Wednesday, July 26, 2006

The Rake of Mallow: How Do You Solve A Problem Like The Preseason?

The worst part about the football preseason, other than the fact no actual football is going on? Easily the fact that it gives just about everyone too much time to think about things. People get cranky, people start talking themselves into things and people generally just embarrass themselves when given too long of a leash and too much time to talk. (Remember, I championed Virginia Tech for the Rose Bowl last year right up until the point the Hurricanes made them look absolutely ridiculous on national television. Take everything I say with a grain of salt.)

I would say there are two major preseason issues some Irish fans would want to contest at this juncture:

The first:
Lee Corso says that Georgia Tech has a very good chance of beating the Irish.

I don't consider this opinion that blasphemous, as Georgia Tech has the Irish at home, at night in the first game of a season where we'll still be breaking in our slot receivers and linebackers. The reason I don't discuss Georgia Tech on here in much length is due to the fact they are amazingly difficult, yet amazingly easy, to predict at the same time. They've had exactly seven wins the last four seasons, mixing in some inspiring upsets with total brainfarts in other games they should be winning. Last year, they beat Auburn and Miami but lost to Virginia and NC State. They also lost to Virginia Tech 51-7 and were absolutely embarrassed by Utah in their bowl game, looking completely lost again the spread.

Despite the fact their up and down style of play could very well peak on the evening of September 2nd, I'm not very worried, as their "huge upsets" usually have pretty solid reasoning behind them. When they won on the plains of Auburn to open the 2005 season, Auburn was not just replacing first-rounder Jason Campbell, but their backfield of Cadillac Williams and Ronnie Brown. With no tailback cemented into the position and a first-time quarterback, the Yellowjackets blitzed their way to a merry victory, causing five Tiger turnovers.

At the end of the season, Reggie, Calvin, Chan and PJ all went down south to Miami, where they upset the Hurricanes - then on an eight-game win streak - in the Orange Bowl. At the time, that looked like an all-world upset, as the Hurricanes appeared to be rolling towards an ACC Championship and an outside shot at the national title. In retrospect, the Canes spent their next two games barely edging Virginia and losing 40-3 to LSU's backup quarterback in the Peach Bowl. Again, Miami was using a first year starting in Kyle Wright and was 1-for-14 on third downs in what was an extremely ugly game.

Unless most of Brady's exploits last season were magic tricks and he's going to regress to a freshman level of poise and competence, I can't see any sort of Tech blitz really messing with the Weis offense. They might try to ugly the game up, and God knows we have enough trouble with mobile quarterbacks that Reggie Ball may be made to look like Fran Tarkenton, but other than the fact that the first win of the season is often the hardest to get, I would Georgia Tech at the bottom end of my "September Games to Worry About List". I wouldn't say, as Corso did, that they have a "very good chance" of beating us, but there's a definite chance. If Lee wants to make some copy when he's touring Atlanta, I wish him no ill will, as he's more entertainer than analyst at this point.

The second: has us ranked Number 18 in the preseason.

This is slightly more ridiculous. CFN looks at quality reasons for choosing us in this position - no linebackers, crappy returning secondary, lack of a non-Victor pass rush, weak schedule last year - but they forget a few things. They state that "the secondary didn't get any fast in the offseason". Well, it sort of did, as Chinedum lost twenty pounds and improved on his Bookstore Basketball free throw shooting. I doubt there's much of a chance dropping that much weight didn't help improve our free safety's speed. Also, we added two very-highly-touted (channeling Phil Steele...) recruits with Darrin Walls and Raeshon McNeil. Even if those two are simply are nickel and dime backs, we'll be in better shape than we were last year.

If you want to put us at eighteen and can stack the deck in front of us with seventeen teams that are clearly better on paper, I have no problem with that, but CFN throws teams like Clemson (predicted to go 10-2!? They're Clemson! I know they had all tough losses last year, but you're trusting Tommy Bowden?), Virginia Tech (who lost twelve starters and three of their top four rushers), Nebraska (I know their defense is supposed to be all-world or something, but seriously, come on) and Florida State (who looked about as close to a mentally-challenged football team as you could find for most of last year).

The best point CFN makes - although it doesn't excuse them for the "secondary didn't get any faster" line - is that our depth is still extremely lacking, so if ankles or knees start getting rolled at really any position on the field, it could make for a very long season. However, name me a team, save for maybe USC or Texas who already lost their most valuable players, that wouldn't be crippled by a few key injuries. If I had to guess, I'd say CFN was just trying to drum up a few extra hits by doing some Irish hating, and I'll gladly oblige their plan with the above link because it is the preseason and we have little else pigskin to discuss.


Now that we've moved on from breaking down why the Georgia Tech game shouldn't be that scary, I'd like to begin to address the insanity and delusions that plague many Nittany Lion fans. We'll get into it much more in-depth in the week preceding September 9th, but just skim some of the Penn State sites and you find their entire football worlds revolve around two basic things:

1) The fact they have no name on the back of their jersey. Seriously, they love that. They also make mention to the fact they wear plain helmets. Great, so do the Cleveland Browns; I guess we're all winners. Never mind the fact that those two collosally important things to the PSU fanbase - seriously, they named a freaking blog after the fact - also apply to Notre Dame, only nobody ever talks about them, but they justify their lack of Heisman success with that fact.

2) That they somehow feel they're going to derail Brady's Heisman campaign because that's what they do. You have to understand that when they talk about their defense stopping Heisman campaigns, they mean the Kyle Orton and Laurence Maroney-type of campaigns. Yes, their defense certainly did put an end to the hype surrounding those two players, but you've lost most of the defensive players that achieved that goal (PSU returns four defensive starters, not including their starting corners and superstar defensive end Tamba Hali; they lose eight of their top twelve tacklers). If they somehow think that a couple of linebackers and Anthony freakin' Morelli are going to be ending the Quinn 4 Heisman campaign in early September, they're going to be in for a rude awakening.

Also, I can't get over the fact that some of the stuff their blogs come up with don't even make a whole lot of sense, like the closing of this post. Sure, there are a lot of Notre Dame blogs that aren't that hot - this one included- but at least we have the genius of BlueGraySky to bail us all out when things get hot and heavy. The saddest thing about the whole situation is the fact that I used to root heartily for the Nittany Lions, but now see the majority of their fanbase is batshit crazy.

I'm tired of all this hot-air blowing and "breaking things down on paper". Can we all just get ready for some football?

No comments: