Wednesday, September 1, 2010

IBG: Season Preview Edition

At first glance, the future looks nothing but Kelly Green. There’s a proven winner blowing the whistle, All-American talent at several offensive playmaking positions, and competition and experience on the two-deep for the first time in awhile. Even off the field, talk of training tables and intense workouts on Longo Beach have fans excited to see an extra burst late in the season where the team has recently struggled.
…But Notre Dame just lost a near-Heisman candidate quarterback, a Biletnikoff winning wide receiver, two NFL caliber linemen, and their leading defensive tackler. It’s possible that the losses in the offseason aren’t too far from the talent drop-off that led Notre Dame to their worst season in school history. 2007 saw a new quarterback with a O-line experiencing turnover growing pains, and a defense that looked slow and even soft as opponents routinely pummeled the Irish.

So as Notre Dame leaves behind a forgettable decade of football, do fans have reason for optimism in 2010, or must we suffer through another 7-5 season of gridiron purgatory? UHND kicks off the 2010 season’s first week of the Irish Blogger Gathering to help us find out.

1. Name one offensive players and one defensive player you are most excited to see in the new systems and why.

With the majority of media coverage calling him the lynchpin of our season, Dayne Crist has to be the player to watch on offense. Thousands of fans are waiting to see how well the highly touted recruit was developed under Charlie Weis and how many points this gun slinger can put on the board with Kelly’s spread. On the other side of the ball, while our success may not depend solely on Manti Te’o’s performance, many fans are equally excited to see this doombringer wreak havoc on opposing offenses at an elite level… as only a sophomore next season.
2. What’s one reason you think Brian Kelly is the right coach this time. What’s one reason you think he might not be?

Fans have to like the plethora of experience that Kelly is bringing to Notre Dame as a head football coach. Achieving his level of success across three programs as diverse as Grand Valley State, Central Michigan, and Cincinnati is no easy feat. On the other hand, winning national championships in D2 is impressive, but Notre Dame isn’t a D2 school. Similarly, resurrecting two programs in CMU and Cinci to win conference championships is impressive, but Notre Dame isn’t interested in winning conference championships. Kelly is still missing the BCS win that Irish fans will be expecting… let’s hope he can get it.

3. A lot of people are labeling Purdue, Boston College, and Michigan State as toss up games. Considering Notre Dame beat all three of these teams during the disappointing 2009 season, do you consider these games toss-ups or games you expect Notre Dame to win?

After the first six games, the 2010 season should almost entirely be in the books. There are few schools in the country that open with a schedule of Purdue, Michigan, MSU, Stanford, BC, and 15th ranked Pitt like the Irish will this fall. Even though there aren’t any blow-me-away tough opponents, the fact that all teams are formidable enough to take down a top 25 makes it a grueling slate. Out of the three games listed, it’s likely Notre Dame will drop 1. But Notre Dame faces only Navy, Utah, and USC in the second half of the season (each with a cupcake the week prior to rest and prepare), so taking 2 losses in the first six games would not be a bad scenario.

4. What’s one reason you think Notre Dame could shock the world and pull of another 1964-type season? What’s one reason you’re concerned we might see more of a 1997-type season?

As stated in the answer to the previous question, Notre Dame does not face a blow-me-away tough opponent until facing what should be a beaten, battered, and bruised USC squad at the end of the season. Yes, there are undoubtedly tough games in the beginning of the year (I’m cringing thinking about what Pitts run game can do to us if we don’t get fast and mean on defense real quick), but if the Irish can get through the first six games unbeaten, there is no limit to how they can close out the season. But like I said, that opening schedule is gonna be a grind…

5. Which freshmen do you see contributing the most on the field this year (outside of TJ Jones – that’s too easy)?

Look for Prince Shembo to get some quality reps in at linebacker while athlete Danny Spond may take a Zeke Matta role on special teams this year.

6. Other than Dayne Crist (too easy again) who is the one player Notre Dame can least afford to lose to injury for any significant period of time?

Hopefully the UHND crew doesn’t jinx our season with this question, but I am going to go with Ethan Johnson. The depth at D-Line is a weak point on this team, and the other #9 is a force to be reckoned with. Let’s hope all of our players stay healthy.
7. 2010 Season Predictions
Notre Dame record: 9-3
Bowl game for Notre Dame with opponent: Just outside BCS games
Final ranking: 15
Opponent with the highest final ranking: Pitt
Notre Dame’s offensive & defensive MVP: Offense Michael Floyd, Defense Manti Te’o
Best opponent offensive & defensive player:
Offense: Dion Lewis (Pitt) Defense: Greg Romeus (Pitt)
Best opposing coach: Jim Harbaugh (Stanford)
Game you are most excited to watch: USC 11/27/2010
Game you wouldn't mind watching on DVR: F*** it, we’ll do em all live!
National Champion: Alabama
Heisman Winner: Terrell Pryor
Purdue game prediction: W 30-20

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