Vicious Electronic Questioning with UHND Comment Count

Seth September 4th, 2013 at 9:13 PM

IMG_6420

Nix. [Upchurch]

An old tradition around here was to team up with a blog that covered the team we're about to play, ask each other some burning questions about what they see in themselves, and wait for the respective message boards to blow up about how tinted that guy's glasses must be. This week I meant to bring it back by interviewing ND's puppet quarterback depth chart, however when we got there we learned they had all been poisoned  by Blazing Sea Nuggets. So, second choice: we now bring it back with founder of the very large blog/message board for ND fans (the ones who aren't psychopaths, or at least the good kind), Frank Vitovich of UHND. Part 1, where I answer his queries, is here.

Let's peel this right away, (CUCK-CUH-CAW!): Where does Michigan stand in the pantheon of Notre Dame rivalries and how do the fans feel about [CUH-CHEE-CHAW!] pulling out of the series? Was this really necessitated by the [COO-COO-CA-CHAH!] ACC or was that an excuse? [A COODLE DOODLE DOO]

That depends on who you ask. Some Notre Dame fans will down play the rivalry because of all of the gaps in the series and some of the early history and controversy. I am not one of those fans. I am going to miss the series because of the genuine dislike fanbases of the two schools have for each other.

IMG_6605
If we're not rivals then why is your band
clearly worshipping our former punter /
space emperor? [Upchurch]

I am not saying that as a bad thing either. Quite the contrary. Part of what has made Michigan and Notre Dame games so much fun over the years is the fact that each teams fans really don't care much for the other institution. That might actually be putting it mildly.

Yes, it is true that Notre Dame has played schools like Michigan State and Purdue more times, but those games rarely, if ever bring with them the hype, excitement, and intensity of a Notre Dame - Michigan game.

USC still have to be considered Notre Dame's top rival given the deep history of that series just as Ohio State would be considered Michigan's top rivals, but after the Trojans, it's hard for me to thing of a rivalry I've enjoyed watching more over the years. Part of that could be because I grew up in the 80's and haven't lived through the large gaps that a lot of older Notre Dame fans have, but all I know is that the Michigan game is one of the games I circle every year and there isn't a single opponent I have seen Notre Dame play more times in Notre Dame Stadium than Michigan.

I do see the rivalry coming to an end because of Notre Dame's new ACC commitments and not simply wanting to get out of the series. Hopefully something gets worked out and the two are back on each others schedules in the near future.

[Rest after the jump]

So last year: what percent was luck of the Irish, crazy Kelly genius, or that good? [ed: I meant the season but he went into the game]

Last year's game was one of the weirder contests I can remember between Michigan and Notre Dame. I don't think it was luck on Notre Dame's part at all though. It was just a combination of heck of a defensive performance and Kelly playing things very, very conservative because he was a little gun shy from the 2011 game. Kelly saw his defense playing lights out football and went ultra-conservative offensively so as to not risk any turnovers such as the ones that made their trip to Ann Arbor a year earlier so ill-fated.

1V - IMG_2068
"A good battle plan lasts until the
first shot is fired," –every general
in every Robert Jordan novel.
[Upchurch]

If anything, call it Kelly genius since he managed to guide his team to a victory despite having to pull his redshirt freshman quarterback who looked lost after a couple of turnovers and essentially scrape his entire offensive game plan.

With Manti Te'o gone this year, Kelly won't be able to play things as conservatively so if the Irish are to make it two in a row, it'll have to be more Kelly genius. Notre Dame has the playmakers on offense to allow Kelly to loosen the reigns: TJ Jones looked as good as we've seen him in the open field and DaVaris Daniels scored two touchdowns in the first five minutes of the season after not scoring a single one last year. Amir Carlisle finally got to see the field after injuries kept him off of it last year and his first carry for Notre Dame went 45 yards. Notre Dame can't count on another turnover fest this year so Kelly and Chuck Martin are going to have to find a way to manufacture more than 13 points of offense.

Speaking of that defensive line of yours. Do they really eat people? Which one is the eat peopleiest? Other than "play with five Barrett Joneses" is there a strategy you've seen work against those guys?

