Monday, September 19, 2016

Vanderbilt Review - Clemson Preview

The Vanderbilt game was basically an equal combination of what I expected, and what I wanted.  For the most part, sharp execution against a credible defense.  And a comfortable win that was never really in doubt in the second half.  But, of course, still a lot of bend but don't break against another sluggish offense.  To be fair, the final numbers were pretty impressive for the defense, which is all we should really care about, but I've been really not very impressed with Vandy's offense.  We'll know more about both in a few more weeks but my suspicion is Vandy moved the ball better than we should have let them.

I am concerned that we have so much trouble slowing down bad offenses.  Clemson, oddly, really hasn't looked very intimidating on offense to date.  After having one of the best offenses in college football in 2015, and returning the Heisman contender QB that everyone knows about and most of the rest of the talent, they are off to a thoroughly unimpressive start in 2016.  That's college football, I guess.

Thursday is the first game since Week 1 that Clemson will be remotely motivated to play.  So we could chalk up Week 1 to a pretty good and talented Auburn defense, and the fact that it was Week 1.  And Week 2 to being flat?  Sure they looked sharp against SC State but that's like us looking good against Mercer or Western Carolina.  Doesn't tell you much.

I still believe Clemson is a loaded offense and our defense will have its hands full.  Fortunately for us, Clemson is still mostly a finesse offense.  I like our chances to stop that sort of offense much better than say... Alabama.  We don't do so well with power.  We don't do so well against any offense really, but, perhaps a better chance to make plays against a finesse, speed based offense that is mostly going to try to spread us out and throw the ball.

Defensively, they are loaded with great athletes again.  The sort of defensive front that is just unblockable and could pose lots of problems.  A similar defense to the one that came into Atlanta 2 years ago and held Paul Johnson's best offense to 1 TD and 3 FG's in 8 possessions.  That was a battle between a great offense and a great defense.  This should be a great defense.  Remains to be seen whether our offense is close to that good (but last Saturday was encouraging).

So, yes, Clemson is loaded.  We know that.  I think if we play well, we have a perfectly good chance to keep this close and maybe pull the upset.  But we are mostly going to have to hope that the Thursday night home crowd, GT as an underdog at home, and Clemson's jinx at Bobby Dodd Stadium - basically all the usual voo doo - comes together like it always seems to in the ACC and particularly when GT and Clemson play.  Clemson tends to blow us out randomly when they aren't supposed to (2003, 2006, 2010).  And GT tends to give Clemson fits when we aren't supposed to (2000, 2007, 2011, heck even the loss in 2012 went down to the wire).  Plus just weird things happen in this series, like the punt fiasco in 2004, or the 24-0 start in 2009, only to have Clemson roar back to 27-24, and then choke the game away.

I could easily see this being another great one.  Or I could see Clemson winning 38-3.  We just haven't learned enough about these teams yet.  I feel pretty confident saying that we aren't going to pull a Louisville and beat the ACC's other heavyweight by 50 points.

I'll say Clemson gets more than they want, but ends up winning something like 31-24.  Hopefully I'm right about the first part and wrong about the second.  As always, let's go Jackets!!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Mercer Review - Vanderbilt Preview

The Mercer game didn't tell me a whole lot.  I already knew we had better athletes than Mercer and should be able to score if we executed.  When we didn't turn the ball over, we scored.  Not in dominant fashion.  But, 5 touchdowns on basically 8 possessions isn't bad.  And I already suspected our defense wasn't very good.  We played the classic Roof bend but don't break, and we bent plenty.  But didn't really break.  So, you know, ho hum business as usual.  Nothing to get excited about but also doesn't prove we can't win 10 games and play for an ACC championship.  As always, two weeks into the season, we don't know a whole lot.

Vanderbilt presents an interesting challenge.  They aren't very good.  But they aren't terrible either.  Something of a lite version of Boston College on both sides of the ball.  Their defense is solid, but probably not as big or fast as Boston College.  They won't make mistakes, but should be more blockable than BC was.  Offensively, so far, they may be hot garbage.  They looked ok against MTSU, especially if you focus on their running game.  But they scored 49 points in that game with healthy contributions from their defense and special teams.  Lots of short fields.  They currently sit #127 out of 128 teams in passer rating as a team.  Meaning they allegedly can't pass the ball at all.  Which is what I saw on opening night when they played South Carolina.  That was awful.  Solid defense, but atrocious offense.

