October 31, 2008

ND Hoops, Michael Brey, and Bob Davie

Just wanted to give a shout out to the ND basketball team tonight as we embark on the most anticipated season in many years. The #9 team in America and best current program in the state of Indiana plays its first exhibition game against Briar Cliff tonight at 9 pm at the JACC. The game is not on tv, but you can watch the action on http://www.und.com/. Should be interesting to see how this team looks. No Hillesland tonight, so maybe the young guys will get a little more time.

As we get ready for another successful season under Coach Brey, I wanted to revive the petition that was started a couple years ago on this site to rename the JACC after Coach Michael Montgomery Brey. I still can't believe there are only 8 signatures on this petition. Mike Brey is the most underappreciated coach in the country, and we are lucky to have him. If you support the Irish and The Mock, sign the petition and send a message to ND that we want his name on the building.


Other than toughening up the football schedule, my biggest priority for the ND administration in the next decade is to give Coach Brey his lifetime contract and start laying the groundwork for the "Michael Brey Fieldhouse." It is long overdue!!

One other nugget of information for you ND hoops fans. Tyler Hansborough is hurt with shin splints and may even have a stress fracture in his leg. I like Tyler Hansborough and wouldn't wish injury upon him, but I'm not going to complain if he has to sit out in Maui and open the door for a possible ND title in the Maui Invitational. If we end up making the finals of that tournament, we're staring at UNC. No Hansborough would make our chances of winning a whole lot easier. If we win the Maui Invitational, our goals for a high NCAA tournament seed could be within reach.

Speaking of petitions, I felt like unveiling a new petition for you ND fans out there. The official "Bring Bob Davie to the NBC Booth" petition is now out there for you Bob Davie fans. It would be "YUUUUUUUUUUUUGE" if we could pry him away from ESPN and get him in there with Pat, Tom, and the boys.


Davie to NBC! YES WE CAN! Si se puede! That is a change in the booth that I can believe in. Someday the dream of Davie in the booth and Brey's name on the JACC will come to light. If we accomplish anything on this blog, I hope those two things happen on our watch.

To email the blog, we can be reached at weisnd.blogspot.com@gmail.com

October 30, 2008

Week 10: The Picks

At this time last year, many of the folks at WEISND were saddling up to the sportsbook at The Mirage to place our bets on the Cocktail Party, so I'm excited about this weekend in college football just for the nostalgia of a great Vegas trip. My only regret that weekend was that I didn't make enough bets on the Breeders Cup. Oh well. Still a great trip.

Anyway, it's hard to top the pomp and circumstances of the Cocktail Party, so week 10 could be considered a great weekend in college football just because of that game alone. From what I've heard, the Florida-Georgia game weekend is about the only time all year when Jacksonville actually shows some life as a sports town and a party town. Other than that, it's 32 oz beers at a mall food court on "The Landing." Good times!! I'm planning to go to the Gator Bowl this year, so someone please forward us better suggestions for a place to party than "The Landing." I might stop at "Legends" for some nostalgia, but there have to be better places to go out. Then again, who am I kidding?? I had a phenomenal time at "The Landing," so I probably shouldn't be complaining.

Ok, enough of that. Week 10 also brings us to Lubbock, Texas for the latest "Big 12 Game of the Year." Should be a dandy (had to say that since Musberger is calling the game) down there on Saturday night.

The Irish return to South Bend for the first time in about a month to take on Pitt in a fairly big game between 5-2 teams. While Pitt is probably one of the better teams we've played this year (and maybe the best team we'll face at home this year...sad), it is a very winnable game for the Irish and a great opportunity to get to 6-2.

Finally, we are unveiling the official WEISND email address this week. If you feel like sending us an email at 3 am to hype up your team or demand the firing of your coach or if you just feel like telling us how awful our picks are, feel free to email us at http://www.blogger.com/weisnd.blogspot.com@gmail.com. If you have any interesting thoughts on college football or the sports world in general, we'll get them up on the blog. Always appreciate the feedback.

South Florida -2.5 at Cincinnati (ESPN 7:30pm)

Dan: Cincinnati +2.5

South Florida late season tail spin + home underdog team on a Thursday night + Brian Kelly getting his team to bounce back = take the points.

Cincinnati 20 USF 17

Matt: UC +2.5 – I don’t know a thing about Cincinnati football this year, but I’m done with USF for this year after picking them last week to beat Louisville.

UC 27 USF 24

Mike: South Florida -2.5

I bet big (for entertainment purposes, that is) on the Bearcats last week, figuring that UConn squad would struggle with their 3rd string quarterback at the helm and Cinci would thrive with the return of Tony Pike. The obvious flaw in my reasoning, of course, is that Pike himself is still a backup quarterback with very little experience. With a short week to prepare against a talented South Florida defense, it will be tough sledding for Pike and the UC offense again this week. Although ESPN Thursday Night Football has been a graveyard for favorites, much like Saratoga Race Course and Court #2 at Wimbledon, the Bulls have too much skill to be bitten by the upset bug again.

South Florida 24 Cincinnati 17

Doug: Cincinnati +2.5

Gotta support my local boys. UC is not as good this year as they were last year, but I still believe in Brian Kelly. The Bearcats are in a transition year, but it's a night game at home. I generally favor the home teams on these Thursday night games. USF is not as good this year as they have been in the past.

Gotta address this bold TJ Houshmandzadeh proclamation while I'm here. If this story hasn't gotten out nationally, he GUARANTEED that the Bengals won't go 0-16 this year. Here's the relevant quote.

"If the season ends and we don't win a game," Houshmandzadeh vowed, "I will walk from my house to the NFL Network studios."

Houshmandzadeh's house is in Cerritos, Calif., 27 miles from the NFL Network studios in Culver City. If that weren't challenging enough, the majority of the walk would have to take place on I-405, a heavily driven interstate.

WOW, way to go out on a limb TJ and guarantee ONE WIN. Really bold statement there. Now I'm officially excited about Bengal football because you think we're winning one game this year.

Bengal fans, what are you looking for out of next year's draft?? My strategy would probably be to grab "Mr Blind Side" Michael Oher with our top five pick as an anchor at left tackle now that Levi Jones has morphed into a corpse over there, and grab a center in round two. You could rebuild that o-line practically overnight with those two moves, and maybe give this offense a shot in the arm. If you want a running back, go get the BASECRB (Best Available SEC Running Back) in like the 4th round. I don't know what year Charles Scott is, but he'd be a great value pick in the middle rounds.

Absolutely no reason to take a running back in the first or second round when there are quality backs in the later rounds and so many other needs on this team. If the Bengals rebuilt the o-line in the draft and grabbed another d-tackle somewhere to go with young stud DT Pat Sims, they'd be in exponentially better shape up front. This team actually has some young players on defense to build around between Sims, Keith Rivers, Ndukwe, Leon Hall, and Domato Peka.

Ok, that was the best I could do to be optimistic about the future of the Bengals even knowing that they will probably draft Beanie Wells and do nothing to fill the remaining holes on the defense.

Cincinnati 21 USF 20

Miami (+2.5) at Virginia (Raycom 12pm)

Dan: Miami +2.5

Tough game here. I can’t get a complete read on either team. Both teams have strung together brief winning streaks, but UVA has looked way better doing it. However, it is time for a patented Al Groh choke job.

Miami 13 UVA 10

Matt: Miami +2.5

My blind faith in Randy Shannon continues. But I am curious how the hell UVA went to Georgia Tech and won that game. By the way, UVA, a team that lost to UConn by 35 and Duke by 28, is in the driver’s seat for the ACC. Can we just award their BCS berth this year to the Mountain West?

Miami 31 UVA 27

Mike: Miami +2.5

It has almost become a tired cliché at this point, but the ACC really is a friggin crapshoot this year. Although Al Groh should be commended for surprisingly turning things around in Charlottesville at a time when the vultures were circling around his offense, Virginia seems to be winning with smoke and mirrors. By contrast, it is hard not to be impressed with the athletic ability of the freshman-laden Canes, notwithstanding my skepticism for Randy Shannon’s coaching ability. Picking a young team on the road is always a dicey proposition, but I believe that Miami has too much talent for Virginia to handle.

Miami 20 Virginia 17

Doug: Virginia -2.5

Virginia is becoming the story of the year in the ACC after four consecutive upset wins. Maybe their luck will run out this week, but I don't feel comfortable picking a mediocre Miami team on the road. Miami is not that good. They've lost to every decent team they've played this year. Virginia is apparently a solid team, so give me the Cavs in another "upset."

Virginia 20 Miami 17

West Virginia -4 at Connecticut (Big East Network 12pm)

Dan: Connecticut +4

I think people overrate the WVU victory over Auburn. The Huskies looked good last week against the Bearcats, despite laying two stink bombs the previous two games. Mountaineers escape with the win, barely, but fail to cover.

West Virginia 24 Connecticut 21

Matt: West Virginia -4

I don’t know if they’re back or not, but West Virginia is playing a lot better recently. I think they cruise to the Big East title and win big at UConn.

West Virginia 34 UConn 17

Mike: West Virginia -4

This game has all the makings of a Connecticut upset. West Virginia is coming off a big win against Auburn and it is reasonable to expect that they might be a tad overconfident entering this game. The Mountaineers are also coached by Bill Stewart, who seems exactly like the type of Ron Zook/Dave Wannstedt buffoon that will inexplicably lose multiple games each year against inferior teams. In addition, Connecticut always seems to pull out improbable wins despite being outgained or looking bad in the process, which I suppose is a sign of good coaching by Randy Edsall. Having said all that, I cannot bring myself to pick a very average UConn team that is playing with a backup quarterback, regardless of what my instincts are telling me.

