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Posts Tagged ‘Notre Dame’

Week four of the college football season has the potential to be huge.  There are a couple of games with national championship implications, as well as several conference battles. 

No more setup is needed.  Let’s get right to the five college football questions I am looking forward to getting the answers to in week four:

Andrew Luck Takes the Snap

With the first pick in the 2011 NFL Draft the Buffalo Bills select...

5.  Will Andrew Luck solidify his NFL Draft footing on the national stage?

Stanford’s quarterback has worked his way up to the top spot on Mel Kiper’s big board.  In the first three games of the season Luck has thrown for 674 yards, 10 touchdowns and no interceptions.  This weekend he and the Cardinal head to South Bend, Indiana to take on the Fighting Irish at Notre Dame Stadium on national television.  Last year he was a solid 14 of 20 for 198 yards but did not throw a touchdown pass against the Irish. 

4.  Can West Virginia earn the Big East some respect in Death Valley?

How daunting is the task for the Mountaineers?  LSU is 52-5 in night games at Tiger Stadium since 2000.  Since bringing on head coach Les Miles the Bayou Bengals are 25-1 in that situation.  Both teams come into the game at 3-0.  If West Virginia can steal a win it will go a long way in earning the Big East respect, but the likelihood of that happening is extremely slim.

3.  Which of the two trendy SEC teams, South Carolina or Auburn, will continue their joy ride?

It may not be the biggest battle in the SEC on Saturday, but make no mistake, the South Carolina-Auburn games is a big one.  The Gamecocks have been riding freshman running back Marcus Lattimore to a 3-0 record and many mentions as a challenger to Florida in the SEC East.  Auburn is coming off a big win over Clemson, bumping their record up to 3-0.  The Tigers are being held up as a challenger to their hated rival, Alabama, in the SEC West.  Whoever wins this game will make a big statement about their intentions.

2.  Will Oregon State derail Boise State’s slim hopes for national championship consideration?

Virginia Tech’s loss to James Madison all but booted the Broncos from national championship contention.  They now need a lot of things to go in their favor to get back into that conversation.  Oregon State has already had a chance to ruin the national championship hopes of a non-BCS contender.  They lost that game on opening weekend to TCU.  Will the outcome be different on Saturday night in Boise?

1.  Can Arkansas end Alabama’s 16 game SEC regular season winning streak?

This is an appointment game – so clear your schedule right now for 3:30 Saturday afternoon.  The Razorbacks have lived up to expectations so far this season going 3-0 on the arm of Heisman front runner Ryan Mallett.  Now comes the ultimate test, #1 ranked Alabama.  Arkansas hopes to rely on Mallett and the home field advantage to get a win over the Crimson Tide.  Alabama got reigning Heisman trophy winner Mark Ingram back last week and he looked stellar.  Arkansas is going to have to play their best defensive game of the year to get the win. 

Did I miss the game you are most looking forward to this weekend?  Do you see these matchups in a different light?  Let me know in the comments section below.

Photo source: Monica’s Dad

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Week two of the college football season may have more big matchups than any other week on the schedule.  But, before we get into the big questions for this upcoming weekend, let’s look at the answers to the questions I asked before week one.  The two biggest statements came from Boise State and TCU, who both proved that they are ready to make a run at a BCS National Championship.  Michigan and Notre Dame also looked impressive in starting out their seasons with wins.

Now…onward.  Here are the five college football questions I am looking forward to getting the answer to in week two:

Home of the Florida Gators

Will the USF Bulls challenge the Gators?

5.  Can new head coach Skip Holtz help South Florida steal a win over Florida?

The Gators offense looked sketchy at best during most of their 34-12 win over Miami of Ohio.  The defense played better, intercepting four passes and holding the RedHawks to four yards rushing.  The Bulls crushed Stony Brook 59-14, as they should have, in the debut of Holtz as head coach.  Each team will serve as the other’s first real measuring stick for the 2010 season.

4.  How will Mark Ingram’s likely absence affect Alabama against Penn State?

It is looking more and more likely that Heisman Trophy winner Ingram will miss Saturday night’s game against the Nittany Lions.  His “backup” Trent Richardson may be one of the top five running backs in the nation, but he has not been called on to carry a heavy load in a game by himself.  The Penn State defense is solid, although inexperienced at linebacker.

3.  Can Denard Robinson maintain his momentum when Michigan heads to Notre Dame Stadium?

He still didn’t tie his shoelaces, but Robinson exceeded all expectations in his performance against UConn last weekend, racking up 197 yards rushing on 29 carries and completing 19 of 22 passes for 186 yards.  Can he put up a similar performance against a more skilled defense in hostile territory?

