All summer I’ve waited for college football. With the NBA and NHL completely irrelevant to me, both Phil and Tiger non-competitive on the PGA Tour, and MLB failing to find a storyline to draw me in, it’s been quite a sports draught since the end of the World Cup. In truth, I stop caring for the World Cup when the United States was eliminated.
Back to football.
This is a turning point year for the team college football teams I am most vested in.
San Diego State University
I’m not a native fan. But SDSU is a couple blocks from my house and for less than $200 I was able to get season tickets on the 50 yard line. (This year I moved back about 5 rows for a better view)
With second-year coach Brady Hoke settling in the Aztecs were noticeably better last year. There is a tremendous amount of talent in high school football in Southern California and Hoke knows that if he can put a winning team on the field, establish some tradition, and get a couple players drafted high he can pull a lot more talent from the area. So I was excited to see that Hoke has added a couple of traditions for this year. Before they open against Nicholls State tomorrow players will make the “Warrior Walk” from the bus to the stadium. It’s not much, but it is a step towards creating a football feel around town.
My prediction: They will go 7-5, but will include one showcase victory against either BYU, Utah, or TCU.
University of Notre Dame
Growing up near the campus has secured me as a life-long fan. And as a life-long fan it has been a tough decade. As much as I liked Charlie Weis and was sad to see him let go I think everyone knew he had given up and didn’t have any solutions to get the Irish back to prominence.
In came Brian Kelly. A proven winner at every level of college football yet desiring the one thing that has alluded him– a BCS Championship. He seems to have figured out what both Tyrone Willingham and Charlie Weis missed, that winning and losing is only half the battle in South Bend. More than just winning and losing, the head football coach in the ambassador of the county’s largest employer. It’s a very big deal that the locals like coach Kelly.
Two categories separated Notre Dame from a BCS bowl appearance last year. Their pass defense was horrid. And their red zone TD percentage was embarrassing. As I’ve kept tabs on the news stories it has become clear that these were points of emphasis for the new coach. Let’s hope they can get in the top 50 in both of these categories.
Coach Kelly’s offensive scheme doesn’t really depend on talent at every position. He’s always lacked talent and found ways to win. It’s a fast-paced style that will confuse most of their early opponents. Even if Dayne Crist is mediocre as a starting quarterback, TE Kyle Rudolph and WR Michael Floyd are NFL quality and will score a lot of points. The key to the offense working is preventing the defense from loading up outside the box and slowing down the pass game by successfully running the ball and controlling the clock. It concerns me that the Irish are weak at RB.
Another concern about Notre Dame this year is their lack of away games. While Notre Dame is an amazing place to play college football, it is actually a tough place for the Irish to win because of the national TV coverage. They only go on the road to play Michigan State, Boston College, and USC. In recent years they have gotten pounded at those stadiums. Their only hope for those games is at USC. With fewer professional athletes on the field USC’s offense was fine last night, but giving up 36 points to Hawaii shows they are a joke. The tradition lately has been that first-year coaches win 10 games. But I think Kelly is on more of a Lou Holtz trajectory than a Tyrone Willingham one. With a new QB and a completely new system, I see the Irish struggling early and often. (Unless the pace just outsmarts people)
My prediciton: They go 8-4 and advance to a the Gator Bowl to play Cincinnati. I think they start off their first 5 games 2-3 but rally later with a schedule that includes Navy, Army, Tulsa, and Western Michigan. I do think they beat Michigan and USC– which makes him a winner in South Bend no matter what.
USC sidenote: Anyone give Kiffin more than 2 years? That dude’s mouth would make Bob Knight blush. And how many more weeks until the NCAA reveals that Pete Carroll is under investigation? I have a feeling they have the death penalty coming.