College Football Handicapping: Any Betting Value on Notre Dame?
by Trevor Whenham - 9/13/2011
Notre Dame is a mess. Or they are very unlucky. It all depends on how you look at it, I guess. What is not open for dispute, though, is that this was not supposed to be a team sitting at 0-2 two weeks into the season.
Many people had the Fighting Irish picked as a BCS team as they looked to shake of years and years of frustration. It’s not even the middle of September, though, and those BCS dreams are — at best — on life support. When a team that is this public and well liked (and hated) by fans it’s especially important to have a sense of what they are capable of and what to expect from them. Here’s a look at six factors that have contributed to where this team is at, and will have a continued impact on where they might go this year. These issues could determine if the Irish have any betting value for college football handicapping.
The Irish don’t lack for QB talent — especially in the form of Tommy Rees. When Rees is at his best — as he was in the last Irish drive of the Michigan game — he is as good as anyone. He throws a crisp ball, he isn’t afraid to thread the needle to find receivers, and he has excellent field vision.
The problem, though, is his consistency. He’s just as capable of making a horrible decision as a brilliant one, and he lacks the discipline required to settle for less when more isn’t out there.
He also certainly hasn’t had his confidence helped by the situation he has faced this year — losing the job to Dayne Crist out of fall practice then taking over the starting role at halftime of the opener.
Notre Dame has the capability to have more than acceptable QB play this year, but they need to find a way to consistently enjoy QB play that isn’t a liability.
This is an extension of the QB play issues, but it goes beyond that. The Irish have turned the ball over 10 times in two games — five times per game. It wouldn’t be impossible to win two games while turning it over that often, but it’s close.
Half of the turnovers have come in the red zone, and many have come at key times in tight games.
Rees and Crist are partly to blame for the issues, but they aren’t alone. This is a stunningly sloppy team. Until they deal with that they won’t go anywhere.
When he is at his best — as he often was in both games he has played — he is a total beast. He looked like a man among boys in the second half against South Florida and the first three quarters of the Michigan game.
He is a total difference maker — a receiver with a total knack for getting open. He has become stronger and faster receiver in this season as well.
His issue, though, is one that is reflected in the whole team. When things got tough late in the game against Michigan and he and his team should have been fighting for their lives he disappeared. He wasn’t nearly the factor in the fourth quarter that he was in the first three.
When your best player doesn’t step up and play at another level when things matter most then you are in trouble.
Kelly is a highly-respected coach who has done wonders at Central Michigan and Cincinnati. I’ve lost some respect for him this year, though, and I am sure I’m not alone.
He has not handled his QB issues with grace, and has frequently been seen screaming when he could be teaching. He has looked far from professional.
On Monday he took a very strange and uncalled for shot at the Buckeyes because of the easy Ohio State football schedule when he should be focusing on his own issues. He and his staff clearly don’t have this team where it needs to be, and he isn’t providing as much confidence as he should be that he can get things back in order.
The Notre Dame football schedule is tough
A vulnerable team isn’t going to be helped by the schedule Notre Dame has to start the season. They hosted a South Florida team that could be the class of the Big East, and then played in front of the biggest crowd in football history at Michigan. Now they host an impressive Michigan State team, then travel to Pitt.
There are only two games after that — against USC and at Stanford — that are really tough, but the squad could be beaten up by then. As hard as it is to believe 0-4 is possible and 0-3 seems like a distinct possibility.
Whenever a team fails to meet expectations you have to start by evaluating whether the expectations were accurate in the first place. I really don’t think they were, and I didn’t think so then, either.
They have some definite talent, but they were still only a 7-5 team in the regular season last year, and they don’t have an established quarterback as we discussed before.
This team probably should have taken a step forward — and given their schedule they still could — but the move from 7-5 to the BCS seemed less than likely to my eyes.
The always-rampant expectations on the Irish seemed to have gotten out of hand again. If you look at the team more reasonably then a close loss to a pretty good South Florida team and a loss to the one of the best players in college football on a last-second play really aren’t as bad as it seems at first.
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