I don't see any point in mulling the Stanford loss over for 24-48 hours before commenting on it. This one was pretty cut and dried. But what does it all mean?
As much as September sucked I think that it actually gave us a pretty decent idea of where we are and what we can expect going forward. Stanford was a good measuring stick.
Before I jump into my two cents on the deeper meaning of things let's briefly talk about the Stanford game itself. I will keep this short and sweet knowing that my guy Eric Murtaugh will come in with a detailed post mortem in a day or two.
Stanford is a very good football team. I have a tremendous amount of respect for Stanford as an institution and what Jim Harbaugh has done there is noteworthy. The guy is a bit of a chooch but he's a competitor and I can appreciate that. As a guy that also just loves the game I also have to give him credit for playing an old school brand of football in an extremely effective manner. The trees just simply line up and punch you in the face. Stanford. A Pac 10 team. Lining up with 4 Tackles and a fullback on the field and pounding it. Damn. I have to tip my hat to that. They also happen to have a pretty good quarterback that is able to take advantage of making you overly concerned about the ground game. They are a very good football team.
Before I jump back on point I'll say that Stanford is the best team that Notre Dame will play this year. If they don't end up in the Rose Bowl or the BCS Championship, yeah I said it, I'll be surprised. If they lose to Oregon next week I'll stand by for the emails telling me I'm an idiot.
So ND was over matched at the LOS today on both sides of the ball. I thought the defense stood up to it pretty well all things considered. The offense not so much. Let's start with the offense.
The offensive line got dominated all day and Crist took a beating. Watching Crist today I had flashbacks to Junior High. I went to a magnet school for kids that were supposedly smart and played QB on the football team. Smart 14 year olds don't make the best offensive linemen. Just saying. I spent 3 seasons running for my life and getting sacked 10 times a game. So yeah, Dayne never got into a groove but he never had much of a chance to. The Stanford front 7 played great and they were better. End of story.
As a result the offense struggled all day. If you can't control the LOS you are going to have a long day. I don't care what offense you run. It is what it is. There isn't another defense on the schedule that will be that tough up front so there isn't much point in dwelling on it. I don't think it will happen again.
As for the defense I actually thought they played very well all things considered. They were on the field a ton but never stopped delivering blows. Luck did his thing and picked on the LB's quite a bit in the intermediate passing game but that is a natural side effect of an offense that is effectively pounding the football. The secondary still managed to come up with a couple of picks which is a good sign. All things considered I feel good about this defense going forward.
Manti Te'o is a man. I just had to throw it out there. I love that kid.
The one thing that bothered me today was that I though the team looked flat as all hell. I know that is a normal human reaction after back to back heart breaking losses but it was still a little disappointing. At some point you have to let the past be the past and get over it.
Now where are we?
September didn't quite go as I expected it to but I can chalk that up to the two heartbreaking losses to the state of Michigan. Both of those games were winnable and in both cases a Notre Dame team in transition made just enough mistakes to lose. If the Irish make another play or two in either of those games the talking heads and the fan base might have a completely different take on things despite the fact that the team would not actually be any better.
The next five games are absolutely winnable. BC looked terrible this morning getting shut out by a VT squad with the worst Bud Foster defense ever. Pitt looks mediocre at best. Western Michigan? Please. Navy is Navy. Keep the mistakes to a minimum and you win comfortably. The ND front 7 is good enough to keep them in check and the offense should score plenty of points. No more losing to the Mids. Tulsa's defense is made out of life sized paper mache' models.
So the Irish SHOULD be carrying a 6-3 record into the Utah game on 13 November. By that point this team should be able to go toe to toe with the Utes. No excuses. The next game against Army is a diversion before USC in the finale. That game will be tough but winnable. USC is not the USC of recent past. So in an absolute worst case scenario this team should finish 7-5 and go win a less than attracive bowl game. For BK version 1.0 we can build on that moving forward.
Better days are in the mail. We just have to be a little patient which is difficult after living through the post Holtz era. We will be back in the mix with BK on the sidelines. The only long term question is whether or not his offensive system will be conducive to beating the big boys when he gets there. We can argue about that in another couple of years.
What do you think?