Friday, August 31, 2007

the Roundtable Inside My Head | by Pete

Wake up. Oh, jeez, it's Friday. That's good. TGIF and all that. Hold on, it's FRIDAY! As in the day before Saturday, and this Saturday is THAT Saturday! Notre Dame Football is back! Is it too soon to call in sick? Is it too late to call in dead? I need to throw some sausages onto my "Return to Glory" fueled Hibachi, throw a couple beanbags, and enjoy a few adult beverages. It's football season.

Hold on, one second. I know you're excited for football season to start, but this year, it's not necessarily going to be the salad days of the last couple years. Charlie's still driving the bus, but haven't you noticed the passengers have changed quite a bit? All-American receiver and a more-than-capable counterpart? Gone. Leading rusher with great hands and pass-blocking skills? Gone. Oh, and that Heisman candidate, first-round draft pick, tough as nails quarterback? Gone. I hope you plan on stretching Saturday morning, because we could be seeing some serious growing pains this year.

I know we lost a lot from last year, and it's easy to see those guys as irreplaceable. But we've got to trust in Charlie on this one. We know he's a great coach, and the players he's recruited are finally getting old enough to start to contribute. Sure, we're inexperienced, but I think we're talented enough to hang with just about anybody.

Talent's one thing, getting the chance to develop that talent is another. You better hope that training camp was a hell of a learning experience, because these young guys get exactly zero time to get up to big time college football game speed. As if starting against Georgia Tech, a team that gave our experienced squad fits last year, isn't bad enough, how about consecutive road trips to Happy Valley and the Big House? This isn't a learning curve, it's Everest in moonboots. Oh, but then we finally get some relief: a Michigan State team that consistently takes us to the brink, and a Purdue team that nearly circumnavigated the globe against our secondary. And then it's that easygoing stretch of Top 10 UCLA, experienced thorn Boston College, and oh boy oh boy, the University of Southern California, the team that chews up quarterbacks and excretes points. We could be looking at a donut for a record until we finally reach some cupcakes.

Sure, the schedule isn't ideal, but Notre Dame has always relished a challenge. And once again, Charlie knows that's it's an immediately rough road, and we've gotta think he's prepared the team for that. Inexperience is something we have to deal with, but how much that inexperience affects the team depends on how well they've been prepared, and you know they've gotten some of the best prep a coach can offer. The days of the team losing games to teams with less talent (that means most on our schedule) are over now that Charlie's at the helm. And as for that flammable secondary? I don't know if you noticed, but there's a new defensive coordinator in town. Bad, bad Corwin Brown.

I know, I know, "Baddest man in the whole damn town." Save it for at least a few weeks, OK? I'll give you that the guy seems to be attracting some great recruits, but from an objective perspective, here's what we know: 1. He hasn't coached a down of football for the Irish yet, so while we're happy with him as a recruiter, we don't know anything about him as a coach. And 2. He's never been a defensive coordinator. Expecting Corwin Brown to instantaneously turn this colander into a cheese grater overnight is rapidly approaching delusional. He's a complete unknown.

So you're saying we shouldn't start making the mold for his statue outside the stadium yet? I know he's an unknown, but an unknown is infinitely better to what we used to know about this defense. Under the last coordinator, we knew we would have a poor pass rush, we knew the secondary would have trouble covering the long ball, and we knew that we would have to hang 50 points to keep up with an elite team. I'll gladly take not knowing a thing over knowing we could expect more of that any day. The problems in the program are being identified and being diligently fixed. You can't ask for anything else when you're looking for a reason to hope.

Even if he does prove to be the Patron Saint of Hurry-Ups, he better do it quick. Brady Quinn was the absolute cornerstone of this team four years. You have to admit that if there was anybody else under center last year, and I mean anybody, there were two more games Notre Dame would have definitely lost, and probably more. You can't expect to jump from a Heisman candidate, four-year-starter to a guy who AT BEST has thrown two passes, and not miss a beat, can you?

Brady was invaluable to the team the last few years, but the guys behind him are not exactly slouches. Hell, the guy who people think is the BORING pick, Sharpley, was a four-star rated recruit and sought after by plenty of the big boys. Then you've got Clausen, and if you're not happy with him on your roster, I don't know how to please you. And if the rumors are true and Jones is the starter, then you've gotta think Charlie is up all night dreaming of ways to use his playmaking ability. Throw in a green but overall bigger and talented offensive line, and there's no reason to think that if these guys meet their potential, our offense can't continue to be very good this year.

Yeah, or the brutal schedule eviscerates our young team, killing any confidence they have and forcing everyone into group therapy. It's really an all or none deal as far as I'm concerned; we open firing on all cylinders, playing perfectly, and yea, sure we can beat some of these guys. BUT if things go as they tend to go for nearly every sports team on the planet, a young team is going to need some time to get into a rhythm, which means they should be playing good football, oh, by about Navy. Thank God, just in time.

If you're such an expert, let's hear your predictions. Put your money where your mouth is, smart guy.

Here's how I see it: the Georgia Tech game is a loss. It should be a win, but the fact that there is zero warmup time for the team means they lose a close one. Penn State: second game, on the road in a stadium that's been prepping for us all year, and a relatively experienced team? Don't like our odds there. Michigan: their stadium, offense that torched us last year still intact, gimme another L. Michigan State? We should beat them, but stranger things have happened against them. Purdue? Same. UCLA? Once again, on the road, experienced team against our young'uns. Are you noticing a pattern here? BC: Perfectly located on the schedule (for them), sandwiched between a West Coast jaunt against a good team and the biggest game of the year. Oh, and they're experienced, with one of the better quarterbacks out there this year. Perfect upset fodder. USC? Best we're hoping for is competitive. The rest are jokes. The way I see it, a .500 record would exceed expectations.

