Pat White for what seems like 10 years, I’m curious as to how he translates into the NFL. I’ve thought he’s always been a little underrated and for some reason I’ve often found myself rooting for him. I know he’s not going to get a chance to play QB, but I have to think that he could be a decent kick / punt returner and/or running back or wide receiver. I would definitely take a flyer on him – you can never have enough athletes on your team.

West Virginia 27 Pitt 23

Mike: West Virginia -1.5

See above for my disdain regarding the date change for this game. In any event, look for the rejuvenated Pat White to exact revenge on the host Panthers after last year’s stunning loss in this game. My pick assumes, of course, that Bill Stewart will actually hand the ball to Noel Devine, who has been badly underutilized this season. Needless to say, I am not particularly confident in this selection.

West Virginia 28 Pittsburgh 21

Doug: Pitt +1.5

The Backyard Brawl!! Glad to see this game is on a Friday because I’ll be interested to watch.

LeSean McCoy is coming back to college?? Why?? I don’t see the point. He’s already proven that he is a great player. Coming back another year is too much risk, especially if Pitt underachieves next year. Needless to say, that game at Pitt next year could be pretty tough for the Irish.

Big game for the Big East conference. I know everyone on NDNation loves to laugh it up about the Big East conference, but how is the Big East any worse than the Big 10 this year??? Pitt and Iowa are in similar positions in the Big East, and Pitt beat Iowa. While the Big East doesn’t have the quality at the top like the Big Ten, you could make a strong case that the Big East is a little deeper this year. How are teams like Rutgers, UConn, Pitt, and South Florida any worse than teams like Northwestern, Iowa, Minnesota, and Illinois??

While we’re here, my bonus Big East pick: Cincinnati 27 Syracuse 13. The Cuse will cover, but there is no way Cincy is losing that game at home with the Big East title and likely Orange Bowl bid on the line. Great atmosphere down at Nippert Stadium last weekend. Biggest crowd I’ve ever seen at a UC game, and the campus was rocking. It was great to see. Probably the most excited I’ve seen the UC campus since the Nick Van Exel era.

For all you clowns on NDNation who think Brian Kelly hasn’t proven anything as a head coach, I implore you to look at UC’s recruiting rankings. He is working with recruiting classes in the 80-100 rankings. UC has the worst overall talent in the Big East, and yet they are on the verge of winning the league. It would be one thing if Kelly was winning the Big East at a school like West Virginia, but he has done it at UC. His performance as the head coach at UC is nothing short of remarkable. When we miss our shot to get him and he wins at Tennessee or somewhere else, don’t come back crying in five years that we need to go get Brian Kelly. We will have missed our chance just like we missed our shot at Urban Meyer. The same people on NDNation who were railing against Urban Meyer in 2004 because he “doesn’t have big school experience” are the same folks who are bashing Brian Kelly today.

Finally, I wanted to address this absolutely ludicrous assertion from some posters on NDNation that they would prefer Mark Dantonio over Brian Kelly. Are you kidding me??? How could anyone in their right mind say that??? They both coached at the exact same school. Dantonio was decent (better than Minter), but Kelly has been incredible and is winning big game after big game. I like Dantonio. Believe me, I think he’s doing a good job at Michigan State and I liked him at UC and liked him at Ohio State, but he’s not as good as Brian Kelly. Cincinnati would beat Michigan State on a neutral field this year with half the talent. Mark it down.

I’ll be the first to admit that I am a YUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUGE Brian Kelly fan and am admittedly biased, but I’m tired of seeing him get slammed on NDNation as somehow unworthy. I think he’d be a great hire who would work wonders with Clausen and Floyd and our offense, and he’d actually put some teeth and heart into our defense and special teams. We would win with Brian Kelly. That much I know. There might be better candidates out there, but I think dismissing Kelly as a candidate is a joke. I want ND to win big as much as anyone, and that’s why I have been pushing hard for Brian Kelly to South Bend. I don’t want to see him leave UC, but he’d be a great fit up at ND.

The majority of people who post on NDNation are a bunch of band geeks who don’t know squat about football. Unfortunately, these same folks wield an unusually large amount of power in coaching "searches" and probably swayed the school away from pursuing Urban Meyer with more fervor back in 2004. Go back to your trombones and susiephones. Leave the football to the people who actually watch it.

Pitt 24 WVU 21

Mississippi State (+13.5) at Mississippi (Raycom 12:30pm)

Dan: -13.5

Love all the rivalry games this week. A lot of people are probably thinking let down game for Ole Miss. And that would definitely be reasonable for Ole Miss and for Houston Nutt especially (beat the good ones and lose to the bad ones). However, this Ole Miss team has some spunk that I really like. I know two touchdowns is a lot in any rivalry game, but then throw in the SEC factor, and it seems ridiculous. But I'll trust in Snead to win this one by 2 TDs.

Ole Miss 31 Mississippi State 17

Matt: Mississippi State +13.5

Houston Nutt seems to me like a Southern guy through and through. But I find it at least mildly curious that there really hasn’t been as much as a whisper about the possibility of him coming to South Bend. He was run out of town at Arkansas despite success at an impossible place to win, and in his first year in Oxford he has knocked off Florida and LSU. Pretty impressive. Anyway, in the Egg Bowl, I like Mississippi State to at least keep it respectable in what could turn out being Sly Croom’s last game.

Ole Miss 28 Miss State 17

Mike: Mississippi -13.5

Houston Nutt’s talented team is trending upward at the right time of the year and they will enter the Egg Bowl with loads of confidence. They should be able to fry, poach or scramble the inept Rebels into oblivion. But don’t despair Mississippi State fans…with about 7 more years, Sly Croom should have your program ready to contend for 3rd place in the SEC West.

Mississippi 28 Mississippi State 14

Doug: Ole Miss -13.5

The Egg Bowl. Another Thanksgiving tradition. This game usually reminds me of one of those big high school football games. All you hear are those milk cartons with the pennies in them, air horns, and cow bells. It’s fitting that this game is usually on a Friday.

Houston Nutt is a name that has been associated with the ND job in the past, and I actually think he would be a name to consider. Unfortunately, ND has absolutely terrible timing, and he’s another guy who is just starting a new job. While I would love to talk to him and think he would be a winner at ND, I can’t see him leaving Ole Miss after one year.

Ole Miss 21 MSU 3

LSU (NL) at Arkansas (CBS Sports 2:30pm)

Dan: LSU

Ugh. What an ugly game. I have been picking against LSU fairly often this year (except that damn Georgia game), but Arkansas is terrible. I know they beat Auburn and Tulsa, but I don't think they have improved that much throughout the year. Crazy Les can get this one on the road. But it won't be pretty.

LSU 13 Arkansas 10

Matt: Arkansas

I want to give myself a little pat on the back for predicting LSU’s downward spiral. They just aren’t that good this year without a competent QB. Color me crazy, but I think Arkansas kicks them when they’re down at home for a big win for Bobby Petrino and the Razorback program

Arkansas 22 LSU 20

Mike: Arkansas +4.5

With the emergence of Nathan Dick, it appears that the Dick era will continue in perpetuity for the Hogs. LSU has all sorts of quarterback issues, as true freshman Jordan Jefferson will likely take the helm in the Battle for the Golden Boot. Arkansas’ defense is not exactly a wrecking crew, as evidenced by their struggles in Starkville last week, but they should be able to handle a rookie signal caller who is making his first start in a short week of preparation. Moreover, motivation will be a question for the reeling Tigers.

Arkansas 31 LSU 21

Doug: LSU

This game was probably the game of the year last year in the college football world. Darren McFadden threw the Arkansas team on his back in this game. One of the best performances I’ve seen in the college game.

LSU has completely fallen apart lately. Too early to be concerned?? It is now Les Miles’ fourth year, so the program is entirely his. I’m not ready to say they are in decline, but it’s something to keep an eye on headed to next year. If LSU suddenly falls behind Ole Miss and Arkansas, the folks down there will not be pleased.

LSU 24 Arkansas 17

Colorado (+16) at Nebraska (ABC Sports 3:30pm)

Dan: Colorado +16

As I said earlier, two TDs is a lot in a rivalray game. And this one will be closer than the Ole Miss game. Nebraska has been closing the year well. Its only loss in the last 5 games was against Oklahoma. At home, I think they will win this game easily, but Colorado will keep it close enough to get the the cover barely.

Nebraska 31 Colorado 17

Matt: Colorado +16

This seems like a lot of points to me in a rivalry game. Bo Pelini has done a nice job in his first year, but let’s take a look at those 7 wins: Western Michigan, San Jose State, New Mexico State, Iowa State, Baylor, Kansas and Kansas State. Not exactly murderers row. They lost at home to a mediocre Virginia Tech team. So forgive me if I’m not convinced that they are going to blow out Colorado.

By the way, this is one of the nastier rivalries that kind of flies under the radar. I remember a friend of mine who is from Lincoln telling me that when Nebraska fans road trip to Boulder, they have to stop outside of the city and rent cars because the Colorado fans would break windows and slash tires on any cars with Nebraska license plates.

Nebraska 35 Colorado 27

Mike: Nebraska -16

Both teams have enjoyed a week to rest up for another spirited rivalry game. When I think about the Friday after Thanksgiving, Colorado-Nebraska immediately springs to mind. Unfortunately for those who would like to see a competitive matchup, Nebraska is on the rise and the Buffaloes are merely playing out the spring.

Nebraska 38 Colorado 21

Doug: Nebraska -16

All I can think of when I see this game are Brent Musberger and "Bobbbbbbby Purifyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy."

Are the Blackshirts on the rise?? We haven’t had a chance to preview them in a couple months. They are suddenly sitting at 7-4 with a great shot at a Gator Bowl game against an ACC team. I’m expecting a Sea of Red down there in Jacksonville. I know the Gator Bowl wanted ND, but they will be pleased to get Nebraska. Bo Pelini is quietly rebuilding things in Lincoln. I couldn’t be happier for them.

Check out this Nebraska 2009 schedule:

Sep 5 - Florida Atlantic
Sep 12 – Arkansas St
Sep 19 – at Virginia Tech
Sep 26 – Louisiana-Lafayette
Oct 3 – at Missouri
Oct 17 – Texas Tech
Oct 24 – Iowa State
Oct 31 – at Baylor
Nov 7 – Oklahoma
Nov 14 – at Kansas
Nov 21- Kansas State
Nov 27 – at Colorado

I know I lost my credibility with Nebraska by saying they were winning the Big 12 North this year, but I think that schedule could be interesting. We could be talking about a 7-1 Nebraska team next year or something like that with Oklahoma (and College Gameday) coming to town on November 7.

Nebraska 37 Colorado 17

Saturday November 29, 2008:

Kansas (+13) at Missouri (in Kansas City) (FSN 12:30pm)

Dan: Missouri -13

I remember seeing this shoot-out last year. It was quite the game. Unfortunately, Kansas has not really been the same team since. Missouri could potentially get caught looking ahead to the Big 12 title game, but I doubt it. While Chase Daniel has fallen off most people's Heisman list, he will be plenty productive to knock off the Jayhawks in high flying fashion in Kansas City. Besides, Kansas fans may still be lamenting their early season lost in Kansas City early this week, where they fell to the revived Syracuse Orange.

Missouri 49 Kansas 24

Matt: Missouri -13

Should be a shootout between Chase Daniel and Todd Reesing. I think Missouri gives up a lot of points but wins fairly easily. But I did want to address the Gary Pinkel name that I’ve heard come up fairly recently. He was a middling coach that was continually on the bubble before Chase Daniel showed up. Sure, it’s possible that he was just growing into the job and has developed into a good coach. But I would like to see where the Missouri program goes after Daniel and Maclin leave for the NFL.

Missouri 45 Kansas 31

Mike: Missouri -13

In the Plains version of the “Border War,” one shouldn’t expect to see much defense barring a miraculous intervention from Mother Nature. Missouri has responded nicely from its midseason swoon, while Kansas has done well to prove that 2007 was a schedule-aided anomaly.

Missouri 52 Kansas 28

Doug: Kansas +13

I know Missouri is playing well, but that’s a lot of points between two relatively similar teams on a neutral field.

I heard Kirk Herbstreit on the local radio throwing out his take on the Big 12 scene, and he thinks Missouri might shock the Big 12 South champion in the Big 12 championship game. He was saying that Missouri is flying under the radar and might come into that Big 12 championship game with a chip on their shoulder. They could salvage their season with a win in that game. Something to keep an eye out for next weekend.

Missouri 37 Kansas 28

Georgia Tech (+11) at Georgia (CBS Sports 12pm)

Dan: Georgia Tech +11

Eleven points seems like a lot of points to me in this game. Other than the debacle in Carolina, GT's 2 losses have been by an average of 5 points. Their only 2 conference wins by more than 11 points were LSU and UT and those were 14 and 12 respectively. GT is better than both those teams and the way they play football lends itself to close games. In fact, I think GT can even pull off the upset. Paul Johnson! Go crazy in Hotlanta!

Georgia Tech 21 Georgia 17

Matt: Georgia Tech +11

If this game was in Atlanta I would probably be picking the Jackets for a straight up win. That display they put on against what seemed like improving Miami team was incredible. They absolutely SHREDDED the Hurricanes. I think that this game will be the game of the day, and wouldn’t be surprised at all if GT came out on top.

Georgia 21 GT 20

Mike: Georgia Tech +11

What can Paul Johnson’s offense do an encore? Georgia Tech certainly taught the young Hurricanes a sobering lesson in option football last week and now they must be salivating at the sights of an underachieving Georgia defense. In this rivalry dubbed “Clean Old Fashioned Hate,” I expect the Jackets to pressure Matt Stafford into his usual complement of mistakes and thereby notch an upset road victory.

Georgia Tech 21 Georgia 20

Doug: Georgia Tech +11

Man, I think Georgia Tech has a legitimate shot to win this game straight up, so I might as well take the points here.

This projected Georgia-Ohio State game in the Citrus Bowl would be outstanding. It will feel like the old John Cooper days when the Buckeyes would end up playing Tennessee and Georgia every year in the Citrus Bowl after losing to Michigan. The Buckeyes NEED to win that game to restore some credibility nationally. I think Georgia would be a perfect matchup for them.

