Head coach Charlie Weis met the media Saturday afternoon in what will be the first of many press gatherings before the big showdown two days after the start of 2006. In familiar Weis fashion, he didn't waste anytime heaping praise on the upcoming Irish opponent.
"As you all know, they started off their season 3-2 but finished up strongly and won their last six games pretty convincingly," Weis said of the Buckeyes. "One thing about this senior class going out (for Ohio State), they have a chance to become the winningest class in the history of the school with one more victory. Ironically, that is how many games they have left."
Weis mentioned that he has been touring the country as of late. Recently, he was in Orlando with quarterback Brady Quinn and wide receiver Jeff Samardzija for the Home Depot College Football Awards Show. Before the press conference, Weis watched the tape of Ohio State's win over Michigan, a team Notre Dame has also played and beaten. One thing that might have caught his eye is the Ohio State defense. The Buckeyes are ranked 4th in the nation in total defense, including 1st against the run but Weis has to watch more tape of the group before making judgments.
"I think we have played against some good teams this year," Weis said. "I would say they are high quality. We have not watched all 11 games and do not have a really good idea of what they are doing. I would be premature (to judge them). I have a lot of respect for their defense. I think they are darn good. Those statistics don't lie. But right now they are just stats and they will become more meaningful when I understand their players and what they are doing."
*There have been a lot of highs this season for the Irish football team. The play of Quinn has to rank near the top. The junior threw for 32 touchdowns and over 3,600 yards through the air, both school records. But his season wasn't good enough to warrant a trip to the East Coast.
Quinn was not invited by the Heisman Trophy committee to New York to be involved in Saturday night's proceedings. Reggie Bush and Matt Leinart of USC and Vince Young of Texas were the only three that made the trip. Bush ended up winning the Heisman Trophy and garnered the largest percentage of first-place votes ever. Quinn finished a distant fourth. But Weis was peeved that Quinn wasn't allowed to join in the fun.
"I wasn't surprised," Weis said. "I was disappointed to tell you the truth. I didn't understand why. I made a phone call to the guy that runs the show and I told him that. Their rationale was that there was a clear drop off between three and four and they felt in the past they had as few as three and as many as six. They though that three was the magic number. I just disagreed."
Quinn shared the same emotions but understood the decision.
"I'm definitely disappointed that I'm not there in New York and doing that," Quinn said. "But at the same time, I have the opportunity to practice and prepare for our bowl game, which to me is more important than being somewhere where you're not even going to receive the award that you're going for. I think we all know who is going to win that.
"It's not for me to decide who goes to those types of things. When you look at the players who are there, they deserve to be there. They've had tremendous seasons. It's not up to me to decide whether I go or not. Everyone who is there is undefeated and playing for the national championship. How can you argue you should be there when you're in the Fiesta Bowl instead of the Rose Bowl?"
*At the 2005 Notre Dame football banquet, a fifth-year senior's hard work and dedication to the program paid off. Dan Stevenson won the Guardian of the Year Award as the Irish's top offensive lineman. The Notre Dame players voted on the award and it showed how much they appreciated the Barrington, Illinois native's performance this season. Stevenson was part of an offensive line that opened holes for running back Darius Walker to the tune of over 1,100 rushing yards. Also, quarterback Brady Quinn, whose health was vital to Notre Dame's success, was sacked only 16 times on the year.
"It's an amazing honor," Stevenson said. "This is a school and university that is rich in tradition, especially among the offensive lineman. To think of all the great players before me that have won that award, it's truly an honor."
*Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel has achieved a lot of success in just five years. The top accomplishment remains a 14-0 record complied by the 2002 Buckeye team, culminating in a national championship. Tressel has some impressive numbers against big-time opponents. He is 49-13 as head coach, including 21-7 against ranked opponents. The Buckeyes have won a pair of co-championships in the Big Ten during this time period. Tressel also has won two BCS games, both in the Fiesta Bowl.
*Two more offensive records are within the Irish's grasp. Currently, Notre Dame has 420 points on the season and is six away from breaking the 426-point mark set by the 1991 team. Also, the 38.18 points per game average would be the new standard for Irish teams of the future. The 1968 team scored 37.6 PPG.