Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Brian Kelly Takes the Field: 2010 Expectations & Prognostications

The Notre Dame faithful have been waiting impatiently for the Brian Kelly edition of the Fighting Irish to take to the turf at Notre Dame Stadium, and now suddenly the first game of the 2010 season is bearing down on us like a runaway train and there doesn't seem to be enough time to brace for the inevitable collision. It's game week and there is much to do before kick-off on Saturday:

  • Write my "Good Luck Coach Kelly" blog post. (Done).
  • Prepare my pre-draft strategy and pre-rank players for the OC Domer Fantasy Football League draft. (Done).
  • Submit my weekly picks for Subway Domer's college football pick 'em pool. (Done).
  • Write my 2010 Fighting Irish season preview blog post (You're reading it).
  • Write this week's contribution to the Irish Blogger Gathering. (Pending).
  • Study NFL point spreads, pre-season college and NFL power rankings, and handicap three or four games for the contest against my Dad and my youngest brother. (Pending).
  • Pre-trial preparation on my day job. (Really cramping my style!)
With so much still to be accomplished, I'm afraid the OC Domer season preview will be fairly short and sweet. Let's dive in!

What do I expect from Coach Kelly and the Irish in 2010? We've got a new coaching staff, a radically different playbook, but mostly the same players (although there are some surprises in the two-deep as several starters in 2009 have been passed up by new faces). Clausen & Tate are gone, but they are replaced by some outstanding, if raw, talent.

In trying to come up with a rational way of looking at the coming season I start with a few core assumptions:
  1. Brian Kelly and his staff are at least as good at coaching today as they were at Cincinnati a year ago.
  2. The player talent at Notre Dame is at least as good as the talent at Cincinnati.
  3. The player talent at ND in 2010 is overall at least as good as it was in 2009.
  4. The significant changes in coaches and system, coupled with a new quarterback, will result in a learning curve of some unknown duration and will result in some bumps in the road.
Viewing 2009 and 2010 through the prism of these assumptions leads me to some observations. The Cincinnati Bearcats went 12-1 last season (losing only to the Tim Tebow-led Florida Gators in the Sugar Bowl). The Fighting Irish were 6-6 in 2009. According to Jeff Sagarin, Cincinnati had the 44th toughest FBS schedule in 2009, while Notre Dame's schedule was ranked #37. That's not a significant difference. How is it that a team with less talent than Notre Dame could win six more games in 2009 than the Irish did when they both played comparable schedules?

The answer, of course, is that the Bearcats were better coached. They were significantly better coached.

And now, the coaching staff that won 12 games in 2009 with Cincinnati's talent is at Notre Dame with its more talented players (See Assumption 2). If the more talented players are coached as well as the Bearcats were last year (Assumption 1), then the Fighting Irish should be at least as good as, if not better than, the Bearcats of 2009, eventually (See Assumption 4, Learning Curve). At the very least, better coaching in 2010 should make the Irish better than they were in 2009 with a similar overall level of talent.

On offense, I expect that ND will end up with similar overall numbers as we saw under Charlie Weis when the offense was clicking. In 2009 the Irish ranked #32 in scoring offense (30.1 ppg) and #8 in total offense (451.8 ypg). Cincinnati was ranked #4 in scoring offense (39.3 ppg) and #11 in total offense (447.5 ypg). That isn't a huge gap between the programs in 2009. The difference I expect to see is that with the new scheme the offense will be more consistently productive. Fewer three & out drives. Less reliance on just throwing the ball up in the air and hoping that Tate or Floyd will make a great play. Less coming from behind and hoping Jimmy can pull off a miracle. I expect the new offense will steadily and reliably move the chains (albeit with a high tempo) rather than operate in fits and starts as we often did in 2009. Although the final numbers might look similar, the new offense will do a better job of controlling the game and managing field position. The receivers are a talented group (Floyd, Riddick, Jones, Rudolph), and after watching him in the Blue & Gold game I expect Cierre Wood to be a real home run threat every time he gets a small gap to run through. Much will of course depend on Dayne Crist. But Coach Kelly has a proven track record of getting his QBs ready to play at a high level.

On defense I expect to see improvement, but not drama. The Irish defense was a severe disappointment in 2009. The Corwin Brown & Jon Tenuta tandem blew up in Charlie Weis' face to some degree. There seemed to be some talent there, and it flashed occasionally, but the season was marred by atrocious tackling, missed assignments, and players out of position. The Notre Dame defense was ranked #63 in scoring defense in '09 (25.9 ppg) and #86 in total defense (397.8 ypg). Really, really disappointing. The Bearcats were better on defense in 2009, but only by about 20 spots. They were #44 in scoring defense (23.1 ppg) and #67 in total defense (374 ypg). That isn't a dramatic difference, but it is significant. Those 20 spots of defensive ranking appear to have been the difference between winning and losing close games. Notre Dame lost 6 games in '09 by a combined total of just 28 points. They lost to Michigan by just 4, Navy by 2, Pitt by 5, and UConn by 3. Cincinnati didn't lose any close games, but won three real nail-biters: By 3 over West Virginia, by 2 over UConn, and by just 1 over Pitt. The new defensive scheme seems to emphasize assignment football and keeping the play in front of you. No big plays, no high-risk high-reward blitz schemes. The D will be bend-but-don't-break, with an emphasis on fundamentals like TACKLING. The big plays will come when the opponent makes a mistake with an ill-advised throw, or a missed block, or a fumble. Make the opponent earn every yard and every point, and figure that we can slow teams down enough that the offense can out-score 'em.

I think the biggest difference we'll see will be very subtle. So subtle that you really won't see it unless you're looking for it. That difference will be game management. Coach Weis' teams were plagued by "bad breaks" or "bad luck" that resulted in blown leads, or wasted possessions, or missed opportunities that ended up costing the Irish winnable games. The lessons that Brian Kelly has learned in 20 seasons as a head coach will enable him to minimize the gaffes and the bad breaks and to maximize and seize upon the opportunities. Coach Kelly and his staff have a handle on the myriad small details upon which the outcome of a game can turn. As noted above, the Cincinnati Bearcats won all the close ones in 2009. And they won all the close ones in 2008 as well. Coincidence? I think not.

So I see a dynamic, entertaining offense, with the ball getting quickly into the hands of numerous play makers who will be fun to watch. I see a scrappy, fundamentally sound defense that makes offenses earn every yard. And I see a team that will look well-coached and disciplined and which minimizes mental errors. How do all these things translate into Win and Losses?

Let's look at the schedule. (Confidence level is my subjective prediction of the percentage chance of a Notre Dame win).

Sept. 4: Purdue. We beat the Boilers in '08 and '09, so getting them in our place with all the excitement of a new coach and a new season should mean a win. Normally Purdue is somewhat overlooked on our schedule as the third or fourth game of the year, typically coming off tough games against Michigan and Michigan State. This usually means that Purdue is a little more focused and "up" for the games than the Irish are. Not this year. This year Purdue is batting lead-off, and all Irish eyes are on the Boilers. Prediction: Win. Confidence: 85%.

Sept. 11: Michigan. We lost a game that should have been an important win for Charlie Weis in the Big House last season. But we get the Wolverines at our place this time, and UM's off-season has been filled with tumult and distractions. Plus, they can't cheat by breaking NCAA practice rules this year. The new Irish coaches are very familiar with Dick Rod's spread offense, so we should defend it much better this year. The desire to atone for the 2009 debacle in Atrocity in Ann Arbor will get the Irish off to a 2-0 start. Prediction: Win. Confidence: 75%.

Sept 18: @Michigan State. Night game in East Lansing. First road start for Dayne Crist, very hostile environment. Possible let-down off the win over Michigan. I am not convinced yet that our guys can go toe-to-toe with a very physical Sparty squad, which will have played two cupcakes as warm-ups prior to the ND game. Prediction: Loss. Confidence: 45%. (i.e., 45% chance of Irish win).

Sept. 25: Stanford. Andrew Luck is a really nice quarterback. And Jim Harbaugh is an excellent young coach. But Toby Gerhart, who rushed for 205 yards in last year's game, is now a Minnesota Viking. Harbaugh isn't going to out-coach Kelly. Irish back in the friendly confines, smarting from a tough trip to East Lansing, get back on track against the Cardinal. Prediction: Win. Confidence: 65%.

Oct. 2: @Boston College. Back on the road. A tough game, but B.C. comes off a brutal contest against Virginia Tech. We beat 'em in '09, and this year we're better coached. So we beat 'em in 2010. But it's close. Prediction: Win. Confidence: 60%.

Oct. 9: Pittsburgh. Irish lost a tough one in Pittsburgh in '09. Panthers picked by many to win the Big East in '10. Coach Kelly and his Bearcats beat Pitt @ Pitt in a close one last year. Can he pull the same feat at home with better talent? Yes, he can. Barely. Maybe. Prediction: Win. Confidence: 55%.

Oct. 16: Western Michigan. I guess I appreciate them making the trip, but I have no idea how the Broncos got on the schedule. What a lousy home game for all the alumni who travel across the country to catch one game per season. Prediction: Win. Confidence: 95%.

Oct. 23: Navy (@ Meadowlands). I don't like the Irish in the Meadowlands. But here is where the coaching experience, the up-tempo practices, the emphasis on speed of play and fundamentals pays off. No more nail-biters against the middies. It won't be a blow-out, but it'll be over by early in the 4th quarter. Prediction: Win. Confidence: 70%.

Oct. 30: Tulsa. Another really unusual opponent, the Golden Hurricane come into Notre Dame Stadium off a bye week. 5-7 in 2009 against a weak schedule, Tulsa nonetheless can be a dangerous team. As long as we come to play we'll be fine. Prediction: Win. Confidence: 80%.

Nov. 6: -BYE-

Nov. 13: Utah. An excellent home game! And the OC Domer clan will be in the house. Utah is a highly regarded squad that will be looking to make a name for itself on national T.V. The Utes run a spread offense, which won't confuse many Irish defenders who see it every day in practice. Notre Dame has an extra week to prepare for this one, while the Utes are on the road after playing a tough game against TCU. Prediction: Win. Confidence: 70%.

Nov. 20: Army (@ Yankee Stadium). Really cool game to see if you can make it. Lot's of historical overtones for the old school football fan. A typically hard-nosed, scrappy military academy team, but Army lacks the talent to hang with the Irish. Prediction: Win. Confidence: 85%.

Nov. 27: @ USC. Thanksgiving weekend, our daughter is bringing a bunch of her Notre Dame friends home for this game. USC is getting a lot of love in 2010, despite the bitch-slap they got from the NCAA. Notre Dame only lost to USC by 7 in 2009. We're going to be better in 2010 than we were in 2009. Is USC really going to be better than last season? I'm not convinced. This is a statement game for Coach Kelly. His legacy will begin on the floor of the Coliseum. Much like Charlie Weis' first game against the unstoppable Trojans in 2005, this will be an instant classic. Only this time the good guys win. Prediction: Win. Confidence: 60%.

Conclusion: An 11-1 first season for Coach Kelly? Possible, but not likely. Remember Assumption #4, above. There will be growing pains. Using my confidence factors for the twelve games we compute a more reasonable expected win total:

.85 + .75 + .45 + .65 + .60 + .55 + .95 + .70 + .80 + .70 + .85 + .60 = 8.45 wins

So, if we use my estimation of the Irish chances of winning each of their twelve games, we get an expected win total between 8 and 9. I'd really love to see 10 wins. But if we win 8 or 9 and see real progress and growth in year one of the Kelly era, I could live with that. Especially if we beat USC and avoid any really awful Syracuse and Navy type losses.

What are your predictions for the 2010 Irish?

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Good Luck Coach Kelly

Six days from now a coin will be tossed into the Indiana sky, a football will be kicked down the middle of a perfectly manicured field inside Notre Dame Stadium, the Irish faithful on the wooden benches and on their comfy sofas across America will be holding their collective breath, and finally the answers will be revealed. The answers to our questions, certainly. But that isn't what Notre Dame fans really want. What we really want is the answer to our prayers. From Iraq and Afghanistan to London, Dublin, Haiti, Peru, Tokyo and Sydney; from Boston to Orange County and from Pasquerilla East to Carroll Hall, the Loyal Sons and Daughters of Notre Dame have been praying for the next Knute Rockne to lift us out of the purgatory of football mediocrity and restore the Fighting Irish to greatness.

Will Brian Kelly be the answer to all those prayers?

Will Coach Kelly dramatically succeed where Davie, Willingham, and Weis so spectacularly failed?

I eagerly embraced Boob and Ty and Charlie. I bought into the idea that Davie was a defensive genius and that he would bring enough speedy ath-a-letes from Texas into the program to maintain what Lou Holtz had built. I was totally sold that Ty Willingham was a young coaching phenom and molder of men who, as a black man himself, would be able to recruit to Notre Dame the talented players from the South who are often reluctant to attend a very white Catholic school in the wintry Midwest. I totally believed that Notre Dame alumnus Weis, with his NFL pedigree and Super Bowl bling, would stock the program with future NFL players and would win titles with his decided schematic advantage.

Yeah, well, not so much.

But am I bitter? Have I become a complete cynic? Truth be told the years spent wandering in the desert with Davie/Willingham/Weis have left a little bit of a bad taste in my mouth. My heart has been broken enough times that it honestly is hard to close my eyes and jump back in with both feet and my rose-colored glasses. I'll admit to dark moments of doubt. Am I living the impossible dream? Has Big Time College Football gotten to the point where a program that genuinely cares about giving its players a quality education can't compete on an elite level? Is the true student-athlete as endangered as the Dodo bird?

But it's nothing a little winning won't cure.

Is Brian Kelly "The Guy"? Here is what we know:

  • Coach Kelly has twenty years of experience as a college head coach.
  • He won two NCAA Division II Championships at Grand Valley State.
  • He coached the Central Michigan Chippewas to a MAC title.
  • He took the Cincinnati Bearcats to two straight BCS Bowl games.
  • I repeat - he took Cincinnati to back-to-back BCS Bowl games.
  • Coach Kelly grew up the Catholic son of a Boston politician and a huge Notre Dame fan.
  • He talks a good game.
And that, for now is all we REALLY know. But it tells us a lot. It tells us that Coach was able to lift three different programs to a very high level. That's a Division II program, A MAC team, and a Big East team. That's three different schools and three different groups of players. Somehow, he was able to reach each of those teams and pull greatness from them.

He isn't a one-hit wonder, but he isn't necessarily a miracle worker either. When Kelly took over the head job at Grand Valley State in 1991, the Lakers were already a powerhouse, having gone 11-1 and 10-2 in 1989 and 1990. Under Coach Kelly GVS didn't crack the 10-win plateau again until 2001, Kelly's 11th season as head coach. But in 2001, '02, and '03 his team went 13-1, 14-0 (Div. II Champs) and 14-1 (Div. II Champs). Clearly, the years at Grand Valley State were the formative years for Brian Kelly as a head coach. He learned a lot of lessons, honed his craft, and built his "system." Whereas Bob Davie and Charlie Weis had to learn all the hard lessons of head-coaching while on the job at Notre Dame, Brian Kelly had thirteen seasons at GVS to figure it out.

At Central Michigan, Coach Kelly took over a program that had won 2, 3, 4, and 3 games in the four seasons prior to his arrival. A really struggling program. Kelly turned the program around, but it wasn't overnight. The Chips went 4-7 in 2004, just one win better than 2003. They went 6-5 in 2005, two games better than '04. And in 2006 they were 9-4 and won the MAC (although Kelly did not coach the Motor City Bowl as he had moved on to the Cincy job). But look at the progression: 1-game better in year one, 2 more games better in year two than in year one, and 3 more games better in year three than in year two. That is dramatic, accelerating improvement.

Kelly took over an improving Cincinnati Bearcats team from Mark Dantonio, who left Cincy to take the job at Michigan State. The 'Cats were 7-5 in 2006. In Coach Kelly's first full year there (he had coached the 'Cats to a win the International Bowl to end the '06 season), Cincinnati went 10-3 with a win in the Papa John's Bowl. That's a 3-game improvement in year one. The Bearcats went 11-3 and 12-1 in 2008 and 2009, winning the Big East, playing in a BCS Bowl, and finishing the season ranked in the Top 20 both years.

Looking at Kelly's history on the brink of his first season at Our Lady's University, one has to wonder: Is the task he faces at Notre Dame more like his challenge at Central Michigan? Or is it closer to what he inherited at Cincinnati? The Chippewas had been a bad football team for a number of years when Kelly got there, and it took a couple of years to really turn it around. The Bearcats, on the other hand, were an improving team under Dantonio and Kelly just jumped on the accelerator and was able to elicit dramatic improvement in year one.

While I am leery of leading with my heart, I think Coach Kelly faces more of a Cincy situation at Notre Dame than a CMU situation. While the team clearly under-performed in the Weis era, Charlie did do a pretty good job as a recruiter. There is talent in the program, and it just needs to be developed and coached. For all his woes, Charlie Weis took a team that was 6-4 in 2004 under Ty Willingham and went 9-3 in 2005. Charlie was on pace to leave a tremendous legacy at Notre Dame until he was hammered in 2007 by the voids in the roster left him by Ty Willingham. That isn't going to happen to Kelly. The cupboard in not bare in the wake of Weis' departure.

Although 2009 was bitterly disappointing, the 6-6 Irish lost six games by a combined total of 28 points. They lost by four points to Michigan in the Big House in a game they clearly should have won. They only lost to USC by a touchdown. And although Clausen and Golden Tate are gone from that team, almost everybody else returns. Dayne Crist was a highly touted quarterback recruit coming out of high school who many thought was better than Jimmy Clausen. Michael Floyd was every bit as good as Tate when healthy, and Theo Riddick and TJ Jones are play makers.

Can Coach Kelly take these players and close the gap? Can he figure out how to win the close games and how to finish strong in November?

Much has been written about the tempo, the speed, of football practices under Kelly. There is little doubt that he is maximizing the amount of work that can be squeezed from every minute of practice. And it certainly sounds like he is paying attention to the details, as he demands from his players. In the final practices of fall camp last week, the Irish were spending time on Coach Kelly's list of 49 unusual game scenarios, which he said has grown over the years from just 16 scenarios when he started at Grand Valley State. The scenarios run the gamut from how to call a timeout before a two-point conversion attempt, to the turtle punt, to taking a safety on purpose. I can't be the only one who remembers Jarious Jackson spraining a knee while taking an intentional safety against LSU in 1998, thus knocking him out of action for the USC game (a 10-0 debacle in the Coliseum).

I don't get to watch practices. There aren't any meaningful videos available of what the team is doing on the field. All we think we know about how the players are progressing comes straight from the coach's mouth. Coach Kelly says the team is working hard, and preparing well, and is close to being ready for Purdue. But with the exception of Lou Holtz, that's what head coaches always say.

One thing we do know is that the competition for a starting spot on this team is intense. Nobody can take a starting slot for granted. Or even a back-up spot. There is no seniority system, no undue loyalty to the upperclassmen. Talent will play. Fifth-year senior and Notre Dame law student Chris Stewart is being pressed hard by sophomore Chris Watt at left guard. Dan Wenger and Braxston Cave are neck & neck at center. Cierre Wood has blown past Jonas Gray and Robert Hughes at running back and is breathing down Armando Allen's neck. Walk-on Nate Montana appears to be #2 at QB, ahead of heralded recruits like Andrew Hendrix. TJ Jones is pushing Duval Kamara hard at the third WR position (and will pass him in my estimation). There is lots of competition at linebacker, with the vocal and talented Brian Smith on the outside looking in as he has been surpassed (for now) by Kerry Neal and Darius Fleming.

So we have some talented players working very hard and competing intensely for playing time. And we have a Head Coach who has a proven record of winning at the college level. It would seem that the ingredients for success should be in place. But now, with all eyes on Notre Dame Stadium in six days, it only remains to play the games.

Good Luck Coach Kelly.

Go Irish! Beat the Boilermakers!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Dusting Off the Crystal Ball

Happy August to all of you! It's been a little slow around here at OC Domer, but I've been busy with my day job and just couldn't bring myself to write yet another story about not-very-bright students getting arrested by not-very-bright Indiana law enforcement officials for underage drinking at an off-campus party. My thoughts on the situation haven't changed a bit since my last rant on the topic in September of 2008.

The only thing I would add is this: Coach Kelly, you obviously still have a lot of work to do to to in teaching your players the right way to conduct themselves. And yes, I do hold the football team, who are attending the University on full scholarship, to a higher standard than I do the rest of the student body. To me, this incident also shows a lack of leadership on the team. Were there no upper-class players there who were willing to tell the underage players that they needed to put down the alcohol and drink the un-spiked punch instead? A lot of work to do.

But back to the crystal ball. I am getting ready to begin the arduous process of writing the OC Domer Pre-Season Spectacular post for 2010. In doing so, I went back and dusted off my pre-season predictions for the past several seasons (since the inception of the blog), and the results were so hilarious that I had to share them with you. The point of this exercise is to hopefully give you a good laugh, and to also serve as a slap across the face to me that will hopefully knock off my rose-colored glasses before I make any predictions for 2010.

2007 Predictions:

Final Results: With young but talented players all over the field, and with new defensive coordinator Corwin Brown, the Irish basically win the games they won and lose the games they lost in 2006 (UCLA being the exception). But we don't get blown out by anyone. We aren't a Top 5 program yet, but at 10-3 overall, we end up just outside the Top 10 in the final polls of the season. Entering 2008 we are a Top 10 team fighting to become an elite Top 5 program.

Conclusion. So, this is how I see the season playing out. Is it a prediction? Not really. It's just a thorough explanation of where I see the program and what I think I'm going to see. Might Charlie's Fighting Irish exceed my expectations? They could. The offensive line could be dominant, the QB play spectacular, the young receivers amazing. The front seven could be energetic AND stout. We could beat Michigan and UCLA, we might even surprise everyone with an improbable win over the Trojans. On the other hand, the O-line might not be what we need it to be. The young QBs and receivers might sputter. The front seven might give up too many yards in the running game. If that happens, we could lose to Georgia Tech, Penn State, MSU and BC. It could be a disaster. But, as one sage once said "That's why they play the games."
2007 Actual: 3 wins against 9 losses. Blown out by Georgia Tech (33-3), Penn State (31-10), Michigan (38-0), USC (38-0), Air Force (41-24). A triple-OT loss to Navy. The only wins against UCLA, Duke, and Stanford. A total, unmitigated disaster.

2008 Predictions:
Final Thoughts. Do I really think Notre Dame will finish the 2008 season 11-1? No. While I sincerely believe the Irish could, or even should, win each of their first 11 games, I also expect that a team as young as the Irish will have some untimely penalties and turnovers, or just come out flat, and let a couple of games get away from them. Counting the likely loss to USC, I expect nine wins, give or take one. Of course, a lot has to go right for nine wins to happen. But after last year I figure the Irish are due a little luck.
2008 Actual: 6 wins against 6 losses in the regular season, plus a nice win the the Hawaii Bowl to end our bowl game losing streak. This team was all over the map. Strong wins over Michigan, Purdue, Washington. Awful losses to North Carolina, Boston College, Syracuse. Only an impressive bowl win over Hawaii saved Charlie Weis' job.

2009 Predictions:
I do pick Notre Dame as the favorite to win eleven of its twelve regular season games. Does that mean I think they will go 11-1? I certainly hope so, but that's where the "confidence" ratings included for each game factor in. Using the confidence ratings and a little math you can get a better idea of what outcome is more likely for the season win total, just like the guys in Vegas. Adding together the confidence ratings I assign to each game:

.80+.70+.60+.75+.90+.40+.70+.90+.75+.65+.75+.75 = 8.65 wins

Depending upon where you look, I've seen over/under win totals for Notre Dame set between 8.5 and at 9.0 wins, which is right in line with my own estimations as set forth above. I may be more optimistic or pessimistic than you, but I encourage you to try this yourself. Assign your own confidence values to each Notre Dame game and see what your personal over/under is for 2009. For me, 9 wins is what the Irish "should" achieve in 2009, all things being equal. If they earn less than nine wins, they have under achieved and only a very, very nice Bowl win would bring Coach Weis back in 2010. If they manage to win ten games, they will have beaten the odds in my view, and the extra win would have to be credited to Coach Weis who will have earned the chance to stay on as coach. If they win eleven or twelve, that would be a superior job of coaching and you'll need dynamite (or another year like 2007) to dislodge Charlie from the Gug.

What do I think will really happen? I bet the over. And got 25-1 odds on the Irish winning the Championship.
2009 Actual: 6 wins and 6 losses, including four losses in a row to end the season against Navy, Pitt, U-Conn, and Stanford. Adios Charlie.

Conclusion: I cannot be trusted to evaluate the fortunes of the Notre Dame football team. For 2007, 2008, and 2009 I predicted the team would win 9, 9, and 9 regular season games, which translated into 3, 6, and 6 actual regular season wins on the field. Not very impressive. But I'll give it a go anyway later in the month. Don't say you weren't warned!

As an aside, I challenge all my Irish blogging brethren to post their past prediction performance along with their predictions for 2010, so we can have total transparency, just like the Obama administration.