Because of my new job and my birthday (and a steadt stream of Diet Mountain Dew), I am overly optimistic this morning, so I thought I'd preview the upcoming season through my newfound rose colored glasses while drinking some heavily spiked Kool-Aid (how's that for mixing metaphors?).
2008 Season Preview - Birthday Edition
vs. San Diego State University
The San Diego State Aztecs are bad. Awful. They don't even belong on the same field as the Fightin' Irish.
Notre Dame comes out with an attitude, and kicks SDSU up and down the field. After scoring 5 touchdowns in the first quarter, Weis sent in the second string. After they scored another 2 TDs halfway through the second, Weis sent in all the freshman. On the first down, Crist launched a laser to Floyd, who (sprung by a superb block by Deion Walker), raced for a touchdown. After kneeling the next two possessions, the all-freshman defense got another score to close out the half up 63-0. Rather than coming out for the second half, the team gave their jerseys to the Knott Hall interhall team, who came out and drove 80 yards for another score. The rest of the half saw several interhall teams come onto the field, with mixed results. Dillon Hall scored on a long pass, and Morrissey got a fumble recovery for a TD. Keenan and Siegfried both threw INTs, and Zahm kept getting lost in between the huddle and the ball, resulting in several embarassing delay of game penalties.
SDSU did come up with a huge goal-line stand at the end of the game, when the girls from Farley were stopped just inches from the end zone as time expired.
Prediction: 84-0 Notre Dame
vs. University of Michigan
The Skunkbears and Dick-Rod roll into South Bend after convincing wins against powerhouses Utah and Miami (OH). They have creeped back into the top 10 again, and are heavily favored against the lowly Irish.
Notre Dame loses the toss, and Michigan gets the ball first. Due to a rash of injuries to their QB corps, Dick Rod decides to do without a quarterback, instead direct snapping to the running backs and receivers. At first, things go great for Michigan, and they go up 14-0 early as the Irish offense struggles to move the ball against the Michigan D.
Then Tenuta and Brown decide to put all 11 men in the box, and start calling all-out blitz every down, old school video game style. Mo Crum and Dave Bruton each return a fumble and a tipped pass for a touchdown, and Brandon Minor and Kevin Grady go down with injuries.
Michigan, despite trailing by two touchdowns at the half, comes up with a new strategy. Michigan starts punting the ball on first down, and the Michigan defense actually picks off a Clausen pass and returns it for a score, bringing the Wolverines within 7.
However, with only a couple of minutes remaining in the game, Dick Rod decides to try to run an offense, and calls his team to the sideline to quickly install the A-11 offense. On the very next play, a walk-on QB from Michigan just gets off a desperation pass before being trampled by the Notre Dame defense. (Doctors say he is in stable condition, but may never walk again).
Michigan bobbles the pass, but eventually one of the receivers comes up with the ball, and takes off for the endzone. David Bruton, who read the defense and dropped back to the goal line in deep zone coverage, faces 8 blockers leading the way for the Michigan receiver. He sheds 6 blocks, and leaps over the final two blockers to rip the ball from the receiver only feet from the end zone, before racing to the other endzone for the final score of the game.
Prediction: 35-21 Notre Dame
at Michigan State University
Despite their back-to-back wins, ESPN votes the Irish into their Bottom 10 this week, chastising Tenuta for blitzing poor Michigan so much the week before, and calling for a congressional inquiry into the blitz scheme, claiming that it creates a substantial and unjustifiable risk a death or serious bodily injury.
Michigan State, on the other hand, has moved up to the top 3, largely on the strength of their win over Cal-Berkeley and ridiculous dismantling of Florida Atlantic the week before.
Notre Dame comes out of the gate strong on offense, as Clausen appears to have found some swagger and confidence in his wide receivers. He efficiently moves the ball through the air, with short, controlled passes for the first three scores, then a 73-yard bomb to a wide open Parris.
Problem is, Michigan State is moving the ball as effectively as the Irish, pounding the ball against our green defensive line until Tenuta brings Bruton down into the box. Hoyer proves especially adept at making the Irish pay when they stack the box, throwing touchdown passes of 65, 37, and 43 yards. Also, MSU adds a rushing touchdown.
Bruton finally gets the better of Hoyer late in the half, returning an interception down to the 31 yard line with 2 seconds left on the clock.
Brandon Walker's kick puts the Irish up 3 at the half.
After the halftime adjustments, both defenses stiffen, and neither team can move the ball.
The only fireworks in the second half are when a crazed (and naked) John L. Smith parachutes into the stadium late in the fourth quarter. Upon landing, he plants a Notre Dame flag at the 50-yard line and then runs over to Dantonio, attempting to rip the headset off of his head. He is finally subdued and taken to a nearby hospital for observation.
Prediction: 31-28 Notre Dame
vs. Purdue University
Purdue has been an exciting team to watch coming in to this game, with Tiller's new all-trick-play offense. He spent the offseason finding every trick play ever run by a football team, and has even invented a few of his own.
As a result, there are a lot of big plays both ways for the Boilermakers.
The game against Oregon many are claiming was the most schizophrenic game they've ever seen, with Oregon changing jerseys in between every play.
The Boilers dropped the game against Oregon 74-71, and beat Northern Colorado 67-34 and Central Michigan 62-56.
Now Purdue's crazy offense rolls into South Bend, and the Irish blitz happy scheme has blown the hype for this game way out of proportion. Nobody knows what to expect, and campus is abuzz.
Fittingly, the game starts with an onside kick - called by Coach Weis. Purdue recovers, however, and immediately runs a triple reverse, which results in a loss of 37 yards.
They follow that with a statue of liberty play that loses another 10, and a fumblerooski that gives the Irish the ball at the Purdue 3. A quick Hughes touchdown on the next play, and Weis and Haywood decide that maybe they should stick to a basic gameplan.
On the subsequent possession, Purdue tries the A-11 offense, but the Irish were not fooled this time, blowing it up and forcing the Boilers to run a swinging gate punt.
The Irish settle into a grinding offensive game plan, slowing down the game and limiting Purdue's opportunity to run all over the field.
Purdue does get some big plays, scoring on a hook and ladder and again on a free kick return after giving up a safety. But the Irish play disciplined defense, getting away from Tenuta's blitzing, causing the linebackers coach to run around the press box headbutting people as Brown calls a conservative game.
Notre Dame scores on long drives in each quarter, three touchdowns and a field goal. The defense gets another touchdown on a blocked fake kick on 2nd down.
After the game, Tiller refuses to shake hands with Coach Weis, and grabs the giant drum and starts banging it incessantly during Notre Dame's alma mater.
Prediction: 33-14 Notre Dame
vs. Stanford University
After all of the craziness to start the season, nobody knows what to make of the Irish at this point in the season. ESPN.com has them in the Bottom 10 and in the Power 16, the Coaches have them unranked, and the AP ranks them 17th.
For the first time in the season, the Irish play something resembling a football game, rather than a circus of crazy.
Aldridge, Hughes, Allen, and Gray all score rushing touchdowns, and Clausen adds another pair of passes himself, one to Kamara and another to Grimes in a beautiful diving catch.
On defense, Bruton and Mo Crum lead a defensive effort that renders the Stanford attack completely impotent, holding them to only a pair of field goals.
Prediction: 42-6 Notre Dame
at North Carolina
Notre Dame is finally getting some respect at this point in the season, and they are ranked in the top 20 going into the game with Top 20 and undefeated North Carolina.
In fact, both teams are tied for a 16th ranking in both polls.
To this point, in fact, the teams have had identical seasons.
North Carolina, with their sophomore quarterback, beat the snot out of McNeese State by a score of 84-0.
They survived a strange game against Rutgers in which 5 Rutgers players were ejected for chop blocking, as they were confused by Schiano's constant chopping motions on the sidelines by a score of 35-21.
Then they survive another game against Virginia Tech, where Beamer does away with the offense and defense and runs nothing but special teams plays all game long, but North Carolina ground out a victory on the ground. Tarheels won 33-14
Their game against Miami was a tale of two halves, with both teams jumping out early, and the offenses stagnating in the second half. Jimmy Johnson parachuted into the game, then punched out Coach Davis before trying to wrangle the headphones from Randy Shannon during the fourth quarter. He and John L. Smith are reportedly both heavily medicated but showing signs of improvement at an undisclosed sanitarium. They won the game 31-28.
The game before this one was a methodical dismantling of Connecticut by a score of - you guessed it - 42-6.
The Tarheels and Irish met on the gridiron, and they battled it out in an epic game. The lead changed hands 5 times, and both teams had big plays on offense and defense. It was like a championship bout, with the teams trading blow for blow. Burkhart missed a field goal, bouncing it off of the upright, from 61 yards as time expired in regulation, sending the game into overtime.
Hours later, Greg Little fumbled on the 1 yard line during an attempted two point conversion, recovered by the Irish and ending the longest game ever.
Prediction: 96-94 Notre Dame (13 OT)
There was much anticipation regarding this matchup between Weis and Willingham in each of their fourth seasons as the leader of their respective programs.
The first quarter got started under the leadership of Ed Donatell, the defensive coordinator, sparking whispers around the stadium that the winless Huskies had finally jettisoned the beleagured Ty Willingham.
However, part way through the game, Willingham pulled into the stadium in his golf cart, with his golf bag still in the back. After signing his scorecard, he took the clipboard and headset, and started glaring at his players, who had already fallen behind 14-0.
The Irish rolled easily over the Huskies, although they did have some trouble with the athletic Jake Locker, who threw for one touchdown and ran for two more. Problem is, they were all called back for penalties.
But the Irish offensive attack was on full speed during this game, spreading the ball to 20 different receivers and using 12 different players to run the ball. They had 7 different players score. Crist played the entire fourth quarter, throwing for a touchdown of his own - the second of his career.
Prediction: 49-0 Notre Dame
Charlie Weis put on a clinic this week at Pitt. Aside from an early mistake by
First of all, as much as I obsess about football, even I had trouble keeping up with Weis' playcalling. He was calling plays in the first quarter that led to successful plays in the third quarter. He was about five steps ahead of Wanny, and if he hadn't pulled his first string, he would never have punted. An example of Weis' playcalling:
In the first two drives, Weis called two screens, and
Late in the first quarter, Weis, having seen Pitt's tendency to watch for screens to
Weis knew before the play started that this would happen, and this is the beauty of his system. He has so many plays in his playbook, nicknamed The Phonebook by his players, that he has a play for literally every defensive tendency. He sees a weakness, and he exploits it.
The best thing about the Irish offense is the number of weapons they have at their disposal. At wide receiver, they have
The key play of the game was ND's first score, in which ND ran a called screen to
The wonderful thing about Weis is that he has put in an offense where every single playmaker on the team is a threat to move the ball on every single play. These guys have the capability to put up 40 points on EVERY SINGLE TEAM THEY PLAY THIS YEAR.
Prediction: 42-21 Irish
at Boston College
There was a huge controversy this week that dominated talk radio. The argument was whether it was poor sportsmanship for Coach Weis to keep his first string in the entire game, and to go for two in the final play of the game, thus ensuring the Irish would have sole possession of the most lopsided game ever in college football history.
Prediction: 223-0 Notre Dame
The Irish had an almost perfect game against the Midshipmen, who were clearly outclassed on the field.
After jumping out to a 28-0 lead by the end of the 1st quarter, Weis played his backups the rest of the way, which made for an exciting game, as the teams traded scores until the end.
There was one major loss for the Irish, as they lost Emeka Nwankwo, who was so inspired by the heart of the Navy team, that he left the team to sign up for a tour of duty. He is expected to return to the Irish after his time in the Navy.
Prediction: 42-24 Notre Dame
Syracuse head coach Greg Robinson tried to get his football team off of the team bus, but the team revolted and threw him out of the bus and drove back to New York, fearful for their health and safety should they take the field with Robinson calling the shots.
Not to disappoint the "sellout" crowd, the Irish decided to take the field anyway, and honored their past coaches by having Holtz and Parsegian take the field opposite Coach Weis. They flipped a coin to see who picks first, and drafted two teams to play that afternoon.
After four quarters of play, the two sides could not get the better of each other, and they finished the game tied at 28. Not wanting to risk injury, the team decided to call it a draw.
at Southern Cal
After an epic battle where two undefeated teams battled back and forth throughout the game, The Irish pulled ahead on a Jimmy Clausen run with less than 2 minutes remaining in regulation.
After giving up a 61-yard pass on 4th and 9, the defense stiffened and stopped the Trojans on their one inch line. With only one second remaining on the clock, the Trojans attempted a quarterback sneak. Marc Tyler pushed Sanchez into the end zone, and the SC student body rushed the field, celebrating their epic win over the Irish.
But after about 15 minutes of attempts at crowd control, it was finally determined that a penalty flag had been thrown on the final play.
Marc Tyler was flagged for Assisting the Runner.
Notre Dame wins, and moves on to the National Championship game.
Prediction: 31-28 Notre Dame
vs. the Ohio State University, 2009 BCS National Championship Game
The Irish roll into this game as the undisputed #1 team in the country, facing a 1-loss Ohio State team that lost a squeaker to Southern Cal earlier in the season.
They jump out to an early lead on some impressive long passes from Clausen to Kamara and Floyd. Grimes adds an impressive run on a wide receiver screen to put the team ahead 3 scores.
Then the Irish ground attack shifts into gear. With their top 5 backs rotating into the game, the Buckeyes have no answers to this attack, and their defense quickly wears down.
The Buckeye offense has some success passing late in the game, but Bruton makes some excellent plays in the end zone to hold the Buckeyes to field goals on 4 straight drives.
Prediction: 41-12 Notre Dame
I know we're still a year away from being title contenders, but it's my birthday - a guy can dream, can't he?