November 25, 2009

WEISND Roundtable Week 13 picks: Notre Dame-Stanford, Arkansas-LSU, Alabama-Auburn, Pitt-West Virginia, Miami-South Florida, and Clemson-So. Carolina

Last week of the regular season for the Irish and possibly the last game of the Charlie Weis era.

Happy Thanksgiving everybody. Oh, and please say a prayer that Bob Stoops announces he is coming to South Bend next week. Fingers crossed.

Friday November 27, 2009

Pittsburgh (pick em) at West Virginia (ESPN2 7pm)

Jeremy: WVU (Pick)

I was surprised to see this game as a Pick. Not much confidence in the
Wannstache I guess. Can't say I was too impressed with Pitt a few weeks
ago. There's definitely some serious firepower there with Lewis and
Baldwin, and Stull does a nice job managing the game. But I think the
combination of Pitt's inconsistency (and spotty defense outside of the
DE's), a game in Morgantown and the looming matchup with Cincy is just
too much for the Panthers. Norm Stewart gets perhaps the biggest win of
his short career this week.

WVU 31 Pitt 27

Dan: Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh has much more to play for than West Virginia. A win sets them up for a 1 game play-off for a BCS bid with Cincinnati. West Virginia does not have a chance to win the Big East and really are just positioning for a middling bowl game. While I can completely see a Wannstedt mind boggler, I think Pitt will pull it off with WVU unable to stop Lewis.

Pitt 23 West Virginia 17

Matt: West Virginia

Mike: West Virginia (Pick)

There are plenty of reasons to like West Virginia in this game. Although Pittsburgh has been the better team this year, West Virginia still has comparable talent and the Mountaineers should benefit from having an off week for their banged up stars, Jarrett Brown and Noel Devine, to receive much needed rest. In addition, this game should be more important to the Mountaineers, who should be amply motivated to atone for their recent lack of success in the Backyard Brawl, than the Panthers, whose BCS bowl hopes rest entirely on next week’s date with Cincinnati. Before a wild home crowd in Morgantown, look for the underachieving Mountaineers to play their best game of the season and defeat Pitt in the process.

West Virginia 34 Pittsburgh 29

Doug: West Virginia -- LOCK OF THE WEEK

I am not really sure where I fall on this game, but I was not that impressed with Pitt in their game with ND. Bill Stull is not a good quarterback at all, and the reactions from the fans early in the game confirmed for me that people don't have a ton of confidence in him. What kind of quarterback wears a visor during the game?? Maybe the most bizarre uniform choice I've seen all year. He misses throws, makes shaky decisions, and gets bailed out by some of his receivers.

Then again, West Virginia is really not all that good. It's a home game though, and West Virginia really needs a win in the Backyard Brawl to salvage their season.

WVU 31 Pitt 28

Alabama -13 at Auburn (CBS Sports 2:30pm)

Jeremy: Auburn (+13)

Talk about another team looking ahead a bit. Bama's got the biggest
game of the year coming with Florida. But the Iron Bowl is a
time-honored rivalry, and I fully expect Saban to have his troops
focused on the War Eagle. Gotta say I'm a big fan of the Gus Malzahn
offense, but Auburn has been sputtering a bit of late. I think they
keep this one close, however, until Julio Jones makes a big 4th quarter
TD grab to ice the game for the Tide.

Bama 17 Auburn 10

Dan: Auburn +13

Auburn isn’t very good, but it is the Iron Bowl! The Tigers should at least keep it close. Alabama isn’t the type of team that will blow out many teams (D-1AA not included). I think Auburn can just barely obtain the cover.

Alabama 21 Auburn 9

Matt: Alabama -13

Mike: Auburn (+13):

Alabama has every reason to be focused for this game, given that (1) the Iron Bowl is an intense rivalry game, (2) they played an inferior foe last week and (3) Nick Saban is a master motivator. Nonetheless, recent college football history is filled with examples of teams whose apparent path to a national championship was derailed with an upset loss and there is a definite “trap game” angle at play. With the SEC Championship looming on the horizon, it will be a sizable challenge for Saban to coax a winning performance from his team against a capable, inspired opponent on the road.

Auburn 17 Alabama 16

Doug: Auburn +13

Bama hasn't really taken to blowing anyone out lately other than Tennessee-Chattanooga, so I'll put this one down as another close SEC game in November. Not a lot of blowouts in the SEC at this point in the season.

Auburn has had two weeks to gear up for this game. They should be able to cover the spread and maybe make this game interesting into the fourth quarter.

The other thing is that Verne Lundquist does not call SEC games in the month of November unless he gets in four "MY GOODNESS!"es and five "OH WOW!"s. I expect a close game with lots of excitement from Verne and Gary D.

Alabama 17 Auburn 10

Saturday November 28, 2009

Clemson (pick em) at South Carolina (ESPN 12pm)

Jeremy: Clemson (Pick) - LOCK OF THE WEEK

Another surprise Pick IMO. South Carolina has not been very good
lately, while Clemson has been showing some life, especially with the
surging Heisman campaign of CJ Spiller. Is it time for Spurrier to hand
over the visor?

Clemson 28 South Carolina 17

Dan: South Carolina

Two evenly matched teams. CJ Spiller is having a great year, but so is the Gamecock defense. While Clemson has dominated Carolina over the past 10 years, I like the home team, with the better defense to pull off a close one.

South Carolina 17 Clemson 14

Matt: Clemson

Mike: South Carolina (Pick):

Two factors are at play here: (1) South Carolina was resting last week while Clemson was out clinching a spot in the ACC Championship and (2) the Gamecocks need this game to ensure inclusion in a bowl, whereas the Tigers’ bowl fate will be determined solely by its performance against Georgia Tech next week. Even though this is a bitter rivalry contest, as evidenced by the pregame brouhaha that took place several years ago, the game should be much more important to South Carolina than Clemson. Accordingly, look for the host Gamecocks to emerge victorious.

South Carolina 24 Clemson 21

Doug: Clemson (pick em)

I pick South Carolina to win this game every year and it seems like Clemson always wins this one, so I'll go with the Tigers.

Clemson 24 South Carolina 21

Miami (FL) -7 at South Florida (ABC Sports 3:30pm)

Jeremy: Miami (-7)

Nice season for Randy Shannon and Jacory Harris. The ACC has to be
getting a bit nervous seeing the Canes slowly make their way back to the

Miami 34 USF 17

Dan: Miami -7

Miami has been somewhat inconsistent this year, as has USF. You know Miami will put up points, but the Bulls are no slouches on offense either. A touchdown spread is tricky in a shoot-out because this game may come down to the team that has the ball last. A push may be in order, but I will go with Miami to score late to pull off the cover.

Miami 38 USF 30

Matt: Miami

Mike: Miami (-7):

Miami has struggled offensively since Jacory Harris hurt his thumb, but the Canes seemed to find their stride in the second half of the Duke game last week. In addition, USF has predictably sputtered against the better opponents on its schedule and they are clearly less talented than the Canes. On the other hand, the Bulls delivered their most inspired performance this year against Florida State and they may have a motivational edge this week against another in-state powerhouse, especially since this game should not have any special significance to Miami. Ultimately, however, I believe that Miami’s talent edge will allow them to pull away from USF and cover the spread.

Miami 26 USF 17

Doug: South Florida +7

Let's go Bulls!! You know they've been gearing up for this game for years down in Tampa, and this game means a hundred times more to USF than it does to Miami. Miami is having a nice year, but they're still not the old Miami. Is that Miami ever coming back again?? It could happen, but they just don't seem to have the same tenacity that they had back in the day.

USF has talent. It just depends on if they go out and play disciplined football. If BJ Daniels is clicking, they can play with just about anyone.

I'll go out on a limb here and say that the Bulls pull the shocker and claim the mantle as the second best team in the state of Florida in 2009.

USF 24 Miami 20

Arkansas +6 at LSU (ESPN 7pm)

Jeremy: Arkansas (+6)

The home crowd in Death Valley is the only reason I even paused before
making this pick. LSU is in shambles right now. Ryan Mallett is
looking like the next great Petrino college QB and the Hogs pull out a
big win in Baton Rouge.

Arkansas 27 LSU 21

Dan: Arkansas +6

The Razorbacks are heating up at the right time. However, going to Death Valley at night is still a daunting task. LSU has not shown me anything over the last month that is impressive. I don’t think Arkansas is quite ready to upset the Tigers at home at night, but they can certainly keep it within a touchdown.

LSU 20 Arkansas 17

Matt: Arkansas +6 - Lock of week

Mike: Arkansas (+6)- LOCK OF THE WEEK:

These are two teams going in opposite directions. After last week’s debacle in Oxford, it should be abundantly clear that Les Miles should be viewed as a bumbling fool, rather than some “crazy genius,” as he was characterized by various observers after winning a series of games in fluky fashion over the past few years. By contrast, Bobby Petrino is steadily building a successful program in Fayetteville, just as he did in Louisville, which, as an aside, leads me to wonder why Notre Dame wouldn’t consider giving him a call if the bigger names aren’t interested (more on this next week in an upcoming post). Anyway, considering the coaching mismatch and Arkansas’ recent track record of strong performances against LSU, an outright upset seems quite possible.

Arkansas 26 LSU 21

Doug: Arkansas +6

Not only do I think Arkansas is going to cover in this game, I'm going with the Baby Backs to straight up win this game in Baton Rouge. Arkansas is surging, and LSU is treading water. I think Mallett goes down there, plays a monster game, and suddenly is all the rage on NFL draft boards. Should be interesting to see if he makes the leap with a strong finish this year or if he decides to come back and get one more year under his belt.

I'm a huge believer in Bobby Petrino. His record at Louisville was unbelievable. You don't put up those kinds of numbers and dominate your competition like he did unless you are a great coach. Brian freaking Brohm was being talked about as the #1 overall pick if he had come out after they won the Orange Bowl at Louisville. Collosal mistake by him to stick around for his senior year, and it cost him two rounds in the next year's draft. Another lesson for Jimmy Clausen on why he should get out of dodge now while he is still being considered a top 10 pick. You never know when your value is going to drop through the floor.

On the flip side is Les Miles. If he loses this game at home to Arkansas, the vultures are going to be circling. I think he'd be crazy not to put out feelers to Michigan this offseason about coming on board if Rodriguez flames out again. Seems like the perfect golden parachute for him.

I'm also rooting for this move because it would officialy neuter Michigan into 8-4/9-3 oblivion for the next 10 years. Les would crank out Lloyd Carr type years left and right at Michigan, but never seriously threaten a title run. Couldn't work out any better for ND. Give me a "high floor/low ceiling" guy like Les Miles who we could beat every year over a "low floor/high ceiling" guy like Harbaugh who could potentially come in there and turn Michigan into USC East. Harbaugh at Michigan scares me. Miles at Michigan doesn't at all.

