to play football, not to play trumpet
9/17/2007 - Michigan 38-0 Notre Dame - 1-2
"They're going to have to learn about us, OK? Let them try to stop a pro-style offense, which has multiple personnel groups and multiple formations. Let's see how they are going to do. They've had their advantage because I've come into recruiting late. Well, now it's Xs and Os time. Let's see who has the advantage now."
This post isn't really about Michigan, because that game provided no more information about Michigan than the upcoming Eastern Michigan game will. When not blocked, they can sack; when not shed, they can run.
And thus the House of Weis comes crashing down. Notre Dame, in year three of the Weis regime, is 119th -- last -- in rushing, total offense, and scoring offense. The pass offense, Notre Dame's bright spot, is 115th. Notre Dame has been blown out by more than twenty points for the past five games. NDNation begins to turn in on itself, and even Stewart Mandel -- generally the last person to realize anything -- has caught on to the sleight of hand Weis parlayed into a ten year, 40 million dollar contract. Losing to Appalachian State seems like small potatoes in comparison.
Notre Dame partisans will tell you all about this year's senior class, they of the four contributors who are all marginal players at best, and point a finger at Ty Willingham's recruiting. They are not without reason here. Willingham's 2004 class was a dire melange of two-stars and guys overrated late because they decided to go to Notre Dame. It is dragging the program down. But this far? Notre Dame has a number of contributors left over from the 2003 class: four-year starting center John Sullivan, three-year starter Trevor Laws, probable NFL first-rounder John Carlson. All told there are fifteen seniors on the Notre Dame two-deep and all of them will be departing after this year. (I think a couple may be walkons, but there are at least 12 on scholarship.)
Dire numbers, these... or not. Michigan has nine scholarship seniors. Ohio State, terrifyingly, lists all of five seniors on their entire two-deep and will graduate three starters after this year. Three of the five seniors are fullbacks. Clearly, both of these teams are much better than Notre Dame -- as are your local Pop Warner runners-up -- despite not having a massive edge in experience. Youth cannot explain away Notre Dame's start.
What can? There is a compelling case to be made that Charlie Weis sucks at life and, by extension, football. This is the Notre Dame offensive line that has given up 23 sacks:
- C John Sullivan. Redshirt senior. A four-year starter; given four stars and ranked the #3 center in 2003.
- LT Paul Duncan. True junior. Three-star, #26 OT of 2005. Other finalists: UCLA, Oklahoma, LSU.
- LG Mike Turkovich. True junior. Three-star, #30 OT of 2005. Other finalists: Wisconsin, BC, LSU.
- RT Sam Young. True sophomore. Five-star all-everything recruit; returning starter.
- RG Dan Wenger. Redshirt freshman. Four-star Rivals 250 member; #3 center of 2006.
Syracuse is second-to-last with 18 sacks allowed; no one else in the country has allowed more than 13. Not even Temple. Is this the picture of a line pretty obviously the worst in the country? Consider that Michigan is currently rocking a true sophomore and a redshirt freshman itself. Sam Young has the recruiting rankings than Schilling does and a year of starting experience; last year Schilling sat on the sidelines with mono, then injured his shoulder in the spring. Dan Wenger was rated slightly lower than Justin Boren and redshirted himself. Taken together these guys are a wash. John Sullivan is a four-year starter and redshirt senior who was a four-star his recruiting year: this is equivalent to Jake Long in terms of rating and experience. (Perhaps this is not quite fair, but we did give a wash to the kids on the line when Young has started for a season and neither Michigan player has.) Where Michigan has an advantage is in junior Alex Mitchell and senior Adam Kraus, who have one and two years experience on true juniors Paul Duncan and Mike Turkovich, respectively, plus a star edge in recruiting rankings. This is not an enormous gap. Michigan's line should be better than Notre Dame's, but not 295 rushing yards better.
Meanwhile, erstwhile starting quarterback Demetrius Jones -- lauded as a great guy and one of the keys to Notre Dame's impressive 2008 recruiting class -- got benched and immediately bolted for Northern Illinois... or didn't, instead enrolling at NIU on September 4th but continuing to practice with the Irish until it was time to board the bus for Ann Arbor, at which point he moved out of the dorm without telling anyone. It's hard to think of a more vindictive way to leave a football team that doesn't involve kneecapping the starting quarterback on the way out.
In a vacuum, this could be considered the petulant act of a 19-year-old kid angry at losing his spot. But last year starting defensive end Ronald Talley left Notre Dame for I-AA Delaware for no apparent reason. And running back Darius Walker bolted for the NFL draft... at least in theory. He was passed over and everyone got in their mocking, but he looks like a genius now. This was a non-screwup of a kid leaving early for NFL prospects everyone knew were dim. (Zach Frazer's transfer was a clear "you're never playing here, kid" sort of thing that happens to most programs, but it's also faulty roster management that leaves ND with two scholarship quarterbacks.)