Georgia Tech 21 Georgia 20

Virginia (+10) at Virginia Tech (ESPN 12pm)

Dan: Virginia Tech -10

VT may not be as good as they have been in the past. But they are undefeated in Blacksburg this year. Meanwhile, after a mid-season revivale, UVA has lost 3 straight. Beamer's boys carry the day witha couple big special teams plays.

VT 24 UVA 10

Matt: Virginia Tech -10

UVA really needs to just pull the plug on the Al Groh era. It seems like he’s always on the hot seat, but somehow manages to win a game late to save his job. At this point, I think it’s safe to say that he is not the answer in Charlottesville.

Virginia Tech 21 UVA 10

Mike: Virginia +10

Hide the women, children and lovers of offensive football.

Virginia Tech 13 Virginia 9

Doug: Virginia +10

Virginia Tech hasn’t blown anyone out this year, and Virginia is fighting for bowl eligibility. I’m expecting a competitive game.

Improbably, Virginia Tech is in position to win the Coastal Division of the ACC if they win this game. The legend of Frank Beamer continues to grow. All the guy does is win.

As for the Atlantic, I gotta hand it to BC for what they have done in the last month or so. I thought they were done after that Clemson loss, but the big wins over Florida State and Wake Forest have them in position to win that division and play for the ACC title.

BC-VT would be an interesting game although probably a nightmare for the folks down in Jacksonville.

Virginia Tech 17 Virginia 9

Auburn (+17) at Alabama

Dan: Auburn +17

I was really really torn by this game. Auburn is terrible this year. They are awful. But they haven't blown that many teams out and have had a tendency to play flat in the second half. The realy question is if Auburn will lay down and die if Bama comes out hot early and takes a 14 - 0 lead. I don't think they will and I think they'll end up pulling within two TDs late, but never much closer.

Alabama 28 Auburn 14

Matt: Auburn +17
Throw out the records in the Iron Bowl! Could Tommy Tuperville save his job with a miraculous win over the Tide? Even though everyone seems to want to see Tubs gone, there is no way it can be justified if he manages to win his 7th straight against Bama. To be honest, I don’t see it happening. And I think that Auburn is horrible this year and has no business hanging with Alabama. But crazy things happen in rivalry games, and I think that Auburn somehow hangs around late into the 4th quarter. There will be plenty of sweaty palms this week in Tuscaloosa.

Alabama 20 Auburn 13

Mike: Alabama -17

Pundits love to proclaim that a coach’s worth can be measured by his record in a fierce rivalry game. As evidenced by the growing calls for Tommy Tuberville to be fired despite his 6 consecutive Iron Bowl wins, this statement is obviously untrue. In any event, Tuberville’s impressive streak is about to come crashing down against a well rested Crimson Tide team that should be fully motivated to reclaim its rightful place as the dominant team in the Yellowhammer State.

Alabama 31 Auburn 6

Doug: Auburn +17

Cmon Tigers, show some heart. 17 points as an underdog in the Iron Bowl is a disgrace, and I expect Auburn to come out fighting and cover the spread.

Mark your calendars folks: Alabama-Florida on December 6 at 4 pm on CBS Sports!! Verne Lundquist will be in tip top form.

Speaking of announcers, the best hire of the offseason??? The Big Ten Network hiring Gus Johnson to do college hoops games!! What a moment! I watched some of the Ohio State-Bowling Green game with Gus Johnson calling the shots. Great stuff. What a treat it is to have him on board for Big 10 hoops.

Alabama 17 Auburn 6

South Carolina (+2.5) at Clemson (ESPN2 12pm)

Dan: South Carolina +2.5

Throw out the game against Florida and SC has won 7 of its last 8. Clemson has lost 4 of its last 7. Yet Clemson finds itself as the favorites at home in this in-state rivalry game. While the SEC may be a bit overrated this year, I think you still have to favor it over the ACC. Take the points.

South Carolina 20 Clemson 17

Matt: Clemson -2.5

You’ve got to hand it to this Dabo Swinney guy. Clemson could easily have mailed it in after Bowden was fired, but amazingly they are a win away against their archrivals from bowl eligibility. I think they get it.

BTW, if Clemson gets their next coaching hire right, there’s no reason they shouldn’t be a perennial BCS contender. They have an SEC stadium, SEC fan base and great location to get the athletes from the south. And they get to do it all in the mediocre ACC. I see big things in the future for the Clemson program.

Clemson 24 USC 13

Mike: Clemson +2.5

My favorite memory from the Battle of the Palmetto State is the massive brawl that caused South Carolina to forfeit its bowl berth. In this year’s edition, there will be no such concerns, insofar as the Gamecocks are utterly punchless. Meanwhile, Clemson may have found their quarterback of the future and his name is not Willy Korn. Will it be enough for Dabo Swinney to be retained? I hope so, since it will be one less team against which Notre Dame (hopefully) must compete for a new coach.

Clemson 21 South Carolina 10

Doug: Clemson -2.5

Clemson has won three out of their last four and appear to be playing hard. Is this interim coach going to be considered for the long term job?? That might be a huge mistake if he is.

Clemson 23 South Carolina 17

North Carolina (-7.5) at Duke (ESPNU 3:30pm)

Dan: UNC -7.5

Is this game takingp lace at Cameron Indoor Stadium? No? Then I'm not interested.

UNC 24 Duke 14

Matt: UNC -7.5

UNC got run over by the NC State freight train that has been picking up some serious momentum. However, I don’t see any reason why they won’t be able to beat a feisty Duke team. If this was hoops, I’d offer a little more analysis, but let’s be honest – this is a lousy game. It’s still frustrating to me that ND lost that game at UNC. Would the season have turned out any differently had we hung on for the W in that game? Who knows…

UNC 30 Duke 17

Mike: North Carolina -7.5

The Tar Heels have fallen on hard times in the past few weeks, but my faith in Butch Davis remains intact (please take note, Mr. Swarbrick). Regardless of Davis’s long term future at Chapel Hill, he should have no problem preparing Carolina to retain the Victory Bell against a Duke squad that has floundered without their starting quarterback, Thaddeus Lewis. Words cannot describe how bad Lewis’s replacement, Zack Asack, performed last week against Virginia Tech, but numbers can paint a clear picture: 2 of 9 passing for 20 yards and 4 interceptions. In other words, four passes completed to the Hokies (for one TD) and 2 completed to his own team. Given the Heels’ penchant for forcing interceptions, this could get very ugly for Asack.

North Carolina 38 Duke 7

Doug: UNC -7.5

North Carolina has been fading down the stretch, but Duke hasn’t exactly been a juggernaut lately. UNC has lost back to back games, so I expect to see them fired up this week.

I would be interested in talking to Butch Davis about the ND job, but has he expressed any interest in leaving UNC or in coming to ND?? Again, timing is an issue. He just started a job at UNC. He’s got things going in the right direction down there, and he’s 57 years old. And he has absolutely no connection to ND. Does that sound like someone who is inclined to be interested in the ND job?? I guess I don’t see it. People act like coaches who have left jobs are these serial job jumpers. That’s simply not the case. Butch Davis made a move from Miami to the NFL, and then came back to college when he got fired. How is he a job jumper?? Because he went to the NFL?? The only reason he left Miami is because he wanted a crack at the NFL. That’s not some sort of restless move out of boredom. He’s now back in college at UNC, and I don’t see any reason why he’s going to be looking to move around any time soon.

NDNation…there isn’t a more delusional message board on the planet. People talk about these coaches like they can’t wait to leave their jobs for ND. It’s just not true. The longer we talk about guys like Butch Davis and Nick Saban and Bob Stoops, the less work we are doing looking for a realistic and great young candidate who actually wants the job. Would I call all those guys?? Absolutely. Are they the type of people that we should be pinning our hopes on?? No way.

UNC 31 Duke 17

Oregon (+3.5) at Oregon State

Dan: Oregon State -3.5

People have been doubting Oregon State all year. But they keep winning ball games. This game is for the Pac 10 championship. All they have to do is win this game and they are going to the Rose Bowl. Oregon has played pretty well lately, but I don't think they can pull off the upset on the road. Oregon State barely gets the cover.

Oregon State 17 Oregon 13

Matt: Oregon +3.5

This is more me hoping that Oregon wins than actually believing it’s going to happen. Although with Quizz out for Oregon State, I wouldn’t be shocked to see the Beavers get upset. I just really don’t want to see a Penn State – Oregon State rematch in the Rose Bowl. No thanks.

Oregon 31 Oregon State 28

Mike: Oregon State -3.5

The Beavers only have one more hurdle to clear before they can punch their ticket to Pasadena for a matchup with Penn State. Oregon State excels against the run, which is Oregon’s forte, and Sean Canfield is finally playing to his ability. Furthermore, the game is in Corvallis and, as a cynic, I find it hard to believe that the Pac-10 officials, whose integrity has been questioned in the past, will be inclined to make any calls that could jeopardize the conference’s hope to field two BCS bowl teams. Even without Jacquizz Rodgers, the Beavers will be heading to the Rose Bowl.

Oregon State 34 Oregon 24

Doug: Oregon State -3.5

Well, I gotta hand it to Oregon State for pulling out that win in Tucson last weekend. They are a Civil War win over Oregon away from the Rose Bowl. Penn State and Oregon State in a rematch. Ugh. Not exactly a glamorous game for the Rose Bowl.

Yet another candidate on the list is Mike Riley. Would I talk to Mike Riley?? No doubt about it. He’s a good football coach, and he would definitely be an upgrade over Charlie Weis.

However, Mike Riley is from Corvallis, Oregon!! He actually went to high school there. Does anyone really think he is leaving his hometown for the ND job?? Cmon, he’s 56 years old and probably only has another 5-10 years as a head coach left in him. He’s got a good thing going at Oregon State. He turned down the Alabama job 5 years ago. Is he really going to leave all that for the pressure cooker of Notre Dame?? Gotta be realistic here.

Same goes for Mike Bellotti. It seems like he is rumored for every major job that opens, and he has shown no desire to even interview anywhere else. He’s not leaving Oregon. He’s been there as a head coach or as an assistant for almost 20 years. Does anyone really think he’s going to just pack it up now and head to South Bend??

I don’t see it with any of these west coast Pac 10 guys at ND.

Oregon State 27 Oregon 21

Florida (-14) at Florida State (ABC 3:30pm)

Dan: Florida -14

Second easiest pick of the week. Florida is playing on another level. There isn't a team in the southeast that can come within 3 touchdowns of them right now. Forget about it.

Florida 42 Florida State 17

Matt: Florida -14

I know that FSU has been showing improvement, and they have a decent defense, but it’s Florida, not some crappy ACC team on the other side of the field this weekend. Florida has been destroying everyone in their path for two months, and I don’t think the Seminoles put up much of a fight. We can only hope that this is Bobby Bowden’s last home game and this silly “Joe Pa – Bobby” who’s going to coach longer can finally be put to rest.

Florida 51 FSU 14

Mike: Florida -14

There are a number of elements that favor Florida State: the game is in Tallahassee, Florida may be looking ahead to Alabama and the Seminoles should be fired up to beat their Sunshine State rivals. Given these factors, I expect Florida State to keep this game more respectable than the talent gap would suggest. In other words, the Seminoles have a good, but not great, opportunity to hang within 40 points of the Gators.

Florida 49 Florida State 10

Doug: Florida -14

It will probably be fitting that Florida doesn’t cover this week after I’ve picked them to not cover every week before, but I’m tired of picking against them and then watching them win by 40 every week.

My feelings on Urban Meyer are well-documented. I think he is the best coach in all of college football. If he is interested in the ND job, ND should offer to make him the highest paid coach in college football and make whatever concessions to him that he wants. We don’t dictate any terms to Urban Meyer. If he tells us what he wants, we say one word: DONE. If we have a chance to get Urban Meyer, we have to go full throttle to get him. With that said, I think there’s about a 1% chance that it happens, especially if Tebow comes back next year.

Florida 41 FSU 20

Oklahoma (-8.5) at Oklahoma State (ABC 8pm)

Dan: Oklahoma State +8.5

I was tempted to go with the boomin' Sooners for this one, but I think the fighting Gundy's can keep this one close. This rivalry has a history of close games and upsets. I don't think that the Cowboys can pull it off this time, but in Stillwater, no way this game is more than a Touchdown.

Oklahoma 42 Oklahoma State 35

Matt: Oklahoma State +8.5

I love the Bedlam game. Just a great name, and it sounds like it would be a blast to spend a Bedlam weekend in Stillwater or Norman. I know that Oklahoma has been playing great, but I just have a feeling that Mike Gundy is cooking up a gameplan to keep OSU in it. Both offenses are explosive, and I could see this one turning into a shootout, although that’s what I said last week and OU’s defense completely dominated Texas Tech.

I know that OU is playing great, but how can anyone vote them ahead of Texas? Texas beat them on a neutral field! What more needs to be proven. It sets a dangerous precedent in voting when two teams have identical records and voters blatantly ignore head to head results. While I’m at it, here’s my Top 7 for this week:

1. Florida
2. Alabama
3. USC
4. Texas
5. Oklahoma
6. Utah
7. Boise State

51. Wake Forest – the locals are not happy with the job that Jim Grobe has done this year in the Dash. He had a veteran team returning, including two first round picks on defense and veteran QB Riley Skinner, and they have flat out been bad. Grobe made the infamous decision to switch from the spread to the Power I for one game to disastrous results. It will be interesting to see if Wake’s success in past years was just a fluke or if they can circle the wagons and get some recruits in to push them back into the upper echelon of the ACC.

70. Notre Dame

119. Washington – I happened to catch the last bit of the pillow fight in Pullman and couldn’t help but laugh as the Wazzu kicker drilled the winning field goal. That was just classic.

Oklahoma 45 OSU 38

Mike: Oklahoma -8.5

The Pokes have traditionally played the Sooners very tough in the Bedlam game through the years and this could be another trap game for Oklahoma with a big win under their belt and the Big 12 Championship looming on the Horizon. Nonetheless, like Texas Tech, Oklahoma State lacks the athletes to run with Oklahoma, provided that Bob Stoops has his team playing at, or near, its full ability. This game is in Stillwater but, unless T. Boone Pickens field contains a set of hidden land mines or booby traps, the vastly superior Sooners should roll.

