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There's A Lot of Football Left (by omahadomer)

(taken from omahadomer's post on Rock's House)

...the bowl game this year and many years of Weis as coach. The USC loss stings badly but now that a couple of days have passed let's step back just a bit and try to take a longer view.

Weis is 19-5 which yields a win rate of .792. Holtz's win rate for his career was .765 (.793 if you pitch his first year), Devine's .764 and Ara's was .836. Willingham, Davie and Faust were all under .600. So Weis in the high .700's is a good sign, obviously.

Weis was also dealt a pretty tough hand taking over the job. I'm big on looking at two-year cycles and point differentials because that has the effect of smoothing out lucky and unlucky outcomes in particular games. Weis took over a team that was 11-13 and -72 on points over the prior two years and has gone 19-5 and + 266 on points. Willingham took over a team that was 14-9 and + 83 on points and then went 15-10 and +1 on points his first two years.

Holtz took over a team that was 12-11 and +56 on points and went 13-10 and + 201 on points (note that most of Holtz's improvement came on points, not on record).

Anyway, my point is that by now you have a pretty good idea of where you're headed and with Weis it's the right direction. With Willingham at this point (2 years in) about the best you could say is that he was treading water. Davie and Faust were drowning. Davie took over a team that was 17-6 and + 371 and was 16-9 and +97. Faust's impact on the record was greater but less on points but dramatic on both fronts.

Really, the only more impressive debut than Weis's in relatively modern times at ND was Ara's. He took over a team that had won 7 games total the prior two years and went 16-3-1.

If you want to look at our current nemesis, Weis's debut is similar to Carroll's. Carroll took over USC teams that were 11-13 and + 52 on points and he went 17-8 and was + 314. So Carroll produced a 6-win improvement (8 for Weis pending the bowl game) and a 262 point improvement (328 for Weis).

OK, now speaking of USC, let's stick with my multi-year theme. Taking the last two years together, USC has outscored ND 39-27.5 and outgained ND about 440-400 in total yardage per game. Under Willingham the average score was 43-12 and the total yardage was roughly 520-220 in USC's favor. Anyone who doesn't think there has been progress should be required to write a 500-word essay on the 2002 box score where USC gained 31 first downs to our 4 (ND was an astonishing 0-13 on 3rd down), outgained us 610-109 and won by 31 points in a game that ND actually LED with less than a minute to go in the 1st half.

I think the 39-27.5 average is fairly reflective of where the teams stand right now. USC has superior talent (particularly on defense) and is well coached. ND is a very good team right now; it's just not one of the two best in the country this year.

Now, the fact that Weis has done a good job doesn't mean that he's done a perfect job. Under Willingham, ND scored 22.2 per game and allowed 22.2 per game. Under Weis ND has scored 34.5 and allowed 23.5. In other words, all of the improvement has come on the offensive side of the ball and the defense is no better (slightly worse actually).

To be fair to the defensive staff, the talent level is not at historical levels of ND on the defensive side. Willingham actually inherited a very good defense his first year (allowing only 16.7 that year). But even throwing out that year, the improvement on the defensive side has been miniscule and probably attributable this year to the new clock rules.

I've made this point before, but I'll make it again: Willingham was trying to build a team in the image of his good Stanford teams. A good, finesse offense and just enough defense to let your offense win 8 or 9 games per year. A coach can only have a minimal impact on the talent level in the first two years so the staff has had to play the cards its dealt.

But something is not getting through on the defensive side of the ball. Players are just out of position too many times and too obviously. Sure, some of it is mental mistakes. But as Weis is fond of saying: Coaching is teaching. Well, if you're teaching something and the students aren't getting it, either you need to teach it differently or what you're trying to teach is too hard for them.

There's also no real comparison between the speed at which teams like USC and OSU are able to play on defense and our defense. Some of it may be that the players there are more physically gifted but some of it must still be uncertainty about assignments and the like. I was struck by how simple USC's defensive schemes were. They didn't blitz a whole ton; they just trusted their DL to generate a pass rush and clogged up the passing lanes. They gave up yards in the middle of the field but then as it pinched down as we got close to the endzone it got very difficult to find any running or throwing room.

Anyway, something needs to change on the defensive front. Either we need new teachers or the old teachers need to find some different lesson plans. Yes getting some good new students will help too, but I doubt that it's the only problem.

One of the most obvious things that can be done to break from the prior era is to win a bowl game. This is a good team, a very good team -- and a fitting legacy for them would be to go out with a bowl win.

