Tom and Jerry: Defenders of All Things Right and Good

Thursday, November 30, 2006

10 Reasons Notre Dame Did Not Upset USC

Unlike sportwriters, I can admit my mistakes.

1. Lynda's absence at the LA Coliseum and my snakeskin boots are no match for a team with 5-star talent on their third string. USC is loaded. Notre Dame has a few great players and a few good ones, but not enough of either to match up with the Trojans yet. Of course, USC had a big talent edge over ND last season, and the Irish came 7 seconds away from an upset. What's the difference this year? (Reasons 2-4)

2. USC's defense is a lot better, and ND's offense line is not as good. The Irish offense played with nowhere near the rhythm they had last season, and offensive rhythm starts with controlling the line of scrimmage.

3. While the Irish front four on defense are as good or better than last year, the linebacking (Mays and Hoyte of '05 were much more effective than Crum and Thomas of '06) and safety play (Zibby's been dinged up and MIA for most of the season; Ndukwe was out for most of the game) have declined severly.

4. While I am loathe to criticize Charlie Weis, last year he seemed to call a confident and controlled game; this season, he seemed to call the game like he knew he had little chance to win unless ND scored on every possession.

5. The Irish, for the fifth time against quality compition this season, came out flat offensively.
  • Georgia Tech - ND didn't score until right before halftime
  • Penn State - late in the 2nd quarter, ND had only managed 2 field goals; luckily, Penn State was starting a freshman QB and had no points.
  • Michigan - late in the 2nd quarter, ND had only 7 points; unluckily, Michigan was starting an experienced QB and offense, and the Irish were down 34-7
  • Michigan State - MSU was undefeated; ND trailed 17-0 after first quarter
  • USC - 21-3 Trojans, mid-2nd quarter.

You can't get away with this against great teams.

6. While Rhema McKnight caught a couple of long passes and 1 TD pass, he also dropped two sure first downs, killing Irish drives. While Rhema is a good reciever, he has not performed as well as hoped, nor as well as Maurice Stovall did last season.

7. Irish special teams, with the exception of punter Geoffrey Price, are very sub-par. It's not only costing ND field position, but points as well.

8. Pete Carroll is a damn fine defensive coach, and Charlie Weis is a damn fine offensive coach. USC's offensive coordinators are very good offensive coaches, and Irish defensive coordinator Rick Minter is......well, I'm not sure. In his 25th game in charge of ND's defense, his charges still frequently look confused and out of position. I suppose I expected more improvement than what I've seen out of the Irish D.

9. Of ND's "Big Three" stars coming into the season, only Brady Quinn has matched his '05 output. That he has done so without much of a running game to take pressure off him and an underachieving offensive line is remarkable. Samardzija has been double-teamed and focused on by opposing defenses, and neither Rhema or David Grimes have made them pay for this with enough consistency take the pressure off Shark. Zibby's been dinged up some, which may or may not have contributed to him being largely invisible for most of the season.

10. We keep expecting the Irish team that took the field on Oct. 15, 2005 to show up, but they have not. Since the USC game of last year, ND has never played with the sense of passion and focus that they did that day. The entire lead-up to the 2005 season, USC was on everyone's mind. The build up for the game was enormous. The Irish were as focused and confident as any Irish team had been in over a decade. The Irish were spectacular even in defeat.

Once they had ascended to that peak, they have never approached it again. In their big games since then, they have played like what they look like on paper: a team with few great players and a few good ones, but not close to being an elite team. A couple of great recruiting classes will solve this, but it is a couple of years off.

Outlook: While I think Charlie will build ND into a program that will regularly finish in the Top 10 and even win a championship or two, USC appears to be on a roll like the one they enjoyed from 1967-1979: they went 9W-2L-2T vs. ND and won 4 national championships. They offer top recruits a package that is hard to compete with:

  • Chance to compete for national championship
  • Lax academic admission and performance requirements
  • Pretty girls with, um, shall we say, somewhat lower morals than you would find at ND
  • Agents swarming the campus (documented in numerous stories last spring); it would strain credulity to think that SC players are not getting "benefits" from these agents.

Of course, a lot of schools offer these things. However, they also have:

  • the glamour and glitz of nearby Hollywood and the Southern California "lifestyle"
  • Carefree, fun program
  • Warm weather, without the blistering heat or humidity of the Southeast or Texas

However, nothing lasts forever. The Trojans last great run was brought to a halt by probation followed by a string of mediocre coaching hires, and they were barely a blip on the national radar from 1983-2001.

I look forward to the day when we can line up against USC and not be at such a notable personnell disadvantage. While USC will have the above advantages, ND can offer a real education and an experience that will aid them in becoming better citizens and men than they could have become by spending 4 years as a mere cog in a football factory. I think ND is definitely headed in the right direction....

Go Irish!!!

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3 Comments:

  • This year we started to see just how lousy a recruiter Willingham really was. At least last year we had a senior class of Davie recruits (how scary is *that* thought?). This year, our major contributing classes were TW's, and, except for the skill players in the senior class, they were terribly thin. Unfortunately, it's going to get worse before it gets better--what are there, 9 players in next year's senior class? Two OL in the next two senior classes? God help us...

    And Minter is awful. Always has been, always will be. I'm just sayin'...

    I did like this team, though. They didn't have the New Coach, New System excitement, and they still won all of the games they were expected to win. Much as it can be cliche, I blame Davieham for this whole mess. We're just outmanned right now, like we were against Tennessee in '98(?). I'm confident that will change.

    By Blogger elf, at Thursday, November 30, 2006 5:25:00 PM  

  • The 11th reason ND lost was because I watched the game in HD at Joey's house. The only other ND game I watched at his house was the Michigan game. Come to think of it, the only ND games I've watched in HD were last year's Fiesta Bowl and Michigan and USC.

    To be safe I'll watch ND's bowl game live (I'm 100% in the last eight years), or on good, old-fasioned, low-def T.V.

    By Blogger Tom, at Thursday, November 30, 2006 7:53:00 PM  

  • Tom -

    I KNEW IT!!!!

    That explains Brady Quinn's comments after the game:

    "I scanned the stands to see if that Lynda chick was there and she wasn't, and I heard her fiance was going to wear his snakeskin boots, so I thought we had the game in the bag.......but then I found out that the guy in Shreveport was watching the game in HD and I knew we were screwed....what was he thinking?"

    DAMN YOU!!!!!

    By Blogger Jerry, at Friday, December 01, 2006 12:51:00 PM  

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