So last night we got our first taste of the 2009 college football season. A little over 24hrs from now both the Irish and the fighting Nittanys will kickoff their respective years. This provides one last chance to offer predictions on what will happen over the next couple months. As I’m sure you’ve seen, Billy offered his well-reasoned picks for both teams—I especially like his gameplan for stopping Tim Tebow in the National Championship. I hear he has a weakness for Macedonian women Bill—wouldn’t be the first time they’ve done the seemingly impossible.
Here’s a legit preview of the Irish from someone who follows them as close as humanly possible.
Returning Starters: 15 (9 offense, 6 defense)
Strength of Schedule: #36 (Phil Steele Magazine)
Key Losses: FS David Bruton (drafted by the Broncos)
Key Returners: Everyone of significance
Freshman Contributors: LB Manti Te’o, KR Theo Riddick, and K Nick Tausch
Notre Dame is coming off a disappointing year of 7-6. In three different games they blew double digit leads (including to
The offense should be one of the best in the country. Jimmy Clausen is much farther along at this point in his career than Brady Quinn was. He completed 61.9% of his passes last year (Brady was 54.1% his sophomore year) and there’s no reason to believe he won’t take another step in the right direction this year. Yes, he threw way too many interceptions last year but that’s not abnormal for a young quarterback trying to do too much. He has another year under his belt and the best WR-TE combo in the country at his disposal. Wide receivers Golden Tate (Jr.) and Michael Floyd (So.) could be even better than the record breaking duo of Samardzija and Stovall from 2005. Also one name few people outside of Notre Dame know is tight end Kyle Rudolph (So.). He’s a future first round draft pick and could be the best tight end in school history when all is said and done. The offensive line has a new coach (Frank Verducci from the Cleveland Browns) and over 100 combined career starts, making it one of the most experienced lines in the entire country. They were much improved in pass protection last year (cutting the number of sacks allowed in half); could there be a similar leap in run blocking under Verducci’s tutelage this year? On the defensive side of the ball the Irish are loaded with talent, albeit inexperienced talent. The front seven will be one of the questions that must be answered, but for the first time in years there is a surplus of talent at the coordinator’s disposal. They also have one of the best secondaries in country, spurred by the return of exiled cornerback Darrin Walls and LB Harrison Smith’s shift back to safety. On top of all this, Charlie Weis is taking back play calling duties. Add this with the fact that—like
That being said there are still major questions. I will have serious doubts about the offensive line until I see improvement with my own eyes. I’ve seen five straight spring games and the first four were very good indicators of what was to come in the fall. When I left the stadium in April I didn’t think the O-Line was quite there. Paul Duncan starting at left tackle petrifies me. It’s been almost a decade since we had a legitimate running attack that could move the ball on elite level defenses. On defense, Kerry Neal just may not be big enough to stand up against the run. We’re also relying on a lot of inexperience to step up at the linebacker position and the interior defensive line.
Perhaps most importantly, is the real Charlie Weis the one that came in and orchestrated one of the best offenses in school history in 2005 or the one that got out-coached last year by a lame duck
The objective person in me says that Notre Dame will go 10-2 this year. We’re still not on Southern Cal’s level yet so that would be one loss and I feel this team probably isn’t ready to take care of business every week they should. Where would that second loss come? Maybe at home to
That being said, for the first time in awhile there’s a chance for something really special to happen in
And now a quick preview of
Penn State has never handled preseason expectations well—the two highest rankings they’ve achieved in the past ten years have come in years where no one picked them to do anything (unranked in 2005, #22 last year). They were routinely a top ten preseason team in the late 90’s and played in more Alamo Bowls than BCS bowls. They had a chance to head to the championship last year and just had to take care of an
Best part of this weekend? The speculating finally comes to an end.