Oklahoma 48 Oklahoma State 30

Doug: Oklahoma State +8.5

Go crazy Stillwater!! There isn’t a place I’d rather be this weekend than Stillwater, Oklahoma for this “Bedlam” rivalry between the Sooners and the Cowboys. Eskimo Joes should be rocking all weekend long.

And you know what, I think Oklahoma State pulls the shocker and straight up wins this game. We are due for a major shocker, and I think it happens this weekend in Stillwater.

How crazy would it be that Texas Tech would then be in the Big 12 South title game under that scenario?? Who would go to the BCS title game at that point?? Could Texas go even though they wouldn’t be in their own conference title game?? Would Texas Tech go if they win the Big 12 even though they got destroyed in November at OU?? Would it be USC?? Would there be talk of a Florida-Alabama rematch in the title game if the game was close??

It could get wacky. For that reason alone, I’m rooting for Oklahoma State and BCS chaos. Anything to get people mad at the BCS and on board for a new postseason system is fine with me.

Oklahoma State 31 Oklahoma 30

Notre Dame (+29) at USC (ESPN 8pm)

Dan: USC -29 (even -32 based on the updated line)

Easiest pick of the week. Ugh. I will watch this game. I don't know why, but I will. I view it as some sort of punishment for supporting Weis the entire way up until last week's debacle. But USC has a point to prove. Their offense is not all that great, but it should not have much problem scoring on ND. And I just don't see how we can score without Michael Floyd. So let's be reminiscent:

USC 38 Notre Dame 0

Matt: USC
I’m obviously picking USC here, and I really see no possible way that ND can get the W. I really haven’t felt this lack of optimism going into a game in a long time. But there are a few things that I will be looking for:

Does ND come out fired up? It will be apparent early on if Charlie was able to get the team fired up for this one. While they aren’t going to win, I’d at least like to see that the team hasn’t mailed it in for the final game of the season.

Can we do anything on offense? With Mike Haywood unceremoniously being kicked out of the press box to possibly fill water bottles on the sideline, can Charlie establish any semblance of a gameplan against a monster defense. I have serious doubts. USC will just drop 8 into coverage and easily stop the run with their defensive line. That spells trouble for Jimmy Clausen. I don’t think the Hail Mary to Golden is going to work against USC.

Can the defense slow USC down? The USC defense is dominant, but USC’s offense has been rather pedestrian this year. Will the Irish D be able to keep it respectable, or does USC have their way.

I don’t know what the future of ND football is right now. I think the talent is continuing to improve, but it doesn’t seem to be developing. I really don’t think that the ND administration has the stomach to fire Charlie, but I think it is the right move at this point. With the schedule set up nicely and a solid returning nucleus, a good coach could have ND right back to being relevant again next year.

Of all the things that have been annoying about the Syracuse loss (2nd and 47, the actual fact we lost to Syracuse, students throwing snow balls that hit the players whether intentional or not), the most annoying has been the idiotic posts on NDNation about potential coaching replacements. People actually expect that “Tier 1” coaches are going to drop their successful programs in Tuscaloosa or Gainesville or Norman and head on over to South Bend. IT’S NOT HAPPENING! And yet, Brian Kelly, who Doug and Jeremy have already talked about and recommended, gets dismissed like he’s not worthy of even speaking the words Notre Dame let alone being head coach. Notre Dame would be lucky to have a guy like Brian Kelly on the sideline as the head coach.

And the people who have said that Kelly needs to go somewhere else like Tennessee and prove himself before consideration for ND are absolutely freaking delusional. NEWS FLASH: When someone goes to a program like Tennessee and succeeds, they don’t leave and come to Notre Dame. Most of the stuff I’ve been reading on NDNation has been absolute garbage and I’m embarrassed to be affiliated with some of those people as ND fans.

And if I read one more post about Jon Gruden or Tom Coughlin or Mike Shanahan, I’m going to lose it. Hasn’t it been proven that pro coaches just don’t really work when teaching 18 year old kids? How do you think the folks in College Station are enjoying the Mike Sherman era? It’s laughable at the idea that Tom Coughlin would walk away from a dominant Giants team to come coach Notre Dame. I really find that idea hilarious.

I know that everyone has their own opinions about a potential coaching change, but it would do everyone some good to step back and really think before they talk about it. Sure, we would love Bob Stoops on the sideline, but it ain’t happening. We would love Urban Meyer, but that ship has sailed. ND should be identifying the NEXT Urban Meyer. And I’m pretty confident that that guy is currently the head coach of the Cincinnati Bearcats.

Whether or not Charlie comes back next year, I’ll still support the team. But this week’s game gives us one last glimpse at what this team is capable of. If we see the team that was on the field in the first half of the UNC game or against Michigan, that will at least show that the team hasn’t totally thrown in the towel for Weis.

Mike: USC -29

I can’t even bring myself to discuss this game in any detail. All I can say is that I hope Pete Carroll will keep his foot on the gas pedal when given the opportunity. Of course, Carroll did not hesitate from running up the score against Ty in 2004 (I believe that the Trojans fake a punt with a large lead in the fourth), so there is no reason to expect him to refrain from delivering the potential death blow to Charlie Weis’s career. Besides, sportsmanship has never really been Carroll’s modus operandi.

USC 52 Notre Dame 10

Doug: USC

I'm not going to waste my time breaking down this game because there is nothing to break down. If anyone wants my ten second stream-of-consciousness thoughts, I think USC is going to dominate the field position and special teams battles, I think the Irish will be lucky to even be in positive territory in rushing yards, and I think USC's linebackers will be in Clausen's grill all day long. They'll double Golden Tate, and it will be turnover city. Probably a defensive touchdown for USC, and our defense will get worn down in the second half. I could see a scenario where we come out inspired for Weis to try to save his job and hang around with them for a half. But I don't see this game being very competitive.

I'm more interested in discussing the state of the ND program. The latest thing I am seeing on NDNation is that ND needs a home run hire or the program is DEAD. HUH?? Exaggerate much?? I actually don't think the ND program is in that bad shape. I think we're fine as a program. We have facilities, tons of money, second largest recruiting budget in the country, nationwide fanbase, NBC tv contract, the greatest stadium in the game, and a great school/campus that still is attractive to recruits. In many ways, we've never had so much to offer to players, and it is obvious that we are still attractive to players based on our recruiting classes.

What ND now needs to do is go find a head coach who can motivate young men to live and breathe football. We need a coach who can produce tough, fundamentally sound teams that execute and go into every game looking to blow the other team out. Weis' problem is that he doesn't know how to get that out of his players. Weis loves to talk tough, but he's obviously not a disciplinarian and players have given up on him.

ND fans act like we need to hire Nick Saban or Bob Stoops or we have no hope as a program. It's simply not true. There are plenty of coaches who could win big at ND. Unfortunately, ND fans are so shellshocked by the last three hires (none of whom had any level of success as a head coach anywhere) that they think the only way to glory is to hire Nick Saban away from Alabama. And they couldn't be more wrong. There are probably 20-30 coaches out there who I would look at who could probably be great head coaches at ND. We just need to be creative to go out and find the best guy who happens to also be available. We should be interviewing everyone, watching film, and doing our homework. As we have seen so many times before, schools like Oklahoma and Georgia took risks on "unproven" guys with great upside and those hires turned out great.

While I am fond of Brian Kelly and think he would be an outstanding hire, he is hardly the only guy I would have on my list. I would talk to EVERYONE and then make a decision from there. If it's a young guy from a mid-major conference, do it. If it's a coach from a mid-level BCS program, do it. Heck, it might be an assistant like Will Muschamp who is chomping at the bit to take the reins at a major program. I can get behind that if I know the guy is going to implement a program of success at ND.

I don't care what the offense is that we run. I just care that we can execute it. I've watched Brian Kelly's team play. The reason their spread offense actually works is that they actually practice the plays that they run and have worked hard to master that offense. They don't grab bag the spread offense in the 3rd series of the 2nd quarter when the first two schemes didn't work. You can't grab bag your offense. Weis still doesn't understand that. Heck, I would be fine with hiring Paul Johnson and running the spread option if it was something that we ran really really well. Georgia Tech runs that offense to perfection, and teams don't know how to react to it when they face it.

Believe me, I would love nothing more than to see Bob Stoops tell tomorrow that he wants the ND job and that he is looking to move on. I would love for Urban Meyer to have a sitdown with Lou Holtz on College Gameday on Saturday and reveal that he is interested in the ND job. If we have a real chance to get those guys, let's move heaven and earth to get them. I am all for it, and I have no doubt that the law firm of Stoops, Meyer & Saban would win big at ND and become legends. However, there is almost a 0.0% chance that any of those guys are coming to ND. I don't see it. They are rumored for every job out there, and they have never expressed a serious interest in leaving. If you are at Florida and have entrenched yourself down there with the recruits you have brought in and coaches you have hired, why would you suddenly pack it up to go to ND?? There are so many logistical moves to changing a job that people seem to forget. It's not like Urban can just pack up and head to South Bend. His whole crew of assistants and family would be coming with him. He can win a national title at Florida (he already did and probably will win again this year), so going to ND is not really a step up for him at all.

I'm not going to freak out if Weis sticks around after this year and boycott the team or call him Front Butt or Pear Bryant or any of that stuff, but I do think the offseason will be filled with discontent if we get plowed by USC and lose/decline a lousy bowl game. There are so many people openly talking about Weis being gone or his replacements that I feel like the weight on the administration is going to be too much for them to ignore. The Syracuse game has created a sense of inevitability to Weis getting fired, so I think it will be hard to turn that around. I really will be surprised if Weis is back. Again, I will root for ND to go 12-0 next year if Weis is back and go to as many games as I can, but I think it's probably just better to sever this relationship now.

It is certainly going to be an interesting offseason. I think the alumni and fans are doing Swarbrick no favors by drawing up coaching wish lists like this one and acting like the program is dead if we don't get one of them:

1) Gruden
2) Saban
3) Meyer
4) Stoops
5) Cowher
6) Coughlin

That's a load of nonsense. I don't think we should be dismissing anyone, and there are many coaches out there who I could get behind.

Stay tuned for more stuff on WEISND throughout the offseason if a coaching change is made.

USC 34 ND 10


Last Week:

Dan 6-8
Matt 8-6
Mike 11-4
Doug 5-10


Dan 79-82 (.491)
Matt 103-89-3 (.537)
Mike 102-90-3 (.531)
Doug 95-98-3 (.495)

November 25, 2008

Why isn't USC getting the benefit of the doubt??

With all the discussion of the national championship picture out there, something is starting to trouble me about the way this thing is going down.

Where is the respect for USC???

Believe me when I say that I can't stand USC and root for them to lose every game they play, but there is no denying their record of success in the Pete Carroll era. Of all the "heavyweight" football programs out there, USC is the heavyweight of the heavyweights. The kings of college football during the 2000s. No program has come up better in big games than USC, and no team has had more talent than the Trojans. Pete Carroll is the best "big game" coach in the country.

And yet, when you look at the college football rankings right now, they are falling in line behind notorious chokers like Texas and Oklahoma. This is the same Oklahoma program that was being touted as the "greatest team of all time" heading into their national title game in 2005 against USC, and USC beat them 55-19. Don't we see this every year out of OU??? They pile up ridiculous stats and numbers in the Big 12, and then fall on their face in a bowl game.

When has USC ever come up small in a big game?? Shouldn't there be some level of respect for USC because of what they have done the last ten years?? I know the Pac 10 is down this year, but is that USC's fault?? They are going to finish with 1 loss just like the other Big 12 powers. If USC and OU were playing on a neutral site, would any of you really bet against Pete Carroll and the USC Trojans in that game?? How do we know that the Big 12 is really that strong?? No one in that conference is playing any defense.

While it seems that consensus is forming that the title game should be the SEC champ against the Big 12 champ, I think it would be a travesty if USC doesn't have a say in the national title race. They have the same number of losses as Florida, Oklahoma, Texas, and Texas Tech. Now more than ever, the belt system would be appropriate to settle the 3 way battle between the Pac 10, Big 12, and SEC.

-Speaking of Oklahoma and Texas, how are they going to resolve this mess??? If OU goes over Texas, how would that be even remotely fair considering that Texas beat Oklahoma on a neutral field?? I'm not saying that Texas is better than OU, but it would be nuts to award OU with the Big 12 South spot if Texas beat them and has the same number of losses.

Gotta admit that I am rooting for Oklahoma State to pull off the shocker at "Bedlam" this weekend. If Okla St wins that game, OU is out and USC might be able to sneak into the title picture. A USC-Florida title game would be incredible.

- Notre Dame - the basketball school! Great win for the Irish against a depleted Hoosiers squad. Tory Jackson played an outstanding game last night. he has always been a good point guard, but I hope he makes the leap into the elite category now that he is a junior.

Looking forward to this Texas game tonight. Sounds like Texas is really physical and athletic, so it will be an interesting matchup for our team. I hope we are ready to play. A win over Texas would be a huge statement early in the year.

God bless basketball season and Coach Michael Montgomery Brey. It is a breath of fresh air after this horrific football season (which has been worse than the 2007 season if you ask me).

-- Speaking of college hoops, is there a better college basketball analyst on the planet than Jay Bilas?? He is to college hoops analysis what Gary Danielson is to college football analysis. Bilas always gives you great insight into the teams on the floor, and he is the smartest guy in the business. His analysis of ND's team is always spot on. Throw in Sean McDonough's great voice and Bill Raftery's comedy, and that trio is my favorite college hoops team out there. Big East fans are lucky to have them around for Big Monday and other Big East games.

Let's go Irish. Beat the Longhorns!

November 22, 2008

Let The Circus Begin

Had things gone according to plan this afternoon, this post was going include thoughts as to how Weis could improve his staff and team to make a nice run in 2009 and beyond. But after the last several weeks, it is painfully obvious that Weis is not going to get the job done. I think most Irish fans would have been willing to forestall any coaching search until at least after 2009 to see if Weis could make the leap and push ND into the upper echelon, as many expected. But after the disastrous loss to a miserable Syracuse team, I can't see any way in which retaining Weis for another year would help the future of the program. If retained, he might be able to flop around to a 9-3 type season based solely on the soft schedule in 2009 and the large amount of talent he's been able to assemble. But much like the situation at the end of 2004, the program needs a change immediately for its own long-term good.

