1. The obvious question for the week, how does Notre Dame deal with the loss of Michael Floyd? What wide receiver steps up? How, if at all, does the offense change?
I think that we need Duval Kamara to step up his game. He's been toiling in the shadows of Tate and Floyd, and now he has the opportunity, with the coverages all rolled over to Tate, to prove he can win the one-on-one matchups.
Of course the offense changes when such a potent weapon disappears from your arsenal. Just look at last year's offense when he was out of the game. However, unlike last year, I think we have enough options, including a running game, to mitigate the loss of Floyd. We still have Tate and Rudolph, and Armando out of the backfield. Maybe even one of the other receivers (Parris, Evans) will step up their game.
Although I'd much rather have Floyd out there on the field, this injury actually makes next year's team even more dangerous. You know Floyd will come back being Floyd (it is just a collarbone, not a leg injury of some sort), and now we'll have a lot more game experience on an already dangerous receiving corps.
I'm already salivating to watch this offense next year...
2. After seeing three games from Notre Dame in 2009 have your expectations increased, decreased, or remained the same?
Same, leaning towards decreased. I still think this team is capable of putting together an 11-1 regular season, which with a loss in a bowl game would make us 11-2, my preseason prediction. However, the loss of Floyd will make it a little tougher to score points, and the defense (especially the secondary) is worse this year than I thought they'd be.
So, we could be as bad as 9-3 after the season, which would be below my expectations. Of course, my preseason expectations were based upon a season with a healthy Tate, Floyd, Clausen and Rudolph. (I think we're better equipped to fill in for a running back injury)
3. The last two years against Purdue a Notre Dame player has had their breakout game. In 2007 it was Golden Tate and in 2008 it was Armando Allen. Who do you think could have their breakout game against the Boilermakers this year?
Ethan Johnson. This kid is supposed to be a freakish athlete, and I think it's time for him to show up as a disruptive force in a big way this week against a team that has done a mediocre job against talent that is nothing like what they'll see on Saturday.
However, if the Boilermakers find a way to keep it close, it will be due to a breakout game by the Big Ten officials, who have shown glimpses of being able to take over games the last two weeks, but have a big challenge if they expect to keep Purdue in the game this week.
4. How would you grade the three new coaches on this year’s staff based on the first three games?
Frank Verducci: A+. This is the kind of offensive line I remember from the Joe Moore years. And, I must admit for the first time since Weis was hired, these guys are straight nasty.
Tony Alford: B+. Armando Allen has developed into a true running back, not just a scat back, which is impressive. I haven't seen much from the depth, however, which is the only thing holding him back from a similar A+ rating.
Randy Hart: C. He's not exactly failing, but I haven't seen the disruptiveness we need along the line to allow this blitz package to work. We're still pretty young, but I expected more.
5. Your thoughts on Golden Tate’s stage dive into the Michigan State band? Was he trying to avoid running into the band? Was the whole thing intentional? Little of column A, little of column B?
Despite that I know Golden Tate is a bit of a showboat, I'm going to go with he was trying to avoid the band. He had one step to make a decision, and there is no way he was thinking about celebrating that quickly after the concentration required to make that catch.
And really, he had no option. He couldn't slow down, and he would have seriously injured himself and/or a band member if he had kept running. The stage dive was the appropriate thing to do, spreading himself out and jumping over the first row to minimize his impact on any individual.
It did look pretty cool, though. In fact, the picture is my desktop background right now at work. And I love the youtube video tribute...
6. How has your opinion of the Notre Dame schedule changed from how you felt about it in the pre-season?
Hmm... Let's look at it game-by game:
Nevada - same. The Wolfpack will be a good team in their conference, but can't hold up against the big boys.
Michigan - better. Although I don't think Michigan is a top 25 team, and their win over the Irish was a perfect storm, the Wolverines are far better than I thought they would be.
Michigan State - same. Central Michigan is no slouch with Dan Lefevour at QB, and they played us tough throughout the game. About as expected.
Purdue - same. I thought they'd be a bad football team, and what do you know? They are.
Washington - better. 2-1 with a win over USC? Certainly got my attention. I think their lack of depth will rear its head as the season progresses (they were 0-12 last year, remember?), but they are clearly better than I thought.
Southern Cal - worse. A preseason top 5 team that has struggled mightily, including a loss to a team that went 0-12 last season. Even more beatable than I thought at the beginning of the season.
Boston College - same. 2-1 with a loss to a good Clemson team. I thought they'd take a step back this year, and it appears they have.
Washington State - better. They did beat SMU, which is more than I thought they'd do.
Navy - same. Played Ohio State tough, and almost forced overtime. Lost a tough game against Pitt. Almost said better, but they are 1-2.
Pitt - same. Should be a tough opponent, and have taken care of business so far at 3-0. We'll know a little more once they get into the conference schedule.
UConn - same. A close loss to a decent North Carolina team. Close wins over Ohio and Baylor? About as expected, maybe slightly worse.
Stanford - worse. Much was being made of how tough Stanford was supposed to be this year, and how it may be a battle for us to qualify for BCS consideration. But, they lost to Wake Forest - who lost to Baylor.
3 better, 2 worse. I'll call it a wash and say the schedule isn't much tougher than when we started.
7. Should Jimmy Clausen be getting more hype for the Heisman?
Absolutely. He's not in one of those crazy, chuck it every play offenses like Hawaii and Texas Tech. He's in a pro-style balanced offense.
And he's absolutely KILLING the other QBs in the country.
Look at the stats for the "leaders" in the Heisman race (for QBs):
Jimmy Clausen, Notre Dame 62/91 951 yds, 9 TD, 0 Int. 68.13 comp %, 10.45 yd/att, 15.34 yd/comp, 20.67 att/gm, Passer rating 188.55
Colt McCoy, Texas 75/110 859 yds, 6 TD, 4 Int, 68.18 comp %, 7.81 yd/att, 11.45 yd/comp, 25.00 att/gm, Passer rating 144.51
Tim Tebow, Florida 39/58 540 yds, 5 TD, 1 Int, 67.24 comp %, 9.31 yd/att, 13.85 yd/comp, 13.00 att/gm, Passer rating 170.45
Jacory Harris, 41/59 656 yds, 5 TD, 2 Int, 69.49 comp %, 11.12 yd/att, 16.00 yd/comp, 20.50 att/gm, Passer rating 184.07
Case Keenum, 55/76 725 yds, 7 TD, 1 Int, 72.37 Comp %, 9.54 yd/att, 13.18 yd/comp, 27.50 att/gm, Passer rating 180.26
1st in yards. 1st in TD/INT ratio. 1st in passer rating.
There are other players out there worthy of consideration - Jahvid Best, C.J. Spiller, maybe even Dez Bryant or Golden Tate from the receiver position (Floyd's Heisman hopes ended with his collarone injury) - but Clausen is clearly head and shoulders above the rest of the QBs.