Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Notre Dame Lost! Let's All Overreact!

Illustrating the reality that the media are often afraid of performing their function as fact-checkers and that they will repeat any old claim from someone "in the arena," here is Mandel repeating the Pat Fitzgerald quote that has been breathlessly cited since Saturday:

"Even though we're similar academically, we're in a little different boat as Stanford and Notre Dame. We've been consistently winning since 1995. They're still saying they can do it, but we're doing it."

It took me a whopping five minutes to confirm that Fitzgerald's claim is utter bunk. Yes, Pat, Northwestern has been "consistently winning" in a time period in which the program is under .500. And the Wildcats are doing SO much better than Notre Dame over that time period, as evidenced by the fact that the Irish are a mere 37 places higher than Northwestern in the winning percentage rankings. Good lord, Mandel, you're basing an entire piece on a claim by your alma mater's head coach that is verifiably false!

Leaving history aside and just looking at this year, Fitzgerald cannot make the case that the Wildcats are on par with the Irish. Superficially, the teams have close records, but they have played wildly different schedules. Northwestern lined up the murderer's row of Syracuse, Towson State, Eastern Michigan, and Miami (OH). The Wildcats are the only team against whom Eastern Michigan stayed within single digits. Northwestern joins Maine and Akron as Syracuse's only victims this season. Northwestern doesn't play Ohio State, they played a colossally overrated Iowa team without its quarterback for most of the game, and they were dominated by Penn State. The Sagarin Predictor puts Northwestern a mere 58 spots behind Notre Dame and would make the Irish a two touchdown favorite on a neutral field. Is this what parity looks like?

And then let's tackle your central thesis, Mandel, which is that "Notre Dame is no longer different than other programs of its type." If you're reading this, I'd like to propose a little wager: Notre Dame will have a better average ranking over the next five years than Stanford or Northwestern. I'm so certain that the Irish's massive advantages in exposure, recruiting, and financial resources will matter that I'll give you 3:1 odds on the bet. If gambling makes you uncomfortable, then we can agree that the winner will donate his booty to the charity of his choosing. I'm not much of a betting man myself, but I'm so confident that you are overreacting in a massive fashion to the events of one weekend (not to mention using a chance to plug your team) that I'm willing to do something new. Good gracious, I'm so confident that I'm willing to put money on Charlie Weis.


Anonymous said...

Northwestern was without its QB for most of the Penn St. game. It's interesting that you specifically use Stanzi's injury to indict their win at Iowa yet conveniently fail to mention Kafka's injury in their loss against Penn St.

chg said...

Hanging with Penn State for a half is not an impressive accomplishment outside of Big Ten country. The Nittany Lions signature victory is over Temple, a team that lost to 1-AA Villanova. None of Penn State's other victims will finish the season with six wins versus D-I opponents.

Prior to the victory over Iowa, NW's best win was a one point home win over Indiana. They are not good at the game of football.

Michael said...

Anon, that's a good point (I had forgotten about the Kafka injury), but it doesn't change the central point of the post at all.

Anonymous said...

Fitz's comment will look really stupid in five years if Notre Dame hires Brian Kelly. Kelly will be to Notre Dame was Carrol is to USC.

Fitz's cats lost to Syracuse this year; he needs to realize that Northwestern hasn't elevated anything; the conference came down to Northwestern's level.

Michael said...

My confidence in betting on Notre Dame is affected in no small part by the possibility that the Irish will hire Kelly. That move makes too much sense for ND to mess up.

Ed said...

The best of Mandel comes from the mailbag. Read this choice excerpt:

Weis has done just that (field a high-powered offense) with guys like Jimmy Clausen, Michael Floyd and Golden Tate, and I have no doubt he could keep the pipeline flowing if given the opportunity. But to field a nationally elite defense in today's era, you need 11 Floyds and Tates. Look at the teams currently atop the national defensive rankings: Texas, Florida, TCU, Alabama and North Carolina. Those happen to be five of the fastest defenses in the country, loaded with athletes across the board. And none of them deal with the same stringent academic requirements as Notre Dame (nor does its most logical geographic counterpart, Ohio State).

So, let’s follow the logical progression, shall we?

To field an elite defense, you need players at each position as dominant as Golden Tate and Michael Floyd are at wide receiver. Tate and Floyd are widely considered All-American caliber players, so that seems a pretty stringent standard. I’m not sure that there’s been a defense that’s ever fielded 11 All-Americans, but apparently Mandel believes you need this to have an elite defense.

TCU and North Carolina are apparently among those schools that have accomplished this feat (and North Carolina is only 6-3; god Butch Davis must blow.).

How does TCU do it? By not being “a selective private school in Indiana.” I’m guessing playing in a non-BCS conference is a big advantage as well. So is being lodged in a state in which you must battle Texas Tech, Texas A&M, Baylor, Houston, SMU etc. for the leftover recruits once juggernauts Texas, Oklahoma and LSU have taken the tastiest morsels. That sure beats those tough academic standards at ND which only allows them to put together top 10 recruiting classes every year (The average TCU ranking over the last four year according to Rivals is 70.8).

OK, I’m going to stop. My brain hurts. How does this guy get work?

Anonymous said...

Good article
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