Her Loyal Sons hosts this week’s Irish Blog Gathering. Head over there Friday for their answers and check back with them throughout the week for the other responses.
1) You’ve now seen Notre Dame Football: The Kelly Edition, Volume 1, Episode 1. Was it everything you thought it would be? Were characters missing from this episode that you were expecting to see featured? Did it strike you as a carbon-copy of Kelly’s Cincinnati teams, or is there something discernible between the 2 programs beyond the colors of the uniforms?
Game 1 was definitely a conservative version of the offense Kelly ran at Cincy. The big question heading into this week is was that by design to save things for Michigan or was it because that’s all the players have mastered up to this point. I expected to see a lot more of Theo Riddick after all of the talk about him from the coaching staff throughout camp. Aside from the absence of Riddick, the play calling seemed rather vanilla. Where were the reverses, wide receiver screens, downfield passing, etc? I think the reason we didn’t see the full complement of the Kelly is a little of both scenarios – the players understandably don’t have the entire offense mastered and Kelly was holding at least a little back for this weekend.
Outside of the offense, the defense and special teams were pretty much what I expected. The defense was improved and more disciplined and generated better pressure without needing to send the house on blitzes every other play. Special teams were vastly improved in all areas – returns, coverage, and kicking.
2) Pick one positive play, offense or defense, by the Irish from last Saturday that you feel serves as a bit of metaphorical foreshadowing for the 2010 Irish. Extra points if you can stretch the metaphor to fit Kelly’s entire tenure at Notre Dame.
Pick one of the eight solo tackles made by Gary Gray. Those kind of plays simply didn’t happen under the last staff and shows that fundamentals are being stressed much more with the current staff.
3) Pick another play, offense or defense, by the Irish from last Saturday again, but this time, make it a negative play. Tell us how that play serves as a bit of metaphorical foreshadowing for the 2010 Irish. And again, bonus points for stretching it over Kelly’s tenure.
The safety given up after Ian Williams interception was a shining example that while the team looks improved, there are still going to be growing pains along the way. The safety was a clear example of blown assignments – Kyle Rudolph and Zach Martin ended up double teaming a single defender resulting in Armando Allen getting nailed almost before he had a chance to secure the hand-off.
4) You know us, we’re stat geeks. Give us a stat that we should be watching this season that will A) Tell us something enlightening about the 2010 Irish and/or B) Tell us something enlightening about the average Top-5 teams at the end of the 2010 season.
I’ll go with a simple one – points allowed. Simply put, Notre Dame allowed too many points the last few seasons – especially last year when the offense played well enough to come away with wins in pretty much every game they lost. One game into the 2010 season, Notre Dame has given up just 12 points – two of which came on the safety. It’s no secret that teams that prevent other teams from scoring are generally among the nations elite. Last year the top 10 scoring defenses were Nebraska, Alabama, Penn State, Florida, Ohio State, TCU, Oklahoma, Iowa, Virginia Tech, and Air Force. Of those 10 schools – 5 played in BCS Bowl games and all played on bowl games on or after December 30.
5) Notre Dame is currently a 4 point favorite in the coming Michigan game. You get 3 points for being at home. The AP poll actually ranks Michigan higher than ND. ND is 1-4-1 in the last 6 games with Michigan in which the Irish were favored and 9 and 6 in the last 15 games in which Michigan was favored. Does any of this worry you? Why or why not?
I was a little surprised at the point spread when it first came out since in paper Michigan’s performance looked a little more convincing than Notre Dame’s. The spread itself doesn’t really concern me though because the spread isn’t necessarily an accurate predictor of the outcome of the game – it represents how Vegas wants people to bet.
6) Last week, Frank at UHND put the Gathering on the spot with our predictions for the season. After week 1, are there any of those predictions that you’d like to alter? Any upon which you’d double down?
My national championship pick of Texas didn’t look too impressive in their opener, but they were breaking in a new quarterback so I’ll stick with them for now. The one team I might be tempted to switch to is Ohio State if they get past Miami this week because I don’t think too much of the Big 10 this year. It also like Boise State can almost cruise to the title game after beating Virginia Tech and my money would be on OSU if they met Boise.
7) Describe in no fewer than 30 words why you hate Michigan.
Desmond Howard. Bo Schembechler. Jim Harbaugh. Tom Brady. Anthony Thomas (for having to hear Musberger yell A-Train over and over). The fact that they complained to the refs about crowd noise in 1988.
Really Michigan? Suck it up.