Arkansas 31 LSU 28

Notre Dame +10 at Stanford (ABC Sports 8pm)

Jeremy: Stanford

I really don't have any more words. In fact, there's a good chance I
won't be watching much of this game. At the beginning of the year, I
thought I would never say this, but its not even fun to watch Clausen,
Floyd and Tate anymore. The offense has become vanilla and predictable.
And the defense just makes the game a living hell. Gerhart will run for
200+, Stanford will hang 35+ and Weis will go out on the sourest of

Stanford 45 ND 28

Dan: Stanford (to win)

I don’t see any way that Notre Dame can slow down Stanford’s rushing attack. While the spread is a bit ridiculous (ND should be able to score), but I can’t see Harbaugh not getting his first win against ND.

Matt: Stanford

Mike: Stanford (-10):

What do you get when you pit a hungry, physical team against a soft opponent with a lame duck coach? My guess is a major blowout.

Stanford 50 Notre Dame 24

Doug: Stanford

I think the blowout talk might be overstating things a bit, but I do not expect to ND to win this game. We've been awful on the road all year, we don't stop the run, and Luck is a good quarterback who will probably kill us with play action all day long. Harbaugh is going to be looking to make a statement in front of a nationwide audience tuning in to see Weis' last stand, and this ND team is coming apart at the seams.

I think ND will be able to move the football on Stanford through the air, but the blueprint has been out on ND all year. Force Charlie to run the ball, rush your front four with guns blazing, and then create an umbrella in the back seven to keep everything in front of you. We stall out in the red zone every time because we don't have any other option but to try to pass the ball in the red zone. With two defenders playing pass coverage for every receiver, it's not easy to find gaps in the defense in the red zone. And when we do try to run in the red zone, we get no push and can't seem to pound it in.

Stanford is still Stanford though. I watched a good chunk of their game against Cal. They just don't have any speed or athleticism, especially on defense. Too many white guys and academic types. Golden Tate is going to have mismatches all day long on Saturday night.

Stanford has followed the same formula all year. Pound the ball on the ground, eat clock, hit play action when you need, keep the defense off the field, and hope you wear the other team out. It's the perfect formula to win at a place like Stanford. But if their ground game stalls or big plays start going against them defensively, they get themselves into trouble.

One intriguing scenario though. What if Charlie wins?? I don't think that changes his future or anything, but would the players try to carry him off the field or anything like that?? (trying to resist a joke about not being able to carry him to the locker room....really, I'm trying here) I could see it. Didn't Bob Davie win his last game?? What happened?? I don't even remember.

I expect a back and forth game with both teams moving it up and down the field. Ultimately, I think Stanford will grind us down in the fourth quarter like UConn did last week and close the book on the Charlie Weis era.

Stanford 34 ND 27

Bonus Picks:


Texas A&M (+21) over Texas: With all of the pressure on the Horns, this is far too many points to lay in a road game against a fierce in-state rival.

Florida State (+21) over Florida: See Alabama-Auburn analysis above (although this game is at Florida and I do not expect an outright upset).

Mississippi State (+7) over Mississippi: Egg Bowl! With an extra week to prepare, Dan Mullen’s team will score a signature victory for this season over an Ole Miss team coming off an emotional win.

North Carolina (-4) over North Carolina State: The Tar Heels are playing great football, while NC State has completely melted down. Also, there is a revenge angle at play after last year’s bloodletting in Chapel Hill by the Wolfpack.

Arizona (-3.5) over Arizona State: This game is at ASU, but the Wildcats are the far superior team. The Territorial Cup will return to Tucson in decisive fashion.

Tennessee (-3) over Kentucky: Father and son Kiffin should have no problem dispatching a Kentucky team led by a true freshman QB, even in Lexington.


Browns +14 at the Bengals -- Bengals HAVE to win this game. If they lose to the Browns, the implosion is on. One game at a time from here on out. As far as I'm concerned, the Bengals can beat anyone and lose to anyone. If you turn the ball over and can't convert in the red zone and can't pressure the passer, you aren't going to win many games.

Texas A&M +21 vs. Texas -- I'm rooting for BCS chaos. Give me one big upset this week between Florida, Texas, and Bama. I want a BCS meltdown that leads to overwhelming consensus for a playoff.

Illinois +16.5 at Cincy - WOW. This line is too high. Do people not realize that Cincy is pretty much squeaking by everyone at this point?? Illinois can make their season with a win over Cincy, and it's not like the Illini don't have talent. They've had two weeks to gear up for this game, and my in-laws and the rest of the Illini nation are heading to Nippert Stadium on Saturday hoping to pull the shocker.

Kentucky +3 vs. Tennessee -- Go Cats! Might have to put the excitement about UK basketball on hold for a week to cheer on the Wildcats in football. Heck, if they get invited to the Music City bowl, I might have to get down there for that one.

Florida State +21 at Florida -- Could be Bobby Bowden's last game at the Swamp. Maybe his last regular season game as head coach at FSU. Wish he would make it official.

Last Week:

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


Jeremy: 39-32-2
Dan: 37-34-2
Matt: 34-37-2
Mike: 31-40-2
Doug: 35-36-2

Lock of the Week:

Jeremy: 6-5
Dan: 5-6-1
Matt: 3-8
Mike: 3-8
Doug: 4-8

November 23, 2009

Around the Nation: Thoughts on Notre Dame, Charlie Weis, Bobby Bowden, ND hoops, the TCU-Cincy debate, and the future for Les Miles at LSU

Some thoughts heading into the final week of the ND football season:

9) You think this ND coaching situation is sad?? How about the possibility of ND running out of that tunnel for the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl against Temple??? TEMPLE!! For the love of all that is holy, please turn that game down. I don't care about extra practices or any of that. ND should not be playing freaking Temple in a bowl game. I know they're 9-2 right now, but it's Temple and it's the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl in Detroit. No, no, a million times no.

The ONLY way I could even stomach that game is if the new coach came in and decided that he wanted to coach the team in the bowl game. And by "coach," I mean he pulled a Bo Pelini and went nuts for 60 minutes trying to light a fire under this team and this program.

But if we're going to trot out there with Coach Corwin Brown and play half-baked football against Temple just for the sake of keeping the NCAA happy, I say turn that thing down.

8) Some awards:

The Tommy Bowden Award for "biggest disappointment": The Georgia Bulldogs. Probably could have gone with Oklahoma here as well, but at least OU had injuries to blame. Georgia never even bothered showing up for the 2009 season. Between their disappointing 2008 season and a likely 6-6 finish in 2009, I think it's safe to say that Georgia has been the most disappointing team in the country the last couple years. Think about the talent they had on the 2008 team, and they still lost 3 games that year. Lots of hype, but big time programs don't lose to Kentucky at home on Senior Day.

The Bob Davie Award for "worst clock management": Les Miles. My god, horrific game management by The Hat on Saturday night in Oxford. Verne Lundquist was so hot and bothered that I thought he was going to have a heart attack in the last minute of that game. You waste all that time before calling a timeout, and then you aren't even prepared for the scenario in case you actually completed the desperation pass down the field. LSU fans have probably been killing Les Miles these last few days. The guy already has a reputation as a bit of a dope, and this stuff is only going to solidify his reputation to the fanbase down there.

If I was Les Miles, I would have my agent begging Michigan to bring him into the fold this offseason. I'm pretty sure LSU wouldn't exactly stand in his way. With the talent that they bring in every year (LSU cranks out top 5 or so classes every single year these days with all their in-state talent and ability to sneak into Texas for players), fans do not want to see this program settle into a pattern of 8-9 win teams every year. They want to be trading off every other year with Alabama for the SEC West title, competing for national championships, and blowing out lesser opponents. Les Miles appears to be settling into that 8-9 win track, and that's probably not going to sit well with LSU fans for long.

Just when it seems like everything is stable in college football, big pieces start moving around and dominoes start falling everywhere. It always happens. I would not be shocked if we see some sort of Miles to Michigan move after next year that opens up a monster job in Baton Rouge and creates fallout at 3-4 other programs. Michigan is a big job in college football, but LSU is an 800 pound gorilla job with their talent. Just goes to show how much the power in college football has shifted south and west in the last 10 years.

The Bobby Bowden Award for "coach who is holding a big time program hostage even though he's running them into the ground": Bobby Bowden. As depressing as it must be to be an ND fan these days, I can't imagine what it must be like to be a Florida State fan. You have this incredibly successful program that owes a lot of its success to Bobby Bowden, but now the fans are almost forced to root against their legendary coach to force his hand and get him out of there. The guy is 80 years old!! He should be in some press box watching the games with his family as a legendary retired head coach. And yet he insists on sticking around and doing serious damage to the program that he spent so many years building into a national power.

I don't think Florida State can fire Bobby Bowden, but that's not the point here. They shouldn't have to fire Bobby Bowden. Bowden should see for himself that he's not getting it done at FSU and that he needs to step aside for the good of the program. FSU has become a complete train wreck on and off the field, and they are barely even qualifying for bowl games anymore. This is Florida State. They were like THE power program of my childhood, and now they're barely even relevant.

Bowden should retire after this season. He has fractured the Seminole fanbase, and it's time to move on.

7) Some other coaches who have impressed me in 2009:

Big East -- Brian Kelly--people forget that the over/under on wins for UC before the season was 6.5. 2009 was supposed to be somewhat of a rebuilding year. Two months later, they're 10-0.

Doug Marrone -- The Cuse have been pretty frisky this year. They were 4 points away from going to a bowl game this year.

Big Ten - Pat Fitzgerald -- Look, I don't want this guy as our next head coach either, but he's having a heckuva year at Northwestern. They finished the year with wins at Iowa, at Illinois, and a closing win over Wisconsin. Fitzgerald is the perfect fit at Northwestern. I hope he stays there for life.

ACC - Dabo Swinney -- Shaky start, but six straight wins down the stretch. Pretty good first year for Dabo.

Butch Davis -- Strong finish for Butch. Could be another 9 win season if they beat the Wolfpack. Great hire by the Tar Heels. He has completely transformed that program from a joke into one of the better programs in the ACC.

Big 12 - Bo Pelini -- Things have been a little bumpy in year two, but I like where they are headed. You win in college football with defense and toughness. That's what it comes down to at any level. Pelini understands football at its core, and I think Tom Osborne knew that when he hired him. They might not ever get back to being the Nebraska of old, but I think Pelini is going to turn out to be a great hire for the Huskers.

Oh and in case you forgot, Bo Pelini had ZERO head coaching experience before he came to Nebraska. Yup, just like Bob Stoops and Mark Richt and countless others who elevated to a good job with no head coaching experience and have thrived. But you old school ND fans, keep telling yourself that "experience" is the most important factor with this next hire.

Pac 10 - Jim Harbaugh -- YES WE CAN!

SEC- Bobby Petrino -- If they beat LSU on Saturday, I think Bobby P should get some national coach of the year consideration. Petrino is a freaking stud in the college game. Look back at what he did at Louisville and how quickly they have fallen apart since he's been gone. Not only did Petrino lure in Ryan Mallett and turn him into one of the best college QBs in the country, but they play exciting and attacking offensive football.

I'll say this right now. Bet your life savings on Arkansas in their bowl game this year. They are going to play some random Big 12 or ACC team in a mid-tier bowl and throttle them. Arkansas is peaking late in the year, and I expect them to be very good in 2010 if Mallett comes back.

6) On this TCU-Cincy debate, let's say that Nebraska shocks the world and knocks off Texas in the Big 12 championship game (admittedly unlikely but possible). Wouldn't TCU or Cincy almost have to be the default choice in the title game?? Even though I don't agree with it, who else would go??

Anyway, who would be the choice between Cincy and TCU?? Tough to say. TCU has been more dominant against their schedule, but who has more quality wins??

TCU -- Utah, at BYU, at Clemson
Cincinnati -- at Oregon State, at South Florida, West Virginia

I'd put that about even at the moment, but Cincy has a big one at Pitt coming up in a couple weeks. If they win that game, I think Cincy would have to get the nod in that scenario. Probably useless speculation though since Texas will most likely finish undefeated.

One good thing thus far is that it seems like the recruits committed to Charlie are going to remain on board for the most part. If the new coach can somehow talk Chris Martin back into the fold, this 2010 recruiting class will turn out fine. We've added some nice pieces on defense, plus a stud WR like Tailer Jones, and a couple good QB prospects. If we can add a couple offensive linemen, it looks like a well-rounded class that should have several very good contributors in the future. Certainly a lot better than what Tyrone Willingham left us with his last recruiting effort.

4) Wait, ND basketball is currently ranked #23 in the AP??? Whoa! The pollsters must be fired up about those big time wins over Long Beach State and North Florida.

I consider myself to be a diehard Notre Dame basketball fan, but I really have not gotten dialed into ND hoops at all thus far. Not sure if it's just a hangover from football or general apathy about the direction of the program, but I'm sort of embarrassed that I haven't even been paying much attention at all to the team thus far. I haven't watched a ton of college basketball in general this year. Ready to get back into the swing of things this week with some of the big early season tournaments coming up.

Sounds like Ben Hansborough has been about exactly what I expect out of him. A good all-around player who has a good feel for the game. And I'm reading some good things out of Abromaitis. I've been impressed with him in the few times I've seen him play. Good to hear that he has started off well.

Long season. Looking forward to seeing this team on tv for the first time against UCLA next month. I think this team has the capability of going back to the NCAA Tournament, but we probably won't know much until Big East play begins.

How about these rumors that Jimmy Clausen got punched by some random fan at a bar after the game on Saturday night?? Yikes. No clue if this is true, but this whole ND situation has gotten really ugly in a hurry. Between the Weis comments and this rumor about a sucker punch involving Clausen and some of his family members, I think this season just needs to end as soon as possible.

With that said, Charlie needs to put a muzzle on himself this last week. I realize he's frustrated and upset about what has happened, but I'm tired of hearing from the guy. I know people have said a lot of ugly things about him through the years, but it's not like Weis has been some pious figure in his time at ND. The guy acted like a pompous blowhard when he showed up, made a lot of enemies, and it's coming back to haunt him now. When you talk as much trash as he did in his early years and then double down with even more trash talk when things went south ("get your yuks in now", complaining about polls in 2008 and 2009 even though we finished 6-6 in BOTH years), there are going to be people who will kick you when you're down. For him to act like this is some travesty is absurd if you ask me.

The other thing is that while the national media types like Pat Forde and others have been vicious with Charlie for several years, I feel like the ND community has generally been very supportive of the guy for the most part even during the HORRIFIC 2007 season and the late season collapse in 2008. I think it's a little unfair to characterize ND fans as these monsters who have been ripping Charlie and his family without mercy. That's a bunch of nonsense. Most ND fans have stayed in his corner up until the last couple weeks. I've probably written fifty different posts on this message board in support of him and even supported the decision to bring him back this year. I have seen very few attacks on his family or his weight in all the years he has been here. For Weis to act like ND has been this horrible place that has swallowed him up and spit him out seems wildly unfair to me. Weis has received far more support from the ND faithful than Davie or Willingham ever did.

Whatever. I'm more than willing to wipe the slate clean with Weis, and I hope he does the same from here on out. Charlie Weis did some nice things at ND. He made ND a factor in recruiting again, he helped orchestrate some changes that will benefit the football program (early enrollment, admissions exceptions, etc), and he certainly worked hard at the job. His efforts to land Manti Te'o against all odds should be commended, and I think he has laid a foundation for another coach to come in and hopefully start putting together some really good teams in the future.

But I do take exception at this notion that he's been treated horribly at ND. Weis got paid a fortune to be the head coach at ND, and he was nothing short of a disaster in his five years here. The guy went 1-7 against the Big East and the service academies in his last three years at ND. He produced probably the worst team in ND history in 2007. He had a superstar quarterback who is going to finish his career with a record of 15-21 in three years at ND. We lost to Syracuse and UConn on Senior Day in back to back years. That is unfathomable at a place like Notre Dame with our tradition. If anything, fans have been extraordinarily patient with him.

Ultimately, I think Weis will soften his stance on ND when he distances himself from the job. I hope he comes back to games and that Charlie Jr. ends up going to ND. If the new guy comes in and does well, Weis will probably be welcomed back and remembered fondly as the guy who set up the foundation for ND's future success.

2) The only thing that did make the hair on my neck stand up a little was the interview that Brian Polian gave on his time at ND. Polian is borderline hinting that it's impossible to win at ND these days. Honestly, I'm not sure he's wrong, and that's what scares me.

The ND job has almost become TOO complicated. You have all these things on your plate, the collars are breathing down your neck, and you have to be able to recruit nationally and get all these guys to meld together under one system. And you have to do it in the national spotlight at all times with all kinds of pressure and everyone gunning for you. It's not an easy job by any means, and I worry that the best coaches out there know this.

There are so many things out of your control when you take over at ND. You can't really control academic schedules, dorm selections, food intake, etc. At a place like Ohio State, Jim Tressel has 100% control over everything going on in the lives of his players while they are at Ohio State. At ND, 2/3 of their day is pretty much out of the coach's control. It's almost as if you're coaching an intermural team when everyone else is coaching a semi-pro team.

I think the difference also shows up in the winter offseason stuff. At a place like Florida, the winter is probably not much different from the season. You spend the offseason eating, drinking, and sleeping football 24/7. At ND, I just don't think we approach the offseason with the same intensity as a program.

Bottom line, the new head coach at ND needs to examine this program from top to bottom, and the collars need to let the new head coach do whatever it takes to win. If it means athlete dorms, so be it. If it means jumbotrons, fine. If it means lighter class schedules or training tables, I'm in. Fans are tired of losing, and the ND head coaching job is going to become a graveyard for coaches if this next hire can't get it done either.

1) This is the least memorable college football season in recent history as far as I'm concerned. There's been no drama, very few compelling games, and we've basically been waiting half the season for one big showdown at the end of the year (Florida vs. Alabama).

To me, it just comes down to all of the big name programs having down years. Look around college football this year:

Michigan -- horrible; 1-7 in the Big Ten!!
Georgia -- staring at a 6-6 season; just lost to Kentucky at home on senior day
Oklahoma -- needs to beat Oklahoma State just to get to 7-5; hasn't really been a factor this entire year
Florida State -- probably going to finish 6-6; completely irrelevant nationally for like the 5th straight year
Notre Dame - probably going to finish 6-6 and losing home games to Navy and UConn in November
USC -- needs to win out to get to 9-3 but not on the national radar right now at all

And then you have teams like Miami and LSU and Nebraska and Virginia Tech who are having decent seasons but are also deeply flawed teams that just haven't made enough noise nationally. I've never seen this many big name schools off the radar in the national picture. Usually there will be at least a few schools making noise down the stretch, but most of the big names are fading this year.

Look at the top 10 right now:

1# Florida (36)
# 2.Alabama (13)
# 3.Texas (11)
# 4.TCU
# 5.Cincinnati
# 6.Boise St.
# 7.Georgia Tech
# 8.Pittsburgh
# 9.Ohio St.
# 10.Oregon

My god, who is going to play in the BCS bowls this year?? I haven't really stopped to think about the matchups, but we're going to have some Georgia Tech-Cincy, TCU-Florida, Boise State-Iowa type games. These are the types of games that you'd see on Versus or ESPN2 at noon, and yet they're going to be in front of national television audiences during bowl season. I'm not sure I'll watch a non-title game BCS bowl game from start to finish this year other than the Rose Bowl, which actually could be a compelling game between Ohio State and Oregon.

The most telling indicator of where college football is at in 2009 is this scenario. If Kentucky beats Tennessee this weekend, they will finish in second place in the SEC East this year. KENTUCKY!! Rich Brooks is a borderline miracle worker at Kentucky, but I can't believe how disappointing Georgia, Tennessee, and South Carolina have been collectively this year that UK is starting at a possible second place finish in the division with a home win over Tennessee this weekend.

It's pretty sad when the second most compelling game left in the regular season is Cincinnati-Pittsburgh. I'll be rooting like crazy for UC to cap off an incredible season, but there is nothing even remotely big time about that game.

November 21, 2009

The Last Nail in his Coffin

It's only a matter of time now.

No longer a question of if, but when.

While the administration delays the inevitable decision until the conclusion of the Stanford game (which may get ugly considering how putrid the run defense looked today), Charlie left no doubt as to his future as the head coach in South Bend with his second straight underwhelming Senior Day performance.

As unfortunate as this loss is for those players (read seniors + Clausen and Tate) who don't get to run out of the tunnel again at ND Stadium, this outcome means a whole lot more to the Connecticut program. Good for Randy Edsall, who was overcome with emotion as he delivered a heartfelt field interview. Good for the UConn team to honor their slain teammate. The Huskies have played inspired football since the tragedy, but been on the wrong side of three nailbiters. Today they can rejoice with unquestionably the biggest victory for their football program - ever.

There will be much MUCH more written on this subject in the days and weeks to come. But at least we can get in the holiday spirit and give thanks for the crystal ball made clearer. No more hemming and hawing or reaching for excuses to permit Weis' colossal inability to lead this team and program.

Since Charlie is still calling the plays (though their effectiveness is highly debatable), the right play in this circumstance is to resign. Admitting his shortcomings (which would be a first) and parting on his own terms would sway public opinion of his legacy for years to come, much like Gerry Faust realizing he was in over his head and bowing out gracefully. Faust comes to most home games and is still a minor celebrity in the lots and stands. People don't remember how bad his teams were because he got out of the way when his time came and turned things over to someone who could do better. Charlie is a proud alum and wouldn't want to be exiled from campus as a pariah to the program.

Do the right thing Charlie. Take care of your health and help your successor do what you couldn't.

November 18, 2009

WEISND Roundtable Week 12 Picks: Notre Dame-Connecticut, Ohio State-Michigan, Oregon-Arizona, Stanford-Cal, and Michigan State-Penn State

So much going on off the field right now that it's hard to even remember that there are still two games left in this season. Could be the last time we see Jimmy Clausen and Golden Tate in Notre Dame Stadium as teammates. And of course, could be the last time Charlie Weis takes the field at home as ND's head coach.

On to the picks:

Ohio State -13 at Michigan (ABC Sports 12pm)

Jeremy: Ohio State -13

Don’t have a whole lot of confidence in this one. Last week against Iowa, Tressel slowed the pace of that game down to a crawl and basically went into a shell for the 2nd half. He could very well do something similar this week against Michigan. The Wolverines have been getting gouged on defense lately and there’s really nothing to suggest that this will be remedied before the weekend. I know its not realistic to think that he could be fired after this game, but if Michigan is trounced again by the Buckeyes, its going to start getting very hot under Rich Rod’s collar.

OSU 31 Michigan 17

Dan: Ohio State -13

Ohio State is easily two touchdowns better than Michigan. But I would hate to see Tressel go conservative on the road and just play to win by 6. I think that Michigan has basically packed it in at this point and Ohio State pulls off a close cover on a couple timely turnovers.

Ohio State 24 Michigan 10

Matt: Ohio State -13

Florida and Alabama are taking the week off, so I am too. Just picks this week and a few thoughts on ND potential coaches…

Ohio State 34 Michigan 10

Mike: Ohio State (-13):

I am tempted, though not seriously, to cheer for Michigan in the hopes that a Wolverine victory will secure another year for Rich Rodriguez, who is proving to be a terrible fit in Ann Arbor. Although Ohio State has already clinched a spot in the Rose Bowl, Jim Tressel has always prioritized this rivalry and he should have his team ready to play. Look for the Buckeyes to amplify the growing chorus of calls for Rodriguez’s ouster by defeating the reeling Wolverines with ease.

Ohio State 31 Michigan 14

Doug: Michigan +13

Buckeye fans, I know you're upset about the way the Buckeyes won that game over Iowa, but wins are wins. Sure it's ugly, but you can't really take away the fact that The Vest wins games. That's what he does. Tressel Ball isn't fun or exciting, but Tressel seems to have it down to a science. Even though that game got hairy in the fourth quarter and going into overtime, it never really felt like Ohio State wasn't in control of the situation.

Is that frustrating?? Yea, of course. I would be furious if my coach sat on a lead and ran the ball up the middle ten times in a row and seemed to be ready to punt on 3rd down of every drive. It's not a very aesthetically pleasing style of football at all.

But here's my question: Would you rather be 10-2 and winning Big Ten titles every year with Tressel Ball or 6-6 with a more exciting offense?? Then again, you could argue that you'd prefer a 10-2 team that wins the Big Ten AND has an exciting offense, and I would agree with you. But you can't really argue with Tressel's record. All the guy has done since he's been at Ohio State is win.

This begs the question though. Does Ohio State win because of Tressel or in spite of Tressel?? I think you could make an argument for both. Ohio State had exciting teams in the 90s under John Cooper, but those teams always choked against Michigan. Tressel does seem to have added something on that front with his record against Michigan and in the Big Ten in general.

Then again, I almost wonder if there are 20 coaches out there who could be doing what Jim Tressel is doing at Ohio State these days. Ohio State is so far and away the best program in the Big Ten in terms of money, talent, facilities, commitment, stability, etc. No one else is really on their level anymore, and their success as a program comes from a lot of factors that go well beyond the head coach in my opinion. If that's the case, why couldn't Ohio State have a coach who not only wins games but also produces exciting teams that would stand a better chance of competing nationally??

Isn't part of Tressel's success just that the Big Ten is so freaking awful these days?? Tressel has been very fortunate that Michigan has been down for most of his tenure, Wisconsin has tailed off, Penn State has Joe Pa running the show, and Illinois has been a disaster for the most part. The Big Ten is losing the demographic battle by the busload, and a lot of these programs just aren't coming back to what they once were.

I look at Ohio State's season and wonder if there's really that much pride about winning another Big Ten title when they lost AT HOME to a USC team that has lost three games and really has turned out to be not all that great. Ohio State had them at home and couldn't muster up more than 15 points. Tressel is so concerned with playing not to lose that he doesn't even see that he could have come out with an aggressive game plan and maybe blown USC out. USC was more than capable of being blown out by a good team this year. And yet Ohio State played that game with a strategy to win 10-7. It makes me wonder if a more aggressive coach would have won that game for the Buckeyes and possibly by a wide margin.

Certainly will be interesting to see what the Buckeyes do in the Rose Bowl. If they get paired up against Oregon, Tressel better come out with an aggressive game plan or they're going to get run off the field. It's one thing to lose to teams like Florida or LSU. But Oregon?? Definitely would make for another interesting offseason.

Michigan....plenty to discuss on them, but I'll hold off on that for a week or two. Put it this way. I absolutely believe that there could be a new head coach in Ann Arbor next year.

Ohio State 27 Michigan 20

Penn State -3.5 at Michigan State (ABC Sports 3:30pm)

Jeremy: MSU (+3.5)

Have no idea what to think about this game. Penn State hasn’t done anything of note, and the Spartans have underachieved all year. That said, MSU is fighting for bowl position here so they certainly have a bit more on the line. Add in the home cooking and I’ll take Sparty to pull off a mini-upset here.

MSU 24 PSU 23

Dan: Penn State -3.5

This game seems to tend towards being a surprisingly close game more often than not. And Penn State has struggled the past 2 weeks. I think they are due for a little bit of a bounce back game. Look for Daryll Clark to have another big game against the Spartans, while at the same time MSU struggles to hold Royster.

Penn State 31 Michigan State 17

Matt: Penn State -3.5

Penn State 24 Michigan State 13

Mike: Michigan State (+3.5):

From a motivation standpoint, this game means much more to the Spartans, who must win to guarantee a trip to a bowl, than the visiting Nittany Lions. Penn State is the better team, but I suspect that they won’t be particularly interested in playing this game, even though the winner gets to keep the coveted Land Grant Trophy.

Michigan State 24 Penn State 21

Doug: Michigan State +3.5

Really like how Michigan State is trying to finish strong this year. Beating Penn State this week would really give them a ton of momentum heading into 2010. Good young core of skill guys in East Lansing.

Penn State's playing for a possible BCS bowl birth if they win this game. Really?? My god, there are going to be some awful BCS games this year. What is Penn State's best win this year?? Michigan??

Penn State in the BCS is a microcosm of everything that is wrong with college football right now. You can somehow get to 10 wins without beating anyone with a pulse.

Michigan State 21 Penn State 20

Cal +8 at Stanford (Versus 7:30pm)

Jeremy: Cal (+8)

I really don’t mean to look down my nose at the Cardinal or Harbaugh, but can they possibly get up for another big game this week? I know this is a huge rivalry for them, but there’s got to be some letdown coming off perhaps the two biggest wins in school history, right? If Stanford does pull this one out, I’ll be mighty impressed.

Cal 27 Stanford 24

Dan: Cal +8

Could their possibly be a bigger formula for a let-down game? Trouncing two top 10 teams (including the last one at USC) in a row followed by a return trip home? Stanford is definitely overdue for a hiccup. Hopefully my co-writer (after he writes another 2500 words supporting his Stanford – 8 pick) will come to realize Harbaugh is not the answer after Cal brings them back to earth).

Cal 31 Stanford 27

Matt: Cal +8

Stanford 30 Cal 24

Mike: California (+8)- LOCK OF THE WEEK:

Stanford is on an incredible run, but I am leery about overrating the Cardinal by allowing the last few weeks to outweigh the rest of the season. In addition, Cal delivered its most impressive win of the season last week against Arizona, so the Bears should not be regarded as a pushover, even without Jahvid Best. These two teams are relatively evenly matched from a talent standpoint and there is a possible letdown angle at play with respect to Stanford. Accordingly, I will call for an outright upset for the visiting Bears.

California 26 Stanford 24

Doug: Cal +8

Hmmm, I've been hyping up Jim Harbaugh, so it's probably fitting that Stanford will lay an egg this week against Cal. Two pretty emotional wins for the Card over Oregon and USC. Can they dial it up again against Cal?? 8 points seem like a lot in a rivalry game.

Then again, Tiger Woods is getting inducted into the Stanford Hall of Fame this weekend and is going to be an honorary captain for the game. Who wouldn't run through a wall for Tiger Woods?? By the way, how did it take this long to induct Tiger Woods into the Stanford Hall of Fame?? They should have inducted him ten minutes after Jim Nantz said "A WIN FOR THE AGES!"

Jeff Tedford is another guy I could see ND being interested in. No clue what his status is at Cal, but he'd be sort of a natural fit in terms of continuing a pro style philosophy and being able to recruit California.

Either way, I can't wait to tune in to Versus on Saturday to watch this game. I'll go with Stanford to keep the momentum going, but could easily see Cal outright winning this game. Cal is still a dangerous team that could be catching Stanford at the right time.

Stanford 31 Cal 28

Louisiana State +3 at Ole Miss (CBS Sports 3:30pm)

Jeremy: LSU (+3)

I know the Tigers are banged up and I know the Rebs just ran all over the Vols, but LSU has better material and better coaching. In the SEC in November, that’s good enough for me.

LSU 20 Ole Miss 17

Dan: LSU +3

Have to admit, the mediocrity in the middle of the SEC has caused me not to follow it as closely this year. But I’m still not a Jevan Snead believer, and I think the LSU defense can win this game even without the offence.

LSU 10 Ole Miss 7

Matt: LSU +3

LSU 20 Ole Miss 12

Mike: Louisiana State (+3):

It is unclear whether Jordan Jefferson will be available for LSU, who missed last week’s game with an ankle injury and was replaced by an ineffective Jarrett Lee. Nonetheless, the Bayou Bengals have thrived this season on the strength of their defense, rather than the play of Jefferson, so his availability is not a major factor in my analysis. Unlike Tennessee last week, LSU should be able to slow down Dexter McCluster and force Jevan Snead to make his usual share of mistakes. LSU has flown under the radar for its boring offense all season, but they keep finding ways to win. This week will be no different.

LSU 22 Ole Miss 17

Doug: Ole Miss -3 -- LOCK OF THE WEEK

Ole Miss is suddenly red hot with Dexter McCluster turning into the new Percy Harvin. Just a hunch here, but I think Ole Miss comes out like gangbusters and rolls LSU.

Les Miles....tough spot right now. He's almost gotta win this game to hang his hat on something in 2009. Life is tough in the SEC, but fans at LSU want to see some signs that this program is still on the right path. If they get blown out by Ole Miss, I almost feel like Les' seat might be a little warm heading into the offseason. To be honest, that's exactly what I see happening here. There's a feeling that the LSU program is slipping.

Florida and Alabama have sort of lapped the field and distanced themselves from the rest of the SEC. For an LSU fan, that's a tough pill to swallow when you consider all of their success this decade. They really aren't in the same category right now as Florida and Alabama. And the scary part is that the train is coming down in Knoxville and Fayetteville. Two programs on the rise that could really start making noise.

I almost feel like the SEC is like one of those pie charts where everyone is fighting for their percentage. The success of one program is going to come at the expense of another program. Now that Alabama has turned into a juggernaut, they are eating into LSU's success.

Miles must curse every night that Nick Saban is back in the SEC. Saban is only in his third year, and he's already eclipsed Les Miles and doesn't appear to be slowing down any time soon. As long as Saban is Alabama, they are going to be the premier program in the SEC West.

Ole Miss 28 LSU 17

Oregon -4 at Arizona (ABC Sports 8pm)

Jeremy: Oregon (-4) – LOCK OF THE WEEK

Don’t have much to say about this one since I haven’t had the opportunity to see much of Arizona this year. But look for Oregon to rebound from the shocking loss to Stanford to try and position themselves for the Pac-10 title.

Oregon 30 Arizona 21

Dan: Oregon -4 at Arizona

Oregon took out its frustration last week against Arizona State and now gets to repeat against Arizona. Arizona doesn’t have the horses to hang with Oregon. Look for the Ducks to pull away late.

Oregon 28 Arizona 20

Matt: Oregon -4 LOCK OF THE WEEK

Oregon 38 Arizona 33

Mike: Oregon (-4):

Despite recent losses, both of these two teams are still in the mix for a Rose Bowl berth and their respective track records suggest that this will be an exciting contest. Jeremiah Masoli and Nick Foles will both light up the scoreboard in Tucson before the visiting Ducks eventually claim victory in a closely contested affair.

Oregon 45 Arizona 38

Doug: Arizona +4

Beano Cook is picking Arizona here, but Oregon controls their own destiny here for the Rose Bowl. Would love to see an Ohio State-Oregon Rose Bowl game, but Arizona is pretty good this year. Guess I never should have doubted a man with the last name Stoops to build a program. I'll go with the home team to pull the upset.

Arizona 37 Oregon 31

Connecticut at Notre Dame (NBC Sports 2:30pm)

Jeremy: Notre Dame

Every bone in my body says I should be picking the Huskies this weekend. Weis is a dead man walking and I think just about everyone, including his players, knows it. HOWEVA, given that there is a very good chance that this game will represent the last home game for Golden Tate and Jimmy Clausen, I think the offense will put up some serious fireworks (despite Weis’ playcalling) on what should be a very nice day in South Bend, weather-wise. UCONN will certainly hang tough, as they’ve done all year, but Jimmy has too much pride to go out the way the 2008 team did.

ND 34 UCONN 27

Dan: ND to win (UConn +7.5)

I really don’t want to talk about this team much anymore. It has been a heart-breaking season. I really wanted Weis to succeed. I wanted to Weis to be the next Valvano / Williams / etc. (albeit – far less likable by the generally public) coach to take his alma mater to the promised land.

That said, who have we beaten by 8 points? I think this will be close late, but Tate and Clausen get us over the hump.

ND 24 UConn 21

Matt: UConn

As Doug and others have said before, the goal of this coaching search should be to find the NEXT Urban Meyer or Bob Stoops, because those guys more than likely aren’t coming. Of course they should get the first phone calls, and a boatload of money and more control of the program should be promised to them, but they have zero reason to come to ND.

Here’s a name for people to consider: Al Golden. Most casual ND fans probably don’t even know who he is, but if you really follow college football or are from Philly, both of which I am, you know how good of a coach he is. He is the head coach of Temple, and currently has his team in first place in the MAC. Big deal right? It’s the MAC. Well here are the records of the Owls before he got there:

’03: 1-11

’03: 2-9

’04: 0-11

That is 3-31 in the last three years leading up to his hire. He went 1-11 in his first year, then 4-8 and 5-7 and now has Temple at 8-2. That is a miracle. That is already the most wins in a year since the infamous ’79 team won 10 and went to the Garden State Bowl. He has coached defense under George Welsh, Tom O’Brien, Al Groh and Joe Paterno. Not bad. And I can’t emphasize what an 8 win season means at Temple. Here are the recruiting rankings he has been working with:

’05: 101

’06: 86

’07: 75

’08: 72

’09: 89

Temple is an impossible school to recruit to. It’s a commuter school in a pro sports / Penn State town in a terrible section of town without its own football facilities and with no tradition. To me, that just adds to what Golden has been able to do.

Anyway, I know that hiring Al Golden would be a wildly unpopular decision among the ND community, but he is the type of candidate that Jack Swarbrick should be doing incredibly diligent research on. Sure, I would love Urban, but I don’t think he’s coming, and Al Golden could very well be the next Urban. It’s a high risk but potentially high reward. And if he goes to UVA next year and is wildly successful, that’s it. He’s not leaving. Sometimes you have to take a chance and grab a guy and bet your future on him.

Some other names that I would hope that Swarbrick is at least kicking the tires on: Will Muschamp, Paul Johnson, Charlie Strong, Greg Schiano. Some names that I hope Swarbrick is not kicking the tires on: Pat Fitzgerald, Mark Dantonio, Jeff Jagodzinski. I’m curious to hear anyone’s thoughts, and as I said, I know the prevailing thought will be “why the hell would Notre Dame hire the coach of Temple.” You know, other than the fact that he was able to coach up the Owls and actually beat the mighty Midshipmen this year. Well, first, I think ND and their fans needs to lose some of the arrogance and sense of entitlement. Sure, ND is still ND to us, but let’s face it. We haven’t even been a mediocre football program in the last 10 years. Nick Saban isn’t walking through those doors. And while Golden may not be my first choice, I think he’s a young guy who learned football at the knee of some really good coaches and has done the impossible at a former coach’s graveyard in Temple. All I’m saying is Swarbrick should at least be doing a little research on the guy.

UConn 30 ND 27

Mike: Connecticut (outright):

Emotions should be running high in South Bend on Saturday, as the visiting Huskies will again attempt to win a game for their slain teammate, Jasper Howard. One might presume that Senior Day will provide ample motivation for Notre Dame as well, although last year’s embarrassment against Syracuse proved that one should never underestimate Charlie Weis’s ability to ensure that his team plays flat, uninspired football. Anyway, the physical Huskies should run the ball effectively against the Irish defense and, despite his prior struggles, Zach Frazer will likely have a big game in his return to Notre Dame Stadium, which will again live up to its reputation as a very welcoming place for visiting teams. On that note, my sources indicate that, pursuant to a new initiative from Father Jenkins and Father Poorman, both teams will sing each other’s alma mater after the game, attend Mass together and then sign Kumbaya all night long. Campus Ministry also intends to serve orange slices cut in ND and Connecticut logos to all fans, which is a nice touch.

Connecticut 31 Notre Dame 28

Doug: Connecticut

The sense that I got from this team after the Navy game was that we'd lose out and finish 6-6, and I saw nothing against Pitt to change my mind on that. UConn will probably come out sky high looking to get their signature win and a win for their murdered teammate, ND will be either moping or sleepwalking, the crowd will be lifeless, and yada yada yada.....Randy Edsall will be showing up on message boards on Monday in connection with the ND head coaching job. If UConn beats us, is there any doubt that happens??

Last home game possibly for Jimmy Clausen and Golden Tate. Both should go pro, but you never know what will happen. For my money, Jimmy Clausen is the best QB I've seen at ND, and Golden Tate is one of the top 5 all-around players I've seen at ND. Tate is the most electrifying player we've had in over 15 years. I will miss seeing those guys in an ND uniform if they go pro.

UConn 27 ND 24

Bonus Picks:


Kansas State +16.5 over Nebraska: This is simply too many points to lay on an anemic Nebraska offense. KSU looked terrible at home last week, but Bill Snyder should right the ship this week in Lincoln.

Houston -23.5 over Memphis: An explosive offense versus a terrible team with a lame duck coach? Sounds like a recipe for an easy cover if I’ve ever heard one.

Iowa -10 over Minnesota: Minnesota’s offense hasn’t done anything aside from the MSU game and I don’t expect this week to be any different against a stout Hawkeye defense in Iowa City.

Kansas +28 over Texas: Despite its long losing streak, I still have a hunch that Todd Reesing and company will muster up one more strong performance. The Jayhawks will make Longhorn fans sweat this week before eventually succumbing.

Virginia +20.5 over Clemson: I predicted that Clemson would choke last week and, of course, I was dead wrong. For some reason, I still think that the Tigers will get a strong test this week from a Virginia team that is much more competitive with Jameel Sewell in the lineup.


Oakland +9 vs. the Bengals -- First, I know people have been scratching their heads all week about this Larry Johnson signing by the Bengals, but it was almost a necessary move for this team. Cedric Benson is on pace to have the 7th most carries of all time in an NFL season right now. That's absurd. The Bengals need to get this guy some rest, or he's going to have nothing left at the end of the season. I wouldn't be surprised if they sat him down for a couple weeks with Oakland, Cleveland, and Detroit coming up the next few weeks and just turned things over to Bernard Scott and Larry Johnson. From a football standpoint, this move had to be done. The Bengals are going to need Ced Benson if they want to make some noise in the playoffs, and he's going to be done by week 13 if they don't figure out a way to scale back his carries. He's already banged up with a bad hip, and he has no history of being able to carry the load for 16 games at any point in his career. In the NFL today, you cannot have your starting running back carrying the ball 30+ times a game in a 16 week NFL season.

The other thing is that Bernard Scott is a rookie who is inevitably going to hit the wall. If he runs out of steam, you've got no one backing up Benson. LJ is an insurance policy. You can get him 3-5 carries a game and maybe give him a start against somebody like Cleveland or Detroit (or both) to rest Benson and Scott. The Bengals don't have any reason to try to protect LJ, so they can throw him in whenever and make him pound the ball between the tackles.

The other thing is that the Bengals don't seem to care about character at all, and it hasn't really hurt them. Look at all the "questionable character" guys already on this roster. Tank Johnson, Chris Henry, Frostee Rucker, Ced Benson, even Chad Johnson, and yet Marvin Lewis seems to have a handle on it and even seems to be fine with bringing in another shaky guy.

The Bengals subscribe to the "he's got one last chance to have an NFL career" theory, and it makes sense to some degree. A guy like Larry Johnson knows that he's out of the NFL if he turns into a team cancer with the Bengals. The Bengals owe him nothing, so they can cut him the next day if he's a distraction. The Bengals have all the leverage in the relationship, and LJ knows it. He better come in with a team attitude and keep his head on straight or he's out of the NFL. Pretty strong motivation.

Everyone acts like you need to have good character guys to win in the NFL, but I don't really buy it. You win with talent and coaching. The Bengals are winning this year because they have good players in their front seven and two great corners, and because they finally have a good defensive coordinator. Tank Johnson might be a jerk off the field, but he's a darn good defensive tackle on the field.

My guess is that LJ will hit the ground running in a supporting role and stay under the radar off the field. He has no other choice. He's not a star anymore, and he knows that he's one screw up away from being an ex-NFL player.

