Wednesday, September 9, 2009

IBG: "Ann Arbor's No Lady" Edition

With ND's annual game against their ethically compromised rivals to the north nearly here, Her Loyal Sons steps up with this week's IBG questions:

1) Being that you're a ND blogger, and thus follow a Catholic university's football team religiously and/or are Catholic yourself, you're probably very familiar with the notion that bad things happen to good people. For a concrete example of that, look to every Irish player, coach, and fan who had to suffer through the last 2 seasons. But never forget that bad things can happen to really rotten people too. For a really fun example of that, look to Rich Rod going 3-9 in his big debut season in Ann Arbor. Now let's mess with your heads a bit: Give me one very good reason why great things might happen to very bad people by explaining to me A) How and why Michigan (sucks!) might beat ND this weekend and B) How Michigan (sucks!) will compete for a BCS berth in 2009.

The answer to A) is simple - "pride goeth before the fall." Notre Dame is justifiably happy with their performance against Nevada on Saturday; but it's a short trip from joy to pride. Should Irish chests swell too far, they will no doubt be served a heaping helping of humility by Satan's minions in Ann Arbor. As for B), the only rational explanation for a Michigan BCS bid this year would be, at some point this fall, Armageddon takes place with "The Beast" knocking off "The Lamb" in an upset for the ages. In other words, good is defeated, evil prevails and we are all sentenced to an eternity in the bowels of Bo Schembechler.

2) After week 1, just as in 2008, the leading tacklers for the Notre Dame fighting Irish are both safeties: Kyle McCarthy with 7 and Harrison Smith with 5. DE Kerry Neal isn't even on the stat sheet, Brian Smith, while making 2 very big plays, didn't make a single other tackle, and Ethan Johnson had 1 tackle all game. Convince me that Michigan (sucks!) wont just run a "9 yards and a cloud of dust" offense against ND all freaking game.

Before I answer this question, a few related thoughts. If a Nevada team, which averaged 37.6 points and 508.5 yards in 2008, couldn't score and only eked out 308 yards against the Irish, why do we think a Michigan team who was 109th out of 119 teams in total offense last year will be able to impose their will? Is it because Michigan's "back" after scoring 31 points at home against Western Michigan? Guess what - in their opener last year, Michigan nearly knocked off a Utah team that would end the season undefeated and ranked #2 in the country. Did that make them a good team? Not a chance - they ended up with the worst record in the history of the program. Look at it another way, was there a pundit in the country who didn't expect Michigan to beat Western Michigan? Why then are we declaring the program "back" after a game everyone expected them to win? Or, for yet another perspective, pit Nevada against Western Michigan - who do you see winning and by how much? Still think Michigan deserves the accolades they've received this week? So, I guess my answer to the original question is, "who gives a shit?" Until Michigan shows they can consistently play well against reasonable competition, it makes no difference whether they plan to run, pass or crawl against Notre Dame.

3) We've now got the concrete data of 1 game to bat around. Aside from any answers involving T'eo, tell me what position changes/depth chart engineering you hope to see the staff at least tinker with during the Michigan (sucks!) game.

Developing a defensive line rotation. I would like to see Tenuta/Brown get a solid rotation of their defensive linemen into the game in order to 1) to keep fresh legs on the field, 2) give Michigan's offense some different defensive looks and 3) get some experience for the talented, but untested, Irish d-linemen. As much as it pains me to say this as a Giants fan, the Philadelphia Eagles have used a similar approach to great effect, finishing seventh in the league against the run in 2007 and fourth last year (former Irish stars Victor Abiamiri and Trevor Laws have been a part of this strategy). While doing this might result in a few growing pains here and there, I think it would give Notre Dame a great chance to have a dominant and healthy d-line as they move forward.

4) The state of Michigan has decided that they've ripped off the Rudy soundtrack long enough and need a new advertising scheme to attract people to their state and support tourism. "Pure Michigan (sucks!)" is so two-thousand-and-late. Give me the new hotness. Give me your best new tourism slogans for Michigan (sucks!).

How about, "Like Canada, But With Ugly Strippers."

5) Navy took tOSU down to the wire, Washington actually looked like a team that's coached to play football games, WSU put up some fight. After Week 1, do you now feel like the Irish '09 schedule is tougher or easier than you felt heading into last week? Why?

The same. Week 1 upsets, or near upsets, are rarely a good arbiter of what type of season a team will have. There is far too much volatility in terms of who's prepared, who's fired up, who's still coming together as a team, etc. early on in the year. If those schools who have come out of the gate strong, or stronger than expected, are still playing well after three games, then we can talk about the impact on the Irish schedule. I just don't think that will be the case, though - I think most of those results will prove to be anomalies. As seasons progress, talent levels start to show, losses start to happen and a team's will to fight tends to wilt. As a result, things end up leveling out. It's easy for a team to be better than expected for one game, especially if it's the first. Every year, upsets and near upsets happen in the first two weeks of the season and the pundits start salivating. It's an annual event, and rarely do those results serve as harbingers of a team's impending success.

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