So far this year, they have run the ball for more than twice as many yards as they have passing.  Their quarterback isn't very good.  So I'd expect them to try to run, run and run some more.  And I would be very surprised if a Roof defense got beat that way.  They'll probably have some success but not enough to score many touchdowns.  If its UGA and Chubb, or Ohio St. and Ezekiel Elliot, or similar, then sure I could see a team running it down our throat, potentially.  But I just don't think Vandy has the horses for that.  Either they hurt us passing the ball, or I don't think they score more than 10 or 13 points.

Offensively, we might not score much more than that.  Vandy is a solid defense with a few potential NFL players over there.  I expect us to move the ball, certainly much better than week 1, but whether that translates to touchdowns... we'll see.  I'll believe this team can execute consistently against a quality defense when I see it.  Its been over a year since I've seen it.  So I'm not making any assumptions.

But my guess is a slow, steady, low scoring game, but one we eventually pull out to win somewhat comfortably.  Something like 24-10 or maybe 28-13.   Definitely a game we could lose with a timely turnover or just poor execution, but we are the better team, and Vandy doesn't present significant scheme or talent challenges.  Just solidly coached, mostly mediocre players.  We usually beat that sort of team, especially at home.

As always, Go Jackets!

Friday, September 9, 2016

Boston College Review - Mercer Preview

There isn't a whole lot to preview about Mercer, as most of you probably know.  Can we lose?  Well, maybe.  We only led Wofford 24-19 in the 4th quarter two years ago.  In 2008, we beat Gardner Web by 3 points, preserved with a blocked FG as time expired.  Those two teams are roughly at Mercer's level, so I won't say its impossible.  But teams like Western Carolina are also at about that level.  In the recent past we've generally won these games by 40-50 points.  Obviously that's what I think we should expect this week.  Although actually, we may want to cheer for a close game, as the two mentioned above occurred in 2008 and 2014, the last two years we beat Georgia.  Football sometimes makes very little sense.

Anyway, this post will be primarily a Boston College review.  The game was certainly a frustrating one to watch.  But I can't say it was all bad.  Obviously we won, although it wasn't pretty.  The major negative is that the game did very little to assuage lingering concerns about the offense.  Specifically, that we still can't block anybody.  For now, we are left clinging to hope that Boston College's defense is excellent (as it was last year) and that we will have more success blocking other defensive fronts.  

The other major negative is that there really is no reason to think Boston College has much of an offense.  And our defense depended mostly upon turnovers and missed field goals to get stops.  If we can't force punts against Boston College... well, I guess we are left clinging to hope that their offense is improved.  Otherwise, maybe we can't stop anybody.

So what are the positives?  Well, the big one is that we won.  We found a way to win a game that we easily could have, should have, lost.  That alone is a huge change from 2015, where we frequently did the opposite.  Adding to this positive is the fact that Boston College is generally a pretty good program.  Yes, in the past 5 years they have gone 3-9, 2-10 and 4-8 (with the other two years being 7-6), but before that they were a regular 7-8 win team.  Hard to say what their status will be going forward, but the last 3 years they won 7 games, 7 games, and then 3 games.  I would suggest this year is likely to be a 6 or 7 win campaign.  That would mean they are a decent to pretty good FBS team, and that makes this a perfectly good win.  Scrapping out a hard fought game in week 1, in the rain, several time zones away.  That's a lot of variables.  Obviously, much about this season remains to be seen, but overall, I think the takeaway from this game is positive.

A smaller positive, but certainly not insignificant, is the fact that we managed to execute well enough to get the job done despite poor blocking.  Due to both teams running the ball so much, with mixed success, the clock ran all game and made for a very short game in terms of possessions.  We only had the ball 9 times, and, again, without blocking well, still managed to move the ball on 4 of those possessions.  Two touchdowns, one field goal, and one fumble after driving about 50 yards.  The game was very frustrating to watch, but in hindsight, not nearly as terrible as I thought at first.  

We will have to see if the blocking improves going forward.  This game should provide a good chance to get things sorted out without much resistance, but then Vanderbilt will be a very similar game to Boston College.  I don't think their front seven is as nearly as difficult to block, but they are still a good defense and a bad offense.  And we know we can make a bad offense look pretty good.  

