NDtex25: Week 3

Yes, yes, I know a game has already been played in Week 4 and I’m horribly behind.  I apologize, but the job that actually pays the bills got quite a bit hectic this week.  On top of that, I attempted to write a conference realignment post which became worthless twice, so that was a fantastic idea.

Ideally my rankings will be up Tuesday or Wednesday before any football is played.  Some weeks it may not happen, but I’ll do my best to stick to it.

Anyways, the experiment that is the NDtex25 continues to be crazier than expected.  I thought I’d see a lot more stabilization this week. In some ways, I did.  In others, I had some more wtf results.

As of right now, I fear that I am too generous with my three plus possession multiplier in margin of victory (if you are lost, you should probably read the original post for this craziness).  I’m still hoping this will level out by season’s end; however, it is definitely clear that teams that beat some middle-of-the-road-opponents in such a manner (and I’m talking ranked around 50-80 or so) seem to be seriously reaping the benefits.  It’s taking a lot of willpower on my end to let this experiment ride out, but I definitely feel that this is an area that will need to see some serious tweaks down the road if this doesn’t level out in a few more weeks.

Having a preseason NDtex25 would probably help as well, but I decided not to do that…oh well.

Anyways, here is your NDtex25 for Week 3:

RankTeamFinal ScorePrevious RankAP RankCoaches' Rank
1Oklahoma State110.251576
5Georgia Tech105.2522524
8Boise State100.252144
13Virginia Tech93.75371311
15Texas A&M89.253888
17Kansas State88.584NRNR
18San Diego State87.553NRNR
20Texas Tech87.2585NRNR

Knocked Out (Previous Rank): Bowling Green (1), Navy (4), UCF (6), Mississippi State (10), Kentucky (12), Houston (13), Michigan State (19), South Carolina (20), Arkansas (24), Missouri (25)

Just Missing the Cut: Michigan, Wisconsin, Houston, Louisville, South Carolina

Despite the Big XII completely falling apart at the seams and the fake Dan Bebee going on a Twitter rant of epic proportions, they are completely dominating the NDtex25.  There are six Big XII teams in the NDtex25, three of which are in the top five.  Believe me, this isn’t some kind of southern bias as all three of the teams in my own top five are vomit inducing.  All these teams have benefited, in the most part, from big wins.  Texas, however, benefits from holding on against teams that had a decently high ranking from last week, so I would expect them to start to plummet at their current rate, despite the blowout win against UCLA.

The conference with the second most (five teams)? The SEC (commence S-E-C chant for coming in second place to THE FREAKING BIG XII).

Everyone’s favorite BCS buster, Boise State, has finally cracked my top 10, but were leapfrogged by Ohio whose blowout wins against an overrated New Mexico State and Marshall, helped them jump from 22.  If any Ohio fan is reading this blog (highly doubtful), enjoy it while it lasts because your two blowout wins are about to be seriously devalued next week.  New Mexico State checks in at 85 and Marshall sits at 114.  So yes, the balancing out will continue for these MAC team that continue to be overrated.

The previous MAC-daddy on top of the NDtex25, Bowling Green, suffered a loss to the powerhouse that is Wyoming (hilariously ranked 22 this week for beating the “number one team”), which dropped them down to 35 this week.  My crazy formulas giveth and taketh away quite equally.

The worst team in the nation according to me: UAB.  Being blown out by Florida is forgivable, but being blown out by freaking Tulane is a joke.  Hang your head in shame.

And to close, it’s time to focus on how these rankings treat Notre Dame and their opponents:

  • ND’s Rank: 32 (YAY victory against an overrated Michigan State!)
  • Opponent Ranks
    • USF: 14 (Man we make people look good)
    • Michigan: 26 (Michigan falling out of my own top 25 makes that loss that much harder to swallow)
    • Michigan State: 67 (Like I said, losses severely punished, previous rank was 19!)
    • Pitt: 61 (Playing a FCS team and blowing a 17 point lead does you no favors)
    • Purdue: 40 (Shockingly high rating in my opinion)
    • Air Force: 100 (Sucks to be them)
    • USC: 24 (Vomit…)
    • Navy: 41 (beating South Carolina would’ve helped)
    • Wake Forest: 54 (Again, surprisingly high)
    • Maryland: 65 (They can thank Miami for winning)
    • Boston College: 116 (losing to Duke hurts, also lolBC)
    • Stanford: 14 (Still holding on strong to their top 25 slot)

