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Irish Blogger Gathering: Bring on Michigan

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Weclome to another edition of the IBG. It is appropriate that this round of questioning is put forth by none other than the esteemed bloggers at Her Loyal Sons.

At no other place in the blogosphere will you find such a vehement distaste for all things Wolverine.

In the spirit of including the sum of the ND blogosphere in the IBG conversation our tightly knit team of bloggers here at One Foot Down tag teamed this edition in a way that the British Bulldogs could only dream about. Let us know what you think about the responses from Eric, Mouth of the South and yours truly in the comments. We enjoy the conversation. Without further adieu.

1) You've now seen Notre Dame Football: The Kelly Edition, Volume 1, Episode 1. Was it everything you thought it would be? Were characters missing from this episode that you were expecting to see featured? Did it strike you as a carbon-copy of Kelly's Cincinnati teams, or is there something discernible between the 2 programs beyond the colors of the uniforms?

Eric

As a whole, Episode 1 was different in many ways. I was definitely expecting a very Cincinnati-type of game mixed in with some left over residue from the Weis era. I was expecting 450 yards on offense with a few turnovers and a defense that gave up 20 points or more.

We got nothing of that, even though the characters remained the same as far as who I was expecting to play well (Crist, Wood, Allen, Rudolph, Gray.)

Episode 1 featured two timely interceptions, strong tackling and a defense that looked improved in a lot of areas. That was quite unexpected for the first game of the season.

Even though we’ll be running the same Cincinnati offense and eventually turning into a very potent scoring machine on offense, I think it’s pretty apparent that Brian Kelly is really focusing on being a tough defensive team that can run the ball.

He’s been pigeon holed as a pass-happy coach who has never paid attention to running or playing tough defense, but he’s never had the type of talent to do either of those things at the highest levels. Now he does and it will be a brand of football that is probably quite different than Kelly’s Cincinnati teams and what Irish fans are expecting.

2) Pick one positive play, offense or defense, by the Irish from last Saturday that you feel serves as a bit of metaphorical foreshadowing for the 2010 Irish. Extra points if you can stretch the metaphor to fit Kelly's entire tenure at Notre Dame.

Whiskey

While several things come to mind I have to go with Armando Allen’s 22 yard touchdown run in the first quarter. A few things struck me when it happened. For starters it seemed like a long run which says plenty in of itself. Then I started trying to remember the last time I felt like a big play out of the ground game could happen at any point during a game. Needless to say I was cruising past a decade before I decided that digging up such a memory might prove to be futile.

That is no longer the case and it won’t be going forward. As Eric touched on in #1 with the personnel that Coach Kelly now has at his disposal I think we will see a very balanced version of the spread that makes the defense account for both the run and the pass on every snap.

3) Pick another play, offense or defense, by the Irish from last Saturday again, but this time, make it a negative play. Tell us how that play serves as a bit of metaphorical foreshadowing for the 2010 Irish. And again, bonus points for stretching it over Kelly's tenure.

Whiskey

I have to go with the safety that was given up by the offense. The defense had just created a turnover with their backs against the wall only to have the offense immediately squander it with blown assignments on the next play. That was ugly. It was a sobering reminder that while the future looks bright we have to be prepared for a few mistakes as the players settle in to a new system. That said I think such errors will become fewer and far between as we move further into the season and into Coach Kelly’s tenure.

4) You know us, we're stat geeks. Give us a stat that we should be watching this season that will A) Tell us something enlightening about the 2010 Irish and/or B) Tell us something enlightening about the average Top-5 teams at the end of the 2010 season.

Eric

It has to be yards per carry for the Irish this year.

Notre Dame’s going to pass the ball and Dayne Crist’s going to have some really big performances, but the running game has to be consistently effective. Last week’s victory was an excellent example. Crist throws for only 200 yards, but the Irish backs average 6 yards per carry and pace that side of the ball. That’s something that will be a huge part of the offensive and team success this year and beyond.

I think a lot of people were worried that Notre Dame was going away from a pro-style offense (even though we didn’t run the ball with success anyway) to a spread offense because they were afraid there wouldn’t be enough emphasis on running the ball.

