Readers may be aware that LSU's got a football game coming up in New Orleans next Wednesday, and with that in mind we did a Q&A with Notre Dame bloggers Her Loyal Sons. They've posted my answers to their questions here. Enjoy:
1) The whole world thinks you guys are going to get slaughtered; remarkably, the conventional wisdom about the Irish did a complete 180 after the USC game - prior to that the Michigan game and last year's Ohio State game seemed to be considered "fluke" in some circles. What's the typical Irish fan's attitude about all this? Calling BS on it? Or is it general acceptance of it and a newfound "show me" situation with Weis?
domer.mq: We call BS on pretty much all of the media's "view" of the Irish. You have to remember that the media is out to do one thing: Sell advertising. And to do that they have to have eyes, ears, and minds absorbing the advertising. So they create "content" to attract our eyes/ears/brains. 2 things polarize this country like nothing else: Politics and Notre Dame Football. Both make for great "content" when selling ads. So if we're "hyped" in pre-season mags or before a big game, we figure that the media's just reaching for ND supporters' eyes/ears/brains. And when we're dragged thru the mud, they're appealing to the ND haters of the world. It also helps them that ND supporters will probably read plenty of the anti-ND stuff and ND haters will read/agonize over a lot of the pro-ND stuff. Ultimately, I blame capitalism.
Weis seems to have most of the ND fan base convinced that he's "the guy" for the job. There seems to be a sense that "if he can't do it, then nobody can." I have not gone that far yet. I think he's a great fit for the job, but I'm just not so fatalistic to think that he's the only guy that can possibly do it. I fully expect at least 1 if not multiple National Championships under Weis' tenure.
So to answer your question: The informed Irish fan knows better than to listen to anything the media says. Or, at least, they know enough to rip into the media when the media acts like a bunch of dorks. I'll attribute this quote to Lou Holtz, even though I'm not positive he said it first: "You're never as good as they say you are and you're never as bad as they think you are." Or, um, something like that.
Bad Kermit: All the crap about how ND sucks after the scUM game or the yoUSuCk game is media-driven crap. They overrated ND to sell articles, and then they slammed ND to sell articles. ND wasn't as good as tOSU last year (or this year) or the 2 douchebag-laden teams this year, but they are a good football team. Anyone who is surprised by the "180" the media did on the Irish clearly hasn't been reading sports journalism for long.
The Biscuit: I'd say typical fan's attitude is that we're a program in transition and that this team is the proof. We're a solid team that is definitely Top 15. We'd handily beat most teams in the bottom 10 of the Top 25, and give most Top 15 teams a run for their money. Are we elite at this point? No. We have some big mismatches on Defense that make it tough in some games, and our O-Line makes it difficult for our big time playmakers (QB, WR, RB, TE) to really turn it on. Add to that our issues with depth due to Ty Willie's horrible recruiting classes and things can get tough.
2) Are you guys more nervous about the potential onslaught of "Irish didn't deserve to be in the BCS" type commentary, or more pumped about the potential to prove something? (i.e. How confident are you guys about the team at this point?)
domer.mq: Actually, I don't think we can win the perception game with this bowl. As much as many Irish fans look forward to winning a big game against a truly quality opponent (not to mention getting the bowl-loss streak off our backs), as soon as ND beats LSU, there will be plenty of pundits pointing out that ND simply beat a team that wasn't even in their own conference's championship game. ND's opponents have a funny habit of being very hyped coming into a game, and suddenly absolute jokes after losing to the Irish.
As far as confidence goes, I feel confident that if ND plays to their potential, then the Irish will win against LSU. They'd beat anyone if they play to their potential. Put it this way, if ND plays LSU, Michigan, or USC the way they came out and played against PSU, then ND wins. PSU was the only complete game where it was clear the entire team was on their toes, ready to take ownership of a game. Never mind that the opponent wasn't top-10. We didn't own the game against Army, UNC, or Stanford the way we owned PSU. If we play like that, watch out. If we don't, then LSU's shear ability/talent will probably win out. We can't overthrow wide-open receivers, allow good passes to tip off our fingers, or lose a slot receiver in a cover-2.
The Biscuit: We will get the 'dont deserve it' thing whether we win or lose. It really doesn't matter - it's always Irish against the world and the world against the Irish. Nothing new, nor is it a bad thing necessarily. So that doesnt worry me at all. We lose? We didnt deserve to be there. We win? We still didnt deserve to be there, but at least we proved something to some people. So I'm more for the latter.
3) Which matchup do you feel most favors youse guys?
domer.mq says: Any matchup that puts Samardzjia one-on-one. Fear it. Not just because Shark's a wonderful play-maker, but because that probably also means you left our TE one-on-one too, since we've probably spread you out defensively. Now Quinn's got two huge options.
The Biscuit: WRs vs. CB's is an easy one. But I think Darius will have the big day through draw plays, and dump passes out of the backfield
4) EVERYONE knows about Brady Quinn and Jeff Samardzija. What is most overlooked about the Irish?
domer.mq: If John Carlson is healthy, then you might rue the day you learn his name and position. He is the best tight end in the country, I don't care what the post-season awards say. And he and Quinn have one hell of a chemistry. Most of Quinn's "Wow. That's why he'll be the #1 pick" passes have landed in Carlson's hands. If Carlson finds a hole between your safeties and linebackers, LSU is gonna have issues. I don't think most teams are able to fully appreciate the match-up problem he presents.
Bad Kermit: I'd say Carlson is still the most overlooked player on the Irish. That's assuming, of course, that he's healthy enough for the game.
The Biscuit: Darius Walker never gets enough praise. When he gets the ball and he works, we win. When he doesnt, we dont.
5) In the deepest, darkest depths of your soul, what worries you the most about this game?
domer.mq: Speed. You can't coach speed. You also can't coach against it by much. You can coach/scheme against over-pursuit, but not against speed or recovery ability. ND's front-line guys can play against anybody. Note I didn't say "starters." Not all ND starters are front-line guys. And that's where we hurt. Our weaker links sometimes have to be out on the field while most top teams can hide such weaknesses within the inky blackness of a depth chart. Speed has a funny way of exposing those weaknesses in either athletic ability of quick decision making.
The Biscuit: Deep passes. Just like USC and Michigan, this is what can kill us.
6a) What sort of Irish fan contingent can we expect to see in New Orleans? Everyone making the trip, looping in New Year's Eve in the Quarter?
domer.mq: Hmmm. Tough to say. I think the Wednesday game really hurt the travel ability of the ND fanbase. Don't worry, the game will be sold out, and there will be plenty of fans, but I think there is still a large contingent of ND fans who don't appreciate anything less than a National Championship game. I hear even Weis expects the stadium to be 3/4ths LSU fans. Still, those who do show up will spend, spend, spend in your great city. Some of them will even pitch in to help the community via alumni groups and charities.
A few years ago, Bob Davie got ND into the Fiesta Bowl. A few of the HLS staff attended and we were stunned by how out-numbered ND fans were by Oregon State fans. OSU fans were ecstatic to be at a bowl at all. An actual BCS bowl? Fuggedaboudit. ND fans can be a bit, eh, snobbish about bowl games. I think that's changing. A lot of us younger alums went thru some dark days in the Davie/Willingham era.
The Biscuit: PACKED with Irish faithful. We travel incredibly well - everywhere is a home field for the Irish.
6b) Could you guys do us Louisiana types a favor and spend a ton of $$$? We'd shore 'preciate it!
domer.mq: Just supply the beer/whiskey with a sufficient mark-up, and I can guarantee a nice haul by the local businesses. That's not an "Irish joke." That's just a fact.
The Biscuit: Done.
7) Look into your crystal footbaw and give us a final score prediction and next Thursday morning's headline from the game recap?
domer.mq: I see a last minute drive by Quinn to win the thing. It'll be a story-book ending. People will continue to compare Quinn to Tom Brady and Joe Montana. Lots of headlines finding ways to use "Quinn", "Brady," and or "Weiss" in bad puns.
The guys at BGS had an awesome stat this season about Quinn. Essentially, since Weis got here, every time Quinn has the ball in his hands with a rational shot to win/tie the game with a score in the final minutes, he's done it. His stat line is 13/14 for 236 yards in those scenarios. That situation just locks him in. Weis' great hurry-up schemes help a lot too. Essentially, if there are 2 minutes left, and ND is down by 5 with 80 yards in front of them, worry. Because that's plenty of time for Quinn to win the game and not leave enough time on the clock for LSU to take care of a porous ND defense. It's what makes Quinn a star among ND legends far more than his amazing, record-shattering career.
Anyway, late, game winning TD by Quinn to Shark to put ND in the lead for good: 35-31.
The Biscuit: Irish Prove their Worth
ND - 24 LSU - 20
Thanks for the perspective guys, and may the best team win next Wednesday!