Louis Nix would be the "eat peopleist" of the bunch. He is a massive human being in the middle of the Notre Dame defense and should require the most attention from offensive line because he can collapse a pocket at any time. He and Stephon Tuitt were first or second team All Americans on just about every pre-season watch list for a reason. They are a couple of bad dudes.

When it comes to the Notre Dame defensive line, the strategy Temple used last week was actually pretty sound. Double Tuitt and Nix and use a lot of three step drops and have your quarterback get ride of the ball quickly. You can negate their ability to collapse the pocket with the double team and you can negate open lanes to quarterback double teaming them creates with the short drops. Doing so requires a quarterback with good accuracy and patience as such an approach means a lot of dinking and dunking.

IMG_7941
Sadly, Keivarae Russell isn't Gary
Gray. [Upchurch]

Temple pulled it off pretty well last week, but Notre Dame also kept things pretty vanilla on defense against the Owls.

In the 2012 preview book I said Notre Dame's defensive backfield was a mess of nobodies and last minute position switchers, but that Michigan lacked the passing firepower to take advantage. Now considering Te'o isn't there to cover three zones and Gardner is a savant at extending plays, can the defensive backs hold out, or is pass defense still mostly a matter of generating pressure from the front 7?

The Notre Dame defensive backs should be able to more than hold their own. Bennett Jackson and Keivarae Russell are probably the best starting cornerback tandem since Shane Walton and Vontez Duff in 2002 and Matthias Farley is a pretty athletic safety. The fourth spot in the secondary is still a bit of question mark after sophomore Elijah Shumate had a rough opener in coverage. Austin Collinsworth plays a lot as well, but Shumate was on the field in a lot of obvious passing downs and was taken advantage of at times.

The secondary, however, is not what worries me in the coverage for Notre Dame this year at all though. It's the linebackers. Dan Fox and Carlo Calabrese started next to each on the inside at linebacker and looked lost in coverage at times. Jarrett Grace played more in the second half on the inside and looked better but it's a three man rotation for two spots right now and that is an area that Michigan and other offense are going to be able to exploit unless the Irish improve in a hurry.

IMG_6678
After one game it's hard to tell if
Calabrese and Fox are lost or just
"Not Te'o." [Upchurch]

I wouldn't be worried about Gardner hurting the Irish down field when he extends plays either. Notre Dame's contain defense was non-existent last week and a Temple quarterback making his first career start was able to pick up multiple first downs on them when he avoided the rush and found in himself in wide open space without a linebacker in sight. If Notre Dame rushes Gardner and doesn't get him, it'll be his legs that burn the Irish, not his arm.

From the last two games we saw Tommy Rees, he seems like a guy who could put the ball just about anywhere (including on the ground directly behind him), or win the game with his legs. How does Kelly plan to use Multi-Threat Rees from the pistol formation, and was his performance last week more a sign of him being good(?) at quarterback, or Temple being awful at football?

The only time Rees did much with his legs last year was against Michigan. Other than that, Rees isn't going to be winning any foot races and isn't going to escape much pressure. He's gotten better at moving around the pocket and finding lanes to throw in the face of pressure, but if the pass rush is barreling down on him, he isn't going to escape it. Notre Dame isn't going to call many - maybe any - designed runs for Rees either.

Last week we saw an improved Tommy Rees because he was really accurate and had time to pass. His performance last week was probably a little bit of column A and a little bit of column B. He looked accurate and sharp because Temple couldn't generate any pressure on him and he was able to hit his receivers in stride and let them make plays after the catch.

tommy-rees-top25
Yes, in fact, Rees does seem to turn
the ball over for random reasons,
and not just against us. [Robin
Alam/Icon SMI via UHND]

That is going to be make how Michigan decides to defend him really interesting. Do they drop 8 into coverage like defenses have in the past or do they bring some pressure. Brian Kelly has had all summer long to work on ways to combat that exact defense since it was used time and time again against Rees previously.

