Wednesday, December 24, 2008

It's okay that I'm not in the tropics...really....

At least I'm getting a white Christmas out of all this. Theoretically. This snow had better stop melting.

So putting all bitterness aside about the band NOT being able to travel with the team to Hawaii, I decided it's been too long since I wrote something long and rambling about my fifty favorite people on campus who I've never actually met. (Just go ahead and guess which ones aren't on my favorites list.)

I realize it's only T-minus 7 hours until game time, and I'm sure everyone has better things to do on Christmas Eve than putz around on Facebook (except me obviously), but I just couldn't resist the urge to pound out my thoughts about the game before it actually happened. I meant to do this days ago, but, you know...I put off my Christmas shopping too long. It's been a busy vacation so far.

But that doesn't mean I haven't had time to think about Charlie, Golden, David, David, Mo, Armando, Michael, Brandon, Robert, Mike, Mike, Mike, Kyle, James, Pat, Eric, Duval, Raeshon, Kerry, Harrison, Brandon, Emeka, Kevin, Sam, Justin, Sergio, Robert, and all the other men on the team, including my personal hero Jim Clausen. (I will give you fifty dollars if you can tell me exactly which last names go with which first names. And don't think I don't know which player I was thinking of when I wrote all those first names, either. I'm hoping that approximately 0 people will waste their time guessing, but you never know.)

Anyway! Here are my thoughts about the forthcoming Hawaii Bowl.

Our Opponent

The Warriors, at 7-6, have tackled their first season without Colt Brennan and most of the seniors who took them to the Sugar Bowl last year. (I would just like to interrupt myself for a second to point out that, had our band actually been able to go to Hawaii, this could have been a major conversation piece between the ND Band and the Rainbow Warriors Band. I have my suspicions that the Rainbow Warriors are not anywhere near as annoying as the LSU Tiiiigerbaaaaand....and also it's vaguely nifty that we actually have something in common with the Hawaii Band...besides, you know, being a D-I band. I'm just saying. Anyway, back to business.) And it wasn't a bad tackling job, either, considering they had an NCAA strength-of-schedule rating thirty places higher than Notre Dame's (not that ours, tied for 85th, was anything to get too excited about), a new QB fresh out of a season (or two?) at junior college, and a brand-new head coach.

After an inauspicious 1-3 start, with blowout losses to Florida and Oregon State and a close loss to San Jose State, the Rainbow Warriors managed to bounce back and crank out wins over Fresno State, Louisiana Tech, Nevada, New Mexico State, Idaho, and Washington State for a 7-win season. Their most lopsided win was over Idaho, 49-17, with squeakers over Fresno State and possibly Nevada. Most of the scores, though, seem to reflect that when Hawaii won, they were in pretty good control of the game.

Their other three losses came against Boise State and Utah State, neither of which were close. However, their loss on Senior Day came against Big East Champ Cincinnati, against whom they blew a 14-point lead in the 4th quarter, coming away with a stinging 29-24 defeat. Now that doesn't sound familiar at all, does it?

All things considered, Hawaii seems like a fairly well put-together team, and--get ready for the shock of your life--a pretty decent match for the Fighting Irish. You may not be able to believe this, but it looks like Notre Dame's playing in a bowl game against a team they can actually defeat. Hallelujah--it's a miracle.

And as for our team...

Looks like the Fighting Irish have been busy in the postseason gearing up for this game...lounging at their oceanside Waikiki resort, gloating about the 80-degree weather in Honolulu, checking out the beautiful women on the beach, putting in requests for transfer, getting themselves hired as head coaches at other schools, hopefully rejoicing over the fact that they didn't fail finals.... It's been a busy couple weeks for Notre Dame.

So in case you missed some of that, here's the latest news from our team:

-The football players love the weather in Hawaii. Shocker. (I hope you have such a big smile on your face AFTER the game, Jimmy Clausen.)

-Will Yeatman (a tight end who was suspended for the season after being arrested at an off-campus party, in case you forgot...and he's also a really good lacrosse player) has officially put in his request for release so he can transfer

-Offensive Coordinator Mike Haywood was officially hired as the head coach at Miami (Ohio)

-Coach Weis will be taking over the play calling duties for the Hawaii Bowl

-Michael Floyd is going to be back in the lineup for the game (YESSSSSSSSSSS)....but Mike Anello will not :-( :-( :-(

-David Bruton, along with a couple (dozen) other players, really really really really really really wants to win this game, sort of as a vindication for the last couple seasons being total crap (and not being able to win the two previous bowl games the current senior class experienced)

-The team has been having morning practices all week, which on the one hand probably helped them readjust their sleeping schedule faster, but on the other hand I'm still really jealous they're in Hawaii, so clearly they're having way too much of a vacation out there, and that...that...that's just not allowed. (Unless the band is there. Then, you know, whatever. ......I'm not bitter. Really.)

So, taking all this in...

I'm ridiculously excited to have Michael Floyd back. We average 110 more yards passing when he's in the game.

I'm really sad not to have Mike Anello back. he's one of the main reasons we have the top-ranked kickoff coverage unit in the country. (Although having seen the special teams perform very well against USC without Anello in the game, I'm still feeling pretty encouraged about our coverage units. Our return units, on the other hand, need some work...we are way better at tackling than at blocking, as you may have noticed.)

I'm hoping that paradise will have a soothing effect on the players....soothing as in "wipe away some of the sting of that disgusting home loss against Syracuse and subsequent thrashing at the hands of the grossest team in the country," not soothing as in "let's just lie around the beach and forget all our troubles." They still need to be angry enough to kick the crap out of Hawaii...but not so angry with themselves that they self-implode.

Hopefully, however, the mind-numbing effects of finals combined with a brain-mashing 10-hour flight across the country/ocean will have taken away the worst of the mental aftertaste of this season. I myself have already begun to feel quite cheery about the matchup--so much so that I made cut-out pineapple cookies with little ND monograms on them in anticipation of the game.

What Tho The Odds.....

Shocking as it may be, we are actually favored to win this game....well, depending on where you check. About half the lines seem to have Hawaii in favor by about 2 1/2, and the other half have us favored anywhere from 1 to 2 1/2.

The matchup really does seem to be fairly even. There's a pretty good article on, if you want to check out something slightly more in-depth:

But the gist of it is...

Hawaii has a an edge playing on its home field, where it has won 3 previous Hawaii Bowls. Historically speaking, Notre Dame has played Hawaii twice and won both matchups, but both were squeakers--ND won both games by a total of like 7 points. Combined.

It's not going to be an easy game. Most Notre Dame fans seem to already be in despair (clearly I'm enough of a state of despair that I'm already splitting my infinitives). And if they're not, they're still planning to mostly blow off the Hawaii Bowl in favor of family-centered Christmas festivities, for which I cannot blame them. I, of course, will be attending a 5 o'clock service with my father, coming home for a leisurely dinner, and then gluing myself to the couch from approximately 7:45 onward, with a large bottle of water (for all the screaming) and a couple brick-shaped pillows (for throwing at the TV). Champagne and a cell phone will be on standby for celebration.

As usual, I feel that much of the game hinges on the head of Jimmy Clausen, and which way he has it screwed on before the game starts. Obviously we can't afford for him to throw a bunch of balls into double coverage for some inopportune interceptions...but with Michael Floyd back in the lineup, I feel like we have a much higher chance of success. We can only hope.

Hopefully a little R&R will have done our O-line good as well. I'm not saying they will have magically re-learned and perfected all their fundamentals within the last couple weeks, but if they have nothing to distract them in Hawaii besides football and beaches, maybe they will have time to think about, I don't know, how to not be...lame.

Okay, clearly I did not get enough sleep last night and my brain is not as clever as usual, but never fear, I will come up with something miraculously entertaining when the game is over.

I have full confidence the Defense can take on the Warriors offense, particularly since the Warrior running game isn't much to shake a stick at, and one of our biggest weaknesses this season has been containing stellar running backs. We don't have to worry about that here; all we need to do is get a good pass rush going, and the D should be able to put this game fully into the hands of our offense.

Which is the part that worries me, of course.

If any of our backs can manage to punch through the line, though, they might have a chance of establishing a run game--Hawaii surrendered nearly 200 yards (at least) to every bowl-eligible team they've faced this season.

Let's keep our fingers crossed for a good offensive day.

That's all for cheers, Merry Christmas, and of course


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