Thursday, December 31, 2009

What Day Is It? IT'S GAMEDAY!!! WOOOOOO!!!

See? Tennessee does have one redeeming virtue.

I look forward to a spirited game tonight that should go back and forth. I of course picked the fighting creamsicles (UT) in my preview, but there's no question where my allegiances lie.

I'm still a little concerned about the game, but Frank Beamer > Lane Kiffin any day of the week, and I like Lane for some reason (could it be his gorgeous wife Layla?)

Anyway, Go Hokies and to even out all these Vol photos, here are some lovely Tech ladies.

Mike Leach Forced To Walk The Plank

Now former Texas Tech head football coach Mike Leach is one of my favorite characters in the colorful world of college football.

Leach is as well known for his quirky personality as he is for his wide-open, pass-happy offense that has thrilled the folks of west Texas for the last 10 seasons.

Personally, I root for a guy who professes a love of Pirates, American Indians and pretty much any other subject you can think of.

I won't rehash the details of the story that led up to Leach's firing as you can find them everywhere, but I would encourage everyone to read this list of emails sent in support of Leach from former players and coaches.

This whole thing is going to get really messy before it's all over. Did I mention Leach got his Juris Doctor from Pepperdine School of Law?

Something tells me the pirate lawyer has a few motions he's yet to file.

And my personal favorite, Mike Leach's dating advice. Funny and actually not bad advice.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Chick-Fil-A Bowl Preview: No.11 Virginia Tech vs. Tennessee

The 2009 Virginia Tech Hokies will finish their season where it began, playing an SEC team in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.

Since they last met in the 1994 Gator Bowl when a young quarterback named Peyton Manning led Tennessee to a decisive victory, fans of the Hokies and Volunteers have been clamoring for a rematch.

The two fan bases have been intermingling for years and Hokies everywhere would love nothing more than regional bragging rights heading into the new year.

On paper, this may or may not appear to be an exciting match up. That all depends on your preferred brand of football.

This game matches two of the best defensive minds in football in Monte Kiffin and Bud Foster.

Despite Kiffin’s NFL background, the two coaches employ very similar defensive styles.

Both have aggressive, attacking defenses designed to hit the ball-carrier with multiple defenders with the goal of creating a turnover. They both use a myriad of coverage looks that have confused more than a few opposing quarterbacks.

Obviously the big name of Tennessee’s unit is All-everything safety Eric Berry.

The 2009 Thorpe award winner is the nation’s top defensive back, but he doesn’t really play like one.

Berry will drop back in coverage, but he also will play up near the line like an extra linebacker and if Tyrod Taylor has any success running the football, don’t be surprised to see Berry spy him.

Berry isn’t the only one Tech has to look out for on defense.

Senior Dan Williams is a 6’3”, 327-pound handful at tackle. He’s by far the largest defender on an undersized defensive line. What the Vols lack in size, they make up for in speed.

Chris Walker is a playmaker at defensive end, leading the team with 8.5 tackles for loss and six sacks.

Despite those players, the Volunteer defense isn’t without weakness.

Tennessee is on their third middle linebacker of the season, losing the first two to injury.

Redshirt freshman Herman Lathers has been filling the middle down the stretch. In his four games as a starter the Vols have allowed just over 213 rushing yards per game.

That likely has the Hokie offensive lineman and tailback Ryan Williams licking their collective chops.

The Hokies should be able to run the football with Williams and Taylor, and there will be opportunities in the passing game.

The Volunteer schemes lend themselves to allowing short passes, something the Hokies have been improving as the season has progressed. A few well-timed screen passes would serve Tech well.

The Hokies will also look to challenge Tennessee down the field when Berry is playing close to the line. If Tech can hit a couple of big-gainers, they stand a terrific shot at winning the game.

The Volunteer offense has its share of weapons as well.

Senior quarterback Jonathan Crompton struggled at the start of the year, but recovered to have a very strong season. Crompton threw for over 2,500 yards with 26 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.

Crompton’s favorite target is who has 41 catches for 610 yards on the season, but the Vols have eight players with at least 10 catches on the year. Crompton clearly likes to spread the ball around.

Montario Hardesty is a strong runner who exhibits both power and speed. On the year, Hardesty rushed for 1,306 yards and 12 touchdowns.

If there’s anyone happy about the bowl game break, it’s Hardesty. In Tennessee’s final two games of the regular season, he carried the ball 71 times.

The Hokie run defense improved dramatically as the year progressed. Pass defense has been a bit more inconsistent and won’t be helped by the absence of starting corner Stephan Virgil who was declared academically ineligible for the game.

Either Cris Hill or freshman punt returner Jayron Hosely will fill in for Virgil. It’s also possible both will play as Hill struggled in the game he started earlier this season against Marshall.

Look for Crompton to test the Hokie pass defense early and often. The weak spot is right down the middle as Alabama can tell you. The Crimson Tide attacked free safety Kam Chancellor time after time and exploited the weakness quite effectively.


Under Frank Beamer, Virginia Tech is a miserable 2-11 playing in domes. Tech is 0-2 in Atlanta this season and has never won back-to-back bowl games during the Beamer era. Of course, Lane Kiffin hasn’t won any bowl games and it’s difficult not to weigh his lack of experience in bowl preparations when picking a winner here.

The Hokies have laid a few eggs in their last couple games against an SEC opponent, and even though the Hokies are a better team on paper, Tennessee is a much better club than their 7-5 record would indicate.

My heart, my college degree and the majority of my wardrobe tell me the I love Virginia Tech and the Hokies can pull this one out. My brain on the other hand tells me that until they prove they can beat an SEC team on a big stage, it’s a risky pick.

Tennessee 24

Virginia Tech 21

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

I'm On a Mac

Seriously, we, the founders of Stars and Slights, are on Macs.

What's not to love about Apple? Aside from the chic designs of its products and the fact that Mac users encounter few (if any) viruses, Apple has literally revolutionized the tech industry with must-have gadgets.

Why else would CNBC produce a segment called "Planet of the Apps" in honor of the Apple product (iPhone) that pioneered the use of applications in mobile technology?

In honor of our support of Apple we invite you to view the following spoof of the popular SNL video "I'm on a Boat."

This particular video, entitled "I'm on a Mac", was created by the Pantless Knights. Hats off to these hilarious gentlemen for a witty and slightly inappropriate way to yet again communicate why Macs are better than PCs.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Stars and Slights Bowl Season in the Gutter

If for some inexplicable reason you took the predictions made by the Stars and Slights team to assist your bowl game selections you're probably kicking yourself right now.

To date, my record is 2-3 (thank you to Rutgers and Utah) while Justin is 0-5. Despicable!

We both have a chance to improve our records this evening when Nevada takes on SMU in June Jones' homecoming in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl.

Justin and I rolled with the Wolfpack in this one in hopes that a Colt Brennan-less team led by Jones would be no match for its opponent on the big island.

I seriously and sincerely hope Justin gets his first win of the young bowl season tonight.

Renderings of the New Notre Dame Hockey Rink

Several months ago I posted a rendering of the future home for Notre Dame hockey, which is scheduled to debut in 2011/2012.

Groundbreaking for the Charles W. "Lefty" Smith Jr. Rink is set for spring 2010 with a rather swift expected turnaround time. Rumors have it that Irish head coach Jeff Jackson presented athletic director Jack Swarbrick and the Board of Trustees with an ultimatum to build the Irish icers a new home or find a new coach.

Such a request was not too surprising as the Irish have a rink no better suited for play than a small municipal venue. Until Jackson arrived there was not much excitement, or merit, to build a new home for the Irish.

Under Jackson's tutelage, however, the Irish program has soared to heights never before seen by the blue and gold including the University's first ever appearance in the National Championship game in the 2007/2008 season.

With a much needed facilities upgrade in the near future Jackson and the Irish faithful are hopeful that Notre Dame will create its own footprint in collegiate hockey in competition to Michigan, Michigan State, Boston College, Minnesota, and North Dakota among others.

What follows are additional renderings of the proposed 5,000 seat arena.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Our 300th Post

I decided to post a video on a whim and noticed that we've made 299 posts.

This isn't a particularly exciting milestone, it's merely a round number.

I consider it somewhat impressive, but I'll wax poetic when we reach higher figures. None the less, thanks to everyone who reads or has read our random musings anyway.

I'm posting this video because it shows what was, in my opinion, the most dominant run by Virginia Tech tailback Ryan Williams all season.

I can only hope that "Lil' Sweetness" has a few moves like this in store for Tennessee.

Consider this the kickoff for the Chick-Fil-A Bowl coverage bonanza.

On a side note, I apologize for the average to mediocre bowl banner on the right. I'm learning GIMP, a freely distributed photo editing program. If you learned such skills on Photoshop, GIMP is a bit...I think dumb is the word, but it's free and I'll figure it out in time.

Onward to the video. Again this is Ryan Williams providing some public transportation.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Mark It Five, Donny!

Bowl season is almost upon us which means it's time for the inaugural bowl prediction competition between Justin and myself.

What follows below is a comprehensive list of every bowl game this season (complete with location, time, and network for your reference) and our picks for who will win.

As the bowl season wears on and if it appears we might need a tie-breaker we'll pick scores for the championship game. For now we're keeping it simple and not planning that far ahead. The beauty about this is that we have the flexibility to change picks prior to kickoff of each game.

You probably won't find this nearly as enjoyable as we will, especially since bragging rights are on the line.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Final 2009 College Football Predictions Tracker

With the regular season no longer upon us it is time to reflect on the pre-season projections made here at Stars and Slights.

I finished 17-8 on the year (17-7 excluding the non-existent ACC championship game featuring the Hokies) with a point differential of -102 overall. Not terrible but not great, either.

Justin finished with an identical 17-8 record on the year (17-7 without factoring the ACC championship game) with a point differential of +41. Very solid.

Playing by Price is Right rules I would get the nod as champion but we here at Stars and Slights don't believe in that silly rule. We're taking it up with Mr. Barker as we speak even though we hear he's got a pretty good jab and left hook.

That said, I hereby declare Justin as the 2009 college football predictions winner as a result of the point spread tie-breaker.

Below are the final tabulated results.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

CNNSI 2009 College Football All-Americans

It seems as though everyone these days comes out with an all-American list. The Associated Press, American Football Coaches Association, Football Writers Association of America, Sporting News, and the Walter Camp Football Foundation are the esteemed entities that the NCAA recognizes to establish consensus all-Americans in 2009.

Outside of the consensus all-American agencies other sports sites and blogs create their own lists.

Sports Illustrated released theirs earlier today and while I don't disagree with their selections I was confused by their listing for Heisman Trophy Winner Mark Ingram: Wide Receiver.

Look below at the screenshot from earlier in the day with the error circled in red (they have since corrected the problem).

Nice, though not a big surprise, to see Golden Tate on the list. If Tate indeed earns the distinction of consensus all-American he would be the first Irish player since Jeff Samardzija, who won in 2006, to win the award.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Guitar Hero Light Show

In all likelihood the following video, and song of the day, is entirely fake. Even if it is, sit back and enjoy the smooth musings of Eric Johnson's "Cliff's of Dover."

As an aside, the song won a 1991 Grammy Award for the Best Rock Instrumental Performance.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Official Brian Kelly Announcement from Notre Dame

What follows below is the body of an email sent out to Notre Dame alumni...

December 10, 2009

Brian Kelly Named 29th Head Football Coach at Notre Dame

Brian Kelly, a veteran of 19 seasons as a collegiate head coach -- and most recently the architect of two consecutive Bowl Championship Series appearances at the University of Cincinnati, including a perfect 12-0 regular season in 2009 that earned him national-coach-of-the-year honors – tonight has been named the 29th head football coach at the University of Notre Dame.

Currently the ninth-winningest active coach in the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision in terms of victories, Kelly has signed a five-year contract to coach the Irish. He will be introduced at a 1:30 p.m. EST Friday press conference at the Guglielmino Athletics Center. Kelly officially takes over at Notre Dame on Monday; he will not coach the Bearcats in their Sugar Bowl date against Florida.

Kelly’s head coaching resume includes:

  • Three seasons at Cincinnati from 2007-09, including a 34-6 record (.850) and two straight outright BIG EAST Conference title teams that earned BCS appearances in 2008 (Orange Bowl) and ’09 (Sugar Bowl).
  • Three seasons at Central Michigan University from 2004-06, including a 19-16 overall record (.542) that featured a 9-4 mark and Mid-American Conference title in 2006.
  • Thirteen seasons at Grand Valley State University from 1991-2003, including a 118-35-2 record (.767) that was highlighted by NCAA Division II national championships in 2002 (14-0) and 2003 (14-1).
  • An overall record of 171-57-2 (.747) in those 19 seasons as a head coach.

“I am very pleased that a thorough and extensive search has led us to a new head coach in Brian Kelly, who I am confident will help us accomplish our goal of competing for national championships,” said Notre Dame athletics director Jack Swarbrick.

“I am absolutely delighted to welcome Brian and his family to the Notre Dame family,” said Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., Notre Dame’s president. “He brings to us a long and successful career as a head coach, and I am confident that he will have even greater success here. I’m also very pleased that he has put considerable emphasis on excellence in the classroom and that his student-athletes graduate at a rate well above the norm.”

Kelly earned the Home Depot National Coach of the Year Award in 2009, was the BIG EAST Conference Coach of the Year in 2007, 2008 and 2009 (the first time a BIG EAST football coach has won the award three straight years) -- and was the American Football Coaches Association Division II Coach of the Year in both 2002 and 2003. Kelly currently ranks ninth among active FBS head coaches in victories with 171. He is the winningest active BIG EAST football coach and the only league coach with more than 150 wins.

He boasted a 2-1 record at Cincinnati in postseason bowl games – including a 27-24 win over Western Michigan in the International Bowl after the 2006 season (he coached in that game immediately after taking the job at Cincinnati), a 31-21 win over Southern Mississippi in the Bowl after the ’07 season and a 20-7 loss to Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl after the ’08 campaign. Kelly’s ’06 Central Michigan team finished 9-4 and qualified for the Motor City Bowl (Central Michigan defeated Middle Tennessee 31-14, though he did not coach after accepting the head coaching position at Cincinnati) – and his 12-0 team in ’09 earned a Sugar Bowl assignment against Florida.

In six NCAA Division II playoff appearances at Grand Valley State, Kelly’s teams combined for an 11-4 (.733) postseason record – including four straight victories in winning both the ’02 and ’03 NCAA titles. His ’01 Grand Valley State team fell 17-14 to North Dakota in the Division II national title game.