It's tough, but I don't think it's THAT tough. Georgia Tech: lost the best wide receiver in the country last year, breaking in a new quarterback too, we're more talented and at home. Penn State: we smoked them last year, Corwin's defense baffles Morelli, and we win going away to shock everyone. Michigan: remember the last time an underrated ND team went to the Big House? I smell deja vu. Michigan State: New coach + no Stanton = win. Purdue: Weis's dominance of PU continues. UCLA: I think they're overrated, and by now, this inexperienced team has some great games under its belt. A toss-up, but ND's got a good chance. Boston College? New coach, new offense, we're better, it's at home. Win. USC? I'm going to say we win, because you always gotta believe we can beat those guys, you gotta. And the rest are jokes, in a good sense. At worst we go 8-4, but, and even I think I'm crazy for thinking this, but it's not impossible that we could do some very special things this year.

Okay, now I know you're either high, drunk, or insane. Probably a sick combination of all three. But you know what's great about it all?

What's that?

As fans, we don't have to worry about this stuff. We just get to watch the games, support the team, and see what happens.

It's a beautiful thing, Pessimistic Outlook in my Brain. Let's go tailgatin'.

Lemme borrow your keys. No better way to start your morning than with an 8 AM shotgun.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Irish Set to Host Yellow Jackets in Season Opener | by Brian

(Brian may be popping in from time to time this season with his take on the upcoming game. His first dispatch follows. -ed.)

With the bitter taste from a two-game losing streak lingering lo these many months, the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame enter the 2007 season set to fact the Yellow Jackets of the Georgia Institute of Technology (GIT) this Saturday at Notre Dame Stadium. This offseason did not feature the likes of minor league baseball from Jeff Samardzija, nor fisticuffsmanship from Tom Zbikowski. Instead, the Irish have been all business as they have prepared for the matchup with GIT.


After much rigorous analysis, this reporter has uncovered the identity of the starting quarterback that head footbawl coach Charlie Weis will send out to face GIT Defensive Coordinator Jon Tenuta's stout defense. In determining who would replace fromer ND starter QB Browns (tip of the keyboard to Tecmo Super Bowl), one need only look at the nickname: every two-bit hack sports "journalist" displayed a rapier wit in referring to the former starter as "The Mighty Quinn", the classic song by Bob Dylan (and considerably less-classic cover by Manfred Mann). With that in mind, the new Notre Dame starter will be the player whose name immediately suggests the best song-based nickname. Here are the contenders:

Top Jimmy, he's the King
---Jimmy Clausen: Top Jimmy, by Van Halen, off of their legendary album 1984

---Evan Sharpley: Sharp Dressed Man, by ZedZed Top

---Demetrius Jones: Mr. Jones, by Counting Crows. (A tough break for Demetrius.)

Clearly, one name and one song rise above the rest. I hereby announce, in a WORLD EXCLUSIVE, that Notre Dame's starting quarterback will be Jimmy Clausen. And if you don't know that then you don't know jack Peace.

Of course, Clausen's tenure as starter could be short-lived, since the Headline Writer's Dream will be arriving on campus next year: Crist Almighty (alternate nickname: Great Dayne).

After helping to save the world
by closing up the Hellmouth,
Giles relaxed with a robust
cup of Taster's Choice
Overview of the GIT Players

The Yellow Jackets no longer feature all-world GIT receiver Calvin Johnson, nor former GIT quarterback Reggie Ball, who must have been pretty special because he was a four-year starter. Ball will be replaced by Taylor Bennett as the GIT quarterback. Also picking up some of the offensive slack will be returning GIT running back Tashard "Taster's" Choice.

The GIT defense can be summed up in one word: Wheeleriffic! GIT linebacker and All-American candidate Philip Wheeler returns to unleash his unique brand of athleticism and blatant cheapshottery.

A Chan For All Seasons

The straw that stirs the drink for the GIT program remains GIT head footbawl coach Chan Gailey. Many volumes have and will be written about this great man; here, we list just a few of his accolades and accomplishments:

--- He coached the aforementioned Calvin Johnson all the way to the number two pick in the NFL draft, and Reggie Ball all the way to Parts Unknown (hometown of such greats as The Ultimate Warrior).

--- He successfully negotiated the Peace of Westphalia, ending the Thirty Years War.

--- He drove the Golden Spike, completing the Transcontinental Railroad.

--- He caused Jerry Jones's face to permanently freeze in this position:

--- He survived an assassin's bullet in Prague in 1973.

--- He led GIT to nine wins and a Gator Bowl berth in 2006.

ND/GIT Series History

There is a rich history to the Notre Dame/GIT rivalry. Here are a few highlights:

1975: The Jamie O'Hara Game. In a game which lives in infamy among GIT fans, a seemingly benign Irish victory turned into one of the most egregious displays of poor sportsmanship ever witnessed in American sport. Notre Dame halfback Jamie O'Hara, whose career was something of a disappointment, came off the bench to see some playing time late in the final home game of his senior year. With the Irish comfortably in front in the final minute, O'Hara, ignoring the called play, threw a halfback option pass for a touchdown, obtaining some ill-gained personal glory. He summed up his entire sorry career there in one play.