I must admit that I say this with a fairly heavy heart - I didn't consider Weis a "home run" hire, but did like the fact that he was bringing an impressive offensive pedigree (Parcells/Belichick disciple, several Super Bowl rings) to the table. The "tough guy" Jersey persona in his first press conference was a welcome change from the somnolent, confusing speeches and answers given by his predecessor. Mix in the fact that Charlie was an alum who definitely "got" Notre Dame like no coach had since Holtz, and he seemed like a natural choice. The exciting 2005 season, followed up by recruiting successes and a repeat BCS appearance in 2006 had many Irish fans believing he had "us" back on the right path.

But at this point there's no way to deny the glaring weaknesses. Lack of productive running game after Weis' "nasty" and "pound it" assertions. Little creativity and no consistency in his area of "expertise" - the offense. What appears to be poor evaluation and use of his assistant coaches. Recruiting deficiencies in areas of need, namely the defensive line and linebackers. These are really just scratching the surface.

Now that Weis' fate is all but sealed, We Is might as well start leading the charge towards finding a replacement. The following is a list which has been circulating lately among Irish fans, authored by some of the alleged cogniscenti on the largest and most popular of ND fan sites, NDNation:

1. Bob Stoops
2. Butch Davis
3. Nick Saban
4. Jon Gruden
5. Tom Coughlin
6. Mark Richt
7. Urban Meyer
8. Mike Shanahan
9. Jeff Tedford
10. Bill Cowher
11. Mike Riley
12. Mike Belotti
13. Kirk Ferentz
14. Tommy Tuberville
15. Gary Pinkel
16. Mark Dantonio

This "list" was not to be considered "exhaustive" and not meant to imply mutual interest, but set forth individuals that should be "contacted" in the event of a coaching search. I'd like to analyze those put forth in reverse order, including their coaching histories and my purely subjective thoughts on their availability.


Long-time Midwestern guy. Began coaching career as a GA with Purdue and then Ohio St. Had a stint as Jim Tressel's secondary coach at Youngstown St. before joining Glen Mason in the same capacity at Kansas. Joined Nick Saban's staff at Michigan St. and stayed on for the forgettable Bobby Williams era. Tressel hired him to be his defensive coordinator at Ohio St. and he helped win the National Championship in 2002. Parlayed his successes into the HC job at Cincinnati, following former ND DC Rick Minter. 18-17 in 3 years at Nippert Stadium, including two 7-5 seasons. Took over at Michigan St. and is currently 16-9.

Personally, I think he's one of the more realistic options on the list. He doesn't ooze excitement and his "success" thus far has been relatively modest. He's done fairly well recruiting to East Lansing, but nothing spectacular. His teams play tough and he's obviously got a very good defensive mind.

In the end though, I'm not sure that he can be considered a "home run" and he may not be available. He's made fairly strong comments about the UM-MSU rivalry, signaling he's very committed to the program.

VERDICT: He's still fairly green as far as head coaching experience goes. Limited successes, both on the field and in recruiting. Should be considered, but there are bigger fish out there.


Wasn't able to find much on his past, but he was an OC with Don James at Washington before he became a head coach. Spent 10 years as a HC at Toledo, amassing a record of 73-37-3. Went 11-0-1, including a win in the Las Vegas Bowl, and a ranking in the Top 25 in 1995. Won 3 other MAC division titles while at Toledo. Has been at Missouri for 8 years - 58-39, 2 Big 12 North titles (2007 and 2008). However, he's 21-4 in his last two years with Chase Daniel as his QB.

He's been impressive lately, but as with Weis, its not clear how much of his success was due to his QB (Daniel/Quinn). Runs a somewhat "gimmicky" offense that would likely turn off some of the Old Guard who cherish a pounding, time-consuming running game. His defenses haven't been very good lately.

VERDICT: Eh. Missouri was barely on the map until last year. Pinkel's teams aren't particularly tough and he's struggled against teams clearly more talented than his own (see: Texas 2008). Pass.


Tubs spent a good part of his youth in Coral Gables, working on the defensive side of the Miami dynasties of the late '80s and early '90s. He was DC at Texas A&M in 1994 (following in Bob Davie's footsteps), before taking the head job at Ole Miss where he went 25-20 in 4 years. He then took over the War Eagle and has gone 84-38 in 10 years. During that time, he won 1 SEC title outright (2004 - 13-0) and was jobbed out of a chance to play for the National Championship. He also won an SEC West title in 2000. Known for having consistently suffocating defenses.

But coaching in the SEC in football-crazed Alabama is no picnic. Tubs has had a veritable revolving door of offensive coordinators in his 10 years at Auburn, and fired Tony Franklin mid-season this year. There are quite a few rumblings in War Eagle Nation, so he might be looking to make a jump.

VERDICT: He's a known commodity with a great defensive mind. His offenses, especially in 2008, have lurked somewhere between "stagnant" and "God-awful" even with the large amount of talent on the roster. In the end, the Auburn faithful realize that he's only missed two bowl games in 10 years and don't let him creep away. But he'd be worth checking up on I suppose.


Hayden Fry's offensive line coach for many years at Iowa, Ferentz went on to lead the Maine Black Bears to a 12-21 record in 3 years as head coach. He then spent several years with Bill Belichick and Brian Billick in as the O-line coach of the Browns/Ravens before returning to Iowa City to become head coach of the Hawkeyes. In 10 years, he's gone 68-53, winning 2 Big Ten titles (2002 and 2004) and going to a BCS game once (in 2002). Has produced some good offensive linemen over the years.

Hasn't made much noise in the Big Ten since 2004 except for the recent disciplinary problems. Recruiting has been a mixed bag - he took advantage of Willingham and Ron Turner's presence to raid Illinois for some of the better recruits in the state in 2003 and 2004.

VERDICT: No excitement here. He's clearly on a downward slide at Iowa. Michigan fans had a connipition was it appeared he had become the leading candidate to take over in Ann Arbor last year. The reaction should be the same in South Bend. No thanks.


Made his way to Eugene after several stops at small West Coast schools, including Cal St. Hayward and Chico St. Has been HC at Oregon for 14 years, amassing a record of 114-55, with 2 Pac 10 titles and 1 BCS bowl win in 2001. Architect of explosive offenses and molder of solid QBs. Lately has run a spread option offense that might not please the Old Guard. When Kellen Clemens and Joey Harrington were around, tended to run more of a pro-style offense.

On the negative side, his resume screams West Coast and he's never given any indication that he'd want to leave. Presumably he's extremely well-paid thanks to Phil Knight and friends. Rumors that he was contacted during both previous searches and did not show any interest.

VERDICT: Attractive candidate due to past successes and offensive mind. Unlikely to leave for various reasons. Might the wealth on talent presently on the roster change his mind? Give him a call but don't expect much in the way of a response.


Has an interesting coaching history - GA at Cal before heading up Winnipeg of the CFL for 4 years (winning 2 Grey Cups). OC for John Robinson at USC before his first stint as head coach at Oregon St. where he went 8-14 in 2 years. Hired as head coach of the San Diego Chargers in 1999 and went 14-34. Returned to Oregon St. after Dennis Erickson jumped ship and has gone 45-27 in 6 years. 4 bowl games, 4 wins. Never finished better than 3rd in the Pac 10 (until this year). 2 huge upsets over USC during this most recent tenure.

Riley's inclusion on this list was a bit of a head-scratcher for me. I guess those 2 recent victories over SC look good to ND fans, but the resume just isn't all that impressive. Add in the fact that Riley grew up in Corvallis and its difficult to see him moving again.

VERDICT: Nothing really jumps out at me, and this looks like another strictly West Coast guy. There are better options out there IMO.


The most curious inclusion by far - the other guys on the list with NFL pedigrees have at least in the past been linked to ND in some way, shape or form. Cowher began coaching in the NFL when he was 28 years old and has no experience in the college game at all. Never recruited, never dealt with the reduced practice time and exposure to players. Probably not even a realistic option as he's retired, and if he does make a return to coaching, he won't have any problem finding an NFL job.

VERDICT: Attractive in name only. Definitely fails the numer one requirement of any future ND coach - must have collegiate head coaching experience. If we've learned nothing else from the Davie and Weis experiences, we should know by now that ND is not the place to learn how to be a college football coach. It should be considered a waste of time and resources to even give him a call.


Another Pac-10/West Coast guy. GA at Fresno St. QB coach with Calgary of the CFL and at Fresno St. OC at Oregon before taking over in Berkeley. 55-29 in 7 years, with a Pac-10 title in 2006. He's 4-1 in bowl games and has a knack for identifying and developing solid QB talent. Has consistenly explosive offenses and usually plays USC very tough.

Much like Belotti and Riley, a guy who doesn't seem to have any desire to move east. Disappointing effort in 2007 with a solid amount of talent. Never really found a way to get the ball in DeSean Jackson's hands and found a way to lose to a horrible Washington team.

VERDICT: Probably not realistic due to strong West Coast ties. Worth a call, and almost certainly better than the present option.


Known for his incredible success in the NFL, Shanny does have experience in the college coaching ranks. Position coach at Northern Arizona and Oklahoma, OC at Eastern Illinois (his alma mater) where he won a D-II title in 1978. OC at Minnesota in 1979. OC at Florida (1980-1983). Known for offensive mind, especially developing successful running schemes. Born in Oak Park, IL and reportedly had some interest in 2004.

Despite those reports, ultimately publicly denied interest/contact. No college head coaching experience. Hasn't coached in college for more than 20 years. Might be taking a pay cut to come to South Bend.

VERDICT: We'd be violating the "No NCAA HC experience" rule by inquiring. There's been rumors of mutual interest, but no real hard evidence that he's a realistic option. Plus, how much longer is he planning on coaching? Give him a call, but don't expect anything.


Everyone should know his history by now. He was a logical choice due to his past connections with ND (WRs coach with Davie) and the widely circulated rumors of his "out clause" leaving him the ability to jump ship to South Bend without penalty. But he very publicly spurned ND for the Gators in 2004 and has Florida in position to win another National Championship this year. Not to mention the fact that he's consistently been a thorn in the side of ND recruiting efforts, poaching Justin Trattou and Omar Hunter in the past two years.

VERDICT: He's a slimeball. But he's also probably one of the best coaches in the country. Due to his skill and prior connection, he's got to be on the list. Of course, there's no way in hell he leaves Gainesville.


He's on the list because he's a great coach at a great program and has had consistent success in the best conference in the country.

Is there any reason to believe he would consider leaving?

VERDICT: Fine. Call him. He'll laugh at us.


I almost laughed out loud when I saw this name. Coughlin was a source of great debate back during the first 2 coaching searches and was often dismissed with a "we can do better." Now, of course, he's a Super Bowl winning coach and a Top 5 candidate.

Publicly waved off any interest or contact during the first two coaching searches, especially in 2004. Rumored to strongly dislike recruiting. Seems very happy where he is currently.

VERDICT: I wasn't a fan a few years ago, and I don't see how a Super Bowl ring changes things. Hasn't expressed any interest in returning to college. Seems like another waste of time.


A source of great debate and discussion among Irish fans. Many felt he should have been the only choice in previous coaching searches. The real story behind his courtship may never be known, and all that really matters is whether he's contacted again. He would be en exciting name and might be the only person on the list who would work more hours than Weis. Another guy who would "get" Notre Dame - grew up in South Bend as a huge fan with a father who was a former assistant.

Hasn't had much in the way of college football experience and has never been a head coach at that level. That should send up immediate red flags. Considered a great offensive mind, but then of course, so was the guy presently at the helm. Hasn't had much in the way of great success in the NFL since his Super Bowl win in 2002-2003.

VERDICT: Should be on the list because of his success as an NFL coach and his ties to the university. But hiring Gruden would almost seem like a sideshow, a novelty act. At this point, I think the choice has to be someone who's had consistent, measurable success as a COLLEGE football coach.


In terms of pure college football mind and ability to return ND to the top of the mountain, there's no better candidate on the list. The man is simply the best college football coach on the planet right now. Frighteningly good defenses, great recruiting and one BCS title already on the resume. Has built up each major program (MSU, LSU, 'Bama) to national prominence and is in the running for another title this year.

But its difficult to find a reason why he would be interested in leaving. 'Bama will give him anything he wants in terms of money, JUCO's and tough-to-qualify kids. If he wins a title at Alabama, he becomes an NCAA demi-god (if he isn't one already).

The only possible saving grace is his love for a challenge. And there might not be a bigger one in college football than returning ND to the promised land.

VERDICT: Of course you call, but expect an immediate "no thanks."


For my money, the best and most realistic candidate on this list. Started out as a position coach at Oklahoma St. before hitching his wagon to Jimmy Johnson's star. Stayed on the defensive side of the ball at Miami, and then followed Jimmy to Dallas (NFL) where he became the DC after Wannstedt left. Parlayed his successes into the head coaching job back at Miami where he went 51-20 in 6 years and guided the Canes through NCAA-mandate probation. Won 2 BE titles, and a BCS game in 2000 and was probably jobbed out of a chance to play for the title that year. After leaving to take over the Browns, Larry Coker guided Butch's boys to an undefeated National Championship in 2001 and an undefeated regular season in 2002. He's gone 11-10 at UNC since returning to college last year.

Can't see too many negatives on his resume. His name is going to be thrown around quite a bit in connection with any big job that opens up the next few years. If he's happy in Chapel Hill, he might be tough to pry away. He could build a very nice little program down there if he decided to stay in ACC land.

VERDICT: Call him. Immediately. He should be aware of the talent on the roster after this year's game, and would likely be able to save a good portion of the current recruiting class. IMO, the best "home run" candidate on the list.


Another guy who needs no introduction. Has allegedly been contacted and shown interest in the past, though that can't be considered anything more than hearsay. Good Midwestern roots, dynamite recruiter.

Has great job security and no reason to leave. Contending for another National Championship this year. Turned down previous overtures.

VERDICT: Again, his resume requires him to be a candidate, but he can't be considered realistic.

While reasonable people could of course debate the qualifications and realistic chances of bringing these coaches to South Bend, the resounding agreement among the cognoscenti of NDNation was that those included on this list were ALL better options than the man whose cause this board will be championing throughout any future coaching search.

If you've read this board before, you've probably seen Doug's resounding endorsement of Cincinnati Head Coach Brian Kelly. His resume reads as follows:

Head Coach - Grand Valley St. (13 years: 118-35-2; 2 Div-II National Championships - 2002, 2003)
Head Coach - Central Michigan (3 years: 19-16; MAC title in 2006)
Head Coach - Cincinnati (3 years: 21-5, 2 bowl wins, likely BE title in 2008)

I'm simply at a loss as to why he's so quickly dismissed. To me, that looks like the resume of a sure-fire winner. Is it because of his long history as a non-Div. I head coach? That hasn't stopped Jim Tressel from turning OSU into a powerhouse. How about solid success at smaller schools, including a likely BCS appearance this year? Sounds a bit like the guy who was the #1 candidate in 2004 that spurned ND for greener pastures in Gainesville. Plain and simple, the guy's been a winner at every level and I'd be willing to bet my life savings (admittedly, not much) that he'll be a monster wherever he goes next. And you know he's getting a big job this offseason. He's already rumored to be Tennessee's #1 candidate. Clemson, Washington and even perhaps Auburn will be looking for new coaches. He's going to be available this offseason, but he might not be available after 2009.

Sure there may always be Brian Kelly's floating around college football, but the fact of the matter is that the talent is on hand in South Bend to make some serious noise in the coming years. Changes need to happen, and they need to happen this year. I'll refer you back to Doug's original endorsement of Kelly for any further info you might need. But I really feel that he and Butch Davis should be 1 and 1A on the "list" right now, and they need to be pursued quickly and aggressively.

One final thought. Along with the many rumors that swirled around the internet during the last coaching search, and the early rumblings of a possible impending search, is the possibility of naming an "interim" HC to take over for an undetermined period of time until the best candidate can be identified and hired. Lou Holtz has generally been the individual identified to assume this role. IMO, this would be a disastrous move. In what situation has an "interim" tag ever worked successfully? Would all the current assistants be retained to work in an "interim" fashion, coaching and recuiting for a school that will likely be cutting them loose once a candidate has been identified and hired? Is it realistic to believe that an "interim" coaching staff would be able to have any success at all in recruiting even a modest class? I don't believe that it is, and I really hope that this isn't being seriously considered.

Its time for the ND administration and athletic department to earn its keep. Given their last few attempts at a coaching search, I can't say I'm confident. But, as always..."what tho' the odds..."

November 21, 2008

#9 Michigan Stadium


For your tracking convenience, here's #10 and #11 on the "slowed to a crawl" Countdown. At this point, you have full permission to call me Eric Moussambani for the current snail's pace.

Ahh, good ole Michigan Stadium, aka The Big House. Though this year, the House faithful have scattered like underagers at a kegger, lamenting the growing pains of a system change without a QB. Whether or not Dick Rod rights the ship and stops the bleeding (I should say hemorraghing with news of significant transfers) is a topic for another day. We're here to discuss the merits of the grounds where the Wolverines do battle.

On the positive side, there's a sincere respect for this structure since it served as the model for The House That Rockne Built in 1930. Also, anytime you can count yourself among the "largest crowd to attend a football game," it registers on the cool scale - right below spotting Manute Bol at a Bulls game trying to "blend in." The sheer mass of humanity that fits inside is a spectacle unto its own. 111,000 people in one place is hard to fathom. Ann Arbor itself is a great college town, but not too close to the stadium, which hurts their overall score. I'd be remiss not to bring up the fond Irish memory of Bo having the audacity to kick to the Rocket not once, but twice, in a rainy #1 vs. #2 contest in Ann Arbor. Finally, the history associated with the edifice is long and storied, as detailed by this in-depth library page.

But, lest I paint too rosy a picture, this is the same Michigan Stadium that serves as homebase for the team Irish fans love to hate. Too many heartwrenching defeats have been witnessed in the cavernous bowl, particularly the 1999 edition. I'm sure Michigan fans will swear by their automobile that the stadium is a holy place of worship, but the overall experience is rather sub-par. The location is rather remote from campus proper, so there's no "walking around the quads" or mingling with undergrads unless you know somebody (or know someone who knows somebody, as is wont the case) at the neighboring houses. Consequently, the sprawl leaves little gameday buzz or concentrated intensity that should accompany a powerhouse program.

You park at a middle school or on the golf course and roam around aimlessly, until you stumble upon an intersection with a large mass of people waiting to cross. Look across the street and, "Oh. There it is." Pardon the lack of exclamatory impact, but that's the normal reaction for first-timers. Due to the stadium's architecture, the structure "towers" above us at a lofty height of 30 feet or so. It's quite the befuddling realization - that's it??

Once you enter the gates, there's a painfully long and slow logjam of a line waiting for you to get in your section. Then, you walk down, and down and down to wherever your seats are. Once you sit, you can appreciate the size of the place. But due to it's curvature, or lack thereof, the noise drifts out of the stadium. What should be a deafening roar when the team runs on the field or when the defense is trying to get a big stop is nowhere close to that. Nothing like the rabid SEC crowds and the headache-inducing drone.
Well, there is one cause for headaches, but for all the wrong reasons. With the relative tame noise level, your privvy to one of the more annoying "superfans" and his incessant cowbell. I know the guy is trying to rally the crowd, but if those are the gimmicky lengths it takes to get Michigan fans loud, I'm sorry. In the words of the principal in Billy Madison, "I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul." If I were a Michigan ticket-holder, I couldn't imagine hearing that racket for 6 games a year. Once every two years is quite enough.
To summarize, one of the rankings' contributors best expresses the feelings toward the impressively average Ann Arbor experience: "As with Bo Schembechler's legacy, Michigan's academics and the Wolverines' 'championship' tradition, the game day experience at the "Big House" is only considered great in the eyes of Michigan fans."

November 20, 2008

Week 13 picks

Wow, Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and I can't believe another college football season is rapidly coming to a close. The national title picture is settling down, and there are only a handful of games left that will have an outcome on the national title. One of them is this week in Norman, Oklahoma with the OU-Texas Tech game. Should be a barnburner.

While the college football season is starting to wrap up, the college hoops season is just getting started. Man, I couldn't be more excited for college hoops. The Maui Invitational starting next week is going to be phenomenal, especially for Notre Dame fans. A chance to play back to back to back games with Indiana, Texas, and North Carolina should tell us a lot about this 2008-09 Irish team. Stay tuned for more college hoops coverage here on WEISND throughout the winter.

The football version of the Irish are entering their home finale against the Syracuse Orange. It should be an easy win, but you never know with this team. Hopefully the Irish will win big and send the seniors like Pat Kuntz and David Bruton out on a high note. Those guys have been through a lot, and it would be nice to end the season strong for their sake.

On to the picks:

Thursday November 20, 2008:

Miami (+3.5) at Georgia Tech (ESPN 7:30pm)

Dan: Miami +3.5

This is a really tough game for me because I really like both these teams. However, especially on a Thursday night, I think I have to side with the home team. Miami’s resurgence is starting to have Canes fans dizzy with BCS dreams. However, 3 of their 5 straight wins have been at home and the other 2 were at Duke and an OT victory at UVA. I know the Canes don’t have a huge home field advantage, but it is still better than playing on the road. If the Canes can pull off the win, they’ll be in the driver’s seat for the division title. I think they come close enough to cover, but fall just short of the win.

Georgia Tech 20 Miami 17

Matt: Miami +3.5

Stewart Mandel from is currently predicting a Miami-ND Gator Bowl. Wow! That would be sweet to rekindle that rivalry. Maybe that game would knock some sense into Swarbrick to take Miami up on their offer and get the U on the schedule in the near future.

I’ve been saying all along that I like what Randy Shannon is doing, and I’m not jumping off the bandwagon now. As much as I’d like to see a Miami-ND Gator Bowl, I think the Canes will be home for the New Year in the Orange Bowl.

Miami 24 Georgia Tech 17

Mike: Georgia Tech -3.5

I was impressed by Miami’s defense last week, irrespective of Virginia Tech’s clear limitations. Although Miami has plenty of explosive athletes, it is often difficult for coaches to create a scheme which allows young players, especially true freshman, to “play fast” without getting lost. Miami’s defensive coordinator, Bill Young, did a fine job at Kansas in the same role last year and if his defense continues to play well, he will become a hot name for vacant head coaching positions. This week, however, Young’s mettle will be tested, as he must prepare the inexperienced Canes for the Georgia Tech triple option. Although I think Miami’s defense will hold up reasonably well, the Canes’ two-headed monster at quarterback seems like a disaster in the making, particularly against the ferocious Yellow Jacket front four. Look for a critical error from Marve or Harris to be the game changing play in this one.

Georgia Tech 24 Miami 17

Doug: Georgia Tech -3.5

The "home teams on a Thursday night" rule is my line of thinking for this game. Miami is getting better and better, but GT has been really good at home.

I like where this Miami program is going though. And credit to them for scheduling home and homes in the future with Ohio State and Nebraska and asking ND for a series. Meanwhile, we just locked up a long term series with UConn and have been approaching schools like Baylor and Utah for games. ND football: Going out of our way to be mediocre since 1994. Good times!

Saturday November 22, 2008:

Indiana +13 at Purdue (ESPN2 12pm)

Dan: IU +12

To quote Bobby Knight, there is no way I can pick Purdue!

IU 24 Purdue 13

Matt: Purdue -12

Being back in school, I’ve come to a realization: I don’t really care about the NFL. Sure, I like playing fantasy football, but I haven’t really had time to watch the NFL on Sundays, and I don’t miss it. The NFL has jumped the shark for me. Between the CONSTANT media attention it gets, the increasing amount of injuries (seriously, I know there’s really nothing that can be done, but the players are too big and fast for their own good. Someone is going to get killed on the field in the near future), and the silly celebrations after every tackle made or ball caught, I’m not afraid to say that the NFL is a distant 3rd on my pro sports priority list between the 3 major sports. The only thing keeping me interested in the NFL is the emergence of Brady Quinn. Great to see. Imagine if the Dolphins had him as their foundation for the next 10 years.

Purdue 41 IU 20

Mike: Purdue -12

By most accounts, Joe Tiller has never exactly been adored by his players. Still, Purdue showed some fight last week in Iowa and it stands to reason that the Boilermakers will be plenty motivated to send Tiller out as a winner in his final game as Purdue coach. Indiana has been awful this season, even when healthy, and the Hoosiers are now missing several of their top players for what could also be the final game for their embattled coach, Bill Lynch. There’s no need to order Boilermakers in West Lafayette on Saturday because drinks will be coming straight from the Old Oaken Bucket.

Purdue 35 Indiana 14

Doug: Indiana +12

I cannot give Purdue 13 points to anyone, especially when the Old Oaken Bucket is on the line. Purdue and Indiana are recruiting similar athletes, so there isn't that much of a difference between these programs. Wake me up when these two teams are playing at Mackey Arena and Assembly Hall.

If Purdue fans want to give Joe Tiller a proper sendoff, there better be free fake moustaches offered to all the fans. Throw on a little "Spirit" glue to give it a little extra adhesive, and there's potential for some great snout brooms in West Lafayette this weekend. If people really get creative, go ahead and groom your stache to a Gentleman Caller or a Private Eye or even a Duck Soup if you are feeling really bold.

Purdue 31 Indiana 23

Michigan +21 at Ohio State (ABC 12pm)

Dan: OSU -21

When I first saw this line, I thought there is no way I can take OSU to win a game by 19 points against Michigan. But with the latest news of transfers and recruits looking elsewhere, it really sounds like UM is falling apart at the seams this year. I really do think Rich Rod is a good coach. I do think he can be successful at UM. But it really is looking like it may take longer than initially expected. However, I’m not sure the Michigan faithful will let him last that long. If he comes out and goes 5-7 next year, they will be screaming bloody murder. In the meantime, they’re going to have to subject themselves to a drubbing in Columbus on Saturday.

Ohio State 34 Michigan 10

Matt: Ohio State -21

For all of the Michigan fans reading this ND blog: If you run Rich Rod out of town or question his ability, you’re nuts. I know its bad this year, but have you seen Nick Sheridan play? No offense to the Sheridans, but he should be playing D-3 football. Rodriguez has won everywhere he has been and he will win at Michigan. I don’t have a doubt about it. Imagine what this season would have been like for them if Terrelle Pryor had gone there instead of the Bucks.

Ohio State 31 Michigan 6

Mike: Ohio State -21

Can’t they both lose?

Ohio State 44 Michigan 10

Doug: Michigan +21

Are you kidding me??? Michigan is +21 in "The Game"?!? As someone who grew up watching Ohio State lose to Michigan every year during the John Cooper era, this line astounds me. I can't wrap my head around a line like that even if it is somewhat legitimate. Too many bad memories of Shawn Springs falling down in front of Tai Streets or Tim Biakabatuka ripping off 225 yards or Charles Woodson or Desmond Howard for me to ever think Michigan is a cakewalk type game for the Buckeyes.

As far as I'm concerned, this is my Big 10 lock of the year. Even if Ohio State has the capability of blowing out Michigan, Jim Tressel is not going to do it. He is going to grab a lead and sit on it. That's how he coaches the Michigan game. The Buckeyes are playing well lately and have found their stride a little bit with Terrelle Pryor, but Tressel is not going to try to run up the score in this game.

There is almost no buzz locally. Normally, Ohio State-Michigan is a circus all week (especially when it is in Columbus), but it's been really tame here. Meanwhile, Michigan is talking about this game as their "bowl game," so I expect to see them come out and play hard. If the Buckeyes are napping early, this game could get interesting.

Then again, Michigan is coming apart at the seams as a program. With McGuffie talking about transferring and some possible other defections, Michigan could be in real trouble. Rich Rodriguez is not doing himself any favors with the way he is running his program, especially after those insanely dumb comments about fans. Yo Rich, you're the head coach at the winningest college football program of all time. Stop talking about how many starters you lost last year. It's November and you just lost at home to Northwestern. Great programs don't worry about how many starters they lost. They reload and win games. And acting like fans should be concerned about the economy instead of worry about Michigan football is the dumbest thing I've ever heard. Do you really think people aren't capable of worrying about both? Making excuses is a bunch of nonsense. Going 3-9 is far below the standards of Michigan football, and I can understand why people up there are upset. Rodriguez doesn't appear to get it.

Buckeye fans, where are you hoping to head during bowl season?? I think a Sugar Bowl matchup with Alabama would be phenomenal. Not sure how that game would go, but the tradition involved in that matchup would be great.

