Friday, July 24, 2009

Here Come the Irish 2009 | by Pat

The latest issue of Here Come the Irish has hit the newstands and Maple Street Press decided to once again let BGS chip in. Writers from NDNation, UHND, Classic Ground, Dr. Saturday, Football Outsiders, the Dean of Local Sports, Jeff Jeffers himself, and many more also have contributed to this year's version of the most in-depth pre-season annual you'll find.

Many of you have picked up the Annual in previous years so I'll skip the hard sell and just direct you to the Maple Street Press site, where you can find a full table of contents and the all-important order information.

Apropos of the recent posts here about scheduling, I thought I'd excerpt Brian Fremeau's excellent article about ND's scheduling: past, present, and future. For those who don't know, Brian is an ND grad and writer for Football Outsiders, one of the best number-crunching football sites out there. Here's a brief glimpse of Brian writing about ND's strength of schedule using his own methodology and hints that the strength of schedule for 2009 might not be as bad as some might think.

The trends in Table 4 are more plainly apparent. Notre Dame hasn’t played a particularly top-loaded slate since the early ’90s. 2009 marks the third year out of the last four in which only two teams with at least a Very Good APP rating appear on the schedule. Only three teams from the Elite-21 power list in Table 2 will play ND in 2009, and two of them, Michigan and Washington, are experiencing program rating nadirs themselves. Is this a crisis?

One thing to consider before answering that question definitively is the overall decline in scheduling philosophy on a national scale over the last decade or so. In 1997, only 38 games between FBS and FCS games were played, equivalent to 5.9% of scheduled non-bowl games among major college football teams. In 2008, 87 FBS vs. FCS games were played (11.3% of scheduled games). Appalachian State didn’t exactly usher in an era of parity when it defeated Michigan in 2007, either. FBS vs. FCS games are almost always slam dunks, and have been that way forever. Since 2003, FBS teams with only two wins or fewer to their name are still 51-10 against FCS competition. When more and more programs are electing to grab an “automatic” victory, is Notre Dame appropriately following suit by playing fewer “heavyweights”?

Consider also that the 2009 schedule, as weak as it is projected to be, still rates as stronger than 20 of the 25 schedules played by No. 1 programs since 1985. That includes each of the last five seasons in which USC has held the mantle. Part of the reason for that, of course, is that in the head-to-head match-up, Notre Dame gets credit for facing an Elite opponent in the Trojans, whereas USC only gets credit for playing an Above Average opponent in the Irish. Still, if USC had played a program of its own APP caliber in place of Notre Dame since 2005, its SOS ratings would fall to around 0.12, similar to ND’s ratings over the same time period.
It's articles like that, along with an expanded roster preview section and plenty of great insight from some passionate ND fans that will help fill up these next few weeks separating us from the greatest time of the year: college football season.