October 29, 2009

WEISND Roundtable Week 9 Picks: Notre Dame-Washington State in San Antonio, USC-Oregon, Florida-Georgia, Texas-Oklahoma State, and Wake-Miami

Barnstorming! The game we've all been waiting for. Ok, maybe not, but this thing should be renamed the Kevin White Bowl. This one is his baby.

Big weekend of college football. The Cocktail Party, huge games in the Pac 10 and Big 12, a big one at BB&T Stadium, and this epic "Battle at the Alamodome" in San Antonio.

Oh and while you're at it, feel free to take a look at Matt's first official thoughts on the 2009-10 NBA season down at the bottom of the post.

On to the picks:

Georgia +16 vs. Florida in Jacksonville (CBS Sports 3:30pm)

Jeremy: Florida (-16)

I know that’s quite a spread for the Cocktail Party, but I’m thinking Florida is poised for a breakout performance. This game is effectively Georgia’s season at this point, so I’m sure Richt will have them fired up. But that Dawg defense has been really poor this year, so look for Tebow and Co. to torch them early and often.

Florida 38 Georgia 13

Dan: Georgia +16

Florida is one of the 3 best teams in the country. But they have been terrible against the spread. I don’t expect them to change that this week. Their offense has just not been explosive enough to blow people out, even a team with a defense as awful as Georgia’s. As Doug has mentioned, the UGA faithful seem to be getting restless with Richt for some unexplainable reason. I think he’ll have his team up and ready to go for Florida this weekend. That won’t help them win, but it will keep it (relatively) close.

Florida 34 Georgia 24

Matt: Georgia +16

Love the Cocktail Party! In a rivalry game, you know that Mark Richt is going to have the Dawgs fired up. Add that with the fact that Florida has looked rather pedestrian all year, and I think this game ends up being a nailbiter. One other thing, the Tim Tebow nonsense has to stop. And this is coming from somebody who worships at the altar of Tebow and would have no problem if the Church inducted him for sainthood tomorrow. But the guy is having an average year. The fact that he is showing up on people’s Heisman radar is ridiculous. He threw TWO pick sixes last week! I’m sure the concussion has something to do with it, but I also think that Florida’s receivers are below average. I mean, Aaron Hernandez is pretty good, but Riley Cooper is not a number one. That guy would barely crack the rotation at Notre Dame. I think the Bulldogs shock the world.

Georgia 24 Florida 22

Mike: Florida (-16)

Cocktail party! Florida has played several difficult games over the last few weeks, while Georgia enjoyed an off week to rest and prepare for this game. Regardless, Florida’s defense should have no problem shutting down the Georgia offense and, after several poor performances, Tim Tebow should bounce back this week against a toothless Bulldog defense. Georgia fans will need to be sauced up to endure this bloodletting.

Florida 35 Georgia 10

Doug: Georgia +16

Now this is what neutral site football is all about!! Please take notes Swarbrick and Heisler. If you get two heavyweights on the field at the same time, you get energy and passionate fanbases and excitement. If you schedule Washington State in the state of Texas and insist on keeping all of the revenue, you get a 0.4 rating on NBC, zero buzz, and a half-full crowd.

You gotta love the Cocktail Party no matter how big of a mismatch this game appears to be on paper. Just seeing those uniforms on the field and the half red and half blue crowd in the stadium is special.

My feeling on handicapping is that any time you think a team might have a chance to win the game, you better take the points. It would not shock me if Georgia is right in this thing in the fourth quarter. Florida is just not the same this year for whatever reason. They've been awfully fortunate to stay undefeated. Great defense, but the offense is not nearly as explosive. I don't know what's going on, but Tebow seems to be a shell of himself and they don't have the big time Percy Harvin type gamebreaker to build around offensively.

I expect this game to be feisty as always. Hopefully they have this thing on at the ND pregame event in San Antonio. Then again, Heisler and Swarbrick and company wouldn't want us to see what big time football actually looks like, so maybe not.

Florida 24 Georgia 17

Miami -7 at Wake Forest (ABC Sports 3:30pm)

Jeremy: Wake Forest (+7)

I hate this pick, mainly because I don’t know anything about Wake. But looking at their performance this year, they do seem to be pretty frisky at home. After dropping a tough game last week to Clemson, I sense some lingering sluggishness, particularly from Jacory Harris. A few bad Miami turnovers keep this game close until the 4th quarter, when Miami comes alive to pull out a close W.

Miami 27 Wake 24

Dan: Miami -7 - LOCK OF THE WEEK

Wake may be putting together a quietly decent season (tied with Miami in the ACC), but they are in a different class. Plus, I think Jacory Harris and company bounce back after their miserable performance last week.

Miami 28 Wake 17

Matt: Miami -7

I will be at this game, and I’m looking forward to getting a look at what should be a pissed off Miami team after losing in OT to Clemson last week. Meanwhile, Wake lost to Navy last week. Without those scrappy Middies even attempting a pass. Hide the women and children.

Miami 37 Wake 6

Mike: Wake (+7):

Just as it seemed that Wake may be poised to claim the ACC Atlantic Division crown, the Deacs lost badly at Clemson and subsequently laid an egg in a non-conference game last week against Navy. Wake, nonetheless, figures to benefit from a return to the friendly confines of BB&T Stadium (just rolls off the tongue, huh) against a Miami team that is similarly licking its wounds after a tough overtime loss to Clemson. This game has all the makings of an offensive shootout that could go either way, so I will gladly take the seven points.

Miami 38 Wake 35

Doug: Miami -7 -- LOCK OF THE WEEK

Whoa! Game of the year for the Demon Deacons. I'm hearing some big things coming out of Winston-Salem for this game. BB&T Stadium will be rockin and rollin, especially after that thrilling near-win at Navy last week.

This line looks like a no-brainer to me though. Miami is a good football team who just had a bad week against a hot Clemson team. Meanwhile, Wake lost to Navy last week in a game where the Middies did not attempt one pass. I see no reason why The U won't go into Winston with a chip on their shoulder and dominate.

Miami 24 Wake Forest 10

South Carolina +5.5 at Tennessee (ESPN 7:45pm)

Jeremy: South Carolina (+5.5)

BIG letdown game coming for the Vols. Kiffin has done a nice job getting his team up for his 2 Super Bowls against Florida and Bama, but I can’t see him holding this team together for another big SEC matchup. Spurrier is licking his chops with the opportunity to smack down a brash whippersnapper. The Cocks take over Rocky Top and escape with a big victory.

South Carolina 23 Tennessee 20

Dan: South Carolina +5.5

Tennessee put all it had into its tough game last week with Alabama. That was a physical, defensive game and now they have to get ready for another tough physical game. Even at night at home, I don’t think they can pull off a touch down victory over the tough Gamecocks.

Tennessee 14 South Carolina 13

Matt: South Carolina +5.5

For all of Lane Kiffin’s talk, and he sure as hell does a lot of it (his complaining that Mt Cody should have gotten a penalty for taking his helmet off after the game was over was absolutely insane. Talk about being a sore loser.), the Vols have actually been pretty frisky this year. Jonathan Crompton has done a pretty good job of tuning out the boo’s early in the year and turning into a serviceable QB. I think this is the game they finally pull one out in the end.

UT 13 USC 10

Mike: South Carolina (+5.5):

Tennessee was obviously more impressive in defeat last week than South Carolina was in victory. The Gamecocks, however, have been the better team this season and, although this game is in Neyland Stadium, South Carolina has an excellent shot to win outright. Given the strength of both defenses and the weakness of both offenses, the over/under on this game should be about 12.

South Carolina 9 Tennessee 6

Doug: Tennessee -5.5

Ya know, I have no idea why I'm going with Tennessee here because I actually think South Carolina is a good team this year. But there is something wierd about this line that makes me think that Vegas is really high on the Vols right now. They seem to be asking me to take South Carolina here, which makes me wonder if it's a sucker bet.

Tennessee really does seem to have something going. Their defense is really playing at a high level with Monte Kiffin dialing up the schemes, and Crompton is moving the ball through the air.

Someone probably has to say it even though I sort of wanted to see him go up in flames. Lane Kiffin might be getting something going in Knoxville. They are a more feisty team this year, and he has them at #6 in the country in the 2010 Rivals recruiting rankings. I'm looking at their schedule, and they might be able to run off 5 wins in a row here and finish with 8 wins. If that happens, you gotta think his recruiting momentum will pick up considerably. I'm sort of happy for Vols fans even though I don't like Kiffin. I would like to see a strong Tennessee program.

Tennessee 20 South Carolina 10

Texas -9 at Oklahoma State (ABC Sports 8pm)

Jeremy: Texas (-9)

This should be one heck of a game. Of course, the Cowboys have had several opportunities to make big splashes on the national scene in the recent past and have been unable to capitalize. Texas isn’t getting a whole lot of respect even with the SEC heavyweights struggling in the last few weeks. Their schedule has not been too impressive, and Colt McCoy has not been too Heisman-like thus far. But without Dez Bryant, Okie St. can’t keep up with the Horns, and McCoy vaults himself back into the Heisman picture with a big performance on the road.

Texas 41 Oklahoma St. 21

Dan: Oklahoma State +9

There is an article on ESPN this week about how Colt McCoy can seal up the Heisman this week. What? Excuse me? Colt is currently 31st in passer rating, 24th in passing yards 18th in touchdowns, and has less than a 2 to 1 TD to INT ratio. To be fair, he does have the 2nd highest completion rate in the country. But in his 3 closest games he has thrown 3 TDs and 4 INTs. What a fraud! If he wins the Heisman this year, barring some major changes over the next month, the award is a joke. He is not the best player in college football this year. He’s not even top 5! Given that…

Texas 24 Oklahoma State 17

Matt: Texas -9

Did Texas finally get their act in gear last week, or was it just a byproduct of going up against another bad Big 12 defense? I kind of think that Mack Brown can see the light at the end of the tunnel, and this is really their only big test left. Plus, the Heisman is sitting right there on a pedestal for McCoy to take, and he is finally starting to put up some big numbers. I think T Boone Pickens is using his benjamins to wipe away tears and the Cowboy fans at Eskimo Joe’s will be crying in their beers on Saturday night.

Side note, Stillwater is randomly on my list of the college towns I would like to visit for a game. The list probably goes like this (why did I not go to Florida for graduate school?)

Baton Rouge
Oxford (MS, not OH. Sorry Mike Haywood)
State College

Texas 45 OSU 21

Mike: Oklahoma State (+9)

Considering that I keep getting burned by betting against Texas and considering further that I constantly rip Oklahoma State for being overrated, this is not a very comfortable pick for me. Nonetheless, the Pokes, even without Dez Bryant and Kendall Hunter, have quietly played excellent football over the last few weeks and the home crowd at T. Boone Pickens Stadium will be electric on Saturday. Texas’ defense, of course, will be a much greater challenge for the Oklahoma State offense than its previous foes, but I believe that Zac Robinson is up for the challenge. I expect the Longhorns to survive, but barely, in a tightly contested affair in Stillwater.

Texas 28 Oklahoma State 24

Doug: Oklahoma State +9

Part of me thinks that Texas is long overdue for a breakout performance, but part of me thinks that Texas just isn't that much better than the rest of these Big 12 teams. Oklahoma State is missing some big time players (Dez Bryant, Kendall Hunter, etc), but it's still a talented team that has been pointing to this game all year long. I would LOVE to see Oklahoma State pull the upset on Saturday.

I hate to keep bringing this up, but is there any way Texas would go undefeated if they were playing USC's schedule this year?? No way!! I still can't get over USC's schedule this year. They play at Ohio State, at Washington, at Cal, at Notre Dame, at Oregon, and at Arizona State. I don't care what the computers say. That's the toughest schedule in the nation this year. It's extremely difficult to go into all 6 of those venues and end up going undefeated.

I can't say repeat this enough. USC should be CELEBRATED in college football for their scheduling. They very easily could try to take the path of least resistance and try to "schedule" their way to a title game with 3 I-AA and WAC schools to start the season like these SEC and Big 12 schools (I'm looking right at you Texas) and no one would bat an eye about it, but they have chosen to play the best that they can week in and week out. They schedule as well as they can, and they get punished because it's extremely difficult to go undefeated against that type of schedule.

What an awful system college football has for selecting a champion. It rewards teams that play as many cupcakes as possible, and punishes teams that actually try to test themselves.

Texas plays THREE true road games this year. THREE. Pathetic. There's only one other school that I know that would have the audacity to schedule three true road games, and that school has been demoted to midmajor status in my eyes. There's your list: Texas and Notre Dame. Both schools should be ASHAMED of themselves.

Texas 31 Oklahoma State 27

USC -3.5 at Oregon (ABC Sports 8pm)

Jeremy: USC (-3.5)

The Trojans looked bored last weekend and a big game in Eugene should provide the necessary motivation to put their eyes back on the prize. SC’s schedule down the stretch should help their computer rankings, but this might be the last chance for the Trojans to make a big statement and force the voters to keep them near the top. Chip Kelly has done a great job bringing his team back from the brink, but when the Trojans are focused, they are damn near unbeatable.