Jamie O'Hara, walkin' around like he thinks he owns the place

If you're reading
this, Elizabeth,
I'm single and frisky.
Since leaving Notre Dame, O'Hara has had a successful career as a motion picture actor. He can next be seen opposite Elizabeth Banks in a sexy Mrs. Claus costume in the holiday release Fred Claus.

1997: The Dawning of the Age of Awquarius. In 1997, the Bob Davie Era began, as the Irish defeated the Yellow Jackets in the rededication of Notre Dame Stadium. I don't recall what happened after that, but no doubt Davie went on to have a stellar career under the Dome, before retiring to become one of America's great footbawl commentators.

2006: QB Browns Effectively Eliminates Himself From Heisman's Trophy Contention. Last year, the two teams opened the season in a primetime game in Atlanta, with the aforementioned Bob Davie, presumably retired after a legendary coaching career, on color commentary. The game featured robust defensive efforts from both sides, with the Irish coming out on top by a score of 14-10. Although QB Browns had perhaps the best game of any quarterback all season against the GIT defense, the glitterati at ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNews, and ESPN on ABC declared his candidacy for Heisman's Trophy all but over.

Game Prediction from the Oracle

For an official prediction for Saturday's game, we turn to a man with his finger on the pulse, and his brain in the infinite vastness, of the college football universe, the Blind Oracle at Bristol, as he enters his trance-like state:

"Beware the coming scourge. From the South, a swarm invades---by air and ground, for theirs is the right Choice. Tenuta amazes and confounds, not with an accordion, but with his tricky schemes. Death and despair, a week-long darkness. Bottom line, the Irish lack the team speed to keep up with the Yellow Jackets. Georgia Tech beats Notre Dame 35-10."

Game Day Primer | by Pat

Get yourself over to and bring up the All-Access feature. In preparation for the 2007 season, they have posted a 20 minute highlight video that covers just about every great Notre Dame play you can think of, complete with the call by Tony Roberts, Don Criqui, and others.

Miami in '88, FSU in '93, the Snow Bowl, Crable blocking Michigan's kick, the Chicken Soup Bowl, Rockne's Ramblers, video from Stepan Center pep rallies, Clement to Weber, the Green Jersey game, Rocket, and much, much's all in there.

Put this on repeat Saturday morning and you might not even make it to kickoff. Holy cow, I need to headbutt someone.

For those having trouble with the All-Access feature, here's a direct link to the video.

2007 Opponent Position Preview Summary | by Pat

Here is the final summary table for the 2007 position previews. If you're looking for the individual breakdowns, follow the links for quarterback, running back, wide receiver, tight end/offensive line, defensive line, linebacker, and defensive back. When it comes to looking over these rankings, I'm going to repeat what I wrote last year:

One important thing to keep in mind though. These previews ignored coaching acumen (or lack thereof), offensive/defensive schemes, game location, cheerleader aesthetics, and many other important factors that determine just how hard a team really is to play. This table technically only represents one guy's opinion of how the talent and experience levels of the 2006 opponents stack up against one another.
Southern Cal
Georgia Tech
Penn State
Boston College
Michigan State
Air Force

(I updated the table -- PeteatND reminded me that I meant to blend the WR/TE numbers together, so that the tight end ranking alone wasn't weighted as much as a QB or OL ranking. The final tally is now the average of QB, RB, WR/TE, OL, DL, LB, and DB. Thanks Pete.)

Glancing at the table, the Trojans stand out as the obvious #1 with Michigan a clear #2. UCLA is a touch ahead of Georgia Tech while the Yellow Jackets and Penn State are pretty much even as the 4th team on the list. After that, BC and Purdue come in at the same spot with the next five teams all a small step apart from each other. I'm not so sure this matches exactly how I would consider the schedule difficulty-wise, but I think it's pretty close. Obviously once you start to factor in things like home game versus away and coaching ability things might shift a bit, but that list doesn't look too bad to me. What do you think?

2007 Opponent Position Preview: Defensive Backs | by Pat

Kickoff (kickoff!) is almost upon us, so the positional preview on opposing secondaries is going to be abbreviated. Apologies all the way around. I'm a bit worried I might have my key to the BGS Lounge revoked for this, but, luckily, I know how to sneak in. Previous positions reviews here: QB, RB, WR, TE/OL, DL, LB.

Moving right along, I'm going to offload the starting lineups and player stats to a separate page, and go straight to the commentary.

2007 Defensive Back Analysis and Ranking

The key point to take away is that Notre Dame's rookie QB is going to face a number of talented and experienced defensive backfields in 2007. ND hasn't exactly kept it a secret that they plan on running the ball more. But you can expect teams to load up the box and force ND to throw and prove they can move the ball through the air. When that happens, we're going to get a pretty good look at just how much talent the Irish do have under center, because there are going to be a lot of talented cornerbacks looking for telegraphed and/or inaccurate passes.

I'll also note that there are some terrific safeties on this list. That not only will put more pressure on the Irish quarterbacks, but also mean that ND's running game will face even more talent up the middle of the field. For the most part it's a good sign for the offense if the safeties are the ones tackling the ball carrier. Still, it's likely that there will be more than one All-American safety selected from the Irish opponents in 2007.

As for the rankings, I think Southern Cal and Penn State are a notch above the other teams. Georgia Tech is just behind those two. Michigan has some great athletes, but also some question marks so they go in a tier with Boston College and Michigan State. Stanford and Purdue are next. Both teams have veteran players, but these players didn't help produce a great defense last year. Finally, Air Force, Duke, and Navy round out the list. There are still a few talented players on those squads, but for the most part they are going to be picked on all year.

