Friday, April 20, 2007

What's in a (Blue-Gold) Game?

Tomorrow is the the big day - the 78th annual Blue-Gold game at Notre Dame. Did anyone here not know that already? Seriously? As I may have mentioned before, this year's edition of the Spring Classic figures to be one for the ages. I really wish I could have made the trip to see Ara and Lou patrolling the sidelines, to see the new defensive scheme, and mostly to watch the four-way battle at the quarterback spot. There has been much speculation about what everyone will see tomorrow, and what it all will mean. Is Clausen the starter already? Has D. Jones fallen down the depth chart? Can any of these guys walk and chew gum at the same time? All the anticipation and speculation led me to wonder: Does history offer us any lessons to be taken from the Blue-Gold game? Have past performances generally been a good indicator of what would transpire in the Fall? Or are Spring flings just anomalous blips that don't fit the pattern that emerges in the Fall?

So I thought I'd dig a little. Blue-Gold data has proven to be a little elusive (at least to me) but I did manage to track down some vital stats going back to the 1998 contest. I'll leave it to the crew at BGS to provide deeper historical and statistical analyses (because they're just better than the rest of us), but here is what I dug up:

  • 2006. Blue defeats Gold, 10-7 on a Carl Goia field goal. Offensive MVP was Travis Thomas (8 rushes for 104 and a TD). Defensive MVP was Trevor Laws (6 tackles, including 2 sacks).
  • 2005. Blue defeats Gold, 28-6. Offensive MVP Brady Quinn (8 of 12 passing for 102 yards, 2 TDs). Defensive MVP Trevor Laws (1 sack and 3 total tackles for loss).
  • 2004. Blue defeats Gold 35-7. Offensive MVP Brady Quinn (17 of 22, 263 yards, 1 TD). Defensive MVP Tom Zbikowski (1 INT).
  • 2003. Blue defeats Gold 17-14. Offensive MVP quarterback Chris Olsen (11 of 25, 146 yards). Defensive MVP Justin Tuck (3 sacks).
  • 2002. Gold defeats Blue 3-0 on Nick Setta field goal. Offensive MVP Ryan Grant (7 carries for 45 yards). Defensive MVP Gerome Sapp (5 tackles, 1 INT).
  • 2001. "Defense" defeats "Offense" 74-40. Is nothing sacred? Offensive MVP David Givens (2 TD catches). Defensive MVP Shane Walton (INT return for TD).
  • 2000. "Defense" defeats "Offense" 39-31. Offensive MVP Jabari Holloway (4 receptions). Defensive MVP Anthony Denman (39 yd INT return for TD).
  • 1999. Blue defeats Gold, 49-10. Offensive MVP Jarious Jackson (5 of 6 for 73 yards and a TD). Defensive MVP Anthony Denman (6 tackles, 1 INT).
  • 1998. Blue defeats Gold, 38-7. Offensive MVP Autry Denson (11 carries for 109 yards). Defensive MVP Kory Minor (5 tackles including 1 sack).
Do these results tell us anything? I think so. First, based on historical trends, the Blue team has to be considered a prohibitive favorite. They are 6-1 over the last 9 games. Second, Bob Davie is an idiot. By April of 2001 Notre Dame had been playing an annual Spring football game for 70 years. By long tradition, this event has been called the Blue-Gold game. Yet, for the 71st edition of this classic, Coach Davie decides he doesn't want to play Blue versus Gold. He's going to play "offense" versus "defense." Because that sounds so much better. And tradition doesn't really matter at a place like Notre Dame, does it? Sheesh.

What else? Well, to me it looks like what you see is what you get. If a player has a big Blue-Gold game, he's a pretty decent player and he's likely to have a pretty good Fall season. If the offense is prodigious in the Spring, you'll probably be able to move the ball in the Fall. If the defense dominates the Blue-Gold, the defense will likely be the better unit come September. So, while you're tempted to say that the Blue-Gold is fairly meaningless, I would have to disagree. Looking back a few years tells me that teams don't change drastically over the summer. Warning signs in April are serious weaknesses in October. Strengths now will likely be the team identity in five months. Not to put any pressure on anyone, or add to the anxiety already in the air. Should be an interesting scrimmage tomorrow. Hope the weather cooperates.

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