USC 31 Oregon 23

Dan: USC -3.5

Something tells me this USC team is starting to build into that late November form where they are clearly better than anyone else in the country. They may be a week or two away, but I think they are close enough to handle an Oregon team that has been playing above its ability level for the last month and is due for a let down.

USC 27 Oregon 17


USC is not losing this game. They are better at every position on the field. Every single one. They are motivated. They know that losing this game more than likely means losing (or sharing) the PAC 10. Pete Carroll does not lose big games. Period. Matt Barkley has gone on the road to Columbus and South Bend and won. I know that Eugene is crazy, but what more does the kid have to prove. He is winning the Heisman at some point, maybe next year if (when) Jimmy Clausen goes pro. USC destroys Oregon. You heard it here first.

USC 30 Oregon 13

Mike: USC (-3.5)- Lock of the Week:

Autzen Stadium is widely regarded as one of the toughest places to play and the Ducks will enter this game with plenty of confidence. Still, USC, like no other team in college football, embraces the challenge of winning in difficult environments, so you can expect that Pete Carroll will have his team “pumped and jacked” for this game. With Matt Barkley improving on a weekly basis, USC’s offense should be able to move the ball effectively against the Oregon defense. In addition, the USC defense, despite getting carved up by Sean Canfield last week, is certainly capable of slowing down Jeremiah Masoli and the rest of the Oregon offense. In typical fashion, the Trojans will swagger into Autzen Stadium and dominate the host Ducks.

USC 33 Oregon 7

Doug: USC -3.5

What a game! The Pac 10 is the strongest conference in America this year in my opinion. This one is basically for the conference championship.

If there's one team out there that I think could beat USC in the Pac 10, it's Oregon. I remember being out in Vegas in 2007 watching the Oregon-USC game in the Mirage Sportsbook, and that was probably the only time I've ever watched USC and felt like they were not the better team on the field. Oregon legitimately whipped USC up and down the field that day. I actually thought that was going to be the game where USC had officially peaked as a program and might be headed toward a downturn. Of course, the Trojans ended up winning their last five games and destroyed Illinois in the Rose Bowl.

Oregon is freaking dangerous. When they get hot, look out. I don't know what it is, but that offense always looks so fast on their home turf. Look at what they have being doing to teams in the last month. They just annhilated Washington last week. 43-19 on the road!

Meanwhile, USC is all over the map seemingly from quarter to quarter. They'll look like gangbusters for a drive or two, and then fall apart immediately after. They actually have taken a step backward on defense the last couple weeks even though there's a ton of talent there. Oregon State put almost 500 yards of offense up on USC and made that game close late. For whatever reason, USC's defense hasn't been able to close out games for them the last couple weeks.

But I keep looking at the Trojans and think that they are awfully close to putting it all together at some point. Whenever that day comes, they will be unbeatable. I don't want to bet against them doing that this week in Oregon, so I'll go with the Trojans. I think they'll find a way to get it done in Eugene.

USC 31 Oregon 27

Notre Dame -28 vs. Washington State in San Antonio (NBC Sports 7:30pm)

Jeremy: Notre Dame

The performance of ND’s secondary the last few weeks makes me think that even a team as lousy as Wazzu could keep this game relatively close until halftime, and force the Irish to keep the starters in for most, if not all, of the 3rd quarter. But I’m going to put on the Optimist Hat and say that some of the recent personnel changes will pay off and tighten up the defense. The DL and the LBs have been playing really well the last few weeks, coinciding with the emergence of Manti Te’o and Kapron Lewis-Moore.

Perhaps this is just me really wanting to see the youngsters get a bunch of playing time, but I think the starters will be out halfway through the 3rd quarter, at the earliest. WSU has no answer for the Irish offense, and unless ND completely shoots themselves in the collective foot, they should have no trouble moving the ball and should get points out of every drive.

Of course, almost nothing that “should” have happened this year (at least against those opponents perceived to be “lesser”) has in fact happened. The Irish have played close game after close game when squared off against teams that have lesser talent. So I suppose a part of me wouldn’t be surprised if Wazzu keeps this game within 2 scores late into the 2nd half.

But I really think we finally see the Irish pound the heck out of someone and get the young’uns some serious PT.

ND 52 WSU 21

Dan: Notre Dame -30 Washington State

Notre Dame will win this game. Washington State is terrible. There is really nothing more to say.
Matt: Notre Dame

For the record, I don’t think the Irish cover. There is nothing to analyze here, other than the predicted amount of empty seats there will be in the AlamoDome. With it being a home game at Wake, a night game in San Antonio and Halloween parties to attend, this is the first Irish game in a while that I have no plans to watch and won’t even be setting the DVR to record. Thanks White / Swarbrick. Looks like there may be more of these ahead…

ND 41 Wazzu 17

Mike: Notre Dame (outright):

This is the product of Kevin White’s brilliant 7-4-1 “barnstorming” model: a 7:30 game on Halloween night against the worst BCS conference team in 20 years in a random city with no geographical nexus to either team. Ugh.

Anwyay, this game should be viewed as an opportunity to provide younger players, such as Dayne Crist, Theo Riddick and Jamoris Slaughter, with valuable experience for the rest of this season and beyond. The only real cause for concern is that Wazzu seems to have found its quarterback of the future in Jeff Tuel, who threw for over 300 yards against Cal last week. Considering that ND’s defensive backs have shown up for most games disguised as ghosts, it is reasonable for Irish fans to be frightened by the possibility of another aerial assault by an opposing freshman signal caller. Also, for gambling (or entertainment) purposes, it seems dangerous to bet on Charlie Weis with a spread this large, given his aversion to running up the score.

Notre Dame 41 Washington State 21

Doug: Notre Dame

Maybe I should be ashamed that I'm actually flying down to San Antonio with my wife and in-laws for this game (especially since I've been railing against this game for two years), but I'm kind of content to wear it as a badge of honor. How many times in your life can you go to San Antonio to watch Notre Dame on Halloween night in a stadium that MIGHT have 30,000 people in a 65,000 seat stadium?? We might never see anything like this again!! This is like the folks who were at Disco Demolition night back in the 70s at Comiskey Park. "Remember that game when ND played Washington State in Texas and no one was there?? How weird was that??" I'm almost more excited to be participating in this whole Barnstorming spectacle than any ND game I've attended in the last ten years. Ok, that's a lie, but there's definitely a novelty factor to it. Every time I've mentioned the trip to someone at work or wherever, the response is "that's kinda cool that ND is doing that. San Antonio is a fun town."

I don't even remember how we ended up deciding to go to this game, but I will say that there is more intrigue to the concept than I might have been willing to admit. It's like a built-in vacation in a city we've never visited, and you get to see Notre Dame football as an added bonus. Now, would I rather be an hour up the road to see Notre Dame-Texas in Austin?? Of course!! That goes without saying, and I still would prefer that ND goes back to a more home and home based schedule.

On principle, the game goes against everything that ND stands for, but in reality, I think it's going to be a fun trip. It'll be like an ND bowl game with all the pomp and circumstances that you normally see on a bowl game trip (official hotel, pep rally, tailgate, etc) minus the fact that our opponent is bowl worthy. If the game was against a better opponent, I think it would be something I'd sign up for every year. That makes me a hypocrite I suppose, and I guess I could say I've turned into the the Chicago Cubs-esque "I don't care about championship football, I just want to see the gold helmets" guy who is enabling the program and giving the administration no reason to make changes. I guess White/Swarbrick can always count on enough dump schmucks like me to sign up for whatever gimmick games they can dream up. But I'm still looking forward to going to the game and closing down Pat O'Briens afterward with a few Cat 5 Hurricanes.

With that said, this is going to be a lousy football game. Washington State is horrible, and the Alamo Dome might be half full. In twenty years, we'll be having the debate of which game was more embarrassing to attend: The 2007 Duke game when we were 1-9 and coming off BACK TO BACK HOME LOSSES TO SERVICE ACADAMIES (and we got legitimately blown out by one of them) or the 2009 Washington State "barnstorming" game in freaking San Antonio. I think it's a legitimate toss up. We'll let history be the judge. I still say the Duke game was the worst. How can you top that?? We were 1-9!!! And it was Duke!! That's my vote for the most embarrassing game to attend in recent ND football history. Then again, if I actually attended that, I'd probably be carrying that one around too as a badge of honor along with the other 3,500 fans who actually attended that one.

By the way, I just googled "2007 Notre Dame football" to look up that team's schedule, and there's actually a Wikipedia page for it!! Are you kidding me??! Why even bother to compile that information about the worst team in Notre Dame history?? Has anyone ever read those game recaps?? I think I would start crying about halfway through the Georgia Tech recap (which in my opinion was the most depressing game I've ever attended). If I could figure out how to alter it or delete the entire entry, I would do it right now.

Anyway, there is NOTHING about this game that is worthy of discussion, so I figured that I'd throw out some over/unders on the weekend:

1) Over/under on the number of Washington State fans in attendance: 1,000

While most people are curious as to how many ND fans are going to make the trip for this game, I'm even more curious to see how many Washington State fans will be there. Are they going to view this game as their "bowl game" and come out en masse hoping to shock the world?? Are they looking for revenge from that 2003 collapse against ND to start the season?? I don't know what their ticket allotment was, but I can't imagine that it was too high.

Washington State is historically bad this year. I can't see how any WSU fan is going to be interested in attending this game unless they live in Texas, even if it is Notre Dame. I'm assuming it will be friends and family only and maybe the guy who waves the Cougar flag on ESPN College Gameday.

Prediction: UNDER

2) Over/under on NBC's television rating for Notre Dame-Washington State: 1.5

The funniest thing about the whole "barnstorming" idea is that NBC is the one who was pushing for these games. They somehow convinced themselves that "more games=better" and "primetime=big ratings." Both assumptions are false. More ND games for NBC means more home games for ND, but that just means that we have to fill out the schedule with "buy games" instead of home and homes. So what you end up getting is a bunch of bad home/neutral games for NBC to televise (WMU, Washington State, Army, Tulsa, etc), which ultimately means bad ratings in those games. Wouldn't NBC rather show 6-7 telecasts that feature more compelling matchups and draw higher ratings than 7 home games and a horrible neutral site game that draw middling ratings?? Think about this. If you showed Alabama-ND this weekend, it would get a 5.0-6.0 rating. ND-WSU is probably going to get like a 2 at best. Wouldn't NBC make more money from showing 6 really good games than 8 mediocre games??

NBC is all about cost control and cheap programming it seems. They trot that Jay Leno Show out there 5 nights a week because it is cheap, but it gets horrible ratings. They also think that showing one NFL game on Sunday night is somehow going to keep their entire sports division afloat. With ND, they just assume that showing 8 games is better than showing 6, but they've watered down the product by asking for 8 games. This is exactly why NBC is really not even a major tv network any more. NBC is the worst run tv company I've ever seen.

Second, NBC has convinced themselves that "primetime=big ratings," which is equally ludicrous. NBC looked at ABC and CBS and saw their big primetime games, and decided they needed some of that. And of course, NBC doesn't get it. The reason ABC gets huge ratings for their primetime games is because the games are good!!! If ABC was trotting out Texas-Baylor and Penn State-Indiana in primetime, their ratings would be awful. Instead, they are showing big time matchups every week like Texas-Oklahoma State, Ohio State-USC, Miami-Oklahoma, USC-Oregon, etc. CBS got a huge rating for LSU-Florida. That's because it's freaking LSU-Florida!! Not because it was "primetime."

Meanwhile, NBC thinks that trotting out ND-Washington State in primetime is going to be some sort of ratings bonanza. Umm, that's not happening. The only way you are going to get a big audience for a primetime game is with a compelling matchup. Most football fans have already watched a game or two during the day. If you don't put up a big time game on Saturday night, people are going to do something else.

If anything, NBC almost would have been better off showing this game at 3:30pm. There's really not a lot of good games during the day on Saturday other than Georgia-Florida.

If NBC didn't have a gun to ND's head demanding 8 tv broadcasts a year, we'd probably be able to go back to a 7 home-5 away or 6 home-6 away type schedule that would allow us more flexibility to schedule home and homes. On ND's end, we really need to end the charade and play a night game or two every year at Notre Dame Stadium to satisfy NBC. Could you imagine the ratings for a night ND-Texas type game at ND Stadium?? My god!! We should play our home opener at night every year (even if it's a weaker game), and we should try to do one other big primetime marquee matchup. Then, NBC gets their primetime game, and maybe we can go back to scheduling the way we used to schedule.

My initial inclination was to say that the ratings for this game will fall off a cliff, but let's be honest. Whether ND fans want to admit it or not, they're at least a little curious to see what things look like down there in San Antonio. I would expect the ratings to be decent for the start of the game and borderline nonexistent when ND is up big in the second half.

