I know this is long, but there are a few things I cover. I give an overview of his time at both Michigan St. and LSU (with more detail for LSU of course) and then I talk about some things that went Alabama's favor that don't necessarily go in LSU's favor had Saban stayed all this time.
People talk about ghosts of Tiger Stadium (which turns 90 on Tuesday, by the way). Usually it’s positives like Billy Cannon’s Halloween Run in 1959, the 1988 Earthquake Game against Auburn, the five fourth-down conversions against Florida in 2007. There were a couple of other classics against those opponents and others.
There have also been negatives. One negative was when the Tigers went 30 years without a win against Alabama at home. Even though Bear was only there for about the first 1/3 of that time, it was like his ghost was still on the sidelines, pushing the Tide to victory in a way that it wasn’t even present in the state of Alabama.
Other than the national championship, one of the main things I’m grateful for from Saban’s tenure is the fact that he had two home wins over Alabama, the first of which ended that long streak. Neither win came against a great Alabama team, but that wasn’t important. Just like it wasn’t important how young this LSU team was or how well Ole Miss had played in previous games this season.
In January, it will have been ten years since Nick Saban coached an LSU team.
Under Miles, things against Alabama started even better. After winning two games over Mike Shula’s teams (I also find it kind of funny that Miami is the team Saban came from due to that last name), Miles won three of his first five games against Saban. If Miles had left after 7 seasons, he’d be known the guy who (unlike Saban) actually beat a number of good Alabama teams at LSU. (In addition to the three wins over Saban, LSU beat a previously unbeaten, 4th-ranked Alabama team in 2005.)
The ghost of Bear might be gone now, but now there is a living ghost in the collective psyche of LSU fans by the name of Nick Saban. Some still openly regret the fact that he’d left and wanted him to come back. I’ve heard from multiple sources there was a group of boosters who thought they could get Saban back if Miles were to leave. Others bitterly resent what they see as his betrayal of LSU by going to Alabama.
I believe like most supposedly supernatural phenomena, this ghost is present in our minds only to the extent we allow it to be, but it’s been really hard to shake since 1/9/12, that fateful day that ended what would have been LSU’s first undefeated season since 1958 (although LSU still won two more games in 2011 than it had in 1958). It also prematurely ended what should have been at least 24 consecutive months of bragging rights over the Tide and gave Alabama another national championship to rub everyone’s noses in.
To backtrack a bit, I want to note that very few people mind the fact that he went to Miami. He had rejected many NFL offers out of respect for LSU, and he was still of the age that it made sense to give it a try. Also Wayne Huizenga, the owner of the Dolphins, had bent over backwards to accommodate Saban’s every contractual demand.
The betrayal was going to Alabama. Alabama may not have ever put too much emphasis on beating LSU, but the same could not be said of LSU’s priorities. Of course, Alabama was not what it once was in 2007, but I think most LSU fans knew it would only be dormant for so long. For the catalyst of Alabama’s return to be Nick Saban was the ultimate slap in the face.
Both LSU and Michigan St. (his two stops before his brief experiment with NFL head coaching) fans took part in derogatory chants against Saban a couple of weeks ago. The Michigan St. fans did it when Chris Fowler interviewed Saban by satellite (if that’s even still the technology used), and the LSU fans did so in person when the Tide came to Tiger Stadium.
What annoys me more though is the perception by some that LSU and Michigan St. owe any success in the last few years to Saban. I wanted to set the record straight on some things, because Saban did not have anything close to the kind of improvement or level of consistency he’s had at Alabama since 2008.
I could probably write a book about all the things I like and don’t like about him and my observations of him as a person and a coach over the last 20 years (I clearly remember Michigan St. both before he took the job and during his time there), but I just want to focus on what exactly changed at Michigan St. and LSU when you look at the results on the field. I also want to consider the argument or suggestion that if he’d stayed at LSU, the LSU football team would be what Alabama has been over the last five seasons.
Saban’s last year at Michigan St. was a good one; but before that, his teams were just about as mediocre as they were under his predecessor there (although to be fair, 6-5-1 and 6-6 at least aren’t losing seasons, which his predecessor had suffered a couple of times). Still, Saban’s second-best season there was only 7-5.
I don’t want to dwell on Michigan St. too much — his last season there was 15 years ago — but in his first season gone, they went right back to 5-6, which they had finished the year before Saban started there. That was a long-term impact of approximately 0. In fact, you can go out even further. In the five years before Saban, Michigan St. won 48% of its games. In the five years after he left, Michigan St. won 48% of its games. What are fans today supposed to thank him for again? Other than memories of the 1999 Citrus Bowl?