In terms of Sunday, this game makes me nervous. I know it's Oakland, but west coast road trips always scare me . Oakland is frisky at home, and now they have Gradkowski starting over Jamarcus Russsell. If Gradkowski does anything in the early going, it might give that whole team a shot of life. The Raiders beat Philly at home a month ago under similar circumstances.

Bengals coming off back to back monster wins over Baltimore and Pittsburgh. Can't let down this week in Oakland. If they don't show up to play, it's going to be a dogfight. Find a way to get this win and they have smooth sailing to 10-2 and a big showdown in Minnesota with the Vikes. I don't care if it's a 1 point win. Just find a way to come back from Oakland with a W.

Northwestern +6 over Wisky -- Pat Fitzgerald "rejected" ND?? GOOD!! That's the best news I've heard all week. You would have been a worse hire than Willingham and probably would have caused me to join the Alabama Booster's Club the next day, so thank you for "rejecting" us.

Indiana +3.5 over Purdue -- It's too bad the Hoosiers didn't hold on in one of those 4th quarter collapses. They'd be playing for a bowl this week. IU is a much better team than their record this year.

Florida -43 over Florida International -- Doesn't this game sum up why the 2009 college football season has been the worst college football season that I can remember?? It's late November and Florida is playing FIU and Alabama is playing Chattanooga. Ugh. There have been very few compelling college football games this year.

NCAA, for the love of god, institute some mandatory nonconference scheduling policies already. These 8 home game football schedules loaded with I-AA teams are killing the sport. Either make everyone play 9 league games or create some sort of BCS conference scheduling rotation. Enough with all the lousy games.

Last Week:

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


Jeremy: 37-28-2
Dan: 34-31-2
Matt: 30-35-2
Mike: 28-37-2
Doug: 31-35-2

Locks of the Week:

Jeremy: 6-4
Dan: 4-6-1
Matt: 3-7
Mike: 3-7
Doug: 4-7

November 17, 2009

Making the case for Jim Harbaugh at Notre Dame, plus some thoughts on Brian Kelly, the collars, Swarbrick, Will Muschamp, and Jumbotrons

4) First, wanted to comment on that Bob Davie interview that he gave with ESPN Radio the other day about the ND job. ND fans reflexively rejected everything that he had to say purely based on who was saying it, but listen to what he is basically saying here:

"ND wants to have an Ivy League environment with everything structured, and that's not the type of cultural environment for building a great defense."

Is there anything in that quote that is even disputable?? Anyone who has spent more than a day on the ND campus knows exactly what he's talking about. ND is not a "football school." It's an academic school with a football program. If you play football at ND, you've got a hundred things on your plate throughout the semester that having nothing to do with football.

Isn't that ultimately why so many guys end up stagnating as players on the ND campus?? Do people think it's some coincidence that so many guys leave ND and thrive in the NFL once they have an opportunity to spend all their time developing as a football player??

Think about a guy like Sam Young. Look at the guy!! He's 6'8, 350 pounds and looks like a mountain out there. When you look at the guy, you wonder how he doesn't squash every defensive end or DT like a bug play after play after play.

And yet he's nothing more than an average offensive linemen in college. He's not a great run blocker or a good pass blocker. He gets beat routinely by guys with half his ability.

So what's the problem here?? How does an All World recruit like Sam Young play for four years at such a mediocre level??

I think it comes back to what Bob Davie is saying. If Sam Young was at Florida, his whole experience is school and football. Football is like a job at a place like Florida or Ohio State or Texas. Football people hang out with each other, work out together, eat together, etc. There really is no other connection between the players and the school. They are at Florida to win games and be great football players. Some guys might be focused on getting a degree, but it's a self-starter thing. If you want to go to Florida and just be a football player and try to get to the league, you can easily get away with doing that for 3-4 years.

At ND, it's so much more than that. ND wants to integrate football players into the student body, and give them a college experience. You live with the other students and stay on campus for 3 years and have a lot of regimented things from a social standpoint that have nothing to do with football. Res Life, parietals, rules, etc. And there are expectations from an academic standpoint. If a football player is struggling in school, it's not like he can just skate by and blow things off. The ND admins are going to sign you up for tutoring whether you like it or not. I was a football tutor at ND for a year, and I know those guys hated doing that stuff. If you're a player with NFL aspirations, where would you rather be?? Spending two hours with a Spanish tutor or hitting it hard in the weight room or in the film room??

This stuff adds up over the course of a semester. Think about how we looked down the stretch in November of 2008 compared to the Hawaii Bowl in December 2008. It was like a completely different team. The difference? The team was finally done with school and looked loose and relaxed and able to concentrate on football. I don't think it was some coincidence that we played about as well as we've played that day in years.

Let's face it, Bob Davie is right about this stuff. Now, Bob Davie thinks that the culture at ND is an insurmountable obstacle, and I don't happen to agree with that. I think ND needs to find a guy who understands what he's getting into and has a plan to overcome the cultural problems at ND. It's not an easy task, but I think it can be done. It requires a special type of person.

On paper, Weis seemed like that type of guy with his personality, but I think Weis' tough-guy approach was always just an act. Weis was never a taskmaster. He came to ND thinking that he could be a tactician and win at ND with playcalling and schemes. If anything, he exacerbated the cultural problems at ND. He made a soft program even softer.

3) With all that said, why is everyone so averse to Jim Harbaugh??? Look at what the guy has done at Stanford and at U. San Diego. He went 29-6 at San Diego (where football barely existed before he showed up) and now has Stanford rolling in his third year there. Stanford was a borderline touch football team when he showed up. Tissue soft, no discipline, no heart. Just a complete walkover for everyone. I remember watching one of the worst ND teams of all time beat Stanford 57-7 back in 2003. That same ND team lost by 26 to Syracuse the following week. That's how bad Stanford was in 2003. Stanford finished 1-11 in the year before Jim Harbaugh was hired in 2007. Now he has them at 7-3 three years later with back to back blowout wins over Oregon and USC.

I'm not going to sit here and say that Harbaugh has been cranking out championships or anything in his time at Stanford, but look beyond the results in his first few seasons. Everything about his track record and trajectory screams out superstar.

1) Big time NFL pedigree -- Jim Harbaugh was not a superstar NFL quarterback, but the guy played 15 years in the NFL and had a pretty darn good career when it's all said and done. They didn't call him "Captain Comeback" for nothing. Pro Bowler in 1995, nearly carried the 95 Colts to the Super Bowl, inducted into the Colts Ring of Honor. When I think of Harbaugh's playing career, I think of him as an extreme competitor and a guy who hated to lose.

People talk about Harbaugh like he doesn't have any experience, but what about his 15 year playing career in the NFL?? How does that not count as "experience" in terms of learning and understanding football?? The guy called plays and ran NFL offenses for 15 years in the NFL. Anyone think Peyton Manning doesn't know a lot more about football than all but a handful of coaches even though he's never been a coach?? Being a quarterback in the NFL is the equivalent of a coaching assistant position at any level in my mind. Does anyone really think Kyle Whittingham knows more about football than a guy who played in THE NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE for 15 years?? Kyle Whittingham was probably cutting up film as a grad assistant somewhere when Harbaugh was squaring off with the Steelers in the freaking AFC Championship game.

Harbaugh didn't need coaching internships/assistant positions like Stoops and Richt and others. He played the game. I wouldn't hire him on his playing career alone, but that's more than enough "experience" for me when you consider that background along with what he's done at Stanford and USD and that he was a quarterbacks coach with the Oakland Raiders for two years.

Harbaugh comes from a coaching family. BLOODLINES!! His dad was a college coach, and his brother is a very good young coach in the NFL with the Baltimore Ravens. I've been nothing but impressed with John Harbaugh's stint thus far with the Ravens.

Plus, he's a Midwestern guy at heart who grew up in Toledo, had a standout career at Michigan, and played most of his pro ball in the Midwest. So he went to Michigan. Big deal. So did Corwin Brown, and Corwin loves ND. I could get over it in a hurry if he showed genuine interest in the ND job. Choosing coaches based on where they went to college is a bunch of nonsense. That was 25 years ago.

2) Program Builder -- Harbaugh has changed the culture at Stanford. He took over a soft team and immediately went about building them into a tough, physical team with strong lines and a good running game. This explosion in 2009 is not some accident or a fluke. They have been building toward this since the day he arrived on campus.

I like that Harbaugh has a vision on how to build a program. Build up your lines, and win with power football and good quarterback play. When I watch Stanford play, it's how Michigan used to play in the old days. We're running the ball down your throat, and there's nothing you can do about it. And if you want to cheat up in the box, we'll kill you with play action from our big armed QB. No matter how old school that formula is, it can still work if you have a coach who knows how to implement it. The only way to play power football is to practice it and preach it every day. Full pads practices, toughness drills, etc. You can't just say "we're gonna pound it" and then go out and do it. Harbaugh understands that concept.

I like that Harbaugh stuck to that model even though it probably would have been easier to change things and try to scheme his way to a few more wins in 2007 and 2008. He knew that doing it his way by building a tough, pro style team was the best way to go long term, and he has stuck to that. Now, we're seeing why he stuck to that plan. This isn't some Rich Rod "my way or the highway" thing to completely overhaul a team. It's simple, fundamentally sound power football.

I don't care if ND goes 0-12 in 2010. I want to see us learn how to pound the ball on the ground and become a tough team on the lines. Run the ball off tackle, and throw off the run with play action. Control the game, good balance on offense, keep the defense off the field, and grind teams into the ground. That's how Stanford plays. It's an effective formula that could easily be replicated at a place like ND, especially since we have more talent than Stanford. We will never have the team speed that Florida has, but we can develop a physical team that wears people down and wins big games in the fourth quarter.

3) Pro style -- If the goal is to keep continuity to some degree, why not hire the one guy out there who would actually run a pro style offense?? Unlike some of the other guys being talked about, Harbaugh is a pro style coach. When I watch Stanford, I see a team that looks a lot like ND. They have a bunch of big, white linemen, a big pro style QB, a power back, a big pass catching tight end, and a couple decent receivers. The only difference is that they play more physical with their personnel.

Harbaugh could come to ND and have a roster that he could build right from the start. He could turn our line into a big, physical line, build the running game around Theo Riddick and Robert Hughes, use Rudolph and Floyd in the play action passing game, and develop Crist into a good pro style quarterback. He's the perfect fit in terms of scheme.

4) Recruiting -- Look at what Harbaugh has been doing on the recruiting trail at a place like Stanford with high academic standards. He had the #20 recruiting class last year and has the #17 class in the country this year. At Stanford!! He is going all over the country and landing guys. Very aggressive recruiter. Put him at a place like ND, and he would be a recruiting machine.

The other thing is that Harbaugh really seems to understand what makes Stanford attractive in terms of recruiting. He appreciates that you get a great education there and that it's the type of place where you will get a degree and leave with a bright future. Every time I've read something from him, he has harped on how impressed he is with Stanford's academic culture and really tries to sell recruits on that.