West Virginia 28 Connecticut 21

Doug: West Virginia -4

UConn is off to a 6-2 start and probably headed for 8-9 wins, but I just can't get on board with their program. They are well-coached, but I just don't see a lot of talent. When they play a good team with some talent, they struggle. UConn is a lot like Purdue. They get the most out of very average talent (especially up front), but they have trouble once they run into more talented teams. West Virginia is not as good as they've been in the past, but their offense is still pretty explosive and dangerous. Pat White is back, and I like the Mountaineers to win this game.

I must have been asleep at the switch, but when did this Big East Network come about?? I don't remember hearing anything about it, and then I realized that the UC-UConn game from last week was on the Big East Network as well. It's obviously not an official network since I was getting the feed on another channel, so what is it?? How do you get it?? Are there going to be Big East basketball games on the network as well?? If there are any Big East employees reading this site, please chime in.

West Virginia 31 UConn 14

Wisconsin +4.5 at Michigan State (ESPN 12pm)

Dan: MSU -4.5

I think Mark Dantonio finally manages to get MSU to avoid their usual late season self destruction. Wisconsin, on the other hand, is done, despite their win over bad Illinois team last week.

Michigan State 28 Wisconsin 13

Matt: Michigan State -4.5

Wisconsin is awful

Michigan State 41 Wisconsin 21

Mike: Michigan State -4.5

It was only Michigan, but I was impressed by Michigan State’s ability to take care of business in late October against a team that had traditionally owned them. Have things really changed under Mark D’Antonio after all? Even if not, Sparty showed enough for me to conclude that they will handle a Wisconsin team that still has severe quarterback issues and injury concerns.

Michigan State 19 Wisconsin 10

Doug: Michigan State -4.5

Man, I have literally gone back and forth on this pick and now in the process of rewriting my take on this game. I had Wisconsin down for an upset on the theory that there is too much pride in this program for them not to be fighting for a bowl bid this year. While I am glad to see them having a good season, I am still having a tough time getting over the hump with this Michigan State program. They have enough shaky parts (QB, secondary, receivers) that I don't have a ton of confidence in them. It's not like they have better talent than Wisky, and Wisky can easily win this game if they get back to doing "Wisconsin things" (running the ball, stopping the run, physical, no turnovers, etc). So I was all set to pick Wisconsin here to cover and win.

But as I thought about this game, I couldn't go through with the Wisky pick. They just aren't a very good team this year, and they haven't been doing "Wisconsin things" all year. Michigan State can probably run the ball on Wisconsin, and this game is over if they can.

I'm struggling with this pick, but I have to err on the side of the home team and the better team. When have bad Big 10 teams ever won on the road?? It's almost unheard of.

I think these two programs are going to be battling it out over the next few years for prime position as the next program right below the Big Three (OSU, Michigan, Penn State). Wisconsin held that title for many years, but they might be slipping just a bit. The way that MSU is recruiting, they are going to be in great position to make that move into the upper echolon of the Big 10 with an occasional run at the conference title.

MSU 21 Wisky 10

Northwestern +6.5 at Minnesota (ESPN2 12pm)

Dan: Minnesota -6.5

I wasn’t sure at all why Northwestern was ranked last week. On the other hand, the whole country keeps waiting for the Gophers to fall on their face. Not this week.

Minnesota 24 Northwestern 16

Matt: Northwestern +6.5

I don’t care what the records are – you cannot convince me this is a big game. Give me Northwestern to cover and let’s just pretend that we are not picking this one.

Minnesota 6 Northwestern 3

Mike: Northwestern +6.5

I desperately want to pick against Minnesota here, but Northwestern is in a world of hurt right now with injuries to Tyrell Sutton and C.J. Bacher. As improbable as it seems, the Gophers should win this game and they could conceivably end the regular season with just one or two losses. Thumbs up to Tim Brewster, but thumbs down to Notre Dame alumnus Joel Maturi for assembling their pathetic out of conference schedule. On second thought, screw it- I just can’t bring myself to pick Minnesota.

Minnesota 27 Northwestern 22

Doug: Minnesota -6.5

I don't think you could have paid me to say the words "Minnesota -6" against anybody on the blog before the year, but that is what it has come to as we head into week 10. Not sure if I like this pick either (becoming a theme for this week), but Northwestern is really banged up. No Tyrell Sutton for the rest of the year, and Bacher is hurt too. Minnesota is not as good as their record or ranking, but I can't take Northwestern with all those injuries. I can't believe Minnesota is ranked. Tim Brewster is hands down the Big 10 coach of the year. They have a very legitimate shot to win 10 games this year. It's the perfect storm for Minnesota football. No Penn State or Michigan State on the schedule, Wisky and Michigan are down, and they get teams like Iowa and Northwestern at home. They may never get a scheduling break like this again, so good for them for taking advantage of it.

I'm glad to see Minnesota doing well. My fear when they fired Glen Mason was that Minnesota would become yet another black hole for the Big 10, but Brewster has given that program a shot in the arm. I hope that they continue to do well and regularly win 7-8 games.

Minnesota 28 Northwestern 17

Kansas State +10.5 at Kansas (FSN 12:30pm)

Dan: Kansas State +10.5

I was all set to pick Kansas in this game. But K-State looked like it can score fairly easily for a while against OU last week. Kansas, on the other hand, looked lost. I think they do bounce back for the win, but 10.5 is too many points in this in state rivalry game.

Kansas 38 Kansas State 31

Matt: Kansas State +10.5

Wow, Kansas was thoroughly embarrassed last week by Texas Tech. I think a lot of people expected them to lose that game, but nobody thought their offense would get shut down by Texas Tech’s usually penetrable defense. Is Texas Tech that good or was Kansas just exposed for being a mediocre team. I think a little of both, and in a rivalry game I like Kansas State to hang around.

Kansas 42 Kansas State 35

Mike: Kansas State +11.5

Stop this Kansas bandwagon and let me off. The Jayhawks have proven that they are clearly a step below the Big 12 powers and, furthermore, their egos may be bruised after last week’s homecoming thumping at the hands of Texas Tech. Kansas State is defensively challenged, but they should score in bunches this week against Kansas’ porous defense, thereby allowing them to earn the cover in this heated Sunflower State rivalry.

Kansas 44 Kansas State 35

Doug: Kansas State +10.5

I know absolutely nothing about this game, so I'll just take the points. The only redeeming thing about this game is that we'll probably get the great FSN announcing duo of Joey Myers and Dave Lapham (Bengals radio color man). Always enjoy hearing those two do Big 12 games on FSN.

Kansas 30 KSU 20

Iowa +2.5 at Illinois (ABC 3:30pm)

Dan: Iowa +2.5

I am not a believer in these Hawkeyes at all. But Michigan is probably the best team Illinois has beaten, and that is not much of an accomplishment.

Iowa 20 Illinois 17

Matt: Iowa +2.5

Start dusting off the cobwebs on fireronzook.com.

Iowa 17 Illinois 13

Mike: Iowa +2.5

This is a tough game to call. Assuming that Iowa gets the lead, they can rely upon their brutally efficient running attack led by the underrated Shonn Greene. If the Hawkeyes fall behind, however, it is unlikely that they will be able to stage a comeback on the road on the strength of their pedestrian passing game. Given Iowa’s strong defense and Juice Williams’s propensity for mistakes, I believe that the former scenario is more likely than the latter, so I’ll take Iowa.

Iowa 23 Illinois 20

Doug: Illinois -2.5

ABC is really scraping the bottom of the barrel to have this game on the ABC regional coverage. Yikes. I'm almost embarrassed to be living in the Midwest knowing that I am getting this game on ABC. Oh well. The good news is that ND will probably get a good rating on Saturday since the 3:30 Big Ten game is not particularly attractive. Then again, Georgia-Florida is on at the same time, so maybe everyone is going to be locking in on that one.

Maybe it's just because I haven't watched Iowa yet this year, but I can't get excited about them for some reason even though they are having a surprisingly good season. Illinois has been extremely up and down this year. They basically go as Juice Williams goes. He had a rough game last week against Wisconsin, so I think he is going to be looking to bounce back.

Illinois 27 Iowa 24

Florida -6 vs. Georgia in Jacksonville, FL (CBS Sports 3:30pm)

Dan: Florida -6

I think during the course of the year I have probably bet on these two teams around 6 or 7 times. I think I’ve been wrong every time. Moral – I clearly cannot get a read on these two teams. So I guess I’ll take Tebow to out perform Stafford.

Florida 28 Georgia 21

Matt: Florida -6

Game of the Year! It all comes down to whether Georgia can contain Tebow, Harvin and Demps. I know they had the game in control last week from the start, but they gave up 38 points and a ton of yards to a mediocre LSU team. In case you were wondering, here’s my Top 7 heading into this week.

1. Texas
2. Alabama
3. Florida
4. USC
5. Penn State
6. Texas Tech
7. Oklahoma State

30. Notre Dame

49. Wake Forest – Not Jim Grobe’s finest season. Last week, in the middle of the season mind you, he ditched the spread offense and converted to the Power I. In a game they trailed the whole time to Miami, their best player Riley Skinner through the ball 8 times. 8 times! And they were losing. If they lose this week on homecoming to Duke…well, nothing will happen because nobody really cares about football. But it will be embarrassing.

119. Washington – Bonus Pick – USC -45 over Washington. Has there ever been a 50 point line. Come on gamblers of America. Get out your wallets and let’s get that line up to 50 points.