Anyway, Ohio State has a huge edge on offense, defense, and special teams in this game. Michigan is banged up, and their best player (Brandon Minor) is questionable for this game. Michigan is probably going to have several turnovers, and the Buckeyes will capitalize. Beanie Wells should have a huge day. The Buckeyes should cruise, but I think Michigan will cover.

Ohio State 24 Michigan 7

The Border War: Colorado State -2 at Wyoming (MTN 2pm)

Dan: Wyoming +2

I don’t know anything about these two teams. I am not going to even pretend. So, in a rivalry game, I’ll take a home dog.

Wyoming 24 Colorado State 23

Matt: Colorado State -2

The 100th Edition of the Border War! You know if Sonny Lubick were coaching the Rams that this game would have been played on a Thursday night. Letdown game for Wyoming after their big win at Tennessee. By the way, four thumbs down for every single player on Tennessee’s roster. Phil Fulmer has been a part of Rocky Top for 30+ years and you completely quit on him after he is fired. That is shameful.

Colorado State 17 Wyoming 14

Mike: Colorado State -2

This is the 100th edition of the Border War and I could devote an entire post to the great games in this storied rivalry. After all, just think of the legends who have waged battle in this epic series: Bradlee Van Pelt, Cecil Sapp, John Wendling, etc. I could go on forever, but for purposes of brevity, I will just post my final score prediction.

Colorado State 27 Wyoming 21

Doug: Wyoming +2

Throw out the records when these two get together!! I don't even know what city the University of Wyoming is in (or is it Wyoming University), but I'm sure the locals are fired up about the 100th edition of the "Border War." Wyoming beat Tennessee on the road this year. I don't care how bad Tennessee is this year. That's not an easy feat. Give me the Cowboys in the "upset" win at home.

Wyoming 21 Colorado State 20

Ole Miss +3.5 at LSU (CBS Sports 3:30pm)

Dan: Ole Miss +3.5

At this point, I’m not sure this LSU team is any good. I mean, it took a 30 point 4th quarter to beat Troy by 9! Ole Miss has already shown it can go on the road and be competitive (See: Ben Hill Griffin). Now, Ole Miss’s passing offense is certainly not extremely potent, which is how Troy exploited LSU last week. However, I think Snead can make just enough plays to pull off their 2nd upset on the road this year. How do you think Arkansas fans feel right about now?

Ole Miss 17 LSU 13

Matt: Ole Miss +3.5

Let me get this out of the way first. LSU is a FRAUD this year. Their wins have come against App State, North Texas, Auburn, Mississippi State, South Carolina, Tulane and Troy. I have immense respect for what the Hat and the LSU program has accomplished in the past few years. But they are just not that good this year, on both sides of the ball. I think LSU sneaks out of Tiger Stadium with the W after picking off Jarrett Lee about 4 times.

Ole Miss 27 LSU 21

Mike: Ole Miss +3.5

LSU staged a furious late rally to erase a 28 point deficit and thereby avoid an ignominious defeat against Troy, but the Bayou Bengals’ futility for 3 quarters confirmed that they are replete with flaws. Furthermore, Houston Nutt has enjoyed success at Baton Rouge in his career and, unlike past years, Nutt’s Ole Miss team is superior to the host Tigers. Accordingly, I expect to see a big win in Death Valley for the visiting Rebels.

Ole Miss 28 LSU 21

Doug: LSU -3.5

Probably the most stunning score of the year on the ESPN ticker showed up during the third quarter of the LSU-Troy game:

Troy 31 LSU 3

What?? I couldn't believe my eyes. LSU came back to win, but falling down 31-3 to Troy is a concerning sign about that team. LSU has been very up and down this year. I don't know all the specifics of their roster, but they have a lot of veterans and I expected them to be more consistent. Whether it is fair or not, expectations for LSU football are at a very high level. They have been one of the top 5 programs in the country for the last 5 years or so, so this season has been a little bit of a step back for them. Should be interesting to see where the LSU program goes in the next few years now that Alabama has started creeping into their recruiting territories.

Mississippi has been awfully feisty this year. Just look at their four losses:

2 point loss to Wake
6 point loss to Vandy
7 point loss to South Carolina
4 point loss to Alabama

If a couple of those games had gone differently down the stretch, they could be 8-2 right now.

The success of Ole Miss and the disappointment of LSU have revealed something deeper about the state of the SEC this year. It's not as dominant of a league this year. Auburn is down, Georgia has been disappointing, LSU has not lived up to their top 10 billing, and Tennessee has been awful. The struggles of the major powers has been good for teams like Ole Miss and Vandy to make a push up the standings from their historical place in the league.

LSU 27 Ole Miss 20

Iowa -6 at Minnesota (Big Ten Network 7pm)

Dan: Iowa -6

Minnesota has been a pretty good team ATS this year (other than Northwestern and UM). And here they are as home underdogs against an Iowa team that only beat Purdue last week by 5 points. However, Shonn Greene is having one hell of a season. He’s averaging over 6 ypc! I think Greene can make enough plays with the ball in his hand for the Hawkeyes to pull it off on the road by a TD.

Iowa 21 Minnesota 14

Matt: Iowa -6

I didn’t get to say this last week:

Thank you Iowa, from college football fans everywhere, for saving us from Florida 56 Penn State 13

Iowa 31 Minnesota 17

Mike: Iowa -6

Although Minnesota has improved significantly from their 1-10 campaign in 2007, it has become clear that their early season run was largely the product of a soft schedule and an unsustainable glut of turnovers. By contrast, Iowa has reasserted itself as a solid contender in the Big Ten (as I predicted) with a strong late season finish led by a physical defense and the tough running of Shonn Greene. While this will be the final game in the Metrodome for Minnesota, there is no reason to expect that the Gophers will be extra motivated to leave its soulless, off-campus, NFL stadium on a winning note. Thus, the Hawkeyes should continue their strong run toward bowl season with a relatively comfortable win over a reeling Minnesota team.

Iowa 28 Minnesota 14

Doug: Minnesota +6

This is the easiest pick I've made all week. Iowa is getting a boost because of their win over Penn State, but let's not forget that Iowa is 1-3 on the road this year. At the end of the day, they are a typical 7-8 win Iowa team. They can be beat.

Minnesota is also sitting at 7-4 and looking to go out on a high note. They've had a nice year and will be ready to play in this game. I think they'll win straight up.

Minnesota 24 Iowa 23

North Carolina State +11 at North Carolina (Raycom 12pm)

Dan: North Carolina -11

After last weeks dismal performance against Maryland, UNC has the perfect opportunity to take out its frustrations on its interstate rival the Wolfpack. However, NC State has won 2 straight and will be tough for UNC. Additionally, the strength of the NC offense behind new QB Russell Wilson is a lack of turnovers. Wilson has thrown 12 TDs to 1 INT since taking over for Beck earlier in the year. However, Wilson hasn’t seen a defense like the UNC defense yet. I think the Tar Heels defense force the red shirt freshmen into a couple untimely interceptions enabling UNC to carry the day.

UNC 27 NC State 13

Matt: NC State +11

Jim Grobe picked a bad year to put together this turd of a season. With a veteran team, Wake has severely underachieved and it doesn’t seem like Grobe is on the short list of coaching candidates like he has been in years past. Which is definitely a good thing for Wake. (Let me just get this on record: January 11th , Wake Forest will beat UNC in hoops. You heard it here first. Al Farouq Aminu is going to be a STAR! I’m talking top 3 pick in the NBA. He kind of reminds me of Thaddeus Young, except better. And Tony Woods is going to be great too. Remember those two names hoops fans. While I’m at it…

My Final Four: UNC, Pitt, Louisville, Michigan State

Notre Dame goes to the Sweet 16

All Americans: Tyler Hansbrough, Luke Harangody, Blake Griffin, Stephen Curry, James Harden

Underrated: Wake, Georgetown

Overrrated: UConn, Purdue, Duke

Sleepers: Drexel, UAB

Oh yeah, the game. I like the way that NC State is coming together with freshman Russell Wilson at QB. I wouldn’t be shocked if the Wolfpack straight up won this game, but I’ll go with a close win for the Heels. And no, I’m still not over the ND loss in Chapel Hill six weeks ago.

UNC 31 NC State 28

Mike: North Carolina State +11

NC State’s 2008 campaign has been very similar to its 2007 season, insofar as they have progressed from hapless to mediocre over the course of the season. This year, the emergence of Russell Wilson, who has been one of the best quarterbacks in the ACC, has been the primary reason for the Wolfpack’s improved play. Wilson has especially thrived at avoiding turnovers and if he can continue this trend, the Wolfpack should have success against a Tar Heel team that has lived and died by the interception. NC State is on the rise and Tom O’Brien will have his team focused for a big rivalry game. Will it be enough for the outright win?

North Carolina 20 NC State 17

Doug: North Carolina State +11

NC State is quietly playing much better as the season goes along. They appear to have found a quarterback with Russell Wilson, and have been pretty competitive in the ACC the last month or so. The Wolfpack may be a team to watch in the ACC. Tom O'Brien is no slouch as a head coach.

Tough news for UNC fans about Tyler Zeller breaking his wrist. He looked like he had some ability. Seemed like a Hansborough type guy who could have put up some numbers in that offense. UNC is incredible by the way. Not only is their offense loaded, they are better defensively as well. I do not understand how Roy gets these guys to buy into their roles. Is it just because of that Carolina jersey?? Guys like Ellington and Lawson would already be in the NBA if they had gone to other schools, but Roy gets them to stick around for four years. It's amazing. And then you have guys like Deon Thompson and Danny Green who would be star players on other teams, and yet they are cool with playing 20 minutes and coming off the bench. UNC basketball is an embarrassment of riches.

UNC 24 NC State 14

Washington -7.5 at Washington State (FSN 3pm)

Dan: Washington – 7.5

No question about it. This is the worst game ever played by two teams of a BCS conference. My initial inclination would be a strong tendency towards 1) Betting against Willingham 2) taking the points 3) taking the home team. All three of these would initially lead me to take WSU. However, as bad Washington is, I think WSU is actually even worse. And while 8.5 points is a lot for two teams this bad, the Huskies passing offense is just barely good enough to win by 10.

Washington 27 Washington State 17

Matt: Washington -7.5

Hide the women and children! This one is going to be ugly. What the hell has happened to these two programs? (Hold that, we know that Hurricane Willingham has happened to Washington.) But I don’t think there has ever been a program as putrid as the one currently taking the field in Pullman. I’m not going to waste any more energy talking about this game – just see if you can find this one on Fox Sports to see what football shouldn’t look like.

Washington 10 Washington State 0

Mike: Washington State: +7.5

I am actually quite excited about this additional of the Apple Cup, which has been dubbed as the “Rotten Apple Cup” by local pundits in the Pacific Northwest. This is an epic battle of futility between two winless teams (note: 1-AA wins don’t count) that will not be seen for a long time in college football, so I would strongly suggest tuning in to this game at 3:30 EST. Washington clearly has more talent than Wazzu this year, but the Huskies seem to have quit on their lame duck coaches. Mark it down: those plucky Cougs will play inspired football before a raucous Martin Stadium crowd and send Ty Willingham out, fittingly, as a loser.

Wazzu 21 Washington 17

Doug: Washington State +7.5

The Apple Cup! Maybe the worst football game of all time. A 1-10 team against an 0-10 team. The crazy thing is that it seems like a lot of people are excited about this game just for the comedy.

I refuse to give Washington 7.5 points on the road in this game. Their players cannot wait for this season to be over with. At least Wazzou has a new coach who they players are accountable to.

I'll go with the Cougars in a straight up win. Go crazy Pullman!

Washington State 24 Washington 21

Stanford +9 at Cal (ABC 3:30pm)

Dan: Stanford +9

I’m still not convinced anyone else in the PAC 10 outside of USC is worthy of being 9 point favorites. Frankly, the rest the teams are just kind of blasé. Oregon State has some potential, but I really don’t see Cal pulling off a 9 point victory against a feisty Stanford team.

Stanford 21 Cal 13

Matt: Stanford +9

I really have nothing to say about this game…but let me talk a little about Will Muschamp being named the coach in waiting at Texas. WHAT? That’s absurd. Can you imagine if someone had been named successor to Joe Paterno when he was 57 years old! Mack Brown has gotten the Texas program rolling again. I can’t see him going anywhere anytime soon. Let me just say that I am very skeptical that Muschamp will ever walk the sidelines in Austin as the head ball coach.

Stanford 25 Cal 20

Mike: California -9

I refuse to pick any team coached by Jim Harbaugh after last week’s debacle. Allow me to set the scene: for informational purposes, I need USC to cover the 24 point spread to win the final leg of a 3 team parlay. The Trojans, behind a dominant second half performance, score with approximately 1 minute left to take a 28 point lead. Looking good, right? On its ensuing possession, Stanford moves the ball to the USC 25 and the Cardinal appear to be running out the clock. As Pete Carroll and the Trojans begin to take the field for the handshake with 3 seconds left, however, Harbaugh calls timeout and brings his field goal unit onto the field in an act of spite. I do not mind because, even if the kick is successful, I will cover the spread at 25 points. Not to be outdone though, Carroll calls timeout to ice the kicker. Captain Comeback then sends his offense back onto the field and, of course, the Cardinal score on a 25 yard touchdown pass with no time left.

To make matters worse, I also won the first two prongs of a 3 team parlay on Sunday. The third team? The Steelers, of course. Possibly the most painful gambling weekend in my long and storied career.

Cal 38 Stanford 24

Doug: Stanford +9

Can't make up my mind for this game, but I feel like Stanford is playing well and has a lot to play for. They need to win this game to have a shot at a bowl bid.

Cal is fading down the stretch. They've been tough at home, but that's a lot of points for a rivalry game between two teams that are fairly evenly matched. Plus, Stanford won this game last year.
Great move by Stanford to lock up Harbaugh by the way. He is doing a heckuva job there. If they can keep him around, I can live with them on our schedule. He has the ability to turn Stanford into an 8ish win program, which would be a major improvement for them.

Cal 23 Stanford 17

Michigan State +14.5 at Penn State (ABC 3:30pm)

Dan: Michigan State +14.5

This is an odd week for me. I generally have weak spot for the favorites, but I am all over the underdogs this week. Penn State, no longer playing for the national title, is going to have some trouble getting up for this game. Javon Ringer is definitely getting worn out after being run into the ground all year by D’Antonio. However, the bye week should help him get a little spring back in his legs for one last Big 10 game. I think Penn State will control the game, but MSU’s ground game runs time off the clock and keeps the tempo slow enabling them to cover.

