My Week for Game 4: Notre Dame at Michigan State
Posted by Jimmy Atkinson
Destination: East Lansing, Michigan.
My pick: Notre Dame 33 - Michigan State 28
In today's other "big" game, Penn State-Ohio State, I'm picking the Bucks 42-3.
Destination: East Lansing, Michigan.
My pick: Notre Dame 33 - Michigan State 28
In today's other "big" game, Penn State-Ohio State, I'm picking the Bucks 42-3.
I'm heading to South Bend in less than an hour for the Michigan-Notre Dame matchup tomorrow. Should be an interesting game, as it will most likely be the stiffest test for each team until their final games of the season. (Michigan closes at Ohio State and Notre Dame closes at USC.)
My pick: Notre Dame 21 - Michigan 20.
Notre Dame didn't dominate this game from the start, but certainly took control of the game in the second and third quarters, capitalizing on Penn State miscues and making big plays. Some photos taken during the weekend:
Friday, 3:36 p.m. EDT — Indiana I-80 Eastbound Exit 77:
6:38 p.m. EDT — Pep Rally. I estimated the crowd at around 35,000. Less than last year's USC game, but still pretty big:
7:03 p.m. EDT — Me with Touchdown Jesus and football:
Saturday, 1:21 p.m. EDT — ND players walk from the basilica to the stadium:
2:10 p.m. EDT — Notre Dame Marching Band:
2:52 p.m. EDT — Goodyear blimp over Notre Dame Stadium:
4:29 p.m. EDT — Jeff Samardzija makes a catch in the second quarter:
4:43 p.m. EDT — Notre Dame lines up against Penn State in the second quarter:
7:04 p.m. EDT — Final score, Notre Dame 41 - Penn State 17:
I returned from Atlanta over a week ago, but haven't found the time to make this post until now. I was extremely nervous for the first 59 minutes of that game, much longer than I thought I would be. Georgia Tech has quite a defense. Quinn looked very shaky, especially in the first half. But the Irish came away with the W, which is all that matters. Here are some photos from what I call Marathon Saturday.
6:58 a.m. EDT — College GameDay Set. Three hours til live:
10:17 a.m. EDT — Buzz gets a bit close for comfort:
11:42 a.m. EDT — Touchdown Jesus in Atlanta (I'm the one holding it up):
11:51 a.m. EDT — I make an appearance on ESPN:
5:19 p.m. EDT — Inflatable Buzz in front of Bobby Dodd Stadium:
5:57 p.m. EDT — Brady Quinn departs ND's team bus:
6:12 p.m. EDT — Me with Touchdown Jesus mockup:
7:19 p.m. EDT — Bobby Dodd Stadium from section 214, row 33:
11:32 p.m. EDT — Final score, Notre Dame 14 - Georgia Tech 10:
11:43 p.m. EDT — Bobby Dodd Stadium after the game:
Oh boy, we had some technical difficulties over the last few days, so I'll have to get up my GT summary and photos when I get back on Sunday. But right now, I'm out the door for South Bend to see Penn State vs. Notre Dame, the first meeting since the famed Snow Bowl of 1992. Weather looks like it should be in the mid-70s with a chance of rain this time around. No snow, sadly.
Anyway, onto the predictions for Week 2:
In my game... Notre Dame 27 - Penn State 20
In the big game... Texas 34 - Ohio State 31
I'll be back Sunday.
Later this afternoon, I'm flying from Chicago to Atlanta for the ND-GT game. Then Saturday morning, the fun begins: College GameDay is broadcasting live from Tech campus starting at 10:00 AM ET and the game doesn't kickoff until 8:08 PM ET, so it will be a marathon start to the college football season for me. It will be my 174th college football game for which I've been in attendence. But it will be my first time ever seeing Georgia Tech, and consequently, my first game at Bobby Dodd Stadium in downtown Atlanta.
Expectations of Notre Dame are higher than they've been in over a decade. I have the Irish ranked #1 in my preseason Top 25. But, are the Yellow Jackets capable of stunning the Irish in the opener? While Calvin Johnson is an All-American wide receiver, quarterback Reggie Ball is just too erratic and the Jackets' secondary is thin and inexperienced. Brady Quinn should have a field day throwing the ball downfield to Jeff Samardzija and Rhema McKnight.