11.26 - Help Wanted

The good news: Notre Dame hasn't lost to a team ranked out of the top 5 since MSU's OT win last year. The bad news: Notre Dame will continue to lose to top teams until they find home run threats on offense and/or a coordinater and DL coach who can put our defense in a position to win. Notre Dame's two longest runs this year were Quinn and a fake punt. Without a gamebreaker to make teams pay for pressure, ND has to play perfect on offense to win these big games because Minter couldn't win a game of Rocks, Paper, Scissors if he was on a five second delay. Whether it's Javhid Best, Armando Allen or some other unknown name, the Irish need that speed on offense and players who chose ND deserve better coaching than Minter and Jappy (who both struggle on the recruiting trail as well.) I've defended Minter for two years, but no more. Wherefore art thou Romeo? Look at the job Weis's first choice, Charlie Strong, has done at Florida.

I find it humorous, in that painful humorous way, that we can't get one single blitz to pay off. Landri, Abiamiri and Laws will all have NFL careers. There's talent there. Our safeties are turnstiles. Our special teams are not (though it was good to see Zibby on returns.)

Congrats to Quinn, who despite a tough night, looks like an NFL QB already. I also think Clausen will be better.

Unlike others, I don't have a problem with Weis's playcalling last night. There just wasn't a lot to work with and we fell behind early. We had no holes to run to and tight coverage and pressure were taking away the short passing game. I'm usually and advocate of the run, but I think Weis was right to go over the top and his game plan could have paid off with better execution. But again, in my mind, the missing ingredient is speed -- our receivers cannot get separation against top talent. Notre Dame and USC's stats were identical last night, but SC averaged almost a yard more per play. I would have like Weis to design some QB draws for last night or at least have him think run on his drop backs. It's the one thing SC couldn't gameplan for.

My big criticism with Weis is the "Weis on fourth situation" is getting out of hand and may have cost ND points and momentum. I believe he needs to reevaluate here, but SC's defense is now very good.

Looking deeper at the problem (and I've touched on this before,) the Irish have operated on the edge of the envelop all season and the recruiting black holes that make up our Sophomore and Junior classes are, at this point, just too much to overcome when playing elite teams.

Ty's OL recruiting has absolutely killed ND, for this year and likely for next. ND has exactly two offensive linemen from two years of recruiting.

The Sophomore class has 15 players in it.

Not one was considered a top 10 recruit at his position. Only three were even in the top 20 and one of those is now gone. That Sophomore class that ranks as one of ND's worst in the past 20 years in terms of talent and numbers.

Only one player from this class plays meaningful minutes.

But it's gem compared to the Juniors.

The Junior class consisted of 17 players. Only three were considered in the top 20 at their positions. It too was considered one of the worst in the past 20 years in terms of talent and numbers.

But it gets worse.

NINE of those have already left the team, leaving a class of EIGHT players of whom exactly THREE play meaningful minutes.

That's 22 from players over two years of recruiting and not a one was considered elite, only three were recruited hard by any big name teams and together they wouldn't rank in the top 20 in any one year of recruiting.

Other schools can go the JC route to fill holes or load up on questionable athletes, ND cannot.

Given such a handicap, you wonder what pollsters were thinking ranking ND #2 to start the year.

ND needs to recruit and develop young talent and I believe that's happening. ND will have one more year of struggle, but as the talent spigot opens back up, you will see ND compete for the NC every year after, but we need the speed to get there and more importantly, we need to replace underperforming coaches, stat.

Back to back 9-2 seasons and BCS berths exceeds expectations in these eyes. Just two years ago we had a losing record. To this point in his career, Weis has a record better to or equal than Carroll, Tressell and Stoops.

Would like to keep it that way.

~ The Rock

great column...can't tell you how much i agree..
minter and oliver are disasters and you are the first person who also noted that both can't recruit.both were here at carolina..do you know how many sacks carolina had?..12...you'll note coach spurrier didn't keep either one of them.people think spurrier is "offensive obsessed"he also demands a lot from his defensive co-ordinators.last year he demoted the defensive coordinator in mid-seaso..then promoted a staffer

11.22 - Ten Thinks

1st - Michigan and Ohio State are not "obviously" the two best teams in the land. Whoever started this fiasco of thinking should be shunted down the shoots and ladders of stupidity. The Big N is horrible this year outside of three teams and it's the reason those three have two losses between them. ND pummeled the 4th and 5th best teams in that awful conference. OSU and Michigan have played three big games between them and one of those was against each other.

2nd - "The" game wasn't that close. Ohio State held a comfortable double digit lead. Michigan had a chance at the end, but it wasn't much more than Frosty's chance of landing a hottie after a day on South Beach. I don't get the reward UM for beating the spread theory. Except for a late touchdown, that game was a mirror image of ND's Fiesta bowl against OSU in which ND was perceived to get killed. One was an eleven point game, the other a fourteen point game and OSU held a fourteen point lead for most of the game last weekend.