Pick: OVER

3) Over/under on the number of times I offer my ND-WSU ticket to a Spurs fan in exchange for tickets to Saturday night's San Antonio Spurs-Sacramento Kings game at the AT&T Center: 5

I'm not really a huge NBA guy, but how many times are you going to get to see the Spurs and The Big Fundamental lace it up in San Antonio?? That would be pretty sweet to see that game. Wish it was on Friday night instead. Then again, who am I kidding?? It's sad to admit, but I'd rather watch Dayne Crist lead the ND backups for three quarters than go watch the best team in the NBA. I guess it's a disease.

Scary thought though on attendance. The AT&T Center holds about 20,000 seats, and I'm assuming that the Spurs sell out their home games. Plus, Texas-Oklahoma State is at 8pm EST. I didn't realize Austin is only an hour from San Antonio, so I'm assuming that San Antonio is a huge Longhorns town since there's no other major D-IA program in town. A lot of people who might normally be attracted to Notre Dame coming into town might rather stay at home or go to a bar to watch Texas play their biggest game of the year. Or they are going to the Spurs-Kings game. What are the odds that ND would come into town on the same day as two big local events?? No way for Kevin White and company to predict that, but that's the risk you take when you go off to a random neutral site and sign up a team that has zero local interest.


4) Over/under on the number of excuses that will come out of the mouths of Jack Swarbrick and John Heisler when the stadium is half-full for this game: 20

From what I'm reading, this game is definitely not sold out. You can go on Ticketmaster and buy a whole 25 tickets together if you want. You can also go on Stubhub and buy a $70 face value ticket for about $10. I'm expecting a pretty full lower part of the stadium and a completely empty upper deck. I went down to Miami last year for the Orange Bowl, and it was a similar situation. They were GIVING away tickets to that game. We sat in the club section at Dolphins Stadium with a bunch of throw-ins for like $20 apiece. The lower section ended up being almost full, but the upper deck was dead.

Anyway, this really doesn't surprise me all that much. You're going to sell out a 65,000 seat stadium in San Antonio at $70 a pop ($140 for two tickets) for ND-Washington State?? It would be one thing if this game was at Notre Dame Stadium. People are always going to want to come to South Bend to be on campus and sit in Notre Dame Stadium, but the Alamo Dome??

Doesn't the lack of demand for this game prove what we have been saying all along?? Keep the freaking games on the college campuses. ND fans don't want to see ND play in San Antonio unless they are using it for a vacation. ND fans want to see ND play in ND Stadium or on another college campus. I love ND road trips. Loved going to Lincoln and Knoxville and Chapel Hill and even to Ann Arbor and East Lansing. If ND is playing an interesting road game at a new venue, I will be there in a second. But I'm looking at the future schedules, and there are a grand total of ZERO interesting road trips for ND fans. That's really a shame.

Isn't that what scheduling is all about?? We keep talking about our bottom end teams, but the real issue needs to be focusing on improving the top games on our schedule. That's where some people are missing the point. The only reason our schedule looks good in the computer ratings is because we play "better" cupcakes. Who cares about your cupcakes?? I don't care about computer ratings or the fact that Tulsa is the 50th best team according to Sagarin. It's freaking Tulsa. They could go 12-0 in their conference, and they are still a cupcake with 250 pound linemen, 80th ranked recruiting classes, 30,000 seat stadiums, and zero tradition. I don't care if our cupcakes are better than D-IAA teams. Cupcakes are cupcakes.

The top end of the schedule is all I care about. Marquee games and interesting home and home series. We should have 3 heavyweights and one interesting new home and home series (GT, Clemson, UNC, Texas A&M, etc) every year. You can fill in the rest with Purdue, MSU, Pitt, Stanford, Navy, and 3 cupcakes from there. I really don't care that much about the bottom end. Cupcakes are all the same to me. Focus on the top end. People only care about your big games and who you have beaten. No one cares if we beat Tulsa. They will care if we beat Alabama or even Clemson.

Anyway, back to Swarbrick and his band of merry men. You know they are going to bust out every excuse in the book when this game isn't sold out. Halloween, trick or treating, bad economy, Spurs game that night, the game is about "more than money, etc. I am looking forward to hearing all these excuses on Monday. And you KNOW they are going to pronounce this game as a great success afterward even if the game has a lousy tv rating and lousy attendance.

Pick: OVER

5) Over/under on the number of quarters Jimmy Clausen will play in this game: 2

My only thought on the actual game itself. By all accounts, yes, Washington State really is THAT bad. As bad as the Washington team that we stomped last year and maybe worse. They have no talent, bad defense, bad special teams, extremely mistake prone, and not well-coached. I don't know how things have gotten so bad for Washington State, but they are the worst BCS conference team in the country and have been so for a couple years. What happened to the days of Ryan Leaf and Drew Bledsoe and some pretty good Cougar teams?? They were a Rose Bowl team this decade. Now, they fall behind 28-0 after the first quarter in every game.

Assuming that we jump out to a huge lead in the first half (I know, nothing should be assumed with this ND team), I think I'd get all of the starters out of there as soon as possible. No need to risk injury to Clausen or Allen or Tate or anyone. Get the freshman in there, get some reserves a look, and rest up for the stretch run. We've been pretty banged up lately, especially Armando Allen. We need Armando to get healthy. Honestly, I don't think it would be a bad idea to just sit him for the entire WSU game.

The other issue is that we gotta get Dayne Crist more snaps before the end of the year. Jimmy Clausen is now up to #8 on Scouts Inc's NFL Draft Big Board, and more and more people are talking about him like he's going pro. At the very least, we are going to be sweating out his decision, so it wouldn't be a bad idea to at least have some snaps under Dayne's belt before we have to potentially turn to him in 2010. The last thing we need in 2010 is another sluggish quarterback transition. Crist is talented, and I'd like to see how he looks. He might even look great, and we maybe we won't have have to worry so much about Clausen leaving.

By the way, if Crist gets into the game, we BETTER run the whole offense. Don't freaking run the ball up the middle the whole time he's in there. Let him throw and run the full offense. We should even be throwing down the field. There's no point in putting Crist into the game if you're not going to let him run the whole offense.


Anyway, let's hope for the best. Maybe San Antonio will surprise us and bring out a raucous crowd on Saturday night, and hopefully the Irish jump out to a big lead and get all the backups into the game early.

Go Irish.

Notre Dame 38 Washington State 10

Bonus Picks:


Rutgers +7.5 over UConn

Greg Schiano finds a way to get the win in Storrs. Have to question how ready UConn will be after burying a teammate earlier in the week.

Rutgers 27 UConn 24

Duke +7 over UVA

David Cutcliffe is quietly turning around the Duke program. If only Thaddeus Lewis had unlimited eligibility.

Duke 20 UVA 16

Orlando Magic +700

Allow me two paragraphs of NBA talk. First of all, if you’re looking for my pick for NBA champion, let’s go with the Orlando Magic. Sure, conventional wisdom says the Lakers or Celtics, but I’m not buying it. Can Garnett stay healthy? Will Sheed become a distraction either as a ref baiter or malcontent as a 6th man? Will Ron Artest behave? It goes without saying obviously, but he is crazy. Remember the crap he pulled with Kobe in the playoffs? I just don’t like the vibe from that team, and you have the natural hangover factor from winning it last year. LeBron is still surrounded by role players, even with Shaq. Shaq has like a 3 inch vertical leap at this point. His only move his back his man under the basket, catch it, and dunk. That’s it. Plus, he is useless in end of game situations since people can just hack him and he clogs up the middle for LeBron drives (Rajon Rondo, what were you thinking trying a one handed dunk with LeBron on the court? He had to know that thing was getting stuffed in his face!)

So that brings me to the Magic. Dominant big man? Check. Multiple scoring options? Check. (Howard, Rashard “the Juice” Lewis, Vince Carter, Jameer Nelson.) Great PG play? Check. (If you don’t believe me check out Jameer Nelson’s numbers last year before he got hurt.) Coach that looks like a porn star? Check. All the ingredients are there.

A few predictions:

MVP- LeBron

ROY – Tyreke Evans

Most Improved – Chris Douglas-Roberts (He might average 16 a game by default. That Nets roster is hideous.)

Sixers (my hometown team) – 43-39 – 7th seed in East.

Finals – Magic over Spurs in 7


Syracuse (+16) over Cincinnati: Cuse in the house, oh my God, oh my God! Are you really going to bet against the Orange on Halloween? I didn’t think so.

New Mexico State (+40) over Ohio State: Regardless of the teams, I just can’t turn down 40 points.

Texas Tech (-7) over Kansas: A bounce back effort is in order for the Red Raiders after last week’s stunning home beatdown by Texas A&M.

Oregon State (-9.5) over UCLA: Oregon State is starting to hit its stride this year. UCLA is just plain bad.

Indiana (+18) over Iowa: Iowa doesn’t seem equipped to beat anyone by more than two touchdowns, even Indiana.


UNC +16.5 at Virginia Tech -- Not a lot of people on that Butch Davis bandwagon right now. They actually peaked last year with that win over ND.

WVU -3 at USF -- The 'Neers are pretty frisky. USF is in a freefall.

Syracuse +15 vs. Cincy -- This game makes me a little nervous. Cincy could get in a dogfight if they aren't ready to go. If I was Brian Kelly, I'd probably start Callaros again this week. No need to rush Tony Pike back with the backup playing great. UC might actually be more dangerous with Callaros because he adds the run to the spread attack.

Central Michigan +5.5 at BC -- WATCH OUT. This could be the upset of the day if BC isn't ready to play.

Oregon State -10 over UCLA -- UCLA is IMPLODING. 0-4 in the Pac 10 right now and all kinds of in-fighting. How about Norm Chow's reputation these days?? Not exactly at the top of the coaching world any more.

Michigan State -3.5 at Minnesota -- Minnesota is horrible. Sparty has to find a way to win this game.

Last Week:

Jeremy: 5-0
Dan: 3-2
Matt: 3-2
Mike: 2-3
Doug: 2-3


Jeremy: 30-20-1
Dan: 28-22-1
Matt: 23-27-1
Mike: 22-28-1
Doug: 25-26-1

Lock of the Week:

Jeremy: 5-2
Dan: 4-3-1
Matt: 3-4
Mike: 3-4
Doug: 3-5

October 27, 2009

Some thoughts on Notre Dame, "blowouts," Swarbrick, and the 2010 schedule (ugh)

Maybe this makes me a Weis apologist, but oh well. Some thoughts on the 2009 season and the head coach.

3) I want to start out this post by talking about blowouts. One of the complaints that I tend to see after all of our close wins this year has been "we should be blowing these teams out!! We are so much talented than (insert "lesser program" here) and yet we are barely winning these games!! Fire Weis!!," which can be loosely translated as "they have even more white guys than we do! Why are we not winning these games by 30?" Fans want more convincing wins out of this Irish program. They want a few breathers. Games where it's 27-7 in the 3rd quarter, everyone is relaxed, people are doing the wave in the stands (you know you would!), and the other team is demoralized. We all check the scores around the country and see teams blowing other teams out of the building. Examples would be Oregon beating a Washington team 43-19 that we barely beat, and Virginia Tech beating BC 48-14 when we needed some fourth quarter heroics to beat that same team.

Well, I would love those wins too, so I did some thinking. How do we get some of those fancy blowouts that everyone else in the top 25 seems to get?? What gives?? What does it take to get some blowouts??

Well, part of it has to do with the quality of your opponents. Our schedule is average this year, but the only true lightweights we're playing this year are Nevada and Washington State. Nevada has 250 pound offensive linemen, and their "vaunted" defensive ends had bodies like free safeties. In other words, Nevada doesn't have the type of personnel to hang around with a motivated and hungry ND team, and we blew them out 35-0. Same with Washington State. Washington State has zero talent right now.

The other factor is whether your opponent shows up ready to play. You know these games. How many times has a team come off a big win and then doesn't show up ready to play?? Or maybe they are in the midst of a tough year and have packed it in already.

When was the last time you could say that about an ND opponent?? Everyone gets up to play ND, even the bad teams. It's ND. It's national television. You're going to study a little harder, practice a little more crisply, pay attention in those meetings, game plan a little more carefully, and maybe get charged up emotionally. Go back and read what some of those BC guys were saying after the game. Shinskie said playing a game at Notre Dame Stadium was the highlight of his sports career, and several guys on the BC team said they grew up as diehard Notre Dame fans. BC people can deny it all they want and talk about how much more important their conference games are, but the ND game is THE GAME for a lot of our traditional opponents. Schools like BC, Purdue, Pitt, and even Sparty view the ND game as a season-defining game. They charge more in ticket prices for the ND game. Heck, Purdue put the score of their win against us on their team rings!

I could tell as soon as BC ran out of the tunnel before the game that we were going to be in a dogfight. BC was JUICED. There's just no way that ND is going to view the BC/Purdue type games the same way that they do. I won't say that we looked sluggish coming out of the tunnel (ok, maybe a little), but it was more of an all-business approach. BC came out of the locker room like Spaziani had just given them a Norman Dale speech.

Now, I can already picture some old school ND fan stomping his feet and saying "SO WHAT?! I don't care if BC was pumped. We should be MORE pumped. We should have stepped on their throats from the start and buried them so badly that they wanted to go home at halftime! That's Notre Dame football!!"

Ok, you make a good point, and I acknowledge that ND football has not had that killer instinct in a long time. If you want to blow someone out, you need those big "nail in the coffin" type plays. Like the Floyd touchdowns in the Nevada game. Or a pick six. Or a bomb. Or a slant pass that goes to the house. Or a kickoff return for a touchdown. A big punt return. Or even an off tackle run where everything is blocked perfectly and the guy is gone. If you hit 2-3 of those plays in a game, your chances of blowing the other team out go through the roof.

How many of those plays have we had this year?? I'm trying to think about it, and I can think of maybe a handful of plays like that all year. The Floyd tds, a couple of Golden Tate's long tds, and maybe one or two long runs by Kyle Rudolph. That's basically it. For whatever reason, we haven't gotten a lot of those types of plays recently. We haven't had a 75 yard off tackle run for a touchdown in probably 10 years. Honest to god, when was the last time we had a running back rip through a hole and he was gone?? I can't even remember the last time that happened. Probably the Julius Jones/Tony Fisher era under Davie.

We don't get kickoff or punt returns for tds, and our defense isn't the type of ballhawking defense that gets you a pick six or a "sack and strip" type play. Our scores usually come from long, 10 play, seven minute drives, and our defense is "bend but don't break" and that's being generous. That eats up time on the clock. Think back to that ND-BC game. There were probably 5-6 possessions per half. If you don't score on almost all of them, the game is probably going to be close.

Maybe that's a lack of killer instinct or whatever, but I also think it comes down to another BIG factor: TALENT!! Look at the ND roster right now. How many true difference-making guys are out there in our lineup?? We have an elite quarterback, one elite WR, one very good TE, and a great outside linebacker. Every other guy on our team is basically comparable to your typical BC or Michigan State type player. Think back to Saturday's game, and think about who we were trotting out at wide receiver. Guys like John Goodman and Robby Toma. Is there any difference between a guy like Goodman and one of those BC receivers?? Are our WHITE linemen all that much different from all those WHITE linemen on BC?? The answer is no. Our running backs our pretty good but no game breakers back there. We're trotting out multiple white guys on our defense, and the only real difference maker on our whole defense is Manti Te'o. Every other guy is pretty much interchangeable with the guys that BC had.

Our most talented player has been out for 6 weeks with a broken collarbone. With him in the lineup, the offense would be potent. Without him, the offense is more ball-control.

The other thing is that the bad turf slows our team speed down even more. Every time Armando Allen looks like he's about to rip off a big run, he slips. The bad footing turns the game into a sloppy, mudfest. It's hard to break off big plays when you have giant divots all over the field. Notice how we were this big, explosive offense early in the year, and now we're bogged down. I think the bad field has something to do with it.

BC is a good football team. They don't have all world talent, but they have steady guys who play hardnosed, intelligent football. There are a lot of BC players who played high school football in Ohio and know how to tackle and wrap up and play physical. The only thing holding them back early in the year was their quarterback play. Shinskie is a bit of a turnover machine, but he's not a bad player and can throw the ball down the field. Now that they have functional QB play, BC is a pretty good squad. Heck, I think they're better than anyone we've played this year other than USC.

Anyway, that's my take on the game. I would have loved to have blown out BC, but I don't think that should have been the "expectation." The team got it done and won the game.

2) I had a conversation with an Ohio State law student at a wedding on Saturday who happened to be high school buddies with a current ND football player, and something dawned on me. What do our players think about the whole Weis situation?? Shouldn't their feelings be taken into consideration?? I get the impression that the players on this team are playing hard to win games for their coach to save his job, and more importantly, they ARE winning games for their coach. Shouldn't that matter?? It almost feels like there are all these voices outside the program demanding that Weis goes, but the people INSIDE the program want him to continue to build the program.

I think it might be time for people to just put aside their long term feelings on Charlie Weis and let things take their course. If you think Charlie Weis is not the long term answer at ND, just step aside for now and let things play out. Water always ends up finding its level. Think about the Bob Davie 2000 team. There were a lot of ND fans/alums who didn't seem to be enjoying that season because it was perceived to be "saving" Bob Davie's job. In the end, Davie proved that he wasn't up to the job when the team got destroyed in the Fiesta Bowl and started out 0-3 in 2001 with a horrible home loss to Michigan State. Davie never really could put together any type of consistency with the ND football program, so that stretch of wins in 2000 ultimately didn't preserve his job.

If Weis is such a bad coach as some are convinced, then he'll pull a Davie and implode later this year or next year. But I really am not seeing that at the moment. Right now, the guy is winning and has the program headed in a positive direction. The team is 5-2, and staring at 9-10 wins and a good bowl game. He's also got us in position to be a a double digit win type team in 2010. When I look at the Weis situation, I don't feel like the situation is hopeless. The program remains on an upward trajectory, and nothing that has happened this year has really changed that trajectory. We have not had one game where we didn't show up ready to play, we haven't been blown out, the offense has played well, and we're beating the types of teams that have beaten us for years (MSU, BC, etc). If Weis goes 9-3 or 10-2, there's no freaking way that he's getting fired. I don't see why it's even being discussed at this point. Why are we going to try to start all over when we've already invested this much time and energy into Charlie Weis?? We're going to fire him just as he's starting to show results on the field?

Plus, he's recruiting his face off. It's not like some Tubby Smith situation. Tubby wasn't really winning big at Kentucky either, but the bigger problem was that Tubby was bringing in all these 2 star and project type guys who had no business getting a scholarship offer from Kentucky. His recruiting never really gave the fans the hope that he was going to deliver big time success down the road at Kentucky.

Meanwhile, Weis is signing big time players left and right, and it sounds like we are in line to bring in several 5 star type guys again this year. How do you fire a coach who is on the verge of bringing in a top 5 class and maybe even the #1 recruiting class in the country?? If these recruits are buying in, why aren't the fans?? If Weis was a dead man walking, he wouldn't be bringing in these big time recruits.

Plus, the whole "If Clausen wasn't on this team, we'd be awful" indictment of Weis is a false argument. The only reason Clausen even came to ND is because of Weis!! If Weis wasn't here, Clausen would be starting at USC right now and winning the Heisman. Weis has turned Clausen into one of the best quarterbacks in the country and the type of guy who can carry you to a win on any Saturday. Why doesn't he get credit for that?? I don't see how Clausen's success should be viewed as some sort of asterisk for Charlie Weis' record. If Weis wasn't the head coach at ND, we'd probably be trotting out some Matt Lovecchio type QB and losing to BC or Michigan State by two touchdowns.

Perhaps my opinion on Weis will change (it does on practically a weekly basis), but I find myself zagging every time the "Fire Weis" crew zigs. I have done that with Mike Brey in the past, and I think that's where I'm at with Charlie Weis. He's not doing any damage to this program, he's recruiting well, he's winning games, the players are playing hard for him, and the program does appear to be headed in the right direction. I don't see any reason to even be talking about firing the guy right now. Until ND gets serious about doing all of the other things to be a big time football program, we might as well ride it out with Weis and see where things go. If he melts down over the next couple years, the same names that we're talking about now (Meyer, Kelly, etc) will be there down the road.

Finally, I wonder what it must be like to be a Notre Dame football player who was recruited to Notre Dame by Charlie Weis. Think about a guy like Dayne Crist who came to Notre Dame SPECIFICALLY to play for Charlie Weis and to learn how to become an NFL-caliber quarterback. The guy hasn't even started one game yet, and yet he has to hear constant reports about how his head coach is on the verge of getting fired. There are people talking about Charlie Weis like it's inevitable that he'll be gone by the end of the year and open speculation about the next head coach at ND. How would you feel if you were Dayne Crist and wondering who your head coach is going to be for the next 3 years??

Lou Holtz once said that you're never really off the hot seat at a place like Notre Dame, so I'll be the first to say that Weis is always one loss away from being on the hot seat. I also am certainly not saying that Weis is above criticism. There are plenty of things about Weis as a head coach that are worthy of criticism. But on the whole, I can live with him as the ND head coach right now. If that makes me an enabler, so be it.

1) Finally, I'll end with some thoughts on the 2010 Notre Dame football schedule. I'll post it again for a frame of reference:

Sept. 4: PURDUE
Sept. 11: MICHIGAN
Sept. 18: at Michigan State
Sept. 25: STANFORD
Oct. 2: at Boston College
Oct. 23: at Navy (at Meadowlands)
Oct. 30: TULSA
Nov. 6: (Bye)
Nov. 13: UTAH
Nov. 20: ARMY (at Yankee Stadium)
Nov. 27: at USC

I know Mike covered this topic (and I agree with every word he said), but I must say that I'm SHOCKED by some of the responses that he got to his post. If you think the 2010 Notre Dame football schedule isn't an abomination, I don't know what to tell you. That schedule makes a Penn State schedule look downright adventurous. We're playing FIVE mid-majors next year!! FIVE!! What other major football program is playing five mid-majors in one season?? The answer is none.

Think about this schedule if it was reversed and we played all of those cupcakes in the beginning of the year. Let's say we opened with WMU, Army, Navy, Tulsa, and Utah. How is that any different from a typical Penn State schedule that opens with 4 cupcakes to start the season before Big Ten play?? And it's not like we make up for it by playing a bunch of juggernauts in our "conference" stretch like the SEC teams do. How many big time programs are on this schedule?? The answer is two: Michigan and USC. We used to play 3-4 every year. How many ranked teams are on that schedule?? I would guess we'll play 2-3 ranked teams at the end of the day, and maybe as few as 1 (USC).

That schedule is middling at best. I don't care what the computers or Sagarin say. I can see it with my two eyeballs. We're playing 2 major programs, 5 mediocre programs, zero interesting new opponents, 5 mid-majors, and only 3 true road games. THREE!! What other program is only playing 3 road games?? If we're going to only play 3 road games, why not go one step further and just play zero road games??

I keep hearing the "Penn State and Ohio State play those types of schedules. Why shouldn't we?" stuff from our fanbase. Huh?? Since when are those schools our models for anything we've ever done?? Why not just turn into football factories and pump our players with HGH as well?? Because Penn State plays four MAC snacks every year, it doesn't make me want to do it.

Compare that to what USC is playing year in and year out. USC usually plays ELEVEN BCS schools every season and sometimes 12. They play 5-6 true road games. Between ND and their typical Pac 10 schedules, USC is usually playing one of the toughest schedules every year. They truly embody the "Anytime, Anywhere" spirit that ND once stood for. I'm embarrassed that we can no longer stand side by side with USC and project that image as a school that will always try to play the toughest schedule that we can. It's even more egregious because we are an independent and can't rely on a built-in conference schedule to give us some tough games.

This notion that playing a big time schedule hurts your ability to win a national title is completely laughable when you look at who has won the title the last two seasons. When Florida won the national title last year, they played Miami (FL), Tennessee, LSU, Georgia, Florida State, and Alabama in the SEC title game. Six legit heavyweight programs that bring in top 20 recruiting classes year in and year out, and that didn't seem to stop them from winning a title. Take a look at LSU in 2007. They played Virginia Tech, Florida, Auburn, Alabama, and Tennessee. Five heavyweights, and they won the national title.

Take a look at what Georgia is playing this year. They play Oklahoma State, Arizona State, and Georgia Tech in nonconference plus LSU, Florida, Tennessee, and Auburn. There are heavyweights up and down their schedule. Why are we playing FIVE MID-MAJORS, only three road games, and only two heavyweights when so many other schools are playing 5 or 6 of those types of teams every year?? Don't you want to EARN our path to the national title game instead of scheduling our way in??

We're closing down the year with five mid-majors in a row before the USC game. How is that going to prepare this team for the USC game?? Do you really think those games with Army and Tulsa and their 250 pound linemen are going to have us ready for the speed and power of USC's defensive line?? It'll be like the 2006 game all over again when we loaded up on service academies and were completely unprepared to go to battle with SC. Call me crazy, but I thought we would be building toward the USC game and be battled tested by the time we get out there. Right now, I would say there is a 0.0% chance of winning that game because we'll be puffed up on cupcakes and won't even be remotely ready to take on USC.

I'm not averse to playing 2-3 midmajors a year by the way. I think we should open with a Tulsa/Nevada type team every year, play Navy of course, and then sprinkle in one more Army type game. I could MAYBE even live with one more Utah/TCU/UConn type one off game against a decent lower tier team that would just love to come to South Bend and play us. But to play 5 in a row and only play 3 road games and only have two big time programs on the schedule is a disgrace to what ND is all about.