But I think the spread is easier to run the ball out of especially at the college level. Just look what happened, in our first game in the new system Notre Dame had one of its best running days of the past two or three years.

So I’d keep an eye on if Notre Dame is consistently averaging 5.5 yards per carry on the ground, which I think they will manage this year. As much as we would like to think otherwise, Crist is probably going to have a few games like last week where he’s just not moving the team down the field with his arm and that running game has to be there to do damage.

At the end of the season, I think we look at what the Irish did on the ground and will be pleased with the difference between Brian Kelly and the prior regime.

5) Notre Dame is currently a 4 point favorite in the coming Michigan game. You get 3 points for being at home. The AP poll actually ranks Michigan higher than ND. ND is 1-4-1 in the last 6 games with Michigan in which the Irish were favored and 9 and 6 in the last 15 games in which Michigan was favored. Does any of this worry you? Why or why not?

Mouth of the South

No matter how many times you flip a quarter and get the same result, you have the same odds of hitting heads or tails on your next flip. This rivalry has almost that same feel. Regardless of what the teams have done or will go on to do, regardless of rankings and off-the-field issues, all bets are off come kickoff when Notre Dame and Michigan clash. Speaking of past records, AP rankings and point spreads as game predictors is tea-leaf-reading, ESPN-talking-head nonsense.

What does worry me is the thought of Denard Robinson in the open field. But my fear is assuaged by when I think of Mr. Te'o introducing himself to Mr. Robinson early and often throughout the affair. I also take heart in the thought of Michael Floyd making whatever poor bastard that replaced Boubacar Cissoko look like Denzel Washington for the fourth straight year. Yes, I am counting the Army All-American Bowl roasting of Boubacar as year one. No, the Denzel reference is not a compliment. I am insinuating that Cissoko’s replacement will be torched, and thus... wait for it... a "Man on Fire." I kind of feel bad for said cornerback whoever he might be. Kind of, but not really.

6) Last week, Frank at UHND put the Gathering on the spot with our predictions for the season. After week 1, are there any of those predictions that you'd like to alter? Any upon which you'd double down?

Whiskey

My choice of Pitt as the opponent that would finish with the highest ranking was pathetic. My additional adding on a ranking of 10 was even more pathetic. At the time I was thinking along the lines that the potential Big East champs might climb that high. Somehow their brutal non-conference schedule managed to be a no show in my thought process. Fail with remediation required.

7) Describe in no fewer than 30 words why you hate Michigan.

Mouth of the South

How about because we got robbed at Ann Arbor my freshman year (1999 season) in large part because of an excessive celebration call against Bobby Brown? I must admit that the excessive celebration penalty did give us a great dance theme--Excessive Celebration, Morrissey Manor Fall Formal 1999 WHAT!--and accompanying shirt idea--Touchdown Jesus making the same gesture for which Bobby Brown was flagged--but I digress...

I was born in '81. ND took SC for 11 straight when I was a pup. ND vs. Michigan was a much sexier rivalry during my formative years. So I thought of Michigan as our primary rival until I read "Talking Irish" in Ought-4. I then realized that Michigan more rightly deserves a seat at the Haters' Ball beside Buck Nasty and Beautiful than it does a coronation as ND's Rival. I hate Michigan for Fielding Yost blackballing Notre Dame from the Big Ten, for the Big Ten refs that homecooked us last season, and for every smug and pompous "Michigan Man" in between. I hate Michigan for the chasm between graduation rates for its African-American and white football players. I hate Michigan for masquerading as a place where the "scholar" part of "scholar athlete" is meaningful despite pushing football players into General Studies and Kinesiology. Honestly, if Michigan is such a good school, why does it even have those majors except as a selling point for blue-chip recruits that UM doesn't think can cut it? I hate Michigan, in short, for being an insecure, wannabe Notre Dame that lacks the courage of its purported convictions. I probably hate Michigan most because they beat us last year. I hope the team remembers what Lou said: It doesn't have to be close.

Also, Bo Shembechler never won a national championship and Rodriguez is a cheater and he should call Jim Tressel to arrange a sweater-vest party. They would discuss sweater-vests, sweater-vest accoutrements, sweater-vest wearing, cheating, etc.