Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Upon Further Review - Week 5 | by Dylan

This week went just about as expected for the Irish, with perhaps one touchdown less on offense and one more allowed on defense. Despite racking up a bunch of yards through the air, it took a horribly missed tackle by Tom Zbikowski for Purdue to avoid a 35-14 thrashing at the hands of the Irish. Purdue had to settle for being soundly beaten by a score of 35-21.

Has Notre Dame’s defense looked shaky? Sure. The secondary has continued to allow receivers to get behind them and the front four has been less than dominant. But what did we expect? Other than pure wishful thinking, there was no reason to expect this defense to be spectacular. How would one realistically gauge the chances, against the toughest schedule in the country, of a unit with one returning linebacker and a true freshman at cornerback? With two starters out, as was the case against Purdue?

Would anyone really care if we all woke up tomorrow and Rick Minter were not the coordinator? Probably not. But that doesn’t mean he should be fired, either. We are shorthanded, and have actually not played that badly on defense, all things considered. What is the hackneyed phrase used to assess coaching acumen? Ah yes, making adjustments. How has Minter’s defense adjusted during the first five games? Pretty damned well. Georgia Tech (the same Georgia Tech that scored 31 on Va. Tech Saturday) scored 10 points in the first half against ND, none in the second half. Michigan’s offense scored 27 turnover-fueled points in the first half and scored two field goals after that. Michigan State scored 24 first-half points, six second-half points. Purdue scored 14 before the break and 7 after.

What does that all mean? It means that ND has given up too many points in the first half this year, which can be attributed to a number of factors, coaching being just one of them. If ND’s offense had played even average football in the first halves of the Michigan and Michigan State games, the defense would look much better. Despite being given no room for error in three of the five games, the first team defense has given up 12 points in meaningful second-half play, 19 if you count Purdue’s final score. 12 points in five games. Let’s wait and see what this team looks like when it can actually run a 4-3, when second and third best linebackers aren’t a backup tailback and a starting safety, respectively.

While it’s been beaten to death and it’s not charitable to take pleasure in another’s suffering, I’m really enjoying the MSU debacle. There are about 85 threads of karma wrapping around John L. Smith’s neck right now, and it couldn’t happen to a nicer guy. I actually feel sympathy for (some of) his players. They deserve better than that blabbering, paranoid idiot.

The only thing I can say for certain about this year’s National Championship picture is that ND does not factor in it. Unless the Ohio State-Michigan and Louisville-West Virginia games are wiped out by meteors, I don’t see how ND can make it into the top two in the BCS, even with a season-ending win at Southern Cal. I hope I’m wrong, but there are too many obstacles, some of which are already evident, the most glaring being the obvious bias against ND in the “human” polls. Texas lost badly at home against the best team in the country. Notre Dame lost badly at home to what might be the second-best team in the country. Texas has beaten North Texas, Rice, Iowa State, and Sam Houston State. Notre Dame has beaten #18 Georgia Tech on the road, Penn State, Michigan State on the road, and Purdue, all of whom had not lost a game until they lost to ND. Of course, it follows that Notre Dame is ranked five spots behind Texas in both the AP and Coaches’ polls. Texas should not even be in the top 25, unless the voters think that Vince Young is still their quarterback. Let them beat somebody, for pete’s sake. Of the one-loss teams, ND and LSU should be 1 and 1-A in the rankings. However, anyone who thinks a one-loss Notre Dame would be ranked ahead of a one-loss Auburn, Florida, or Michigan at the end of the year is kidding himself.

Did I mention that Texas played SAM FREAKING HOUSTON STATE?!? In week five?

There’s not much else to say, really, about the week that wasn’t. There were some near toe-stubbings, but, alas, Miami, Georgia, Nebraska, Southern Cal, and Auburn escaped with their loss columns intact. Egregious cupcakery gave way (in most cases) to conference play. Not a lot of grist for the mill, you know?

Onward to face Stanford, a team that would probably lose to Oaks Christian.

Go Irish!