Friday, August 24, 2007

Is Notre Dame Being Underrated?

One of the fascinating things about blogging is the “sitemeter” that is attached to most blogs, including our own. Whenever I see an increase in traffic on our site, I often go to the sitemeter to see where the traffic is coming from by clicking on a link called “By Referrals”.

You never know what post is going to resonate with what audience, so it is nearly always a surprise to see where traffic is coming from. The most recent example of this was, upon checking the sitemeter yesterday, I saw a number of referrals from http://www.rakesofmallow.com/.

The Rakes of Mallow, as it turns out, is a Notre Dame blog. The reason they were linking to Saurian Sagacity was our preseason BlogPoll which put Notre Dame higher than any other voter in the BlogPoll (we ranked Notre Dame 14th). Evidently, even the Rakes of Mallow were surprised by the ranking.

The same sort of national “group think” that currently has USC number 1 (and inevitably playing LSU for the BCS Title) has Notre Dame not only unranked in 2007, but doing barely better than .500 for the season. SI.com has Notre Dame posting a 7-5 record this season.

Are things really so dreary in South Bend?

One of the resources I actually value for preseason college football analysis is the Blue Ribbon College Football Yearbook analysis. Blue Ribbon does a no nonsense job of actually analyzing teams position by position, then breaking down their analysis into a grading system. For example, of the top 5 teams in the BlogPoll rankings this year, Blue Ribbon gives them the following grades –

USC

Offense A-
Special teams B
Defense A
Intangibles A

LSU

Offense A-
Special teams A-
Defense A
Intangibles A

Michigan

Offense A+
Special teams C
Defense B-
Intangibles B

Texas

Offense B+
Special teams B+
Defense A-
Intangibles A

West Virginia

Offense A-
Special teams B+
Defense A-
Intangibles B+

Blue Ribbon gives the following grades to Notre Dame

Offense B
Special teams A
Defense B+
Intangibles B+

Obviously ND doesn’t grade out as well as USC or LSU, but they are no so much worse than Texas or West Virginia, and perhaps better than Michigan.

And the following grades apply to our Gators -

Offense A-
Special teams C+
Defense C
Intangibles A

It appears the Irish grade out higher than Florida according to Blue Ribbon.

So why the pessimistic outlook for Notre Dame?

While some of the 7-5 talk may be based on their schedule, I think a large part of it has to do with the loss of Brady Quinn.

We have long thought Quinn was vastly over rated, as Notre Dame quarterbacks often are (see Ron Powlus).

In passer rating for 2006, Quinn ranked 18th nationally, behind such luminaries as Jordon Palmer of UTEP and Bobby Reid of Oklahoma State. Among even those viewing ND’s prospects as gloomy, it is recognized the Irish have talent at the QB spot with Sharpley, Jones and Clausen. After all, remember, it wasn’t Peyton Manning who won the MNC at UT, it was Tee Martin the year after.

I’m not saying the Irish are bound for a national title, but 9-3 and another BCS bowl seems well within their reach. The only probable losses I see on their schedule are at Michigan, at UCLA and USC.

The reason the Irish rank 14th in my BlogPoll is because, according to Scout.com, the talent is there. Thus, perhaps the underrating of Notre Dame in 2007 by the national media IS exactly the point – if they do go 7-5 it was “expected”, and if they do better the genius mantle can continue to hang around Charlie Weis’ ample shoulders.

6 comments:

Ryan Ferguson said...

I don't see it. They lost their best offensive players and don't improve in any way on defense. Last year their defense couldn't hold a candle to the top teams they played. Not a Top 25 team in my opinion.

Henry Gomez said...

I think, Mergz, that the problem with looking at the four year recruiting average is that it weighs each year equally. I know there's realy no way to work aroudn that without creating some arbitrary weighting but it's an issue because your seniors and Juniors are your most important players. For example Meyer has cleaned up on recruiting the last two years but there only 20 upper classmen on the whole squad.

But at this point in the pre-season, I'll agree with the premise that this is as good a method as any to calculate a top 25. And besides, I think the problem we all see with the polls is the lack of flexibility. A team wins and he it can only jump so high in a conventional poll. A quality team loses and may drop 3 or 4 spots (less if you are Michigan or another annointed team).

Let's see how the season goes and how much your initial ballot changes over time. But I think you got one thing right, Notre Dame will be hyped all the way up the conventional polls. Their final poll may end up looking like your initial one.

Mergz said...

I agree with the limitations of talent ranking. However, as the Gators (and other top teams) often show, age of talent(class year) is no longer that important. The Gators don't win the MNC last year without Tebow or Harvin. And, Meyer himself has said players need to come ready to play - redshirts are only for the injured.

As for ND, I can't but help feel the media is setting them up for "success", although at a level of lowered expectations. If they get 9 wins, we will be hearing how this is Weis's best coaching job EVER. They are playing a new 3-4 defensive scheme this year and look to be better on D than they have under Weis. And while QB is a questionmark, I think replacing the vastly overrated Quinn will be easier than anyone thinks. Plus, they have real talent at WR in Carlson, Yeatman and Ragone (each who is 6'5" or larger).

Their is no reason they can't win 9 games.

SMQ said...

Notre Dame's defense is not a B+. Not if Florida's is a C. With all UF's losses, I'd expect the Gators to field at least an equal defense as the Irish, if not better. ND lost a lot on that side, and it wasn't very good to begin with. Unless Blue Ribbon is giving a lot of credit to Corwin Brown's rejuvenation skills, I think Notre Dame's going to struggle dramatically on defense. And on offense, too - ND's offense is a mirror of Florida's defense, a completely depleted unit that has some recent tradition of success but no experience. To rank one a 'B' and the other a 'C' makes no sense.

Mergz said...

As I said in my most recent post (What I'll Be Looking For), my opinion of ND will be dramatically effected by that first game versus GA Tech.

I don't really have an opinion of ND - or any other team for that matter - right now. And as SMQ points out, some of those Blue Ribbon rankings could be suspect.

But the media never seems to go part way with the Irish - they usually vastly overrate them (last year starting them 2nd, and annoiting Quinn the pre-season Heisman favorite.

The "poor ND" theme running around these days are suspect. This has the odor of a prewritten "Weis is a genius!" story.

Don't forget, Granny Holtz has them winning 10 games, Homer that he is.

Henry Gomez said...

I think UF's defense won't be as bad some suspect. Which brings us to a point that perhaps is often overlooked: a team's ability to improve over the course of a season. I think we saw it with UF last year. The Auburn game was ugly but the Gators got stronger as the season went along and obviously peaked against Arkansas and OSU. It will be interesting to see which teams progress over the course of the season and which ones drop off either because the coaches can't keep the players focused or because of injuries.