ND/MSU: First Victory Clog of the Year

Cierre Wood dives for the endzone for a TD against Michigan State (Matt Cashore/photos.nd.edu)

The nightmare that was a rather unexpected losing streak to start the season is thankfully over.  Thank God it only lasted two weeks, I don’t know if I could’ve handled starting 0-3 after I started the season with BCS hopes.  Those hopes are still alive, even if the chances are beyond slim.

Hey, some hope is better than none.

As I stated in my preview post, the Irish had been unable to beat Sparty by more than a single possession since 1993.  The majority of the roster was in diapers at that time.  If that doesn’t put this 31-13 win in perspective, nothing will.

And no, I’m not going to say this is our (re-(re-(re-)))return to glory or anything like that.  However, on the heels of two of the most frustrating losses, it was very nice to see the Irish win convincingly against what has been quite a thorn in our side in recent years.

Depending on your point of view, the way we beat the Spartans could be even more comforting.  After putting up two consecutive 500+ yard efforts, the Irish won by putting up only 275 yards.  The Irish were far from perfect in minimizing mistakes as well, turning the ball over three times and committing six penalties for 53 yards.

Despite all that, the Irish still won, convincingly.  The team didn’t panic and kept plugging away until the final whistle.  Like I said, this may not be comforting to everyone, but we just won a game by playing football that was far from perfect.  Personally, that tells me that there is loads of room for improvement and this team will be beyond scary when they start clicking 100%.

The resurgence of the Irish rushing attack continued as well.  The Irish put up 141 rushing yards with Cierre Wood again leading the charge with 71 yards and 2 TDs.  Jonas Gray continued to impress with 67 yards of his own.  More importantly, the Irish backfield had zero fumbles, a trend which hopefully continues throughout the season.

Overall, the Irish attack was balanced overall, with 32 runs and 26 passes.  Although, shocking to quite a few was that Kelly went far more pass heavy in the second half, with only 8 runs compared to 18 passes.  Honestly, I’m not sure what to attribute this to besides the fact that Kelly continuously wanted to try and be very aggressive and put the game completely out of reach.

I sure hope I don’t read anything about Kelly abandoning the run completely this week because that definitely isn’t the case.  Every drive in the second half had at least one running play.  While I’m sure every old school fan would love to see much more run to close the game out, you have to remember that this is the same coach that went for the TD against Tulsa last year.  He’s aggressive, period and, in this case, he definitely felt like that the Spartans weren’t going to mount any kind of a comeback the way his defense was playing.

Speaking of defense, that really is the story of the game.  Especially Aaron Lynch who was flat out wrecking havoc in the Spartan backfield all day long.  He may have had only two tackles, one of which being a sack that forced a fumble and flattened Cousins, but his impact was undeniable.  It’s even scarier to think that this kid is just a true freshman playing on mostly raw instinct and talent.  He’s going to be a monster for us.

While Gary Gray still had a handful of struggles, Robert Blanton saved the day with three pass breakups and an INT for 82 yards that more or less sealed the deal for the Irish.  Harrison Smith was also very active in the Irish secondary with 4 pass breakups as well and came close to a pick himself.  It’s definitely good to see him becoming an impact once again (beyond awful facemask penalties).

Rees as well had a fairly decent game despite a rather poor INT.  Throughout the first half, he definitely scared me into thinking that he was starting to lose his confidence; however, he came alive to put the Irish on top for good.  I’m still waiting for that killer instinct from Rees (and really the rest of the Irish offense in general) to deliver a dagger to our opposition rather than letting them hang around.

Just ask our next opponent how not doing so worked out for them.

Overall, there is a lot to be happy about, but we still have a lot of room for improvement.  I’m going to keep the bitching to a minimum though as a win is a win and it’s hard to be mad at an 18 point victory against a ranked team.

