AG: The Fighting Irish may be having their best season in years, but it is silly to think that they are going to win the national championship. Why? The three teams ranked ahead of them (Alabama, Oregon and Kansas State) are overall much better. The Ducks have the top-rated offense, the Crimson Tide have the top-rated defense, and the Wildcats are ranked in the top 20 in both categories. This is not to mention that Notre Dame needed three overtimes to beat a 4-5 Pittsburgh Panthers. With their final game away at USC, the Fighting Irish will be lucky to complete an undefeated season. Now I am not saying that Notre Dame is a bad team, but to be national champions, they still haven’t proven themselves. Unlike the other three teams, they have not consistently been in the championship race over the past years. This lack of experience could be their downfall. Fans and all sports analysts who think otherwise have simply watched the inspiring film Rudy too many times.
JC: Now sitting at 9-0 after an amazing 3OT comeback win against Pitt, Notre Dame has only one more tough game — USC in their last game of the season. While it has been fun to watch redshirt freshman QB Everett Golson mature throughout the year, I believe Notre Dame’s championship hopes died the other night when LSU failed to knock off No.1-ranked Alabama. An Alabama loss would have guaranteed that the Irish would stay up in the top 3, but now all signs point to them slipping down to No. 4 with Oregon most likely leap-frogging them into the third spot. While there is still a couple of weeks left for some upsets to happen, as well as Notre Dame having the opportunity to make a big statement against USC (who continues to fall further down the rankings), I do not see Notre Dame winning the national championship this year. It’s kind of a shame, because I’d love to see their defense take on an offense like Alabama, Kansas State or Oregon.
GO: I do not feel that Notre Dame will be able to win the National Title and that the championship will either go to Alabama or Oregon. Even though Notre Dame has beaten several good teams, their offense is not skilled enough to move the ball against an Alabama D or keep up with the fast paced Oregon Ducks. The Fighting Irish are 90th ranked in passing yards per game and 30th in rushing yards per game due to the inconsistency at the QB position. Yes, Everett Golson played well the last two games, but if the Pitt kicker didn’t miss a reasonable kick, we wouldn’t even have this discussion. This team could have lost games to Purdue, BYU and Pitt, due to the fact that they couldn’t put many points on the board against these mediocre defenses. Notre Dame relies too heavily on their defensive unit, who will be exploited once they play USC. The combination of a young QB going in to a hostile environment plus a star QB playing his last home game means a tough loss for the Irish at the worst part of the season, taking them out of the title hunt.
Greg gets 3 for touching on their poor offensive rankings as well as their final game this season. Andrew scores 2 for noting the advantages of the other teams on both sides of the ball. Jim nets 1 for bringing up the importance of the Alabama-LSU game.
2. The Cowboys managed to come back from a huge deficit against the Giants last Sunday, only to hand the lead back in the end. Why is this team so bad at winning?
AG: The problem with most football teams starts with the quarterback. They are the captains and lead by example. As for Dallas, although Tony Romo has been far too inconsistent thus far, he is not deserving of all the blame. The problem begins with the offensive line that is simply horrible at run-blocking. With the 28th-ranked ground game, Jason Garrett is being forced to overuse Romo, which has led to 13 interceptions so far. What makes matters worse for Dallas is that Romo’s top two targets, Dez Bryant and Jason Witten, have combined for 12 dropped passes, the most in the NFL. Fundamentally the Cowboys need to get on track. If they could control the game clock and limit turnovers, they would be able to finidh games. With a great defense and a number of star players, it is these small mistakes which end up costing them.
JC: If the Cowboys could play four continuous quarters of smart, disciplined football, they would be a force in the NFL. This has obviously been a tough task for them all season. While I wouldn’t say they are “bad at winning”, they are just better at beating themselves. Using last week’s match-up against the Giants as an example, the offense was plagued by multiple turnovers in the first half. On several occasions Tony Romo and his receivers just seemed to be on completely different pages, as his guys were running the wrong routes. After halftime, the team that came out of the tunnel was completely different. Romo looked sharp on several drives despite the fact that they abandoned the rushing attack. The defense looked even better, shutting down Eli Manning and the dangerous Giants’ offense. In the end, the Cowboys were just a fingertip short, literally. However, with as bad as they played in the beginning, they can’t even complain. If you want to be successful in the NFL, it takes four solid quarters of football. If they play the rest of the season like they did in the second half against the Giants, this team will find a lot of success from here on out.
GO: It’s easy to blame all of the Cowboys’ woes on Tony Romo, but I honestly believe that head coach Jason Garrett is to blame. Jerry Jones has assembled a team that is talented on both sides of the ball, which won barely half of their games over Jason Garrett’s tenure as head coach. The team consistently makes mistakes on offense, especially early in the game, showing that they are not ready to play once the lights come on in the stadium. This is a sign that in the locker room, the head coach does not motivate his team to play. But when the team does play well early and builds a lead, they seem to halt in the 4th quarter. Over the last two seasons, the Cowboys have blown more double-digit leads in the 4th quarter than any other team. Why? Not because of Romo. It’s because Jason Garrett is getting out-coached. Teams adjust to the Cowboys, the Cowboys don’t adjust to anyone else. They think they can win on pure talent, but that doesn’t work in the NFL. After this year Garrett will be replaced, and with a new head coach, we’ll see the Cowboys contend again.
Greg earns 3 points for his analysis of Garret. Jim scores 2 for his argument and use of the phrase “better at beating themselves.” Andrew notches 1 point for placing the emphasis on the O-line.
3. The blockbuster trade that sent James Harden to the Rockets had a lot more to it than that. Who makes out best in this deal in the long run?
AG: Although James Harden has had an unbelievable start so far with the Rockets, it was the Thunder who made out the best with this blockbuster deal. They may have taken a temporary hit by losing Harden’s presence, but in the long run, OKC will definitely benefit. In the past, Scott Brooks and the rest of his front office have been very successful with the likes of Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka and Kevin Durant as draft picks. If this trend continues, then the two first-round picks and one second-round pick received from the Rockets will be very useful. As for Houston, despite Harden’s recent success, I am still not convinced because one player is not good enough to win a championship — just ask Lebron James. By getting rid of all the draft picks, they will lose the ability to add a number of skilled players. Although it may take a year or two to show it, the Thunder definitely made the best deal.
JC: In the long-term, both teams did well. The Rockets have been stockpiling draft picks for a long while to make a trade such as this, and we all know that the Thunder are usually able to grab great players through the draft. I think it is more important to look at the short-term, because that is how both front offices have seen it. Kevin Martin was a big scorer for the Rockets last season, but James Harden is a tremendous upgrade to a Houston team that is trying to compete right now. After striking out on Dwight Howard and settling for Lin, it was obvious that Houston needed something more. Throughout the first three games, Harden is already proving that he is not just a 6th-man, but actually a budding superstar. Given the youth of the Rockets, this team will be able to compete for many years to come. On the other hand, the Thunder will feel negative effects of this trade this season, as Harden was a big part of their team last year and really helped them in the playoffs (although he did disappear during the finals). Therefore, I feel that the Rockets make out best for the time being.
GO: The blockbuster James Harden deal benefited both teams, but I think OKC got the better deal. First, if Harden wasn’t going to re-sign after the season, they might as well get the most they can for him and build early in the season, rather than wait until the trade deadline. Kevin Martin is a great shooter who will fit well in the offense with Durant and Westbrook. Also, Jeremy Lamb was arguably the best wingman in the draft this year. Now having him practice with Durant and Westbrook everyday will help him progress tremendously, turning him into a solid shooting guard for years to come. The next factor is that OKC got two first-round picks. Over the past five years, there is no doubt in my mind that OKC management has drafted better than any other team. Durant, Westbrook, Ibaka, Perry Jones (rookie) and even Harden were all drafted by the Thunder. If they are able to draft this well with these future picks, they make out much better in the long haul.
Greg scores 3 for addressing the impact of just about every factor in this deal. for Andrew brings in 1.5 points for pointing out that Houston is hurting their future. Jim gets 1.5 for a strong argument that Houston needed to add someone big.
Greg wins Around the Dorm 9-4.5-4.5