The most obvious is because they aren’t willing to cut corners academically, at least not as much as some of their competitors are. Both Notre Dame and Michigan are well respected schools outside the football universe, and rightfully so they haven’t been willing to risk their academic and community reputations just to remain at the top of the rankings.
The other reason, less obvious but I think just as much of a hurdle to them in recruiting, is their climate. If you’re a top high school football talent you can have your choice of pretty much any school in the country, so why would you choose to go to and spend your winters in Michigan? Doesn’t it make much more sense that the southern schools and the west coast schools have a huge edge here? It used to be that you had to go to a select few schools if you wanted sufficient exposure to get drafted into the pros. Now you can go anywhere you want and if you’re good enough someone will draft you.
I hope I’m wrong, but I don’t see the recruiting landscape getting any easier for either of these two schools in the future.
Okay, now that we’ve looked back at this past week, let’s take a look at the what we’ve got in store for us this weekend.
Kansas City (0-1) at Detroit (1-0)
What Type Of Game to Expect to See: A big play type of game. Both of these teams are young with talent, and that means that you’re likely to see some examples of great football and some of really bad football. Those types of combinations should add up to more than a few busted coverages and missed assignments that lead to big plays.
Key Matchup: The Kansas City offensive line against the Detroit defensive pass rush. The Chiefs only gave up two sacks in week one, but Matt Cassel was pressured a lot and their passing game only notched 105 yards against a Buffalo defense that doesn’t have the same type of disruptive pass rushing ability that Detroit will show up with. If Kansas City is going to put up a fight in this one they’re going to have to find a way to keep the Detroit front four away from Matt Cassel.
Risky Prediction: Jamaal Charles puts up huge numbers in the passing game. The best way to neutralize an aggressive defense is to run screens and quick throws, both things that Charles and the K.C. offense as a whole do well.
Who wins and why: Detroit will take this one. The Kansas City secondary was woeful against the Bills, so Stafford and company should have a field day at home in the dome.
Oakland (1-0) at Buffalo (1-0)
What Type Of Game to Expect to See: A battle between two different styles of play. The Raiders run the ball well and play good defense and will try to keep the game low scoring and close until the end. Based on what we saw last week, the Bills are going to come out throwing the ball and will try to speed up the tempo on the Raiders.
Key Matchup: The Bills defensive line against the Oakland running game. Buffalo runs a 3-4 defense, which means that if the three defensive lineman can’t hold their ground and eat up blocks in the running game then a good running team like the Raiders will have a field day on them like they did against Denver.
Risky Prediction: Ryan Fitzpatrick proves that week one wasn’t a fluke. The modern NFL game is so complex it actually makes sense that a guy with a below average arm and below average athleticism but the above average brains it takes to go to Harvard would be good.
Who wins and why: It’s tough to go against a team like Buffalo that looked so good in week one, but I just don’t see them being able to stop the Oakland ground game. The Raiders will do just enough on defense to keep the game close and will get a couple big runs to break the game open in the second half.
Tampa Bay (0-1) at Minnesota (0-1)
What Type Of Game to Expect to See: A close one between two teams that came into the season with sleeper buzz but failed to impress in week one.
Key Matchup: The Minnesota secondary against the Tampa Bay receivers. The Buccaneers’ offensive attack stalls if their receivers don’t get open for the medium yard type of gains that keep the chains moving. The Vikings run an old school cover two type of scheme, which leaves holes all over the field for a spread offense to take advantage of. If Minnesota doesn’t adjust and focus more on the intermediate zones Tampa Bay will take advantage and make a living on those 6-12 yard routes all day.
Risky Prediction: Josh Freeman plays a great game. Freeman has plenty of doubters out there, especially after failing to get his team a win last week. I still think the jury is out on whether he has what it takes to be a top 15 type quarterback in the NFL, but I do think he’s a mentally strong, gamer type of player who has spent all week looking forward to getting the chance to get back on the field and prove some critics wrong.
Who wins and why: Cue up the sky is falling talk in Tampa Bay because the Vikings are going to win this one behind a safe performance by McNabb and a big day from Adrian Peterson.
Chicago (1-0) at New Orleans (0-1)
What Type Of Game to Expect to See: Aggressive. Both of these teams like to bring pressure on defense. While they do it in two very different ways, you’re going to see a game decided by which quarterback handles the pressure the best.
Key Matchup: The Chicago pass rush against the New Orleans offensive line. The best way to stop an offense like the one that the Saints run is to get pressure from your front four, something that Chicago does better than almost any team in the league.
Risky Prediction: Jay Cutler throws more than one interception. I know, saying Cutler will throw picks isn’t exactly very risky, but after his performance last week it will be a big step backwards for him to revert back to his old ways.
Who wins and why: New Orleans will come out with an aggressive game plan on both sides of the ball. While they will miss a few times, they always do, the offense will get some big plays and the defense will force a few turnovers to get them a win.
Baltimore (1-0) at Tennessee (0-1)
What Type Of Game to Expect to See: An old fashioned style butt kicking. Tennessee isn’t very good at all, they lost to a Jacksonville team last week that is going to struggle against good teams, and we all saw what Baltimore did in week one.
Key Matchup: Ray Lewis against Chris Johnson. The only way that Tennessee even keeps this one close is if Johnson has a huge day, and it’s going to be up to Lewis to keep him from breaking into the second level of the defense where his speed and agility makes him so tough to handle.
Risky Prediction: Tennessee scores in the double digits. If Pittsburgh couldn’t do it then it will be amazing if the Titans can.
Who wins and why: Baltimore is going to run away with this, old school beat down style.
Cleveland (0-1) at Indianapolis (0-1)
What Type Of Game to Expect to See: Sloppy. Cleveland didn’t inspire any confidence with their play and, well, we saw what happened to Indy without Peyton Manning.
Key Matchup: Colt McCoy against the Indianapolis passing defense. McCoy’s play left plenty to be desired last week and he will look to prove that he deserved the buzz he was getting this summer. The Colts defense was atrocious against Houston and unless they get their pass rush going McCoy should have some open receivers to throw to.
Risky Prediction: That aforementioned Colts pass rush will get going. The Indy defense has been built to play with a lead and tee off on opposing teams that were forced to throw the ball to keep up the scoring pace with Manning and the Indy offense. Houston negated that advantage by taking such a huge early lead, but Cleveland won’t be able to do that.
Who wins and why: Cleveland takes this one because in the end this Indianapolis team is going to struggle all year long. I’m in the camp that buys into the idea that Manning’s injury is a serious, long term type of thing. This Colts team is demoralized after losing their leader and being embarrassed by a division foe.
Jacksonville (1-0) at NY Jets (1-0)
What Type Of Game to Expect to See: A dominant defensive performance by the Jets.
Key Matchup: Shonn Green against the defensive line of the Jaguars. The only way for Jacksonville to stay in this one will be for them to shut down the New York running game on first and second down and force Mark Sanchez to make throws on third and long.
Risky Prediction: The Jets force four or more turnovers. Luke McCown against the Jets defense? Ouch.
Who wins and why: The Jets, because Jacksonville is going to be really bad. They got lucky to face another bad opponent in their first game, but now they’re going to get a taste of what a good football team, especially one with a good defense, can do to them. Start the Blaine Gabbert talk.