1 – Playing Devil’s Advocate: I’m on record that other than Alabama, Ohio State represented the worst matchup possible for Notre Dame during bowl season. But a week of study (more to come this week) that focused solely on the squads’ respective lines of scrimmage and top playmakers unearthed a hole in the Buckeyes resume of which I was aware but chose to overlook.
They’re actually 1-1 on the season.
That is, 11-1 Ohio State has played two teams of relative merit in 2015 (Michigan State is excellent; Michigan is good). They lost to one (and were handled throughout) and dominated the other. I doubt you could find five fans or writers that could come to a reasonable consensus regarding the third-best team the Buckeyes have played: IU? Virginia Tech? Northern Illinois?
They’re not necessarily better, but the Irish are far more proven than are the current edition Buckeyes (you know, other than the defending national championship thing and all those future pros).
2 – The Wrong Way to Lose: The unfortunate aspect of three December defeats by Mike Brey’s Irish is the reality that each could have and arguably should have been avoided. Leads of 9 (Monmouth) and 15 (Saturday vs. Indiana) were lost, and critical, final-minute free throws – of the back-to-back variety, I might add -- were missed (Alabama and IU).
The Irish performed down the stretch in each loss in a manner reminiscent of the two-handful of pretender squads dotting the Brey era rather than as the focused assassins that made last season a joy to watch.
3 – You Don’t Say? On a related note, I guess Jerian Grants and Pat Connaughtons don’t grow on trees, at least not for Notre Dame…
4 – Guess the Category? DeShone Kizer, Josh Adams, Romeo Okwara, and Daniel Cage.
5 – Choose Two for Bowl; Two for 2016: From the “Must Improve” files: Max Redfield, Corey Robinson, Andrew Trumbetti, Steve Elmer. You can’t have it both ways, that is, two you choose from the quartet will play much better on January 1 than they did in 2015; the other pair much better during the 2016 season.
6 – Back to the Podcasts: When you’re paid to write (and talk), you can’t always be right. (Or better put for some, you can’t always be wrong.) Here’s what we got wrong during pre-season podcasts, 2015:
-- The lack of defensive line depth would be an Achilles Heel
-- The offense would utilize multiple tight end sets (well) in the Red Zone
-- Notre Dame couldn’t afford an injury to Malik Zaire and Jarron Jones (that was mine) and achieve its goals.
-- KeiVarae Russell would be a top 5 performer
-- The safeties would be improved
7 – And We Were Occasionally Right: The sun shines on a dog’s…etc., etc.
-- Notre Dame would finish 10-2 and play in a New Year’s Six Bowl.
-- Notre Dame’s offense would be “better” in 2015 than 2014 but would score fewer touchdowns.
-- Sheldon Day was undervalued, both locally and nationally
-- There would be no rotation at middle linebacker
-- The Special Teams would be much improved
8 – More than a Few Stops? My projected point total for January 1st has dropped by about 10-12…look for a 31-27 type of affair rather than a contest reminiscent to the up-and-down shoot-out in Palo Alto on Thanksgiving Saturday.
9 – Of Note: To date, I’m 4-1 against the spread in an annual bowl pool and among the 10 teams involved in those five games I’d previously seen just two (Utah and BYU) play a snap in 2015.
Conversely, I was 6-6 picking Notre Dame games ATS this season, and I watch every Irish game multiple times, study their opponents for months and consider all things Notre Dame Football about 350+ days per year.
In other words, there’s a reason Vegas has big buildings.
Merry Christmas to all. The next Musings will appear before departure to the Desert where I hear it’s warmer and less rainy than South Bend…