But let's just enjoy the win for now.  I'll close with a look back at the first game of each year under Paul Johnson.

In 2008 we looked pretty good against Jacksonville St, and that led to a good year.

In 2009 and 2010 we looked mediocre against Jacksonville St and then SC State.   Those games led to a great year and a bad year.

In 2011 we looked fantastic in week 1, blowing out Western Carolina with ruthless efficiency.  And that led to a strong start but a fading finish, for an ok to pretty good year.

In 2012, we lost a close game we should have won in Blacksburg, and everyone was frustrated but mostly thought we would be good.  Because VT is always good, and that was on the road.  Well they ended up not being normal VT that year, and we had a mediocre year, eventually going 7-7 thanks to our "losing team bowl waiver" since we played in the ACC CG.  

In 2013 we looked great, murdering Elon, and that led to a mediocre year.

In 2014 we struggled mightily with Wofford (and then Tulane and Ga Southern) before going on to Paul Johnson's best year here.

In 2015 we looked fantastic, taking apart Alcorn St. (and Tulane) before losing 9 of the next 10.

The point of that exercise is to illustrate what most fans already know, but maybe could use a reminder - week 1 doesn't tell you much.  Probably for most teams, but certainly GT.  This team is going to evolve.  Hopefully its more like 2014 than 2011, or certainly 2015.  But for now, we are 1-0.  

As always, Go Jackets!

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Georgia Tech 2016 Season Preview

I’ll begin with a confession.  Last season was so depressing that I didn’t even remember when I had blogged last.  I thought I made it longer than the UNC game, but apparently not.  I feel a little bad for quitting on the season at 2-3.  I do remember briefly considering returning after the FSU win but I never got around to it.  Obviously I’m a fair weather blogger.   

After having an entire offseason to reflect, I’ve come to several conclusions about 2015.  First of all, we were maybe the best 3-9 team ever.  We were less than 1 touchdown underdogs, at 2-5, to a 6-0 top ten FSU team, and to an 8-3 UGA team when we were 3-8.  And both of those lines proved to be about right.  In a year when we finished 3-9, we defeated an FSU team that finished 10-3, and that win really wasn’t much of an upset.  I mean, it was an upset, but only a slight one.  That’s really odd.  

Which leads to the next thought - what really plagued us in 2015 were all the intangibles.  The things you can’t really put your finger on.  Youth.  Chemistry.  “Knowing how to win”.  All those romanticized football ideas.  Because when it came to lining up and gaining yards and stopping the other team from gaining yards, we were much better than our record.  We easily could have (probably should have) beaten UNC, the team that won the Coastal.  We could/should have beaten UVA, Pitt and VT as well.  Really only Miami, Clemson and ND beat us anything remotely approaching decisively.  

So what happened?  I think being young was one issue, but I think the bigger issue was something that I think happens to GT a lot.  But I can’t prove it, and I don’t have any insider access from which I’ve developed this theory.  Its more of a hypothesis.  But basically, its this - GT doesn’t ever really have dominant talent.  We usually have pretty good talent, and combined when good coaching, thats occasionally enough for a year like 2009 or 2014 (or 2006, or 2000 etc).  We’ve finished in the top 10 (or close to it) a handful of times in the past 25 years, but I think, to find a GT team that actually had top 10 talent (or close to it) nationally, you’d have to go back to 1990.  Meaning I think, in those good years, we somewhat overachieve with good execution, work ethic, attitude, coaching, strategy etc.  But then coming off those good years, we fall apart.  2010 and 2015 we entered the year ranked, and both years we returned an all conference level QB that was a heisman candidate.  And we went 6-7 and 3-9 for Paul Johnson’s two worst seasons.  Both of those years we lost a lot of talent around the QB, but everybody said we had recruited pretty well and it would be “plug and play” or whatever.  Maybe everyone discounted the value of the contribution from those other players, but I think part of it is attitude in the offseason.  2009 followed a good year (2008) but we missed some goals that were probably attainable - we didn’t win the Coastal (when we probably should have) and we got murdered in our bowl game.  So maybe those disappointments provided the spark for hard work in the offseason.  Maybe, maybe not.  But coming off an upset victory, in blowout fashion, in the Orange Bowl, in 2014, I think we got big headed.  I say this mostly because we returned almost the full two deep from a really good offensive line, and they struggled mightily last year.  That’s odd.  So, basically, I have no proof of this, but I’m flailing for some sort of explanation to figure that out.

To be sure, I think everyone (myself included - although I was worried) undervalued how difficult it would be to replace the very good skill players we lost after 2015.  I believe the new group in 2015 was talented but young.  I’m excited to see their development, because, presumably, everybody worked real hard and nobody had a big head this offseason, and I think many could be very good players.

The final takeaway from 2015 for me is how small the margins can be for a team like GT, with pretty good but never great talent.  And I mean that across the board - we never have great talent across the whole roster like Ohio St., Alabama, Oregon etc.  We sometimes get great individual players.  But the difference in 2014 and 2015, it could be argued, is really only 10-20 plays.  Change that 4th and 15 conversion on VT, Butker misses that last second FG at UGA, and we don’t get that fumble to Ga Southern, and 2014 is suddenly the same as 2012.  We don’t win the coastal, don’t beat UGA, only win 8 games, and have a loss to Ga Southern (like the Middle Tenn St loss in 2012).  That’s literally 3 plays, and its not like I’m cherry picking random plays after the fact.  Those were all plays that were somewhat unlikely, and at the time, I think most, certainly me, felt we had already lost those games.  All occurred late enough to be the difference, by themselves.

Conversely, there were several plays last year.  I remember the painful overthrow of an easy 20 yard TD against UVA, the dropped 95 yard should have been a pick 6 by DJ white against UNC, Pitt’s 50 yard FG, several plays against VT.  Those plays go differently and we easily could have won 6 or 7 last year, even if you change the fluky FSU finish.  That’s the margin between 2014 and 2015.  That small.  And I think that’s true even though watching those two teams play, especially late in the year, you would think 2014 was 5 or 6 touchdowns better (and maybe they were).  Football is just a funny game.  

So, all of that to say, I expect this year to be a return to normal.  I expect to win at least 7 or 8 games, and be a factor in the Coastal.  I expect that to be true, even though the O-line is a mystery and there aren’t many reasons to be optimistic about the defense.  I feel pretty good about QB and the offensive skill positions.  We need the defense to be opportunistic like 2014, and we need the offensive line to play well.  But its an even year, and that’s the been the senseless pattern the last few years (2012 and 2014 good, 2013 and 2015 bad for the O line).  At this point, Clemson looks like the only game that isn’t realistically winnable.  But Mercer may be the only game that isn’t losable.  Welcome to GT football.

Boston College will be an interesting test to open the year.  Boston College returns a fairly experienced group, from what was an excellent defense and a woefully bad offense last year.  On offense, they were 126th out of 128 teams, according to football outsiders (possession efficiency based rankings, adjusted for opponent quality).  We had a terrible year, falling from 3rd in 2014 to 88th in 2015.  Defensively, Boston College ranked 3rd, and we ranked 62nd.  So they were college football’s third best defense and third worst offense.  They return a lot of that offense (85% of their yards) but not as much of the defense (66% of their tackles).  However, they rank 32 overall on Phil Steele’s combined experience chart, meaning they return a fairly experienced team overall.  

For what its worth, Boston College had the same 3-9 record that we did last year, but allegedly weren’t as good.  Massey projects a 6 point GT win and a 68% chance that GT wins, if the two teams played in 2015.  Interestingly, (based on largely nothing), Massey projects a 7 point GT win and a 67% chance of a GT win this year.  Both of those were on a neutral field.  Vegas has us favored by about a FG.  

Obviously, GT football is difficult to predict, but I think we start off with a win.  The last time we had a terrible year after a great year (2010) we came back after apparently a pretty good offseason and started 6-0, rising all the way to a #12 ranking, before faltering down the stretch, although that team was pretty good and was only a couple plays away from winning 10 games and the Coastal.  So, you know, see the discussion above.  GT football at its finest.  To be fair, I think there are a number of teams like GT in this regard.  We probably aren’t all that unique.  There may be 15-20 teams similar to us, for a variety of reasons, but similar in that their talent level is good enough to sometimes compete at a high level, but never great enough to win 8 or 9 games in a down year, after a lackluster or bigheaded offseason or whatever.  

I think we worked hard and this team’s attitude and chemistry will more closely resemble 2014 than 2015.  I like our young offensive talent and I love Justin Thomas.  Defense is, as always, a question mark, but I think this’ll be a good team.  

As always, Go Jackets!

Friday, October 2, 2015

UNC Preview

Well that was awful.  I still don't think Duke is all that good.  Maybe a pretty good team but definitely not great, and still a threat to be something like 4-4 in the conference.  Maybe they'll surprise me and win the Coastal.

But for now what I really care about is us.  The defense has been better and I'm actually excited about that.  We are getting stops.  And for the most part playing well.  But the special teams has been atrocious and the offense isn't blocking anybody.  As noted in the preseason, I was worried this year might be like 2010, but I thought at least the O-line would block well.  I don't know how their performance so far could have been predicted.  They were pretty good last year (although Coach recently said something to the effect of they weren't all that good last year and our skill guys just made plays... that puzzled me a little bit).  In any event, I think they've clearly been worse this year than last year, despite us returning 4 starters and most of our backups.  I'm really puzzled by that.

Justin Thomas is still very good but he's trying to force things since nothing is really working.  This has been hard to watch so far.  I expect we'll sort it out and be at least pretty good on offense by the end of the year, but it won't matter too much if the special teams keeps this up.  The defense looks to be improved but I'm not sure it can carry the team and overcome poor field position and kick return touchdowns (and missed field goals...).

I really have no idea what happens tomorrow.  UNC looked pretty good against Illinois.  They looked pretty bad in week 1.  I think their defense under new coordinator Gene Chizik is better.  So logic would say we might struggle on offense since we haven't played well there anyway.  And UNC's offense destroyed us last year and returns 10 starters, and put up 48 points on Illinois (who isn't good but one would think at least has credible athletes).  All of that would suggest they might beat us.

But we are favored by a little over a touchdown.  I wonder what Vegas is doing here.  I know we were just favored by 9 and lost.  The line usually isn't off by that much two weeks in a row (arguably luck played a role in our loss to Duke I guess).  The last time I remember seeing a line on GT like this one, it was in 2011 for Clemson.  Where I immediately raised my eyebrows.  That was when GT was off two straight losses, also both on the road, and coming back home.  Clemson was 8-0 and ranked #5 in the country, and we were only 3 point underdogs.  I thought that was very strange.  And of course we won and fairly easily.

So maybe that's a good sign.  I don't know.  I'm just curious at this point.  Here is to hoping we play better.  Because this season still has a chance to be something, but if we don't turn it around soon, it will quickly become not very fun.

Let's go Jackets!

Friday, September 25, 2015

Duke Preview

Tough game last week.  It was difficult to watch, for me, and I imagine if you are reading this blog, likely difficult to watch for you as well.  However, after several days of reflection, I really am ok with the loss.  For several reasons.  First, its basically as good as a loss can be.  It wasn't a conference loss, so it has no affect on our ability to win the ACC.  It wasn't a loss to UGA, which would be bad for other, more personal reasons.  It was a road loss to a good team, so it doesn't harm our reputation much.  All of those things would make it a pretty good loss already, but to top it off, we have a pretty quick shot at redemption.  Clemson plays Notre Dame in 2 weeks, and we get Clemson the very next game.  Should Clemson beat Notre Dame at home (hardly a long shot, in fact Clemson might be favored), then we would have the opportunity to redeem ourselves and restore our national credibility right away.  Not that I think it needs to be restored too much.  Again a reasonably competitive road loss to a top 10 team is far from embarrassing.

Now some might argue with that "reasonably competitive" part, but I think the notion that we were beaten badly is simply incorrect.  It was 13-7 at halftime and but for a holding penalty (that in my opinion was VERY questionable) it would have been 16-14 midway through the 3rd quarter.  Additionally, we missed two field goals and both of Notre Dame's first two touchdown drives depended upon deep passes on 3rd and long caught thanks to arguable offensive pass interference.  Now, I know, luck usually goes both ways and sure we had an interception in the end zone and there some other plays you could quibble about, but for me, the final score of 30-22 is a pretty good reflection of the game.  Many would argue that 30-22 was misleading because it was really over at 30-7 with under a minute to play.  But I think 30-7 was actually the misleading score.