Now maybe the 2010 schedule is an aberration and we're going to get better schedules in the future, but what evidence has Swarbrick given that he has any plans to do such a thing?? He's locked us into a long term deal with Purdue, signed up for home and homes with Syracuse and BC, given no indication that Stanford and Michigan State are going anywhere from the ND schedule, and he's throwing out strawman arguments left and right about how unreasonable the alums are. Does that sound like the profile of a man who plans to bring back ND's tradition of playing challenging schedules??

If anything, the Purdue announcement is more disturbing than the Western Michigan thing. The fact that we just locked in for 10 years with Purdue and all of those games are going to be in the beginning of the year is a sign to me that there is absolutely ZERO creative thinking coming out of the athletic department when it comes to football scheduling. We just locked into 10 years with a lower tier Big Ten team instead of using that spot for some big time home and homes. Why not take a few breaks and play them 6 out of the next 10 years?? Why not insist on a 2 for 1 setup with them where we play 2 games at home (or even three) for every road game we play down there in West Lafayette?? Why not use them for our neutral site game?? It's Purdue!! They have no leverage with us. We could tell them to take a hike or that we'll only play them in a 2 for 1 setup, and they'll have no choice but to take it. Purdue NEEDS the ND game to sell tickets. If we offered them 2 for 1, they'd take it. But we don't even ask.

I could live with the 2010 schedule if Swarbrick simultaneously announced that we were playing a home and home with Alabama in 2014 and 2015, Texas in 2016-2017, Miami (FL) in 2018-19, and LSU in 2020-21. And while he's at it, throw in an announcement that we're taking a break from Stanford and setting up a 1-1-1 deal with somebody like Georgia Tech with one home, one away, and one neutral in Washington DC or the Meadowlands or even the Georgia Dome. Now THAT would be the type of leadership that I'd want to see.

The most annoying thing about the new scheduling policies is that I feel like the administration is being dishonest with me. They're trying to sell this new policy as some sort of challenge ("Utah is a BCS team!! Tulsa is on the rise!! Our alums are so dumb that they can't see that scheduling Tulsa is the same as scheduling Texas.") instead of what it really is. A money grab and an effort to pull a Penn State and maybe stumble into the BCS title game by virtue of an easy schedule. I can't stand the phony salesmanship. Don't sell me on Tulsa. I've been a Bengals fan for 20+ years. I've seen the Bengals try every possible bogus angle to sell me on what they're doing for 20 years. I can see a smokescreen all day long. Don't even bother trying it. I'd rather just see Swarbrick come out and admit it. "Yea, I'll admit, I hate what we're doing to our brand name and our reputation, but we really need the $10 million that the home games bring in. Maybe we even get lucky and sneak through the schedule if there are enough cupcakes on there." I wouldn't like it, but at least I would respect Swarbrick for coming out and being truthful about what we're doing.

October 25, 2009

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly - Week 7 (Boston College)

What a strange game. Once again the Irish needed the entire 60 minutes to determine the outcome. Although ND outgained BC, and won the turnover battle 5-0, the Eagles still had a chance to win the game late in the 4th quarter. In any event, the Irish were able to snap another embarrassing streak and tilt the series record against BC in ND’s favor. I can’t say I’m sorry that Saturday will be the last time that team will be coming to ND Stadium for a while.


The Good

It wasn’t his best day, but Clausen remained patient, taking the short out routes that the BC defenders were giving him for most of the day. Much like last year, Spaziani appeared to dare Jimmy to take risks and force the ball into small windows. For the most part, Clausen didn’t take the bait. He was clearly frustrated with the inability to hit anything big, either down the middle or the sidelines, but took care of the ball, again leading a 4th quarter, come-from-behind, game-clinching TD drive.

Allen ran well when he was available – 98 yards on 21 rushes, 4.7 yards a carry. He was forced to leave on several occasions and its clear ND won’t probably have him at full strength again until the bowl game. The other backs were unremarkable.

The Legend of Golden Tate continues to grow by the week. Another strong game from the TN junior who had numerous big catches, none bigger than the 36 yard TD in the 4th quarter that proved to be the game-winner. He appeared to be suffering from a stinger or some other injury to his neck/shoulder. He wasn’t the only Irish WR banged up during this game. After making a near miraculous recovery from the vicious hit he received against the Trojans last week, Robby Parris went down early against BC. Duval Kamara also appeared to be hobbling a bit towards the end of a very productive game – 7 catches for 60 yards. The various injuries led to the debut of freshman Roby Toma from Hawaii, who had a few catches and the only drop of the day by an Irish WR.

The OL had its moments, generally keeping Clausen clean and opening some holes for the running game. Not their best day, but certainly not their worst. Look for them to take a big step forward and gain some more confidence in the next two weeks against Wazzu and Navy.

The Bad

Jimmy Clausen may very well be the best QB in the nation, but he’s definitely not perfect, and once or twice every game we Irish fans are reminded that he’s still a college kid that has quite a bit to learn. The most glaring example of this came in the Washington game with the ill-fated swing pass to Allen that led to a Husky TD. Yesterday, Clausen committed the grounding penalty in the end zone, giving the Eagles 2 points and the momentum that they would keep for much of the 1st half. Perhaps he’s lost a bit of confidence in his OL, but he doesn’t seem too comfortable stepping up in the pocket right now.

I wish I had the patience to go back and watch a replay of the last two games to focus primarily upon #9. I’m sure he’s being used to help the OL block at times, and I’m sure that defenses are focusing on slowing him down, but the Irish need to find a way to get him more involved in the passing game.

The Ugly

Not a whole lot jumps out at me here, but 3 quick notes: 1) ND’s inability to move the ball out of the shadow of their end zone in the 1st half and at least change field position had the Irish playing behind the 8-ball; 2) The Irish have been struggling in the red zone this year and their inability to punch the ball into the end zone yesterday made the game more exciting than it probably had to be; 3) Once again, ND had several opportunities to close out the game on offense but went three and out, giving BC chances to win the game late in the 4th quarter. Is the ND offense still lacking the killer instinct and the ability to put their collective foot on the throat of the opposition’s defense?


The Good

Randy Hart and Bryant Young sure have been working some magic lately because the defensive line has become a real strength of this team. Montel Harris averaged only 1.7 yards per carry and was a relative non-factor in the game. Definitely some encouraging signs, especially considering so many of ND’s remaining opponents feature run-heavy offenses.

The LBs played well again today – everyone seems to feed off Manti Te’o, who just might be the best player on the defense already. He also seems to be rubbing off on Brian Smith, who’s been playing much better lately. Darius Fleming played sparingly and was often moved around from OLB and DE, but again was the most effective in putting pressure on the QB.

For the most part, the secondary played well on 1st and 2nd down. The CBs appeared to be playing more bump-and-run coverage and the safeties created 3 turnovers.

The Bad

As well as the defense played on 1st and 2nd down, they were very poor on 3rd down. BC was 6-13 on 3rd down, many of those conversions coming on 3rd and long. The Eagles also converted a 4th and 17 on the last drive of the game – a 30 yard pass to Gunnell, the ageless wonder. I’m glad that’s the last we’ll be seeing of him – seems like he’s been terrorizing the Irish for 8 years now. The Irish defense simply needs to be better when it comes to getting off the field in those 3rd and 4th down situations.

The Ugly

Hopefully this was the end of the Harrison Smith Experiment at safety. I don’t know what has come over that guy, but he’s clueless and helpless when it comes to pass coverage. He apparently started the game at OLB, which was a bit surprising given Darius Fleming’s availability. If Tenuta wants to keep him closer to the line of scrimmage, fine. But he no longer has any business roaming around in the secondary.

I was somewhat encouraged by Slaughter’s play at safety, given that he’s only practiced there for a week. But the safety play in general has been very poor this year, and with the impending graduation of Kyle McCarthy, it could continue to be a problem in the near future. Given ND’s depth at corner, I’m glad to see that Jamoris is being given a shot to play.


The Good

Another solid day for Nick Tausch. Both his FG attempts were right down the pipe. And he’s definitely starting to speed up his tempo on the PATs after learning a lesson against SC last weekend.

Not too many complaints about Ruffer’s kickoffs. He had some very good ones mixed with some mediocre ones. But I do think it’s a good idea to keep Tausch’s focus on the FGs. Hopefully Ruffer can continue to improve as the year progresses.

Another ballsy call on the fake FG. Unfortunately a questionable holding call on Lane Clelland wiped out a TD, but the play was definitely there. Personally (I know I’m biased) that looked like a decent block, but since the snap was a little off, Clelland had to hold his block a few seconds later than he probably would have liked. Tough call.

The Bad

I must admit that I’m getting a bit antsy for the return units to start making an impact. I don’t expect a return for a TD every week, but I don’t think its too much to ask for something explosive once a game.

In what was probably Golden Tate’s worst moment of the game, he allowed a BC punt to roll all the way down to the ND 12. The next possession resulted in the safety, and effectively changed field position in BC’s favor for the next several possessions.

The Ugly

I know he’s only a freshman, but Turk has been pretty disappointing thus far. His performance yesterday was very poor, both in distance and height of his punts. He wasn’t able to get ND out of trouble in the 1st half, and couldn’t pin the Eagles down in their own territory in the 2nd half. I have confidence he’ll get better as the season goes on, but Notre Dame should not have as many difficulties in the freaking punting game as they have this year.


The Good

Decent gameplan from Weis yesterday – he probably knew that Spaziani would be dropping a bunch of guys into coverage and giving Clausen a bunch of funky looks. Charlie got guys open on the edge and Clausen was able to move down the field taking advantage of the large cushions given by the BC defense.

As noted above, Hart and Young are working wonders with the defensive line, which seems to be improving every week. The LBs are also getting better, perhaps simply by playing Te’o more and more.

Give the defensive coaches some credit for identifying some of the problems, particularly in the secondary, and attempting to correct them through personnel changes. It remains to be seen whether moves like Jamoris Slaughter to S will pay off in the long run. But they’re trying something different at least.

The Bad

Weis has been taking some flak on the internet about the decision to go for the TD on 4th and goal rather than taking the 3 points to tie the game. It was certainly a tough decision, but I don’t think I disagree with him. The defense was playing well at that point, and Weis assumed he’d get the ball back with some great field position (and he did). I don’t think I agree with the playcall – if you want to hand the ball to Hughes, fine. But running out of the Wildcat at that point just seemed a little too cute.

Spaziani really seems to have Weis’ number. It was amazing to watch BC drop 8 or even 9 guys into coverage in passing situations and force ND to dink and dunk down the field. Such a strategy would lead one to believe that the Irish should have been able to murder BC on the ground. Not so – ND ran the ball in predictable situations and BC always seemed to be ready for it. I was surprised that NC ran so many plays from the shotgun yesterday. I know that Clausen is having trouble with the toe coming out from center, but it really seems like some play action could have done some serious damage to that defense.

The Ugly

The pass defense. All of it.


Offense – GOLDEN TATE. On the receiving end of both of Clausen’s TD passes, Tate continues to make his mark on the Irish record book and cement his status as an All-American caliber WR.

Defense – MANTI TE’O. The former 5-star recruit has led the Irish in tackles since his ascension to a starting role. He had a hand in many of the big plays on defense, including forcing a fumble and blowing up a screen play. Manti’s performance this year really shows the difference between the 5-star, can’t-miss recruits and the large assortment of 4-star recruits littered throughout ND’s roster. If the Irish really want to make it to the top of the mountain, they have to get more Manti’s on a much more consistent basis.

Special Teams – NICK TAUSCH. 2 more FGs for the freshman who continues to impress. Wouldn’t surprise me at all if this kid breaks many of the scoring records at ND.

The Washington St. and Navy games are coming at a good time for the Irish. ND should be able to “fatten up” the next two weeks on some subpar opponents, giving the boys a big confidence boost going into what should be an epic battle in Heinz Field against the surging Pitt Panthers. Now that Jimmy Clausen’s Heisman campaign is effectively over, I hope Irish fans will get a nice dose of Dayne Crist and some of the other youngsters next week, especially some of the reserves on the OL.

Of course, if the Irish are down 17-13 going into the 4th quarter next week, I probably won’t be surprised. Its just been one of those seasons…

October 23, 2009

Swarbrick: The New Notre Dame Man

One of the frequent topics of discussion among Notre Dame denizens is the level of expectations. Some, including me, believe that Notre Dame football, with the right leadership, could return to the nation's elite. Others believe that the glory days of Notre Dame football have passed, so fans should adjust their expectation level accordingly.

Regardless of your stance on the expectation levels, one thing is manifest: those who are vested with the power to make decisions at Notre Dame DO NOT care about championship football. For the administrators and trustees at Notre Dame, football serves solely a vehicle for generating revenue. Football weekends are not about the football, but rather about a place to bring your wife and kids. Notre Dame Stadium is the Magic Kingdom and the bookstore is Epcot Center.