3rd - Michigan is a good team that played a great game in South Bend, but they also had an entire off season to prepare for a Notre Dame team that was coming off one tough away win over GTech and another game against PSU that carried inexplicable hype. It was a much more hyped game than UM this year. Michigan has been mediocre since the middle of the year and beaten no one of consequence. Michigan does not "deserve" a rematch. If Michigan opened with GTech, PSU and Notre Dame or if the Big N was any good at all, they would have had a loss before OSU.

4th - Likewise, an undefeated Rutgers team does not "deserve" to play in anything if their schedule is terrible. The reason voting exists is to account for the vast scheduling abnormalities. (I know, they lost, the reasoning is maddening.)

5th - How "outstanding" would Brady Quinn be with Troy Smith's line, running game and Ted Ginn? Quinn has done it all on his own this year. Ginn is the gin that makes OSU so effective. He forces teams to account for the home run and play off the LOS on every play. Additionally, OSU's running game averaged nine yards a carry against Michigan. Imagine Quinn with such assets.

6th - ND has to land playmakers like Ginn and Wells. Weis has turned Samardzija into the schools all-time touchdown reception leader -- IN LESS THAN TWO YEARS OF PLAY. It's mindboggling that we miss out on an Aurelious Benn, who chooses to play for a coach that has wasted every offensive player he's ever had and a QB who throws for under 50% of his passes. Meanwhile, ND has the most accurate passer in years coming in to lead the Irish. And yes, I think he'll start. I love Kamara and Little, but we need guys like Benn to uncork the field. We also need a home run back... look what Wells did for OSU.

7th - Get your Rock hate emails ready. I can't imagine we don't have a better guard than Bob Morton at this point. There, I said it. I feel awful that his father died. I even picked him as a surprise player this year, but he's been terrible at times and on his back more than a Song girl. I hope Weis isn't putting his hidden heart in front of his hardened head on this one. I'd feel terrible if he cost this team a chance at a national championship. It only takes one blown play to kill a drive and one blown drive to kill a game.

8th - As a corollary, why does Brey insist on playing Falls when he's clearly a defensive liability and a one trick pony on offense? Tom Crean would win big with Hillesland, Kurz, Harangody, Carter and McAlarney. But Brey will play Falls to death hoping he gets hot and justifies his decision. Just like he gave the ball to Quinn every single time the game was on the line last year when all five guys were guarding Quinn and just like he let Thomas jack every possible shot that crossed his mind the year before. Do we have to endure another crappy year because Brey is stubborn? Maybe not after this one insiders say. Brey refuses to acknowledge what every coach learns the hard way... you don't play players based on seniority. I honestly get the feeling he's insecure and afraid to look like he's caving to fan pressure. Not a good trait in a leader.

9th - Back to the oblong ball. Look for the California kids to play big against SC. Landri has been an animal this year - he looks like the second coming of Zorich. Frome had an excellent game against SC until he went down. If he stayed in the game I believe we would have won against SC (and played OSU closer.)

10th - It feels like everything is moving against Notre Dame this year and that's partially a reaction to the media overhype this past summer. It's comical to watch pundits move the criteria for voting against the Irish and Quinn this year and no surprise the computer averages rank ND higher than coaches or media. ND was dropped when they struggled, but when other top teams struggled -- suddenly, a win was a win and the struggle didn't matter. ND's early big loss to Michigan was supposed knock the Irish out, but now Arkansas' big loss to USC is okay. So now it's head to head matchups, of course that didn't work for ND in 93. The target keeps moving. But as I wrote to start this year, the Irish were going to have to tough out a lot of games because they're just not that deep talentwise, nor do they possess a great skill advantage over most teams. Couple that with USC waking up and finally playing to their talent level and this game does not look good. But it actually didn't look good in that 1 vs. 2 game in 1988 either. Notre Dame won that game by outplaying and out hitting the Trojans and with coaching. Guys like Pritchett and Stams played like loosed dogs. IMO, it was an even more defining game than the Miami win that year, because the Irish rediscovered their collective soul. We're going have to have that kind of defensive play, some Irish ghosts and luck to win this one, but Quinn has pulled out come from behind wins against GTech, MSU and UCLA this year... he'll do it again in South Central but tho the odds.

Screw the pundits.

Go Irish!

P.S. Anyone notice that "character of convenience" Urban Meyer let Thomas play through the toughest part of his schedule before booting him off the team?