1. USC - Taylor Mays is the young star on a veteran unit with quality depth.
2. Penn State
- King is one of the better CBs in the nation and Scirrotto is a force in the middle.
- Talent and experience at every position and experienced depth off the bench.
4. Georgia Tech
- Lewis is a very good safety and there is plenty of experience.
5. Michigan - Sears is a question mark, but there is experience and depth at the rest of the unit.
6. Boston College
- Tribble is exceptional. The new starters will be targets early on.
7. Michigan State
- A very talented safety tandem in Wiley and Warrick.
8. Stanford
- Experience at corner and inexperienced athletic talent at safety.
9. Purdue - The experience is there, but the production hasn't been.
10. Air Force
- Giannini is a talented safety, but the rest of the players are average.
11. Duke
- Experience at safety, but rookie cornerbacks are never a good thing.
12. Navy
- A lot of new starters on the field for the Midshipmen.

Shutterbugs | by Pat

Just a friendly reminder and request for those lucky enough to be roaming the campus of Notre Dame this fine weekend. We're doing another round of fan photos and hope to improve upon the great shots we got last year.

So make sure to take plenty of pictures while checking out the Dillon Pep Rally, Drummer's Circle, the Pep Rally, tailgating, the normal hustle and bustle of a home game weekend, and of course, the Stadium and game itself.

All pics can be emailed to the BGS inbox and we'll put them together in an album for everyone to see. Thanks!

Deciding your BCS future | by Pat

The latest group of Harris Poll voters has been released. For the third straight year, the Harris Poll will be replacing the AP Poll as part of the BCS Bowl rankings.

Many of the names from last year are back again, but there are a handful of new names.

The most notable, as far as ND goes, is the inclusion of Allen Pinkett. Most fans will also pick out that former ESPN talking head and current CSTV employee Trev Alberts is on the list.

If you recall, Notre Dame supplies a pool of nominated voters, from which three are chosen to actually vote in the Harris Poll. 1956 team captain Jim Morse is back again, who along with Pinkett likely makes up two of ND's three allotted voters. But who's the third? Gene Corrigan, Tom Hammond, and Roger Valdiserri are all back, meaning that none of them were officially ND nominated voters last year. Take a look at the list and tell me who I'm missing.

Corwin. | by Pat

There is a fantastic profile of new defensive coordinator Corwin Brown in the South Bend Tribune. It's easily the best portrait of him that I've read yet.

From his upbringing in the rough and tumble South Side of Chicago, to getting into fights during school, to his recruitment out of high school, to his arrival at ND, to how he approaches coaching defense, to his views on his professional future -- I highly recommend taking some time to read the article.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Holy Mackeral! | by Jay

(Our good friend TJ provided us with a couple of classic ND-Georgia Tech clips, from the '77 and '78 games. I started off by asking him how he gets the video and the audio synced up; the audio is actually from the radio broadcast which is dubbed over the archive footage. Enjoy.)

T.J.: How do these come together? My friend Kevin H. overlays the audio over the game films. He does a great job. I'd love to learn how to do it, but I just don't have the time. I've watched Kevin do it and it is painstaking work. Most of the films run at 3/4 speed, so syncing normal full speed audio is tricky.

In many instances, no TV broadcast exists of these we have made one by syncing the radio with the old black & white coaches films.

No special notes on the '77 GT game, other than all sorts of team records were set that day. Modern day record for most points in a game (69), most in a 2nd half (48), most TD's (10), and extra points (9). Also the record at the time for most TD passes (5).

I will say my favorite part of the '77 clip is the coin toss at midfield. Look at how fired up the Yellow Jackets are. They have no idea Hell is about to be unleashed upon them. ND pounded Tech, 69-14.

The '78 GT game, which Notre Dame won 38-21, established 3 school records. Joe Montana completed 10 consecutive passes, which was a school record at the time...since shatttered by Brady Quinn. Vagas Ferguson set the single game and single season rushing marks at the time in that game.

The highlight (lowlight?) of the '78 game is when GT fans started throwing debris at the Irish players. Devine took his team to the middle of the field until order was restored. Terence Moore wrote about the incident last year in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

The sky over the stadium was filled with even more debris than clouds when it became apparent in the fourth quarter that Notre Dame would smash Tech's chances of extending its longest winning streak since its Bobby Dodd days from seven to whatever. "They also were a little upset, because they thought we had poured it on the year before [69-14]. Then, when we got down there, they had the same feeling, I guess," said Montana, whose Irish had a taste (and a smell) of things to come heading to the stadium. "We were driving in on the bus, and they were throwing fish and all kinds of stuff at us. Then we got into the game and it got worse."

For one, Notre Dame’s bench was within howling (and throwing) distance of Tech's student body. "You were right there, and at one point, it looked like a rum bottle smashed on the helmet of the guy standing right in front of me," Montana said. "They were throwing batteries, champagne bottles, everything. It was so crazy that after [former Notre Dame coach Dan] Devine said, 'We're outta here,' they put us on the same sideline as Georgia Tech."

I should also add that the voices on these clips are legendary.

The '77 games on radio were called by Al Wester. Al did the ND games as Van Patrick's sidekick/color man from 1968 thru early 1974, when Patrick died of cancer.

Wester then became Don Criqui's sidekick from 74-76, before taking over the play-by-play duties himself until Tony Roberts stepped in for 1980.