Here’s hoping we continue the improvement going into Pitt.

ND/Michigan State Preview

Kelly looks on as the Irish fall to Michigan (Getty Images)

Initially I had planned to toss in audio of a Michigan State sports radio host losing his mind in 2006, pictures of the flag planting in 2005, pictures of the resulting “defense” of Michigan State’s 50 in 2006, and video of the “Little Giants” play that cost us last year’s game against Sparty.  However, I’m not.  The majority of those events happened in Weis’ tenure, and in today’s world of college football, should be considered ancient history.  Even the “Little Giants” thing last year should be put far, far behind in the rear-view mirror as well.

The reason is simple, there is more recent history to be concerned about and that’s the fact the Irish come into this game 0-2 with the worst turnover margin in the nation, are ranked 106 (out of 120) in yards penalized per game, and ranked 119 in net punting.  The Irish are their own worst enemy.

I could spend a lot of time on how Michigan State will likely have the best defense that we have seen yet.  How their defensive line will be the first true test for the revived running game.  How their more traditional offense will showcase a battle of size and strength in the trenches rather than speed.  How we will be beaten over the head yet again with our record against ranked opponents as the Spartans walk in as #15 in the nation.

No matter what “skill level” Sparty comes in at, we know that they give us a run for our money.  Since 2000 all but two games have been decided by a single possession.  Those two games were the horrendous and very forgettable 2007 and 2008 campaigns in which we flat out got crushed.  The last time the Irish actually beat the Spartans by more than a single possession was in 1993.  Michigan State comes to play the Irish, period.

As discussed in this week’s IBG, everyone came to a pretty unanimous consensus that the big key to this week’s game is to stop shooting ourselves in the damned foot.  Again, everything else regarding Michigan State is rather secondary at this point.  It’s rather hard to worry to continuously worry about what Michigan State will do if we cough up the ball five times again, penalize ourselves at the worst possible times, or have Turk punt the ball so bad we all wish that Kelly would add a Rees arm punt to the playbook.

At some point this needs to turn around.  Vegas still believes in us as we are yet again favorites to win.  The talent around this team is undeniable; however, repeat the last two weeks and the sky will be falling.

With all that being said it’s prediction time (yes, this is a very short preview, but I’m not going to use 500 or so more works to say “ND needs to pull their head out of their ass”).  I sure hope I don’t end up saying this every week; however, I just can’t believe that the Irish will turn the ball over five more times.  Maybe I’m in total denial, but oh well.  All that being said, since Michigan State will always play this game to the wire, I’m looking for a very close game all the way through.

ND 27 – Sparty 24

For the love of God, ND, end the pain.

NDtex.com News

Ever since I started blogging, I have never really had a solid direction and vision in which I wanted to go.  During my days as a student, I had a Blogger account in which I talked ND football and some other random things.  Eventually the Blogger format seemed to limited to me and I launched NDtex.com, hoping that being able to categorize all my different posts would satisfy my “vision” of being able to write about what ever I wanted.

The initial goal was that this site could house anything that I wanted to write and readers would be able to follow the category feeds they wanted.  It was a great idea initially, but the fact of the matter is that this site really had no direction and actually attempting to put out enough content for all those different categories would be a full time job and then some.

Every football season, this site has a huge jump in hits and my content level increases dramatically.  ND football has always been a constant for any blog format or vision that I tried and it is easily the one that I easily enjoy writing about the most.  During this season, I decided to just focus completely on ND and college football to see how I liked it.  It’s been great, I’ve never written so much, nor enjoyed writing for this site like I have these past few week.

So after much thought, this site will be 100% dedicated to ND football while touching on any other big college football news that I find interesting.  If the mood strikes, I will write on other topics and I have created a Tumblr account for any non-ND football topics.

Along with the content focus, you will see several changes to this site, some of which are already in place.  For instance, you will notice that the NDtex25 rankings are now prominently displayed in their own widget so you won’t have to go digging through all my posts to find them.  I have also enabled a sharing plugin allowing you to easily share my posts through just about any outlet you can think of (there is an option for MySpace for crying out loud!).  My comment system is also now linked through Disqus, which will allow you to sign in via various social media formats like Twitter.  My Tumblr comments will run through the same system, so it just made sense to keep the same format between the two.  Don’t worry, if you made a comment here before, it will be imported over.

This site is also now smartphone friendly.  I need to create a better mobile landing page if you visit the site directly via the NDtex.com URL to clean things up a bit; however, direct links to posts work just great.

I’ll also be working to clean up the main landing page a bit, but I’m still trying to figure out what I’d like to do with it.  You’ll also be seeing category cleanups and other small organizational changes to reduce the clutter of my older non-ND content.

You’ve also likely seen a nice little PayPal donation button up as well.  I’m not real high on throwing ads up on the site as of right now, but I do spend a considerable amount of time on writing, researching, and coding for this site, especially since I started the NDtex25.  Any amount tossed my way would be great, especially since my renewal for my hosting server will hit in early 2012.  I’m not expecting anything to be honest and, yes, your money could definitely go to far better causes than my booze habit server, but if you have some money to throw around, I sure wouldn’t mind it going my way (after all, some of you donated money to get Poot a wedding date!).

I’m very excited for the new direction of the site and I’m still kicking around several different ideas.  If you have any suggestions, feel free to comment below, let me know on twitter, or email me at roritter at ndtex dot com.

NDtex25: Week 2 (And Week 1 Corrections!)

Well, thank God I decided that I should back up results every week because after I entered in data for Week 2, I noticed that my code had some serious errors.  Taking a look back at Week 1, I noticed that some of these errors appeared there as well so I started over.

I knew there would be some crazy results, so things didn’t look so bad.  Glad I paid more attention this time around!

Although even my best intentions about blew up in my face when I managed to delete my entire database while trying to restore it (I swear only I could do that), I managed to do a lot of database rebuilding through a few files.  Thankfully didn’t have to re-enter everything manually and was able to piece everything back together.

Anyways, me being me and finding hilarious ways to screw up my own programming aside, I have got everything in order.  This should be the last speed bump and hopefully I can now start thinking of ways to input this faster to save myself a ton of time.

With all that being said, here are your corrected NDtex25 rankings for Week 1:

1Bowling Green111.5
4Mississippi State105.25
9Northern Illinois98
10South Carolina96.5
11Texas A&M96.5
16Oklahoma State90
18Colorado State87.75
22Boise State85.25

Just missing the cut: Ohio State, Michigan, USF, Auburn, West Virginia

Bowling Green bumps up from a #2 to #1 and previous #1 Mississippi State falls to #5 in the corrected rankings.  Boise State was another winning from the corrections, heading into the top 25, ready to bust up the BCS.

Notre Dame also benefited slightly with a one spot jump from 49 to 48 in the rankings as well.

Using these corrected rankings, we now move on to week 2:

RankTeamScorePrevious Rank
1Bowling Green1131
2Georgia Tech111.2576
10Mississippi State99.54
15Oklahoma State9016
19Michigan State86.7582
20South Carolina84.7510
21Boise State8222

Fell out of NDtex25 (Previous Ranking in parenthesis):  Northern Illinois (9), Texas A&M (11), BYU (13), Cal (15), Colorado State (18), Hawaii (20), Maryland (23), Pittsburgh (24), Florida (25)

Just missing the cut: Tulsa, Florida, Arkansas State, Cal, BYU

Where Is ND Ranked? 87 (I guess we can take solace that USF is ranked 7 now?)

There is quite a bit of movement this week.  This is mostly due to the fact so many teams had BYE weeks or played FCS teams which aren’t counted in the rankings.  It was interesting to note though, that many of the teams that stayed idle or played a FCS team, paid for it.

One exception though, is top ranked Bowling Green who hilariously holds on to their top spot despite facing a FCS team to stay basically idle.  However, the other shoe should drop next week as Idaho continues to fall in the rankings (now 79), which will make that victory’s W/L point total continue to fall.

The other interesting case are teams that fell in the NDtex25 while still winning their games: Kentucky and South Carolina.  It’s hard to feel sorry for Kentucky falling based on their absolutely horrid opening game and they very well could’ve lost to UCF last week.  I would definitely expect their ranking to continue to drop at this rank.  South Carolina has pretty much victimized themselves as well by letting opponents hang around, leading to low victory margins and ANTY.

Next week, I think we will start to see the first signs of stabilization.  Just about everyone has a game in against a FBS team with a couple of low ranked exceptions, and the initial blowouts against bad teams will continue to be exposed as the season moves on.  Plus, since we are taking averages for the other two metrics (ANTY and TO Margin), those too will level out as the season progresses.

I do have some concerns about the margin and ranking multipliers, but in all honesty that really won’t expose itself until late in the season as well.  As much as I want to tinker around with my formula on occasion, I will let this experiment ride out to the season’s conclusion, even if the rankings start going off the rails.

Irish Blogger Gathering: Season on the Brink

Well, when I first volunteered to host the IBG for Michigan State week, I definitely could not have expected being 0-2 in the most frustrating fashion possible.  After such high expectations from pretty much everyone in the IBG, we now face a season on the brink.

There’s no avoiding it, these last two weeks have completely sucked.  My questions to the rest of the IBG are below and we’ll see if we can’t make some sense out of the disasters from the last two weeks.

My answers will be posted in the middle of the week and I will post links to responses as I made aware of them.  Here’s hoping my first ever IBG host leads to an Irish victory this week.

IBG Responses

1. Let’s go ahead and talk about the big pink elephant in the room. After two absolutely horrid, heart-breaking, and downright mind-boggling performances, how do you feel about this team moving forward? Are we simply a bad team or a team that just hasn’t put it together yet? This is your chance to talk Irish fans of the ledge…or push them over.

It is hard to exactly describe my feelings about this team.  Make no doubt, I know this team is unbelievably talented and I firmly believe that Kelly is the right coach for the Irish.  However, I cannot pretend that the Irish turning the ball over 5 times in each of their two games doesn’t disturb me.  I also cannot believe that we allowed Michigan to create a comeback that should’ve never of happened.

Last season, we had another frustrating start, going 1-2 out of the gate and we were telling ourselves that we were one drive (Michigan) and one play (Michigan State fake FG) from being 3-0 out of the gate.  Granted, things are much, much different this time around.  We are much better than last year and we have beaten ourselves.

That’s what makes this all the more frustrating.  I know damned well that this team should be 2-0 with zero doubt and lighting the college football world on fire.  Now, the same usual uniformed people think we are a fraud yet again.  It drives me mad.

I’m not on the ledge, nor should any other Irish fan be; however, I can see its appeal.  I can see why it would make some sense to be there, even though I know it is beyond stupid of me to even think so.

I’m waiting for this team to click.  They’ve shown not just flashes of being good, but flashes of absolute dominance the like of which I haven’t seen from a ND team.

We are good, damned good. It’s time to put it together.

2. It’s time to put on the headset and step into the shoes of Brian Kelly. In the first quarter, it seemed like your message and plan to recover from the USF disaster worked, and then the rest of the game happened. How do approach this week? What message do you give your players?

If I’m Kelly, I stick to the same game plan that I used during Michigan week for the most part.  I can’t completely tear the team apart, despite their frustrating showings.  Now is not the time to panic.

I start by telling the players that redemption starts now by knocking off a Michigan State team that is ranked 15th in the nation.  I remind them that such a victory could indeed be the start of a BCS campaign.  A 10-2 Irish take takes down Sparty, USC, and Stanford won’t be denied a spot in one of the big games.

At the same time though, when it comes down to practice, I am going to be even more critical than ever before.  Minor mistakes can turn into big ones come gametime.  Furthermore, I am looking harder at how my players react to things that happen in practice.  Do they start hanging their head when they drop a pass?  Does anyone seem to care that they blew coverage?  This is the time as a coach to have such a feel for my team that I can notice these signs during the practice week and nip it in the bud before it creeps into game week.

I know my team can win, but I need to make sure they are mentally ready and believe without a doubt they will do so.

3. Keep that headset on, you are still playing Kelly. Based upon what you’ve seen these last two games, do you see players that need to start riding the pine or are you still confident in your depth chart?

