Thursday, September 03, 2009

Notre Dame national champs? No. Cal beating USC? Yes!

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College Football's back and ESPN's Lou Holtz thinks The Fighting Irish of Notre Dame will be in the BCS National Championship Game. He's wrong. But the Cal Golden Bears will beat the USC Trojans October 3rd in Berkeley, 20 to 14.

Notre Dame lacks team speed

At 29 wins, 21 losses this is Notre Dame Head Coach Charlie Weis' make-or-break year. If he wins seven games or more, he's in the clear and gives Irish fans and boosters a reason to expect better years ahead. But if he losses 7 games or more, he's in trouble. My prediction is for another six win season.


Notre Dame's chronic lack of team speed.

The Fighting Irish have a problem drawing the fastest players at all positions. The states that generally produce the fastest talent - Florida, California, and Texas - have those players literally programmed to go to one of the colleges in those states, and for good reason: they can get into them.

Notre Dame's demanding academic requirements, both before and after entering the school, are a road block to securing the best athletes required to reach the BCS title game.

So how does one explain Notre Dame and Weis success in 2005 and 2006, winning nine games in '05 and 10 in '06? Easy.

First, Weis was coaching former Notre Dame Head Coach Tyrone Willingham's recruits. Coach Willingham was able to get talent to chose Notre Dame in large part because as the school's first African American head football coach, he was a symbol of change where it wasn't expected. One of Willingham's prized players was Brady Quinn, who was obviously a player with great potential before Weis arrived: Weis caused Quinn to reach his potential as a passer in 2005 and 2006.

Quinn is Notre Dame's career passing leader and set 36 records while there. How he did this is the second reason why Weis won in 2005 and 2006: the system was new. Weis brought in the schemes he created while Offensive Coordinator with the New England Patriots: a combination of the timed offense popularized by the late Coach Bill Walsh, and a system that looks a lot like elements of the passing patterns used in the "Airraid" Offense at Texas Tech.

But in fairness, while Weis' system looks like the Airraid Offense created by Coach Mike Leach and Coach Hal Mumme, it's not and evolved from his years at New England.

It took two years for Notre Dame's NCAA foes to develop a "book" on the Weis system, and as that happened, the Irish faced a loss of Willingham-recruited talent. The once-good Irish defense was weakened by these losses.

The result was a season in 2007 that was so bad, with Notre Dame winning one game, it's not even mentioned in Weis' profile on the Notre Dame website.

2008 was not much better. While Notre Dame showed promise it was trying to determine who its signal caller of the future would be. Emerging from injury, Weis star recruit, the celebrated high school passer Jimmy Claussen, emerged to take control of the offense. The Irish roared to a 4 and 1 start, but finished 6 and 6.

I can't see them doing better this year. But this is not a wish just an analysis; I like Coach Weis and met him at the 2005 Super Bowl Party hosted by ESPN and sports agent Leigh Steinberg in Detroit.

Where I would be wrong is in the scheme changes. If Weis stays with more shotgun and spread attacks, rather than trying to emphasize running the football, the Irish will be in for a long season. But if he places the load on Claussen and uses the short pass and screen game, a 7 or better season can happen. Plus, I'm not sold on their decision to use a 3-4 defense with their opponents: pass rush has been the Irish' problem.

National Championship? Notre Dame? No. Cal beating USC? Yes.


Everyone talks about Cal's offense and Jahvid Best, but for me the key to what could be a national championship season for The Golden Bears is their defense. Cal has eight of eleven defensive starters returning for 2009. USC by contrast is burdened with the task of breaking in a freshman quarterback and rebuilding their defense. I can't see USC beating Cal, let alone Ohio State.

Score: Cal 20, USC 14.

On this issue, there's a looming problem for Cal this Saturday in that reportedly, Cal has no idea what kind of defense the Maryland Terapins will use because its brand new.

Maryland's planned "attacking 4-3" is a design that I favor, but I also know how to beat it: spread four and five wide receivers and match pressure with pressure and throw short passes. If Maryland should go "max blitz", the chance that a receiver will score after a catch-and-run or be wide open increases dramatically.

But if Cal runs a two-back set it's not going to be the easy win that's predicted for the Golden Bears.

At any rate, GO BEARS! And remember its BLUE DAY Saturday at Berkeley!

Visit Jennifer Campbell at Shuz in Oakland; buy some shoes!

I just got this message at my Facebook page:

I'm sure you've been following the awful story about the disappearance of Hasanni Campbell. His foster mother is a very dear friend of mine, Jennifer Campbell. She is expecting a child, while desperately searching for Hasanni, and had to go back to work at "Shuz" in Rockridge today, the site of Hasanni's disappearance. She will probably only be able to work a short while but as she is paid mostly on commission, she needs to sell a lot of shoes. The media coverage of this whole tragic situation hasn't made it any easier.
I am beseeching you to please visit "Shuz" on College Ave. in Rockridge. Ask for Jennifer Campbell. Buy some shoes. Please.

Where's "Shuz" exactly? It's at 6012 College Avenue (map below) and has great reviews on Yelp!

Jennifer's had a rough time; give her your support! Buy some shoes!

Here's the map for Shuz in Oakland within the Rockridge District!

View 6012 College Ave - Shuz! in a larger map