Florida 33 Georgia 24

Mike: Florida -6

Although Georgia notched an impressive road victory in Death Valley last week, Florida is on another level right now. As much as I despise Urban Meyer, the Gators have a dominating defense and an explosive offense, especially now that they actually have a running game to complement Tim Tebow. Perhaps I am too critical of Matt Stafford, who played great against LSU, but I think he will make several critical errors that will lead to a surprisingly easy Florida win. One additional note: as if Florida won’t be motivated enough by the magnitude of the game, they will even have extra motivation to punish Georgia after the full team celebration by the Dawgs at the 2007 Cocktail Party.

Florida 41 Georgia 17

Doug: Florida -6

Verne and Gary are headed to Jacksonville for your SEC game of the week. The Cocktail Party. One of my favorite games of the year. Doesn't it seem like there is a YUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUGE (to borrow a Bob Davie phrase) SEC game every week?? God bless the Southeastern Conference. It never fails to entertain me and get me fired up for the weekend.

So much on the line in Jacksonville this weekend. The SEC East title, national championship hopes, bragging rights, possible Heisman trophy candidacies, and another chapter in the budding Meyer-Richt rivalry. Plus, you have the lingering bitterness over the excessive celebration penalty from last year. Not gonna lie that I'm a little bummed out that this game is going to overlap with the ND game. ND should just schedule a bye or a road game during the Florida-Georgia game week or something.

As for the game, Georgia is starting to peak at the right time, and this game is feeling a little like last year's game did with Georgia as a solid underdog. Georgia's physical style caused major problems for Florida last year, so this game is going to be won and lost on the line of scrimmage. Perhaps I am a little naive for picking the Gators again this year (especially after losing on them last year in Vegas), but I just can't see Urban Meyer losing to Georgia in back to back years. Florida has been stewing over this game all year, and I think they are going to be ready to explode on Saturday. When Florida is on, they are the best team in the country.

Urban will have them ready. Give me the Gators.

Florida 23 Georgia 14

Nebraska +22 at Oklahoma (ESPN 8pm)

Dan: Oklahoma -22

Yikes Bo, you need to get some players. Fast. Teams in the Big 12 really, really like to beat up on Nebraska. Oklahoma is no exception.

Oklahoma 48 Nebraska 17

Matt: Oklahoma -22

I think there are some scenarios for OU to sneak their way back into the National Championship picture. I don’t like picking Nebraska to lose by this much, but nobody has really slowed down the Oklahoma offense yet and I sure as heck don’t think the artists formerly known as the Blackshirts are going to

Oklahoma 58 Nebraska 31

Mike: Nebraska +22

There are only a handful of defensive units in the entire FBS that could conceivably slow down Sam Bradford and the defense formerly known as the Blackshirts™ is not one of them. Since Ryan Reynolds’s injury against Texas, however, the Sooners defense has been a sieve. Nebraska did not exactly set the world on fire against Baylor, but it seems like Bo Pelini has his team on the right track and I expect an inspired performance from Nebraska this week, albeit in defeat.

Oklahoma 48 Nebraska 34

Doug: Nebraska +22

Oklahoma has one of the most explosive offenses in the country, but their defense is not that good. Nebraska is slowly but surely starting to right the ship, and they are capable of scoring points. It's a rivalry game, and I hope the Huskers have enough pride to cover the 21 points.

Oklahoma 42 Nebraska 24

Florida State +2.5 at Georgia Tech (ABC 3:30pm)

Dan: Florida State +2.5

Can Paul Johnson get his team to bounce back from the disappointing loss last week? I think he’s still a year or two away. Meanwhile, Florida State is at its best well over 5 years.

Florida State 24 Georgia Tech 17

Matt: FSU +2.5

Hmm…something a little weird about this line. It seems like FSU has turned a corner while didn’t GT just lose at home to UVA. I’ll take the Noles for a straight up win.

FSU 24 GT 18

Mike: Georgia Tech -2.5

There’s no sugarcoating it: Paul Johnson’s crew suffered an embarrassing defeat last week at home to Virginia, irrespective of the Cavs’ recent rejuvenation. Tech is struggling to find their offensive identity and the Seminoles are not exactly the right tonic for ailing offenses, but the Jackets have shown that they can be successful if they can just avoid costly fumbles. On the other side of the ball, Georgia Tech should have success against the young Florida State offensive line, which will allow them to force some mistakes by Christian Ponder and thereby enjoy a much needed reversal of fortunes on the turnover front.

Georgia Tech 21 Florida State 17

Doug: Florida State +2.5

Huge ACC game in Atlanta. Both teams needs this game to put themselves in position to get to the ACC Championship game. This game originally started with Florida State as the favorite and now has them as a 2.5 point underdog. Color me nervous about my pick all of the sudden.

I hate picking against Paul Johnson at home (especially coming off a loss), but I fear that the book is out on their offense. As teams have had more chances to study them, they are starting to develop a blueprint to stop their offense. Just feels to me like a good team can beat them. One dimensional teams like Georgia Tech are always susceptible to being shut down by a good defense.

Florida State is far from a great team, but they are developing a level of consistency that you need on the road. They still have a very fast and aggressive defense that excels at shutting down the run game. They can contain Georgia Tech's run game and force Nesbitt to make some throws to beat them. If they come out ready to play on Saturday, I think they'll steal this game.

FSU 23 Georgia Tech 17

Oregon +3 at Cal (ABC 3:30pm)

Dan: Oregon (+3)

Oregon has looked pretty good this year other than the stinker against the Trojans. I can’t say the same for Cal. Even on the road, I’ll take the points and moneyline here.

Oregon 31 Cal 27

Matt: Cal -3

Three teams I’m really not familiar with. Give me Cal at home

Cal 31 Oregon 21

Mike: California -3

As evidenced by the line, these two teams are very evenly matched. Both of these teams can run the ball, but California has a better defense than Oregon and more experience at quarterback. As such, I like the Bears to emerge victorious in Strawberry Canyon in the famed “Battle for Second Place” in the Pac-10.

California 28 Oregon 24

Doug: Oregon +3

Wow, another difficult game for me to predict. These lines are torture. I think it's entirely possible that I go like 1-14 or something this week.

I have absolutely nothing to base my pick on in this game, but it sounds like Oregon's offense is turning the corner. This Masoli guy is starting to figure it out offensively, and I think Oregon's offense has a higher upside than Cal.

Speaking of the state of Oregon, color me heartbroken over this possible Greg Oden ankle injury. I watched his postgame interview, and the guy sounds absolutely devastated. At this point, it's probably time to wonder if Oden is made of glass and whether he is going to be able to withstand the physical rigors of playing in the NBA. I hate to say it, but I think the "B" word is going to start popping up in the near future about Mango Salsa. Maybe it's not fair to call a guy with injury problems a bust, but there's been such high expectations for Oden since he was in high school that it would be hard not to start throwing the word around.

I read awhile back that Oden might have the same condition that Andre the Giant had and that his body isn't going to hold up. Too much upper body for his legs to carry around. If he's already having feet and knee and leg problems at age 20 or whatever, what is he going to be like in 5 years??

Oden has some amazing raw tools (size and athleticism), but he is so clumsy and awkward that it makes me wonder if he isn't more susceptible to injury just because he hasn't matured into his body.

I am hoping for the best for Greg Oden. He seems like a great person who is genuine and embraces the "good guy" role as an athlete, but I do wonder how his career will turn out. There are so many question marks about him at this point that it's hard for me to really project him as an All-Star player someday.

Oregon 37 Cal 31

Washington +45 at USC (FSN 6:30pm)

Dan: Washington +45

45 points. In a conference game. Ty shouldn’t even coach the rest of the year. This is embarrassing. I can’t take a -45 spread. I don’t care who it is. It’s a BCS CONFERENCE game. 45 points?? Ugh. Don’t bet on this game.

USC 48 Washington 10

Matt: USC -45

Has there ever been a 50 point line? Come on gamblers of America. Get out your wallets and let’s get that line up to 50 points.

USC 51 UW 0

Mike: Washington +45

I have no real rationale for this pick, other than the fact that I still have the memory last year’s Stanford-USC game fresh in my head. It is possible that this week’s announcement regarding Willingham will allow the Huskies to play free and clear, although it seems equally plausible that the team will quit completely (assuming that they haven’t already). If USC is motivated, they can name their score, but it is doubtful that the Trojans will have any particular interest in playing this game.

USC 51 Washington 10

Doug: USC -45

Wow, that is a high line, but I don't see any reason why USC can't cover it. They covered the 49 against Wazzou. USC is going to be looking for style points, and UW has quit. They aren't scoring a point in this game, so USC can easily cover if they go full throttle for 60 minutes. Heck, ND could have scored 50 against UW if we had kept the starters in and continued to throw the ball. Playing against Washington is the equivalent of playing against air.

USC is getting no respect in the polls by the way. It's one of the quietest likely 11-1 teams in recent history. They actually DROPPED this week in the polls after winning. USC needs the Big 12 and SEC to start losing some games. A 1 loss USC team is always going to be in the mix for the title game if you ask me, and I don't see another loss on their schedule. Washington, Cal, Stanford, ND, UCLA. I think they'll win all those games by double digits.

USC 63 UW 0

Tennessee (+6) at South Carolina

Dan: Tennessee +6

Tennessee can’t beat anyone. But I don’t think SC can win this by 6 points. Fulmer has to be sweating by now.

South Carolina 21 Tennessee 17

Matt: Tennessee +6

Another game where I really have no clue. I think both of these teams are pretty bad, but I guess I’ll reluctantly take the Vols just because I don’t see USC beating them by 6 points. But with this loss, Phil Fulmer is in some serious trouble.