My Pick: Notre Dame 42 - Georgia Tech 13
UCLA's luck finally ran out on Saturday as they showed up in Tucson unprepared and unmotivated and got absolutely blown out by Arizona, 52-14. It was one of the most lopsided games I've ever witnessed, and that's saying something considering it was the 2-6 team beating up on the 8-0 team. UCLA had overachieved all season; Arizona had underachieved. And finally on Saturday afternoon in Tucson, the tables turned. I made the 500-mile roadtrip from Los Angeles to witness it.
Here comes the prey.
As you can see, it was a beautiful afternoon for football. It may be November, but in Arizona, it was mostly sunny and a high of 84 degrees. And since it was homecoming and there was an undefeated team in town, the stadium was nearly filled to capacity, which isn't bad when your team is 2-6.
It wasn't even halftime when this thing started to get really ugly. The Bruins couldn't move the ball. The Wildcats couldn't be stopped.
The guy carrying this flag probably started cramping up by the fourth quarter.
Meanwhile, about 3,000 miles to the east, Miami completely shut down previously unbeaten Virginia Tech, the opposite of what I had predicted. It was not the Hokie defense, but rather the 'Cane D that made the big impact on this game as Miami rolled to a 27-7 win. The Hurricanes pressured Marcus Vick all night and made him look absolutely mediocre, as he finished 8-of-22 for 90 yards, 0 TDs, and 2 INTs.
We started with five. Now we're down to three: USC, Texas, Alabama.
It's the first Saturday in November and I'm here in the desert this weekend, Tucson, Arizona, for this afternoon's Pac-10 battle between the undefeated UCLA Bruins (8-0, 5-0) and the Arizona Wildcats (2-6, 1-4). UCLA comes in 8-0 after needing big fourth quarter comebacks to win four of their last five games. Arizona, for a 2-6 team, has had some good looking performances that they just couldn't quite finish. Today, Arizona will test the Bruins early but UCLA will turn it on late.
Jimbo's Pick: UCLA 49 - Arizona 35
I was at the Rose Bowl tonight for UCLA's 51-28 win over Oregon State. I was surprised by how the Bruins dominated the game after giving up a touchdown on the game's opening series. And how about Drew Olsen! The much maligned senior quarterback for UCLA tossed six touchdown passes tonight, breaking the school record. The Bruins just might be for real after all. They're off to their first 7-0 start since 1998.
Meanwhile in South Bend, the Irish avoided a hangover thanks to Brady Quinn tossing six touchdowns of his own. The junior quarterback looked superhuman, especially in the first half, when he started 25-of-30 for 287 yards and four touchdowns.
No surprise how easily Texas defeated Texas Tech. Tech was a paper tiger, nothing more. That 6-0 record against inferior competition proved nothing. Today was their day to make a statement, but they're simply not on the same level as the boys in Austin.
Can the Big Ten get any wackier? Northwestern blows out the Spartans while the Michigan game comes down the the final minute yet again. All five of the Wolverines' conference games have been decided in the final minute. Today, the Wolverines were on the winning side of a 23-20 overtime matchup against Iowa.
Down south, the SEC had two nailbiters. Georgia, after losing quarterback DJ Shockley to a knee injury, struggled before holding off Arkansas 23-20. And in Tuscaloosa, the Tide scored a late field goal against Tennessee to win a barn-burner, 6-3.
Game #163 for me will be at the Rose Bowl as Oregon State comes into town to battle the undefeated, eighth-ranked UCLA Bruins. While the Beavers are unranked and unheralded, the Bruins better beware. Oregon State is improving quickly: after losing at home to Arizona State, the Beavers have since defeated Washington State at home and California on the road in the last two weeks. The Bruins, meanwhile, have staged three straight late comeback wins to keep their record perfect. I expect the Bruins to continue the streak this afternoon, but it will be close.
Jimbo's pick: UCLA 45 - Oregon State 42
It's taken me a few days to recover. And while I am very disappointed in the outcome, a 34-31 USC win over Notre Dame, I appreciate that I attended the greatest college football game of the season, and perhaps one of the greatest college football games of our time. Had the Irish stopped USC on that fourth and nine or had Matt Leinart come up short on that final quarterback sneak, this certainly would have been my favorite game I've ever witnessed. Greater than the 1993 UCLA-USC game that ended with Marvin Goodwin's end zone interception. Greater than the 1996 USC-UCLA overtime game that featured a 17-point Bruin comeback. Greater than either the 2002 or 2004 Michigan-ND games.
I've been to 162 college football games in my life. I've seen ND-USC and UCLA-USC countless times. I've been to 13 Rose Bowl games and have seen teams crowned national champions six times. But no football game in my memory received as much hype and lived up to the hype as much as this one did. The atmosphere was electric. This was college football pageantry at its best. And even the weather cooperated: it was a perfect fall day with clear skies, moderate winds, a crispness in the air and the temperature in the mid-60s. The game was hard fought by both teams for a full four quarters. Big plays were made (Tom Zbikowski's 59-yard punt return in the second quarter; Dwayne Jarrett's 61-yard pass reception on fourth and nine late in the fourth quarter). The Irish came out in their green uniforms. And the officials, even without the aid of instant replay, did a fine job of officiating.
Simply put, there is no one to blame for Notre Dame's loss. I can't single out one individual who blew it or claim that the officials made a string of bad calls. USC just beat them. Simple as that. A great game to win for USC. A tough pill to swallow for Notre Dame, knowing that they played their absolute best and still could not get the job done. USC is just that good.
Well, in any event, here are some photos that I took on that fateful day, Saturday, October 15, 2005:
The College GameDay set in front of the stadium:
Irish take the field in green jerseys:
Jeff Samardzija's 32-yard touchdown reception:
Fourth quarter view from section 16, row 48:
Here are some photos from tonight's pep rally, which was held inside Notre Dame Stadium.
Tomorrow: College GameDay and then the big game!
I was in Cincinnati on a business trip all this week. Finally today I successfully made the four-and-a-half-hour trek in my Avis-rented Chevy Cobalt (a real beaut!) from Cinci to South Bend, Indiana. Now it's all football from here 'til Sunday. I officially kicked off my football weekend by spotting Chris Fowler at the Hertz counter while I was returning my car. Later in the day, I saw him with Lee Corso at the GameDay set on Library Quad.
Tomorrow night, I'll be attending the pep rally in Notre Dame Stadium.
Being a ND '04 grad, It's no secret that I'm an avid Notre Dame football fan. So it should come as no surprise that I'm picking the Irish to upset the Trojans this Saturday in South Bend. Here are my reasons why and how Notre Dame can beat USC:
In their last 16 games that follow a bye week, Notre Dame is a remarkable 15-1. This year's bye week could not have come at a more favorable time. The Irish were originally scheduled to play Pittsburgh last week. But during the offseason, the decision was made to move that game up to the front of the schedule to give Notre Dame one extra week to prepare against the defending national champions. USC on the other hand spent last week playing a closer-than-the-experts-predicted game against Arizona. A Notre Dame bye week gives the team a healthy rest and the coaching staff an extra week of prepare time.
Notre Dame's confidence has suffered terribly since losing to Boston College in 2002. After surging to an 8-0 start, the Eagles win over the Irish that season dampened any national championship aspirations and the Irish have not been the same since. A few weeks later, #7 Notre Dame faced #6 USC. This is where the destiny of the two teams diverged sharply. After a 41-10 Trojan whipping of the Irish, Notre Dame was sent into a two-year downward spiral, while USC went on to win back-to-back national championships. In the 2003 and 2004 games, the Irish probably never even thought they had a chance to beat the Trojans. And it showed. Two more 31-point losses only proved that Notre Dame didn't even belong on the same field as USC. Enter Charlie Weis and Notre Dame's 4-1 start. The team is playing with a confidence not witnessed since they rushed out to that 8-0 start in 2002 by defeating Florida State on the road. This is a team, unlike Tyrone Willingham's squads, that believes they can win. And the student body and alumni are buying into it as well.
While restored confidence benefits Notre Dame, overconfidence could plague USC. After three games of mediocre play, the Trojans have lulled themselves into overconfident laziness. They've proved to themselves against Oregon, Arizona State, and Arizona that they don't have to work hard, can underachieve, and still win whenever they want to. This may have worked against these opponents, but to defeat Notre Dame in South Bend, USC will have to play much better than they have the past three weeks.
3. This ain't last year's Trojans
Last year's Trojans were a nightmare for opponents because they were literally unstoppable offensively and their defense did not budge. This season, while performing well in the second half, the USC offense has been very shaky at times in the first half. Matt Leinart has been rattled. Reggie Bush has been stuffed. The offensive line has been porous at times. Wide receivers have dropped balls. What's more surprising is how mistake-prone the Trojans have been: penalties have taken their toll as have slow starts and poor special teams play. The Trojan defense also has left much to be desired.
