1. My season preview included music video footage for each position group. What song or video do you feel typifies this year's Notre Dame team heading into the season? Embed a youtube or other similar video if possible.
"For far too long these voices, muffled by distances,
it's time to come to our senses, up from the dirt."
Give It All, Rise Against
I've spent this entire offseason feeling like a schizophrenic, going from wild and unchecked optimism from the Hawaii game to defeatist realism from being not 3 games removed from the Syracuse debacle.
But, if there is one thing that has come through from all of the players and coaches this year, it's that they know how bad they've been. They know that they have the heavy responsibility of carrying Our Lady's torch, and that they haven't gotten it done on the field.
I feel like this team has weathered the growing pains that plagued them the last 2 years, and that they finally have the quiet confidence needed to break through. I still can't bring myself to predict a championship season, but I do know one thing.
These kids intend to give it their all.
Honorable mention: Drowning Pool, Bodies
2. Post a picture that to you portrays the attitude of this year's team and discuss.
What I like about this picture is that it takes a snap shot of a moment in time, and the viewer isn't entirely sure which way things are going.
Is this a ship that has persevered a storm, and come through the otherside unscathed, as the sun finally shows through, granting them hope that the trials are over?
Or is this a tiny ship, too far out at sea, as the winds begin to pick up and the cloud cover rolls in, beginning to block the sunlight?
As stated before, this is how I feel about the Irish. I want to believe that the storm is over, and that we have righted the ship and there is smooth sailing again. But if I'm wrong, the storm could be longer and blacker than I want to consider.
3. What do you perceive as the team's biggest weakness heading into the season?
This one took me a while to come up with. The easy answer would be the defensive line or the offensive line, in light of our recent struggles in these areas. However, I've chosen to dig a little deeper and pull out what I really think the weakness is.
Swagger. Cockiness. Attitude. Confidence. Nastiness.
Whatever you want to call it, we need it. Bad.
Oh, these kids want to win. And they think they can win. What they need, however, is to walk into each game KNOWING they're going to win.
This attitude comes from several factors, and it's something I haven't seen on the Notre Dame sidelines since Brady Quinn was our quarterback. The team's confidence in Quinn was palpable, and time and again - the last touchdown against USC in 2005, the comeback drive against Stanford to seal the Fiesta Bowl, the last second victory against UCLA - the team looked to it's leader and knew that it was going to win the game.
Of course, we were robbed of the victory against USC, but each time, he came out and led the team to victory.
This team needs that same attitude - come what may, we WILL find a way to win this game.
And that falls to Jimmy Clausen. He needs to take his place as the leader of this team. I'm not at all confident that he has the selflessness required for him to do so, but I can hope. And if by some miracle he is able to find within himself a leader, we may be a pretty good football team.
4. With the exception of the 1990s, Notre Dame has won a National Championship in every decade since the 1920s. What are the chances (a) that Notre Dame wins a championship this year, and (b) if not this year, when do you predict the next championship for the Irish?
(A) You've heard Lou and Beano predict that the Irish will go undefeated and lose to Florida in the National Championship game. And I'm sure you've all heard the haters that say that we'll suck again - my buddy Tom (a Boilermaker) was saying just the other day that we'll at most 9 games - if we're lucky.
Here's the thing - they're both right.
This team, based on talent and experience, ought to be able to beat everyone on the schedule, including USC and Florida, if they play to their potential.
However, this is the team that, just 3 games ago, lost to an atrocious Syracuse team.
And so, as much as the fan in me wants to go all in and predict a title for the Irish this year, I just can't. We'll find a way to stumble against a team that we ought to beat (MSU, Pitt, or Stanford), but we'll find a way to beat USC. And that will be enough for a BCS date with someone like Oklahoma or LSU. Which will be an intriguing matchup.
(B) Next year, however, I'm confident that we'll be able to put ourselves in position for a national title run. The schedule, although the last games are still being ironed out, is an interesting one. We'll play at USC, which will be the toughest game on the slate. But, we also bring the Utah Utes (who should have been voted the national title last year) to town. Combined with a traditional schedule (Pitt, BC, Stanford, Mich, MSU, Purdue, Army), this should be our year. I'm assuming that a Senior Jimmy Clausen will be back to lead the offense, and that we'll have Juniors Michael Floyd and Kyle Rudolph and Senior Golden Tate leading the deepest receiver group I can ever recall, behind a still experienced and deep offensive line, and a stable of running backs that is quickly starting to resemble the stable at our cross-country rivals at USC. Very little attrition is expected on an improving defense as well.
5. Nevada runs the Pistol offense, Navy the Triple Option, and Michigan the Spread Option. Which offensive scheme do you think is the most difficult to prepare for, and why?
The triple option attack is the most difficult to prepare for, because it is so difficult to stay disciplined. Assignments are critical on every single down, because this offense is not designed for the big play - it's designed to get 4 yards on EVERY SINGLE PLAY. Which means that you need to be able to not just make the tackles as assigned, but in order to stop them, you have to be able to disrupt the normal blocking scheme and disrupt the timing of the offense in order to have any success.
It always amazes me how quickly the triple option fell out of favor. In very short order, the kings of the option offense - Notre Dame, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Georgia, and Syracuse - all scrapped their option attacks for a more traditional offense.
With the introduction of the true option offense back into major college football at Georgia Tech, however, I'm expecting a resurgence over the next few years.
6. Is Colin Capaernick the best quarterback we'll see this year? If not, who is?
I had a bit of an ulterior motive for this question, as there are only two quarterbacks we'll face this year that have a history of quality experience to draw from - Jake Locker and Colin Capaernick.
While my answer to this question is that Jake Locker is the best QB we'll face this year, I wanted to take a minute to point out that this is my biggest reason for optimism this year. Boston College, Michigan, USC, Michigan State, and Purdue are all in heated quarterback battles that haven't yet been solidified.
While there are usually a couple quarterbacks each year that show up ready to play at a high level (Tebow, Bradford, McCoy, etc.), the general rule is that it takes time to develop a quarterback. And with the two best quarterbacks coming from a WAC opponent and a team that went 0-12 last year, I have reason to believe that our attacking defense will smother a lot of our opponents this year.
7. Prediction time. We have to get on the record before the season kicks off. Give me:
(1) Overall prediction for wins/losses.
(2) Projected bowl game and result.
Sugar Bowl win over Alabama
(3) Predicted final ranking.
(4) Best player on the team.
(5) Heisman trophy winner.
(6) National Champion.
(7) Prediction for Nevada game, including score.
Notre Dame wins easily, 45-17
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