Which brings us to Jack Swarbrick, a/k/a Kevin White, Esq. If Notre Dame's leaders truly cared about reclaiming our place among the nation's elite, they would have hired an experienced AD who possessed a keen understanding of Notre Dame's history and a clear vision for the future. Apparently, however, the only requirement to become AD at Notre Dame is to serve as an attorney at an mid-sized firm in an averaged sized city. If I had known this, I would have applied for the job myself.

My indignation, of course, stems from the recent announcement that Notre Dame will be playing Western Michigan in 2010, joining such luminaries as Tulsa and Utah. While I am angered enough that Notre Dame apparently has no standards and no intention of playing a mildly entertaining schedule (or one that features more than 3 road games), I am infuriated by Swarbrick's condescending explanation. Quoth our fearless leader regarding possible dissent:

"It reflects a not very sophisticated view of what's going on out there," Swarbrick said of any backlash. "Utah is going to be in a BCS bowl this year, in all likelihood. Utah had a number of years where it was in national championship contention and is having another very good year. Two years ago Tulsa had a great year and in a lot of ways is one of the more dangerous teams in country.

Is this clown serious? Does he really think that opposition to his deplorable scheduling model reflects an "unsophisticated view" of college football? Leaving aside the factual inaccuracies in his response, such as his assertion that Utah will be in a BCS bowl, it is unfathomable that he thinks he can pass this schedule (see below) off as a legitimate slate of opponents. For those Notre Dame fans who enjoy road trips, you can forget about ever being able to attend a fun opposing venue. You can also expect that Notre Dame will be attacked relentlessly by the media and punished by pollsters.

It is not hyperbole to say that Notre Dame football is dying a slow, painful death. Our proud heritage has been entrusted to people who have neither the inclination nor the ability to preserve it, which is sad. Notre Dame alumni need to take back their football program, one way or another. I don't have the answers, although I am certain that, for the third straight year, I will send in a blank football lottery application with an accompanying note that outlines my objections to the management of the football program. I'll also write a letter to Swarbrick and Fr. Jenkins.

One closing thought: I have been outspoken about Charlie Weis in the past and, while I still do not believe that he will ever lead Notre Dame to glory, I am now much more inclined to retain him if we finish, say, 8-4 this year. Why? Because insofar as Notre Dame screws up every important football decision that arises, there is zero chance that we will conduct an effective search for Weis's replacement.

2010 schedule

Sept. 4: PURDUE
Sept. 11: MICHIGAN
Sept. 18: at Michigan State
Sept. 25: STANFORD
Oct. 2: at Boston College
Oct. 23: at Navy (at Meadowlands)
Oct. 30: TULSA
Nov. 6: (Bye)
Nov. 13: UTAH
Nov. 20: ARMY (at Yankee Stadium)
Nov. 27: at USC

October 22, 2009

WEISND Roundtable Week 8 Picks: Notre Dame-Boston College, TCU-BYU, Texas-Missouri, Penn State-Michigan

We're halfway through another Notre Dame football season. Kinda sad really. Think back to how you felt in July and August when you were starving for anything and everything related to football. It felt like the offseason would never end. Amazing how quickly these football seasons go by.

My advice would be to watch as much football as you possibly can between now and the end of the season. Soon enough, it will be January, and the season will be over.

Anyway, enjoy the weekend, and go Irish. Bring home a victory over the BC Eagles.

Here are the picks.

Texas -14 at Missouri (ABC Sports 8pm)

Jeremy: Texas (-14)

This line seems high, but I don’t think much of Mizzou at all. Or really anybody in the Big 12 for that matter. Now that the Horns have gotten past the Red River Shootout, doesn’t seem like there’s much standing between them – that game in Stillwater could provide some nervous moments but Texas certainly seems head and shoulders above everyone else in the conference. A big part of me hopes that Texas stumbles somewhere along the way so we don’t have to witness the bloodbath that would be a Texas-Bama, or Texas-Florida title game.

Texas 34 Missouri 17

Dan: Texas -14

This game makes me a little nervous. Texas is coming off an emotionally draining game and Colt McCoy is banged up. Additionally, it is their first road game against a BCS school this season. However, the Tigers are not very good. They’ve lost their last two by an average of 15 points and are consistently making mistakes. I expect the game to remain close for a while, with Texas barely covering late in the 4th to pull away.

Texas 28 Missouri 13

Matt: Missouri +14

This is just a lot of points to be getting at home against a Texas team that doesn’t really seem to have another gear like they did last year. I watched most of that game against OU and Colt McCoy is just not the same player from a year ago. His Heisman candidacy is a farce right now, and anyone who thinks that he would make a better pro than Jimmy Clausen is fooling themselves.

Random sight of that game was Peyton Manning in the building. Great to see. I guess he has struck up a friendship with McCoy and Bradshaw, which is cool enough, but to see Peyton traveling to Texas on his bye week for a huge college football matchup on his bye week is pretty cool. That guy sleeps, eats and breathes football. You think Tom and Gisele would ever consider hopping on a flight to go watch a random college football game?

Texas 31 Missouri 21

Mike: Missouri +14

Texas escaped with a gutsy win in the Red River Shootout (not “Rivalry”), but they will not keep surviving unless they can develop a running game to take the pressure off Colt McCoy. While the Longhorns put forth a more credible rushing attack last week behind Fozzy Whitaker, the jury is still out on their ability to achieve offensive balance. Likewise, the host Tigers have experienced similar difficulties on the ground and they will be tested severely by an athletic Texas defense that completely stifled Oklahoma’s running game. I expect Blaine Gabbert to deliver an improved effort at home, however, thereby allowing Missouri to keep this game somewhat close.
Texas 31 Missouri 21

Doug: Missouri +14

What does it say about the national college football scene this year that Missouri-Texas is the primetime ABC game this week?? Let's be honest, Texas is a great program, but they have regional appeal in the southwest. There is zero appeal in the Midwest and Northeast to watch a bunch Texas games unless they are playing a bowl game or a big nonconference game. Of all the college football diehards I know, I would say very few of them know the first thing about Texas football or has really bothered to watch much of them this year. There's just something about Big 12 football that doesn't resonate with me in the Midwest.

And yet, I can understand why ABC has to keep putting Texas on primetime national tv games. Who else are they going to put on given the choices they have?? Not a lot of quality choices out there. The Herbstreit-Musberger duo has done three Texas games already and probably will do 2-3 more.

This is where ABC is sort of pigeonholed. The top SEC games go to CBS (day) and ESPN (night), ND is on NBC, the Big Ten has too many down programs, and one of the top ACC programs (Florida State) is unwatchable. ABC keeps coming back to these Big 12 games because they have no other choice.

ABC's lack of quality games so far reflects on the state of college football this year. Even though the power programs in college football are in the south and west, the ratings still come from the big schools in the East and the Midwest. No one in Ohio or New York or Pennsylvania is going to watch Texas-Missouri at night after they've watched football all day. But if Michigan and Penn State were legitimately good this year, everyone in the nation would be watching that game, including in Big 12 country. College football desperately needs a few of the following schools to get it together and become consistently great:

Notre Dame
Penn State
Florida State

For example, Florida State is playing North Carolina this week. If this was 1996 and FSU was playing a decent ACC team on the road, that game would be a big game nationally. FSU in the 90s was must-see tv along with Miami (FL). There was just something about those schools that made them exciting to watch, even though most people (including me) hated them.

Same goes for Penn State and Michigan and ND. Between those three schools and Ohio State, ABC should always have someone to show in primetime. The problem is that Michigan and Notre Dame are never in the top 10 enough to even be considered for a primetime showing , and Penn State plays a laughable schedule and doesn't have enough games to show on primetime. Imagine for a second if ND was a top 10 type team this year. You could show that ND-Pitt game in November on ABC at 8pm, and it would draw huge ratings from ND fans and from people wanting to see a top 10 ND team play. But I would guess it ends up at 3:30pm because ABC has a hard time justifying a national game at 8pm for an ND team that might not even be ranked by game time.

Interestingly, USC-Oregon State is the other game for ABC and probably will only be shown on the west coast, and yet I find that game to be much more compelling than Texas-Missouri. Whether you like them or hate them, USC is a glamour program and one of the few "must see" teams out there. I would watch USC play anyone just because they're interesting. Part of it has to do with their talent, but part of it is that they are so ambitious with their scheduling. They scheduled road games with Ohio State and Notre Dame out of conference this year. That is amazing. And it pays off with their brand because everyone gets to see USC 4-5 times a year in these huge OOC games. We all know a lot about USC because they have made themselves into a national program.

By the way, someone emailed the blog the other day and suggested that we are all a bunch of USC homers and that we should "stop blowing sunshine up Pete Carroll's [behind]." Ehh, I don't think that's the case at all. Not one of us "likes" USC (well, maybe one....ok, fine two....well....never mind). Personally, I root against them in every game they play in, but that doesn't mean I have to put on blinders and ignore what I'm seeing out there on the field. USC is as talented as any team in the nation. I can't recall one time since they started this great run where USC has been blown out by anyone, and all they do is win big game after big game. I don't think I'm a USC homer because I think they can beat anyone in the nation. I've thought that about USC for 7-8 years in a row, and yet they keep getting jobbed out of playing in the title game. Even though I don't like USC, I am in awe of the stature of their program. Not only do they win big, they do it against some of the toughest schedules in the nation year in and year out.
Back to the game though. I guess I should pick Texas to cover since Missouri hasn't impressed me at all, but I'll take the points.

Texas 31 Missouri 20

TCU -1 at BYU (Versus 7:30pm)

Jeremy: TCU (-1)

Big opportunity for the Horned Frogs to make a statement in the eyes of the voters and the computers. TCU premiered at No. 8 in the BCS standings and a win in Provo could go a long way to earning Gary Patterson a coveted berth. I’m usually not one to toot the horn for the mid-majors of the college football world, but if TCU runs the table with wins on the road against Clemson, Air Force and BYU, and a home win against the Utes they would sport a pretty impressive resume. I’m surprised to find myself so easily going against the Cougs in this game – I think that performance at home against FSU is still leaving a bad taste in my mouth.

TCU 23 BYU 20

Dan: TCU -1

Gameday should just go in studio. I’m not interested. Are you? Florida State manhandled BYU and I expect TCU’s defense to equally hold BYU in check. Look for TCU to grind out a low scoring win on the back of their defense.

TCU 17 BYU 13


I don’t know much about either of these teams, so for me this pick was pretty simple

TCU beat Clemson
Clemson beat BC
BC beat Florida State
Florida State beat BYU

TCU 17 BYU 14

Mike: BYU (+1)

This pick is purely a product for my disdain for the minor conferences and my corresponding desire to avoid having to hear any debates regarding whether TCU (or Boise, for that matter), if undefeated, is worthy of inclusion in the BCS championship.

BYU 24 TCU 21

Doug: TCU -1

For all the attention on Boise State this year, how about TCU?? They've gone on the road and won at Virginia and Clemson. Is there any reason to think that they couldn't be right in the mix in the ACC this year?? If they run the table with wins against BYU and Utah coming up, how would they not be as deserving as Boise State for the non-BCS school automatic bid?? Boise is obviously a pretty darn good team, but the WAC is awful. Who is the second best team in the WAC?? Nevada?? They lost to Colorado State, who is currently 0-3 in the MWC. Fresno?? I guess, but they aren't anything remarkable either. Why does Boise get the auto bid with no consideration for a possible 12 win TCU team?

College Gameday will be in the house, and the Versus Network gets their game of the year!! There wasn't an Ottawa Senators-Vancouver Canucks game they could have shown instead?? I could see Versus getting a decent rating for this game on Saturday night.

TCU has already won at Clemson and at Virginia. I don't see any reason why they'll be intimidated by BYU. I think they'll go to Provo and straight up win this game.

One final note. Put me down in the "NO" column on Gary Patterson as a possible head coaching candidate at ND someday. How many times have we seen these guys leave the "power" programs of the WAC and Mountain West for other jobs and then get exposed?? If you are the head coach at Boise, you are working for the best program in the WAC. Boise has an institutional commitment that goes beyond the head coach. Boise has the most money and best facilities in the WAC, and there is a statewide commitment to the Broncos. I'm not saying anyone could win there, but it's not necessarily a program that is dependent on a head coach to win. If you leave that bubble and go to a place like Colorado, suddenly it's all on you to recruit and win against programs that have better pieces in place than you do.

Same goes for TCU. They have Texas high school talent going up against less talented teams. It's not like Gary Patterson built New Mexico into a power or something. He has the best talent in the conference besides maybe Utah or BYU. I'm not saying he's a bad coach or a guaranteed failure, but we've never seen him coach at a school that doesn't have the best talent in the league. This isn't an Urban Meyer situation. Urban Meyer took over at Bowling Green and won the MAC within a couple years. Bowling Green is one of the weaker programs in the MAC. Then he went to Utah and DOMINATED. Different situation for Patterson. TCU is the only school he's ever coached, and he took it over in a good situation from Dennis Franchione.

Speaking of Franchione, isn't he the perfect example of a guy who got in over his head based on what he did at a midmajor powerhouse?? He went from TCU to Alabama!! Unreal! The guy parlayed a couple good years at TCU into one of the most coveted jobs in all of football.

