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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Thoughts on Notre Dame and Three Best Games of the Week

Notre Dame

I recently returned from South Bend after watching Stanford dismantle Notre Dame.  Satisfying.  Stanford looked good but not spectacular, although an objective observer would probably have concluded that there was no way Notre Dame would ever beat this team.  Some other thoughts:

  • Notre Dame fans are knowledgeable and classy.  There, I said it. I've heard this before (I understand Nebraska has a similar reputation) and I can vouch for the folks in South Bend on Saturday, from the parking lot attendant to the ushers to the fans themselves.
  • It was eerily subdued walking across campus to the game. I asked an ND fan in the bathroom if it's always this quiet.  He said, "no" mentioning that he noticed the same thing.  I figure its partly that the fans see the writing on the wall for this season (its a "rebuilding year") and maybe they also expected to get whomped.
  • Fun to see ND's hall of fame honorees on the old stadium wall:  Paul Hornung, John Huarte, Alan Page, Nick Buoniconti, et al.  (When they expanded some years back, they just extended the bowl upwards, creating a concourse underneath that still exposes the old brick facade.)
  • More Stadium: A classic college sports venue. Our seats in the upper bowl were spartan, weathered wood benches with the numbers paint-stenciled on. They were also spaced wide so as to give lots of butt room. Nice touch.  There is no jumbo-tron in ND stadium.  Two basic scoreboards up top at either end with a small screen for score updates --no replays.  Touchdown Jesus was clearly visible as we entered through the tunnel. Stadium photos forthcoming.

Three Best

  • Stanford v. Oregon.  Need I say more?  The most highly anticipated PAC game of the year so far. Gearhart ran them bowlegged last year and Luck lit 'em up long. This year, the running game isn't quite so good but Luck is better. Plus Stanford's defense is much improved.  I'm psyched.
  • Texas v. Oklahoma. Always a big one, but interesting this year because neither team has performed as advertised.  Could sort out the pretender(s).
  • Arizona State v. Oregon State. Not in the national spotlight, but these are two teams that bear watching.  Oregon State always starts slow and this year is no exception, at least as far as their record (1-2) is concerned.  But they lost in competitive games v. highly ranked Boise State and TCU. Give them points for tough scheduling while other programs load up on FCS teams. Arizona State could have beaten Oregon if not for turnovers and they darn near beat Wisconsin at Camp Randall.  Many thought the Washington Huskies would be the surprise PAC team this year, but right now it looks like ASU may have a shot at laying claim to that moniker. Is Dennis Erickson finally ready to break out in Tempe?

Final Thought

The PAC is on the radar of many sportswriters this year. It will be interesting to see how they react when the conference starts cannibalizing itself, as happens every year. Will the conference be punished for having depth? (Wazzu excluded of course.)

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Futbol Thots 2010 Debut

I figure that if I'm going to be a blowhard, I should make it official.  Welcome to the inaugural Futbol Thots blog. I'm hoping this format will allow a more open exchange with my friends.

First stop, the PAC:
  • "Stanford 41, Wake Forest 10" read my text to family while at the game.  I had to add "At the half!"  There wasn't a weak point in any aspect of the Stanford game. (Of course, they were playing Wake Forest). QB Luck is stupendous physically, already NFL caliber, combining arm strength with a deft touch.  The running back by committee thing is working well, with more speed in the backfield.  Yet, I am wary and can't help but feel they are untested, at least for the upper tier. Harbaugh appears to be an exceptional coach who has instilled physical toughness in a QB oriented team.  That could be very potent in the PAC. Also, his recruiting classes are consistently high quality. 
  • The other thing going for Stanford is an improved defense. First, he brought in a defensive coordinator from the NFL. Second, he played at Michigan and I think that helped Stanford prepare for Wake Forest's attack, which somewhat resembles a triple option.  I'll be at the Notre Dame game next week, way up in the corner with the other red shirts.  Should be fun!
  • Felt bad for Washington Huskies' thrashing at the hands of Nebraska. Word is how bad Locker looked. Some pundits comment that he's still not used to Sarkisian's pro-set offense.  May be true, but Nebraska's defense threw a blanket over Locker's receivers. I don't think there was much he could do. Nebraska looked "scary-good" and freshman QB Martinez is exceptionally poised and wicked-fast.
  • Arizona v. Iowa. Number two team in the Big 10-1/2 v. #4 or #5 in the PAC. Heard plenty about how Iowa blew the game.  Garbage. I watched the game. Arizona had a few big run backs on special teams, something the press and the commentators harped on as if to say Arizona didn't deserve the game.  Yet Iowa benefited from an Arizona fumble on their 6 yard line and, late in the game, a fumble and interception that gifted two TD's to Iowa to tie the game. Then, as Arizona is finishing off an impressive winning drive with time running down, I heard the commentators say that Iowa has the best defensive line in the country.  Huh? I'm not sure what game these guys were watching.  All told, Iowa benefited from 12 Arizona penalties for 103 yards plus 3 Arizona turnovers (which, as I pointed out, led to a net gain of 20 Iowa points) and Arizona out gained Iowa by 20% in total offense.  Arizona was the better team Saturday, hands down. 
  • After watching Cal's debacle v. Nevada, I mentioned to my friend, Doug, that Cal is the biggest head-case of a team since Bowling Green State University in the 1970's (under coach Don Nehlen interestingly enough).  Could fall on QB Riley's shoulders, but I noticed the same thing with Longstreet over center. Could be Tedford or the type of players he recruits.  Hard to say.
  • In an interesting take on Wisconsin's home squeaker over expected PAC-10 doormat Arizona State, a sportswriter lauded Wisconsin for their "resolve." May be true, but Wisconsin had a bit of luck too: they narrowly avoided an ASU TD at the end of the first half, blocked the tying PAT on a play that can only be described as "blown assignment-flukey", and benefited from a key stupid personal foul on ASU when it looked like the Sun Devils might be able to get the ball back and another crack at the win. Bottom line, it works both ways and if Wisconsin is indeed a #11 team, it should have pasted ASU at home. (Apologies to my friend Steve for this rant!)
Other Stuff:
  • Interesting survey of past undeserving Heisman winners.  1975 is the one that sticks out in my mind. Chuck Muncie deserved it hands down.
  • Why is Michigan ranked?  Why is Notre Dame still receiving votes?
  • Urban Meyer Felon Count Watch:  in what could become a regular feature, this writer notes that Pope Urban's program has produced 30 felons.  Should compare it alongside his placement of kids in the NFL, no? 
  • Random-Observation-of-the-Week: the second tier conferences in the west are better than similar conferences in the east. More to elaborate in future posts.