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Features & Blogs
"Life in the UK"
• Sideline: Yes, Non–Conference Games DO Count
• NCAA Preview 2009
• Sideline: Time For The Talking To Stop
• Sideline: In Memory of Air McNair
• Sideline: Will Goodell Hand Out Hard Time?
• Sideline: Marshall's Not Joshing
• NFL Draft: No Rush To Judgment
• NFL Draft Analysis 2009 (Part 2)
• Sideline: NFL Draft Thoughts (Part 2)
• Sideline: NFL Draft Thoughts
• Sideline: Will Play For Food
• Sideline: Wonderlic Scores
• Sideline: Manning and Sanchez
• Sideline: 2010 Leagues Sci–fi, or Fantasy? / March Madness
• Sideline: Break Out The Brackets
• Sideline: LaDainian Tomlinson On The Record
• Sideline: The Incredible Sulk Continues
• Sideline: Guildford Heat Fired Up
• Sideline: Super Bowl thoughts from the Valley of the Sun
• Sideline: I know I came in here for something
• Sideline: College Football National Signing Day
• Sideline: 27 Points — 27 Super Bowl thoughts
• Sideline: An Epic QB Matchup?
• Sideline: Appreciating Arizona for What They Were
• Sideline: NFL Divisional Weekend Preview
• Sideline: Bowl Season Hangover
• Sideline: Six weeks Later
• Sideline: Wildcard Weekend Preview
• Sideline: Santa's Sackings
• Sideline: A Weis Decision ...for Now
• Sideline: Eye on the Ticker
• Sideline: Lions — An Anagram of Losin
• Sideline: Ready for the Turkey
• Sideline: Making it to the Big Dance
• Sideline: Brighter Days Ahead for Chargers?
• Sideline: Unnecessary Hits To The Pocket / Upset: BYU
• Sideline: Romo's Pause / Seattle Seahawks
• Sideline: Weekend Prep: Red River and More
• Sideline: College Football's 'Crossroads' Weekend
• Sideline: Gramatical Error
• Sideline: Turning The Page
• Sideline: So Cal 'Quizzed
• Sideline: 3rd Tuesday Panic / Forté Yard Dash
• Sideline: Two and Oh; Oh and Two
• Sideline: No More NCAAffeine
• Sideline: Week 1 College Football
• Sideline: How To Spell Heisman / Chad Ocho Cinco
• Sideline: A Second Slice
• Sideline: The Favre story STILL won't go away
• Sideline: Olympic Notes / Ricky's Still Relevant
• Sideline: Committee Meetings
• Sideline: Let the QB Battles Begin
• Sideline: Slinging The Slinger — More Favre
• Interview: Clint Dempsey
• Sideline: Welcome to the 2008 season
• Sideline: Plus One
• 2008 NFL Draft Review
• Sideline: Draft: The Morning After
• Sideline: Draft: Thinking the Unthinkable
• Sideline: Draft: Ready For The Long Haul
• Sideline: Sofa–bound Sport
• Sideline: Post–Winter Wonderland
• Sideline: Six Impossible Things
• Sideline: Brady's Misdirection Play
• Sideline: Colorful Language
• Sideline: Let the Romo–bashing begin
• Sideline: Bowl Bites: The Wrap
• Sideline: All About The Coaches
• Sideline: Bowl Bites 3
• Sideline: Bowl Bites 2
• Sideline: Bowl Bites 1
• Sideline: Coach Situations Vacant
• Sideline: For Some, The Playoffs Are Now
• Sideline: A Certain Lack Of Welcome
• Sideline: Unrelated Notes
• Sideline: Two Thanksgiving thoughts
• Sideline: Halftime: NFC
• Sideline: Halftime: AFC
• Sideline: London / A Tale of Two Chads / Intimidation
• Sideline: Damp Squib / Other London Notes
• Sideline: Rock 'Em, Sock 'Em / Dolphins – The Aftermath
• Sideline: The Dolphins Did What?
• Sideline: Notes on the Defenses
• Sideline: Habits to be Broken
• Sideline: Overtime
• Sideline: This Week's Starters
• Sideline: USF: Covering The Spread / Fantastic Football
• Sideline: Grossman: The Final Act? / McNabb, the Epilogue
• Sideline: Eagles QB in Slight Controversy
• Sideline: Leftwich's Parting Gift / Boos cruise
• Sideline: Notre Dame M.I.A.
• Sideline: Looking Beyond NFL Wk. 1
• Sideline: Best Hope For Heisman
• Sideline: Coaching Hot Seats / AP Poll Feeling ’Appy
• Sideline: The NFL’s Prime Cuts
• Sideline: Michigan Falls to Killer Apps
• Sideline: Look Out Couch / The Taint's On You, Bud
NCAA Preview 2009
Observations, Opinion & Occasional Silliness by Richard L Gale
Notre Dame hasn't justified its reputation for a while, but everything is in place for a top 25 finish and maybe even a BCS push, writes Richard L Gale.
Rationing myself to only 30 team previews longer than our '100–word dash' format, the team that always gets more than its fair share of attention does it again, because when they emerge with only 1 or 2 losses from a schedule full of teams having a drop–off season, the Fighting Irish will be over–praised and catapulted up the rankings into their unique 'special case' BCS scenario. Charlie Weis will be given a new 25–year contract, and all will be happy–happy in the magical world of the Golden Dome, even though Notre Dame still won't be that good a football team.
There, you Irish–haters — happy now? That was your 100–word dash. For the rest of you, there's a little more detail, because while the Irish remain a team getting national attention and top 25 preseason rankings despite a 7–6 season last time out, their talent level demands attention. The talent level always did deserve attention, and the criticism that Weis has so far absorbed without being sacked has been precisely because, while the Irish have continued to recruit at a near–elite level, Weis is only 8 games above mediocre after four seasons. Where ND is concerned, 'Talent' is an anagram of 'latent' and the line which surrendered 58 sacks two seasons ago has one last season to prove they were worth the wait before they graduate. Jimmy Clausen, the quarterback who got knocked silly in '07, enters his junior season having bounced back, from 1255 yards passing to 3170 yards, from 7 TDs to 25. Yet he still threw 17 interceptions along with the scores last year, still played meekly against Michigan and horribly against USC. The running game is still an afterthought, and the defense still lacks star power. So why do the Irish get the word count?
Because (1) previews are projections, and from '07 to '08 the Fighting Irish looked like a team living up to its academic heritage and learning from their abundant mistakes; (2) the 2009 schedule is catching opponents at fortuitous moments — Michigan in mid–rebuild; USC in South Bend in what for them may be a down year; at Pittsburgh without LeSean McCoy; Boston College, Washington and Washington State while all three are non–contenders, and all in Indiana. And in fairness, these are the teams the Irish traditionally played. It's no use devaluing their schedule because these teams are mostly outside the top 25 right now; you play who's on the schedule, and the schedule features 12 FBS teams, 10 BCS conference teams — there's no Charleston Southern here (yes, Florida, we're looking at you).
And (3) if Jimmy Clausen does connect with receivers Michael Floyd, Golden Tate and Duval Kamara the way that Patriots–style offense is designed to, out–gunning their schedule for 10–2 is credible, as is a 6–game winning streak to finish. If that is enough to warrant a BCS slot by all the screwy means at Notre Dame's disposal, that makes them relevant. That's why they deserve 100 words and then 400 more.
100–Word Dash: Navy
Navy's grip on the Commander–in–Chief's Trophy will be tested. If they retain it, that'll be the work of a defense packed with seniors, with special players at all three levels, including strong safety Wyatt Middleton. The X–factor is QB Ricky Dobbs, who flashed run–and–pass talent Navy hasn't seen in a while during spot duty last year, but his line will be finding their feet when the Middies visit Ohio State and Pittsburgh early. They'll likely be 2–2 when they meet Air Force October 3, but battle–hardened. By the time they play Army, a bowl destination still may not be assured.
100–Word Dash: Army
(I desperately want to say something positive about Army for our military audience …but then most of you are Air Force anyway, right…?) Army needs passing — any passing at all — they managed 555 yards, 3 TDs in 2008. Of course, they had almost 3000 yards of rushing, but once they were in a hole, they were done. And now they start a whole new offensive line (in part because tackle Ali Villanueva has been moved to receiver — yeah, you read that right). They are at Air Force and Navy; at least they have 8 warm–ups before the ones that count.
100–Word Dash: West. Kentucky
Let's tell it how it is: if the Hilltoppers win two games, the season went well; if they win three, it's a miracle. The former FCS team didn't look ready against lowly Sun Belt opponents last year, only winning against FCS teams. This year there is one FCS opponent, Southland champs Central Arkansas. Even a winnable match–up with North Texas is on the road. However, Western Kentucky do have a really good punter and um… (sheesh). Seriously, though, this team runs the ball and tackles well, and when you're trying to get a finger–hold in the FBS, that's a start.