The real key for Notre Dame and Rees though is going to be ball protection. Rees will never live down that fateful rumble in the Big House in 2011 barring another miracle season this year, and last week was one of the few times Rees made it from start to finish without turning the ball over a single time. I'm hopeful that's a sign of improvement from Rees, but at the same time it was at the end of the day Temple. On a positive note, Rees didn't have any of those plays that we saw all too often in 2011 where you just starred at the TV and yelled, "whyyyyyyyyy?!?"

What is so special about Notre Dame that so many great recruits from all over the country want to commit there, then commit somewhere else?

Notre Dame has really elevated its recruiting over the last few years and unfortunately, that comes with territory. A lot of elite recruits these days simply change their minds and while Notre Dame has been on the short end of the stick recently with Eddie Vanderdoes, they have been on the opposite side as well. In fact the current roster would look much different if Notre Dame didn't pick up a number of decommitments from other schools.

IMG_7239
Sometimes the defections re-defect,
as Tuitt did when he learned GT
only used fake gold in their helmets.
[Upchurch]

Stephon Tuitt committed to Georgia Tech briefly before recommitting to Notre Dame. TJ Jones originally committed to Stanford - so was injured freshman linebacker Doug Randolph. Greg Bryant and Max Redfield, two 5-star recruits from last year, were at one time committed to Oklahoma and USC respectively. Starting center Nick Martin was a Kentucky commitment. Amir Carlisle transferred to Notre Dame from USC.

Most of the decommitments and transfers were for programs closer to the players homes too. Eddie Vanderoes went back to his home state, Hood recently committed to his home-state UNC, and Davonte Neal transferred to Arizona in the spring to be closer to home and his infant son. As long as Notre Dame continues to recruit nationally as it has been this will likely continue to be an issue.

Prediction?

I think the Notre Dame defense will look better this weekend than they did last week against Temple, but Gardner is going to create a couple big plays when he eludes pressure.  I see Notre Dame scoring enough points and protecting the football well enough to sneak out of Ann Arbor with a 31-27 victory.

Comments

Seth

September 5th, 2013 at 12:48 AM ^

I'm not Ace. I'm far prettier.

I would put Gardner about where Henson was before he got hurt in 2000. LOADs of potential that we'd seen snippets of already, but still needing lots of seasoning to realize it. Gardner's ceiling is very high, as was Vince Young's in 2004--at the end of 2004 Young was formed into the terror that beat Michigan in the Rose Bowl; at the beginning he was still the frustrating talent that Texas fans thought Mack Brown didn't know how to use properly.

Remember, potential does not mean he'll get there, even if he's already come a good long way. So: beginning of 2000 Henson with a ceiling of Friedman/Newman.

thisiscmd

September 4th, 2013 at 9:29 PM ^

What is so special about Notre Dame that so many great recruits from all over the country want to commit there, then commit somewhere else?

Questions are rarely so full of win. Hilarious...

KBLOW

September 4th, 2013 at 9:35 PM ^

Actually Frank Vitovich comes across as quite the delusional homer. He seems to admit little or no weaknesses other than the two LB's?  Plus he called Kelly's gameplan adjustments last year "genius."  C'mon.

MaizeNBlueTexan

September 4th, 2013 at 9:37 PM ^

I stopped reading his answers after he said he isn't worried about Notre Dame's secondary coverage. 

Temple, a team that only won 4 games last year, put in a quarterback with zero game experience. That QB put up 228 passing yards (not a lot, but hey it's temple) and extended many plays with his legs.

Yes, ND should worry about Gardner's legs, but I think he is a better QB than Temple has, and is more experienced.

EDIT: Michigan 31-20 (Yes, ND will score 2 field goals, but will miss at least 1)

FreddieMercuryHayes

September 4th, 2013 at 9:53 PM ^

Man, after reading his opinion of NDs team, I would think ND is ready to make it to another championship game. I mean it's possible as that DL is really good, but I still don't think the secondary is as good as they think it is, and when the LBs aren't as good in the 3-4, the D as a whole suffers quite a bit.

MichiganG

September 4th, 2013 at 10:14 PM ^

I have nothing to base this on, but it struck me as the sort of prediction intended for a hostile audience.  "Hey, I think my team is going to win, but rather than appear like a supreme homer and predict 42-3, I'll go with something more moderate..."

ijohnb

September 5th, 2013 at 8:35 AM ^

I have to say, I think that a lot of Michigan fans, at least the ones on this blog, are getting a little carried away about a big win against Central Michigan.  You don't make it to the National Championship game without being a certain degree of good.  Yes, the Irish underwent genital removal surgery at the hands of Bama, but so did we(Michigan-yes I know I am not actually on the team).  Saturday night is going to be "a good time" for sure but I am just not getting where this sentiment is coming from that we are just going to work ND over.  I am very hopeful that the team is not actually looking at this game as our fans are or I am expecting a rude awakening.

Shmallhorse

September 4th, 2013 at 10:08 PM ^

Hit the link and checked out Seth's answers to their questions, then made the mistake of perusing some of the comments...'wow' is about all I can say.  I'm guilty of homerism from time to time, but those guys take it to a whole new level.

On that note: 31-17 good guys.

ijohnb

September 5th, 2013 at 8:46 AM ^

think Seth came across a little snarky and cocky as a Michigan fan.  The answers kind of reminded me of how an ND fan sounded about 4-5 years ago under Weiss, kind of claiming intrinsic superiority on the field without really any reason to claim it.   I don't know, I was not a huge fan of the overall tone of his answers on the UHND peice.  I can see why their readers were like "F-you man."

dragonchild

September 5th, 2013 at 9:03 AM ^

He was fair at times (especially when analytical), gracious at times, but definitely didn't pull punches when given an opportunity to talk trash.  This is sports; he could've been the most backbending cocksucker for ND and people still would've piled on the hate because frankly sport fandom is a world that consistently challenges my faith in humanity.  So while it definitely takes a thick skin to appreciate what he wrote (I can see what he was trying to do), I also understand the decision to go "eff it they're going to hate me anyway" and twist a few knives just for fun.

As I explain in more detail downthread, I think on a professional level that he didn't get away from his reference-happy MGoBlog style enough is more of a problem than the passive-aggressive trash-talk.  The latter obviously didn't help but venturing into an opposing team's fan turf is an inherently hostile environment anyway.

ijohnb

September 5th, 2013 at 9:28 AM ^

but I often venture to some SEC and Big 12 blogs just to get an idea of what is happenning nationally, and in a lot of the "Behind Enemy Lines" peices on those sites I see the writers with quite a bit more tact is their analysis of their own team and the opponent to come.  And when I say tact I am not saying that everything has to be all lovey-dovey between fan bases, only that the writers typically just treat the hatred as inherent and really discuss the Xs and Os of the matchup (hate to say it-but kind of how the ND blog guy answered the questions in this peice).  I think Seth's peice on UHND actually got kind of annoying, even for Michigan fans.  There were some good questions asked that were answered with attempted stand-up comedy routines that showed little insight into the actual on-field matchups.  It came across like that certain kind of Michigan fan that is generally recognized as obnoxious.  Not saying that is what Seth is, only how it came across.

Seth

September 5th, 2013 at 12:03 PM ^

I really appreciate the criticism. Yeah, my biggest foray into writing for another team's fanbase was the Penn State HTTV I did and I managed to get by being my snarky MGoSelf (which is really the only me I'm good at--arrogance when talking about Michigan is a lifelong failing). Then again I was making an HTTV for them and considering what I made from that (very very little) I got a lot of leeway from gratitude.

Can you point to where I got too snarky or didn't answer the question? I tried to throw a joke in for each one but then go right to the meat.

Anyway I was disappointed that there literally wasn't a single responder from the ND side who criticized beyond a 2nd grade level. "Yur jellus" and "you do drugs" don't really provide anything constructive to build on for the future.

ijohnb

September 5th, 2013 at 1:35 PM ^

it did not come across to me like you were taking drugs (unless you were and if that is the case you could not tell).   In any case, much of what you said was very funny, perhaps not to them because they are not on board with the MGoSmack that is frequently talked here.  Just a couple of things jumped out at me.  The "YOU WERE PLAYING TEMPLE" job was a little off-putting to me as it looked as though much of your confidence in Michigan was based in large part on what happenned last week, and after all we were playing Central Michigan.  I guess it may be just a difference in how good we think ND is, I think that they are pretty damn good and can only look at a 28-6 ass whoopin in their opener as confirmation of my belief that they are good and not something that takes away from them.  Also, the Weiss reference.  It is just a little dated and just irrelevant.  Rich Rod's years at Michigan are as relevant to us as the Yost years at this point and I think that reference to a coach that their fan base even came to recognize as a complete mess is really just taking a shot for the sake of taking it.   

Overall, it came across as though you were approaching the interview the same way that you would have with like a Purdue or Minnesota blog, where you knew we were going to pound them and you could just use it to take shots ahead of time because the win was money in the bank.  it may have not been what you were going for but it is the way it came across to me.

BTW.  Big fan of your work.  This not meant as a slight as to your everyday content.

snoopblue

September 4th, 2013 at 10:23 PM ^

I have to believe Borges will try and go NASCAR intermittently throughout the game to negate the mammoths on the ND DL.

Brian Kelly is a good coach, but definitely seems like a man of questionable character. Let's remember he had CMU rolling and got Cincinnati to a BCS bowl (and then left before it). I'm not sold on the back end of that ND defense, LBs included.

 

yoopergoblue

September 4th, 2013 at 10:30 PM ^

That guy is a fucking delusional homer!  Did he admit to any weakness in the ND offense or defense at all?  I feel dumber now that I have read this.  (No offense to the Mgostaff).

aManNamedBrady

September 4th, 2013 at 10:35 PM ^

Your answers to Frank's questions on their blog made me laugh out loud over and over. Sharp, incisive, truthful (mostly) and ZING ZOW OOOH that's gotta hurt!!!! Seth::uhnd.com : Frank Zappa::Bubble Gum Rawk

h625

September 4th, 2013 at 10:42 PM ^

To summarize this guy's opinions:

Notre Dame may not go undefeated but Notre Dame will absolutely still go undefeated.

I further appreciate MGoBlog's insight and self-skepticism.

bronxblue

September 5th, 2013 at 8:06 AM ^

Michigan also "toned it down" and dropped 59 on CMU.  That is what drives me crazy about fans and coaches; yes, they don't show their hands in the early-season games, but the idea that the staff is holding back 75% of a playbook isn't right either.  I think ND will have a strong defensive line and some skill offensively, but that Temple game showed me a team that had trouble without Te'o defensively.  And for all the reservations about UM's running offense, ND put up 188 yards on 35 carries against a pretty mediocre Temple line.  

I know people think it will be close, but I fully expect UM to pull away from ND and win something like 31-20.

funkywolve

September 5th, 2013 at 11:10 AM ^

What do you think Hoke/Borges are going to say?

"Yeah, we toned it down.  We've got a ton of surprises in the playbook for ND that we didn't want to call against CMU."

I'm not saying we're going to see a ton of new plays but there's no way Hoke/Borges are going to say anything like the hypothetical quote above.

Michael

September 4th, 2013 at 11:13 PM ^

I think it's pretty clear there is a significant difference between the two blogs. Seth gave a detailed and honest analysis to their questions, while their dude didn't play ball. Not that I'm surprised.

To hell with Notre Dame!

randyfloyd

September 4th, 2013 at 11:19 PM ^

No offense but this guy is a clueless idiot, that doesn't have a clue and he is an idiot. What I really meant to say was this person, that you interviewed, makes other clueless idiots look good.

ChuckieWoodson

September 4th, 2013 at 11:22 PM ^

Is a bit of a dipshit. Nothing insightful just domer homer ballyhoo. Too bad he couldn't provide even a smidge of good info besides for "omg Kelly is a genius". Last years game was a gift, time to expose them Saturday.

BursleysFinest

September 4th, 2013 at 11:43 PM ^

1. I think we win a close game this Saturday (maybe 24-20)

2. I think it's funny we're calling this guy a homer  for predicting the team that is coming off a National Title game appearance, won the game last year and is higher ranked right now might win the game.