Anyway, that's why I'd put out the extreme caution flag on a guy like Gary Patterson. Honestly, I would not touch him unless he ends up at a place like Texas A&M and wins there first. Or even a place like Colorado.

TCU 21 BYU 17

Penn State - 4 at Michigan (ABC Sports 3:30 pm)

Jeremy: Penn St. (-4)

Interesting line here. PSU hasn’t done anything of merit so far this year, so I’m not surprised that they aren’t getting more respect. But Michigan is coming off two straight conference losses (that farce against Delaware St. shouldn’t even count as half a game) and nursing some injuries. Molk is supposedly back to anchor the offensive line, and Forcier apparently is feeling no ill effects from the shoulder injury/concussion. I expect Penn St. to bring some significant pressure against the freshmen and make him very uncomfortable in the pocket. Brandon Graham does his darnedest, but can’t keep the Wolverines from dropping their first home game of the year.

PSU 27 Michigan 20

Dan: Penn State -4 – LOCK OF THE WEEK

Penn State should easily notch its first win in the Big house since the mid 90s this weekend. The gaping holes in Michigan’s defense should provide plenty of opportunities for Evan Royster to pile up yards. That should relieve the pressure off Daryl Clark giving him the time he needs to be able to make is reads when necessary. Meanwhile, there are rumbles that Rich Rod may start Denard Robinson at quarterback. Glad to see another guy Notre Dame’s defense made look like a Heisman Trophy candidate has once again revealed himself to be overblown (See: Tashard Choice). Either way, Forcier has just been the same since getting banged up and Robinson, well, sucks. PSU should blow Michigan out.

Penn State 38 Michigan 17

Matt: Michigan +4

Penn State’s best win is probably Temple. Temple! The Owls. And we are halfway through the season. (Al Golden, Temple’s coach, should be on somebody’s radar as a head coach. He took over THE WORST program in college football that had just gotten kicked out of the Big East and now has them in first place in the MAC. ) Although it seems like a lot of the luster has worn off of the early season magic from the Wolverines, I’ll take them at home against a severely overrated Penn State team.

Michigan 27 Penn State 24

Mike: Penn State (-4) – LOCK OF THE WEEK

Penn State seems to be rounding nicely into form after its early season stumble against an Iowa team that, despite looking unimpressive at times, is nonetheless undefeated. Michigan, conversely, continues to have its flaws exposed as the season progresses, notwithstanding last week’s lambasting of Delaware State. The Nittany Lions should be able to force turnovers from the mistake prone Michigan QBs and, on offense, Darryl Clark and company should move the ball effectively against Michigan’s porous defense.

Penn State 35 Michigan 13

Doug: Michigan +4 -- LOCK OF THE WEEK

Think about this for a second. College Gameday is going to Provo, Utah on the same weekend that Michigan and Penn State are playing each other. Two of the top 10 programs of all time playing in relative anonymity. Ten years ago, this would have been one of the 2-3 biggest games of the year in college football. Very little buzz for UM-PSU this week, but that's what happens when Michigan goes 3-9 and Penn State has played one of the worst schedules in the country.

Amazing how quiet the Michigan chatter got in the last couple weeks. They went from being the story of the 2009 football season to a complete afterthought. I actually was impressed by their effort at Iowa a couple weeks ago. They really could have won that game. Michigan could easily be 7-0 or 6-1 right now.

This is a big game for Michigan. If they beat Penn State, they're suddenly in position to start talking about 9 or even 10 wins and maybe even sneak into the Rose Bowl conversation. If they lose, it might be a safer bet to start talking about 7-8 wins. It'll be interesting to see how Forcier looks against Penn State's defense. Michigan actually gave Penn State a game last year even with all of their problems.

As for Penn State, they have been cruising lately, but who have they played?? A pupu platter of Illinois, Eastern Illinois, and Minnesota in the last three weeks. I don't think anyone in the nation has six less impressive wins than Penn State. They haven't beaten anyone with a pulse.

I'll be honest, I really haven't watched any of Penn State this year, so this one is a shot in the dark. But I think Michigan gets their revival tour back on track this week and finds a way to win this game.

Michigan 31 Penn State 28

South Florida +6.5 at Pitt (ESPN Game Plan 12pm)

Jeremy: Pitt (-6.5)

I feel so boring taking all these favorites, but none of these underdogs are frisky at all. If South Florida follows recent history and begins their October freefall this week at Heinz Field, this game could get real ugly real fast. Wannstedt has very quietly put together a competent offense this year – Stull is in the Top 10 in passing efficiency in CFB, while Dion Lewis is averaging over 130 rushing yards/game. The Panthers haven’t been overly impressive in their wins thus far this year, but I think they make a statement this week, throttling USF and taking a big jump in the rankings. I really hope Michael Floyd is going to be available for that Nov. 14 showdown…

Pitt 31 USF 17

Dan: South Florida +6.5

To be honest, I have not watched or read much about Pitt this year, even though they are on our schedule. But I know that Pitt is not Cincinnati, so that should provide USF some bounce back opportunity. Let’s not forget, prior to that Cincy game, USF was 5 – 0 and getting a little pub too behind the strength of their defense. Let’s also not forget that Dave Wannstedt is still the Pitt head coach. He’s overdue for a head scratcher and the timing is just about ripe as Pitt has started to generate a little minor buzz as a potential BCS candidate in the Big East. Look for the upset outright if USF can keep the game close into the 4th via a low scoring affair.

USF 13 Pitt 10

Matt: Pitt -6.5

Dion Lewis is the truth. If they hadn’t served up a Wannstedt special in Raleigh against a terrible NC State team, Pitt would be undefeated and sitting in the Top 10. That’s crazy. Meanwhile, USF had a huge letdown at home last week and now has to go face a Pitt team that is pretty good. USF reminds me of a mini-version of the old Miami teams or the current USC team. Just undisciplined athletes all over the field. They have more talent than everyone they play this year, except for maybe the U, but just commit too many stupid penalties and make too many mental mistakes.

Remember this name though football fans. Jason Pierre-Paul. The guy is a beast on the defensive line. I know that George Selvie gets all of the attention, and he is pretty good too, kind of like a Dwight Freeney type, but Pierre Paul was all over the field against Cincinnati. I think he is a top 10 pick, and he is only a junior. BJ Daniel has only played a few games and he might already be the most exciting QB in America. Jim Leavitt has no shortage of material to work with down there in Tampa.

Pitt 30 USF 21

Mike: South Florida +6.5

I confess that I am impressed, surprised and slightly jealous of Pitt’s ability to run the ball effectively following the departure of Shady McCoy. USF’s strong front line, however, should be able to slow Pitt’s outstanding freshman running back, Dion Lewis, which will force the Panthers to rely on the erratic Bill Stull. The Bulls are nothing special on offense either, so this game figures to be a defensive struggle. Consequently, I am inclined to take the points.

Pitt 19 USF 16

Doug: South Florida +6.5

Pretty intriguing game. South Florida...what a strange team. They have a ton of talent, but the Bulls are the most undisciplined team in the country. They have to lead the nation in dumb penalties and missed assignments. Is it even the slightest surprise though?? Look at their roster!! Half those guys look like they came straight from the county jail. I've seen classier looking dudes stumbling through Franklin County Municipal Court every morning to handle their traffic tickets. USF leads the nation in tattoos, corn rows, and gold chains.

But when you watch USF, it's hard not to think to yourself "man, if these guys would ever settle down and stop playing like a bunch of thugs, they'd be a top 15 team." They do at least play hard.

And I'll tell you what (channeling Bob Davie). He needs some work, but BJ Daniels is a spectacular talent, especially for a freshman. He's like Mike Vick in the open field. Fun to watch. If anything, I would run him more because he's impossible to tackle in the open field. I like that he's willing to stay in the pocket, but sometimes you just need to pick up a first down and keep the chains moving. It's not like he can't throw either. He's actually a really good passer, but he needs to get more comfortable making a read and getting rid of the ball.

I've only watched him one time, but BJ Daniels can be an NFL quarterback from what I saw. I thought he looked like a young Donovan McNabb out there. He just needs to work on harnessing his talents within the structure of an offense and work more on running the designed play instead of just waiting for things to break down before he tries to make something happen. If I was Jim Leavitt, I'd give him a lot of controlled stuff that he can complete and then use that to set up big plays and stuff down the field.

I'm already enjoying the BJ Daniels era. Probably looking at another 3 years of watching him on Thursday night games and saying "BJ Daniels is still at USF??"

As for Pitt, I am curious to see how they play in this game as well. Pitt is probably going to be ND's toughest game in the second half of the year. Good running game, good defense, mediocre quarterback play. Pitt has sort of become like the Wisconsin of the Big East. They aren't the prettiest team, but it's a good formula to win. For all the criticism Dave Wannstedt takes, what else do people want from the guy?? He's got them at 6-1 with a very good chance at 9 wins. That's bad?? At Pitt?? They should be building statues of Dave Wannstedt for what he has done. Maybe they have some close calls, but it's not like Pitt is some juggernaut that should be winning every game 31-10.

Heinz Field is not the biggest home field advantage in the league though, and I do think USF is one of those teams that could easily put it together against a less talented Pitt team. I'll say that USF keeps this game close and maybe even pulls off the straight up win. In fact, that's my prediction. Go Bulls.

USF 21 Pitt 20

Boston College +9.5 at Notre Dame (NBC Sports 3:30pm)

Jeremy: Notre Dame

BC has been doing the Jekyll and Hyde thing this year – impressive wins and great offensive output at home, and abominable performances on the road. The stats from their losses @ Clemson and Va Tech are laughably bad. But, they do sport an impressive RB in Montel Harris, and you can be sure that the Eagles will be amped as they always are to play this game.

On the other side, the Irish are coming off a tough loss against archrival SC, including a furious 4th quarter comeback that came up a bit short. I didn’t have time earlier this week to get to a recap of that game, but in short, I felt that the score of the game did not at all reflect the talent levels of the two programs, or the performances of the respective teams. Barkley put up some great stats, but really didn’t have to make many difficult throws. Once again, the Irish failed to bring significant pressure, and WRs and TEs ran free and unmolested through the secondary. SC also ripped off some long runs, and for the life of me, I can’t figure out why they stopped running the ball, particularly in the 4th quarter. The ND front 4 played admirably, but I’m not sure what Carroll was thinking allowing a freshman QB to continue to throw late in the 4th quarter when he could have simply lined up and ran the ball down ND’s throat.

Clausen was a warrior of course, and Golden Tate once again nearly saved the day, but the defense is just pitifully bad. The CBs walk around the field with no confidence or swagger and Harrison Smith looks lost on the football field. Really an amazing turn of events. I wonder if we’ll ever get the straight dish on what happened with the secondary this year. Should make for some interesting offseason fodder.

Anyway, getting back to this game, if the secondary continues to struggle, this game is going to come down to the wire (again!) and the Irish will likely once again need some heroics from the offense to pull out a W. I imagine we’ll see a similar game plan as last week – the Irish will sell out to stop Harris and the running game, forcing an inexperienced QB to move the ball through the air. Unless something changes drastically in practice, this probably bodes well for BC.

It will be interesting to see how Clausen and Weis attack the BC defense this year. In last year’s meeting, BC sat back in that Cover 2 and made Jimmy look like a freshman again. Spaziani knows his stuff and I’m sure he’ll have some wrinkles up his sleeve to challenge the ND offense.

Ultimately, I believe the Irish are just too good on offense, although I’m afraid it might take another big 4th quarter drive to seal the victory. If we were picking based on the line, I’d probably take BC to cover, but I think the Irish bounce back from the tough loss and begin the trek towards winning out and hoping for a BCS berth.

ND 31 BC 27

Dan: Boston College

This game has let down written all over it. It’s perfect example of the multitude of other BC games we’ve played over the past 10 years. Huge emotional game (win or loss) followed the next week by a game against less talented Boston College team. Notre Dame comes out flat and ends up scrambling and falling apart. Plus, this game feels like last year’s Pittsburgh game. Start of a late season push against weak opponents, after a heart breaking loss in mid – October (Washington game last year does not exist as it practically wasn’t even a game). I just do not have confidence in this team to win this game. I do think we can avoid the complete falling apart like last year’s team, as the return of Floyd will be enough to boost the team to victories in November. In the mean time, color me nervous about Saturday.

Matt: Notre Dame

It is with great hesitation that I make this pick. I already gave my thoughts on the USC game and the state of the program earlier in the week in the comments to Doug’s post, so I’m just going to focus on the importance of this game. To me, this is a much bigger test of Charlie’s coaching ability than USC was. It is easy for the players to get up for USC. It’s not easy to get up after a deflating loss. That is where Charlie the motivator needs to come in. This team seems to have strong leadership, so I hope it’s not a problem. But ND just played their Super Bowl last week and lost, while BC is playing theirs at 3:30 on Saturday.

