Irish Blogger Gathering: Torch the Tree Edition

The IBG is hosted this week by Keith Arnold at Inside the Irish.

1. Obviously, Saturday night's game is massive. Win, and the Irish get to nine wins after starting 0-2, and you can make a really persuasive argument that they're deserving of a BCS berth. Lose, and ND only makes incremental progress over last year's 8-5 record. Three potential outcomes: Win, close loss, ten-point loss. How does your takeaway for the season change?

I was puzzled at how slowly we started, but I certainly grade for November improvement after Notre Dame's previous three coaches tried to make a new Notre-Dame tradition out of the November-and-Post-Season Collapse. Brian Kelly is doing his best to eradicate that trend. At this point, it's more about cultivating the program than it is about wins and losses. But W's and L's are still the barometer, and Kelly's lads played worst when the lights were brightest this season, i.e. against Michigan and SC. The Irish can certainly take a big step towards becoming a great team and program with a win on Saturday. Win and they build up some much-needed good will and credibility in the eyes of fans, haters, and voters. Lose, and they've only put themselves in a position to eke out a one-win improvement over last season. Against SC we showed the country that we weren't ready for prime time. Let's win one for the Gray-er and show the country the opposite.

2. Right now the Irish have 15 prospects committed to the 2012 recruiting class. Let's assume every starter with a year left is coming back (Cave, KLM, Cwynar and Slaughter) and the Irish end up signing 20 recruits. That'll make 93 players technically available for the 85-man roster (With Mike Ragone potentially being No. 94). Assuming Te'o and Eifert are back next season, what reserves do you invite back for a fifth year? Why?

We addressed this a few weeks ago, but here is a quick rundown:

My personal thought is that only Cave, KLM, and Slaughter are locks for a 5th year. Cwynar and Ragone are swing guys. The staff is still involved with some upper-echelon talent for the class of 2012, and they will take as many 2012 blue-chippers as they can. Cwynar and Ragone were never true starters. I would characterize them as 1b's. This staff won't and shouldn't bring back 1b's over new 5-star talents. And after the recruiting successes that this staff had on the eve of National Signing Day last year, I would be surprised if they didn't surprise us with some big commitments in January and February--or hopefully earlier, given that some of the more highly-touted recruits have said that they will enroll early.

3. If you ran the website NDNation, what would you do with it? It's the most prominent Notre Dame hub on all of the internet, but it's got a very vocal faction of readers/fans that seem to control the agenda -- most often with a significantly negative point-of-view. What would you do if that was your website?

Here's where a degree in the Program of Liberal Studies comes in handy--I challenge the premise of the question! You did not see that one coming, I know. We don't run NDNation, so we wouldn't dream of telling the NDNation operators what to do with their site. The internet is a marketplace of ideas. One of our astute commenters, prov2002, re-worked and re-purposed the classic Justice-Brandeis quote for sports-blogging purposes: "sunlight is the best antidote for weak arguments." In the internet marketplace of ideas, the best ones will win out--of this we have no doubt. If NDNation puts out a quality product and the people like it, the site will continue to succeed, I would imagine. If it doesn't, then it won't. Either way, it's their site, so it's not our concern.

We're ecstatic about the level and quantity of reasoned, rational, thoughtful, creative, and entertaining discussion on our site. We do our best to encourage, cultivate, and enrich that discussion. We're extremely proud of our regulars' contributions to the discussion, and we encourage them to blossom by way of One Foot Down's "Pieces of Flair": FanPosts; FanShots; and profile customization--I put dubs on mine. (Ok, dey not dubs, dey 10's, but I keeps 'em clean.) Differing from the norm is encouraged. We hope that our readers find that the points of view here are so varied that there is no "norm." We the writers feel free to tell the commenters where we disagree, and the commenters never hesitate to return the favor to the writers or other commenters. We subscribe to the idea, however, that "we can disagree without being disagreeable."

This is one question on which I'm going to discourage our readers from providing their own thoughts. This is the biggest game in program history... since USC. But seriously, this weekend presents a huge opportunity without much risk on the downside. Let's talk torching the tree. As always, write what you feel, but I personally would like to focus the discussion on Stanford.

Do this.

4. You're Brian Kelly. You spent last recruiting class successfully upgrading the front seven of the defense. Over the next two recruiting classes, what position groups do you absolutely need to upgrade to get the Irish over the BCS hump?

Coach Kelly has already upgraded the talent level in the front seven. Kelly has also brought in some very tough, very athletic offensive linemen. He's also sitting on commitments from the nation's best cornerback tandem of Tee Shephard and Ronald Darby. Kelly is now focusing on our skill talent. I'm sure I'm not alone in wanting to see a few big-time running-back commitments, and a big-name, Michael-Floyd-caliber receiver wouldn't hurt. No slight to our current commitments at wide-receiver, but none of them has yet garnered the national attention that Floyd had gotten in high school. A bona fide, 5-star receiver looks like it will need to wait until next year, but there's still a chance to reel in a big-name running back.

5. I've seen dozens of analogies used to describe the current state of the quarterbacking position at Notre Dame. What's your favorite, or the one you think is the most appropriate?

It's kind of like Saturday Night Live. Tons of talented comedians--Sandberg, Thompson, Hader, and Sedakis (Crist)--just not living up to expectations and completely hamstrung by the writers' and producers' (the coaching staff's) decision to hitch their wagon to Kristen Wiig (Tommy Rees), a comedian (quarterback) with very limited abilities, but who can extract just enough chuckles (plays/wins) to keep people mildly interested (not wanting to fire the coaching staff) until it's time for an incredible musical guest (until we get great quarterback play next season, hopefully), like The Black Keys or Florence + The Machine (Hendrix or Golson).

6. Get out the crystal ball. Even after an unimpressive weekend, the Irish are right around a seven-point underdog to Stanford. Do the Irish leave Palo Alto victorious?

Why would I choose now to curtail my boundless optimism? Irish torch the tree.

"Dude, 'Roldie, I didn't do it."

"I know. I heard it was Tommy Rees."

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