Wouldn't he be able to take that same model to ND?? Harbaugh would see ND in the same light in terms of a place where you will have a real major and actually graduate from college instead of being spit out after your football career is over. For all the fuss about his "character," he seems like the type of guy who would represent ND very well in terms of understanding what the school has to offer.

5) Culture warrior -- I used the word "culture warrior" here because I think that Harbaugh is the type of guy ND needs with this next hire. A guy who is going to come in and shake up the malaise surrounding this program. A guy who isn't afraid to set high expectations and actually has a plan to meet them.

Harbaugh seems like the type of guy who would come in here and give ND an attitude and a chip on its shoulder immediately. He would come in and call out USC at his press conference on the first day and warn them that the ND train is going to roll them over next November. That type of attitude can be contagious in a locker room. That's the kinda guy I want.

People were complaining about the "classless" decision to go for the two point conversion up 27 in the USC game. I loved the call, and I bet his players loved it too. Why should Harbaugh take it easy on USC?? It's not like USC has ever taken it easy on anyone themselves. This was Harbaugh's way of sending a message to USC that their days of pushing around Stanford are over as long as Harbaugh is there. When was the last time anyone broke USC's will like that?? I don't think it's ever happened in the Pete Carroll era.

Is he controversial and outspoken?? Sure, but what difference does it make if he can back it up on the field?? The reason people don't like Weis' act is because the guy has talked so much trash without backing any of it up. Harbaugh would actually back it up if he builds us into a tough, physical team. Everyone around college football would hate him, but who cares?? We're already hated anyway. Might as well hire a guy who could care less about being liked and has nothing else on his mind but blowing the other team out of the building.

I don't care if Harbaugh is "classless" or a bad guy or whatever. As long as he graduates players and wins football games, that's all that matters to me. WIN FOOTBALL GAMES. When did all this other stuff become a part of the criteria?? Are we hiring a football coach or a choir boy??

6) Academic Pedigree -- I know he has skeletons, but one reason I think ND could look past Harbaugh's skeletons is that he has somewhat of an academic oriented pedigree. He graduated from Michigan, and he's coaching at a prestigious school like Stanford. He's got the chops on that front to be someone who ND would be comfortable with, and he really seems to appreciate graduation rates and Stanford's academic reputation. Heck, he ripped his own alma mater for having "athlete majors" and all that. He seems to be genuinely proud to coach at an elite school like Stanford.

All I'm asking for is that ND give this guy an interview. Maybe ND could never live with his past, but maybe he can explain away his divorce and DUI as some ex-jock stuff that he's grown out of. I mean, what ex-pro jock hasn't cheated on their wife fifty times??

For the record, I have no idea if Harbaugh would be a great coach at ND. He might be a train wreck. All these guys are risks. But I want the next head coach at ND to be a football coach. A guy who is going to have this team in full pads every day in spring practice next year with the plan to turn them into the toughest team in the country. A guy who is afraid of nobody and will stop at nothing until this program is back on top. For my money, there are only a handful of coaches out there who fit that profile. Saban, Stoops, and Meyer of course, but I don't view them as realistic options. After that, I think the next guy on my list would be Jim Harbaugh. He's got the NFL pedigree, he's already coaching at a school with high academic expectations, he's very intelligent, he's a program builder, he understands the importance of line play, he's recruiting like crazy, he coaches with passion, he knows the Midwest, and I think his style of play would be a natural fit at a place like ND.

Maybe we land a superstar coach this offseason, but how many times has that truly happened in recent years?? The only can't miss hires in recent memory in college sports would be the following:

1) Roy Williams to Carolina from Kansas -- Never a doubt in my mind that Roy would be a superstar at UNC. With that offense and his recruiting abilities, it was maybe the biggest lock hire of all time.
2) Nick Saban to Alabama -- The king of SEC football in the last decade at a school dripping with tradition. No brainer.
3) Rick Pitino to Louisville -- Superstar hire for Louisville. Pitino hasn't won a title or anything, but he has returned the Cards back to the elite level in college basketball. When you hire Pitino, you're going to win big.
4) John Calipari to Kentucky -- With his recruiting ability and persona and Kentucky's tradition and commitment to the program, Calipari is a home run. Calipari is a superstar in college basketball these days, and Kentucky is only going to make his star brighter.

Other than that, how many other absolute locks have there been in terms of coaching hires?? Maybe Urban to Florida (although there were questions about how his offense would translate), maybe Ben Howland to UCLA (watch out here though. could see his seat get a little warm if this team slides this year), and that's all I can think of off the top of my head.

For the most part, there's always going to be a risk when you make a coaching hire. That's where I think ND fans just don't understand the hiring process. All ND fans are talking about right now are the can't miss guys like Stoops, Saban, and Meyer. What happens when all three of those guys tell us they're not interested over the next couple weeks?? Gruden has already basically taken himself out of the picture. Now, everyone is on Stoops. What happens when Stoops tells a reporter at his upcoming press conference that he's not leaving OU?? And then what happens when other rumored guys like Kirk Ferentz and Paul Johnson take themselves out of the picture as well?? Ferentz is making $3 million a year at Iowa and has turned down a million jobs in the past, including the ND job in 2004. Paul Johnson just got to Georgia Tech and seems to love it there. The ship has sailed on both those guys.

ND needs to be focused on hiring an up and comer. The next Stoops. The next Richt. If we wanted Ferentz, we should have hired him 10 years ago when he was an assistant at Iowa. Same with Paul Johnson when he was at Navy. We missed the boat. And the same with Bob Stoops. OU already discovered Stoops. We aren't going to just steal him away from OU. They found him, hired him, pay him like a king, and give him whatever he wants. He can win national titles at OU. There's no reason for him to leave. Instead of pining for Stoops, we need to figure out who is the next Stoops and hire that guy.

So who is the next Stoops?? Well, it could be Jim Harbaugh. I think Harbaugh is going to be a superstar in coaching. Maybe he wants to go to the NFL, but I imagine that other big time colleges are going to want to talk to him. Maybe Michigan dumps Rich Rodriguez and goes after him. Maybe some other big name school like Florida State. If we focus all our energies on getting rejected by Bob Stoops and Nick Saban, we'll miss a chance to talk to this guy.

Another guy who I'd love to bring in for an interview. WILL MUSCHAMP!!! Is there any doubt this guy is the next Bob Stoops?? Just look at him and what he has done with that Texas defense. Their defense is NASTY this year. Everything about Muschamp screams out future coaching superstar, and yet he's not even on our radar screen?? Why not?? Because of some arbitrary notion that we need a "proven" coach with experience?? What about Bob Stoops before he got hired at OU?? He had no experience. What about Mark Richt?? Never had any head coaching experience before landing at Georgia. Or Steve Sarkisian for that matter. Some of these big time assistants are so talented that they are ready to take over a big time program in their first head coaching jobs. If we don't even talk to these guys, we might miss out on the next Bob Stoops.

The point is that ND needs to be looking at EVERYONE in this coaching search. Young guns, experienced guys, superstars, under the radar guys. Not only will we have a chance to explore all possibilities, but it will educate guys like Swarbrick on what trends are out there in football in 2009. Talk to Patterson and Peterson to see what's going on in the midmajor leagues. Talk to guys like Will Muschamp and Major Applewhite to find out what trends they are seeing and where they see college fooball going in the next ten years when they are presumably head coaches. Talk to a guy like Harbaugh or Brian Kelly. Talk to a guy like Tommy Tuberville to see how he runs his program.

Unfortunately, I have seen nothing out of the administration that gives me any confidence that they understand this concept. We already know how this search is going to go. The big names will die off one by one, some other small name guys like Patterson and Peterson will announce they aren't interested and get contract extensions, and then we'll limit ourselves to retreads and guys with ND connections in that third tier. Instead of conducting a targeted search where we figure out the type of coach we want and then zero in on the guys who fit that model, we'll scramble and hire some O'Leary type because he's available and interested.

Honestly, that's why I still believe that Weis will be back in 2010. The collars are terrified to make a move. I think it's hilarious that people are talking about Swarbrick and the collars like they are these stealth ninjas wheeling and dealing behind the scenes. Go back and look at what Swarbrick was saying up until the Navy game. Does he sound like a guy who was doing the leg work behind the scenes to land a big time superstar coach like Bob Stoops??

What evidence do we have that this crew has even the slightest bit of a plan?? I've never seen anything like the 2004 and 2001 searches, and the school is still being run by a lot of the same collars today.

I've read basically every word Swarbrick has said since he's been hired, and everything about him screams out "empty suit." He's been talking straight out of the Heisler playbook on scheduling for a good year now with strawmen and "internet crazies want to play 10 ten top programs a year" and all kinds of other nonsense. Now, he's going to suddenly land Bob Stoops?? Does he have even the slightest idea how he's going to put together a plan to land a guy like Bob Stoops (who would basically need a guarantee in his mind that he can win big at ND before he even thinks about this job)?? I haven't seen anything to give me a whole lot of confidence.

I buy into these rumors that Weis will be back if he finishes 8-4 or even 7-5. Swarbrick and the collars are probably clinging to any sort of justification to bring Weis back ("strong finish," New Year's Day Bowl, two game improvement from last year, recruiting continuity, etc), and hoping that things will calm down if we go to the International Bowl and smoke Rice or someone like that.

Certainly going to be an interesting next few weeks in the world of ND football. Will I be thrilled if ND lands Stoops or Meyer?? OF COURSE!! I want nothing more than to hire one of those guys, but I don't expect it to happen. I've been down this road before. But I'm going into this thing prepared for the likelihood that we're going to hire a flier just for the sake of change, and I'm very prepared to be underwhelmed by the hire.

And if Weis is back in 2010, look out. It is going to be a long offseason. Then again, never in a million years did I think that Marvin Lewis would be 7-2 with season sweeps over Baltimore and Pittsburgh after two disastrous seasons in 2007 and 2008, so you never what would happen in 2010 for Weis. Maybe Weis will let it all hang loose in 2010 like Marvin has done and completely change his legacy at Notre Dame.

One other note on the possibility of Weis returning. If ND wants to bring Weis back in 2010, then just put an end to this death watch stuff and announce that he's not going anywhere for a long time. I'm tired of the speculation year after year. This is the third straight year of Weis speculation. If you're afraid to make a move and want to keep Weis, then just come out with it already. I won't agree with it, but at least we won't have this constant tug of war between the Weis detractors and the Weis supporters. If we knew Weis was here for the long haul, maybe people would pull together and get behind the guy. The Marvin Lewis example is the best I can think of in recent memory. He was a dead man walking, and now he's a god again in Cincinnati. You never know what might happen.

2) I've never been a big fan of jumbotrons and stadium music, but I will say this about all that stuff.

It works.