I’m not changing any of my starters; however, I am paying far, far more attention to mistakes and reactions from them on the field like I did in practice.  I have always said “next man in” when it comes to injuries, and I will apply that to the mental side of the game as well.

I’ll be ready to yank anyone off the field that seems to be sliding mentally–not to bench them, but to take the time to get them coached up whether it is by me or an assistant.  I need everyone’s head to be right on the field because just one person can affect the other ten.

Furthermore, I will not be afraid to rotate my freshmen freely.  I kept Tuitt and Lynch off the field more than I should have during Michigan.  That’s telling them and the rest of my squad I am deathly afraid of mistakes and I shouldn’t be.

So if Gary Gray seems have issues, I send in Lo Wood for a bit.  I know Gray is good and has proved it to me before.  If Wood gets burned once, so be it.  It’ll light a fire under Gray’s ass and he’ll want to prove that’s his spot out there.  If he (or anyone else for that matter) can’t, I don’t want him out there.

4. Overall, how do you feel about Rees’ performance against Michigan?

Overall, it’s positive.  You don’t lead a team to 500+ yards by completely sucking and he led a clutch drive that should have won the game for the Irish.

However, he still made some head-scratching mistakes and caused turnovers on his own.  He made some bad throws and had a fumble that I still can’t explain.  You just can’t make those mistakes and expect to win.

Finally, as much as people love how much Rees “gets the ball to Floyd”, he locks in on him far too often.  For all the criticism’s on Crist, you can’t deny that he would spread the ball around with no issue.  Floyd is great, but you can’t deny your other receivers that are wide open as well.

But like I said, overall, he did good.  If I were to give a letter grade I’d go B-/B.

5. Let’s talk about something happy: the Irish running game.  After a 198 yard performance by the Irish do you feel that this rushing attack led by Cierre Wood (134 yards) is for real or have we not run into a tough enough defensive test yet?

A little from column A and a little from column B.

Sparty should be the real test as they have the best D-Line we’ve faced yet.  If you remember back to my first responses to the IBG, I said that Jerel Worthy (DT) would be the best defender that we would face all season.  Should Wood and the rest of the rushing attack keep up the current pace, I’ll say the rushing game has definitely arrive.

As of right now though, I say we are close and the rushing attack is easily one of the things that I’m most optimistic about on this team.

6. Looking ahead to Michigan State, how do you gauge them?  Is this the best team that we’ve faced off against yet or is this just an untested team that beat up on two cupcakes in Youngstown State and Florida Atlantic?

Definitely the best team we’ve faced yet.  Yes, they’ve played two cupcakes, but they are consistently tough and consistently play us tough.  They didn’t win the Big Ten last year by pure luck.

This game is always a dog fight and we should expect nothing less.

7. Is the key to winning simply not turning the ball over or do you see other crucial keys to beating Sparty?

If we had five keys to the game, one through four would be “hold on to the damned ball”.  However, I see the battle in the trenches as another key in this one.  As I mentioned before, we will face a stout D-Line and it’ll be a solid test to see just how physically dominant our O-Line actually is.  If we have a big rushing day and are able to protect Rees, I will be very happy.

Another key that I feel I should mention: punting.  For the love of God, if we have to punt can we not put our defense into a hole and win the field position battle?  Kelly has made it clear Turk will be punting no matter what, so I hope he figures out whatever his issue is or I will be screaming at my TV for anyone else to do the honors.

8. Obviously every week should be a must win, but I think there is definitely more of an urgency this week. How crucial is this game for the rest of our season?

To me this game couldn’t be more of a “must win”.  1-2 means that you can recover and start a BCS run, 0-3 means you are praying for a bowl birth.  This could very well end up being a defining game for Kelly.  Should he manage to come out and beat the thorn in our side that is Sparty in any kind of convincing matter and start a complete season turn around, he could be hailed as legendary (instead of the crazies calling for his head 1 year and 2 games in).

With the last two disasters, the Irish will be looking for a fresh start and beating the flag planting bastards that are Sparty is one hell of a start.