I thought the defense played really well.  Especially considering they were put in tough situations by the offense and special teams for most of the day.  Tough field position and they were on the field a lot.  The special teams was abysmal.  The offense sputtered due to Notre Dame's good defensive play and our own execution errors.  I probably should have figured as soon as I said last week that "the only thing that would surprise me is us executing poorly on offense", that all but guaranteed we would execute poorly on offense.  My fault.  

I did enjoy making fun of Notre Dame last week for hiring a "consultant" to defend our scheme, but, well, they did a good job.  Had a good game plan and, most importantly, varied what they were doing all day.  A lot of teams we play against mostly play their base, and then make adjustments only when we get something to start working.  Notre Dame varied up their fronts and alignment more proactively, and that might have caused our blockers some issues as we seemingly couldn't get into a rhythm.  We had 70 missed assignments, according to Coach, when a normal week would be more like 15.  

So credit Notre Dame and its coaching staff.  Of course, part of the problem was simply that they beat a lot of blocks as well.  That's talent.  I think one of my big questions going into last week, can the A-backs and WRs play at this level, was answered with a "not yet".  I saw several passes from Thomas that Smelter or Waller would have caught in my opinion.  And their blocking and running on the perimeter left a little to be desired.  I think they all have potential, but their youth showed last week.  

The good news is that the defense looks like it might be a pretty good unit, and the offensive issues are mostly fixable.  On to Duke.  I believe Duke is a good team but I actually think we win comfortably Saturday.  Just based on the way we matchup.  Duke is well coached and a pretty good defense, but I don't think they are very good on offense this year.  Consider our common opponent Tulane.  Yards per play is probably the best "simple" stat to give you a good idea of how well an offense was playing.  Since every offense is trying to gain yards, and yards per play gives you a reasonable sample size of about 60-80 attempts to do something.  Tulane gave up 4.1 yard per play to Maine, 5.7 yards per play to Duke, and 8.6 yards per play to Georgia Tech.  So we averaged nearly 3 yards per play more.  Duke offensively was considerably closer to Maine than to Tech.  

However, this time of year, there isn't much data to go on.  Only a few games.  Duke's offense gained about 4 yards per play on Northwestern, which was actually better than Stanford did against Northwestern.  And Stanford was then up near 7 yards per play against Central Florida and Southern Cal.  Its just hard to tell who is good at what based on so few games.  But my suspicion is that Duke's offense is not very good.  I"m confident that Tulane is not a good defense, and Duke sputtered and took a while to put that game away.

They are good on defense, but I don't think they have Notre Dame's talent.  And a well coached team with only moderate talent is just going to struggle to stop our offense.  They did a good job last year (although that was Thomas' worst game of the  year and we largely beat ourselves with unforced turnovers).  But while Duke might slow us down for a while, I expect we will eventually get to something like 31 or 35 points.  And I think our defense might hold Duke to something like 10 or 14.  Basically I expect this game to look a lot like the 2013 game in Durham, where we only scored 2 TDs on our first 6 possessions, but eventually put that game away 38-14.  

Sirk's passing has not overwhelmed me.  And we were pretty stingy against the run in South Bend, outside of the one 90 yard run.  I don't think its proven yet (Notre Dame may not be a very good offense for all we know) but my suspicion now is that our defensive front is the best its been in years.  And I think Duke is going to find points pretty tough to come by this weekend.  

We need to bounce back, but I'm assuming the team has been focused and had a good week of practice.  Humbling losses have a funny way of doing that.  If we can get this win and continue improving, I still think this team can be very good.  And everything is still possible.  Certainly an ACC championship.  We can still do even better than that, but let's not get ahead of ourselves.  Its a long season and we will need to play a lot better than we did last week before we have any need to worry about national implications.  

First things first, our ACC opener and a matchup of the last two Coastal champs.  Somewhat ironically, the loser of this game has won the ACC Coastal the last two years.  I'm not sure what that means.  Oh well.

As always, let's go Jackets!

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Notre Dame Preview

Well first let me apologize for slacking on this blog so far this year.  To be honest I haven't had a whole lot to write.  I expected us to beat Tulane badly.  Duke beat them 37-7 and Tulane's offense looked inept, and I still have a sneaking suspicion that Duke isn't that good this year, and especially that their defense isn't all that great.  Meaning that Tulane must be truly awful.  So beating them 65-10 is what we were supposed to do, and it doesn't tell us much.  (Also noteworthy, Tulane didn't appear to be real well coached.  For those that didn't notice, Matt Jordan's long touchdown run was scored against a defense fielding 9 players.  In a 4-2-3 formation.  In my last blog post I was just joking that UNC played with a 4-3-0 defense last year, because their pass defense was so bad it was like they didn't even have a secondary out there.  Little did I know I was foreshadowing Tulane's defense against us.)

