Welcome to another round of the Irish Blogger Gathering. This week, Whiskey over at One Foot Down has provided the questions for the IBG, but as precise as they were, I couldn't get some dickhead off of my mind.
There is a lot of stuff to cover, so let's hit it- like Harbaugh hits puppies:
1. After suffering through back to back heart breaking losses how have your expectations for this season changed? Has the rough start affected your expectations for the Brian Kelly era?
Jim Harbaugh is a douchebag. Through 3 games, I can honestly say that I thought Notre Dame would be 2-1. Yes, I have picked the Irish to win each week, but what did you expect from me? I picked the Irish to win every game since 1983. I thought the Irish would beat Purdue (correct), beat Michigan (not so correct), and lose a close game in East Lansing (dead on). My season prediction was 9-3 or 10-2 with losses to MSU and BC with Utah being a toss-up (we will beat $C 64-0).
Like I have stated before, we have all FAILED in predictions of future success in the first 3 games of the last two regimes- so I am going to give this thing the patience it deserves.
2. Our defense has given up 28 points in both of our last two games. But our defense has also forced a few three and outs and has looked fairly stout out times. So on D, are we Jekyll or Hyde? Or are we just a work in progress?Jim Harbaugh hates children. The defense is a work in progress. You can see VAST improvement in a lot of different ways, but the defense still has those moments when you roll your eyes and think of the last few years. The lack of real depth at safety, and along the defensive line is hurting the Irish. Food for thought: Anthony McDonald should not be getting the same amount of snaps as Carlo Calabrese- I noticed this trend against MSU, and was displeased.
3. I've heard that Bill Walsh believed that if he saw a player make one great play, he and his staff could coach that player to consistently make great plays. The Irish offense clearly made some great plays against State. Our Offense also unfortunately disappeared at critical times. Are we just witnessing the process of Kelly and his staff teaching the lads to consistently make great plays?Jim Harbaugh wants to give your jobs to immigrants and build a 40 foot fence along the Mexican border with armed hillbillies every 20 feet- at the same time. With all due respect to Bill Walsh- that idea ain't worth a dolphin and a whale getting it on. A guy can make a great play for a billion reasons, one of which could just be a missed assignment from the opposing team, or a brilliant play call from the coach. Not all football players are capable of playing great consistently. It just doesn't happen. I'm speaking from experience as a former player and as a former Pee-Wee football coach. Rudy sacked a QB...
4. Where would you rank Stanford among the Irish opponents? Would a defeat of the Cardinal be the biggest win of the last six years?Jim Harbaugh has slapped your grandmother in the face on multiple occasions. You can probably place Stanford in the top 3, but any actual ranking would have to wait until the season was over to get the actual grasp of the situation.
Even after the Irish wipe their ass with the Cardinal, the biggest wins in the last 6 years were all in 2005, with the biggest being a win in Ann Arbor (whore). This has less to do with ranking, and more to do with perception and history. To put things in a more confusing light- and much more powerful, I offer you this Tweet from John Walters:
Stanford is #17. Last time ND beat ranked team ranked higher than Irish this late in season? At Tenn, '04. Game-winning TD? Goolsby INT ret.
5. While many outsiders and a contingent of fans have cited ND's academic standards as a hindrance to football success, many Irish supporters consider Notre Dame's unique combination of strong academics and big-time football (and faith) as an advantageous niche in the college football world. With stricter admission standards and far-less football notoriety, Harbaugh's Cardinal have burst onto the national recruiting scene to again prove that plenty of really good football players welcome academic challenges as long as they come with a chance to compete at the highest level. Could you foresee sustained excellence by Stanford Football and would you perceive a perennially strong Cardinal program as any kind of a threat to Notre Dame's niche?Jim Harbaugh is an amazing fart-sniffer. To truly gauge how Harbaugh has changed Stanford recruiting, you merely have to look at his teams recruiting rankings according to Rivals.com since he was named the head coach in December of 2006:
||Not in Top 50
Now, let's see Notre Dame's stats over that same period:
***ASR means Average Star Rating
It isn't hard to see that Stanford is gaining ground on the Irish, but in doing so, it could have also weakened the Irish classes over the last two years too. It really is a finicky thing.
So to answer the question, yes. Harbaugh and Satanford (that was a classic typo, but perhaps it was divine providence) pose a threat. However... I want to state that the pool of potential recruits is a quite larger than some would lead you to believe. Look at the offers every year, and you will understand.
6. Let’s talk statistics. Will they matter this weekend?
a. Coming into the game, Stanford has the #3 ranked Scoring Offense nationally (51.67 pts/gm) with the 14th ranked Rushing Offense (242.33 yds/gm). Notre Dame's Scoring Offense ranks 73rd (26.00 pts) with the 99th ranked Rushing Defense (197 yds/gm).
Will the Irish be able to contain Stanford's rushing attack?The word, "contain" has many meanings when it comes to the game of football. In this case, containing a "power-ground attack" is tricky when it has an accurate QB as a sidekick. But to answer the question... Notre Dame is capable of slowing down the Stanford ground attack, and will do so for large portions of time Saturday, but can they keep the big play from breaking it open like Dennards run, or Bakers long trot? If they do, that is contain- I'll say yes, and stay positive.
b. Notre Dame's Passing Offense is 8th nationally (318 yds/gm) and Stanford's Passing Efficiency Defense is 3rd nationally (74 yds/gm).
Will Stanford be able to contain the Irish passing attack?No. Notre Dame will pass, and pass often. It's what we do best and Crist & Co. will continue to improve.
c. Stanford gave up 170 yds rushing to UCLA and 265 yds rushing to Wake Forest. Notre Dame has averaged 133 yds/gm so far.
Do you expect Kelly to utilize the Irish rushing attack more?The Irish didn't run the ball as much against MSU as they did against Purdue and Michigan. I expect that Kelly will want a little more balance to help keep his defense a little fresher. Look for more carries from Jonas Gray this week (just a hunch).
d. Stanford is ranked 4th in Red Zone Defense (50%) while the Irish have the 65th ranked Red Zone Offense (82%). Stanford's Red Zone Offense is tied for 1st (100%) in conversions and the Irish Defense's Red Zone conversions allowed is 36th (75%).
Will the Irish be able to stop Stanford's RZ conversions and improve theirs? How would you do that?
Stanford doesn't turn the ball over, and Notre Dame does. That is the difference. So, whoever is able to NOT turn the ball over will yield the most points inside the redzone. Both teams have good FG kickers, and 37 yard FG's count as a score too. Not really an answer, but it gives you something to watch for, and provides the key to success.
You impove by your offense getting inside the 20, and having your defense hold them outside the 20. Simple enough, but seriously... you need to win the turnover battle.
7. 1-2 is pretty tough to deal with for a football team still trying to find its identity. Meanwhile, Stanford is looking like a well-oiled machine thus far. Do you think this Irish squad can really bounce back from another heart-breaking loss against the Cardinal? What if it's not all that close?
Jim Harbaugh is a giant douchebag. I detect a hint of fear in this question, in fact, it reeks of fear. I don't blame the question for doubting an Irish victory, but I remain steadfast in my optimism. This team is improving, and win or lose, I think that they are certainly capable of winning against any team they play on their schedule- even one with a giant douchebag for a head coach.
Notre Dame silences a few of their critics, and provides hope to millions of those who have been abused by Harbaugh. Irish win 34-31.