4. This ain't last year's Irish
With a senior offensive line and numerous receiving targets, Brady Quinn is proving himself to be a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate and just may be invited to New York come December. In the past three seasons, Notre Dame has only mustered only four touchdowns against USC, and those have all come in the first half. Expect more from the Weis-run offense in this meeting. Unlike the past three meetings against USC, Notre Dame will not be outcoached in this one. As the LA Times points out, Pete Carroll may have finally met his match.
The Golden Dome that tops the administration building on Notre Dame's campus was recently re-guilded over the summer. The last re-guilding occurred in 1988, the year that Notre Dame faced #1 Miami at home. In the past three meetings, Miami had defeated Notre Dame by a total of 93 points. But 1988 was Lou Holtz's first home game against the Hurricanes. The Irish went on to win 31-30. Hmmm... 93 points, re-guilding, #1 ranking. Sound familiar? Okay, so it's just an historical comparison. But what's Notre Dame without a bit of mystique thrown in the mix?
The Bottom Line
For the first time in a long time, this game will mean something. Long regarded as one of the greatest rivalries in college football, this game has been competitively dormant, meaningless, or both for over a decade. Now, for the first time since 1990, both teams are ranked in the top 10. With they pre-game excitement at fever pitch, the big bulls-eye on USC's #1 ranking, and Notre Dame's momentum and confidence in themselves, I predict a Notre Dame win on Saturday to propel the Irish firmly back among the nation's elite. As USC's 23-game win streak in 1973 ended in South Bend, so too will USC's 26-game win streak in 2005.
Jimbo's Pick: Notre Dame 38 - USC 37
After taking last week off, I am headed out to South Bend this weekend and will cover the USC - Notre Dame game. I will arrive in South Bend on Thursday afternoon to get ready for the biggest football weekend to hit the ND campus in several years. Friday night, I will be at the pep rally in Notre Dame Stadium. For those of you who cannot make it, ESPNEWS will televise it beginning at 7:00 p.m. EDT. Early Saturday morning, I plan to stake out a front-row spot for ESPN's College GameDay broadcast live from the Library Quad. (Look for the biggest ND flag; that'll be me!) And of course Saturday afternoon, I will be in the stadium for the game between #1 USC and #9 Notre Dame.
UCLA played poor football for the first 30 minutes and struggled for the next 30, but managed a win anyway. A fourth down conversion and a 40-yard Drew Olsen to Marcus Everett play on the final UCLA possession set up the Bruins game-winning touchdown with 1:08 left. While the Huskies fall to 1-3 on the season, the Bruins improve to 4-0, but it wasn't easy. Washington surprised me by running the ball effectively: the Huskies finished with 213 yards rushing. On the other side, UCLA's Maurice Drew, who rushed for over 300 yards in this game last year, finished Saturday night's matchup with a meager 33 yards on 14 carries.
Next week's game at the Rose Bowl will feature two of the remaining three undefeated Pac-10 teams as UCLA takes on 5-0 Cal. The Bears will by far be the Bruins toughest opponent so far this season: Cal has as many wins (5) as all four of UCLA's previous opponents combined.
After taking last week off, I'm back in action tonight and will be heading to the Rose Bowl once again, this time to see Washington take on UCLA. The Bruins are the only team in the nation who has zero turnovers. My pick: UCLA 52 - Washington 20.
Despite a 21-point second half comeback by the Irish, the Spartans prevailed in overtime and defeated Notre Dame 44-41. Notre Dame has failed to beat Michigan State at home since 1995. Two turnovers made all the difference in this game. At the beginning of the second half, with the Irish trailing by 7, quarterback Brady Quinn threw an interception that was returned 30 yards for a touchdown by Sir Darean Adams. In the third quarter, the Irish had the ball first and goal at the one-yard line, but fullback Asaph Schwapp, in an attempt to extend the ball to the goal line, fumbled and the Spartans recovered. That 14-point swing was just too much for Notre Dame to overcome.
Well, at least I managed to get some good photos.
On Friday night before the game, Charlie Weis addressed a capacity crowd at Notre Dame's Joyce Center. Former coach Ara Parseghian and quarterback Brady Quinn also spoke to the crowd.
It must have been a big game because one of the Goodyear blimps was out in full force, flying above the Golden Dome, above Bond Hall during the Notre Dame band's concert on the steps, and above the stadium during the game.
And I had my best seats of the season so far, section 29, row 28, at the north 35-yard line on the press box side, right in the heart of the Notre Dame student section.
Four quarters was not enough to decide the outcome of this game, but after an Irish field goal, the Spartans scored a touchdown to immediately end the game, 44-41.
I'm heading back to my alma mater this weekend to see Michigan State - Notre Dame in South Bend. The Irish are celebrating the 75th anniversary of Notre Dame Stadium, the "House that Rockne Built," which first opened in 1930.
My pick: Notre Dame 31 - Michigan State 24
Another late night out watching the Bruins resulted in another big Bruin victory. And this one was over by halftime, when UCLA took a 49-14 lead into the locker room.
I hadn't been to the Rose Bowl since I watched Texas defeat Michigan on New Year's Day, so I walked over to check out the Wall of Champions and to my surprise, the 2005 result had not yet been posted. The only thing I can think of is that some Cal alumnus must be in charge of getting the new signs.
My seats at the Rose Bowl for UCLA home games are considerably better than the ones I had to sit in at Qualcomm Stadium last weekend. My family has been sitting in section 2, row 24 of the Rose Bowl for about 20 years now.
At the opening kickoff, the stadium wasn't maybe one-third full and at no point in the game did the crowd fill up even half the stadium. Attendance was announced at a meager 44,808.
Thanks to a dominating performance by the UCLA offense, the Bruins cruised to a 63-21 victory over the Rice Owls. Bruin quarterback Drew Olson completed 18 of 25 attempts for 296 yards and 3 TDs and Bruin halfback Maurice Drew was electric, running for 96 yards on 11 carries and returning a punt return for a touchdown for the second week in a row, this one a 66 yarder.
I'll be heading to the Rose Bowl tomorrow night to see the Rice Owls take on the UCLA Bruins. Rice will show off their new spread offense in their season opener against UCLA. This will be my 159th college football game and my 88th at the Rose Bowl.
My pick: Bruins roll big time. UCLA 56 - Rice 17
I got back to Los Angeles from San Diego this morning at 1:00 a.m. Here are some highlights from my trip down south to see the Bruins battle the Aztecs.
It was quite a long trek from west L.A. down the 405 to the 73 to the 5 to the 805 to the 52 to the 15 to Qualcomm Stadium. I left my place at about 3:15 p.m. and didn't get down to Qualcomm until 6:30 p.m. That's Labor Day weekend traffic for you, I guess. But I still got there in plenty of time for the 7:15 p.m. start.
And on the way down there, I listened to the fourth quarter of the Colorado State - Colorado game on my new Sirius satellite radio. I love that thing! After that game was over, I tuned in to Notre Dame - Pittsburgh.
Point of advice: Don't sit in the field level of Qualcomm Stadium. This place was built for baseball, not football. I'm sure that my seat in the eighth row is great for catching fowl balls, but the sight lines are horrendous for football. Anyways, the Padres don't even play there anymore! I can't believe they actually hosted a Super Bowl in this dump just two years ago.
During the first half of the UCLA - San Diego State game, I kept one eye on the field and the other on my TV screen so I could keep up with the second half of the Notre Dame - Pittsburgh game. I had my pocket radio plugged into my ear for good measure.
Eventually, I moved to the other end of the field and found a seat in the plaza section, just above the field section, but those ESPN guys kept getting in my way!
Well, in the end, the Bruins won big, thanks mainly to the ineptness of the opponent that they had scheduled. Next week's game: Rice - UCLA at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena.
To start this college football season, I will be attending tonight's UCLA vs. San Diego State game at Qualcomm Stadium. This will be my 158th college football game that I have attended and the 10th that I have seen at Qualcomm Stadium (formerly known as Jack Murphy Stadium).
After starting going a meager 12-13 in his first two seasons, UCLA head coach Karl Dorrell is under serious pressure to get the Bruins turned around in 2005. The Aztecs are 0-19-1 vs. the Bruins all-time. That trend will continue tonight.
My Pick: UCLA 33 - San Diego State 27
Speaking of this being my 158th college football game, here is a table of my previous 157 games with results: