Wednesday, August 26, 2009
More Notre Dame...I Know, I Know
Here's my take on the 2009 edition of the Fighting Irish football team. No one can accuse this reporter of being biased in favor of the Irish, but I do follow them fairly closely. I mean, it's impossible not to follow them seeing as every game is on television and ESPN has yet to put Lou Holtz out to pasture.
But without further ado, here we go.
Nevada @ Notre Dame
This one should be interesting. Nevada has a far superior running game returning two 1,000-yard rushers, one of whom is quarterback Colin Kaepernick. I think the passing games are pretty even but the Irish defense will be a blitz-happy unit under Jon Tenuta and should slow the Nevada attack. Home field helps too.
Notre Dame 24
Notre Dame @ Michigan
Yes the spread will work in the Big Ten, but not this year. Rich Rodriguez needs another year to implement his scheme and get his personnel in place. It’s still a rivalry though, so anything can happen.
Notre Dame 35
Michigan State @ Notre Dame
History only means so much. The string of Michigan State wins in South Bend is impressive but it doesn’t really mean anything. MSU doesn’t even know who their quarterback is yet. Despite that, I really like Mark Dantonio as a head coach and I think the Spartans are a team to watch this year in the Big Ten.
Michigan State 31
Notre Dame 28
Notre Dame @ Purdue
No more Joe Tiller as coach. No more Curtis Painter at quarterback; heck, Purdue wasn’t even good with both of them last season. This one could get ugly. On the bright side the Purdue faithful know how to party so no worries for the Boilermakers.
Notre Dame 42
Washington @ Notre Dame
It was a bad year for the Huskies in 2008. The only real bright spot is Jake Locker who is the best quarterback you’ve never heard of. His injury last season derailed what promised to be an excellent season for the dual threat QB. I don’t think they have enough tools for him to win this one, but again…anything can happen.
Notre Dame 30
USC @ Notre Dame
It doesn’t matter who their quarterback is, USC is superior at every position and has talent to burn despite all the players they’ve sent to the NFL in recent years. The 2005 game Brain referenced was lightning in a bottle and even that didn’t quite work out. All the tradition, pomp and circumstance in the world can’t make your players better. If they wear the green jerseys they’ll probably lose by more.
Notre Dame 17
Boston College @ Notre Dame
Boston College is in a real mess. Their only returning QB with any experience is gone and Mark Herzlich, the best defensive player in the ACC and arguably the best linebacker in the country is out for the season as he battles cancer. The only bright spot for the Eagles is that new head coach Frank Spaziani is one of the three best defensive coordinators in the country (The other two being Bud Foster of Virginia Tech and Tenuta). We’ll see how he does as a head coach.
Boston College 7
Notre Dame 35
Washington State @ Notre Dame (in San Antonio)
Boy, it’s tough times for football in the state of Washington. The Seahawks are the best bet for a winner this year as the Cougars join their chief rival Huskies in rebuilding a once proud program. I’m not very optimistic about their chances of improving on their two wins from last season either. This one should be another laugher.
Washington State 3
Notre Dame 42
Navy @ Notre Dame
Contrary to what Brian said, I don’t think Navy’s offense is gimmicky at all. It’s a highly complex system that requires extreme precision from all 11 players and timing is the most crucial component. No team possesses those skills like the Midshipmen. Losing Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada (I only missed one letter the first time without looking!) certainly hurts, but there is no shortage of disciplined athletes in Navy’s system that can pick up where he left off. Look for Ricky Dobbs to take the snaps and run the offense. ND wins this one, but don’t be shocked if Navy pulls an upset.
Notre Dame 28
Notre Dame @ Pittsburgh
Pitt is an interesting team. I think they’ll probably win the Big East this year (which isn’t saying much) after losing to league champion Cincinnati by only seven points and losing just one other conference match against Rutgers last year. Bill Stull is a capable quarterback, and even without LeSean McCoy, Pitt could cause plenty of trouble in 2009.
Notre Dame 31
Connecticut @ Notre Dame
Unfortunately for the Huskies, they no longer have Donald Brown in the backfield. Brown is a terrific back who ran for over 2,000 yards last season and scored 18 touchdowns to boot. I just don’t see them being able to replace that kind of production, plus they’re on the road in this one.
Notre Dame 31
Notre Dame @ Stanford
Brian’s right, this is a very dangerous game for the Irish. Tavika Pritchard is a solid quarterback so if Andrew Luck is really good enough to keep him on the bench, Stanford should be in good shape. I also really like Toby Gerhart who had 1,136 yards rushing last season. Jim Harbaugh has done a nice job improving Stanford and I look for them to make a bowl game this season. It’ll be interesting however to see how the team that lost it’s last three games in 2008 when it needed one win for a bowl fares at the end in ’09.
Notre Dame 24
So my overall prediction is Notre Dame finishing the regular season at 9-3. They may lose another one somewhere and pick up a win I don’t expect, but I think 9 wins is a fairly reasonable expectation for this bunch. All the national championship talk (Lou Holtz I’m looking in your direction) is pretty ambitious for a team that finally figured out how to win a bowl game just last year after a much-publicized postseason victory drought.
This season will be critical for the future of head coach Charlie Weis. He’s a terrific coordinator and a very smart offensive mind. I’m starting to think he’s in over his head as a head coach however. His 29-21 record (with 19 of those wins coming in his first two seasons) leaves a lot to be desired, a sort of one step forward two steps back kind of thing. I’ve also questioned some of his administrative moves, most importantly making the aforementioned Tenuta a co-defensive coordinator. The guy wasn’t even calling plays last season. That’s just mind boggling to me.
I of course being a Hokie am a big proponent of giving a coach plenty of time to get his system implemented and find the right blend of coaches. This is a talented team and a talented coaching staff but this season, right or wrong, will probably decide Weis’ immediate future as the head man in South Bend.