2.  How much of Oklahoma’s poor performance from week one will carry over to week two against Florida State?

The Sooners did not play well in week one against Utah State.  I’m trying not to read too much into the first game of the season, but the fact is Oklahoma gave up 341 passing yards to Diondre Borel and the Aggies.  A stellar, workhorse effort by DeMarco Murray in carrying the ball 35 times for 218 yards got the Sooners the win.  If they gave up 341 yards passing to Borel how many will they give up to Christian Ponder?

1.  Is Miami truly back?

The Hurricanes have been mentioned as a sleeper contender for national championship contention.  Part of that is based on the increase in the level of talent they’ve brought in over the past few years.  The other part is based on the opportunities like this one that lie within their schedule.  Ohio State is clearly a top contender.  If Terrelle Pryor can consistently play the way he did in the Rose Bowl the Buckeyes will play in the national championship game.  This one should be an outstanding battle.

Let me know your week two questions and your predictions in the comments section below.

Photo source: Gregory Moine

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The college football season is finally upon us…now hopefully some cooler weather will follow.  There are always many questions heading into the first week of the college football season.  With new contenders, new coaches, new players, fluctuating schedules and the BCS, there is never a shortage of issues to address.

Here are five college football questions I am looking forward to getting the answer to in week one:

5.  How seriously can TCU contend for a national title?

Many people have their eyes on Boise State as the non-BCS school that could be playing for a national championship.  But TCU could have just as good a shot with a preseason #6 rating and comparable schedule.  They open at home against #24 Oregon State on Saturday night and we should get an early indication of how strong the 2010 Horned Frogs will be.

TCU's Matthew Tucker

TCU's Matthew Tucker - Running Toward a BCS Championship?

4.  Was coaching all that was missing from Notre Dame?

New coach Brian Kelly comes to the Irish after winning two consecutive Big East Championships with Cincinnati.  There is little question that Notre Dame still has a lot of talent.  Is Kelly the man to make them successful?  We’ll find out when the Irish play Purdue tomorrow.

3.  How many UNC players will be suspended for the opening game against LSU?

The current word is that 12 Tar Heels will miss Saturday night’s game and three more may be suspended as well.  Among those 12 players are defensive leaders Marvin Austin, Robert Quinn and Kendric Burney, as well as explosive receiver Greg Little and two tailbacks – Shaun Draughn and Ryan Houston. Whew, that’s a lot of talent.

2.  Will Michigan take a step toward saving Rich Rodriguez or burying him?

Rodriguez enters his third season with an 8-16 record at Michigan and alumni howling for his departure.  The Wolverines need to show some real progress to save his skin in Ann Arbor.  They open against a game Connecticut team that will be determined to score the upset on Michigan’s home turf.

1.  Can Boise State go into Virginia Tech’s backyard and get the win?

As college football darlings, Boise State was looked upon as the little team that could.  Now that they have built their program to be more successful than many BCS schools and have gotten a #3 preseason ranking there is a big backlash.  The fact is, Boise State has to be considered a serious National Championship contender…IF they can beat the Hokies in D.C.

Please share the questions you are looking forward to getting answered and/or any predictions in the comments section below!

Photo source: SD Dirk

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The biggest thing that came out of the Big Ten meetings today was the reference by conference commissioner Jim Delany to the shifting U.S. population. 

“As far as the shifting population, that is reason, by itself, enough, to look at the concept of expansion,” Delany said. “In the last 20, 30 years, there’s been a clear shift in movement into the Sun Belt. The rates of growth in the Sun Belt are four times the rates they are in the East or the Midwest.”  What does this statement that seems to have come from left field mean?  Here are four possibilities:

  1. The Big Ten is going to make a huge push for Texas.  Many folks, including me, have discussed the fact that their are two potentially huge prizes to be won in expansion, Notre Dame and Texas.  While Texas was mentioned briefly as a Big Ten target, most of the speculation is that the conference will push Notre Dame to move.  Maybe their main target is Texas.
  2. ACC schools like Maryland and Virginia may be expansion candidates.  On May 13 Tom Dienhart of Rivals tweeted that those two programs were included in the latest buzz he was hearing.  First of all, based on the ridiculous happenings in the state of Virginia during the ACC expansion earlier this decade I don’t see UVA going anywhere.  Secondly, the ACC is on the cusp of signing an impressive deal with ESPN that will significantly increase the revenue each member will receive.  A week ago this may have been a much greater possibility.  The Big Ten may grab Maryland but I’d expect it to take a lot of hard work to do so.
  3. Delany is simply firing a shot across the bow of the SEC and their commissioner Mike Slive.  It seems clear that the major battle for supremacy that awaits college football will feature the Big Ten versus the SEC.  Delany is trying to make the SEC a little less comfortable.
  4. It’s a complete smokescreen.  All of the talk about the South is simply to open up the possibilities and take some of the pressure off the Big East schools they are likely to invite along with Notre Dame.

