Friday, September 01, 2006

Notre Dame at Georgia Tech - Preview

OK, so I'll add my voice to the din of bloggers that have prepared the standard breakdown of this game.

ON NDNation, NDTIGER had the following [mocking] recap of nearly everyone's blog breakdown for this game:

"Notre Dame has a great offense from last year! Georgia Tech's QB is hit-or-miss! Calvin Johnson is only one man! GASP - ND's defense gave up 617 yards, but I predict good improvement, have any of you heard of Travis Thomas moving to linebacker, or the team's focus on "playing fast??"

And, honestly, on a superficial level, that is the sum of this game. Calvin Johnson will get his touches, Notre Dame will score points, and the defense hasn't proven itself.

So let me break this game down where games are really won or lost: in the trenches.

Notre Dame Offensive Line v. Georgia Tech Defensive Line

Key matchup:
Sam Young, Freshman Offensive Tackle (Notre Dame) 6'7" 292 lbs. v.
Darrell Robertson, Junior Defensive End (Georgia Tech) 6'5" 240 lbs.

Young is a monster true freshman, the first in Notre Dame history to start his very first career game. And this isn't some unranked Davieham team he is starting for - it is the #2 team in the nation, according to the AP poll. This is a lot to ask of a
true freshman.
With four starts to his name, Robertson is a veteran backup who is finally stepping into the full-time starting role. He isn't a dominant pass rusher, but he has one big advantage over Young - experience.
If Georgia Tech wants to stay in this game, Robertson must consistently beat Young. If he does so, Walker will be forced to choose between picking up the unblocked defensive end or the blitz (which I expect Tech to do on almost every play).
I expect that if Robertson and the blitz have to much success early, we'll see a lot of draws and quick screens.
My prediction: Young, although inexperienced, has the size and strength advantage here. Robertson will beat Young a few times during the game, pulling from his bag of tricks, but won't beat him consistently enough to wreak havoc in the Notre Dame backfield. Young will dominate him in the running game.
Edge: Georgia Tech (barely)

Other matchups:
Bob Morton, Senior Guard, 6'4" 298 lbs. v. Darryl Richard, Sophomore (RS) Defensive Tackle, 6'4" 285 lbs.
Physically, these two players would normally play to a stalemate, as size and strength are pretty even. However, a stalemate generally favors the offense, and this is anything but a normal game for Morton. He will be highly motivated to beat the snot out of Richard in honor of his father, who passed away last week.
If Richard doesn't let himself get frustrated, and plays consistently, eventually the emotion that Morton will play with will get in the way of his concentration, and possibly allow Richard to get some penetration at key points in the game. He is a potential All-ACC defensive lineman, and that alone keeps me from giving the edge to Morton.
Edge: Even

John Sullivan, Senior Center, 6'4" 290 lbs. v. Blitz pickup and linebackers
This is a bit of a simplification, as the blocking schemes will matchup any combination of these players against blitzers or linebackers, but in a base package, the center (particularly on passing plays) will have responsibility for the inside blitz or help with other pass rushers. Sullivan, along with the rest of this line, has far too much experience to make many mistakes.
Edge: Even

Dan Santucci, Senior (RS) Guard, 6'4" 296 lbs. v. Joe Anoai, Senior Defensive Tackle, 6'3" 280 lbs.
Santucci will neutralize Anoai for the most part. Santucci is a good, but not great offensive lineman, and Anoai is a good, but not great defensive lineman. But, as I said before, ties go to the offense in the trenches.
Edge: Even

Ryan Harris, Senior Tackle, 6'5" 292 lbs. v. Adamm Oliver, Junior Defensive End, 6'4" 265 lbs.
This one isn't even close. Ryan Harris is big, strong, fast, has great hands and footwork, loads of experience, and a great understanding of the offense. Brady doesn't have to worry about his backside this year as long as Harris stays healthy. Adamm Oliver is a very good defensive end, and may get himself a sack tomorrow, but he will not be a factor lining up against Harris every down.
Edge: Notre Dame (by a fair margin)

Notre Dame's Defensive Line v. Georgia Tech's Offensive Line

Key Matchup:
Victor Abiamiri, Senior Defensive End, 6'4" 270 lbs. v. Mansfield Wrotto, Senior Offensive Tackle, 6'3" 310 lbs.
This is an interesting matchup. If Wrotto gets his hands on Vic, he has the strength and size to stop him dead in his tracks. However, Wrotto can't get his 310 pound frame moving quickly enough to catch Vic if he takes a wider angle. Problem is, with Reggie Ball being such a rushing threat, Vic won't be able to be overly aggressive as a pass rusher, as the defensive line will largely be focused on containing Ball.
On rushing plays, Vic will really struggle not being blown off the ball by the stronger Wrotto. Vic will be a great pass rusher this year, but this team doesn't match up well with his strengths.
Edge: Georgia Tech

Trevor Laws, Senior Defensive Tackle 6'1" 283 lbs. v. Nate McManus, Junior Offensive Guard, 6'3" 295 lbs.
Laws has a leverage advantage here against McManus. He isn't giving up much weight, but Laws' shorter stature will allow him to get under McManus' block and penetrate the backfield.
Edge: Notre Dame

Kevin Tuminello, Junior Center 6'4" 285 lbs. v. Notre Dame Linebackers and Blitzers
With Crum playing the inside 'backer, Tuminello had better be prepared to move his feet. Crum's quickness could play to our advantage if he can shed Tuminello's block. If Tuminello can tie him up in traffic, the edge here could go to the Yellow Jackets.
Edge: Georgia Tech

Derek Landri, Senior Defensive Tackle, 6'3" 277 lbs. v. Matt Rhodes, Junior Guard6'3" 285 lbs.
Here is another matchup that pits two basically even players against each other, and ties go to the offense.
Edge: Georgia Tech

Ronald Talley 6'4" 262 lbs., Junior Defensive End and Chris Frome 6'5" 260 lbs., Senior Defensive End v. Andrew Gardner, Sophomore Tackle
Gardner is the least experienced member of the offensive line, and he will be facing a rotating pair of defensive ends that will simply wear him down over the course of the game. Expect Gardner to be effective early, but that in the later quarters, Frome and Talley will start to have quite an impact.
Edge: Notre Dame

The lines are fairly evenly matched, but Notre Dame's depth and experience on both sides of the ball give the Irish an edge in this game. Notre Dame's biggest weakness against this team will be getting pressure on the quarterback and stopping the run. Georgia Tech's weakness, however, will be their aggressiveness. Notre Dame's veterans on the offensive line won't make many mistakes, and when Young goofs, Darius Walker will be there to pick up the missed blitzer. Quinn won't be able to stand in the pocket forever, but I'm sure Coach Weis has a bunch of quick slants, draws, quick screens, and receiver screens dialed up to take advantage of Tech's aggressiveness.

My Prediction:
Notre Dame 42
Georgia Tech 21

How I see the game playing out:
Reggie Ball has a great day, connecting with Calvin Johnson for 100+ yards and two big touchdowns, and adding another score of his own on a scramble, while the Tech offense moves the ball effectively for much of the day. Notre Dame's bend-don't-break defense is surprisingly opportunistic, though, forcing a couple of turnovers deep in their own territory.
Brady Quinn, however, makes Reggie Ball look downright silly. He peppers a bunch of quick, accurate throws to multiple receivers all over the field, while Darius uses his versatility on draw plays and screens to rack up nearly 200 yards in total yardage. Just when the defense appears to be tightening, Brady strikes, finding McKnight and Samardzija deep with 3 long touchdown passes, and Darius scores one on the ground and one through the air. Schwapp pounds one in to ice the game late.

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