USC 17 UT 14

Mike: South Carolina -5.5

With Philip Fulmer’s job in serious jeopardy, it would only be fitting and proper if his longtime nemesis, Steve Spurrier, could deliver the coup de grace. If the Vols fall behind early, don’t be surprised if they fold their tents.

South Carolina 31 Tennessee 6

Doug: South Carolina -6

It probably figures that this week will be the one when I am wrong on Tennessee since I have picked them just about every week, but I like South Carolina in a rout. Spurrier knows Phil Fulmer better than anyone. Spurrier just has his number. Tennessee might cover one of these days, but I'd rather not continue to lose on them while we're waiting. They have thrown in the towel. South Carolina has had a week off to gear up for this one. I think the Gamecocks roll in Columbia.

South Carolina 17 Tennessee 7

Texas -4 at Texas Tech (ESPN2 7pm)

Dan: Texas -4

It’s Texas Tech. I don’t care how good they seem. Forget about it.

Texas 35 Texas Tech 24

Matt: Texas -4

Biggest day in the history of Lubbock, Texas! Are there even enough hotel rooms in Lubbock to house all the people coming into town this weekend? Is there even an airport there? I don’t think I’ll ever know the answer to these questions as Lubbock is about dead last on my list of places I must visit before I die. As for the game, as good as Texas Tech has looked…it’s fool’s gold. Haven’t they done this in the past for the last 5 years or so? Until I see them win a big game, and by big I mean Texas or Oklahoma (and that win in 05 over a mediocre OU team doesn’t count), there is no way I’m picking them to beat Texas. The Colt McCoy Heisman Campaign continues.

Texas 48 Texas Tech 31

Mike: Texas Tech +4

I have stubbornly refused to give Texas Tech an ounce of credit, so this would be the perfect opportunity for me to slap the “fraud” label on the Red Raiders as they enter the meat of their schedule. Nonetheless, it will be tremendously difficult for the visiting Longhorns, who are coming off three consecutive games against top flight competition, to match the intensity of a Texas Tech team playing under the lights in the biggest game in school history. This should be an incredible game that will hopefully go right down to the wire.

Texas 41 Texas Tech 38

Doug: Texas -4

Wow, maybe the biggest event in the history of Lubbock, Texas!! I heard Kirk Herbstreit on the radio earlier in the week talking about this game, and he said it's going to be absolutely nuts down there.

I'm excited to tune in and hoping for a good game, but this feels like one of those "what was I thinking??" gambling games where you talk yourself into Texas Tech on paper because of their gaudy record and high ranking and that they are getting 6 points, and then it's 37-17 Texas in the 3rd quarter and the Horns are manhandling Tech up front. I can't believe this line is only at 4. WAAAAAAAAAAAAAY too low. This might be my lock of the week.

Texas Tech is much better than I thought they were, and I was really impressed with them against Kansas. Give them the ball against a susceptible defense, and look out. Their defense isn't bad either. The thought of the Irish playing them in the Cotton Bowl terrifies me.

But I think this game is going to be ugly. It's not like Texas is overlooking Tech. They know that their path to the title game blows wide open if they win this game, and it's a rivalry. They will be hungry. Texas Tech is definitely a good team, but Texas is a monster. They have more talent than Tech, and I expect them to dominate this game up front. I just can't see them losing to an inferior Texas Tech game.

By the way, for you attorneys out there, some judge in the US Bankruptcy court in Lubbock, Texas is currently accepting applications for a clerk position. Cmon, tell me that isn't a little intriguing?!!? Probably the first thing I would do upon arriving in Lubbock (before even buying a house or setting up my utilities) would be to purchase season tickets to Texas Tech football and basketball. Does anything else go on in Lubbock, Texas?? It just seems incredibly remote down there. I gotta go on vacation to Lubbock someday (my wife will probably love that).

Texas 45 Texas Tech 31

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

Dan: Notre Dame

This is a bit of a trap game for Notre Dame. And Pitt predictably losing last week doesn’t help. But I think Clausen bounces back after a terrible game last week and has a great game back at home. The defense, however, struggles to stop the run and keeps it closer than it should be.

Notre Dame 31 Pitt 24

Matt: Notre Dame

I wish it wasn’t midterms week because I have a lot of thoughts on this game. Basically, I don’t think ND can stop the run. Shady will have a field day and it will be up to the Irish offense to keep pace, which they should be able to after Rutgers formerly anemic offense hung a 50 spot on the Pitt D. There is no way that a Dave Wannstedt coached team should win in Notre Dame Stadium, so I’ll cross my fingers and pick the Irish. A loss in this game would be inexcusable in my opinion.

Mike: Notre Dame (no line)

Last week’s win was not particular revealing for Notre Dame, insofar as its opponent was a colossal joke. Thus, it is unclear whether this Irish defensive line can matchup against a physical Pittsburgh running attack led by Shady McCoy. Pitt has suffered several maladies along their offensive line this year, including the most recent injury to Robb Houser, but a top effort is needed from the Notre Dame front seven. Even if Bill Stull plays in this game, a heavy dose of McCoy is likely, so the Irish must be stout against the run.

Assuming that Mother Nature complies, it should be bombs away for Jimmy Clausen and company against an underwhelming Pitt secondary that was humiliated by the underwhelming Rutgers offense at home last week. Dave Wannstedt has already hinted that there will be personnel changes in said secondary, so Floyd, Tate and Kamara should be ready to provide these replacements with a rude introduction to college football. Many Irish fans have expressed concern about this game, but I am confident that Notre Dame will dispatch Pitt with relative ease. Given the upward trend of the football team and the embarrassing scheduling policies implemented by Kevin White, the Irish football team appears poised to start an extended home winning streak like its basketball brethren.

Doug: Notre Dame

It's not the marquee game of the week by any stretch, but it's definitely a big game for both programs. First for the Irish, it's an opportunity to get to 6-2 and position themselves for at least 8 wins, and it would probably be our best win of the year to date. If we win this game, we are headed to a New Year's Day bowl game. We'd also all but lock up an undefeated season at home, which is a good sign going forward. A win would also be a symbol to ND fans and the college football world that this program continues to turn the corner on the slow march back to the elite. Pitt is not a real good team by any stretch, but a win for the Irish could be a springboard toward a strong finish. I think we will be fired up for this game.

For Pitt, the game is probably equally as big. They are looking to bounce back after a loss to Rutgers, they are also trying to get into the 8 win range, and it's Notre Dame. We've lost some of our luster, but any game in South Bend against the Irish on NBC is not a hard game to get up for. Pitt is viewing this game as a chance to make a statement and put themselves on the national map for a week. Wannstedt knows that he can probably singlehandedly save his job and restore the fanbase's faith in him by winning this game. They will be ready to play as well.

Some keys to this game:

1) The ND running game - I don't think I've listed the ND running game as a "key to the game" yet this year, but I feel like the ND running attack may emerge as the story of this game when it's over. ND is quietly starting to discover the running game, and we may be due for a breakout game. We've been averaging a pretty healthy yards per carry over the last month of the season, and the backs are all running fairly well. Once we actually settled in against UW and started pounding the ball, we were churning out yards. It seems like this offensive line is starting to mature and gel, and holes that weren't there last year or early this year are now opening up.

As we have seen at other schools (FSU is a prominent example from this year), if we can get to the point where we can consistently run for 150 yards a game or so, our offense will be that much more dangerous and balanced. We are still a pass first team obviously and maybe always will be, but this running game is showing some positive signs.

Pitt's running game is getting the attention going into this game (and rightfully so), but I think the ND running game may be the talk of the game afterward. Don't get me wrong, we can win this game without a great rushing attack, but it would be nice to see Aldridge and Armando continue to have some success on the ground. Call it a hunch, but I think the ND running game is on the verge of a breakthrough performance.

2) The ND passing game - While I think the running game will be a big story after the game, it's not like we're going to be playing 3 yards and a cloud of dust ball. We are going to be looking to make plays down the field, and I expect to see Floyd and Tate have big days on Saturday. Pitt couldn't stop Rutgers, so what are we going to do to them?? We should definitely be looking to test their secondary early and often in this game. Deep balls, fades, stuff over the middle to Rudolph, slants, etc. We can do it all on these guys to get the lead. We have too many offensive weapons for Pitt to handle in this game.

3) Shady McCoy - I just spent three paragraphs hyping up the ND running game, so I'd be a fool not to mention LeSean McCoy and the Pitt attack. I've watched Pitt a couple times this year, and the only thing I have taken away about them is that they can run the football on just about anybody. Their line opens up holes, and McCoy is an explosive back. He's not a power back or anything and he has a tendency to dance before hitting the hole, but he also has the ability to rip off a 20 yard run on the next play. Pitt's running game is no joke, and I have no doubt that they will do some damage on the ground against us.

The key for the ND defense (as it has been for us in the last few years) is going to be whether we can get stops in the red zone. Pitt can run between the 30s all they want against us, but we can't let them pound it into the end zone. The defense needs to tighten up in the red zone and get some stops. We obviously want to keep McCoy from breaking off a 60 yard run as well, but that goes without saying. If we show a backbone in the red zone and force them into 3rd and long type situations down there, it would be a great sign.

If the Irish need any added motivation, I'll add this final thought. I'm going against LeSean McCoy this weekend in fantasy football and need a win to get to the championship game. Cmon Irish D, step it up!!

4) Turnovers - If Bill Stull is not playing in this game on Saturday, this key to the game probably moves to #1,at least from the Pitt perspective. If Pitt is forced to go with Pat Bostick on Saturday in his first start on the road, I'm expecting a couple INTs, a fumbled snap or tow, and a host of misreads and false start penalties. Since these two teams are fairly evenly matched, a few turnovers could shift this game one way or the other in a big direction.

Part of it was just Washington's ineptitude, but our blitzes looked better on Saturday than they've looked at any point this year. We were disguising the blitzes and getting to Fouch with relative ease. If we can get to Pitt's QB, that would be huge.

Barring some sort of fluke, I don't see any reason why ND will have problems taking care of the football. We've been fairly good at protecting the ball at home, and Weis has probably been preaching all week to Clausen about his INTs in the last couple games. -

5) Talent - Look, Pitt has some talent, and Wannstedt has brought in better recruiting classes. They have an NFL running back, a couple real good defensive players, one talented freshman WR, and some good linemen. But there are only a handful of guys on the Pitt roster who would be playing on this ND team. It's Pitt. They don't even have Michigan State type talent. Pitt is having a nice season against mediocre competition, but they don't have the depth or overall talent to scare me as an ND fan. There's a difference between a Pitt 5-2 and an LSU 5-2. LSU is having an off year, but they would scare me from a talent perspective. Pitt doesn't have that effect. We have more talent than Pitt, and I expect that to show on the field when the game takes place.

6) Weis vs Wannstedt - I gotta say that I like the coaching matchup this week for the Irish. I'll be the first to admit that I've been really hard on Weis in the last couple years, but he has put this program back on track. A lot of college football programs don't start to mature until the 4th or 5th year of a new regime, and I think we are starting to reach that point with this Irish team. The line is making major strides, and we are developing an identity on offense and defense.

I think that Weis stopped focusing on the "schematic advantages" and all that stuff and started focusing on building some core competencies that we can hang our hat on. I now know for the most part what I can expect to see out of this team, and I think that's a good thing. If your players know what they are doing and can execute, you are going to be successful. It's a totally different mentality from the NFL where surprises and wrinkles are everything. Weis has learned that, and we are now seeing the fruits of his labor in the latter stages of the 2007 season and the 2008 offseason. This team has talent and now has a growing identity. Good sign for the future.

In terms of managing this game and coming up with a successful game plan, Weis has a major edge. He is going to find ways to exploit this Pitt defense on film, and I think we'll see a high quality performance out of the ND offense on Saturday.

I'm not taking this game lightly at all. Pitt has some obvious strengths that appear to exploit our biggest weaknesses, and I think they will be fired up for this game. Wannstedt probably views this game as a potential foundation for his program. Could they beat us?? Absolutely. We are not out of the woods yet in terms of beating these mid-level type teams and have already lost two of them this year. Heck, we ARE one of those mid-level teams at the moment (hopefully not in the future), so it would be crazy for me to thumb my nose at Pitt. If we take them lightly, we will lose on Saturday.

With that said, I know this will sound strange, but ND is a little underrated right now. I think we are a lot better than the national media realizes. The national media is still operating under the assumption that we are not that far removed from the 2007 season and that teams like Pitt are better than us, but we are a different team right now than we were last year and even from earlier in this year. There are signs that we are about to explode. While we haven't had any real good wins so far, we have played well at home.

It's time for ND to win a game like this one. We are a lot closer to the 2005-2006 days than we are to the 2007 days, and the 2005-2006 ND teams would have smoked this current Pitt team. Call me crazy, but that's where I think this game is headed. I love the line at ND -5. I think that's a great bet if you are looking to make some money on the Irish this weekend.

One final strange dynamic about this game. In many ways, the Pitt game at home in 2004 was the game that effectively ended all belief that Willingham could right the ship at ND. Our completely uninspiring effort at home against a mediocre team after we had beaten Tennessee on the road was probably the moment that 99% of ND fans threw in the towel on Willingham. Many had thrown in the towel long before that, but any remaining holdouts jumped on board at that point. It became obvious after we blew that Pitt game that Willingham was not a good football coach. Strange how we have come full circle and that Willingham was fired the same week that we are about to play Pitt at home for the first time since that fateful 2004 game.

ND 35 Pitt 24

To email the blog, hit us up at http://www.blogger.com/weisnd.blogspot.com@gmail.com

Last week

Dan: 8-7
Matt: 10-5
Mike: 6-9
Doug: 7-8


Dan: 54-48-3 (.529)
Matt: 70-63-3 (.526)
Mike: 67-66-3 (.504)
Doug: 69-64-3 (.519)

October 29, 2008

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly - Week 7 (Washington)

Apologies for the hiatus. Franklin St. and the rigors of real life prevented the completion of the UNC post.

And while I could spend about 5 pages on the vindication following this week's news regarding Ty Willingham, I'll just briefly note that its a shame Willingham had to gut another once-proud college program. Hopefully he hasn't done irreperable harm to the Huskies, but the next coach at UW has a long, long road ahead to bring Washington back to national prominence.

As far as the game goes, it was good to see the Irish get a W on the road. I'm not sure there's a whole lot to take away from that W - Washington was absolutely pitiful and didn't cross the 50-yard line until there were 6 minutes left in the 4th quarter after Weis had pulled many of his defensive starters. But a W is a W, and the Irish continue to show flashes that they will work themselves into the national title picture in the coming years.


The Good

The running game harkened back to the glory days of Holtz - 252 yards rushing, averaging over 5 yards per carry. The last scoring drive covered 60 yards in 10 plays - all rushes. A beautiful sight for those power football afficionados. Aldridge, Allen, Hughes and even Jonas Gray all ran hard over the clearly overmatched Washington rush defense.

The offensive line opened holes as they were expected to do throughout this whole season. Sam Young had some beautiful blocks on ND's first two scoring plays, and Turkovich once again showed why he's the most effective run blocker on the team.

ND desperately needed to jump out to a lead and not let the Huskies hang around. The first two offensive drives were extremely important in pumping up ND's confidence and letting the air out of the quickly deflating Washington balloon. Floyd's 51 yard TD catch and run on the first drive was almost poetic justice. The bubble screen - so often the symbol of ND's ineffectiveness on offense during the Willingham years, and the virtual calling card of former OC Wild Bill Diedrick - put Ty and the Huskies in an almost immediate 7-0 hole from which they had no chance of recovering. The second TD drive gave Irish fans a glimpse of just what Golden Tate can do with the ball in his hands and some open field in front of him. For at least one game, the Irish weren't deficient in the "speed" category as Tate was clearly the quickest and most dangerous player on the field.

Great to see the second team guys come out and move the ball well. Jonas Gray ran for almost 7 yards a carry, allowing Irish fans to lick their chops at the potential of an ever-growing running back corps that will add Cierre Wood and Theo Riddick next year. Guys like Bemenderfer, Nuss, Romine and Dever received important PT on the offensive line, especialy if Chris Stewart and Eric Olsen may miss any time in the near future. Not sure I agree with the decision to burn a year of Fauria's eligibility, but with Rudolph being the only other current scholarship TE on the roster, I can understand the thinking.

The Bad

Winning a road game was definitely Step One, so its difficult to be too critical about "style points." That being said, it was a bit disheartening to see the Irish fail to take advantage of the solid field position consistently given to them by the defense. I can't believe I'm quibbling about a 17-0 lead at the half on the road, but it really could have, and should have, been so much more.

If Step One was Conquering the Road Demon, Step Two should definitely involve finding the Killer Instinct to put away a team that's clearly on the ropes.

The Ugly

The Kid's been so good this year, its nice to think that 14-26, 201 yards 1 TD and 1 INT would be considered an "off day." But Clausen was definitely off for most of the night and never seemed to get comfortable. He made several lousy reads against once of the worst passing defenses in the country, including the INT that was called back due to a pass interference call against the Huskies on the 2nd drive of the game.

Due to the success of the running game, Clausen worked often from under center, where he appears much less comfortable. This seemed to be the case last year as well, when C John Sullivan's extremely strange "mental block" against the shotgun snap forced much of the offense to run from under center. Clausen spent all 4 years of his HS career working from the shotgun, and has generally performed better from the gun this year as well. Perhaps its just me, but he looks almost awkward when getting back in his drop and almost never makes it through his progressions once he gets back there. This is obviously something he's going to have to work on since Weis would likely never convert to an exclusive shotgun system. We did see at least one handoff from the shotgun snap during the Washington game, which I feel could be an extremely effective weapon going forward.


The Good

Just about everything - the run defense was stifling, the pash rush generated 4 sacks, and the Husky offense never crossed the 50 until the game was well in hand. An absolutely dominating performance. Once again, its difficult to tell whether the defense is getting better or whether the Washington offense really is that bad, but it was definitely fun to watch.

The Bad

Although it was certainly great to see the 1st teamers effectively toss a shutout, this defense really needs to start creating more turnovers. The Irish simply can't and won't beat the better teams on the schedule (not only this year, but in the future) unless and until they generate some game-changing plays. Read-and-react is not going to beat the USC's of the world.

The Ugly

Scary to see Brian Smith leaving the field in pain. Although reports indicate he's been practicing (with limited contact) and will play against Pitt, Smith might be the one player on the Irish defense that ND simply CANNOT afford to lose. Get well soon Brian.


The Good

After 2005 and 2006 it became frustrating to see a FG kicker take the field during an ND game. Not only because it meant a potential TD drive had stalled out, but also because there was a pretty good chance that the FG attempt wouldn't be going through the uprights. Here's hoping that's not the case anymore.

Great call and execution on the Harrison Smith fake punt.

The Bad

Hopefully Eric Maust got in some quality people-watching.

The Ugly

Lots of talk the last week about the new walk-on kicker and the fact that he might possibly challenge Walker. A bonked XP try probably means that Rudy story is over for the time being anyway.


The Good

Good, solid defensive gameplan - blitz the heck out of the inexperienced QB and force him to beat you.

Haywood stuck to the run for the majority of the game and generally took advantage of the miserable Husky defense.

Great call on the fake punt - Weis and Polian obviously do their homework on the opposition's punt coverages as that play has worked for big yardage almost every time they've dialed it up.

Also great to see some of the backups get some serious time in the 4th quarter. Garbage time is invaluable especially for guys on the offensive line.

The Bad

Not much here - some of the 4th down decisions were a little questionable, but certainly defensible considering the performance of our FG kicking unit.

The Ugly

When Tyrone Willingham is opposing you, its hard to look ugly. The only ugliness came from the other side of the field.


Offense - OFFENSIVE LINE. I'll make Sean happy and give it up for his boys. Aldridge would also be a worthy choice, but give this one to the big uglies. They weren't stupendous and I'd like to see a little more consistency, but an effective running game will go a long way to making the Irish a better team.

Defense - HARRISON SMITH. Again, could have gone to a number of others, Pat Kuntz included. But Smith is really starting to come into his own and make some big plays. His continued development will be fun to watch the rest of the year.

Special Teams - BRANDON WALKER. Attaboy.


Short Term - The Irish sell out against the run, slowing LeSean McCoy enough to allow ND to pull away in the 4th quarter to get a big home win.

Long Term - As James Aldridge continues to get healthier, he continues to supplant Robert Hughes as the change-of-pace back in the ND offense.

10 Storylines from the Association

It's not very often that WeIs steps outside the realm of college football and ND sports, but I'm so fired up about the start of the NBA season that I couldn't resist giving you guys a taste of what's to come these next 8 months. Without further ado...10 storylines to look forward to this season in the Association.

1. Can LeBron make 'the Leap'

That sounds like a pretty ridiculous thing to say about a guy who is already the best or second best player in the league and who averaged a 30-8-7 last year. I just get the feeling that LeBron is going to have a historic season this year. I don't think he's going to go Oscar Robertson on us, but then again I wouldn't put it past him. For one, his assists can probably see a bump with the addition of Mo Williams, who FINALLY gives the Cavs a guard who can knock down the open jumpers. He is a perfect addition to the Cavs, and a monster upgrade over Larry Hughes as far as what the Cavs need in a point/2 guard.

Also, I think LeBron really matured playing in the Olympics this summer. He got to play along side the best players in the world, and I think it did his game and his mind a lot of good to be the best player on the floor at times in China. Finally, and it's hard to remember because he it seems like he has been around forever, but the guy is only 23 years old! LeBron is only 23 years old. These next 4 years should be the absolute prime of his career. With the East being a little overrated (more on that later), I could definitely see LeBron carrying the Cavs to the Finals while putting up massive stats. I'm talking 30-9-9.

2. Do the Celtics have the motivation?

The Celtics really didn't lose much in the offseason - James Posey and his man hugs were big in the playoffs, but Tony Allen and Leon Powe should be able fill that void. But you have to believe that the sense of urgency that KG and Ray Allen had all of last year has to be a bit diminished. Let's be honest - Ray Allen is old - and showed serious signs of wearing down. KG was on such a mission last year that I think the Celtics were afraid to take a random Monday night in Atlanta off for fear of upsetting him. I just don't know how they can repeat last year. We'll see. There is definitely no way they are getting to 66 wins again.

3. Are the Lakers the team to beat?

I really wasn't a believer in the Lakers last year, but the Zenmaster and the Mamba carried them all the way to the Finals. Now, they have promising big man Andrew Bynum back and a full year of Pau Gasol to make their mark out West. I think Kobe has a monster year. I don't care about the pinkie, I don't care about the mileage he put on last year in Beijing and I don't care if he is now 30 years old. But I will make a prediction that the Lakers do not make it to the Finals. A lot of things have to go right for them. Farmar has to make the leap, Bynum has to actually perform as advertised, and Odom has to buy into the 6th man role (in a contract year). I think the Lakers will be the 1 seed but get upset in the playoffs.

4. Dwyane Wade is back!

He's had his share of injuries the past two years, so you are forgiven for forgetting how dominant D Wade was in 2005 - 2006. He went 27-7-6 during the regular season, then tore through the playoffs including a close out Game 6 line of 36-10-5. I never did find out if the Heat awarded Bennett Salvatore a championship ring for his contribution in the playoffs. At least put his whistle in the Heat Hall of Fame or something. Anyway, Wade looked incredible in the Olympics, he has the Matrix and Beasley to run with him, and he's got Chris Quinn feeding him the rock! I smell the playoffs this year for the Heat. Which leads me to...

5. The Surprise Teams of 2008-09

Last year the Atlanta Hawks came out of nowhere to make the playoffs (with an...ahem...37-45 record). Meanwhile, out West, the Blazers were seemingly a year ahead of schedule sans Oden, and made a run at the playofs while posting a 41-41 record. This year, I've got my eye on two teams who didn't make the playoffs last year. The aforementioned Miami Heat who went 15-67 last year. And, out West, watch out for the Minnesota T-Wolves. I'm not predicting the playoffs by any stretch, but I like what they're doing up there. Al Jefferson is a legitimate stud who would be a household name if not playing in Minnesota. Mike Miller is a great addition, Kevin Love will be a solid pro, and they have so many good college swingmen (Rashad McCants, Rodney Carney, Corey Brewer) that I feel like one of them have to pan out.

My deep sleeper for this season. The New York Knicks. Don't laugh. I think if anyone can get dysfunctional team turned around, it's Mike D'Antoni. News that notable porker Eddy Curry did not make the Knicks rotation can only be taken as a good thing for Knicks fans.

6. The Young Guns

Of course, Greg Oden makes his long awaited NBA debut, but I have a hard time including him in the 'young guns' category since he looks like he's about 45. Plus, everyone is already familiar with Mr. Mango Salsa from his great work in the Geico commercials. But, there are plenty of other rookies to get excited about. Derrick Rose should get plenty of PT with Hughes out for 6 weeks. Early reports are that Rose has been great and will probably be hard to keep off the court. In addition, college hoops fans will definitely be interested in seeing...

-Can OJ Mayo live up to the hype (Yes)

-Does Kevin Love's below the rim game translate (Probably)

-Was Russell Westbrook worth the 4th pick in the draft (No)

Eric Gordon on the Clips, Marreese Speights on the Sixers and Chris Douglas Roberts are 3 of the rookies I'll keep my eye on this year.

7. The last stand for the West vets?

This one applies to three superstars out West who may have one last run in them - or maybe not. Tim Duncan, Steve Nash and Dirk Nowitzki are different ages, but their teams are built to win now and the window is closing very quickly. The Spurs are going for it with their familiar core of Duncan, Parker, Manu and Mike Finley - all of whom have a lot of mileage with the exception of Tony. Who have the Spurs been drafting the last 5 years? They never seem to get any younger.

The Suns meanwhile have a 34 year old Nash, and a pair of 36 years olds in Shaq and Grant Hill. I have a feeling that the Suns as we currently know them - the 7 Seconds or Less Suns - are gone forever. D'Antoni is gone, Nash is slowing, Shaq doesn't fit and the Matrix is on South Beach. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised to see the Suns slip all the way out of the playoffs in the ultracompetitive West. Only Amare Stoudemire, who quietly is back to one of the 10 best players in the league, will keep them hanging around the playoff fringe.

Finally, we have Dirk Nowitzki. It's hard to believe, but Dirk is already 30 years old. Was it really just a couple of years ago when the Mavs seemed to be on the rise and made it all the way to the Finals. I have a feeling that the Jason Kidd - Devin Harris trade will prove disastrous. Kidd was merely a figurehead in Athens and was downright awful the last month of the season with the Mavs. He simply doesn't have the speed to keep up with the likes of Chris Paul, Deron Williams and Tony Parker out west. When you factor in that the main players around these two are 31 year old Jason Terry, 33 year old Erick Dampier, 33 year old Jerry Stackhouse and a legitimately crazy Josh Howard, I think it's fair to wonder if it will soon be rebuilding time in Big D.

8. Chris Paul and Deron Williams

I know it's tough to put players in perspective while they're still playing, but it's time to realize that both of these guys are something special. Chris Paul is already the best point guard in the league and Deron Williams isn't far behind. The praise being heaped on both of these guys is legit. Let's take a look at last years numbers just for comparison's sake:

CP3 - 21-4-11.6-2.71

Deron Williams - 19-3-10.5-1.1

Chris Paul is obviously the better player. I don't think I'm overstating it when I say that he has the chance to be one of the best to ever play the point. And it would appear he has the better team and one that is poised to take over when the San Antonio, Dallas, Phoenix group falls off.

9. The East?

I think that the East was a little underrated going into the offseason, but now it has been talked about so much that it's become overrated. Does that make sense? Besides the Celts, who I already talked about are due for a dropoff, there is the aging Pistons and the Cavs who can legitimately be considered title contenders. The Raptors and Magic are nice teams who will definitely make the playoffs, but let's be serious - they're not title material. On the other hand, would anyone be surprised if any one of these teams made a run to the Finals: Lakers, Hornets, Spurs or Jazz with the Suns, Mavs and Rockets right behind them and a frisky Blazers team on the rise. There is simply A LOT better teams out West.

10. Philly and Charlotte

I couldn't write an NBA preview without talking about my team and my new adopted team. First the Bobcats. They're a total mess. I get the feeling that if they packed up in the middle of the night and moved to St. Louis, no one here would even care. Since they have come back to Charlotte, they have a terrible history of drafting. It's like the marketing department has been making the picks. Ray Felton and Sean May to try to appeal to the Carolina fans. Newsflash: NBA fans don't really care who is on their team (unless you assemble a JailBlazers type team), they just want a winning product. If you run out a team of local guys but the team sucks, nobody will show up. After the Carolina guys, the Bobcats took Adam Morrison who everyone knew was going to be a bust. But the guy had established a reputation in college, and again, the marketing department pulled the trigger. I'm guessing most Bobcat fans (if there are any) would prefer to see Brandon Roy, Ty Thomas or Rudy Gay in Charlotte over Morrison.

Then there is the curious decision to hire Larry Brown. I'm guessing this was an MJ decision, although I think there is probably a better chance of seeing Jordan at a local Charlotte golf course than at an actual Bobcats game. Larry Brown is not a good coach of young guys. He proved that with Allen Iverson, he proved it in Athens when he inexplicably refused to play Melo and Lebron. Why would you hire him to coach a young team with two young point guards (Felton and DJ Augustin - who was another terrible pick. Name a guard in recent history other than Chris Paul and AI who was that small and went on to be a good player. Not happening), a young and fat power forward in May, and an undersized Emeka Okafor at center. Larry Brown will be so pissed off by December that he'll convince MJ to trade for some 36 year old veteran who "plays the game the right way". Just a bad situation all around in Charlotte.

As for the Sixers...I'm a little nervous. EVERYBODY has identified them as the team ready to make the leap. I'm not so sure. First, Andre Miller had a rejuvenation last year at the age of 32. Is he really going to be able to repeat that performance again this year? Color me hopeful but skeptical. Second, everyone is just assuming that Elton Brand is going to be a star. But he's coming off basically a season of not playing. And, does he fit into how the Sixers play. Last year, the Sixers basically morphed into Phoenix East. They would get out and run every chance they got, especially when Lou Williams was running the show. Dalembert can get out and run and Andre Iguodala is at his best on the run. But Brand is more of a back to his basket - feed him the ball and everyone stand around while he makes his post move - type player. Are they going to have to change their offensive approach to accommodate him? The answer remains to be seen.

Also, the Sixers are a turrible shooting team. When Willie Green is your designated 'shooter', you know you have problems. They signed Donyell Marshall, but having watched Cleveland the past couple of years, I can tell you that isn't the answer. He's washed up. Ironically, how good would Kyle Korver look right now in a Sixers uniform. Of course, his cap space was crucial to getting Brand, but he is the exact type spot up shooter the Sixers need.

I didn't mean to take such a negative approach for the Sixers. I think they're making the playoffs, and if they can incorporate Brand without losing their running identity, I could see really good things happening. My man crush on Lou Williams and Thad Young is through the roof, and I think that Marreese Speights can develop into a quality PF if he lays off the Pat's and Geno's. The key is for Iguodala to take his game to the next level. If you look at his numbers from last year, they look great - 20-5.4-5 with 2 steals. But there were a lot of games where he tried to be too much of a jump shooter instead of attacking the rim. I worry that with Brand and Dalembert down low if will be forced to become more of a perimeter player. Nvertheless, I can honestly say I'm as excited about this Sixers season as I have been in a long time, definitely since the Allen Iverson days. The Sixers are relevant again, and that's really all you can ask for.

Other random thoughts that didn't make the cut:

-Rudy Gay will be a superstar this year

- Kevin Durant will challenge for a spot on the All-Star team

- I will always love Allen Iverson, but it doesn't look like it's going to end well in Denver. Just a weird vibe on that team this year now that they traded Camby. Are they rebuilding?

- The Lopez twins. Busts.

- ND Players in the League - Only three with Rob Kurz being the last cut in Golden State. Chris Quinn, Matt Carroll and Troy Murphy carry the torch for Irish basketball.

My predictions:

MVP - LeBron

Sixth Man - Leon Powe

Most Improved - Ty Thomas

Rookie: OJ Mayo

Defensive - Kobe Bryant

NBA Finals - Hornets over Cavs

October 27, 2008

Around the Nation - Week 9

Some thoughts from yet another wacky and exciting week of the football season.

12. Dear College football fans,

I come to you in a time of great peril for our beloved sport of college football. While this season has been as exciting and entertaining as ever, I am troubled by the inevitable BCS controversy that we are about to incur. Now that Penn State has cleared their toughest hurdle, they are on the path to a 12-0 season. All it is going to take is one loss out of Texas or Alabama over the next month for Penn State to waltz into the title game. It would be a third straight appearance in the title for game for a team from the Big Ten Conference, which has become a complete embarrassment of a conference and a national laughingstock.

Someone explain to me how we are headed down this path of yet another title appearance for a Big 10 team?? Are you freaking kidding me?? After an entire offseason of every college football fan in America coming to the conclusion that the Big 10 should be banned from BCS title game appearance until they can prove themselves on a big stage against a major opponent from the South or USC, we are now on the verge of forgetting all that and rewarding the pathetic schedules of the Big 10 with another title game appearance?? Even after Ohio State went to USC and got absolutely shredded?? Even when the Big 10 has proven to be even worse than we thought it would be with the down years at Wisconsin and Michigan?? REALLY??

Wake up college football fans!! This is not right. A 12-0 Penn State team will have done nothing to prove that they are one of the top 2 teams in America. NOTHING. Does anyone really believe that Penn State would go undefeated in the SEC or the Big 12?? Cmon, I'm not knocking Penn State, but I don't see how you can slide into the title game when your best win is over an Ohio State team that already got killed by USC.

The thought of a 12-1 Florida or Alabama team coming off an SEC championship victory not having a chance to play in the title game because they lost one game is an absolute abomination to me. The Southeastern Conference has won the last two national titles in convincing fashion over Big 10 teams, and yet they wouldn't have an opportunity to prove to America that they are better than Penn State??? That is absurd.

The need for reform in college football is so obvious that it pains me that it still hasn't happened. One of the reasons that I love sports so much is that the action is so definitive. You get your answers on the field. In every other sport, the champion is revealed on the field. In college football, it is revealed three years before the season when you purposely set up as weak a schedule as possible with an eye toward making a run that year. It has become a beauty pageant and goes against everything that sports stands for. Could you imagine awarding the national championship in college hoops the day after the conference tournaments?? That is what we have in college football.

A new system is needed. The 4 team playoff is intriguing of course, but I still find myself coming back to a boxing style belt system that was hatched by Jeremy a little more than a month ago. I really think he might be onto something. College football is such a regional game that there might be something to the idea of creating regional belts and setting up your postseason in a round robin format. If you want to become a championship team, you have to unify the belts. I think it would be a great way to get championship games in different regions (imagine a title belt game between ND and Alabama in Chicago or something like that), and you would insure that all regions of the country had a say in deciding that year's champion. You could have little regional championships to determine the champions of each of the three regions (North, South, West) and then get started on a three team round robin showdown. I would love to draw up a proposal and send it to the NCAA.

I think the winner of the Bama-Florida/Georgia SEC Championship game should declare themselves as national champions. I'm more than willing to recognize them as a champion. If you go through the SEC with one loss, you deserve to at least play for a title.

If we are subjected to a Texas-Penn State championship game, I am going to strongly consider boycotting the game. They are both good teams that should definitely be in the mix for determining this year's national champion, but I can't stand the idea of a game like that occurring without either team playing USC or the SEC champion. It's not right.

I don't want this post to be construed as a jab at Penn State's team. I think they are very solid team and definitely a top 10 team, but I can't support them being thrown right into the title game after all we have seen out of the Big 10 in the last five years or so.

11. Longtime reader Stan chimed in via email with a VERY interesting scenario:

If Oregon State wins out, they will win the Pac-10 outright. Their remaining schedule is Arizona State, at UCLA, Cal, at Arizona, Oregon. Unlikely they will win out, but if they do, will USC play for the title?

Hmmm, didn't the NCAA change the rule so that you couldn't play in the title game if you don't win your conference?? USC obviously needs some help to get to the title game, but that scenario would be crazy if they had themselves in position to play for the title but didn't win their conference.

10. Since it appears that ND is headed to a bowl this year, it is probably time to start peeking at some possible bowl opponents. If we are headed to the Gator Bowl, it's probably going to be against the #3 team from the ACC. Florida State is starting to emerge as the favorite to win the ACC, and there are a whole host of teams positioning themselves just below them. I really have no idea who to project against us. It could be anyone in the UNC, Georgia Tech, Maryland, Virginia, Miami, Wake Forest, Virginia Tech range. I'd feel ok about playing any of those teams.

The other scenario that is gaining some traction according to the South Bend Tribune is an ND appearance in the Cotton Bowl against the best available Big 12 team not in the BCS. While a trip to Dallas would be fun, the thought of ND going up against someone like Texas Tech or Oklahoma State is a little scary. Not sure if that is the best matchup for us.

Selfishly, I'd like to attend the Gator Bowl, and I think a matchup against a solid ACC team gives us the best chance to win and build some momentum heading into 2009.

9. Take it for what it's worth since I know nothing about the NBA, but I think the Cavs could be a major sleeper team to win the East. I went down to the Cavs-Wizards exhibition game on Friday night and was impressed with the wine and gold. No one is really talking about them this year. Mo Williams is not an all-star point guard or anything, but he's a good player. Most importantly, he can knock down some shots. The Cavs never seemed to have a guy who could consistently hit shots on the perimeter. Mo Williams might solve that problem. They go 9-10 deep now with Lebron, Daniel Gibson, Delonte West, Mo Williams, Sczerbiak, Zydrunas, Varejaeo, Pavlovic, and Ben Wallace. And of course, Lebron is an absolute monster capable of carrying them to the finals on his back. Just one man's thought on the East.