It's undeniable. The crowd was rocking at Heinz Field on Saturday night, and I'd say 50% of that energy came from the music and the scoreboard. The pregame montage, the smoke-filled entrance for the marching band, the jock jams, and even the post 3rd quarter Sweet Caroline thing put a charge into the crowd. And it's not like the band didn't get a chance to do its thing. They played the fight song and a few other songs when they had their chance, but the band was more of a complementary piece to the jumbotron action. I've never seen anything like the video scoreboard at Heinz Field. That thing is incredible. They had about 30 minutes of material on the video board to build the Pitt fans into a fever pitch, and the crowd was going nuts by the end of it.

I can't believe I'm saying this, but I am beginning to warm up to a new look for ND's stadium entertainment. Here's the way I look at it. The purpose of all this stuff is to get the fans going. I want to see people singing and dancing and shouting and going crazy like the Pitt fans were doing on Saturday night. Ideally, it would come from the Notre Dame band, but the band doesn't seem to bring out the energy in the crowd anymore. We're asking the band to do all the heavy lifting in terms of stadium atmosphere, but there's only so much a band can do. By the fiftieth time I've heard that song where everyone pumps their arms in the air or the 30th time when I hear the Irish jig or Hike ND or whatever, I'm just bored with it. I haven't pumped my arms or clapped to any of those things more than a handful of times in five years.

Honestly, I would love a little stadium Sweet Caroline in ND stadium or some jock jams or something that will get the crowd dancing and singing and having fun. People like to sing songs together as a crowd. Michigan pumped in Journey and Eminem and a few other songs, and the crowd went absolutely crazy every time they played those songs. It made a genuine difference in the game. Same with this past weekend in Pittsburgh. I think the lively crowd made a difference for Pitt, especially on defense.

If we did a Chicago Bulls type montage on a huge jumbotron in the ND Stadium before the game, the crowd would be going nuts. Isn't that what it's all about?? And if you played some fun songs that would get the juices flowing with the crowd, would that be such a horrible thing?? It would pump up the team. The ND band could still play the Victory March and a few of the other hits throughout the game, and of course we would want the band to carry the load when we made a big play or something like that. But during one of those 3-4 minute tv timeouts, the band doesn't have the repertoire to energize the crowd. So you end up creating a lull that kills the stadium atmosphere. It's hard to sustain any energy as a fan when you're just sitting there listening to the same ND band songs over and over during a 4 minute tv timeout. Would it be so awful to throw on some Journey or Bruce Springsteen or something to keep the crowd going strong??

If given a choice in the matter, I'd say keep the scoreboard as is and mix in some stadium music. The band is great, but it's a marching band. There's only so much it can do to keep an 80,000 seat crowd fired up for 4 hours (which is how long those home games are these days).

1) Finally, I wanted to end with some thoughts on Brian Kelly. I've been a huge advocate of going after Brian Kelly for over a year now, and I'm pretty sure if you google "Brian Kelly Notre Dame", a link to this site is coming up somewhere in the top 5 hits or so. I think there are a lot of reasons to be excited about a possible Brian Kelly tenure in South Bend, but you never really know how any hire is going to turn out unless you lure a current superstar to your school (as we have seen with Roy, Pitino, Saban, etc).

So there are risks to hiring Brian Kelly, and now that he's looking like the possible #1 guy in this search, I feel like it's time to really take a closer look at the ramifications of hiring this guy. We know about his record and the pluses, but what concerns are out there??

1) The Billy Gillespie Factor -- I think you could call it the Rich Rodriguez factor as well, but I think Gillespie is almost more appropriate in terms of making a comparison. Billy Gillespie is a very good basketball coach. You don't take a UTEP team that went 0-16 in the conference and suddenly go 24-8 two years later and land a spot in the NCAA Tournament if you aren't a good coach. You don't take over a Texas A&M program that went 7-21 the year before you got there and suddenly go 21-10, 22-9, and 27-7 (with a Sweet 16 appearance) unless you can flat out coach. Look at what that guy did before he got to Kentucky. He was a borderline miracle worker. He took over programs that were complete disasters and turned them into NCAA Tournament teams, and it's not like either of those programs had much tradition in the past that needed revitalizing. He was literally a trailblazer. I mean, Texas A&M!! My god, I can't believe what he did there.

And then he went to Kentucky and just didn't work out for whatever reason. He had a good first year, took a step back in his second year, and suddenly he's gone. But it was so much more than that. The inexplicable losses to Gardner-Webb and VMI at home, the Alex Legion transfer a month into his freshman season, the collapse down the stretch that included some awful home losses to bad SEC teams......all this stuff just added up and made the whole situation cancerous. You don't lose your last four games of the season (and five out of your last six) at a school like Kentucky when you're supposed to be fighting for an NCAA tournament birth. His players just threw in the towel on him.

He just never fit in and never really knew how to handle life as the head coach of an elite basketball program. Coming to Kentucky, I think he thought "hey, it's just basketball and I'm a good coach. I'll do what I've always done." And he figured that would be enough to make the transition. But it's so much more than that at a place like Kentucky. When you coach at Kentucky, you're expected to be able to handle the brightest of bright lights. Every game is under the spotlight. There's always going to be a million distractions and tons of pressure and it's about so much more than basketball. Part of the job is a P.R. position where you're expected to engage the fans and the donors and the media. I don't think Gillispie was comfortable with the spotlight at Kentucky. Some guys thrive in that environment like Pitino and Calipari. They love being the king at a place like UK. Gillispie shrunk in that spotlight.

Gillispie recruited some pretty good players, but it's not like he went in and started locking down 5 stars left and right. At a school like Kentucky, that's what they expect out of you. They want a guy like Calipari who is going to sign four 5 stars in his first recruiting class at Kentucky. You can't win a title unless you have the horses.

The other thing is just handling those big time players once they get on your roster. The blue chippers don't come to a place like Kentucky to be broken down like army plebes and transformed. They come to Kentucky to win basketball games, play with other great players, and get ready for the NBA. At Texas A&M, maybe you get away with that stuff if you have a group of hungry kids who just want to win. Kentucky kids might tune you out and not buy in because that's now what they signed up for at a place like UK. Gillispie's Texas A&M stuff isn't necessarily going to translate at a place like Kentucky.

Some very interesting parallels there between Kelly and Gillespie when you look at their backgrounds and trajectories. If you've never really experienced life in the big time football/basketball world, it's hard to just jump to one of the blue blood programs and do things the way you are used to doing them. Maybe Kelly would have a perfect plan to make the leap, but who knows?? I thought Billy G would be great based on what he did at A&M and UTEP, and he was completely in over his head.

Think about the flier hires who have succeeded. Stoops---big time assistant at Florida. Richt--big time assistant at FSU. Meyer--big time experience at ND and Ohio State. Saban--Big Ten head coach; learned at the knee of Belichick. Tressel--assistant at OSU. Carroll---former big time college assistant (Ohio State, etc) and NFL head coach. Butch Davis--big time Jimmy J disciple. Even Spurrier was an assistant at Florida and Georgia Tech.

There's a common denominator there. Even though they didn't have prior big time head coaching experience, they knew what it was like to work in big time football and had a vision for what they would do with their own program. A guy like Stoops worked at the knee of Spurrier and Bill Snyder before getting his own program, but he already knew what it took in major college football. He just needed his chance. Same with Richt.

Then look at the guys who flopped. Hawkins, Franchione, Koetter, etc. Even Rodriguez. Guys who never really worked at the big time level and weren't ready for it when they made the leap. There are all kinds of names in the coaching graveyard of guys who jumped up one rung too high on the coaching ladder and flopped.

If you've never been in the big leagues, you better have one heckuva plan to know what you're doing. Kelly would be hired by ND in December and be expected to hit the ground running the next day to save the 2010 recruiting class and get this team ready for the 2010 season. He'd be expected to start speaking with the big time high school programs immediately about 2011 and even 2012 and put together a big time staff. Can't just do things the way you've always done them. It's a whole new level.

Now, don't get me wrong, Kelly may very well have been planning this out for the last 10 years and will know exactly what he plans to do the second he takes the ND job. He may have a vision that would put this program back to the elite level. The bottom line is that Swarbrick and company would really need to pin him down on this stuff. What is his recruiting plan? What type of identity does he want for this program? How does he plan to develop ND recruits into NFL players?? Can he deal with the scrutiny??

You're going to ask everyone these questions of course, but I think it's especially important with Kelly. We need to know that he understands that going to ND is a whole new ballgame.

For the record, I realize this makes me sound like a complete hypocrite since I defended Kelly last week as someone who could easily make the transition and dismissed concerns about recruiting and assistants. I will admit that I was wrong and have changed my mind as I have thought about it more. I've always been a big fan of Brian Kelly and was blinded a little bit by his success and hype. I certainly think he's still a good candidate, but want to make sure ND does its homework to find out everything possible about what he would do at ND.

2) Academic pedigree -- Let me just say that I could care less about this stuff. I don't care where you went to college or what your academic background is or if you coach "thugs" or whatever. Coaching is coaching to me. Just win, baby. Look at Lou Holtz. He went to Kent State, so it's not like we need some coach who went to Northwestern to win at ND. If ND turned into a football factory tomorrow, I'd be all for it. I'm a Bob Huggins apologist, so there's no coach who could ever repel me from an "academic fit" standpoint.

But you KNOW that ND cares a ton about what type of role model and representative the football coach will be (Sunday through Friday!), and they are going to be paying a ton of attention to how this coach feels about academics and graduating players and recruiting kids who will be good representatives of the school. This is the ND that we've known for almost 20 years. It's not changing all of the sudden. ND is an academic school that doesn't want anything on the football side to override that.

That's where I'm wondering if Kelly is the type of guy who ND might be uncomfortable with. He's sort of a community college kinda guy. No real academic pedigree in terms of where he went to school or coached, coached at HORRIBLE academic schools his entire career, and he really doesn't have any type of affiliation with the academia world that a school like ND would want. The guy is coaching at UC. UC undergrad is like one step up from the county jail. It's completely different than coaching a guy like John Goodman or Armando Allen.

Are the collars going to be leery of hiring a guy from Assumption College who has coached at a I-AA school, a bad MAC school, and a prison yard to the Golden Dome where it's a completely different cultural fit?? Even though Mardy Gilyard is a tremendous story of a kid who came from absolutely nothing to become a football star and....cough cough...a decent person, he wouldn't be able to come within ten miles of the ND campus. If Brian Kelly gets an interview, he better be able to communicate to ND how he would fit in from an academic and cultural standpoint.

Don't get me wrong, I am a huge fan of Brian Kelly. If he got hired at ND, I would absolutely support it. Based on his track record, he'd be the best hire we've made since Holtz. The guy has won everywhere he's been, and it seems like ND is a job that he has coveted for a long time. With his drive and passion, I think he would come to ND with a vision and a plan on how to take ND football to the next level. But I just thought I'd bring up some concerns that I have about Brian Kelly now that I think about his situation a little more closely.

ND has to get this next hire right. We need to be vetting all of these candidates very carefully. I certainly hope Swarbrick and the collars are doing that as we speak.