The college football preview magazines for the 2007 season have come out, and for true CFB junkies, these rags are just about the only thing that keeps us sane between the Spring game and the opening day of Fall practice. Dark days. So I grabbed a couple of this year's editions off the shelf at my local supermarket, and eagerly sat down to soak up the goodness.
What a fool I am!
This post will likely be the first of a sporadic series of posts reviewing the preview rags, from the perspective of a rabid Notre Dame fan. First up is the Sporting News, which apparently has very little respect for Notre Dame generally, and Head Football Coach Charlie Weis in particular. I'll generally work from the front of the magazine to the back, taking the insults and outrages in the order in which they offend.
1. Toughest Schedules. On Page 4, TSN editors give the Irish credit for having the 2nd toughest schedule in the land, behind only Florida State. But while giving with one hand they slap Notre Dame a backhanded compliment with the other hand. Noting our brutal schedule, they can't help but drop in a snarky reference to our unofficial competition for the Commander-in-Chief's trophy because we play service academies. So, to the guys at Sporting News, having the 2nd toughest schedule in the nation isn't good enough. Should we drop the academies and play half the SEC too?
2. Bowl projections. On page 6 TSN has nice grid laying out the Bowl game predictions of two experts (Tom Dienhart and Matt Hayes), followed by the Sporting News' projection. Both of the named experts project the Irish into the Gator Bowl on New Year's Day. Dienhart has us playing Florida State, Hayes has us playing Virginia Tech. I can live with that. I admit I don't expect the Irish to make it to a BCS Bowl game this year, and the Gator is a respectable alternative. Either of these opponents are worthy, the location, date, and history are respectable. So what is the Sporting News projection for the Irish? The Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas on December 31st against Oregon State. A decidedly less prestigious game. Why does Sporting News have a significantly less favorable view of the Irish than the two experts whose names actually appear in this feature? No explanation is offered. Just a good chance to take an anonymous swipe at Notre Dame.
3. Gotta See Games. Page 7 has a list of "Gotta See Games." LSU appears in three games. Virginia Tech, Wisconsin, and USC each play in two of these games. Notre Dame has "zero" games listed as "Gotta See." So there's no need for you to tune in and catch the Irish against Michigan, USC, Penn State, or even in their historic return to the Rose Bowl against UCLA.
4. Upsets. On page 8 TSN lists 56 that "if they happen, will turn stomachs and quash dreams." Pretty wishy-washy description. They aren't actually predicting the upsets, but seem to be warning of possible upsets. Hey, on any given Saturday .... Of the 56 upsets listed, Notre Dame figures directly in only one - a possible upset loss to Purdue. Ouch. But the Irish figure indirectly in several other games flagged as possible upsets. Purdue (the same team that Notre Dame needs to watch out for) is tagged as a possible upset loser to both Indiana and Toledo. So, Purdue is seen by TSN as a team that could possibly lose to Indiana and Toledo, but also could beat the Irish. Where's the love?
5. Newcomers. Page 11 lists several "Newcomers You can't Miss." It's not clear what that means. Does it mean these newcomers will have the most impact? Get the most publicity? That these are the guys you will most want to keep an eye on? Who knows. But, leading the pack is Jimmy Clausen. Sporting News doesn't whiff on this great opportunity to take a cheap shot. Says TSN:
The most-hyped high school recruit since Brock Berlin, and we all know how that turned out. Oddly, both are from small lower-classification private schools.What did Clausen ever do to these guys? Jimmy has yet to take a snap, and all of a sudden he's the next Brock Berlin? And do we all know how that turned out? I looked it up, and while it wasn't easy, Brock ended up with decent numbers at the University-that-shall-not-be-named, while his pro career has fizzled.
6. Top Coordinator Hires. On page 12 TSN grades out the head coaching hires, and also includes a list of the Top 5 coordinator hires. Corwin Brown failed to make the cut. Now, I have no idea, really, how Corwin Brown is going to do as a defensive coordinator. Maybe his defenses will have us crying in our beer for the return of Rick Minter. But I doubt it. What do we know? We know that coaching is teaching, and that teaching is communicating. We know that Coach Brown was able to be an effective NFL assistant coach, which means he was able to effectively communicate defensive concepts to the New York Jets' defensive backs. We also know that he has been exceptional as a recruiter since he joined Charlie Weis' staff. It has been remarkable how many of the kids Notre Dame has landed so far have commented on how impressed they were by Coach Brown, how much they enjoyed talking to him, how at ease he made them feel, and how he made them want to come play for him. That's all communication. It's motivation. And I think it's going to make him a pretty good D-coordinator. I have Corwin in my Top 5.
7. Ranking the BCS Coaches. Page 13 includes a list of the BCS coaches, from top to bottom, 1 through 66. Pete Carroll of USC is #1, Gene Chizik of Iowa State is #66. Notre Dame's Charlie Weis is #42. Not even close to being in the top half of BCS coaches. Some of the great coaches ranked by TSN ahead of Coach Weis? Joe Paterno (#18), Houston Nutt (#20), Mike Riley (#25), Chan Gailey (#30), Joe Tiller (#32), Brian Kelly (#36), and Rich Brooks (#40). All Charlie Weis has done in two years at Notre Dame is win 19 games with talent so depleted that other "better" coaches were afraid to take the Notre Dame job. He has lost six games over two years to the following opponents: USC (twice), Michigan, Ohio State, LSU and Michigan State. With the very notable exception of the loss to the Spartans, these losses were to teams considered among the most elite in the nation at the time. Is Notre Dame a Top 3 or a Top 5 team yet? No. But Coach Weis' teams have beaten just about everyone but those Top-5 caliber teams since his arrival.
8. Hot Air. But the Sporting News crew isn't done with Coach Weis yet. Also on page 13 is a short list of the five most overrated coaches. Guess who is #5? That's right, Charlie Weis! It's not clear if TSN thinks Coach Weis is overrated on their own list (at #42) or if they think he's properly slotted at #42 and that everyone else thinks too highly of him. In any case, they were able to irrationally slam Coach Weis twice on the same page, which shows good focus on their part.
9. The Top 25. On page 18 TSN begins discussion of their Top 25 teams for the upcoming season. Surprise! Notre Dame didn't make it. That didn't surprise you? Then you're paying attention. Teams that TSN ranked well above Notre Dame? BYU made it (#25). Southern Miss made it (#24). TCU made it (#20). South Florida and Boise State made it (#21 & #22). Thank goodness we don't have to play any of those guys. Instead, we get to play real Top 25 teams: USC (#1), Michigan (#3), UCLA (#10), and Penn State (#15).
10. The Top 39. Notre Dame is ranked by Sporting News at #39. That's behind all of the teams listed above, as well as the following programs: Missouri (#26), Boston College (#28), Alabama (#31), South Carolina (#36) and our opening day opponent Georgia Tech (#37). We barely edged out Purdue (#40). Does anyone here have bulletin board I can borrow?
11. Zach Frazer. On page 174 (right after the Sun Belt Conference) is the Sporting news preview of Notre Dame. There are at least a couple of glaring clues that tell us the author of this preview has no idea what the hell he is writing about. My personal favorites concern recently announced Irish transfer Zach Frazer. About Frazer as possible starting QB:
Strong-armed Zach Frazer played as well as anyone in the spring.And, from the "A Pro Scout says ..." item:
I don't know about Jimmy Clausen, but I've seen Zach Frazer, and he would play for a lot of schools. Big kid, stands tall in the pocket, strong arm. Don't be surprised if he wins that job.How in the world can anyone not on the Notre Dame team or coaching staff say that Zach played as well as anyone in the Spring? All the practices were closed, and Zach went 0 for 4 with an INT in the Blue-Gold game. What can this possibly be based on? And of course, we'd all be surprised if Zach were to win the job now, since he is about to become a U Conn Husky.
12. Schedule tidbits from the preview. Sporting news has Michigan as our toughest game, with USC as our best chance to pull an upset. Wow. According to the Sporting News, we have a better chance of upsetting USC than we do of upsetting Michigan, UCLA, Penn State, Boston College, or Georgia Tech. (Remember that TSN ranks all of these teams ahead of us, so beating any of them would be an upset). Call me crazy, but I'd probably count USC as our toughest game, with best chance of an upset against G-Tech, Penn State, B.C., or UCLA.
What's the bottom line? The editors at Sporting News hate the Irish, hate Coach Weis, and don't even know what the hell they're writing about. Which means I totally blew $6.99.