I still think we don't know a whole lot about this team.  We've done nothing so far to change my mind that we might be really good.  So that's the good news.  I still think we might be a playoff contender.  Depends on two things.  Is the defense for real (which really hinges on whether the D-Line is as good as it could be).  And can the new WR's and A-backs play against major college talent.  I think the answer to the second issue is yes.  The jury is still out on the first issue, the defense, but we'll find out a lot about it tomorrow afternoon.

Apparently Notre Dame has hired an option stopping "consultant" to help scheme for our game.  Well I guess our game and the Navy game.  But they play Navy every year and don't normally hire a consultant, so really its for our game.  This guy isn't really a consultant, but the Linebackers coach for Notre Dame last year who was apparently replaced, but they kept him on to scour the country consulting with other coaches and put together a scheme to stop us.  I'm not sure exactly what Brian Kelly thinks his job is, but apparently he is delegating large portions of it to coaches he recently fired but still wants to "consult" with on important matters.

Anyway I'm amused by this new concept, and the fact that it illustrates just exactly how much our offense is in our opponents heads.  Coaches have done this before, consulting in the offseason with LSU and Iowa back when everybody thought they had the "blueprint" to stop us.  (well, and they both did have it I guess - get a defense with 10+ future NFL players on it - its just not one they can share with other coaches).  UGA scheduled Georgia Southern the week before our game a couple times.  If Georgia Southern keeps changing their offense, then UGA may have to stop pretending its a coincidence, just admit they are practicing for our game, and start scheduling Navy in that slot.  Coaches also admit to spending extra time preparing for us.  Lots of coaches have admitted they devote a couple of weeks in spring practice.  Bud Foster at Virginia Tech spent most of August in 2012 putting in a whole new defense just for our Labor Day game.  UGA admitted last year they spent some extra time during both of their bye weeks working on our offense.  And I'm glad they did, since those were the only two games they lost, other than us.  If they had spent more time preparing for South Carolina during South Carolina week, and Florida during Florida week, they might have been 11-1 and playing Bama for a spot in the playoff.  Despite having beaten us 5 years in a row (at that time), we are apparently so far in their heads that we effectively beat them 3 times last year.  Well, I'm taking credit for all three anyway.  

So its not exactly new for a team to do extra stuff to prep for our offense, but calling it a third party consultant is interesting.  Not sure what effect it'll have.  When teams have success against us its usually a personnel issue.  And Notre Dame has some good personnel.  Kelly has stockpiled plenty of talent.  Hard to know what to make of Notre Dame though.  Are they really good, and maybe Texas is ok and UVA is better than people think?  Or are they more mediocre and Texas is just awful?

That the Irish are playing a backup quarterback doesn't make the game any more predictable.  He looked good in making the clutch throw to avoid a disastrous upset in Charlottesville.  But I'm afraid I don't have any significant insights into the game this week.  I can offer my prediction (ie - my guess).  I think we win a close, hard fought game.  But I wouldn't be surprised by much.  Poor offensive execution by us would surprise me.  That's about it.  I expect us, with Thomas and this experienced O-line, to execute the offense well.  Notre Dame still might slow us down if they win their 1 on 1 matchups, and defeat blocks.  But I don't think we'll beat ourselves offensively.  Other than that, most anything could happen.  Here is to hoping that our defense really is improved and we win easily.

The computers generally think we are good.  We rank about 10th in most and Notre Dame is in the 15-20 range.  Phil Steele's power ratings have Notre Dame in the 15-20 range and have Georgia Tech 3rd.  Most computers seem to favor us, but ESPN's index says Notre Dame has a 68% chance to win.  Of course all that stuff is based on trying to compare Alcorn St. and Tulane to Texas and Virginia.  Which is difficult at best, and a fool's errand at worst.  Computer information at this stage of the season is based on such little data that its close to useless anyway.  So we'll just have to wait until gametime to know much of anything.  Can't get here soon enough for me.

Go Jackets!