It doesn’t take a great coach to have a single ten-win season in five years. I don’t think any major programs are beating down the doors of Will Muschamp, Larry Coker, Gerry DiNardo (Saban’s full-time predecessor), or even Gene Chizik, who has a national championship to his credit. Another example from the SEC, David Cutcliffe, took a long time to get back into a head coaching job despite having led Ole Miss to its best season in decades in 2003.
Saban did step things up in his fourth and fifth years at LSU, but the Tigers had a combined 12 losses in his first three years. The conference championship in 2001 was a fluke. How often has the SEC champion had three conference losses? How often does the SEC champion have a loss by 29 points at home?
LSU had worse in the previous two seasons than Michigan St. had had immediately before Saban but had two season of the previous four with wins of 9 games or more, whereas the last time Michigan St. had won even 8 games was five seasons before Saban got there.
LSU likely had better athletes to start with. After being a dormant program for 6 seasons, DiNardo did have some initial success. In his first season, he led the Tigers to only their second bowl win in 16 years, and it was over Saban’s first Michigan St. team. This was followed by a 19-5 record over the next two seasons, which included a win over defending national champions Florida in 1997. Also, Louisiana is more fertile recruiting ground for recruiting than the state of Michigan, and LSU isn’t “little brother” to anyone in the state of Louisiana.
It was not that difficult to have a spike in Louisiana recruiting. It also wasn’t the case that DiNardo couldn’t develop players, which he clearly did given some of the close results against good teams. He just lost the ability (partly due to turnover among his assistants) to manage the team to wins.
I’m sure that put a damper on recruiting in the 1998-99 offseason, but LSU would finish the 1999 campaign with a strong win over a ranked Arkansas team (with an interim coach), and the hope that the hire of Saban brought (probably as much as or more than Saban himself) kept the recruiting after the 1999 season from being a problem. If they could beat a ranked team with a no-name interim coach at the helm, the sky was the limit.
Nonetheless, Saban’s first three seasons were actually worse than DiNardo’s first three by record, and there had been no winning seasons that preceded any of the recruiting classes DiNardo worked with in that time.
Saban’s 9 wins in his final season were good in the context of the 12 years before his arrival, but I don’t remember Les Miles getting a ton of credit for following a national championship season with 8-win and 9-win seasons, respectively. Nor did he get a lot of credit for winning 33 games in the past three full seasons combined. Saban’s best three years at LSU together didn’t account for that many wins.
One of the other coaches I mentioned likely could have coached Saban’s 2004 team to 9 wins or more. Also, the loss to Georgia that season was reminiscent of the handful of bad losses Miles has had. So there was really only one season at LSU that was better than what had taken place at LSU the five seasons before Saban’s arrival.
As he did at Michigan St., he did raise the floor at LSU. When things didn’t go well, he went 8-5 and 8-4 instead of 4-7 and (starting) 2-8. That was an improvement, but just like with Michigan St., he only raised the ceiling in one year.
In both instances, those singular seasons caused his stock to go through the roof (continuing with the housing analogy), although he did decide to stick around at LSU another year anyway. Also, it’s not just wins and losses on their own. There were baffling losses under Saban. In his first season, he lost to Florida by 32, he lost to UAB (with only 10 points scored), and he lost to an Arkansas team (which had gone into the game with a losing record), 14-3.
It’s not good if you have three games where you score 10 or fewer points and four games where you score 17 or fewer.
The next year, they had the opposite problem. The offense was only held under 20 twice, but they allowed 44 to Florida, 25 to a bad Kentucky team, 35 to Ole Miss, 38 to Arkansas, and 34 to Illinois.
2002 was all over the map. They scored 14 or fewer four times, but they scored over 30 seven times. They allowed over 25 points five times.
2003’s team only had a single loss, but it was an ugly one: 19-7 at home against Ron Zook’s Gators. The Tigers struggled offensively at times against the better teams such as Georgia, Ole Miss, and Oklahoma. It helped that that team was able to play 6 teams with losing records and a I-AA opponent. Before the last four games of that season, LSU had not played two teams back-to-back that would finish with winning records. Contrast that with Miles’ last couple of seasons.
The 2004 team did not have a stellar offense, and LSU actually hurt themselves by trying to start JaMarcus Russell too soon. They nearly lost to Florida before Marcus Randall came off the bench to lead a comeback. They also needed Oregon St. to miss a few extra points in order to win the opener by 1 point in overtime. I already mentioned the Georgia loss that year.
LSU scored over 40 points three times that year (against teams with a combined 11 wins), but their highest point output otherwise was 27 against an Ole Miss team that finished 4-7. They only managed to score 24 apiece against the likes of Troy and Vanderbilt.
This was with Jimbo Fisher as the offensive coordinator. To apply the criticism Miles gets to Saban, he must have been holding the offensive coordinator back, right? It would seem to apply to Saban even more. In fact, I’m calling it right now: Cam Cameron is not going to be the head coach of a national-championship team in the next 10 years.
One could have also argued Saban only developed one “real” quarterback (Matt Mauck, whom he actually first recruited during his Michigan St. days) in those five years.
Saban was there when Russell came to LSU, but I’m sure that had more to do with Jimbo. Also, Russell didn’t really come into his own until the middle of his last year, which had nothing to do with Saban.
Point being, if you start from the perspective of looking to blame the head coach for everything, Saban could have taken a lot of blame as well as credit during his time at LSU. I think people just don’t realize how much their expectations have changed, which made every big win Saban had wonderful and every loss (or sometimes even close win) under Miles tragic.
So if we’re going to be assigning blame, we can blame Saban for causing LSU fans to forget what a losing season feels like. I still don’t think we have him to thank for the 7 double-digit-win seasons since he left, although of course he was instrumental for at least the first couple of them.
The LSU fans who do have this pathetic sense of longing for Saban are misguided. Alabama has certain advantages that LSU just isn’t going to have.
I don’t buy into conspiracies, but I think there is a natural degree of deference they get from recruits, from referees, from the media, from conference officials (who, perhaps not coincidentally, are based in Alabama), etc. Notre Dame has not had a sustained presence atop college football in 20 years. For Nebraska, it’s been about 15 years. So Alabama is the focal point of the historically great programs right now. There is just a different level of mystique for such programs. Nick Saban or not, that wasn’t going to be LSU.
People can’t accept that though. They just think that had Saban been here in 2009, 2011, and 2012, we would have had three national championships in those years rather than none. Maybe Saban wins in 2011 with either team (although even that’s arguable), but I’m doubtful about 2009 and 2012.
What if LSU (rather than Alabama) had been undefeated in 2009 and threw an interception on the game-clinching drive against Alabama. You think that gets ruled incomplete and LSU goes on to kick the field goal anyway?
LSU got some flak for winning in 2007 with two losses, but at least they won the conference, unlike Alabama in 2011.
Let’s say LSU loses a home game to Alabama like they did this year and everything else plays out like 2011. Do you think LSU gets a re-match over a one-loss champion of another conference? I doubt it.
LSU hasn’t gotten a soft touch at all in their slate against the SEC East even though their annual opponent (Florida) has been better than Alabama’s annual opponent (Tennessee).
The previous two seasons have had “bridge” schedules, temporary stop-gaps before they started off the new rotation, which was formalized before this season.
Alabama drew Missouri in 2012. Missouri played in the 2011 Independence Bowl, but they had an anticipated lull in adjusting to the SEC slate in 2012. In addition to the one good Muschamp team (which would only lose one SEC game), LSU had to play South Carolina, which had gone 11-2 in 2011. South Carolina would finish with the same record in 2012.
If you switch both SEC East opponents around, chances are LSU goes to the SEC Championship game instead of Alabama in 2012, even assuming Alabama still beats LSU in the closing seconds. Point being, I don’t think had Saban coached LSU that year (even if he had players just as good as the ones he had at Alabama), he would have beaten both Florida and South Carolina.
In 2013, LSU got Georgia, which had nearly beaten Alabama in the 2012 championship game, while Alabama played Kentucky, fresh off another losing season. Again, that scenario does not get reversed if Saban coaches LSU instead of Alabama.
It was an extra advantage for Alabama because what turned out to be their top challenger, Auburn, had to play Georgia also. Auburn had a favorable bounce and there were some unfortunate injuries to Bulldogs players between playing LSU and Auburn, but that could have easily been another Alabama divisional win (even with the Iron Bowl loss) owing in significant part to the schedule.
A Saban team might have won another game last season at LSU, but if they don’t end up winning two more, they don’t win the championship anyway.
So all things considered, maybe Saban wins one more championship than Miles did over the last 10 years (that’s right, this is the 10th LSU season after Saban). On the other hand, maybe they don’t win in 2007. You might blame Miles for the OT losses, but maybe Saban loses games to Florida and Auburn (there were some gutsy calls Saban may not have made) and they either lose a third somewhere along the way or someone else wins the division. So it could even be the same number of championships.
I don’t mind the idea of looking at the unmatched level of success Alabama has had over the better part of the last seven seasons (the only time a program had done anything like that in my memory was Nebraska in the mid-1990s) and wanting to match that, but just get over the fact that the head coach there coached LSU 10 years ago. That goes for people who want to insult him and those who wish he’d stayed (or fantasize about his return) alike. For those who persist in being hung up on Saban, at least get your facts right.
This is my previous post here at the Gab. I included a picture of Saban with Jimbo Fisher, who was an assistant throughout Saban's time at LSU.
’m going to do things a little differently this week. To avoid confusion, I’m omitting last week’s rankings from the chart (I will discuss movement of teams in the discussion below). I’m listing my top 25 in order and to the right, I’m first listing the college football playoff top 25, followed by a mock BCS (I’ll just call it BCS from now on since there is no “real” BCS ranking anymore) ranking.
There are 36 teams that got at least some level of points under this approximated BCS system, so I’ll mention those who aren’t in my top 25 afterward.
The BCS formula can’t be completely replicated because there is no longer a Harris poll, and one of the computer systems (Massey) no longer lists ratings that comply with BCS rules, which included a ban on any consideration for margin of victory. I think I’ve made a pretty good approximation by using the AP poll and Massey’s “normal” ratings.
I don’t have time for too much editorializing, but before seeing these I already thought it was an oversight not to have a system that was at least partially objective. I’m not going to judge the whole thing on one rankings list, but based on what I see here, I would have preferred to keep something like the BCS formula and pick the top four from that.
I know people who don’t understand how my system works won’t be happy with these. Last week, Ole Miss was technically #1, but I just didn’t rank them as such on my blog because I wanted to see if they would beat LSU before taking that step. I’m glad I made that choice.
Anyway, the question remains: how do they only lose one spot? I even thought I might have made a mistake, but I’ll explain.
The first thing I wanted to mention is they’re actually #4, behind Auburn and Florida St. (who have had two byes apiece) if you divide the overall rating by playing weeks.
It also helps that Ole Miss started out a large distance over #3. A normal distance from one team to the next is about 0.02. Ole Miss was 0.12 ahead of last week’s (computer) #3, Florida St. Losing to LSU only subtracts 0.09 from Ole Miss’s score. Ole Miss still goes from 0.04 ahead of Mississippi St. to 0.14 behind. For context, in last week’s ratings, 0.14 was approximately the distance between #6 Oregon and #16 LSU. There just aren’t teams between the two in this case.
Just as an aside, this week LSU was only 0.04 short of the Ducks.
With Florida St.’s bye week (most teams lose at least one spot in a bye week), Ole Miss was able to stay ahead and Auburn was able to pass them up. I understand one may object to two one-loss teams being ahead of Florida St., but at the end of last regular season there was just one, and at the end of this year there will likely be one. Someone has to lose Auburn-Ole Miss next week. It’s not guaranteed Mississippi St. will get past Alabama and Ole Miss. Also, someone has to lose between Alabama and Auburn. Auburn also has to play Georgia. So there are plenty of future opportunities on here for Florida St. to move back up.
Even if Ole Miss beats Auburn next week, they will then have a lull in points. They play Presbyterian College the following week, followed by a bye. Florida St.’s opponents of Louisville, Virginia, and U. Miami should pick them up a bit relative to Ole Miss.
Alabama plays LSU and Mississippi St. on the 8th and 15th, respectively, but next week they have a bye week, and on the 22nd they play Western Carolina (while Florida St. will play Boston College that week).
Once again, Auburn is a potential one-loss team that Florida St. may have trouble catching. Florida St. could be no better than third if both Auburn and Mississippi St. win out. Auburn would have a bye week during the championships in that scenario, but a win over Georgia to go along with the SEC West wins would still be difficult to overcome. If South Carolina and Kansas St. win the rest of their games, Auburn would have a very large number of points from those as well.
My computer ratings are a lot more fluid than the polls. I’ll give a couple of examples.
When I had Alabama ahead of Auburn last week, that clearly did not mean that if both won they’d remain in the same positions. The teams are basically in a race. If you’re ahead in a race and neither you nor your opponent fall down, you’re not guaranteed to finish ahead.
Also, I said that teams playing tough opponents can pass up Marshall. Even though LSU was 9 spots behind, they did just that with the win over Ole Miss. Granted, many teams would have to win two games instead of one to make that distance, but it’s not as difficult to move up as it would be in the polls. Nebraska was 7 spots behind Marshall and also passed up the Herd by beating Rutgers.
Marshall has a bye next week so will most likely be passed up by even more teams. Michigan St. is also idle, but then Sparty will have a good chance the next week against the Buckeyes.
In addition to Kansas St., it’s also helped the SEC West that Boise St. (beaten by Ole Miss) and West Virginia (beaten by Alabama) have continued to move up. Both are now in the top 25. Wisconsin (beaten by LSU) is one of the next 10 teams out.
Also, SEC West teams have now swept three of the top five SEC East teams, Kentucky, Florida, and South Carolina. Georgia has the only win against the SEC West by any team in college football from outside of the SEC West, but the Bulldogs will play Auburn in a couple of weeks. Missouri has yet to play an SEC West team. Not that it helps much, but Tennessee was also swept by the SEC West, and Vanderbilt lost one and has one to play (against Miss. St.).
The top five teams of the SEC West are still undefeated against all outsiders. As mentioned, there are some really quality wins over those outsiders. LSU is the only one of the five who has lost twice within the group, but that’s about to change with the Auburn-Ole Miss game.
College football season is already half-done…DAMN!!!
(Yeah, this is my ex-wife when she saw my dick for the first time…I wish!)
…And so comes Irish Shu with his mid-season review to look back at the first 6 games for his beloved Fighting Irish of Notre Dame.
The short version? Well, they’re undefeated and ranked number 5 after their first 6 games, which is one win better than I had predicted by this point. WELL DONE, INDEED!
The biggest and best surprise has been a young-and-inexperienced, but very aggressive and game defense.
New D-coordinator Brian Van Gorder (yeah, he DOES look like “Uncle Rico” from Napoleon Dynamite, doesn’t he?) loves to be aggressive and send the house on D, and the strategy has paid-off more than it has hurt the Irish. The D did have an “off day” against North Carolina last weekend and was gashed for 43 points and over 500 yards in a game the Irish still won, but other than that, they’ve been solid. Nationally, the D ranks 34th in total Defense with 348.3 yards per game and 8th in scoring D with 17.2 points per game (tied with Marshall)…VERY impressive when one considers the youth, plus the sloppy Carolina game being factored into that.
Offensively they have also been lighting it up…at least where the passing game is concerned.
Quarterback Everett Golson has had a very good season overall thus far, going 135 of 216 on his passes for a 62.5% completion rate with 1,683 yards and 16 touchdowns against 4 interceptions. Midway through the season he’s already thrown for 4 more touchdowns than he did in his entire freshman year when the Irish made it to the national championship game. He’s been sharing the wealth with most of his receivers, although Will Fuller has been the closest thing to his “go-to guy” with over 500 yards of receptions and 7 touchdowns…
However, Golson has also taken his lumps. After being nearly-flawless in the first 3 games, he’s been doing an impression of “Turnover Tommy” from last year in the last 3 games. His 4 interceptions all came in the last 3 games and 2 of those were pick-6’s, he has also fumbled 5 times in those same 3 games. Against Carolina, his turnovers were especially costly as the Tar Heels cashed them in for 21 of their points, so the Irish were fortunate to win that one.
While the passing game is going well despite the turnovers, the running game could also be better. The running-back-by-committee approach has gotten the Irish only 983 yards this year. Granted, it could be worse, but more than half the nations’ teams are doing better in that category.
In Notre Dame’s defense, though, it’s not all on Golson or the halfbacks. The O-line has had a tough time with consistency on both pass protection and opening the running lanes, so there has been some shuffling with the O-line that has played-into that inconsistency. They’ll need more time to gel.
With that, let’s recap the first half game-by-game:
RICE: As far as season openers go, I could not have asked for better. The Irish came-out firing on all cylinders on both sides of the ball and routed the Owls 48-17.
Everett Golson started his season with a bang, throwing 2 long touchdown passes to Fuller and CJ Prosise and running for 3 scores himself in what was his thus-far best played game. The Irish D did allow the Owls to score on 2 long passes, but otherwise kept them in check and forced 2 turnovers to their none. It was a good start over a Conference USA team which has quietly been putting a decent season together after their 0-3 start. They’ve won their last 3 games since and have a manageable schedule left, so they could make it to a bowl game.
MICHIGAN: So, Notre Dame “chickened out” by taking your team off the schedule, eh, Coach Brady Hoke?...they handed your teams’ ass to you 31-0, pal, that don’t sound like chickening out to me.
In doing so, the Irish shut-out the hapless Wolverines for the first time since 1985, ending their NCAA-record streak of games without being shut out at 365. Golson threw for 3 TD’s and 226 yards and the only Michigan player who had any success was receiver Devin Funchess who caught 9 passes for 107 yards…and has struggled with injuries since. Michigan QB Devin Gardner otherwise screwed the pooch as he was responsible for 4 turnovers including 3 interceptions and a fumble. He also threw a pick-6 in the closing seconds of the game that should have counted for 6 more points for ND, but didn’t due to a bullshit blocking call for a legal hit on Gardner after the threw the pick. Since then? Nothing but trouble for Meat Chicken: Hoke’s head is being called for as-is that of athletic director Dave Brandon, not only for his teams’ poor performance (the ND loss started a 4-game losing streak) but for his failure to protect QB Shane Morris after Morris took a shot to his head in the Minnesota game, got up woozy and was allowed to stay in the game…don’t even get my pal, the Beezer, started on that!
PURDUE: The Boilermakers always seem to play tough against Notre Dame even in years where they play shitty against everyone else, and they did this time, as well.
Wearing the coolest-looking “Shamrock Series” uniforms I’ve seen in years, the Irish did win 30-14, but started to look vulnerable when they let Purdue hang around for the first half before putting them away in the 2nd. Golson was sacked 4 times, and the secondary started coming apart at the seams when safety Max Redfield was ejected for targeting, and 2 other backfield players left with injuries. Still, the Irish got the win over a Purdue team that now sits at 3-4 and will be lucky to finish at .500 with the bulk of their Big Ten schedule left to go.
SYRACUSE: An UGLY game, and not just because ‘Cuse wore those ugly gray uniforms, either.
This was where Golson started his current struggles to maintain possession of the football as he threw his first 2 interceptions of the season and also lost 2 fumbles, but he also offset those mistakes by completing 82% of his passes, including a school-record 25 in a row at one point (one short of tying the NCAA record) and the Irish won 31-15. 5-star sophomore receiver Torii Hunter Jr. FINALLY recovered from his injuries and saw his first action as an Irish player as he caught his first TD pass in the win. Will Fuller, being a rock for Golson, caught 2 other scores. Syracuse, meanwhile, has struggled since then as they lost their starting QB in Terrell Hunt to a broken leg and have lost their last 4 games. With the bulk of their ACC schedule left, they’ll be lucky to finish at .500.
STANFORD: Thus far, this has been the biggest game the Irish have played this year…and man, they really came through! Both teams struggled on offense against each other’s tough D units and some very wet weather, and Notre Dame left some points off the board via 2 missed field goals and a Golson fumble on Stanford’s 10-yard-line, but the Irish D did just enough for the team to come away with a 17-14 win. The highlight of the game was Golson’s 4th-and-11 touchdown pass to tight end Ben Koyack with a minute left to clinch the win.
The Irish won’t face a stronger defense for the rest of the regular season, but it may not matter if the O keeps turning the ball over. We shall see. As for the Cardinal? They did bounce-back to beat Wazzu last week and snow sit at 4-2 and back in the rankings at #23, but with #17 Arizona State, #9 Oregon, #20 Utah and a very good UCLA team still left for them to play, an appearance in the Pac-12 championship game and another Rose Bowl may be too much to ask of them.
NORTH CAROLINA: PUKE!!! Sloppiest, ugliest game the Irish have played this year.
Golson remained turnover-prone with 4 of them and the Defense had their worst game in years as they yielded 43 points and 510 yards…however, it should be pointed out that the Tar Heels, with QB Marquise Williams running for a career-high 132 yards, really threw everything but the kitchen sink at the Irish, including a few Wildcat and gadget plays. They also did some up-tempo no-huddle offense to keep ND from rotating defensive players in…it was an Irish win, though, 50-43, and also the highest-scoring game ever played at ND Stadium. The Tar Heels, meanwhile, stand at 2-4 but the good news for them is that don’t play another ranked team for the rest of the season and, if they play anything like they did against Notre Dame (A BIG IF), most of those games are winnable for them.
So with the first 6 games in the books, we look ahead to the last 6…this is where the real test starts.
Of course, the biggest game of the year looms as the Irish face the #2-ranked Seminoles at Florida State this Saturday night. Can the Irish win it? Hell yes!...but only if Golson stops turning the ball over and the defense goes back to playing the way they did before Carolina came to town. After that, it doesn’t get much easier as the Irish have to then face 2 currently-ranked Pac-12 teams in Arizona State and USC, as well as a pretty good Louisville team and a Navy team which has been challenging in recent years. It’s possible that Notre Dame could lose one of these games and still make the 4-team playoff, but I like their chances better if they finish undefeated…clean up the mistakes of the last 3 games, and they can. If not, they’ll lose a couple. We shall see.
Team health is not bad for this stage of the game – it does suck that their defensive captain in safety Austin Collinsworth has had trouble staying healthy and will miss the next 4 games with a shoulder injury – this after he missed the first couple of games with a bad knee. Last years’ leading tackler in Linebacker Jarrett Grace has also not been able to return from his leg injury from last year, but other than that, they seem healthy overall.
And last, there has FINALLY been some finality regarding the 5 players on academic suspension which I referred to in my recent “Shit or get off the Pot” blog, as such:
Cornerback KeiVarae Russell and d-lineman Ishaq Williams both will not play the rest of this season, but hope to be back next year.
Safety Eliar Hardy has been invited to return to the team and hopes to return to practice after the Florida State game.
Receiver DaVaris Daniels and linebacker Kendall Moore both Tweeted that they are “done” at Notre Dame.
So now, at least, we can start to close the book on that one.
We’ll see how the last 6 games play out! GO IRISH!!!
Out of rankings: (7) BYU, (14) LSU. (16) E. Carolina, (18) Georgia, (19) S. Carolina, (21) Okie St.. (22) NC State
Explanation and future rankings
I only made two adjustments to my computer ratings to make this top 25. One was to keep Florida St. at #2. They actually were #2 in the computer rating last week, but the big points by undefeated Ole Miss, Miss. St., and Arizona teams them all ahead of the Seminoles. I still think it’s too early to put any of them #2 though.
If the Bulldogs win next week, I may even put them #1. If Ole Miss and Auburn win, they may be 1 and 2, but then Florida St. would have a chance to get back in the top 2 with a win over Notre Dame the following week. In that scenario, I may again keep Florida St. #2 pending the outcome of the game against the Irish.
The other adjustment was to keep UCLA at #9. It just doesn’t look right to lose to an unranked team and move up. They were #1 in the computer ratings last week.
I may make similar minor adjustments next week (I mentioned one possibility), but after the following week, I plan to just follow the computer rating to the letter.
In total, 7 of my top 11 teams lost of the 9 possible. There were three games where top-11 teams were playing one another, so that’s why there were only 9 possible losses. The only survivor against a team ranked below #15 was Florida St. Auburn was also a survivor, but LSU was #14 going into last week. (More on LSU below.)
I’m going to talk about new teams in the top 25 and old teams that fell out. I think it’s pretty obvious why South Carolina (losers to Kentucky) and North Carolina St. (losers to Clemson) fell out. Some teams only moved into the rankings because 12 teams ahead of them lost.
BYU fell all the way out after losing to Utah St. That wasn’t based on past opponents so much (although Texas didn’t help), but Utah St. (#87 going into the week) is a bad loss at this point, so having a bad loss this early makes you sink like a stone. Virginia is still a quality win though.
East Carolina’s loss to South Carolina continues to drag them down. Also, the Pirates essentially have zero points to show for the last two weeks (a bye and a win over SMU). Virginia Tech won, but they beat North Carolina (another prior opponent of East Carolina), so that didn’t help much.
Georgia also lost to South Carolina, so that is hurting them as well. Also, Tennessee’s loss wasn’t helpful either.
Oklahoma St. is having issues with prior opponents, and Saturday’s win over Iowa St. (which only has one win) didn’t help much. Texas-San Antonio has struggled, and Texas Tech lost yet again as well. Florida St. is still a respectable loss, but it’s not really more respectable than it was already.
Michigan St. is back after finally getting a good win over Nebraska, nothing controversial there. Their land grant rivals (Penn St.) might be more of a mystery, but Akron, Rutgers, Northwestern, and Central Florida all won last week, and of course some higher teams suffered losses.
There isn’t much analysis required for Minnesota, Ohio St., and Arizona St. Minnesota was idle, so they didn’t really have points added, but it still helped a lot that TCU (the team they lost to) beat Oklahoma. The other two also had fairly decent wins.
Cal is probably the worst 4-1 team, but their only loss is to undefeated Arizona. Even though the Colorado and Washington St. wins weren’t pretty and the Bears have allowed 144 points in their last 9 quarters, a win is a win. The Pac-12 schedule is a decent boost as well. I’ll mention Florida below.
I don’t factor in margin of victory, so you might wonder why LSU fell so far. The Tigers had two wins over otherwise-unbeaten teams (ULM and Wisconsin) going into the week, but both lost. LSU does still have an extremely good schedule (#12 in FBS average), but it’s very difficult to be in the top 25 with two losses this early, and the ULM and Wisconsin losses made it impossible. Also, an average FBS opponent would have given more points than Sam Houston St.
Forget winning the SEC West. Sure, competitive divisions like that can theoretically have a two-loss champion, but they need to just put it out of their minds completely. It should be a relaxed atmosphere where if you can upset Alabama, Ole Miss, or whoever, that’s great, but just play a good game. We didn’t do that against Auburn, it was like the worse it got the more afraid LSU was of making it even worse. Even though Auburn is in playoff position and could easily be overshadowed with just one slip-up, they played more like a team with nothing to lose than LSU did.
My one disagreement with the author in the piece above is I don’t think you settle on one quarterback. If one of them plays a bad half, take him out. The only decent drives were orchestrated by Jennings in the last game (the touchdown drive was essentially one good play rather than a well-orchestrated drive) and by Harris in the previous game. Neither one should have stayed in. We don’t have to pick next year’s quarterback until next year. If they both get an equal number of snaps this year, then you have even more to go on in picking the quarterback for next year.
I think it’s far worse to wrongly settle on a quarterback and stubbornly refuse to make a change. That’s what happened in the 2012 title game. Maybe they wouldn’t have gotten any points with Lee (who had struggled in the first game against Alabama), but you can’t do worse than 0. Saturday was only one of two times since then (the other being @Alabama last year) that LSU lost by more than one possession.
As mentioned, LSU plays Florida next week. They also have two quarterbacks. Will Muschamp benched one of them to provide an offensive spark, and it worked. I don’t know if he put a better QB in the abstract in, and he probably doesn’t either, but he made a change to see if it would help against a given team in a given situation and it did. I suspect the second quarterback will do better against LSU based on his skill set (at least they might not be shut out for three quarters); but if not, I’m sure Muschamp will put the other guy back in.
The Gators snuck into my top 25 because the Kentucky win was strengthened when the Wildcats beat South Carolina. The one-point win at Tennessee got them some points as well. I think beating a team like that on the road would be something for LSU to be proud of. There will be a lot of unhappy people if they don’t win; but like the ESPN article says, there is a lot of potential for the future either way.
Yes, I'm amazed that it is Tuesday afternoon, and Michigan Football coach Brady Hoke hasn't been fired...Not just because he's a horrible coach who lost to UTEP, and Minnesota at home...But because how he handled injured Quarterback Shane Morris...
As I said Monday, it is clear as day that Morris was knocked loopy...Dude had trouble standing, and wanted desperately to keep his eyes closed...Just unreal that they left him in for another play...But then they put him back in later...
Post game, Hoke only spoke of Morris' ankle injury...Monday, he said he "didn't believe Morris had a concussion." Yet Michigan AD, Dave Brandon said Morris suffered a Mild Concussion...
Hoke has tried to blame the training/medical staff for allowing Morris back in the game...Never-mind he should have been pulled right at that point where he fell into his linemen and had to be propped up...Hoke went so far as to say he doesn't "make decisions on who plays and who doesn't play."
Holy fucking shit on a cracker...I think this may have been the first time a head football coach has said such a thing...If you aren't making decisions about who's playing, then what the fuck are you doing? And why are you making millions of dollars? Brady Hoke just went from looking like a bad coach, to looking like a total fucking idiot... Brandon went as far to say, that the responsibility of the players health and safety, ultimately falls to the head coach and the AD...Well at least some one at Michigan is trying to be honest and standup...He also mentioned Hoke's stubborn refusal to wear a headset on the sidelines, which could have possibly helped with the lack of communication amongst the staff...
Hoke is an idiot...I hate you Michigan...You really didn't need to give me another reason...But thanks...I had been lacking some anger towards you since you've been an embarrassment to football...Now, because of Hoke and his staff, you're just an embarrassment to all mankind...
Hoke, quit...Or choke on a ham sandwich...Brandon, fire that fat fuck!