Penn State 24 MSU 13

Matt: Michigan State +14.5

This line seems a little odd to me. I don’t see Sparty going into Beaver Stadium and getting a win, but didn’t we all agree that Penn State isn’t that good. I think MSU pounds the ball and controls the clock. Penn State pulls it out by a field goal.

Penn State 13 MSU 10

Mike: Michigan State +14.5

Although Penn State has been relieved of the pressure of contending for a national championship, this is a very important game for the Nittany Lions with the Rose Bowl hanging in the balance. Sparty, too, could conceivably make it to Pasadena, but it would need a Michigan victory at Ohio State this week, which is highly improbable. As such, all of the pressure is on Penn State, rather than Michigan State, and the Spartans should benefit from an extra week of preparation. Consequently, I expect Michigan State to play a very competitive game in Happy Valley before eventually falling short.

Penn State 31 Michigan State 21

Doug: Michigan State +14.5

There is a 0.0% chance that Michigan State wins this game, but that's a pretty high number for a November game that means a lot to both teams. Michigan State has had two weeks to gear up for this game. They will be ready to play, and I expect a competitive game.

With that said, Buckeye fans, don't get your hopes up for a Sparty upset that opens the door for you to get to the Rose Bowl. Penn State is too good at home to blow this game. They will be able to run the ball on the Spartans, and there will be opportunities to make plays on this Michigan State defense. On the other side of the ball, Michigan State is going to have a tough time running the ball on the Penn State defense. If they can't get anything going on the ground and are forced to rely on Hoyer to make plays, this game could get ugly.

Penn State 24 Michigan State 13

Oregon State +2.5 at Arizona (Versus 7pm)

Dan: Oregon State +2.5

I have no idea what this Arizona team has showed us that it would deserve to be a 3 point favorite against the only other team in the PAC 10 with an argument of being a decent team. I have been question OSU the whole way. But last week’s victory over Cal has me in the believer column. Jacquizz has had 144 rushing yards each of the last 2 games. Nothing about Mike “Hot Seat” Stoops has me believing that Arizona will slow him down.

Oregon State 24 Arizona 21

Matt: Oregon State +2.5

It’s looking more and more like Oregon State is going to be headed to the Rose Bowl as the Pac-10 champion. Which begs the question, if things fall into place, should USC be able to play for the National Championship without even winning their conference? There is nothing in the BCS rules against it, but I guess we’ll have to see how some voters feel.

It wouldn’t shock me if Mike Stoops found a way to save his job by getting the home W. The West Coast Tommy Bowden.

Oregon State 41 Arizona 31

Mike: Arizona -2.5

Oregon State has been hearing the Rose Bowl talk for several weeks and it’s bound to catch up with them at some point. More importantly, even if the Beavers can tune out the media, they will have a difficult time handling an explosive Arizona team that was impressive last week in Eugene, albeit in defeat. Given the venue of the game and the fact that all of the pressure is squarely on Oregon State, I like the Wildcats to harness their slight talent edge into a surprisingly easy win.

Arizona 33 Oregon State 17

Doug: Arizona -2.5

For you BCS forecasters out there, this game might actually end up being the key game of the weekend. If Oregon State wins this game, they are a "Civil War" win over Oregon at home away from the Rose Bowl. That scenario will probably boot somebody like Ohio State or Oklahoma or one of the midmajors out of the BCS.

While Oregon State has had a nice year, I really don't want to see them win the Pac 10 and end up in the BCS. They've lost three games already. They lost by 31 to Penn State, lost to Stanford, and lost to Utah. Plus, they're Oregon State. Not exactly one of the glamour names. Maybe I'm biased, but I like my BCS bowls with "heavyweights" and teams that have a lot of tradition. I'm tired of seeing these "johnny come lately" types around that no one cares about. Give me Oklahoma and Texas and Ohio State and Alabama.

Here's how I'd like to see these BCS Bowls shake out:

BCS Title game: Florida vs. USC
Rose Bowl: Penn State vs. Texas
Fiesta Bowl: Oklahoma vs. Miami(FL)
Sugar Bowl: Alabama vs. Ohio State
Orange: Cincinnati vs. Utah

That would be incredible, but I'm sure it won't happen. These games will get watered down somehow.

One unofficial rule that I'd like to see would be for the doubled-up site hosting both a bowl game and a BCS titel game to get the crappiest game. The Orange Bowl this year should get the Big East champ and the non-BCS school invite. It's only fair. They already have the BCS title game. Give the Orange Bowl the worst two schools to create better matchups in the other games.

Arizona 27 Oregon State 21

BYU (+6) at Utah (MTN 6pm)

Dan: Utah -6

I want to take a moment to point something out. Utah beat San Diego State by a score of 63 – 14 in San Diego. Notre Dame needed a questionable fumble call to barely win 21 – 13 at home. As for this game, I’ll take the home team to win by a touchdown. Utah is a team on a mission to get back to the BCS.

Utah 28 BYU 21

Matt: Utah -6

This is actually a huge rivalry game out in Utah. Probably not many of these games have been played with more on the line. If Utah wins, they’re going to the BCS. If BYU wins and Boise State loses, they’re more than likely going to the BCS. I’m not an expert on either of these teams, but I’ll go with the home Utes to get the W and the BCS bid. (Where have you gone Rick Majerus and Michael Doleac? Utah lost to some team called Southwest Baptist. Yikes)

Utah 31 BYU 21

Mike: BYU +6

The “Holy War” is another one of my favorite rivalry games. In the last two years, BYU has won this game in stunning, improbable (and near-impossible) fashion, so Ute fans cannot be blamed for feeling a little cursed. Along with the emotional baggage from 2006 and 2007, the Utes must also cope with the immense pressure of needing a win to complete an undefeated season. In a game between two evenly matched teams, the Cougars’ psychological advantage will serve the difference. But there’s no need to fret for Utah supporters: at least you get a trip to the Las Vegas Bowl where you can drown your…uhhh, never mind.

BYU 35 Utah 31

Doug: BYU +6

The "Holy War" heads to Salt Lake this week for the Utah-BYU game. I've unfortunately had to pay way too much attention to BYU football this year due to their inexplicable inclusion in my college football fantasy league, and I feel like they have a great chance to straight up win this game. I can't give Utah the six points in a toss up type game.

Now is probably the time where I should complain about Boise State or Utah going to the BCS, but I'm very conflicted about this. On the one hand, I can't stand that 2 teams per conference rule for the BCS games, and I would certainly prefer to see someone like Texas Tech or Texas in the BCS over Utah. I love seeing the big names and powerhouses colliding. When you get games like Texas-Alabama, the conference bragging rights are on the line. Just seeing those uniforms on the same field is special. You can't get the same effect when it's Texas-Utah. The Oklahoma-Boise State game turned out to be an all-time classic, but I can't say that I was really all that excited about the game leading up to it.

On the other hand, it's hard for me to knock a Utah team that has done everything you could ask for and more. They had the guts to go to the Big House, they scheduled Oregon State at home, and they are on the verge of going 12-0. There's not much else they could do, and the Mountain West is a solid conference this year. There are three ranked teams in the Mountain West. Heck, the Mountain West is probably better at the top than the Big East. In that respect, I can't argue against Utah getting a bid in a BCS game.

Utah 23 BYU 20

Pittsburgh (+5) at Cincinnati (ESPN2 7:15pm)

Dan: Cincinnati – 5

In Brian Kelly we trust. In Wannstedt we do not. The Cincinnati faithful have really adopted this Bearcat team since they’re the only football game in town at the moment. Expect them to be fired up this weekend as a win here effectively wraps up the Big East title (with only a game against Syracuse left) and a trip to the BCS. Cincy will get it done easily.

Cincinnati 28 Pittsburgh 17

Matt: Pitt +5

Rumors are swirling that Brian Kelly is out the door, more than likely to Rocky Top. On paper, it would seem to be a mismatch with Dave Wannstedt on the sideline on the road. But I see Wanny getting his guys up for this one and giving the Bearcasts a steady dose of Shady Mccoy. In the end, the home field of Nippert Stadium makes the difference, and the Bearcats move that much closer to locking up the Big East.

UC 24 Pitt 20

Mike: Cincinnati -5

In the fledging “River City” rivalry, we have another classing coaching mismatch. Dave Wannstedt has enjoyed an extra week to prepare, but this will only provide him with extra time to determine the best way to mess things up for the host Panthers. Meanwhile, Brian Kelly will have his team fully prepared and motivated to take the next step toward a Big East title. Cincinnati’s success this year might enable Kelly to take a more higher profile job, which could mean that Notre Dame might miss out on their chance to hire him as Weis’s successor.

Cincinnati 33 Pittsburgh 24

Doug: Cincinnati -5

Your Big East game of the year!! I am more excited about this game than any other on the schedule this weekend. I'm headed down to Nippert Stadium on Saturday to hopefully see a piece of history. When the words "Cincinnati football" and "BCS bowl' are used in the same sentence, I feel like I have an obligation to make the trip back home to see this game. I never thought I would see the day. If UC wins this game, they are going to the BCS.

Just to show how weak the support is locally for UC football, this game still isn't sold out. It's a 35,000 seat stadium, and they can't sell out the biggest game in UC history. I think it will probably end up a sellout after walk up sales and such, but that's not a good sign for the program. At the end of the day, people in Cincinnati can't get into UC football. It surprises me because there are so many UC grads in town, but the support has never been there and continues to lag. Part of it is the Bengals, but the larger reason is probably that Cincy is just not a college football town. It's a college hoops city with pockets of college football allegiance for Ohio State, ND, Kentucky, and even Michigan. UC continues to get more and more attention locally, but they are still a long way away from becoming a big deal. The Bengals somehow continue to have a grip on the town in spite of their efforts to kill professional football in the Queen City.

As for the game itself, the key for the Bearcats obviously will be whether they can shut down LeSean McCoy. Pitt's o-line does a nice job opening up holes for McCoy, and he has the explosion to rip off big runs. I've watched Pitt a few times this year, and I really believe they could run the football on just about anybody. Louisville ran it all over the Bearcats. Pitt will try to do the same.

As has been the case for most of the year, Cincy is at a talent disadvantage in this game. Pitt will have the edge up front, and McCoy is the best player in the conference. UC does most of their damage through the air, and they should have some opportunities to get the ball in the hands of their wide receivers against this Pitt secondary.

Not gonna lie, I think Pitt is the better team here, but I'll take Brian Kelly and those fighting Bearcats to keep it rolling along. I can't see Brian Kelly losing this game at home.

Cincinnati 24 Pitt 17

Texas Tech (+7) at Oklahoma (ABC 8pm)

Dan: Texas Tech +7

A touchdown underdog? Leach’s boys must be taking that as an insult. I know they are on the road and their big wins have come at home this year. But Texas Tech really looks like the real deal. Their defense is solid enough (See: Texas first half, Kansas Game, Oklahoma State) and we all know they have the best player in college football in Michael Crabtree. Since the loss of MLB Ryan Reynolds, I just have not been that impressed with the Oklahoma defense. Additionally, Auston English, their stud Defense End went down in the Nebraska game and is still not back. Expect this game to be a real shoot-out, but I think Texas Tech can at least pull off the cover if not the win.

Texas Tech 48 Oklahoma 45

Matt: Texas Tech +7

Wow, game of the year, again, in the Big 12. With Georgia and LSU being unmasked as mediocre teams, I don’t think even the most fervent SEC supporter could deny the superiority of the Big 12 this year. To me, this game comes down to which defense can make a few plays. You know that Bradford and Harrell will be lighting up the scoreboard, but can one of the defenses force a few field goals or cause a turnover or two? I’ve just been really impressed with Texas Tech recently – they have a running game and a defense to go with Harrell to Crabtree. Mike Leach has actually done ok against Oklahoma, including a W last year. I’ll take Texas Tech to get a HUGE road W in Norman.

Texas Tech 47 Oklahoma 42

Mike: Oklahoma -7

Speaking of coordinators, if the Oklahoma continues to produce at its current level under offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson, there will be schools lining up to interview him in the near future. As for the immediate future, Texas Tech does not have a prayer in the world of stopping Wilson’s offense. I respect Mike Leach and I obviously underestimated the Red Raiders this year, but there is no way that Oklahoma, which has its own bona fide national championship ambitions, will lose this game in Norman. On a related note, given my virulent disdain for mid-majors, Cinderellas, underdogs and traditional also-rans, I am looking forward to the day when Mike Leach departs from Lubbock so that Texas Tech can become irrelevant again.

Oklahoma 52 Texas Tech 35

Doug: Oklahoma -7

Ok, I'll admit that I've been wrong about Texas Tech all year. They are for real, and I absolutely believe they are a top 10 team (if not top 5). If they win this game, I believe I will have gone about 0-5 betting on Texas Tech this year. Not only have they been steadily winning, they've been easily covering the spread.

I just can't take them against Oklahoma though. Maybe I'm just biased towards "heavyweights," but that's who I am. OU is absolutely incredible at home. No one has touched them. They are going to score at will in this game. Can Texas Tech keep up?? I wouldn't put it past them, but I gotta play the odds and take the Sooners. Sam Bradford will be the leader for the Heisman trophy on Monday morning. Looking forward to it.

Quick announcer note. I'm sort of bummed that Herbie and Musberger have essentially become the voices of the Big 12 this year. I know they are the #1 team and that most of the best ABC games have been in the Big 12, but I miss having those guys involved with the Big 10. To me, Brent Musberger is Mr. Big 10. When I think of Big 10 football in November, I think of cold weather, running the football, and Brent Musberger calling the action. He has been so synonomous with Big 10 football for the last 20 or so years that it doesn't seem right when he's down in Big 12 country all year. Just like SEC football with Verne Lundquist or The Masters with James William Nantz III, Big 10 football isn't the same without Brent Musberger.

Guess that's just me. Even though the OU-TTU game is undoubtedly the game of the weekend, I'd personally like to see Brent and Kirk in State College or Columbus this weekend. Leave the Big 12 to Ron Franklin or Brad Nessler.

