It’s hard to imagine that a team that started off so poorly could come back and win 9 games, capturing a share of the conference title. But that’s exactly what the Aztecs have done. Yesterday they went to Laramie, a place which is high altitude and butt cold, and got a big win.
Congrats to them. I can’t wait to see them in either the Las Vegas or Poinsettia Bowl in a few weeks.
Pinch Me, I’m Irish
Yesterday was a dream. My dad and Paul, 3 generations of McLane men, were at the biggest live game any of us had seen. #1 Notre Dame took on upset minded USC. The stadium was packed 45 minutes before the game… And they booed everything Notre Dame did.
And we ground out a win. What I love about this years tam is that they aren’t always dominant… But they are tough and find ways to win. USC fans kept reminding me that we should be blowing out the Trojans… And I kept reminding them that we only needed to win by one. Style points mean nothing.
It was a magical day in an amazing stadium. Seriously, the Coliseum is one of the best college venues I’ve ever been to. It was made more meaningful to me by sharing the day with my dad and son. Life is messy. There’s been times when I’ve disappointed my dad and times when I’ve completely failed as a father. But some days you get it right. I was one proud dad and son yesterday. Football brought us together and you could feel this simple tradition going from father to son to grandson.
I’m all misty about that. Thank you Notre Dame.
Oh yeah, everyone else
Elsewhere around college football there were few surprises. Ohio State beat Michigan for a championship-less undefeated season. Florida beat Florida State. Georgia beat Georgia Tech. Oklahoma snuck one out against the Cowboys. Oregon beat up Oregon State. Outside of the Big East… Everyone won who you’d expect as we head towards the championship pre-bowl games.
I never thought both of my teams would do so well in 2012. Its been quite a ride. Now, lets get Manti Te’o his Heisman!
Like a lot of San Diego State fans, I’m not able to attend this years bowl game in New Orleans. Besides having plans for December 17th already it would have cost more than $1000 to attend. (airfare, hotels, tickets, food, etc.)
That’s why I was thrilled to see that the SDSU ticket office has made it possible for season ticket holders and the general public to buy tickets for the game and donate them to a deserving child* in New Orleans through the Marshall Faulk Foundation. (see above)
As a fan and supporter of Aztecs sports I wanted to partner with SDSU in selling their allotment of 9500 tickets. I’ve donated my ticket allotment to the Marshall Faulk Foundation and I am encouraging all fellow season ticket holders, Aztec Club members, alumni, and fans of the Aztecs to do the same.
Note: *To comply with NCAA rules on recruiting the ticket office has made it clear that tickets donated to the Marshall Faulk Foundation will not go to high school students. (Hence the works “child” and not “youth.”)
Bryant College wasn’t exactly a great opponent, which was good because the Aztecs weren’t really ready to play. The first half was defined by their lack of cohesiveness. That makes sense because Chase Tapley is the only returning starter. On top of that two other starters missed the game, James Rahon with an ankle sprain and Jamaal Franklin served a one game suspension for a suspected DUI arrest over the summer. Looking up at the halftime stats I thought the scoreboard was broken! They shot 39% from the floor including 25% from the free throw line. Somehow they still rallied to take the lead, 27-26 at the half.
But the Aztecs came out of the locker room with a new attitude– an attitude I expect them to express for the next 25 games. Unlike last years team everything isn’t going to work. In 2010-2011 it didn’t matter what the game plan was because they were better at every position than most of their opponents. This year is different. With only 8 scholarship players they are going to have to take advantage of what the opposition gives them. Last night, they were ice cold from the 3 point line. (0-12 at one point) So in the second half they crashed the boards and shot a very respectable 79% from the field.
Starless but not starproof
I couldn’t get over the fact that almost none of the players who got time on the court last night would have played significantly last year. There is no player as dominant as Kwahi Leonard was last year, not even close. (I wish he’d stayed another year, especially with the NBA lockout) But that doesn’t mean that they can’t play together as a team and win 25 games to win their conference. It will all come down to gelling as a team.
