So we just recently put our various toughts and opinions out there well in advance for the upcoming season... and naturally there were a few games that the three of us didn't quite all see eye to eye on. So why not dig a little deeper and put more fodder out there for each of us to look like complete and total idiots geniuses in a few months? Sounds like a plan to us.
The first installment will concern the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame. Our ridiculously early predictions were as follows: Beauford (ND), Dave (M), and SCM (M). Without furhter ado: questions... with answers!
SCM - I honestly don't think either team will be looking ahead. Nevada has a football team that returns the majority of the 3rd ranked rushing attack and 5th ranked overall offense in the country last year (I can hear the screams of "who did they play?" now). Point being, they aren't exactly the Coast Guard that we all know ND would play annually if, you know, the Coast Guard fielded a football team. Michigan on the other hand has no business looking past anyone. After 2007 and 3-9 last year, I hope in my heart of hearts that we have changed our attitude in terms of how we approach those kinds of games. Part two? The only film benefits that either team gains from the first week will be the following:
A. ND will get a look at Tate Forcier/Denard Robinson actually taking real snaps in a real college game and also what players are in the secondary that week.
B. Michigan will get some idea of we might be looking at in terms of ND's new 4-3 defense.
SCM - The strength vs strength matchup is ND's O-line vs our D-line, with the nod going to ND. I worry a bit about whether our scheme will handcuff Graham's ability from the outside and while we have definite talent across the line, it's young. BB and Dave are both right in that experience is about as valuable of an asset there is on the O-line. ND's O-line was good for the 100th ranked rushing offense last year, but did manage to actually protect Clausen coming in 45th in sacks allowed. I don't foresee them being a force of nature this early in the season, but I think they'll definitely be solid. Will Michigan's defense be ready to deal with solid the second week of the year? On the flip side, I think the Michigan O-line gets the check-mark against ND's D-line for very similar reasoning to that stated above.
SCM - BB and I simply don't see eye to eye on this, we're ok with it, but it's worth mentioning at the outset. It was 5 TDs against Hawaii, and no, I didn't think to throw the bowl game in there when I grabbed the road games off of last year's schedule. Dave teased out the point I was actually getting at here, and that is, against actual competition, ND's quarterbacks (Quinn can get thrown in here too) have been "meh" at best. This ill-begotten myth that somehow Charlie Weis is a mastermind who will maximize his QB's performance doesn't pan out when you look at the numbers when it matters. Brady Quinn against ranked teams in his senior year (Penn State, Michigan, USC, and LSU)? 8 TDs against 5 INTS... for the rest of the year the guy threw 29 TDs against 2 picks!!! Weis is in year FIVE, and if anyone can show me where he's put his QB in a postion to win a game that matters you will be able to knock me over with a feather. I'm not sure why we continue to beat down this Tom Brady thing (it was his second year in the league by the way). Arguing as though Weis was the reason for Brady's success in New England is a somehwat tangential point. Point being: Yes, back in 2001 Charlie Weis's offense was well organized around a young NFL QB that put him in a position to succeed. After five years in the college ranks, what kind of correlation have we seen between the Patriots run to the title and Charlie Weis' ability to develop a college quarterback? Little.
SCM - I totally concur with my associates on the "bad matchup" here, but 'll get specific: I'm not quite as worried about our corners... it's the safeties that have me on alert in this game. An early game with a young secondary and a team that you know will test us deep carries a lot of risk for confusion in coverage assignments, etc. Our pursuit angles from the safety position haven't exactly been anything to write home about over the past two years either. And by "anything to write home about" what I really mean is "eye-gougingly-bad".
Best matchup? I think it's our offensive line against their defensive line. I loved how this unit started to improve towards the end of last season and you could see our ground game come around. It's all the more impressive when you consider the youth and no threat of any kind of a credible passing attack at that time in the season. With all of that experience returning, I think this O-line has a chance to take a big step in the right direction this year. If they open up holes against ND, we've got the horses to make them pay.
SCM - Dave, marrying into it means that you are no longer able to speak freely on the matter... we understand, and it's ok. Fans being one part of the equation, I'd say that I am more annoyed by Notre Dame fans for their general sanctimoniousness (and ridiculous defenses of a wide spectrum of subjects, including indefensibly easy schedules year after year after year, etc, etc, etc). That said, I am more appalled by Ohio State fans for... well everything. The majority of Ohio State fans I've interacted with out in public can be thrown into the utterly classless category. They don't so much root for their team as they take joy in being assholes to other fans. Rational OSU fans always point out "every fanbase has some ____ fans" yeah well your fanbase has the highest percentage of them bar none. I've been treated very well in my trips to South Bend. I refuse to go to Columbus. There are simply far too many accounts of horrifying behavior, and no, that crap doesn't happen everywhere.
There's more here than just the fanbases however. Perhaps it's because I grew up in an area where Notre Dame was on the front page of the sports page EVERY... SINGLE... DAY, but quite simply put I can't stand Notre Dame. I loathe the pretentiousness of the place. Talk to a ND grad for 2 minutes and you will know that they went to ND without even asking because they will tell you, always in an obnoxious fashion. I loathe that I have to watch our game on NBC every two years with their horrifyingly awful commentary. I loathe that every year is a "return to glory"... whereby glory MAY mean a winning record. I loathe the utter hipocrisy of a school that fired Ty Willingham too early, and yet makes nothing short of a littany of excuses for their currently overpaid and underproducing head coach.
I can at least respect what Jim Tressel has accomplished on the football field (off the football field is another accomplishment alltogether isn't it Jim?). The man can coach. Charlie Weis on the other hand makes excuse after excuse about his lack of results, and there's simply too many examples to name them all here.
Ohio State is a member of a conference. Notre Dame clings to an independent status and pitiful schedule for money (hey at least that makes some sense), but they get a ludicrous deal with the BCS that basically states "if you don't choke on applesauce and are willing to take a whipping in January, here's a huge freaking check".
All in all it's really splitting hairs between the two: I want to win the THE GAME more than any other on the schedule. However, I prefer to see the Buckeyes at the top of their game, it makes the whole thing that much better. With Notre Dame, I can't think of a game I'd want them to win... honestly, I can't. So for me, probably more than other Michigan fans, Ohio State is clearly the arch-rival... but ND comes in at 1A.
So there you have it, a lot of words and thoughts... what's your take? Anything we've overlooked or gotten just plain wrong? Let us know. Next installment to follow sometime in the near future.