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?)
Oxford (MS, not OH. Sorry Mike Haywood)
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
Matt: USC -3.5 LOCK OF THE YEAR
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.
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.
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.
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.
Notre Dame 38 Washington State 10
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:
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.
Lock of the Week: