The Week in News: Musical Conferences and Multiple (Meaningless?) Preseason Rankings

Welcome to this week's installment of the week in news, starting elsewhere and bringing it back to the Bend.

As they have and will continue to do, conference realignment rumors raged on this week. Chip Brown threw his hat into the speculation ring and the OFD commentariat discussed Big 12 expansion and where Notre Dame fits into all of this when the music stops. Pat Forde offered his own "brief, semi-fictional history of hysteria in college athletics," a comical send-up of the realignment madness that made the rounds this week.

As Brett McMurphy reported over at College Football Insider, Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick commented from the Big East spring meetings on ND's place in whatever football playoff model is implemented in 2014, (cryptically) on what ND's place in the Big East is and will be for its Olympic sports, and on the week's wild ND-to-the-Big-12-?! speculation.

"Swarbrick was asked specifically if Notre Dame would consider the Big 12.

"‘I'm not going there,' he said.

"Swarbrick admitted he's close friends with new Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby.

"‘The conspiracy theories can really start now,' he joked."

All ahead full, Captain Swarbrick.

Former West Virginia head coach Bill Stewart sadly passed away at the too-young age of 59 on Monday after a heart attack. Thirty years into his career as a coach, Stewart led WVU to three consecutive 9-4 seasons before Dana Holgorsen stepped into the role; Stewart most recently served as a college football analyst for ESPN.

Lou Holtz's grandson Trey, son of USF coach Skip Holtz and a high school holder and rugby-style punter, is joining the Texas Longhorns as a preferred walk-on. The youngest Holtz, who is unsurprisingly interested in coaching, will join the quarterbacks but is most likely to see the field on special teams.

As noted here last week, Ohio State has been feeling pretty self-congratulatory about their "culture of self-reporting" over in Columbus, as though having 12 pending NCAA violations added to a total of 46 secondary violations over the last year (including 9 for football) is merely and solely indicative of high-quality self-regulation. AD Gene Smith this Tuesday gave an interview to the student paper in which he suggested that the violations may not all be insignificant: "We've got 12 pending," Smith told The Lantern. "It may turn out to be secondary. It may not."

An OSU spokesman began the backtracking Wednesday when he assured The Lantern that the number was actually fewer than 12 and continued Thursday with a statement from Smith clarifying his comments - "Contrary to reports attributed to me, Ohio State Athletics is not facing any major NCAA violations. . . . Again, to be clear, the Ohio State football program, its coaches and staff are not facing any violations."

And then there was a third statement insisting on the same and giving us yet another glimpse into the minutiae of NCAA rules - "The compliance office approved the use of mini basketballs during a football winter conditioning workout" - and the offending technological mis-steps of coaches trying to figure out this whole social media thing - "an assistant [football] coach inadvertently posted on the Facebook wall of a 2013 prospective student-athlete, believing at the time he was using the email inbox function of Facebook." Just shocking.

While not "news" in a meaningful sense, now that we're fewer than 100 days from the start of the season, let's pause for a look at a few new preseason rankings.

Notre Dame slipped out of the top 25 in ESPN's latest pre-season ranking because its "best player" transferred to USF ("oh, really?" one Polynesian linebacker was heard mumbling). Their 2012 opponents are holding down the fort, though, ranking 2nd (USC), 6th (OU), 9th (Michigan), 11th (MSU), and 12th (Stanford) here.

That's right - just under half of Notre Dame's opponents in 2012 are ranked in the top 12 in the country by tWWL at the moment. Oh, and that team out-played by all but the Irish quarterbacks and their wayward passes in the Champs Sports Bowl? They're ranked no. 7 in the country.

Phil Steele also submitted his preseason guide to the Irish this week, and though you'll need to purchase his guide to see it in full if you didn't catch a glimpse on Thursday, you can find Murtaugh's summary of the profile here. Notre Dame is ranked 21st in the country by Mr. Steele and first in strength of schedule.

Athlon Sports similarly puts the Irish at 20th in the country in their preseason top 25. Having only listed their teams from no. 8 through no. 25, they so far rank ND's opponents at 18 (MSU), and 21 (Stanford). FSU comes in at no. 9. It's pretty likely that USC, OU, and UM wind up in their top 7.

For comparison, Football Study Hall's F/+ rankings (from 4/12), using super fancy statistical measurements, ranks the Irish and their 2012 opponents (plus FSU) as follows: 3rd (OU), 6th (USC), 8th (FSU), 9th (Stanford), 11th (ND), 12th (UM), and 19th (MSU). The others come in at 34th (BYU), 41st (Pitt), 42nd (BC), 45th (Miami), 70th (Purdue), 76th (Navy), and 80th (Wake Forest). That puts 9 of Notre Dame's 12 2012 opponents in the statistically-top 45 teams in the country. How do you think Brian Kelly is feeling about this gauntlet right about now?

Using those same fancy statistical measurements, Football Study Hall proves with numbers that Notre Dame is really getting better. Yes, better. Really. With numbers. ND finished 2011 ranked 13th in the F/+ rankings and is currently ranked 11th. But does that leave us feeling all the less satisfied with ND's win-loss record over the last two seasons, or does it instill hope that they are on the statistical verge of some sort of inevitable breakthrough?

One cog in the Fighting Irish machine starting in 2013, committed offensive lineman Hunter Bivin, did his part to shore up the "field" side of recent Irish track and field successes this week. Four-star OT Bivin (6'7", 290) won the Kentucky state championship Class 3A title for shot-put with a throw of 55 feet, 3 3/4 inches - more than 3 feet better than the second-place thrower. Fellow 2013 OT commit Steve Elmer (6'6", 315), also a shot putter, qualified this week for the Division I Michigan state championship with a throw of 49 feet, 8 1/2 inches. Offensive linemen who excel at throwing heavy things great distances? Huzzah!

And now a brief jaunt around the Notre Dame blogosphere . . .

Keith Arnold of Inside the Irish published his first three profiles in a series on the incoming freshmen joining the Notre Dame football team this summer. Keith started with Chris Brown, Elijah Shumate, and Jarron Jones.

Over at Her Loyal Sons this week, Bayou Irish calmly dismissed Mark Potash's May 17th Chicago Sun Times lament that "Notre Dame's Brian Kelly Doesn't Know When to Say When."

Here at OFD, Eric Murtaugh applied his sartorial eye to the latest game-changing over-the-top interesting developments in uniforms at the professional and collegiate levels and Jim Miesle continued his thoughtful series of pieces on "10 Things to Change about College Football" with a critique of the bowl system. Say goodbye, Taxslayer.com Gator Bowl!

And finally, our comment of the week came from Irishane in our "Pick Your Top Ten, and Pick ‘em Quick" post: while we were all deciding which current starters to save from the ever-vigilant SBPD, Irishane found himself at some sort of crazy time warp party with former Irish greats. His list?

Have a great weekend, everyone, and a happy Memorial Day!

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