The other big story for me in the NBA is the debut of Greg Oden. Gotta say that I am looking forward to how the big fella looks. Can he become a dominant center in the NBA?? Can he stay healthy?? He has the talent to be a great player, but we'll have to see how much he wants it. The Blazers look like they are on the verge of becoming a great team. They need Oden to live up to the hype.

8. After a quick scroll through the Auburn message boards, it appears that we might want to keep an eye on them as a team that makes a coaching change in the offseason. I would not be surprised to see them get involved in the Will Muschamp sweepstakes, especially since he has some ties to Auburn. Auburn fans appear to be regretting that they missed out on some of the bigger names in the last couple years (Saban, Petrino, etc), so they might be looking to jump on the hot name before he gets snapped up by someone else.

Tuberville and Auburn have had great success in the last 7-8 years, but they are at a bit of a crossroads. Alabama is on the rise, and there's a little fear that Auburn football might take a major step back if they let Bama take over the state. Probably just comes down to whether Auburn thinks that Tuberville can be the guy to lead that program over the next five years and compete with Nick Saban. I really don't know the answer to that question.

By the way, someone has already "parked" the rights to www.firewillmuschamp.com. Probably a great move. He could be a great coach, but he obviously wouldn't be the first guy with no head coaching experience to fall flat on his face. Let's be honest, if he takes an SEC job, he will face heat at some point in his career no matter where he ends up or how successful he ends up being. Kudos to the guy (or girl) who bought the rights to that site. I'm kicking myself for not thinking to do it earlier in the year.

7. My Heisman poll through week 9

1 Colt McCoy
2 Tim Tebow
3 Graham Harrell
4 Sam Bradford
5 Michael Crabtree
6 Knowshon Moreno
7 Percy Harvin
8 Mark Sanchez

This trophy is Colt's to lose.

6. Quick ND hoops thought. ESPN The Magazine's NBA preview has an interesting discussion of the "possession" stat, which I admittedly had no familiarity with until reading the article. It gives you a possession rating based on certain stats that have to do with your value to the team in terms of getting/keeping possessions (Steals, rebounds, turnovers (or lack thereof)). I guess the theory behind the stat is that the more possessions you get for your team, the more opportunities they have to score. Pretty interesting stat, and it occurred to me that I would love to see the "possession" stat for the ND basketball team.

The name that popped off the page for me was Tory Jackson. If you crunched the numbers, I bet that Tory's "possession" stat would probably give you an indication of how we did in a particular game. When he is getting steals and grabbing boards in traffic and avoiding turnovers, he is the engine that makes our team go. On the other hand, when he gets bottled up, we have had problems.

This whole new "stathead" aspect for hoops is interesting stuff. I had no idea that it was as in-depth as it is. The days of looking at points, rebounds, and assists on the box score might be a thing of the past, and we'll all be looking inside the numbers for greater insight into our teams.

5. I wanted to echo Matt's thoughts about Bob Davie from the Big East hoops post. I am so tired of all the Davie bashing. If you listened to the guy on Saturday night, it is obvious that he loves ND and has a great affinity for the school. He was singing the praises of Clausen and Brey and Weis and everyone involved with the school, and I've never heard the guy say a bad thing about ND.

Bob Davie wasn't a great coach, but I think he's a great announcer. Maybe my favorite color analyst other than Gary Danielson. The guy knows football. He certainly knows more about football than guys like Bob Griese or Herbstreit or 90% of the other guys out there doing color analysis. Plus, Davie is just a funny guy who doesn't take himself too seriously. I always enjoy listening to him, and any chance to hear him say "YUUUUUUUUUUGE" every time he's trying to say "huge" is the highest of high comedy

There was some talk on NDNation about making Davie the permanent NBC color analyst for ND football. I like Pat Haden a lot, but I would love that idea. Maybe we could get Davie into a three man booth or something. I would love to see Davie brought back into the fold at ND. Plus, we could make him the permanent pep rally host. I can't tell you how many times I listened to Davie at a Friday evening pep rally speech and felt like I was ready to run through a wall immediately after. The guy always knew how to put on a great pep rally speech.

4. The news that Syracuse has recently hired a search firm to assist with their search for Gregg Robinson's replacement is disturbing on so many levels. If I was the president of Syracuse, I would fire every person in the athletic department who supported the decision the bring back Robinson for another year as a dead man walking. Second, I would apologize personally to every player on the team for ruining their college careers.

What about this 2008 season made Syracuse decide to get rid of Robinson that the 2007 and 2006 seasons didn't reveal already?? Don't they work at the university and observe the guy every day?? Why give him an entire 2008 offseason to further dig your program into a deeper hole?? Absolutely maddening. If they had canned him after last year when it was obvious that he was and always will be a terrible head coach at Syracuse, the new coach could have had all of this past offseason to implement his program. With the right hire, 2008 would be a rebuilding year and they could be contending for a bowl bid as soon as 2009. Now, they are putting themselves another year behind and maybe even two years since the change will kill recruiting.

Washington should be equally ashamed, but we've already covered that one. Now Ty has been fired, so maybe they can start healing. Bunch of racists they are at Washington. I can't believe they didn't give a fine upstanding man like Tyrone Willingham the full five years.

3. Since there has been a lot hand-wringing locally about the Buckeyes the last couple days, I figured I would chime in with a few thoughts. A lot of folks are treating this game as a referendum on the state of the program, and I think that fans are starting to wonder if they should continue to worship at the altar of "Tressel Ball" as the end all be all for winning football games. Fans have tolerated the bad offensive teams under Tressel because of his great record, but I think for the first time fans are starting to really push for some changes to the way that Ohio State plays football. Personally, I've never understood why Tressel Ball is so revered within the Ohio State community. Tressel is bringing in good talent, and I refuse to believe that a good offensive coordinator couldn't develop that talent into some explosive offensive football teams. Why do they need to be so conservative?? When your goal in a big game is to try to get off a good punt, I can't imagine that it gives the players in your offense a whole lot of confidence. It's a philosophy that would seem to lead to players being unnecessarily tight and afraid to make mistakes. Tressel's style of play leaves no margin for error. One fumble or mistake, and you lose.

I don't even want to suggest that Tressel's job is in even the slightest bit of jeopardy (it's not), but a pattern has emerged in his tenure at Ohio State. He has dominated the Big 10 and the Michigan rivalry, but seems to be coming up short quite a bit in the big games against other top 10 teams. Tressel is a very good head coach and great motivator and runs a very disciplined and focused program, but he is certainly not an offensive innovator.

Should be interesting to see where Ohio State ends up in their bowl game. Tressel probably needs to find a way to get a win over a good team this January. Another shaky offensive performance in a losing effort would probably ratchet up some questions and increase the rumblings for Tressel to pull a Mack Brown and hire a top notch offensive coordinator.

Finally, for all your people who are criticizing Terrelle Pryor and labeling him a goat, you are an embarrassment. The kid is a true freshman who is barely out of high school. So he fumbled. Big deal. He also made a number of big plays to get his team into scoring position only to watch the offense go conservative and punt. If his coaches had come up with a more dynamic offensive game plan to put points on the board, that fumble wouldn't have been as costly. Pryor will be a great player someday, but you can't expect the guy to play like an All-American as a freshman. The Buckeyes should stick with him and let him continue to mature. It will eventually pay off.

2. Some quick thoughts on the ND game on Saturday:

- While Washington was obviously terrible, it was nice to see us take control right from the start and pound them. Having had a chance to watch a lot of other teams during the ND bye week and this past Saturday, I sometimes forget how many things we have going for us as a team. There are not a lot of Jimmy Clausens and Michael Floyds out there. Floyd is capable of completely dominating every game that he plays in. Pretty remarkable for a freshman.

-- Obviously tough to tell based on the opponent, but I thought the defense was really aggressive on Saturday. Our blitzes were coming from all areas of the field. Seems like we worked on that in the bye week. I hope our defense plays like that against Pitt and BC.

-- Great day for the running game on Saturday. Love those running backs all of the sudden. Aldridge is really stepping it up lately. Jonas Gray looks like a player as well. We are loaded at tailback. Hopefully the running game continues to progress.

-- Not Clausen's best day, but it's not like the guy wasn't making plays out there. He still made a lot of real good throws.

-- I think our guys fell asleep after we got up early. Hard to blame them. Weis is not the kind of guy who likes to run up the score. I actually think it's a great quality for Coach Weis to be like that. I swear, if anyone tries to use margin of victory against us in the next couple years compared to teams that are notorious for running up the score (OU, Florida, et), I will go to the mattresses for Coach Weis and defend him. He could easily run up the score on teams, but he chooses not to. I like what Weis does. It's the right thing to do.

-- Good win all around for the Irish, and these next two games get more and more winnable. Sounds like Pitt's QB is hurt, and BC got bludgeoned by UNC. We have a great shot to be 9-2 headed to USC.

1. The Week 9 WEISND poll

8 Oklahoma
6 Texas Tech
5 Georgia
4 Penn State
3 Florida
2 Alabama
1 Texas

We're headed for another huge week in college football with Texas headed to Lubbock to play Texas Tech. Should be a madhouse down there.

And it's great to see that the Cocktail Party is going to have a lot at stake. Georgia is peaking at the right time again this year, but Florida has been playing as well as anyone in America the last couple weeks. I think Florida is the best team in the nation right now, but I'll be the first to admit that I have underestimated Georgia the last couple years. Should be an incredible game, and I'm admittedly a little bummed that it's the same time as the ND-Pitt game.