It has been quite a nice stretch of few days for Irish fans to say the least. For the first time since the home opener against Nevada, Notre Dame finally beat the living hell out of someone.
Now yes, Washington State is awful. I know this and I have no illusions that this will translate to a BCS victory or something crazy like that. But the Irish came in to a game that was being touted as some kind of psuedo-bowl game. Not only that, a game in which you have everyone just knows you are going to crush the Cougars. It was the classic setup for the Irish to come out completely flat and leave us all wondering “why in the world is this game so close?!”
However, the exact opposite happened. Notre Dame put on a display of their superior talent and never let up on the Cougars. It is the exact kind of effort you want to see and expect to see in this kind of lopsided match-up.
Now there really isn’t much to say about the game in all honesty, but there were three big things that stood out to me in Saturday’s matchup. The first two are Weis’ two plays of the game:
Let’s start with Golden Tate’s amazing catch. First off, this guy is playing in some other universe right now. Remember back when we could complain about Tate dropping passes? Ever since Floyd went down, that has been a distant memory. Tate has been nothing less than a vacuum as of late. Just take a look at that play and try to break down the insanity you just saw. He goes up for a jump ball against not one, not two, but three defenders. He then is able to out-leap all of them and get his hands on the ball. Then he is able to come down with the pass while all three defenders are trying their damnedest to rip it away. They fail, Tate succeeds, and my mind is blown.
Then you have Ragone’s play on the blocked extra point. In the big scheme of things, does this play really matter? Probably not. It would be very easy for everyone on the Irish FG squad to jog the play out and think “so what…two points won’t matter for them.” And that could be a play in which Washington State gets a huge momentum swing, rallies the troops and gives everyone their sidelines the single thought of “we can do this!”
But no, Ragone flew down the field and saved the two points. Not only that, Ragone got up excited after the play and the rest of the team came out to congratulate him as well. What this shows me is that the entire team was fired up and ready to stomp on the Cougars.
The final thing that stood out was Weis literally chewing out his entire team after they were comfortably in the lead. Seems he saw the edge that was demonstrated by Ragone’s hustle play was quickly fading and I’m sure he very eloquently reminded them that the game was far from over. That is definitely the kind of attitude you want from the head coach. Sure it is great you are destroying your opponent, but you can’t let heads grow too big before the final whistle.
Just take a look at the ND/USC game. USC was destroying us. Now, I don’t want to take anything away from our boys in the least, but there is no doubt USC aided us in our comeback: soft play, lack of effort, and complete lack of discipline helped spur a near upset.
Weis saw the edge slipping, and went to get it back. He didn’t want a win, he wanted to continue stepping on Washington State’s throat until the final whistle. Kudos to him.
Now shifting gears ever so slightly, Charlie Weis had a lot of news on the injury front from his press conference today. There was lots of good news, but also a little bit of bad news as well, so let’s get that out of the way first.
Dayne Crist is now out for the season with a torn ACL. It is a rough break for Crist to only get to see a little playing time and then get injured on what was more or less a freak accident. Thankfully though, we still have a reliable backup in Evan Sharpley, so it isn’t like the cupboard is bare. Also, WR John Goodman has now been moved into #3 on the depth chart at QB as an emergency plan (he played QB in high school). So yes, the news is not good, but folks, this is why you continue to recruit QBs like we have — you never know what will happen.
Now for the good–no not good, great news: Michael Floyd has been cleared to play against Navy this weekend. Now Weis later went on to say in his presser that Floyd would not be “in every play”, but I’m sure very few Irish fans really care (I sure don’t). Floyd is not a requirement for the Irish to beat Navy, but it sure won’t hurt and would serve as a great game to ease him in because we will definitely want to be full strength for the game against Pitt.
To wrap up Irish injury news, Weis also said Robby Paris will return this Saturday; however, Allen is still day-to-day. If you want to check out Weis’ presser, you can do so over at und.com.
To close, with the Irish becoming bowl elidgible with this win, and with the overall BCS picture becoming slightly more clear, it is time to start making some predictions of where the Irish will end up this season.
First off, I’m going to make this statement right now: get the BCS out of your head. I’m not joking, get it out of your mind right now.
As a recap of our current contract with the BCS, the Irish must be in the top eight of the BCS in order to receive and automatic bid, and folks, with our week schedule, and our only possible signature win being a possible defeat of Pitt, things don’t look good for us. Currently, we sit #22 in the BCS, #19 in the AP poll, and #21 in the coaches poll. It will be very hard for the Irish to climb up into not just the top 8 for the automatic bid, but even the top 14 to be considered at-large eligible. We will not only need to win out, but also receive some help from the teams above us to have a shot.
Let’s be realistic here, the Irish do not have a good shot.
In order to better figure out where the Irish can land though, I will need to actually project the BCS bowls as the bowl selection system works on conference tie-ins and crazy selection orders. So with that said, here are the usual BCS bowls and their conference tie-ins:
BCS Championship: #1 BCS vs. #2 BCS
Rose Bowl: Big Ten Champ vs. Pac 10 Champ
Fiesta Bowl: Big 12 Champ vs. At-large
Orange Bowl: ACC Champ vs. At-large
Sugar Bowl: SEC Champ vs. At-large
Rules for At-large: Big East champ, must be taken in one of the at-large spots. Also, if a non-BCS conference team is ranked #12 or higher in the BCS, they also gain one of the at-large bids — only one team may receive such an automatic bid.
The only other rules to keep in mind is that if a bowl loses their conference tie in to the BCS title game, they will have the first pick at a replacement team — trying to stay to tradition they will try to stay in the same conference, but if they can’t, they will pick an at-large team. Furthermore, only two teams max from the same conference can be selected to the BCS (there are exceptions, but they won’t happen this season). Finally there is a set selection order to fill in the remaining at large bids. This year it will be in the order of: Orange, Fiesta, and then Sugar.
Now looking at this season, two of the at-large spots will be taken by the Big East champ and a BCS-buster as both TCU and Boise State are both comfortably in the top 12 of the BCS and at least one will definitely remain there. Now, looking at the remaining schedules, I project the following:
BCS Title Game: #1 Florida vs. #2 Texas
This means the Sugar Bowl and Fiesta Bowl lose their conference tie-ins and will be able to select replacements. However, the ACC champion will remain as well as the Big 10 and Pac 10 champs. This means the Orange bowl has a team locked and the Rose Bowl is locked. The remaining slots will then be filled in the following order: Sugar (BCS #1 replacement), Fiesta (BCS #2 replacement), Orange (at-large), Fiesta (at-large), and Sugar (at-large). So if you were able to follow that mess, hopefully you can follow my logic in projecting the following:
Sugar: Alabama vs. Penn State
Fiesta: Cincinnati vs. Boise State
Orange: Georgia Tech vs. TCU
Rose: Iowa vs. Oregon
My shakiest selection is Penn State, as who knows what is going on with the Big Ten week-to-week, so I could see a different at-large being taken. I selected both BCS-busters of TCU and Boise State because one must be selected automatically and the other will finish far too high in the BCS to ignore over other marginal one and two loss teams much further down.
So with that mess out of the way, where does that put ND?
Most ND fans know that the Gator Bowl as a tie in with the Irish if they aren’t playing in the BCS. Some may even be aware that this is the final year that the Gator Bowl can select ND as their contract will move to a SEC/Big 10 match-up next season. The Gator’s usual tie in is ACC vs. Big 12/Big East/ND; however, according to their website, since this is the last year of the contact they will select a Big East team or ND.
But here comes the other wrinkle: the Cotton Bowl, a match-up that pits the Big 12 runner up vs. a SEC team, has the right to select ND over a SEC team once within the next three years. Should the Irish go 10-2 or 9-3, they definitely would be an attractive selection over what would be the fourth best SEC team at best (the Capital One bowl gets the next best SEC team after the BCS, Cotton gets the next best SEC-West team).
However, while the Cotton Bowl would likely love to bring ND down to Dallas, and as much as I would love to see a ND bowl game in my backyard, if the Irish win out, I don’t see it happening. From my understanding of this crazy system, the Gator Bowl has the first pick of Big East teams or a non-BCS-bound ND before the Cotton Bowl selects their SEC representative that ND can replace. So the Gator has to look at whether or not to take ND or select a non-BCS-bound Big East team over them.
The only team that could even likely replace ND would be Pitt, whom we play in just a couple of weeks.
Should ND fall to Pitt, the Gator would likely take Pitt team over ND as they will be a higher rank and have a head-to-head edge on us. In that case, ND would likely fall to the Cotton Bowl so they can cash in their ND replacement clause while they still can.
So if we are to assume ND can win out their schedule, I project ND to play in the Gator Bowl come January; however, should ND fall to Pitt, I will project them for the Cotton Bowl — it all hinges on that game. I will continue to monitor the bowl picture as the season progresses from here on out, and hopefully now that we got the complicated matters out of the way, I won’t have to write nearly as much!
See you soon for a ND/Navy preview.