Last night the gelling of this basketball team happened during the second half. before our very eyes we saw a team go from gym scrubs to DI college basketball. Their non-conference schedule is substantially more difficult this year than last. (No one wanted to play them last year!)
They will enter conference play at 12-4. Overall I think they will go 22-8 in the regular season. Not good enough to get ranked, but good enough to get invited to the Dance for the third straight year.
Today is opening day for my two favorite teams, Notre Dame & San Diego State. Here are my predictions on their seasons.
Notre Dame – The Irish have a tough schedule. The first five games are as tough a schedule as you’ll see anywhere because teams always “play up” for Notre Dame and their National TV audience. If you look at their order of schedule and the style of football each team plays… it’s really hard to adjust. This team is better, but not quite of the power to roll over teams just yet. I think they will handle USF today and Michigan next week, stumble at home to Michigan State and again at Pitt. But then go on a bit of a tear until and beat Purdue, Air Force, and USC. Then they will lose to Navy before beating Wake, Maryland, and Boston College. Then we’ll see how good they are in November at Stanford. If Andrew Luck is healthy they will be tough to beat. Overall- I’m seeing 8-4 and a trip to the lowest BCS game. (It’s about money, friends.)
San Diego State – Last season, the secret weapon was the defense which made the offense look better than they really were.. They’ve leveled up a bit on D. But I think the combination of Rocky Long (a defensive-minded guy) and the flip-flop from a talented WR core to an all rookie one will kill their ability to move the ball. Ryan Lindley is a great pocket passer. He’ll need to depend less on the long ball and more on short passes and screen with the weapons he has available. Ronnie Hillman, if he is healthy, is explosive and rips yards off in a Barry Sanders kind of method. He’ll got 2-3 yards at a time, then rip off 25 when you aren’t looking. That will all depend on their ability to spread teams out with WR and TE. The opposite of the Irish, they have some playing styles with opponents that will help them. Secret weapon of the Aztecs? Kicking. Holy cow they have guys who can kick it miles. Remember last years 88 yard punt in New Mexico? I think they’ll beat Cal Poly and Army before losing to Washington State, Michigan, and TCU. Then they’ll win four in a row against Air Force, Wyoming, New Mexico, and Colorado State. They’ll get pounded by Boise State and then beat Fresno and UNLV. As long as Hillman and Lindley stay healthy they will be 8-4 and play again in the Poinsettia Bowl.
Other thoughts on college football, in general.
We need to see some teeth from the NCAA. Both Ohio State and Miami deserve the death penalty. Their fans disagree. But the reality is that they completely ignored NCAA rules and made a mockery of the whole thing. I think USC got off easy and it’s awesome they can’t get ranked in the coaches poll. (If only Pete Carroll had gotten punished…)
I hope the Mountain West defectors get pounded this year. TCU lost to Baylor last night. I hope Utah loses 8 games in the Pac-12. And BYU has just become BY-Who? (Who do they think they are to go independent? They are no Texas or Notre Dame.) None of the Mountain West teams want to schedule them. (I see one MWC game on this years schedule. What’s that tell you about the cheating they do?) Speaking of, I heard Texas A&M is looking for a conference home. I hope they jump on the bandwagon for next season with Fresno State, Nevada, and Hawaii.
Is it the year of the Ducks? They sure are fun to watch. And I’d love to see the tomahawk chop back in prominence in Tallahassee. If you just look at the mascots… it’s a great year. Could it be a BCS game of the cowboys vs. indians? (Oklahoma State vs. Florida State in the Fiesta Bowl?)
It’s one thing to know about this young man’s power on the basketball court. It’s another thing to examine Kawhi Leonard’s story behind the drive, talent, and desire to succeed.
One amazing byproduct of this amazing season for SDSU is that stories like Kawhi’s get told. As the video above shows, he’s more than just a phenomenal NCAA basketball player. He’s a young man with a developing story of overcoming major life obstacles to now be just steps away from the pinnacle of college sports.
Bring on March Madness!
Bonus- Here’s a pre-game video of the student section: