Posted: Saturday December 31, 2005 8:56PM; Updated: Saturday December 31, 2005 9:27PM
Alamo Bowl: Steve Breaston, Mike Hart, Kevin Grady, Chad Henne (scrambling decisively), Tyler Ecker, Jason Avant. Again, how did Michigan rank just 54th in total offense this season? And how did the Wolverines lose five games?
Sun Bowl: Did UCLA's Brandon Breazell really score two touchdowns in the final 2˝ minutes via onside kick returns? You have to hand it to Northwestern, though. The Wildcats did get the ball back each time on the very next play.
Peach Bowl: Following the post-game tunnel tussle between Miami and LSU, I'm wondering whether, just out of habit, if the Atlanta police detained Ray Lewis for questioning. Meanwhile, don't you love Tigers coach LesMiles' explanation for the fake field goal and fake punt with his team nursing 30-plus-point leads in the second half? Miles said that he called for the fake field goal but that his players called for the fake punt.
Fiesta Bowl musings
What did the two schools that beat Notre Dame have in common this season, besides the fact that they won in South Bend by three points? Both teams' quarterbacks finished the season ranked among the top 10 in the nation in passing efficiency. Michigan State's Drew Stanton finished ninth with a 153.4 rating, while Southern Cal's Matt Leinart finished seventh with a 158.3 passer rating.
So where does Ohio State QB Troy Smith rank? The Buckeye passer is sixth, although he threw just over half as many passes this season as Stanton or Leinart. Still, if the Irish have a weakness -- and they do -- it's on pass defense, where they finished 97th nationally.
The Stanford game might not have been close if Irish defensive backs did not get beaten deep on three separate occasions. That was against the Cardinal receivers. Against Buckeye burners Ted Ginn and Santonio Holmes, Irish corners Michael Richardson and Ambrose Wooden literally will be on a desert island.
The Buckeyes are No. 1 in the nation in rush defense, while the Irish, despite tailback DariusWalker's 1,100-yard season, are merely average running the ball. Tailback Travis Thomas hits the hole quicker between the tackles than Walker, and might merit more than the six carries per game he got this season.
Ohio State place kicker Josh Huston, a first-year starter as a sixth-year senior after replacing All-America Mike Nugent, has only missed four of 24 field-goal attempts this season. Huston's misses came from 47, 49, 50 and 50 yards.
The key for the Buckeyes will be to contain BradyQuinn's sister -- oops, I'm sorry, it's just that that's all I seem to read about this week. Anyway, the Irish junior quarterback has not passed for less than 260 yards since the season's second week at Michigan. Quinn is fourth in the nation in pass efficiency. The nation's pass-efficiency leader, Vince Young, was 18-for-29 for 270 yards and two touchdowns when he faced the Buckeyes defense -- on the same day in September that Quinn faced the Wolverines.
Quinn and the Irish receivers -- Jeff Samardzija and Maurice Stovall -- will get their yards against the Buckeyes' secondary, but if the Irish cannot run, Quinn will take a beating against Ohio State's front seven. Expect linebackers A.J. Hawk, Anthony Schlegel and whoever else starts (depending on BobbyCarpenter's status) to blitz often.
Unsung heroes of the day? The Anthony's, Fasano of Notre Dame and Gonzalez of Ohio State. Both are their respective offense's third-leading receiver, sure-handed and athletic. Fasano was a Mackey Award finalist and caught a career-best 45 passes this season. A senior, Fasano actually has a year of eligibility remaining. Gonzalez has great mitts (witness his two key catches, of 27 and 26 yards, in the fourth quarter of the Michigan game) and is one more nightmare for the Irish secondary to contend with.
Finally, the media played up CharlieWeis' contract extension in November, but did not devote as much time to reporting that Notre Dame's football team had a collective 3.04 grade point average this semester, the highest in Division I-A. That number likely would have been lower if Quinn's sister were dating one of his teammates.