In my mind the most likely option is the fourth one.  However, if there is any reciprocal interest from Texas (and I have to believe somebody somewhere in the Big Ten knows if there is) then the first option is a no brainer. 

Please, share your thoughts.  What other options do you see?

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Nothing will show that the Big Ten’s initial bold move to add three Big East programs was more successful than the follow on addition of Notre Dame.  With Pittsburgh, Rutgers and Syracuse jumping to the Big Ten the Irish will have no choice but to follow suit.  My prediction is that the football season after the three former Big East schools join the Big Ten, the conference will expand again.  This time it will be two teams, Notre Dame and Missouri.

Notre Dame will have fought expansion as much as possible, but as the Big East searches for answers to keep afloat, the Irish must make a move to solidify their standing and revenue.  Independence will no longer be an option. 

Of course, Notre Dame will be a great addition to the Big Ten.  While they are not a member of the Association of American Universities (AAU), I don’t think that fact will hold the university presidents back from offering an invitation.  The school had an excellent ranking by the U.S. News & World Report (#20) and will bring a great many dollars to its new conference.

Missouri is already politicking for Big Ten membership and I believe they would be a solid addition.  They are an AAU member, have quality sports programs and would help expand the Big Ten Network in the midwest, specifically into Kansas City.  Working against Missouri is their #102 ranking by the U.S. News & World Report.  I believe a pledge by the university to improve that ranking would be enough to convince the presidents that Missouri will live up to every part of the Big Ten’s brand.

The Big Ten’s fast and forceful expansion to 16 schools will bring a whole bunch of questions.  How will teams be grouped?  Two divisions seems inevitable but ESPN’s Pat Forde has even suggested four pods.  Will the groups be effective in football and basketball?  Where will the annual Big Ten football championship be played?  Will the conference name finally be changed?

As far as dividing the teams, here’s my stab at two divisions:

East Division
Indiana
Northwestern
Ohio St.
Penn St.
Pittsburgh
Purdue
Rutgers
Syracuse

West Division
Illinois
Iowa
Michigan
Michigan St.
Minnesota
Missouri
Notre Dame
Wisconsin

Yes, I realize I put Ohio St. and Michigan in two separate divisions.  In football, I think their rivalry can be resumed through scheduling.  Each team will play the seven other teams in their division plus one game against a team from the other division.  That team may always be the same team, like in the case of Michigan and Ohio St., or the team may vary.  Of course, you may have a situation where Michigan and Ohio St. play early in the season and then matchup in the conference championship game at the end of the season.

What I was really shooting for in creating the divisions was competitive balance.  But that’s like throwing darts at a moving target.   What are your thoughts on my proposed divisions?  Any specific schools that must be in the same division?

So, the third phase of expansion is complete and the Big Ten is now the Big 16.  Will the other power conferences stand still or will they look to pick up some of the pieces that remain?  I certainly don’t think it ends here…I’ll be posting the next phase in a few days.

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I believe an NCAA mega conference expansion is inevitable.  I’ve also written that when everything shakes out I’d prefer that Syracuse become a member of the ACC.  I’ve been thinking through what I think will actually happen and now have predictions for the full mega conference expansion.  Because I think it is going to happen in phases, I am going to post it in phases.  I believe phase one will be the initial Big Ten expansion. 

As others have written, the Big Ten expansion is mostly about television markets.  Because of the Big Ten Network, universities that are featured in major televison markets stand to bring in a substantial amount of revenue for the existing programs in the conference.  The Big Ten can add a program that on its face doesn’t seem to bring a lot from a competitive standpoint, but because of the market that university operates in, can still bring in enough revenue to supplement the current annual Big Ten pay out per school of $20-22 million through new advertising and subscriptions.

The ultimate prize in the conference expansion is Notre Dame.  The huge NBC television contract and national popularity would greatly enhance revenue for any conference Notre Dame would join.  That impact would be even more substantial if the Big Ten can secure the Irish because of the Big Ten Network.  While I think Notre Dame will still resist this initial Big Ten expansion, I don’t think they’ll be able to stay away for long.  Their athletic director, Jack Swarbrick, has expressed the school’s desire to remain an independent.  However, he said in March, “You each could invent a scenario that would force our hand. It’s not hard to do.”  Swarbrick also said, “The only things that could make it happen are the sorts of radical change in the industry that would cause upheaval and impact a lot more (schools) than Notre Dame.”

To me that means that if major programs start leaving the Big East, Notre Dame will likely be forced to follow suit.  So what does the Big Ten do to force Notre Dame’s hand?

I think the Big Ten will not jump directly to 16, although they would if Notre Dame was ready to join the conference.  I think the Big Ten will likely expand to 14 programs and invite three Big East schools – Syracuse, Rutgers and Pittsburgh.  The Big Ten will add these three schools because:

  1. Each matches the academic profile of the conference.  Academic fit is extremely important to the Big Ten.
  2. They open up bigger television markets (New York, New Jersey and Pittsburgh).
  3. Their exit from the Big East will essentially cripple the conference and force each current member, especially Notre Dame, to make major decisions.

So what happens next?  Which conference will make the next move?  Look for my next post in a couple of days.

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The first weekend of the 2010 NCAA Tournament was not a pretty one for the Big East.  Based on seeding alone, the conference should have had five teams heading to the Sweet Sixteen.  But after some monumental collapses only two will be continuing play this week.  Syracuse and West Virginia both had a pair of excellent wins to advance in the big dance.  But before we get to the positives, let’s address the negatives, or as I like to call them – the six levels of disappointment:

Georgetown Hoyas – Unbelievably Disappointing

Wow…what can you say about this one.  Georgetown got run off the court by an Ohio team that was 7-9 in the Mid-American Conference.  After the first 10 minutes the game was essentially over.  Georgetown had the sixth best scoring defense in the Big East but gave up 97 points and allowed the Bobcats to shoot 58% from the floor.  As a 3 seed the Hoyas lost by more points to a 14 seed than any other 3 seed in history.  This was basically a complete no show.  But in hindsight, maybe we shouldn’t have been so surprised.  The Hoyas had a trio of bad losses during the regular season – at home against Old Dominion and South Florida, as well as at Rutgers. 

Villanova Wildcats – Incredibly Disappointing

Maybe it was the 2 seed that the committee saw fit to give the Wildcats that blinded us.  After starting the season 20-1 Villanova sputtered to a 4-5 regular season finish.  Then they lost to Marquette in the first round of the Big East tournament.  But Villanova is a tourney team and Jay Wright is a tourney coach so they earned back faith as more college basketball fans picked them to win the South region than any other team.  Those that did, myself included, had to sweat out a first round win over Robert Morris.  They would not be able to come back against St. Mary’s, as poor shooting (less than 37% FG in both NCAA tournament games) and the inability to stop St. Mary’s big man Omar Samhan doomed them.

Louisville Cardinals – Awfully Disappointing

It wasn’t the fact that Louisville lost to California that was a huge letdown, after all they were the 8 seed and Cal the 9 seed.  It was the way they lost.  They were down 12-0 immediately and never could recover.  They barely challenged the Golden Bears.  They shot horribly from three point range (26%) and Samardo Samuels was the only starter in double figures.  Hard to believe that this is the same team that beat Syracuse twice.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish – Wastefully Disappointing

Heading into the NCAA Tournament Notre Dame was going in the opposite direction of Villanova – they had strong positive momentum.  With their backs absolutely against the wall they rallied to win their last four regular season games and then two important Big East Tournament games.  They lost by only two in the Garden to West Virginia in the Big East semis.  But their luck ran out on the day after St. Patrick’s Day as a couple of last second attempts bounced out of the basket and they lost to Old Dominion 51-50.  Don’t cry for the Irish though – Luke Harangody was spotted in the Cat’s Meow on Bourbon Street after the game.

Marquette Golden Eagles – Marginally Disappointing

After losing to a much improved Washington Huskies squad on a shot with 1.7 seconds left the Golden Eagles have nothing to be ashamed of.  The athletically-gifted Huskies are exactly the type of team that Marquette had trouble with this year.  Not to mention that Washington did go on to dominate New Mexico.  Nonetheless the season did end on a disappointing note for a team that showed a lot of heart throughout.  Some times the matchup just doesn’t work out your way.

Pittsburgh Panthers – Mildly Disappointing

Sure Pitt was the higher seed against Xavier, but they gave an excellent effort two days after dominating Oakland.  In the last 10 minutes the Panthers continued to rally but every time they closed the lead down the Musketeers would answer.  When it came down to it Pittsburgh just could not make enough shots to win.

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