As even the most sequestered Subway Alumni knows by now, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish open at home on Sept. 3 against the South Florida Bulls.
This Bulls team is picked by several relatively sober sports pundits as the favorite in the Big East, and for good reason.
USF is coming off an 8-5 year with a bowl win over Clemson. They have a third-year QB back in B.J. Daniels, along with six of their top seven receivers and five of their top six running backs returning.
It’s Florida...the offense is athletic, talented and dangerous. They run like deer and hit like trucks.
South Florida’s 22nd-ranked defense returns all but one player in a deep and veteran secondary, two of three vicious linebackers, and a stud nose tackle in Cory Grissom, weighing in at 335 cheeseburgers. One of the linebackers has just been reinstated after a two game suspension for eating his own mother.
Leading this group into his second season in the Big East and straight from the hallowed loins of ND coaching legend Lou Holtz is up and coming head coach Skip Holtz...and by all accounts, he is a chip off the old block.
All the elements are there for a big upset. This team is a budding dynasty flooded with talent and sound coaching; people tell me with a couple breaks, this team will make more noise in the BCS than a high school marching band trying to outplay a heavy metal group at a construction site full of screaming babies.
In answer to the learned pundits across our great country, I call bullsh*t.
Let me explain.
USF is Coming Off an 8-5 Year With a Bowl Win Over Clemson
People say, “Hey Dan, USF broke through in 2010 with eight wins in an AQ conference.”
Know what I say? Big damn deal.
The Louisville Cardinals finished 7-6 overall, 3-4 and tied for sixth with South Florida in a terminally crappy Big East. USF won 24-21 in overtime. Welcome to South Florida’s signature Big East win.
“But Dan, they were 4-0 non-conference, they are a force!”
The big non-conference win? A 23-20 overtime win over 7-6 Miami, and we all saw what a pillow fight that can be.
The rest of those eight wins? A veritable murderer’s row: 6-5 FCS Stony Brook, 4-8 Cincinnati, 4-8 Rutgers, 4-8 Florida Atlantic, and 2-10 Western Kentucky.
That big time bowl win? Try a 6-7 Clemson squad that finished 86th in the country on offense.
Rumor has it Boise State was busy bitching that South Florida had an easy schedule.
Oh, and those five losses? Four teams that beat USF in 2010 had five losses; West Virginia had the best record of all their opponents at 9-4. The trend being everybody that was a little better than mediocre beat the Bulls in 2010.
My 89-year-old mom and four of her sisters got six of the fat ladies from her Sunday night Bingo crowd and went 9-4 against the same schedule. It would have been 10-3 if they didn’t get hosed on a late holding call in the Swamp (see picture above).
The Offense is Talented and Dangerous.
“Oh Dan, that Bulls team has a third year starter at quarterback that is a threat to pass and run all over us.”
Know what I say? Big damn deal.
Yes, the Bulls have third-year starting QB B.J. Daniels, along with six of their top seven receivers and five of their top six running backs returning…and they all range from just bad to outright putrid.
This scoring juggernaut returns only five starters from a pathetic group that finished 85th in scoring, 71st in rushing, and 101st in passing in 2010 against mediocre competition. Nothing like starting off terrible then getting gutted by graduation.
The good news is the Bulls had 19 teams that threw the ball worse than they did last year, they didn’t fumble much, and their logo looks cool.
In 2011, South Florida loses three of their top linemen, their top running back and their top receiver from an offense that stunk so bad you could stuff human hair in a dirty diaper and light it on fire to improve the smell.
The top returning running back is Demetris Murray, who rushed for all of 542 yards last year. USF is actually hoping two transfers will give the anemic running attack a boost.
Colorado transfer Darrell Scott transferred because he couldn’t get playing time at Colorado, and Dontae Aycock is a 5-9, 224-pound transplant that Auburn redshirted then dismissed for violation of an undisclosed team rule.
My first point here is that nobody that can play football in the history of college sports has ever been dismissed from an SEC football team without being driven away in cuffs.
I mean really, dismissed for violation of an undisclosed team rule? How can anybody get dismissed from Auburn? Is that even possible? And who knew they actually had a team rule? I shudder to think about the third-degree felonies that must be pasted all over his rap sheet to pull that one off, but I digress.
And third year starting QB B. J. Daniels? Daniels is half a foot shorter than Terrelle Pryor with 4,6 40 wheels and the decision making of, well, Terrelle Pryor, except he’s not surrounded by 10 five-star athletes to cover his ass.
Yes he’s that bad. The junior threw for 1,685 yards with 11 touchdowns and 13 interceptions in 2010. At 164 yards per game he didn’t throw it much, but when he did, he threw it to the defense. And yes, he’s athletic...so athletic he made 259 total yards at 2.3 a pop with a long run in 2010 of 16 whole yards – not exactly Denard Robinson South.
But a passing offense can’t be that bad without help. The Bulls’ leading returning receiver is Evan Landi with 27 catches for 366 yards.
Notre Dame had two receivers with practically the same stat line: 28 receptions for 328 yards in six starts and 27 catches for 352 yards in six starts. The ND receivers? Tight ends Kyle Rudolph and Tyler Eifert.
Solid numbers for a tight end that plays for half a season. Not so good when you are a TE with 13 starts, and not so good when your tight end is your leading returning receiver.
The real hopes for improved receiving is riding on WR A.J. Love coming back from a blown ACL; he had all of 26 catches for 489 yards in 2009. A 500 yard a year sixth year senior with a rag for a knee is the savior of your passing game?
In the days before political correctness, this offense would have been called “retarded.” In more progressive times, they are more accurately referred to as “really retarded.”
South Florida’s Defense is Damn Good
People say, “But Dan, that Bulls team has a brutal defense that will pound our inconsistent offense with phenomenal athletes that are bigger and faster than any known living thing, eat raw meat, and stop only for a few brief seconds to drink from streams.”
Know what I say? The rumors of an SEC defense are greatly exaggerated.
Yes, as with any Holtz team, the Bulls are much better defensively than offensively, but when you line up against the offenses they played, it’s pretty hard to get excited about the Bulls’ 2010 accomplishments.
This team gave up 38 to Florida’s 43rd-ranked scoring offense, 30 to Cincinnati’s 57th-ranked offense, 26 to Clemson’s 86th-ranked team, and 27 to Rutgers’ 101st-ranked squad. All scored well above their season average against the Bulls.
Other than Florida and Cincinnati, there wasn’t an opposing offense on their schedule that ranked in the top half of the country.
The promoter for a professional hot dog eating contest inadvertently screwed up a travel schedule and gave eight fat guys and a 92 lb Korean woman the same slate and they finished 18th in the country in defense before the NCAA could correct the mistake.
When you get rid of the outstanding defensive efforts to pad the defensive stats against Stony Brook, Western Kentucky and Florida Atlantic, this defense is not nearly as intimidating as my mom when she finds out the whiskey is gone.
Speaking of gone, so are five starters: three of USF’s front four, as well as a stud linebacker and a DB.
Whereas I am not nearly so blind as to say USF doesn’t have athleticism and experience on the defensive side of the ball, this is not an SEC defense.
It’s not even a Pitt defense. It’s a defense we saw four or five times last year with a more inexperienced offense and did just fine.
The Skip Holtz Myth
“Dan, Skip Holtz has turned manure into gold everywhere he’s been, and now they’re giving him gold to start with.”
Be honest with me, if Skip Holtz had a last name of Smith, Jones or Van Chickenstein, would we even be talking about him?
He led Connecticut in its pre-Division I days to seven wins a year and a less-than-impressive 34-23 overall. At most major college programs he would have been bagged or if the budget was tight just tolerated. He had a losing season two out of the five years he was there and won more than 8 games one time - which landed him the East Carolina job.
Holtz is not pre-FBS Brian Kelly at Grand Valley State tinkering around in a secret football lab with his dangerous and diabolical theories that produce a 118-35-2 monster. He’s a seven win a year guy that has the good fortune to log a nine win year when a horribly stagnant East Carolina program happens to need a more visible coach --- and Skip Holtz also has the good fortune to have the last name of Holtz.
The Holtz-led East Carolina Pirates battled through that always rugged Conference USA schedule to register seven and a half wins a year and check in at 38-27 for five years of work. He had one losing team and never won more than nine games in any year, which was still pretty mundane but good enough to land him the South Florida job.
You already know what I think of the degree of difficulty for his eight wins at South Florida last year.
Skip Holtz is 2-3 in FBS bowls and rounds out at 80-55 (59 percent) for his career against very marginal competition.
It’s fairly interesting that former USF Head Coach Jim Leavitt and his 94-57 (62 percent) coaching record (all at USF) had an 8-5 record in both 2008 and 2009.
For his career, on the field Skip Holtz’ FBS offenses have been pedestrian to bad at best, and his defenses have put up great stats against bad competition and bad stats against good competition, and played a lot more bad teams than good teams.
Look, I loved Lou Holtz ever since I saw him take a charge in a Bookstore basketball game, but Skip is no Lou Holtz and he’s done next to nothing to distinguish himself as a player on the college football coaching scene.
There is nothing guru-like about Skippy.
Baby Holtz seems like a good guy with a middling coaching resume that tends to support the obvious fact he is a slightly above average defensive coach and a more than slightly below average offensive coach...making him exactly a little less than average, no more, no less.
Lou Holtz Jr. he is; Knute Rockne Jr. he is not.
Notre Dame vs. South Florida on Sept. 3
Despite all the hype and all the danger signs everyone is waving, South Florida is the 2010 Purdue opener with a much crappier offense and a little better defense.
With much better offensive personnel in 2010, South Florida had a seriously hard time scoring on anybody that wasn’t blind or drunk, and had a particularly hard time with defenses that opted to play 11 men at a time.
Things will not go well for them against an improved Irish defense.
On defense, South Florida played against one top 50 offense in 2010 and gave up 38 points, and didn’t see a single offense all year that has the combination of size, speed and experience of this year’s Irish.
Notre Dame returns eight starters, including an All-American wide receiver, two experienced QB’s, their top running back, almost their entire Oline, and a boatload of experienced backups on offense that will be able to handle a veteran secondary and a couple good linebackers.
And if I have to pick between Brian Kelly and Skip Holtz for one game, I think Brian Kelly has shown me a hell of a lot more than Louis Leo Holtz, Jr.
“So Dan,” you ask, “What’s going to happen on Sept. 3?”
Giving more credit to the USF defense than they probably deserve, and looking deep into my Pilsner glass:
2010 ND 23, Purdue 12.
2011 ND 23, South Florida 12.
Purdue Part Deux.