Programming Note: UFR this week is Wednesday/Thursday.
This week's subject is House Rock Built impresario Fightinamish, also named Brian. This will be relevant later. We sat down for an IM-chat thing; the transcript is below. Note that all capital letters from HRB were forcibly inserted by me, so I may have missed a few. Accursed non-shift-using leprechaun!
House Rock Built: Personally, I feel like I'm a different person the week before the Michigan game than I am the other 51 weeks of the year. I'm short-tempered, angry, and on the edge of my seat. There's something weird about this rivalry that brings something out in me that no other game does. what exactly goes through your mind in the week leading up to this game, both in general and specifically this year?
MGoBlog: Er... I kind of got in a lot of trouble with Notre Dame fans answering a similar question last year in a fashion I thought was respectful but not obsequious. Evidently BGS readers disagreed. Anyway, what I tried to express was the pure hell this rivalry has been for Michigan fans over the past, oh, 13 or so years. Notre Dame has been terrible for the vast bulk of this time but we've managed to piss away what in retrospect has been a huge talent advantage by doing tons of dumb, dumb stuff. Getting to hear all about ND's latest return to glory in the following weeks is constant salt in the wound.
I dread this game. For so long there's been no upside and plenty of painful folly. At least this year ND is going to destroy all comers Da Bears style so the humiliation level after a loss is much lower and the reward for a win much higher. And given our previous performance, Michigan seems about as likely to win.
Why are you so edgy? I would think ND fans would welcome their next defeat of hilarious 3-L Lloyd at the hands of Robot Genius?
House Rock Built: I think it's something unique to this specific rivalry. There are two things that really characterize the Notre Dame-Michigan series. One is a bitter hatred between the fanbases and the other is a guarantee that the game will be settled under cruel and arbitrary circumstances. A wobbly 50 yard field goal, a blocked kick, a fumble on the goal line. no matter what the circumstances are leading into the game, it always seems like you can throw records and talent levels out the window when it comes to this game.
MGoBlog: Except that one year. Don't take that away from me.
House Rock Built: Right. I drank that one away. Aggressively.
Anyway, the Irish have come out on top with this recently (except for 03, thanks for reminding me) despite being outmatched on the field and between the headphones. It's a little unsettling being on the other end of the hype and expectations, especially seeing how badly it went for Michigan. I can't even remember the last time Notre Dame was favored in this game
MGoBlog: I can't either, which probably means it was 2002 or something embarassing.
House Rock Built: Ha. where's my trusty stat boy?
MGoBlog: Probably waxing his eyebrows. Pretty boy. So you're no doubt expecting something in the 40-17 range, right?
House Rock Built: Most definitely not. I've always erred on the side of excessive worrying, and the last eight years of coaching has really helped that develop into an obsession. I think Michigan is a lot different than Penn State, and sportswriters who are predicting a repeat performance of last week are experiencing clouded judgement from robot-genius love.
I have a surprising amount of confidence, but knowing how ugly and sloppy this game typically is, i get the feeling it will be close all the way to the end.
So it sounds like you're pretty gloomy. Are you just downgrading your expectations to avoid pain or are you actually that down about your chances this weekend?
MGoBlog: I'm not all that down, actually. I will probably predict narrow victory at the end of the week because I think the game is very even and I may as well predict what makes me happy. There are a lot of unknown variables. So let's get down to brass tacks or orange julius or whatever the kids call it these days.
CMU defensive end Dan Bazuin owned M RT Rueben Riley last game. Just crushed him. He's the big flaming weakness on offense. Have anyone capable of exploiting that?
House Rock Built: Let's see, right tackle, so he'll probably take most snaps against our strongside end, Victor Abiamiri. Short answer: yeah. Abiamiri is a monster who is very capable of terrorizing an offensive backfield. the reason he hasn't become a household name is because he is always, always double-teamed and is the main point of focus for opposing offensive lines, which most teams have been able to get away with in the absence of another dominating force on the Irish d-line.
I'm guessing Michigan will take the same approach and make sure there is as much meat as possible between him and the precious football, especially with such a shaky situation at RT.
MGoBlog: Probably see a lot of chipping and TE doubles. Bazuin isn't chopped liver by the way -- he made my MaxwellPundit ballot this week -- but are you getting any penetration from other players on the line? I didn't see much against Georgia Tech.
House Rock Built: That has been a struggle. Derek Landri is an undersized tackle who thrives on quickness, but really can't bowl anyone over or plow through a lineman. Trevor Laws is a bit bigger, but seems to be more of a run stuffer and Chad-Henne-sidearm-pass-deflector extraordinaire. coming into this season, i was hoping that this unit would turn into a pass-rushing nightmare, but it hasn't really panned out yet. the best pressure we've gotten is bringing our speedy linebackers on blitzes.
MGoBlog: And the other end?
House Rock Built: It's a rotation right now between Ronald Talley and Chris Frome. Talley spent most of the Fiesta Bowl being thrown to the turf. Frome is coming off knee surgery and seems to have lost a step from last year. On passing downs, Weis is using freshman Morrice Richardson as a pass-rushing specialist and actually had some success. Hopefully between the three of them we can find a pass-rusher who can cause some havoc from the blind side, which should hopefully take some attention off of Abiamiri. Time will tell on that one.
Update: Check Part II over @ House Rock Built.