Anyone who's read this blog for more than a nanosecond knows what the upcoming explanation is going to be: Weis is a colossal asshole. Heck, anyone who's read one of his many ridiculously arrogant press conference quotes (the grand mother of them begins this post) or saw the embarassing 60 Minutes puff piece -- wherein Weis came off as a bully and a jackass -- when Notre Dame was returning to glory for the umpteenth time knows this. The only wonder is that the media spent the better part of 2.5 years pumping him up as Weis E. Coyote, Certified Super Genius, largely because Weis spent every available moment telling the media that he and his ACME catalog of incredibly sophisticated devices were worth a foolproof touchdown every game. Somehow I doubt even Tyrone Willingham would have Notre Dame scoring -7 points per game.
Erickson driving a golf cart into a volcano, I can have this.
The result of all these fantastic toys? Literally nothing. No touchdowns. No rushing yards. No hope. This implosion has to be laid at Weis' feet. Jeff Carroll of the South Bend Tribune brings forth an excellent point:
Weis sabotaged this season when he installed that gimmick offense for the opener. What that did, beyond chasing unloved Demetrius Jones to DeKalb, Ill., was rob valuable learning time from new starters who should have been absorbing the fundamentals of running Notre Dame's real offense.
He essentially flushed preseason practices down the drain, never to be recovered. Since then, the inexperienced offense has been scrambling to get up to speed, and it may never, at least not this season. But, again, that's a symptom, not the underlying problem. The main malady is that Weis thinks that because he can process complex schemes, his players can do the same in 20 hours a week.
Weis either half-assed a spread offense and wasted some of his preseason prep time or really went for it, wasted all of his player's time, and junked it 30 minutes into the season. Either way it's a huge miscalculation borne of hubris, the one thing Weis has more of than lipids.*
Thus an odd situation to find oneself in: I kind of wish Notre Dame was better. Obliterating Notre Dame for the second consecutive year was a pick-me up, but it can only be so meaningful when Notre Dame is intent on snapping it to Tacopants and generally soiling itself whenever Michigan
- does something clever like run left, or
- does something clever like rush the passer.
As it is, a 38-0 whitewashing of Notre Dame means almost nothing in the somewhat grander (ie: Big Ten) scheme of things. Michigan will play no worse team this year. Eastern Michigan is likely to rack up positive rushing yards. Minnesota will probably manage the shotgun snap just fine. Both are strong possibilities to score; even if they do not they will probably have more than one meaningful snap on Michigan's side of the field. If Notre Dame did not suck so very badly, our prospects for Penn State would be cheerier. But they are not and so 38-0 is just a pleasant nothing of a game, enjoyable in and of itself but no solace in the face of teams that will do more than swing purses at onrushing players.
So there is always this, even when you've just lost to Appalachian State: Notre Dame sucks and has sucked for 14 years. This offseason we will search the country high and low for a proven collegiate winner; Notre Dame is saddled with a maladjusted hunchback who they have given a ten-year contract for losing to USC.
*(it's a fat joke, sure, but it's a science-y fat joke.)
- But oh boy do I still have some problems with our coaching staff. Unless Henne is for-sure playing this week, Michigan's decision to spend the entire second half grinding away on the ground was ludicrous. We have a true freshman quarterback who may or may not be starting against Justin King and Penn State next week; we should have been throwing on every down as soon as the game hit 38-0. It might have drawn fire for being "classless," but this isn't Chad Henne out there. Every rep the kid can get against actual competition helps.
- I really hope Carlos Brown's problem is cast-related, but I don't know... visions of Max Martin dance in my head, minus all the bad-apple stuff.
- Johnny Sears gone, drugs, bye.
- What is the deal with James Rogers and Renaldo Sagesse getting playing time? And Zion Babb? Have we learned nothing from Prescott Burgess?
- On first glance the linebackers were vastly improved, especially Thompson, but I think much of that was never having to deal with blockers.
- I think we might be able to grind Penn State pretty good; last year we had a decently effective ground game and now they have a very young defensive line. Stats are good so far, but against FIU, Notre Dame, and Buffalo. (Note that even before this year, Penn State looked to have a horrible nonconference schedule with those three teams and Temple. The three non-ND teams were ranked #117, #118, and #119 among D-I football programs by ESPN; with the Irish collapse Penn State may have the worst nonconference schedule of all time.)
- Mallett: meh performance, but I love his enthusiasm:
- There is a season to have if Penn State is defeated. That's the nice bit of being in a conference.
- No shirking from BGS' Dylan, who steps up to the plate and takes it like a man with... uh... two sentences:
You are what your record says you are, and right now you're an 0-3 football team, and that's not good enough.
Not by a damn sight.
Good game, mister. Glass houses.