Kelly’s ’09 team at Cincinnati finished third in the final BCS standings and fourth in both the final regular-season Associated Press and USA Today/ESPN polls. His ’08 team ended up 11-3 and 17th in both polls – and his ‘07 Bearcat squad finished 10-3 and 17th (AP) and 20th (USA Today/ESPN) in the final polls.

His 2009 Cincinnati team won all 12 of its regular-season games, led the nation in passing efficiency (166.19), ranked second in kickoff returns (29.2 each) and sixth in total offense (464.25 yards per game), passing yardage (320.33) and scoring (39.83 points). Meanwhile, Kelly’s Bearcat defense rated third nationally in tackles for losses (8.42 per game) and eighth in sacks (2.92). Among the standouts he coached on the ’09 Bearcat roster are first-team All-America receiver Mardy Gilyard (he ranks second nationally in all-purpose yards at 203.5 per game) and quarterback Tony Pike (ninth in passing efficiency at 155.36). Eleven Cincinnati players merited all-BIG EAST honors for ’09 (five first-team selections), including Gilyard, the league’s Special Teams Player of the Year for the second straight season.

In three years at the helm of the program, Kelly put together a 34-6 record and led the Bearcats to their first two BIG EAST Conference championships in 2008 and ‘09.

 Cincinnati achieved a then-school-record 11 victories in 2008, followed that up with a dozen wins in ’09, and had back-to-back-to-back 10-win seasons for the first time in school history. Kelly’s Bearcats in ’08 won the school's first outright conference championship since 1964, and earned the school's first berth in a BCS game, playing against Virginia Tech in the 75th FedEx Orange Bowl. 

In ’08 Cincinnati achieved its then-highest ranking to close the regular season – 12th in the AP and USA Today/ESPN polls and the BCS standings entering the Orange Bowl. The Bearcats held down a postseason ranking of 17th in both polls, tying the top postseason ranking in school history and marking the first time Cincinnati was ranked in the end-of-season polls in school history.

Following the close of the ’08 regular season, Kelly was named the BIG EAST Coach of the Year for the second straight season. He also was named the American Football Monthly Schutt Sports FBS Coach of the Year, earned AFCA Region 1 Coach of the Year honors and was named BIG EAST Coach of the Year by Sporting News.

Cincinnati placed 10 players on the 2008 all-BIG EAST teams (including first-team selection Connor Barwin) – with kick returner Gilyard named the BIG EAST Special Teams Player of the Year and punter Kevin Huber earning the first AFCA All-America nod in program history. Huber became the first two-time AP first-team All-America selection in Bearcat football history.

The Bearcats' 27-24 bowl victory over Western Michigan in 2006 came just 34 days after his hiring.

 Then, in his first full season at the helm in ‘07, Kelly put the Bearcats on the national radar by jumping out to a 6-0 start and earning the Bearcats their first appearance in the polls in more than 30 years. By winning 10 games for the first time since 1951, the Bearcats earned their 10th bowl appearance in program history and sixth bowl appearance in eight years. Cincinnati finished 17th in the AP poll, earning its first appearance in a final poll.

Along the way to the 2007 Bowl victory, the Bearcats’ third straight bowl win, Kelly earned BIG EAST Coach of the Year honors. Cincinnati listed seven individuals on the all-BIG EAST teams, including BIG EAST Special Teams Player of the Year and consensus All-America punter Huber. The national leader in punting, Huber was one of three Bearcats to be named to an All-America team.

 Cincinnati ranked second in the BIG EAST and 24th nationally in passing offense (254.1), and was also second in the league and 27th nationally in passing efficiency (139.4). At the same time, the Bearcat defense led the BIG EAST in sacks (2.9) and tackles for a loss (6.5).

 Kelly’s Bearcats led the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) in net punting with an average of 41.5 yards per punt. Cincinnati also led the BIG EAST in kickoff returns (24.2).

During his three years at Central Michigan, he transformed a Chippewa program that had won more than three games only once in the past four seasons into a conference champion. Central Michigan posted a 9-4 record in 2006 en route to winning the MAC title and qualifying for its first bowl game in 12 years.

 Kelly inherited a program that had produced a mere 12 wins over its previous four seasons when he took the helm at Central Michigan in 2004. He guided the Chippewas to a 4-7 record in 2004 and a 6-5 slate -- the school's first winning season in seven years -- in 2005.

The Chippewas in 2005 defeated both defending MAC divisional champions, Miami and Toledo, and also knocked off eventual ‘05 league champ Akron. Central Michigan was ranked 35th nationally in total offense and 26th in passing offense while the team's rushing defense was ranked 20th (while leading the MAC at 113.7 yards per game, compared to 245.8 in ’03 -- the year before Kelly arrived). 

Kelly's 2006 Chippewas lost non-conference contests to bowl-bound Boston College and Kentucky by a combined 16 points. Central Michigan rolled up a 7-1 record in conference play to win the MAC West, then dominated Ohio 31-10 in the league championship game. Central Michigan boasted the 19th-most prolific passing attack in the nation, averaging 252.4 yards per game, and was ranked 31st in total offense (380.2 yards per game) and 24th in scoring offense (29.6 points). Quarterback Dan LeFevour, a freshman who passed for 2,869 yards and 25 touchdowns, was ranked 20th in passing efficiency and 14th in total offense. 

Kelly had 12 of his players achieve first-team all-conference honors over his three years at Central Michigan (including ’05 MAC Defensive Player of the Year Daniel Bazuin) -- and three advanced to the NFL (including 2005 draftees Eric Ghiacuic and Adam Kieft and free agent Tory Humphrey). 

Kelly arrived at Central Michigan after winning the back-to-back NCAA Division II national titles at Grand Valley State. The Lakers were 41-2 in Kelly's final three seasons, at one point winning 32 consecutive games. Grand Valley State went 14-0 in 2002 en route to its first national title and was 14-1 in 2003 when it claimed its second crown. Kelly was named the AFCA Division II Coach of the Year after both seasons. 

Kelly led the Lakers to five conference titles and six Division II playoff appearances in his 13 seasons at Grand Valley. The Lakers never finished lower than third in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletics Conference. 

Kelly mentored a pair of finalists for the Harlon Hill Award, presented annually to the top player in Division II. Curt Anes won the award in 2002 after finishing as runner-up in 2001, while Jeff Fox was third in the balloting in 1998. Both players were quarterbacks in Kelly's system. 

Kelly's Grand Valley State players earned 77 All-America awards (11 in 2002 alone). Four players moved on to the NFL and another three to the Canadian Football League.

His 2001 national runner-up squad set 77 NCAA, GLIAC and school records, including the all-time Division II scoring record by averaging 58.4 points per game. The 2001 team also became the first Division II unit in 53 years to average more than 600 yards per game in total offense (600.8). 

Grand Valley State followed up its record-shattering 2001 season by averaging 497.5 yards and 47.0 points during its undefeated 2002 national championship run (that ended with a 31-24 championship game win over Valdosta State) The 2003 team, meanwhile, was more noted for its defense. The Lakers defeated North Dakota 10-3 in the 2003 national title game.

 In 10 of his 13 seasons at Grand Valley State, Kelly’s teams won eight or more games – and he finished with a 103-22-2 mark in GLIAC contests.

Born Oct. 25, 1961, in Everett, Mass., and raised in Chelsea, Mass., Kelly attended St. John's Prep School in Danvers, Mass. He was a four-year letter-winner at Assumption College (Worchester, Mass.) as a linebacker, captaining the squad in both ’81 and ’82 under coach Paul Cantiani on teams that finished 8-3 and 7-1-1. After graduating from Assumption in 1983 with a bachelor's degree in political science, he served as linebacker coach, defensive coordinator and softball coach from 1983-86 at Assumption under head football coach Bernie Gaughan.

Kelly joined the Grand Valley State staff in 1987 as a graduate assistant and defensive backs coach. He became the defensive coordinator and recruiting coordinator in 1989 and took over as head coach in 1991 (replacing Tom Beck, who left to become running backs coach at Notre Dame under Lou Holtz). His very first team Laker team finished 9-3 and qualified for the NCAA playoffs. In 2009 Kelly was inducted into the Grand Valley State Athletics Hall of Fame.

Kelly has served on the AFCA Ethics Committee – and he’s currently one of 59 FBS head coaches who vote in the USA Today poll.

Kelly and his wife Paqui are parents of three children – Patrick, Grace and Kenzel.

Golden Tate: Best Collegiate Receiver in 2009

It's official: Golden Tate was the best collegiate receiver in the 2009 football season. He took home the distinguished honor earlier tonight by winning The Biltnekoff award at the annual college football awards in Disney World.

The award is a nice sendoff for Tate, who declared his intentions to enter the 2010 NFL Draft earlier this week.

Congratulations to the first Irish wide receiver to win the award!

Congratulations, Brian Kelly!

As Justin announced less than an hour ago Brian Kelly will leave the University of Cincinnati for greener, colder pastures in South Bend, IN as the new head coach of the Fighting Irish.

While my colleague holds contempt for the ordeal I am reserving judgement until I see the product on the field. Also, I'm giving Kelly the benefit of the doubt for telling his players he loved Cincinnati and loved his time there.

Why would he tell them any differently? Last Tuesday he was still the head coach at Cincinnati and nothing was finalized. It would have been foolish, irresponsible, and a lie to tell his team at that time that he wasn't happy and that he was leaving for Notre Dame. The fact of the matter is that the Irish were still interviewing other candidates and the deal was far from done.

Can you imagine the backlash the media and Bearcats fans would have had if Kelly told his team he was waiting for the ND job and the Irish hired somebody else? If that were the case he likely would have been out on the streets looking for a new job.

Brian Kelly is the new head coach of the University of Notre Dame and up until today nothing had been finalized.

His players are justifiably upset and both Gilyard and Pike expressed as much after their team banquet earlier this evening.

Making matters worse for the team, Kelly will not coach his now former team in an inevitable blowout loss against Urban Meyer's Florida Gators. This information was confirmed in an email to Notre Dame Alumni just minutes ago while I was writing this post.

I am happy to see the coaching search put to rest and am delighted with the end result. Though he probably was not the first choice for the job the Irish did not 'settle' on him. Kelly is a fine coach with a strong pedigree.

Now let's see what he can do. Welcome to the Notre Dame family, Brian.

Go Irish!

Brian Kelly to Notre Dame; Officially Unofficial

The University of Cincinnati has yet to officially confirm that their head football coach Brian Kelly has accepted the head coaching position at Notre Dame, but that's clearly the case and all signs point to an official announcement tomorrow.

After winning the coach of the year award on ESPN's awards show Thursday night, Chris Fowler tried and tried to get any sort of answer from Kelly on the matter, but to no avail.

The Cincinnati players have done what Fowler couldn't however which is get an answer as Kelly told the team in a closed door meeting following their team banquet that he had indeed accepted the job at Notre Dame.

Senior standout receiver Mardy Gilyard walked out of the meeting after just 1 minute and was clearly upset.

"I heard everything I needed to know: 'I accepted the Notre Dame job,'" Gilyard said. "He went for the money. I'm fairly disgusted with the situation, that they let it last this long."

"I feel there was a little lying in the thing," Gilyard added. "I feel like he'd known this the whole time. Everybody knows Notre Dame's got the money. I kind of had a gut feeling he was going to stay just because he told me he was going to be here."

Gilyard wasn't the only Bearcat feeling the sting of Kelly's departure.

Star quarterback Tony Pike explained that Kelly told players last week that he was happy at Cincinnati.

"The Tuesday when we were practicing for Pittsburgh, he said he loves it here and he loves this team and loves coaching here and his family loves it here," Pike said.

I'm already decidedly on the record as not being a fan of Kelly, and I won't rehash that here.

However, while I understand the need and desire to keep the process quiet, misleading your own players is pretty low.

Sure, word would have leaked out had they known, but tomorrow at his Irish press conference, it will ring a bit hollow when they speak of Kelly's honesty and integrity.

Maybe I'm wrong and Kelly actually is a really nice guy. But his public perception is curious at best. There seem to be more than a few negatives out there, but he will be given a chance to change that at Notre Dame.

Kelly will almost certainly not coach his undefeated team in the Sugar Bowl, and they will get trounced because they just aren't that good.

The book is still out on Kelly.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Vick Still Owns Atlanta

So, I haven't posted anything recently. I've been in a motivational rut and while I still haven't gotten out of it, I felt compelled to post something.

I have been wanting to give some props to Michael Vick who played his most significant game since his return to the NFL last Sunday.

Vick returned to Atlanta, a city he once owned where he was loved by all and exulted as the greatest athlete and biggest celebrity in a city filled with both.

He was greeted with a fairly even mix of boos and cheers. I expected it, but still found people booing the only man that ever really made the Falcons matter pretty comical.

I understand the feelings of betrayal and the broken trust. It's just heartwarming to see how quickly people turn on one another when someone screws up. Just ask Tiger Woods.

Anyway, Vick played great, completing two of two passes for 48 yards and a touchdown and rushing four times for 17 yards and a touchdown.

It was the 11th time in his NFL career that Vick scored at least one rushing and passing touchdown in the same game.

It was a lot of fun to watch, and it was nice to see the Eagles actually use Vick in a smart way for once.

Vick had been made pretty much just a wildcat runner, which essentially set him up for failure. The defense stopped respecting his passing ability completely because he never did it.

Maybe now defenders will have a reason to think twice.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Say It Ain't So

I'm a few days behind on this one but, in case you hadn't heard, Jimmy Clausen and Golden Tate announced their intentions to enter the 2010 NFL Draft on Monday, December 7.

Clausen's announcement is not that big of surprise. He showed marked improvement over the course of his three years in South Bend and probably played as good, if not better, than any other quarterback in the nation this year. He completed 68 percent of his passes, threw for 3,722 yards, 28 touchdowns and four interceptions (three of which were tipped).

When he chose to attend Notre Dame over USC he shared that one of his deciding factors was (now former) head coach Charlie Weis' proclivity to develop upper echelon quarterbacks (see Tom Brady and Brady Quinn).

Now that he has developed into a strong pocket passer in a pro-style offense it is clearly time for him to move on in his career. There is no sense putting oneself in harm's way like Sam Bradford experienced this year.

Golden Tate, Clausen's go-to target all season long, is a bit more of a shock to leave early. He came to the Irish as a standout athlete in both baseball and football.

From the moment he stepped foot on campus he excelled on the diamond. On the gridiron he struggled to transition from his high school position (running back) to his new position (wide receiver) as he only knew one route - a 'go' route. Like any fine wine, though, he got better with age. In 2009 he finished with 93 catches for 1,496 yard (both ND school season records) and 15 receiving touchdowns (ties record).

Rather than staying for his senior year and learning a new offensive system with a new quarterback he decided to leave while his stock is rising. After all, as a finalist for the Biletnikoff Award he is regarded as one of the best collegiate receivers.

I doubt they will both wind up on the same team in the pros but it is likely they will both build off the momentum from their junior seasons. Maybe Golden can go help Brady Quinn out though...

Gentlemen. Good luck gentlemen.

Monday, December 7, 2009

All I Want For Christmas is Dillon Hall

Another year brings us yet another song of the day feature from the brilliant and humble men of Dillon Hall on the campus of the University of Notre Dame.

What follows is the work of countless hours of
beer drinking and visionary electrical engineering. A shout out to longtime faithful Stars and Slights reader Nicky Dubs for the tip on the videos.

If you recall last year we featured an unbelievable light show put forth by the men of Dillon Hall. I suspect it was the same guy(s) this year that masterminded last year's show. Apparently the WMG thought last year's show was so good that they needed to pull it down from YouTube.

Here's to hoping the following videos do not get pulled down anytime soon.

Go Irish and Go Big Red!

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays - 'NSYNC

Full length show in its entirety

Friday, December 4, 2009

College Football Quick Picks: Week 14

I took an extra day of procrastination and missed picking one of the best games of the weekend in Oregon-Oregon State Thursday night.

The Ducks flew together in that one and set the stage for a big weekend.

There are some even match ups this weekend. There should be plenty of exciting football tomorrow.

I look forward to the looming BCS disaster with all the potentially undefeated teams.

No. 21 Houston defeats East Carolina

No. 18 USC defeats Arizona

No. 19 California defeats Washington

No. 10 Georgia Tech defeats Clemson

No. 3 Texas defeats No. 22 Nebraska

And the big one...

No. 2 Alabama defeats No. 1 Florida

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Notre Dame Football: Irrelevant or Irresistable?

In light of all that has transpired over the course of the season for Notre Dame I feel compelled to address a prominent question that constantly arises and ceases to be put to rest: is Notre Dame football still relevant?

What follows is a series of additional questions that help frame the reasoning behind my ultimate conclusion.

Abdicated or Vindicated?
Unless you've been living in a cave over the past few days you probably heard the news that Charlie Weis was let go by the University.

Coming off the heels of a 4-game losing streak Notre Dame Athletic Director recommended to University President John Jenkins that Weis not be retained for the 6th year in his 11-year contract.

This was not the first time an Irish coach was ousted with years left on his contract. George O'Leary was fired just one day after he was hired as a result of lying on his resume. His replacement, and prior head coach Tyrone Willingham, was let go with two years left. Prior to that, Bob Davie received his pink slip the season after receiving a 5-year contract extension.

Over the span of those firings Notre Dame's record was 91-67 (.576 winning percentage) with 0 BCS bowl game victories and a lousy 1-7 in bowl games. The Irish have not legitamately been in contention for a national championship since 1993 and the most recent title was in 1988.

With those stats in mind I wonder whether or not Weis' firing signals abdication or vindication?

In truth, the answer to that question lies with AD Jack Swarbrick. If Swarbrick hires a stud coach who adds another title to Notre Dame's pedigree then the answer is vindication.

However, if Swarbrick hires another dud along the lines of Weis, Willingham, O'Leary, or Davie then the answer is clearly abdication. Additional and subsequent years of mediocrity will only continue to tarnish Notre Dame's impeccable brand.

Below is a quote from Swarbrick's press conference on Monday that announced the firing of Charlie Weis. His intentions were made clear:
Well, I won't go into the specific criteria. We have developed a list of criteria to help us shape the search. But I think I will say that it is important to us to look first and foremost at people who have demonstrated an ability to build and sustain a Division I college football program.
All indications are that he is serious about ending the run of duds and unproven coaches. This hire will not only define Swarbrick's tenure at Notre Dame but will also signal to the rest of the world how serious the Irish are about resurrecting its storied past.

Verdict: the jury is out and will remain so until the new head coach is hired... but all signs point to vindication

Sore Losers or Sorely Missed?
Many people scream sour grapes whenever Notre Dame fans talk about the storied Irish past. They claim that domers cry wolf when defending the current state of the program by referencing the storied past.

Such accusations include that 1) academic standards are too tough for premier athletes to gain admission nowadays, or that 2) the NBC TV contract automatically puts the Irish at an advantage (with recruiting) over other schools, or that 3) domers are too enamored on the past that they forget the harsh reality of the present state of the program.

1) While academic standards at Notre Dame are higher than some other schools, though, they are proportionately the same as they were years ago when the Irish were a shoe-in for national title consideration.

2) As for the TV contract, while the Irish once enjoyed exclusive status as the only institution with a TV contract that perk no longer exists. The Big Ten created its own TV network to broadcast its games and other major conferences like the SEC and ACC have contracts with ESPN, CBS and other networks to carry their games. Notre Dame might still have an advantage that every one of its games are nationally broadcast but for all intents and purposes the playing field is now level.

3) It is true that domers are proud of the rich tradition of the program but can you think of a program in the nation that doesn't celebrate its past? I suppose those conference title banners or retired numbers are based on premonitions? No. Every school, organization, company, and human being celebrates the past in some way, shape or form.

Too much emphasis on the past can put one at risk of never again meeting (or exceeding) those past achievements but, even so, with a tradition as rich and memorable as that of the Irish it is near impossible to ignore or downplay the history.

With the records of recent Irish teams in mind I contend that Irish faithful like myself simply pine for the days when national titles and other accolades like Heisman trophies flowed like water.

After all, in times of disappointment or depression it is not uncommon for people to yearn for the happy things from their past. Focusing on those happy things fills a void left by current lack of satisfaction.

Verdict: sorely missed past

Independent or Affiliated?
Domers and non-domers alike have passionate, though contrarian, views on whether or not the Irish can and should remain independent.

Supporters of Notre Dame retaining its independence cite the need for the University to leverage its unique independent TV contract with NBC. Others want the heritage of being an independent University to remain in tact. Yet even more want the Irish to maintain its own bargaining power rather than succumbing to the dictations of a conference president.

A more spiteful group wants independence for all the reasons listed above in addition to honoring prior wishes of affiliated teams. After all, Notre Dame was denied admittance to what is now known as the Big Ten when the Michigan Wolverines informed member schools that it would refuse to play them if Notre Dame was also an opponent. Now that opposing fans want the Irish to give in and join a conference this spiteful group seeks to live out the destiny carved in part by the Wolverines.

There is a small group of Notre Dame detractors that actually want the Irish to remain independent. They claim that if the Irish joined a conference they would have too much influence over it and still dictate a favored nations clause for itself.

Outside of that small group, the vast majority of Notre Dame detractors welcome the thought of conference affiliation for the Irish. Among their contentions, they claim that the Irish need to join the 21st Century and stop resting on its laurels. More notably, they hypothesize that Notre Dame would be at the bottom rung of any conference it would join so there would be no real harm done to their own teams.

Lastly, a group of pro-Notre Dame fans contends that the Irish need to join a conference in order to avoid falling behind the curve. When Penn State joined the Big Ten in the 90's Notre Dame was left as the last major independent program.

Conferences have become so powerful that they have their own TV networks and seemingly unlimited bowl tie-ins while Notre Dame is left with just two remaining non-BCS bowl tie-ins starting in 2010. Conferences and their respective power mark the zeitgeist of the past decade.

As much as it pains opposing fans to realize, however, the Notre Dame brand still carries enough weight to merit independence. This is not to say that the Irish won't ever join a conference but the odds are stacked in favor of independence unless the Irish fail to negotiate their own contracts by leveraging their iconic brand.

In all likelihood, the Irish will sustain independence while simultaneously generating enormous revenues for itself.

Verdict: once an independent, always an independent

National Champs or National Chumps?
Run through any rational person's list of top collegiate football programs over the years and Notre Dame without question makes every list (along with the likes of Texas, Oklahoma, Michigan, Southern Cal, Florida, Alabama, and Ohio State).

With eleven national titles to its name the Irish are equaled by only Southern Cal. Notre Dame's title years include 1924, 1929, 1930, 1943, 1946, 1947, 1949, 1966, 1973, 1977, 1988.

Since the last championship in 1988 nearly twenty different teams have won national titles. The current high school recruits for the class of 2014 were not even born the last time the Irish won and were only a few years old when the Irish last legitimately competed for the title in 1993.

Increasingly difficult academic standards at the University add fuel to the debate of whether a highly competitive academic institution can compete at a high level athletically.

Universities with highly achieving academics, such as Michigan Southern Cal, have shown an ability to pair on-field excellence with off-field performance (Matt Leinart's rigorous ballroom dancing course load notwithstanding).

So if other schools have shown a propensity to achieve both athletically and academically why can't Notre Dame?

This is not the first time the Irish have faced criticism that academic standards are too stringent to succeed athletically. Before Ara Parseghian was hired there were declarations of the difficult academic standards, but he won two national championships. Before Lou Holt was hired there were similar proclamations, but he too won a national championship.

As a proud alumni of Notre Dame Jack Swarbrick acknowledges the defiance of the tough academic standards and, accordingly, will not accept the argument that admissions requirements and the University's vision for its football program do not gel.
Well, I think Notre Dame remains a critical piece of the college football landscape. There is no denying our recent struggles, but that doesn't change the equity of the brand or the importance of Notre Dame being able to succeed.

We need to prove, as I was quoted as saying recently, that universities who are committed to integrating the student athlete, first and foremost, into the university of students, can also have them achieve optimal football success as athletes. It's important for the entire industry that we be able to do that. We have the background and I believe the equity to do it, and we now have the foundation laid and the improvements made in the program in recent years to put us in a position to do that.
Charlie Weis may have failed as a head coach but he succeeded in attracting top talent to South Bend. Most of his recruiting classes were ranked in the top 10-15 by all major recruiting services (Rivals, Scouts, ESPNU).

Defensive talent has been the biggest question mark as the Irish have posted back-t0-back abysmal seasons defensively.

If the Irish truly want to engage themselves in legitimate national championship contention the next coach will have to win the hearts of the nation's defensive elite and it probably wouldn't hurt to pick a scheme and stick with it.

Antiquated facilities marred the Irish program earlier in the decade but over the course of the past four years Notre Dame opened the Guglielmino Complex, a state of the art training facility devoted to football, and LaBar Practice Complex, a set of three practice fields (two artificial turf) intended primarily for football. Both additions provided much needed upgrades to an otherwise unimpressive list of facilities.

TV exposure, facilities, a tremendously equitable brand, and commitment to excellence provide the Irish with all the necessary tangibles to compete among the nation's elite.

Verdict: the Irish will compete for a championship again... in the year 20??

Irrelevant or Irresistable?
This subject marks probably the most commonly debated topic about Notre Dame: are the Irish still relevant?

ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit even begged this rhetorical question on College GameDay last week.

The notion of irrelevance with respect to Notre Dame makes sense if relating it to domers who up past accomplishments rather than current (lack of) achievements when defending the University against its critics.

That said, I have a hard time believing that the Notre Dame football program is 'irrelevant' especially when in the course of one hour, coming off a 6-6 season mind you, it garnered more attention than the entire Boise State, Cincinnati and TCU programs, which are currently all undefeated and ranked six through four respectively in the BCS standings, were exposed to combined all season.

Want proof? Take a gander at this marked up ESPN homepage by the fine folks at Her Loyal Sons.

Other coaches were fired already this year or recently stepped down but none of them garnered as much attention as the Notre Dame coaching change. Not even Bobby Bowden, who announced he is stepping down as head coach of the Florida State Seminoles where he roamed the sidelines for 55 years!

The fact of the matter is that Notre Dame is like the New York Yankees and the Dallas Cowboys. People either love or hate those teams and there is no middle ground. Whether or not those teams are winning or losing is irrelevant because people always have strong opinions about them.

It's not like the Yankees haven't gone through down periods (anyone remember the 80's and early 90's?) or that the Cowboys never faced adversity (late 80's and early 00's).

Notre Dame has had dark periods, too. But just as the Yankees and Cowboys overcame their dark days so too will the Irish.

While it has been 21 seasons since the last national championship the current drought will not last forever. Notre Dame is to college football as the Yankees are to major league baseball, not as the Red Sox or Cubs are to major league baseball.

The key thing to remember is that whether the Irish or Yankees are cowboys are on top of their sport or on the bottom they are always one of the most talked about teams in their sport.

The propensity to evoke such debate, criticism, and conversation is unmistakably a testament to the relevance and irresistability of those teams.

Final Verdict: the Irish football program is and always will be relevant until the general public either decides to behave differently or the University gets rid of the program, and I can say for certain that the latter is not even in consideration.

Monday, November 30, 2009

End of the Weis Age

It's official: Jack Swarbrick confirmed at a 5pm EST conference that Charlie Weis will not be retained as head coach of the Fighting Irish next season. Weis had six years left on his contract.

Here is an official release sent to alumni and students:
Nov. 30, 2009
For Immediate Release
Weis will not be retained as Notre Dame football coach

University of Notre Dame head football coach Charlie Weis will not be retained, University director of athletics Jack Swarbrick announced today (Nov. 30).

“We have great expectations for our football program, and we have not been able to meet those expectations,” Swarbrick said. “As an alumnus, Charlie understands those goals and expectations better than most, and he’s as disappointed as anyone that we have not achieved the desired results.”

Swarbrick recommended the dismissal Sunday night to Notre Dame’s president, Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C.

“We have established an evaluation process for all of our athletic programs that, in the end, results in a recommendation from Jack to me,” Father Jenkins said. “I accepted Jack’s decision and look forward to working with him on selecting a new head football coach who is the very best choice possible for the University and especially for our student-athletes.

“I am most appreciative to Coach Weis for his service to Notre Dame and our community. He and his family have my prayers and best wishes.”

Weis spent five seasons as Irish head coach from 2005-09, with his teams achieving consecutive records of 9-3 (Fiesta Bowl appearance) in ’05, 10-3 (Sugar Bowl appearance), 3-9, 7-6 (Hawai’i Bowl victory) and 6-6 in ’09 – for an overall 35-27 mark.

Swarbrick announced that Rob Ianello, the Irish assistant head coach/offense, wide receivers coach and recruiting coordinator, will assume responsibility for football operations until a new coach is hired. Ianello has spent the past five seasons on the Notre Dame staff and previously was part of football staffs at Wisconsin (1990-93, 2003-04), Arizona (1994-2002) and Alabama (1987-89).

More thoughts to come on this later but I thought I'd join the rest of the free world in making the announcement.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Goodbye Al Groh

Thanks for the memories Al.

Virginia Tech and Virginia battle today for the Commonwealth Cup, which is hopefully in one piece.

The Hokies and 'Hoos meet for the 90th time, and regardless of the outcome it appears it will be the final game for head coach Al Groh.

Groh is just 59-52 including 3-2 in bowl games and 1-7 against the Hokies.

I'll be sad to see him go, and interested to see who UVA hires to replace him. Will the Wahoos be able to close the gap and end Tech's dominance?

Will the Cavaliers pull a shocker in Charlottesville Saturday?

We shall see at 3:30 on ESPN or ABC depending on your area.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Turkey Day!

On this day of reflection it is important to remember all that we have to be thankful for in our lives.

Personally, I am thankful for family and friends, my beautiful fiance, food, shelter, employment, the blessings associated with living in the US, the bravery of our troops both overseas and domestic, our lady's university, peace, and so much more.

Safe travels and Happy Thanksgiving to all.

I leave you with this prayer from Linus...

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Concert Review: Less Than Jake

For the dozens of loyal followers of Stars and Slights it's no secret that I'm a huge fan of Less Than Jake. After all, they have been the featured artist in several song of the day posts.

So when I heard that they were coming to the Twin Cities I knew I had to capitalize on the opportunity (my first time seeing them live)!

Earlier this evening at the Station 4 nightclub in St. Paul I watched the ska/punk crazies from Gainseville, Fl promote their latest album, aptly entitled "GNV FLA." The Swellers and The Casualties opened for Less Than Jake and set the stage for a pretty memorable night.

I honestly knew little about both opening acts and didn't pay much attention to them while at the concert but what experienced was certainly worth mentioning here.

The Swellers reminded me of an early stage Blink 182 (think Dude Ranch) and The Casualties are in a league of their own.

In fact, The Casualties provided perhaps the most indelible moment of the evening when they attempted to organize both the largest circle pit Station 4 had ever seen and the often talked about but rarely well-executed 'wall of death.'

While giving the instructions for the 'wall of death' guitarist Jake said "get as far to the walls as possible and spread yourselves... like butt cheeks." Hilarious.

In terms of showmanship it was obvious that Less Than Jake was the most seasoned group out of all three bands. Their presence and crowd interactions were genuine and diversified. They even razzed their merchandise manager for forgetting to bring a stash of free swag for the concertgoers like myself (though the group members wound up throwing tons of free stuff into the crowd throughout the concert).

For a tour that is supposed to promote their new album the boys of LTJ managed to work in a solid mix of old and new stuff. They dipped back to Pezcore by playing "Liquor Store" and played several songs off of Losing Streak.

Hellow Rockview was another album whose songs were heavily featured tonight along with Anthem and, of course, GNV FLA.

With exception to "The Brightest Bulb Has Burned Out" all of my favorite songs were performed. Their albums usually feature dual guitars to cover lead and rhythm but tonight only Chris Demakes played. Even without a rhythm guitar the songs still sounded very close to the studio recordings but with some added pizzaz.

Less Than Jake was absolutely worth the price of admission. I'll be seeing them again next time they come to the Twin Cities.

I'm providing a link rather than embedded video because that feature was removed at the request of the record label. Here's one of the songs performed tonight: "The Science of Selling Yourself Short."

College Football Quick Picks: Week 13

It's almost Thanksgiving, and that means excessive amounts of food and rivalry football.

This week is a football fan's dream as there are games Thursday on into next week if you include the NFL.

Rivalry's are one of the best parts of college sports. In college football in particular, rivalry games provide for all kinds of added excitement. I'll be watching a whole lot of the stuff this weekend, and I find a lot of cool games out there so I give to you the gift of many many picks.

No. 2 Alabama defeats Auburn

No. 3 Texas defeats Texas A&M (though I'm really pulling for the Aggies in this one)

West Virginia defeats No. 9 Pittsburgh

No. 18 Clemson defeats South Carolina

No. 7 Georgia Tech defeats Georgia

No. 19 BYU defeats No. 21 Utah

No. 20 USC defeats UCLA

This Week's Irrational Upset Special

Florida State defeats No. 1 Florida

This is based on the Bobby Bowden factor, so it may be a silly pick.

I personally think Bowden will get one final season, and he should, but there are still rumblings that the boosters want Bowden to step aside and let offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher start being the head ball coach (probably so someone else can start calling plays).

If this is indeed Bowden's final game against Florida, his team knows about it and will play out of their minds for him to get one more big win.

Of course, if he's coming back next year, the 'Noles sans Christian Ponder will probably just get steam-rolled by little Timmy Tebow on his senior day.

Virginia Tech-Virginia Week and Notre Dame-Stanford

It's a big week for both programs as the Hokies take on their arch-rivals and Charlie Weis hopes to cling to his job as the Fighting Irish travel to battle a very solid Stanford team.

Brian and I both picked Stanford in that one and it certainly looks like the smart pick right now. We'll have to see just how much fight is left for the Irish.

Saturday, Tech will bid farewell to longtime friend of the program Al Groh who will likely be coaching his final game for the Wahoos. The Hokies should roll in front of mostly their own fans in Charlottesville, but anything can happen in the battle for the Commonwealth Cup.

It's going to be a great, busy week. I'll have quick picks up tomorrow.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

College Football Quick Picks: Week 12

So I managed not to pick any games at all this week. I woke up late today (Saturday) and I've yet to see the scores of games, but I'll limit myself to a few picks that have yet to start here just after 2 pm. Here are some frantic/drowsy picks.

No. 17 Stanford defeats No. 25 California

Indiana defeats Purdue

Nebraska defeats Kansas State

No. 11 Oregon defeats Arizona

Monday, November 16, 2009

Sometimes things don't always go as planned. I went 5-1 in my picks this week missing only on Stanford's drubbing of Southern California. Virginia Tech defeated Maryland as expected 36-9. On the other hand Notre Dame lost another tough one, this time to No. 9 Pittsburgh 27-22.

Golden Tate is an absolute menace, I'm not sure that you can really stop him. I don't know why Notre Dame doesn't run some hurry-up offense when they get in a rut though. It's much easier for Clausen to get in a rhythm that way. I've been suggesting that the Hokies do it all year with Tyrod Taylor who seems to be the same way.

I was most impressed with Dion Lewis of Pitt. That kid is special. He and Virginia Tech's Ryan Williams are without a doubt the two best freshman backs in America.

A tough week for Charlie who appears to be in serious trouble now. Talk about a must win against UConn.

Friday, November 13, 2009

College Football Quick Picks: Week 11

This weekend promises to be an exciting weekend of college football. There are good match-ups aplenty so get your dominant thumb ready (you know, for using the TV remote) and load up on greasy food and cold beverages. Going outside is of course optional.

Here are the picks:

No. 5 Cincinnati defeats No. 25 West Virginia

No. 9 USC defeats Stanford

No. 11 Ohio State defeats No. 10 Iowa

No. 4 TCU defeats No. 16 Utah

Georgia defeats Auburn

And my upset special Baby! Dick Vitale style in honor of the start of college hoops season:

North Carolina defeats No. 14 Miami

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Word to the Weis: Win

As Justin alluded to I made a rather knee-jerk reaction after Saturday’s loss. Now that I’ve allowed my head of steam to dissipate I’m ready to attempt to tactfully express my feelings on what transpired. Here goes.

What I saw on Saturday didn’t mark a regression from what I’ve witnessed over the course of the previous eight games this season.

Over the span of games prior to Saturday’s debacle, Notre Dame showed itself capable of overcoming nearly any obstacle: several multiple possession deficits in the second half, 16 years without a home win against a rival, seven straight losses to a rival, countless missed chances to punch the ball in from inside the five yard-line, multiple possessions from the opposition inside the 10 yard-line (including two in a row), nine consecutive bowl losses, and probably a few more quirky statistics or intense game situations I’m forgetting.

What little momentum was gained by those achievements was squandered and left on the field last Saturday during Notre Dame’s 23-21 loss to Navy.

No, what I saw on Saturday was not a regression but rather the startling reality of an unfocused team.

This is not an admonition of things to come. Dating back to Weis’ first year at the helm of the Irish ship he clearly portrayed himself as commander of an often gritty but not always suited for battle team.

Let us examine a few case points by season:

2005 – an overtime home opener loss to MSU after manhandling Pitt in the season opener; a flat and uninspired performance against Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl that led to another loss

2006 – embarrassing home loss to Michigan in a game that wasn’t close after the first five minutes of play; lackadaisical effort in the Coliseum against the Trojans in the regular season finale; another blowout bowl loss in the Sugar Bowl to LSU

2007 – failed attempt at converting personnel designed for a pro-style offense into an option attack that lead to a defeat against Georgia Tech; atrocious 38-0 shutout in Ann Arbor to Michigan; first loss against Navy in 43 consecutive attempts; loss to a second academy (Air Force) for the first time since the 1940s; zero wins in first five games of the season; 58 sacks surrendered over the entire season (a record for most at the time); another hapless effort (and shutout) versus arch-rival USC at home; worst record in school history at 3-9

2008 – blown leads at North Carolina, at Home against Pittsburgh and Syracuse (a team that won 2 games all year!); ineptitude again at USC (no first down until final play of third quarter)

There are probably many things I have left out of this list but forgive me as this was all from memory. For a more extensive list please visit this lovely piece from the fine gentlemen at NDNation (they’re always on top of their game).

My point is that the loss to Navy, while shocking, should not be too much of a surprise to the Irish faithful. With Charlie Weis as head coach there hasn’t been much ‘fight’ in the Fighting Irish.

The head coach is supposed to rally his troops and focus them on the task at hand. But Weis’ teams have been anything but focused.

To be sure, his men have challenged that stigma this year by winning three of 5 games in the closing minutes of battle.

But there remains an uneasy aura that Weis-led teams cannot get up for big games when it matters the most.

I have always liked Charlie Weis as a person and admired his willingness to transform his stubborn personality. After all, he has not hesitated to dismiss underperforming assistant coaches (see John Latina and Jappy Oliver) or alter part of his coaching philosophy (from no hitting in practices to demolition derby).

Make no mistake about it – his personality will not be the reason for his departure. His win-loss record will.

I’m not sure what the powers that be have in store for Weis but I know that a few more losses this season will only add to the case against keeping him on the payroll.

I hope he pulls himself up from last weekend, leads the Irish to victories in each of its final regular season games, and closes out the year with a Gator Bowl victory.

As Weis said at the start of the year, though, “don’t tell me about expectations, show me.”

It’s now or never for Weis. A win this weekend against Pittsburgh, which would qualify as Notre Dame's first against a top 10 opponent since Weis' first year win at then #3 Michigan, will almost certainly buy him one more season.

Losing is not an option. Time to make it happen.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Nike; Virginia Tech Unveil New Football Uniforms

So the day arrived. This morning in a rather large-scale production on campus featuring head football coach Frank Beamer, former Tech greats Antonio Freeman and Bruce Smith, along with the Voice of the Hokies Bill Roth and a giant Nike army vehicle, unveiled the uniforms Tech will wear this weekend as part of Nike's "Pro Combat" promotion.

The uniforms will be auctioned off starting tomorrow to raise money for Herma's Readers, Frank Beamer's charity encouraging reading for kids grades K-3. He started to honor his late mother who was a schoolteacher in the Commonwealth.

Quarterback Tyrod Taylor and linebacker Cody Grimm modeled the new kits in front of a crowd of students likely wondering what all the hoopla was about.

The best part is probably the white helmet, which is a nice modernized version of some of Tech's older helmets. The obsessive compulsive in me wishes they'd made the middle stripes symmetrical though.

Not surprisingly, the Nike cleats are also super cool looking. Inside they have the school motto, "Ut Prosim" which means "That I May Serve" along with the Hokie Stone pattern seen on the gloves posted the other day.

While they may look a little too new age for some, I'd vote in favor of them over the current stupid Nike uniforms (which we thankfully never wear). Good news is, it sounds like Nike is on board with making our throwback threads our permanent jersey's next season.

Also, these new Nike threads are not just strange looking, they're incredibly high-tech. Through some super technological advances, these pro combat unis barely hold water or sweat, so a soaking wet jersey weighs less than the current ones do dry.

Thanks a bunch science!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Weekend Recap

So my picks absolutely tanked. 2-3 for the weekend and Georgia Tech should have lost too if not for Riley Skinner taking a sack at the end of regulation to take Wake out of field goal range.

Also, this won't come as a shock to anyone but Penn State sucks. Play a real non-conference schedule Joe Pa you fossil and maybe you won't lose to average Big Ten teams like Iowa and Ohio State (though the Buckeyes are in fact the conference's best while Iowa is a sham).

The Irish did not have a good day yesterday against the Naval Academy (one of my favorite non-Hokie teams). ND gave a valiant effort late, but it just wasn't quite enough to overcome the Midshipmen.

Brian made a partial post that appeared it was going to rail on Charlie Weis, but I took it down for now. I'm quite certain we'll get Brian's full thoughts in the coming week.

And now the most important part of my post, it would appear the Hokies will be wearing white helmets next weekend when they thump Maryland if you take a look at this new merchandise.

Friday, November 6, 2009

College Football Quick Picks: Week 10

After a perfect 5-0 effort last week, my season mark now sits at 30-20. With another nice effort this weekend I think we'll be in good shape the rest of the way.

On a side note, next weekend Nike is doing yet another football uniform promotion. About 10 schools will wear new Nike gear the weekend of the 14th.

The Virginia Tech ones will be unveiled this week to join schools like Texas, Ohio State and Florida State that have already made their versions public. The FSU ones are my favorite so far sporting those sweet gloves and some really classy lookin' black helmets.

I'm both fearful and eager to see what Phil Knight has cooked up for the Techmen this time.

Time for the picks. I'm going to do them just like last week to try and keep things moving in a positive direction. It's sort of a weak slate of games but there are a few good ones including the battle for the Victory Bell in Chapel Hill. This is Duke's year finally*!

No. 3 Alabama defeats No. 9 LSU

No. 8 Oregon defeats Stanford

No. 11 Penn State defeats No. 16 Ohio State

Duke defeats North Carolina

No. 10 Georgia Tech defeats Wake Forest

* = Maybe

Here are the Tech gloves for loyal reader Bobby West. I'll post the actual uniform when it's revealed Monday.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Dolphins Take Bite Out of Orange

Not that this really matters because it was an exhibition game but I couldn't resist sharing the news for those of you who hadn't heard.

Syracuse lost to Le Moyne in men's basketball tonight. It's never good to lose a game to an opponent from a lesser division in collegiate sport but the Orange couldn't withstand the mighty Dolphins from across town in Syracuse, NY.

Le Moyne is a tiny Jesuit college founded in 1946. Syracuse made its first NIT appearance that same year.

The case for parity in collegiate athletics becomes stronger yet.


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