Wester is the voice of my childhood. Loved his voice and his enthusiasm. I get goosebumps listening to his calls even today. I believe Al is still among the living, retired and living in New Orleans.

The '78 GT clip is, of course, from a "Sunday Morning Replay" TV broadcast with Lindsey Nelson at the mike. George Connor is the other voice you hear. He often subbed for Paul Hornung on occasion as Lindsey's color man. Connor joined the replays permanently in 1980 until their demise in the mid-80's.

The live radio broadcast on Saturdays, followed by the condensed TV replay on Sunday mornings was how we followed ND football back in the day.

(Thanks again to T.J. and Kevin for providing these terrific clips. Check out more of TJ's video library at Classic Notre Dame.)

Charlie Weis: Meanest Coach in the Universe | by Pete

If you haven’t heard yet, Charlie Weis is completely absurd. I mean, there are pundits out there trying to feed their kids, and Weis keeps lording the Holy Grail of secrets -- the name of Notre Dame’s new starting quarterback -- over their hard-working heads. Let’s hear what a few college football experts have to say about Weis being just a complete jerk about this whole starting quarterback thing.

There’s Matt Hayes stewing in The Sporting News:

[T]his secrecy over naming his starting quarterback is ridiculous. Weis says he knows who his starter is. Doesn't know if the player knows, or if the rest of the team knows. He says they should know, because, well, if they don't, they aren't that bright. Got it?
And then there's the Chicago Tribune's Rick Morrissey, who points out that not only is Weis being overprotective, but he's got the gall to take pride in his (many) Super Bowl rings:
If I find out who Notre Dame's starting quarterback is going to be, I promise to tell you. It's going to be difficult, though, because the answer, along with the missile-silo codes, is locked in a briefcase chained to Charlie Weis' wrist.

I don't mind saying I'm scared to death of getting my hands on such sensitive information. Why, with this kind of knowledge, someone could ... someone might be able to ... someone very well might ... actually I'm not sure what someone could do with it.

Diabolical things, and let's leave it at that. Weis says that the identity of his starting quarterback is on a need-to-know basis and that we don't need to know. This probably is a good thing. We couldn't bear the terrible weight of all that inside information...

...The Notre Dame coach could be dangerous in this situation. He looks like the kind of guy who knows how to kill you three different ways with one finger, which, if he hasn't already mentioned it, features a Super Bowl ring.
Let's head back to The Sporting News to hear from Steve Greenberg, who wrote the following after crying all night into his pillow:
You've got to hand it to Charlie Weis. He has managed to take annoying to a whole new level. The man who stifles more talk in his house than Archie Bunker finally announced that he has settled on a starting quarterback -- only he didn't tell the media who that quarterback is. Nor did he tell his Notre Dame team. Nor did he tell -- get this -- the new starting quarterback.

Weis is so paranoid about controlling information that he has ratcheted the muzzle tighter than ever around the faces of his players and coaches. Gee, it must be heaps of fun to be a part of that program. I know I would want to play for a guy who respected me so much he didn't trust me to speak in public without hurting the team and/or making a jackass of myself. Thanks, Coach!
Even Sports Illustrated's own Stewart Mandel thinks this is all a bit much:
By now, you’ve probably heard a few hundred times how Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis is "arrogant." Not just from judgmental sports columnists like me, mind you, but from actual Irish players ("He seemed a little arrogant," former defensive end Justin Tuck said following Weis’ first team meeting [Ed. Note: Weis never coached Tuck as he left for the NFL before Weis's first year]) and opposing coaches (“Weis is arrogant as hell," one such coach told The Sporting News last year [Ed. Note: This has widely been reported to be Purdue's Joe Tiller. Take that for what it's worth]).

But arrogance can take on many different forms, and over the course of this offseason, in managing to turn a seemingly mundane quarterback decision into a matter of national security, Weis has shown his true colors.

From the first day of training camp, Weis made it abundantly clear that none of us peons would be privy to the identity of his new starting quarterback - either junior Evan Sharpley, redshirt freshman Demetrius Jones or true freshman Jimmy Clausen -- prior to the first snap of Saturday’s opener against Georgia Tech. Weis’ reasoning? "I'm not really in the business of passing out free information [to the Irish’s opponent]." That’s interesting, considering numerous other coaches who seem to know what they’re doing -- Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops, Florida State’s Bobby Bowden, Nebraska’s Bill Callahan -- apparently did not see the same harm in publicly announcing similar decisions over the past week.
The college football experts would have you believe that Charlie Weis is being completely paranoid and aloof by refusing to tell them who his starting quarterback is. I mean, Stoops is doing it, Bowden is doing it, Callahan is doing it, everybody but Weis is doing it! (Of course, a few of those teams aren't as concerned with advantages against mighty North Texas and Nevada, and Florida State is breaking in a new offensive coordinator against Clemson so there's no real tape to study. Meanwhile, there are other teams out there, like Cincinnati, who haven't made up their minds on a signal-caller yet, either. But I digress.)

The key thing to note here is that the experts are talking out of both sides of their mouth. In one breath, they talk about how ridiculous it is that Weis would protect a dumb, insignificant thing like who the starter is. Such a mundane piece of information. And in their second breath, they lambast Weis for depriving them of that piece of "pointless" information that they are rightfully due as journalists! Is it insignificant and unimportant, or is it absolutely crucial? It can't be both.

Of course the columnists are ultimately just concerned about the poor kids toiling away in the shadows of Weis's totalitarian coachtatorship.

Hayes says it's keeping the team uptight:
I'm not exactly sure what kind of mind game he's playing, but whom does this benefit? Name the guy and move on. The team will rally around him, and the public nature of the event will galvanize the team -- instead of keeping everyone uptight about not "saying anything" to the media, their friends, their parents, the janitor at the dorm.
And Greenberg says that if it's uncomfortable for the reporters, it's got to be bad for the team as well:
Weis made this quarterback battle what it was: weird and uncomfortable for everyone not on the inside of the Irish program. And if it was weird and uncomfortable for us, there's a pretty good chance it was the same for Jones and Clausen.
Won't Weis think of the children?

But if you think about it, isn't it obvious that Weis is doing this precisely for that reason? I just showed you snippets of several stories written just in the last week calling Weis arrogant, annoying, and paranoid. If a starter had been announced weeks ago, you want to know how many stories would have been written about the pressure cooker Notre Dame's new starting quarterback would be facing under the national spotlight? How many stories that would simultaneously laud this bright newcomer, while reminding readers of the high probability that he could not live up to any Beano-esque proclamations? The ink spilled about "the ridiculous expecations at Notre Dame" and "how big Brady Quinn's shoes are" would have filled an oil tanker. With this strategy, Charlie deftly pulled that pressure off of his young signal callers and redirected it towards himself.

When Weis took this job, he said he would always protect his players. If the team played poorly or lost, he would take responsibility and not throw his team under the bus. In his losses, Weis has kept to his word, and his handling of the quarterbacks is simply another manifestation of that protection.

Sure, there is a slight tactical advantage to be gained from keeping the starting QB mum until the first huddle, but it's hard to believe that Weis thinks he stands that much to gain by keeping Tenuta in the dark for the first series or so. He knows he's facing a great defensive coordinator, and while Georgia Tech may have had to spend a bit more time prepping for varied QBs, Weis knows he's not going to bumfuzzle Tenuta too much with this subterfuge.

No, the most important aspect of Weis's quarterback policy has been allowing the team and especially the quarterbacks to focus on football, and ignore the media circus surrounding them. Weis is more than happy to play crash test dummy for a while. Whoever the starter is can rest for now knowing that the eyes trained on him are also splitting time on two other guys as well.

Charlie Weis has faced more scorn from the outside world in his brief tenure at Notre Dame than most coaches ever will. But here's the important thing to remember about his attitude regarding that scorn: he could not care less. He came into this program flashing his Super Bowl rings and talking up his X's and O's, and that confidence has permeated through the team. At the same time, Weis is more than willing to take a few shots from the media if it means making it easier for the new quarterback to get ready for Saturday's game. He's not here to make friends with the reporters, he's here to win football games.

Every time a pundit calls Weis "arrogant," that's one less pundit unnecessarily hyping Jimmy, questioning Demetrius, or criticizing Sharpley. What an absolute jerk, insulating his players from the relentless heat of the national spotlight.

And if you believe him, Weis is looking forward to this Saturday just so he can be done with all this stuff. From his most recent press conference:
I'm just like you, I'm going to be glad to get to the game and get this stuff over with, you know, because I don't like this either, just so you know. I'd rather have this over with. Let's get to the game, get playing.

Now we can just move on with the season and I'm not causing a distraction outside. Now, the team's not distracted by it because everyone knows what the deal is. The only one that's distracted is everyone else. I can't wait to get through Saturday, hopefully with a very positive outcome, and we can go from there.
He may not like being a distraction, but he's willing to serve as a necessary one. And he knows that no matter how much wailing and gnashing of teeth is had in the media world over the quarterback situation, all is calm behind the Weis Wall of Media Protection. It's what he's there for.

(Oh, but don't think for a second that Coach Weis is getting soft on his players. From yesterday's presser, there was this question:

Q. Are you confident, though, that these players might surprise naysayers?

COACH WEIS: Well, they better.)

But hey, Bad, Bad Charlie Weis isn't going to break these columnists' stride, no sir. They don't need him to spoon feed them the information, they still remember how to turn over a few stones from their cub reporter days.

Now, all that said, I've got a feeling the starter will be Jones.
You didn't hear this from me, but Jones is said to be taking most of the snaps in practice.
Anyway, the Irish's new starting quarterback is -- sophomore Demetrius Jones. At least, that's my guess after reading what those who cover Weis on a daily basis are saying.
And Mandel:
That said, it’s fairly obvious at this point that Sharpley, the most experienced of the bunch, will start on Saturday.
See? Suck on that, Coach Weis! We found out anyway!

(Kudos go out to commenter Fitzwater for introducing this point of view to begin with. He nailed it, in my opinion.)

Join me, as we take a look...into the future | by Jay

...the Future, Jay?

Got a quickie season predictions poll for you. Click here to take it.

When you're done, click here to track the results.

The preseason mood? In a word, parturient.

Fire up the Crystal Ball | by Jay

Over the weekend team BGS got our picks down on paper:

USC Navy
W W W W W W W L W W W W 11-1
W L W W W L L L W W W W 8-4
L W W W W L L L W W W W 8-4
W L W W W L W L W W W W 9-3
W W W W L W W W W 10-2
W L L W W W W L W W W W 9-3
W L L W W W W L W W W W 9-3
W W W W W L L W W W W W 10-2
W L W W W L W L W W W W 9-3

We also fired some questions around the table...

Which game will ND win that will surprise people? Which game will ND lose that will surprise people?

Michael - ND will surprise a lot of folks when they beat PSU on the road. Last year I really thought Weis owned their defensive coordinator, but I think we lacked the talent to overpower them with the running game. This year I believe the rushing offense will be better, and I really think Weis has Bradley figured out. Now they have DL injuries to deal with, which makes it worse. On the other side of the ball, the knock on Morelli has always been his ability to read defenses, and Corwin Brown comes from a coaching tree that emphasizes confusion and disguise. Meanwhile, their RB is Austin Scott, who has been on their team for like 4-5 years but lost his job to Tony Hunt. I think their rushing offense will take a step back. -- I'm not sure what game we'll lose that will surprise people since many already consider us underdogs to GaTech, PSU, UM, UCLA, and USC; meanwhile there's that whole MSU phobia that's carried over from the last ten years. Therefore, I'll pick Navy. Maybe this year's the year, and that would really surprise people.

Pete - I think the Penn State game will be a big surprise, considering it will be on the road in a harsh environment against a team that is generally believed to be elite even when they're not. And I think it'll be a surprise because we'll win fairly handily. There's no reason Notre Dame can't beat on this team like they did last year, and the biggest obstacle is not letting the young team get intimidated by a hostile environment. If we can avoid that, I think we can win fairly easily, and that will definitely grab some attention, like beating UM at the Big House in 2005.

As for a loss, I hate to say it, but maybe BC. When you have an experienced team that believes it has your number (think MSU a couple years ago and still to an extent today), and you sandwich them between two of the toughest games on the schedule, that's just begging for a letdown loss. I think ND fans are thirsty for revenge against this team and want to convince themselves it'll be an exorcism, but I can really see a flat Irish squad dropping one to these turds.

Mike - Surprise win - UCLA. I think everyone has high expectations for UCLA's defense, but I think the main factor in their defensive success last year was that both of their starting DEs were so good. When both DEs are that good, there's only so much a coach can do in terms of gameplan. At some point, you simply have to ask your tackles to win the one-on-one battles. With the loss of Justin Hickman, I think it will be much easier to give the tackle help against Bruce Davis or to roll the QB away from him. Also, I think this year's Irish OL will have more success running the ball up the middle against UCLA.

Surprise loss - I didn't predict a loss to BC, but I could see it happening. We're all frustrated with KW's sequencing of the schedule (e.g., this year we have eight solid games, then a bye week to prepare for the schools that compete with us academically but not athletically). BC's athletic directors are masters of sequencing. They always seem to play us a week removed from a game we care infinitely more about (see, e.g., the losses to BC after victories over FSU). With the BC game sandwiched between the UCLA and USC games, I could see ND coming out flat and BC playing as if the game is their Super Bowl.

Mark - Beat Michigan. The Wolverines, in my lowly opinion, are vastly overrated heading into the season. To be honest, they remind me a great deal of the 2006 Irish. Everyone talks about Henne, Hart, Long and Manningham. But the key to their season in 2006 was their defensive front seven. It was impossible to run on them. And that defense, for all it's accomplishments, burst open in a manner similar to what ND fans are familiar with over the last two games in 2006. Ohio State and USC destroyed the Michigan defense. And they lost a plethora ("Jefe, what is a plethora?") of talent - Leon Hall, Woodley, Branch, Harris, Burgess, etc. I don't expect Michigan to be better in 07 than they were in 06. Actually, I think they will take a step back.

As for a loss, I guess it would be UCLA. I don't think they are particularly talented, or well coached, but they game is towards the end of the opening 8 game gauntlet and I can't bring myself to pick BC over ND because I think my head will explode if we lose to those classless assholes, and their similarly classless fans, for a fifth straight time.

Pat - Win a bowl game. (Is that cheating?) Our long national nightmare will be over as Notre Dame will finally win a bowl game, ridding lazy journalists across the country of a gimmie snide remark. ND has started far enough down the rankings that they will likely still be ranked lower than many teams with similar records. Without doing all the bowl affiliation math, ND will likely wind up in a decent mid-level bowl and beat whatever mid-level team they face.

As for the loss, if ND has a strong showing against Georgia Tech, the hype machine will leap into action and replays of last year's pasting of Penn State will be everywhere. But playing on the road in front of a loud and supportive crowd is a dangerous place for a team with so many new starters.

Teds The Michigan win will surprise. In my opinion, UM is clearly overrated going into the season, and the road team in this series almost always puts up a hell of a fight. If ND isn't too ground down by the trip to Happy Valley the week prior, they stand a good shot of taking down Michigan. On the losing side, I would say UCLA. It's always dificult to travel that far in the middle of the season and pull out a win against a competitive opponent. particularly when the trip is surrounded by other legitimate challenges.

Dylan - Michigan. When we beat Georgia Tech and Penn State, it will be because they were overrated. When we beat Michigan, and beat them at their own game, people will realize that ND is better than 39th-best. Since I only predicted a loss to SC, I'll have to go with a hypothetical in order for a loss that qualifies as a surprise. If ND is undefeated heading into the UCLA game and loses, then that will be a surprise, especially if UCLA already has a loss.

Which class (senior, junior, soph, frosh) will make the biggest contribution this year?

Michael - It depends who wins the starting QB job. It'll either be the junior, soph, or freshman class. I'll go out on a limb and say junior class: Sharpley, Kuntz, Duncan, Turkovich, Grimes, Bruton, Schwapp. That group contains the QB (assuming he wins), the starting NG in a 3-4, the LT, the FS in what could be a lot of cover 1, and the likely leading pass-catcher.

Pete - Relative to their expectations, I think it could be the freshman class. With a couple strong running backs, a nose tackle that's got the build but just needs experience, and a couple potential linebackers, some of those guys who are unknown outside of in-house message boards could be household names by the end of the season. And if you throw in a golden-haired Wonder Boy at quarterback, it's no contest.

Mike - Sophomores - Young and Wenger on the right side of the line, Jones at QB, Yeatman or Reuland will be the second TE, it appears that West will be starting at WR, Toryan Smith at LB, Walls or McNeil as the nickelback.

Pat - I say the 5th year seniors. Sully is working with the three new starters on the OL. Travis is helping out a whole new group of young running backs. Zibby is there for new starter David Bruton. Laws undoubtedly will be the man with the answers on an inexperienced defensive line. Carlson will hopefully take the slack off the new receivers. There may be a few younger players who statistically have super years, but the leadership and guidance of the 5th year seniors, in addition to their stellar play, will be the biggest contribution to the team.

Teds - The sophomores. They are the biggest group in terms of raw numbers, and it's also the second-year players who are usually counted on to take a big leap forward and start to make an impression. Given the paucity of reliable players in the classes above, there is no limit to the opportunity afforded the sophomore class this season.

Dylan - I'll go with the sophomores. I think Darrin Walls and Raeshon McNeil (and Munir Prince?) will greatly improve the secondary, Sam Young will round into All-American form, Toryan Smith will become a monster, and Demetrius Jones will spend the year as the starting quarterback.

Jay - Juniors. The performances of Grimes at receiver, Duncan at left tackle, Turkovich at left guard, Kuntz at nose tackle, and Bruton as free safety -- all new starters, all at crucial positions -- will likely be the difference between a good season and a mediocre one. I think they're up to the task.

How much patience will ND fans have for the starting QB before calling for the backup?

Pete - Hopefully some, definitely not enough. With all Brady Quinn managed to prove over his first three years, he still had people calling for him to hit the bench after the first few games of the season. If he can't escape it, there's no way any of these guys can if they struggle. If the quarterback can run the offense, minimize mistakes, and put Notre Dame in the position to win games, he'll be OK. But as soon as a few errors are committed, look out, especially since we all know what potential talent will be standing on the sideline.

Mike - None. Same as it ever was.

Mark - Not enough. We're not a patient group by nature.

Teds - If patience were measured in integers, this one would be negative. Sadly, too many Irish fans will be taking their cues from ESPN and their ilk, and most of those guys are foaming at the mouth before the season has even started.

Dylan - More time than it takes a hummingbird to flap its wings, less time than it takes to do it twice.

Finally, what Notre Dame storyline will be overplayed in the media this year?

Pete - Gotta be the quarterback situation. I only hope whoever wins the starting job doesn't burst into flames from the intense heat under the media microscope. The mere fact that Weis announcing that he knows the starter but isn't telling is front page news on should tell you something about the attention this is getting. I'm afraid that if it's Jimmy Clausen, every imperfect play will be blown way out of proportion. And I'm more afraid that if it ISN'T Jimmy Clausen, everybody will be wondering why it isn't Jimmy, and when it will be Jimmy. I guarantee you that Notre Dame will have the highest percentage of American citizens who know the third-string quarterback's name by the end of the season, especially if it's a little bumpy.

Dylan - The quarterback "controversy." I think Clausen will spend the entire season on the bench, and every mistake Jones makes will be followed by a sideline shot of Clausen. These days, the coverage of sporting events is focused primarily on personality and drama, rather than the competition on the field. Throw in ND, and you've got the perfect vehicle for ESPN to draw in both fans and enemies. 1st Alternate - Charlie's inability to earn a "signature" win, despite beating top 5 Michigan at Michigan.

And how about a storyline that will be underplayed?

Pete - I think Corwin Brown has completely swept the Notre Dame crowd off their feet, but I don't know if he'll grab the attention we're expected on a national scale. A solid new defensive coordinator isn't nearly as sexy as the aforementioned quarterback "controversy" on the other side of the ball. Unless ND's defense immediately vaults into the top echelon, Corwin won't grab the headlines.

Mike - I don't think we'll see many comparisons between Willingham's third year and Weis's third year, but given their other achievements (or lack thereof) a single comparison would be too much. Meanwhile, reporters will continue to fail ask the tough questions about Kevin White's tenure, despite an enormous amount of data to peruse.

Mark - Underplayed - The overall youth of this Notre Dame team. There are significantly more freshmen and sophs in the two deep than there are seniors. Or at the very least seniors who are out of eligbility after this season. Whatever games the Irish will lose this year, people will get caught up in the short term and fail to keep in mind that this team, and program, are at a tipping point. Starting in 2009 this program will be an annual member of the top 5-10. The youth already on the team is only being supplemented by what is currently the unanimous choice as the #1 recruiting class in the country.

Dylan - I don't know if it can be considered "underplayed" since the depth of CFB coverage is so shallow, but you can bet that the disgraceful graduation rates of the pre-eminent programs will once again be glossed over. Journalists don't like shining a light on the subject because it reflects back on their own hypocrisy, and their glorification of crooked regimes like Michigan, Oklahoma, and Texas.

Teds - Corwin Brown. He'll get more of the focus as the season goes along, but this is the sort of young, dynamic, rising coach who the media outlets would otherwise be tapping if they didn't have the quarterback competition to obsess over. All in due time.