The only think that gives me comfort is that BC is a terrible road team, and JC should be able to throw at will on them. I think the gameplan on defense should be similar to USC where we sell out to stop the run and make another freshman (albeit 25 years old) QB beat us.

And for Pete’s sakes Weis and Tenuta, enough with the Harrison Smith experiment at safety. I hate to say it because I’m sure he is a great guy, but he is an awful safety. Just kills the defense. I saw that Jamoris Slaughter has been switched to safety, but have to think he can’t learn it in one week. I would put Sergio Brown back there – if nothing else it is another athlete on the field. Or Ray Herring. Anyone really.

Finally, I just want to recap why I think that making a move at head coach would be foolish – a position I have taken a complete 180 on after watching the USC game. We all saw it – the talent differential on both lines was breathtaking. What was Weis supposed to do? The fact that ND had a chance to win a game against an obviously superior team is good enough for me. My expectations have effectively been lowered.

But to any neutral observer, it is obvious that progress is being made - that the talent has been DRAMATICALLY updated from the Willingham days, and that recruits are still coming. Remember when Weis was hired and Pat Forde and Mark May shouted from their pulpits that ND could never compete again because they can’t get any speed. Well, that one has been put to rest by Weis. The skill positions are not a problem anymore. Now I think that Charlie realizes that the front seven on defense is where he needs to go next, and Manti Te’o is a huge step, but one of many, that will help solve it. Firing Weis will stall all momentum and basically we will be starting over again. Plus it’s not like Urban Meyer, Bob Stoops or Nick Saban are banging down the door to come here. With the state of the athletic department I would rather have Charlie Weis than some half-assed coaching search that lands us some B-lister.

I say stay the course and let’s see what Charlie can do in the next year or two. I don’t have any doubts that he will get Dayne Crist playing at an extremely high level someday, even if (when?) Jimmy goes pro after this year. That’s one thing that Charlie does well is coach up QB’s. Isn’t that what we need going into the post-Clausen era in the next year or two? (Ask me after we lost to BC and I’ll probably be singing a different song while writing a 10,000 word letter to Swarbrick on why Weis should be fired.)

ND 38 BC 34

Mike: Notre Dame

Simply put, if Notre Dame loses to BC, Weis should be fired immediately. Obviously, there is the potential for an emotional letdown and BC is always fired up to play us, but it should not matter. BC will never be anything more than a second-tier program with a bunch of low rent fans, alums and players who possess a Grand Canyon sized inferiority complex toward ND. It is high time that we reassert our dominance over them, starting Saturday. This game better not be close.

Notre Dame 35 BC 17

Doug: Notre Dame

I'm going to be at a wedding for most of the day Saturday, and am not sure how much of this game I'm going to get to watch. If I get to a tv some time on Saturday and see something like "BC 24 ND 17 -- 3rd quarter," I might just walk away and avoid the game entirely. BC always makes me nervous even though there's no reason on paper that we shouldn't win this game.

When I looked at the schedule before the season, I sort of cringed when I saw the following stretch of games:

10/17/2009 USC

How does BC always somehow end up on the schedule RIGHT AFTER our most emotional game of the year?? In 2008, they caught us right after that triple overtime heartbreaking loss to Pitt. In 2002, they caught us right after going down to Florida State and beating the Noles. And in 1993, well, you know.........

Point is, BC sneaks up on us every time we play them, and now they are in position to do it again this year. This game is like the Super Bowl for BC. I don't necessarily think it defines their program like it once did, but they look at it like we look at the USC game. It's the game that the BC players and their fans really get up for.

Meanwhile, ND always seems to be sleepwalking against Boston College. How many times have we been flat for this game?? The only time I can ever remember us even being "up" for BC in recent years was in 2007 when we were completely awful and BC was undefeated and actually pretty good. Of all the years to get up for BC, we pick the one year where we are awful beyond all repair.

This is the year to turn that tide. The second half of the season starts on Saturday, and there's a lot to play for. A 10 win season, a BCS bid, a possible Heisman run for Jimmy Clausen, and maybe the head coach's future employment. It all starts with Boston College. I'm tired of losing to these guys. I can't imagine how tired Charlie and the fellas are of losing to them as well.

We can sit here and deny it all we want, but BC is a rivalry game. Other than Michigan and USC, I think of BC as our biggest rival. ND has more tradition and talent of course, but there are similar cultures in the programs. Middle class, lots of white guys, lots of kids from Catholic schools in the Midwest and Northeast. Heck, a lot of these guys grew up playing together.

Perfect example. Great story out of the Chicago Tribune this week about Charlie Weis keeping in touch with BC linebacker Mark Herzlich as he tries to recover from cancer.

Really heartwarming stuff, and one of the coolest things I've read about Charlie Weis in a long time. For all of his bluster, it seems like Weis is the kind of guy who would do stuff like that. An incredibly classy thing for an opposing coach to do. Stories like this make me want to take back every bad thing I've ever said about Charlie Weis.

The article also mentions that Golden Tate and Mark Herzlich text each other on occasion. Really doesn't surprise me. These kids are all good athletes who share the bond of playing football at a good academic school. There are always a lot of ties between the Notre Dame and Boston College families. Heck, in my own extended family, the ND-BC thing is a fun give and take.

I have great respect for the BC program and what they have been able to accomplish. They have a good system of developing four and five year players, they overcome talent deficiencies with smart, tough football, and they usually have a bunch of kids from the Cincy/Ohio Catholic schools.

I actually really enjoy the ND-BC rivalry (although I certainly would enjoy winning the game more often). If I was the ND athletic director, BC would be a school that I would play every year along with Michigan, USC, and Navy. That would be my four "must play" games of the year. BC is certainly a more interesting opponent for me than Purdue or Stanford. Plus, when we play at BC, we get to spend a weekend in a world class city like Boston. One of my favorite cities.

So yes, I do consider it a rivalry, and I wish our fans treated it as one as well. If we got up for this game like BC does, we'd perform a lot better on the field against them.

Is ND going to be up for this game?? I would like to think so. We've lost six straight times to BC, and we really cannot afford to lose this game.

I'll be honest, I'm worried about where our heads are at though. I'm worried about the game starting and we'r flat, BC is sky high, and we put the ball on the ground a couple times to hand BC a lead. Just feels like we do that every year against Boston College.

Meanwhile, BC seems to be playing their best football of the year, and you know they are going to be jazzed up to play at ND. BC is a little bit of a Jekyll and Hyde team with strong performances at home and shaky performances on the road, but I expect them to bring their best on Saturday.

I don't think there are really any keys to victory or anything for the Irish. We just have to do what we've been doing all year. Give Clausen time, no dumb turnovers, get the ball to Golden Tate and Kyle Rudolph in space, push the tempo on offense, hit our field goal attempts, and make a few big plays on defense. As long as we don't turn it over, we'll be fine. I cannot see Tate and Clausen letting us lose to Boston College at home.

I'd like to see ND go one step further and really step it up defensively. BC is starting a freshman quarterback, and they have been inept on offense in their last two road games. They have a good running back in Montel Harris with this new Wildcat formation, but it will be disappointing if BC is able to move the football up and down the field against our defense. BC is pretty lousy offensively, and we need to find ways to get to their quarterback and force a couple turnovers. A big time performance from the defense is long overdue.

Sounds like Jamoris Slaughter is going to see some time on Saturday at safety. Good to see. He should start as far as I'm concerned. I thought he looked great in the spring game.

Anyway, that's all I got for this game. I think ND is the better team and should win if we show up ready to play. If not, it will be a long afternoon. I expect this game to be close, but I think ND will find a way to get it done.

ND 27 BC 21

Bonus Picks:


Duke -5.5 over Maryland: These two teams are moving in opposite directions. Something tells me that Maryland fans are not particularly excited about the prospects of the upcoming James Franklin era.

Purdue -10.5 over Illinois: The gambling community still seems to underestimate Illinois’ futility for some reason.

Baylor +10.5 over Oklahoma State: Time for the Pokes to fall back to their comfortable spot in the middle of the pack in the Big 12.

Washington State +36 over California: I’ve actually had some success this year with Wazzu and this is just too many points to turn down.

Mississippi State +22 over Florida: Again, too many points for Florida to be receiving on the road, even against Mississippi State.

Arkansas +5 over Mississippi: Forget preseason expectations: Ole Miss just isn’t that good.


Chicago Bears +1 at Cincinnati Bengals -- Bengals! Bears! 4:15 on Fox! Wow, I don't think the Bengals have ever had the marquee 4pm Fox game before. Are we sure Aikman and Buck know how to get to Cincinnati?? Can someone pick them up at the airport and show them where downtown is??

The wheels are falling off a little bit in Cincy. Antwan Odom is out for the year (players on HGH get hurt a lot?? You don't say!), and now an angry and desperate Bears team is coming into town. The Bengals front seven took a major step backward on Sunday. That was an 05-06 Bengals type performance with no pass rush and too many easy opportunities to throw the ball down the field.

This is a huge game for the Bengals. They really cannot afford to lose back to back home games heading into the bye week. It really comes down to winning the battles at the line of scrimmage. If they do that, they'll win. If they don't, they'll lose. I think we all got ahead of ourselves as Bengals fans, and I feel an excruciating loss coming on Sunday. Still, 4-3 at the break is tolerable. 5-2 would be great though. Carson Palmer needs to be ready to bail this team out if the defense is not up to par.

UConn +7 at West Virginia -- UConn has been a pretty frisky dog this year. Horrific story about the starting cornerback who was murdered at a campus party. Very sad and scary stuff. Over/under on the number of times Tom Hammond discusses that during the ND-UConn telecast: 50

Arkansas +5.5 at Ole Miss -- The Razorbacks are dangerous. I think they'll win this game straight up. Ryan Mallett made the best decision of his life going to play for Bobby Petrino. He'll be a top 10 pick in 2010.

Georgia Tech -4 at UVA -- Grohtober continues. The man somehow finds a way to save his job every year. I think GT will put him further onto the hot seat though.

Washington +7.5 against Oregon -- Huge game for Washington. I think they have a shot to pull the upset. Oregon could be looking ahead to that big USC game next week.

Tennessee +16.5 at Bama -- Bama has to have a close call one of these games right?? Aren't we destined for one of those classic Verne Lundquist finishes?? I could see Tennessee hanging around and making this game interesting.

Louisville +17 at Cincy -- The Bearcats are getting a little too much love at home without Tony Pike. Gotta get him back on the field soon. I don't trust that Carralas guy or whatever his name is. No quarterback fits the white trash westside Cincy persona better than Tony Pike. He's like the posterchild for that part of the city.

Iowa -2 at Michigan State -- YUUUUUUUUUGE game for both teams. Sparty could quietly sneak right back into the Big Ten title race if they win this game. Iowa could be 10-0 heading into Columbus if they can win in East Lansing.

Mississippi State +22 against Florida -- Lots of people speculating that Florida's offense is not the same without Dan Mullen running the show. What's the story here?? Is it Mullen or Percy Harvin or something else?? Whatever it is, Florida has not been as explosive this year offensively for whatever reason. They were downright lucky to beat Arkansas. Not sure what the story is in Gainesville, but they certainly haven't looked like the #2 team in the country lately. I expect MSU to cover the 22 at home.

Auburn +8 at LSU -- LSU doesn't seem like they are capable of scoring enough points to cover the 8. Auburn is shaky though. Two teams that looked really promising about three weeks ago, and now I'm really not excited about either one.

Oregon State +21 at USC -- Would it surprise anyone if this game was "Oregon State 13 USC 10" late in the 3rd quarter?? USC is just flaky enough that I could see them not showing up to play against Oregon State and blowing it, especially now that everyone thinks they are the clear frontrunner among all 1 loss teams (or potential 1 loss teams) for the BCS title game. USC wins out, and I think they'll find their way in. But first they have to take care of business, and that starts with Oregon State.

Now that I've watched USC up close, I pretty much know what they are all about. They can beat anyone, but their whole persona is easily conducive to upset losses. Any team that hot dogs as much as USC and commits dumb penalties is always susceptible to upsets. Teams that try to beat themselves usually end up doing so.

USC will most likely beat Oregon State at home, but they are going to be on upset alert multiple times from here on out.

Arizona State +7 at Stanford -- The Stanford bandwagon has never been lighter. You are what you are. A 4-3 football team that gives up 250 passing yards a game. There is no reason for ND to lose to Stanford this year, especially with a crowd that will likely be 50% ND fans. Then again, I looked up the Irish, and we're giving up 283 passing yards a game. Egads!

Last Week:

Jeremy: 4-1-1
Dan: 3-2-1
Matt: 3-2-1
Mike: 4-1-1
Doug: 2-3-1


Jeremy: 25-20-1
Dan: 25-20-1
Matt: 20-25-1
Mike: 20-25-1
Doug: 22-23-1

Lock of the Week:

Jeremy: 4-2
Dan: 3-3-1
Matt: 2-4
Mike: 2-4
Doug: 3-4