Oklahoma 45 Texas Tech 35

Sunday November 23, 2008:

Connecticut (+3) at South Florida (ESPN 8pm)

Dan: Connecticut (+3)

Connecticut is due for a loss after the last 4 games which go Loss, Win, Loss, Win. They seem to be alternating. But this South Florida team has really packed it in. They’ve dropped 3 straight including a 33 point drubbing by Rutgers last week. This UConn team is just frisky enough to go down to Tampa and upset USF. Afterwards, I just hope they have a chance to celebrate by getting frisky at the Mons.

UConn 24 USF 21

Matt: UConn +3

USF is headed in the wrong direction. However, if I’m looking for a coach, that doesn’t dissuade me from taking a good hard look at Jim Leavitt. I still think that he had done an incredible job of building that program from scratch and recruiting talent to USF.

Here’s my Top 7 for this week:

Texas Tech
Boise State

51. Notre Dame

52. Nevada – I’m already petrified of that season opener against Nevada next year and it’s still 10 months away. I think we are going to lose that game. Colin Kaepernick, their QB, is the real deal. He’s already thrown for 1800 yards and 14 td’s and run for 1000 yards and 16 td’s. I’m just saying.

UConn 28 USF 14

Mike: Connecticut +3

Can we start a movement to make Sunday Night college football a weekly event? This game features an interesting contrast of a team that is talented but incredibly mistake prone (USF) against a fundamentally sound team with few great athletes (Connecticut). USF committed six turnovers last week at home against Rutgers and they should be in a giving mood on Sunday against an opportunistic Husky team. Much like Notre Dame, the Bulls are a merely collection of individuals, rather than a cohesive team. Nonetheless, it will be interesting to see whether Randy Edsall can shield his team from the noisy rumors that he will soon leave Storrs for the cozy confines of the Carrier Dome. Stay tuned.

Connecticut 31 USF 27

Doug: Connecticut +3

South Florida has completely collapsed. Maybe they'll bounce back and dominate this game, but I have to think that UConn has more to play for this weekend. If UConn wants to take the next step as a program, they need to find a way to win games like this one.

Speaking of UConn, I can't even believe they are the #2 team in the nation in college hoops right now. How is that possible?? I don't even think they are one of the top 3 teams in the conference. I know all about Jim Calhoun's record of success, but I feel like UConn is becoming like the Florida State of college hoops. Too many undisciplined guys and questionable character types, and Calhoun has maybe lost just a bit of his handle on that program. And I think a lot of their players are overrated. I don't know, that's an outsider's perspective, but that's how I feel about them.

My current top five for the Big East would read like this:

1) Louisville
2) Notre Dame
3) Pitt
4) Georgetown
5) UConn

Georgetown is flying under the radar. They still have as much talent as anyone in the league.

UConn 23 USF 21

Syracuse at Notre Dame (NBC 2:30pm)

Dan: Notre Dame

I’ll let Doug pontificate on the details of the game. But given that here at Weisnd only pick straight up for the ND games, I’ll take ND to win. Syracuse is terrible. ND is only bad. They may even cover a 3 TD spread.

Notre Dame 31 Syracuse 10

Matt: Notre Dame

Do you remember the part in Chris Rock’s standup where he’s making fun of people who brag that they take care of their kids or don’t go to jail. “You’re supposed to, you dumb ___________!” That was what last week’s Navy game was like for me. Notre Dame is supposed to beat Navy, so no bonus points earned for Charlie coming up with that gameplan or calling those plays. I can only imagine that Mike Haywood will be making his last trip into Notre Dame on Saturday since he has been swept to the side by Weis. I know he has had a family tragedy, but I see no way he can work under Weis after basically being demoted…even though we all know that Charlie’s fingerprints were all over every gameplan and play call made this year.

I haven’t seen one minute of Syracuse football, but I hope ND is not taking this game lightly. ND is not good enough, especially without Floyd and Smith, to just show up and win. And you never know how a team will play after their coach is fired. Tennessee showed you can either lay down like a dog, or you can come out fired up and try to win one for him. I think ND wins, but it’s going to be another close one that does nothing to clear up the Charlie Weis picture.

Notre Dame 20 Syracuse 14

Mike: Notre Dame

What can I say about Syracuse that hasn’t already be said? Mercifully, and belatedly, the Orange administration put coach Greg Robinson out of his misery this week, so the team is just playing out the string this week. While Senior Day can be a distraction at times, there should be no such problem this week since Ty Willingham’s pathetic recruiting efforts resulted in a Notre Dame roster that is bereft of seniors. Charlie will get another win this week, thus ensuring an additional year in South Bend and more heartache for Irish fans in 2009.

On a related note, new AD Jack Swarbrick’s interview during the Navy game did nothing to dispel the suspicion that he is cut from the same cloth as Mike Wadsworth and Kevin White. I realize that Swarbrick cannot be controversial in a halftime interview, but a little candor would have been nice. Instead, Swarbrick spewed the same “Sunday through Friday” drivel as his predecessor, as he referenced graduation rates and the women’s soccer team. Notre Dame isn’t about the Sears Cup and, while academics are of course important, the paramount concern for the athletic director at ND should be winning football games.

Finally, if and when Weis has the opportunity to win by a significant margin this week, he should keep his foot on the gas pedal. There’s nothing immoral or unethical about burying an opponent, even if it is an academy on the other sideline.

Notre Dame 38 Syracuse 14

Doug: Notre Dame

Fresh off that huge win over Navy, the Irish are closing out the home season with a gimme game against the Cuse. Can't we just play this game at the JACC?? I'd rather see Brey and Boeheim squaring off than this one.

Some keys to the game:

1) ND running game - After our strong effort on the ground last week, I hope to see ND running the ball again this week on Syracuse. Syracuse is giving up 200+ yards a game on the ground. Give the rock to Armando Allen, and wear them out. Hopefully Weis noticed that if you stick to the run, those 3-4 yard gains in the first half start turning into 7-8 yard gains in the second half. If Weis is willing to stick to the run, we can churn out yards on the ground again this week.

As far as I'm concerned, the #1 priority for ND football heading into next year is to establish an effective running game against good teams. It takes pressure off our defense and our quarterback. Our defense has been pretty good this year (not great), and the defense will probably only get better as the young players up front mature. The running game needs to get it going though. We have a 0.0% chance of beating USC next week if the running game is getting stonewalled. Clausen will be in no-huddle panic mode by our second possession, and USC is going to tee off on him and blanket our receivers.

2) Gregg Robinson's Swan Song - Question for Syracuse AD Darryl Gross: When are you going to apologize to your fanbase for making the horrific decision to bring back Gregg Robinson this year?? You pretty much mocked Syracuse fans after last year for wanting him gone. When are you going to apologize for being 100% wrong?? If I was the president of Syracuse, Darryl Gross would be gone at the end of the year. Not only did Gross hire Robinson (which shows he has zero capability of identifying a great head coach), he made it worse by sticking with the guy one year (heck, even two years) too late.

The second thing I would do if I was the Syracuse president would be to refund the fans their money for this 2008 season. It would be an incredible gesture to show the fans that you are accountable for the performance of your team. Make it happen.

So where do the Cuse go from here?? Sounds like Turner Gill is on the list. Could be a great choice, but I don't know enough about him though. I think Al Golden would be a great choice too, but I'm not sure if he's interested. Edsall would have been a good one as well, but it sounds like he's sticking at UConn. I can't see Lane Kiffin being a candidate there.

Either way, I am pulling for the Cuse to make a good hire. They have good history, and a good Syracuse program is good for college football. It sounds like they might be the mysterious "euphoric verbal" that Kevin White talked about as our replacement for Rutgers on future schedules, so I'd like to see them turn into a decent program again for our schedule strength.

3) Special Teams - The "when will we get a kickoff return past the 50?" contest continues for Notre Dame football. If we don't get one this week against the Cuse, I don't think it will happen once this year. I am anticipating the possibility that we will be starting just about every drive against USC inside our 20. Not a good recipe for having much success out there.

On the bright side, the blocked punt against Navy was a thing of beauty. You could make a very good argument that Mike Anello is one of the two or three MVPs of this team. Is he a senior this year?? If so, he will be sorely missed. He has the biggest heart on the team.

4) Youth! Inexperience! - I know the two most overplayed cliches of 2008 Notre Dame football have been the "we're young" and "we'll be better when we have more experience" cards, but hear me out on this for a minute. For some reason, the Cleveland Indians channel here in Ohio (Sportstime Ohio) plays the weekly "Inside Notre Dame Football" show every week, and this week's show had a feature on the current freshman class. Anyway, they had a lot of clips and interviews with guys like Blanton, Floyd, Rudolph, Goodman, Darius Fleming, and Ethan Johnson. Some of these guys look like 10 year old kids!! I swear, Robert Blanton looks like he's 15 and probably doesn't weigh much more than your average WEISND.BLOGSPOT.COM blogger. And yet Blanton is starting on Notre Dame's defense. In 2-3 years, he's going to look like David Bruton. Same goes for Floyd and Rudolph and Ethan Johnson. They are already good players, but they look like the 18 year old kids that they are. When they get older and more mature, they are going to be that much better. We have had 6 freshmen start in a game this year, and 10 freshmen have received major playing time. That's crazy. No other big time program is that young.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that watching that segment reminded me of how young these guys truly are. We watch them with their helmets and pads on, and forget that we are dealing with 18-19 year old kids playing against 21-22 year old guys who have been maturing and lifting in the weight room for the last 3 years. As frustrating as it has been to watch this maturation process, I can't really deny the reality that we are still growing up as a team and as a program. In basketball, age doesn't matter if you have talent. But in football?? Kids going against men is never a recipe for success.

So stick with these kids. And dare I say, stick with their head coach for now. I've been as critical of Charlie Weis as anyone, but he deserves a shot to see what these kids look like in the next couple years. ND is going to be a good team next year and the year after. Maybe not Florida good, but a good team and maybe even very good.

Does that mean that we'll beat USC next week or even be competitive with them?? No. I don't think that we will. Our running game will probably fold up in that game, our special teams will probably get exposed again, and I think USC will pound away on our defense until they wear out. We have barely improved through 10 games this year, and I think the overall season has been a disappointment. However, I'd like to see what this team looks like when Blanton and Rudolph and Floyd are juniors.

Notre Dame 27 Syracuse 10

Monday November 24, 2008

College Hoops pick of the week: Notre Dame-Indiana (Maui Invitational) (ESPN2 5:30pm)

Dan: Notre Dame

I think Tom Crean will be successful at Indiana. Is he good enough to win a national title? I'm not sure about that, but time will tell. What we do now right now is that Indiana is bad. Really bad. The departure of Sampson left the program in shambles with mass transfers and complete lack of team unity. Crean finds himself left with a collection of walk-ons and mediocre "3rd guy off the bench" type players. Luckily, it is much easier to rebuild quickly in basketball than in football. However, look for IU to have a Michigan football type season this year. But I would expect IU basketball next year to be better than Michigan football next year.

As for Monday night, IU is hopelessly outmatched. As much as Tom Crean may be able to get his team up for the big game, ND should beat IU by 30 even if they don't play well. Additionally, ND should not need any additional motivation to get up for a game against their in-state rivals. My only concern is that they need to not get caught looking ahead. With Hansborough unlikely to be ready to play, and now with T. Zeller out for the year, ND can probably hang with or even beat UNC and take home the title. Even without Hansborough, such a victory would set ND up for a chance to make a run at a 2 or 3 seed this year. My guess is that they will be fine and Brey will have them focused on the Hoosiers on Monday night. Crean will likely have IU try to slow it down and play a low tempo game to limit the Irish offense, but it won't help that much and ND will still win by over 20.

Notre Dame 74 IU 51

Matt: Notre Dame

Mike: Notre Dame

Does Indiana even have enough players to field a team after the post-Sampson mass exodus? Tom Crean may be able to build this team into a winner again, but he will need at least 3 years before the Hoosiers are ready to compete in the Big Ten. As for this year, Notre Dame better be able to run roughshod over this glorified high school opponent.

The real test in Maui will be ability of the Irish to match up against Texas and perhaps North Carolina. While a strong showing in Hawaii would provide hope for an unprecedented level of success in the Brey era (and serve as a welcome flashback to the BB&T Classic in December of 2002,), it is unclear whether the Irish are truly deserving of their top 10 ranking. In the opening game, the 2008 edition of Notre Dame basketball looked like last year’s squad; i.e., a great passing and shooting team that is capable of scoring, and also surrendering, points by the boatload. In other words, the Irish should be solid, but I believe that their defensive limitations will prevent them from being a bona fide top 10 team, notwithstanding their early ranking in the polls.

Notre Dame 91 Indiana 65

Bonus Predictions: Texas 72 Notre Dame 67 or Notre Dame 81 St. Josephs 71

Doug: Notre Dame

Let me just say that I will happily take a one point win over any Indiana team. Just seeing that name across the front of their jersey still gives me some level of trepidation, and there is a lot of pride associated with putting on those Indiana uniforms. No Indiana team should ever be taken lightly.

With that said, Indiana is so incredibly depleted this year that I would be pretty shocked if we don't handle them easily in this game. Not only did their whole team bail after Sampson got fired, just about all their recuits left as well (much to the delight of Xavier who picked up Jordan Crawford and Terrell Holloway). The only guy I would consider an "Indiana-caliber" player on that roster is Tom Pritchard, who was a pretty solid recruit out of the Cleveland area. Other than that, they are dealing with retreads, JUCOs, and walk-ons. If the name Indiana wasn't on their uniform, it would feel like a game against IUPUI.

I expect Indiana to be inspired in this game, and you know Tom Crean always gets feisty about playing the Irish. However, Notre Dame is a well-oiled machine that should roll the Hoosiers. There is no one on the Indiana roster who can bang with Harangody, and KMac should get enough open looks to put this game out of reach. We have too many weapons. I think the Irish will roll and head on into the second round against Texas.

While I'm here, I wanted to say that I would love to restart the ND-Indiana rivalry in basketball. That game should happen every year. If we formed long-term relationships with UCLA and Indiana, I would be thrilled. Both those schools have so much history with Notre Dame basketball.

ND 82 IU 63

Last week:

Dan: 8-7-0
Matt: 9-6-0
Mike: 8-7-0
Doug: 8-7-0


Dan: 73-74-3
Matt: 95-83-3
Mike: 91-87-3
Doug: 90-88-3