by Chris Lowery, Contributing Writer and LSU Alum
In high school, James was just kind of there.
He wasn’t a jock. He wasn’t a nerd. He wasn’t the president of a chess club or honor society. He wasn’t ugly, but he wasn’t attractive. He wasn’t anti-social, but he wasn’t yelling YOLO at house parties either.
Honestly, the only thing James really excelled at was academics. But he didn’t totally excel either. In everything he did, he just kind of existed.
He was well on his way to becoming Michael Bolton from Office Space.
But something happened to James after high school. I don’t know the details because I was too busy yelling YOLO after the LSU game I saw him at, but I do know that he was a changed man.
He was taller, smiled more, dressed nicer, and had apparently stopped going to Sportclips for haircuts. I even realized the 10 standing next to him, after she repeatedly shut down my advances, was actually HIS girlfriend. And they both work at some firm in Dallas doing something that makes a lot of money.
After we parted ways, I started thinking about this reinvented James and the path of rediscovery. I came to the conclusion that embarrassment and perceived failure generally drive such dramatic changes to oneself. You have to be fed up with failure, realize your weaknesses, and then fight to change them.
And after years of failed “schematically advantaged” offenses, shoddy defense at best, and a cheering section of a senile Sylvester the Cat, Notre Dame has apparently started on a little journey of reinvention as well.
Right now, Brian Kelly has the Irish at 4-0 and gaining confidence by the day. In the past, 4-0 has been the cloud nine before the meteor shower. But this team is different. They actually play defense. Which is a little strange considering Brian Kelly’s background as an offensive mind.
The Irish defense is currently ranked 9th in the country in points allowed, 2nd in forced turnovers, and feature a defensive end, Stephon Tuitt, who ranks 2nd nationally in sacks.
I’m a big believer in having a stronger defense than offense. I’ve sat through some of the worst offenses in LSU history the past couple of years. But in every game that our offense was as anemic as Lou Holtz, we at least had a chance.
If the Irish can get there offense rolling like Brian Kelly offenses have rolled in the past and continually play stout defense, then the Irish could genuinely become a contender over the next couple of years.
In other news…
The Big 10 is still suffering from the effects of mass psychology. After Ohio State was blown out by Florida in 2006 the public’s perception of the Big 10 conference began to crumble. And apparently they’re listening. Theories abound, but no one can quite pinpoint why the conference is currently boast a 6-9 out of conference record. Lack of coaching? Lack of speed? Lack of male virility? I don’t know. But I do know that Ohio State is currently their highest ranked team, which is sad if you’ve watched them play. Their pre-season title contender, Michigan, has been lambasted by Alabama. Both Michigan and Michigan State have lost to Notre Dame. And Wisconsin post-Russell Wilson is simply mediocre. I can’t even name their other teams after that. Now, I don’t know if these things were underlying issues that are only now coming to the top, but I do believe that 6 years of being told your second rate can lead to you believing your really are second rate, which can certainly have lingering effects. Call me crazy, but I guess my theory is that mass perception is taking its toll.
Life in the SEC isn’t so easy. Missouri is getting pummeled in league play. The former Big-12 run and gunners have lost their first two conference games by 3 touchdowns a piece. We all know the SEC can play defense, which is certainly contributing to the Tigers’ woes. But on the flip side they can play offense too. They just don’t score as much because they don’t suck at defense. Get it? To justify such a claim, I point to Gamecock quarterback, Connor Shaw. While the Gamecock defense was pillaging the lives of Mizzou, Connor Shaw was busy going 20-21 for 249 yards and a TD. The SEC has plenty of offensive talent, arguably the best in the country. But they also have ALL the defensive talent in the country as well. It balances out.
Fun fact for the weekend:
During the Miami Hurricanes perfect 2001 title run, they had a close game. I know, right? A team featuring Ed Reed, Jonathan Vilma, Clinton Portis, Willis McGahee, Jeremy Shockey, Andre Johnson, Vince Wilfork and Frank Gore had a close game, no way. But it’s true. They beat Boston College 18-7. They were up 12-7 with Boston College in the redzone with under a minute to play. But a turnover eventually landing in the hands of Ed Reed for a touchdown is the only reason they escaped.
I point this out because what LSU and Alabama did last year to everyone except each other (soundly beating them), is an anomaly. Title runs are typically met with adversity. And I may sound like a homer—and I’m fairly confident the rankings will work themselves out—but to drop LSU behind Oregon in the rankings because of close SEC road win is kind of ridiculous. It’s stupid actually. This kind of thing could be detrimental when the playoffs are instituted. Everyone bitches about the 66th team to make the NCAA tournament every year.