We’re back. This thing is probably the only part of this blog that I do with any regularity (outside of trashing RichRod and YELLING IN ALL CAPS), and so I am proud to once again present my preseason game by game predictions.
I used to apologize for the hubris of calling every game’s result in detail. No more. Love it or leave it I say!!! (that doesnt make sense, does it? whatever!)
If interested, you can see how I did last year here. I was great, I was money, until I wasnt. Not horrible either though. (if you count being as good as a monkey tossing darts as ‘not horrible’.) I got Nevada right, missed Michigan, missed MSU, but then got Purdue, Washington, USC, BC and WSU right. Not a bad start at all. Then, oops, I DIDN’T call our losing to Navy, Pitt, UCONN or Stanford. Just like the Irish last year, I faded down the stretch to finish 6-6. My 9-3 downside was off by 3 games.
Ugh. So I was no better than flipping a coin last year. This year, though, I will have my revenge!
Damn you coin!
This is just as likely to be wrong as it is to be right (aka the Bad Kermit Effect)
I’ve got a good feeling, but am leaving myself some wiggle room
This is a lock, I am a genius, I cannot be wrong.
Week 1 – Purdue
ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Soooo boring I fall aslzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.
Okay, so, Purdue. (5-Hour Energy is my friend!). Purdue comes in full of Hope and Red Bull (to stay awake), but those hopes are not justified. ND out-talents and out-depths Purdue. And ND now has a real coach. Granted, there will be growing pains for the Irish this year, but Purdue is only in year 2 of A New Hope, and they struggled mightily last year despite their random W over Ohio State. Marve is a great transfer for them, and I think he’ll turn into a pretty high draft pick down the road, but he doesn’t have a ton in the backfield to help him out with the injury to Bolden. ND will focus on keeping that run game in check and forcing Marve to put the ball up to catch up, because ND will score early and often against a thin Purdue D. Kelly will use the running game well, and I think we’ll see an offense more balanced than one might expect in this game given the strength of our OL, especially in the middle. Marve will have to force some things to try to close the gap, and I expect turnovers for the Irish. It won’t end close.
ND Wins: 41 – 23
2 Dancing leprechauns because it’s the first game of the season, and good lord who knows what’s going to happen?
Week 2 – Skunkbears (AND THEY SUCK!)
Skunkbear fans were overly optimistic last year before the season began, and continued to be overly optimistic after the ND win. Haven’t they learned? Now they won’t be 3-9 again, but they won’t break .500 this year either. Sadly, RR will be gone by season’s end, and one of the best Villains out there will be gone. Horrible bummer. I digress…
ND will shred UM through the air and on the ground. The complete lack of skill and depth in the backfield at Michigan (because EVERYONE at UM is either hurt or transferred) will look like cake to a fat kid for Brian Kelly. He’ll go 4, 5, 18-wide against UM, and then just use the superior skill and conditioning of ND’s WR/TE group to move the ball at will. ND won’t need the running game much, and Crist will have a career day. (granted, not that big a feat 2 games into his career as a starter, but still…). ND’s defense will give up points, but it will be fits and starts for a Michigan offense that doesn’t yet have an identity. And if Shoelaceless actually does start, I expect at least 2 turnovers from him.
With a Defense that was even half effective, last year’s game wouldn’t have been close. This year we lose Jimmy and Golden, but we pick up an ENTIRE DEFENSE. I think that’s the difference.
ND Wins – 31-17
Week 3 – @ MSU
MSU is a tough one to call this year. Like most years, you don’t look at the roster and go ‘oh boy these guys are going to be great’, but they are always solid talent-wise, they have big boys along the trenches, and they always bring their A game against ND. They will also have ‘warmed up’ against a few HS JV teams before playing ND, where ND has tougher games against Purdue and Michigan (yes, Michigan will suck, but they’re at least a real team).
Caper will provide a good starting point for MSU’s offense this year. He’s a solid runner who had some success last year. That said, MSU lost 3 of their starting linemen – so to me, the big question here is ND’s DL vs MSU’s OL. If ND can blow that new/inexperienced MSU OL up and disrupt the run game a ton, they can force MSU to the air. While Cousins is a serviceable QB, he’s not a world-beater. This is ND’s best chance to take down Sparty. If the ND DL along with the LB crew isn’t up to that challenge, it could be a tough outing.
At this point, I don’t have enough evidence to show that our DL/LBs are quite ready for this kind of dominating performance. I hope they prove me wrong, but right now I have to think that this is a serious back and forth battle without a clear winner. That means MSU and Cousins will have the running game to lean on, at least a bit.
ND’s offense vs MSU’s D is a bit clearer, as their strength is up front and in the middle, especially with All-Everything LB Greg Jones anchoring things. I expect ND to avoid that area of the field like the freaking plague and to do any running to the outside. But really, this game will be another air show, as MSU’s pass D sucked last year, and hasn’t shown any major improvement in the offseason. So ND will move the ball through the air, and will put up points.
So both O’s will have success. How much is tough to call given the dynamics at play here. But I’m thinking this one goes down to the wire. While I’m not sure at all, we have a few of these toss-up games and I can’t give them all to ND. Plus, ND travels for the first time under Coach Kelly. So…
MSU Wins 37-34.
I’m not all the confident here obviously, so this could just as easily be an Irish W.
Click the “More” Button to Finish out the Season
Week 4 – Stanford
There’s a lot of buzz about Stanford and the turnaround that Coach Harbaugh has underway there. I have to agree that I’m impressed with what he’s done thus far, but the hype is too much. Yes, he’s improved recruiting and the product on the field. No, they’re not ‘there’ yet.
Stanford was literally carried to victory last year by a RB that is no longer there. While Luck is a good, solid QB, I don’t see him as the world beater that everyone is claiming he is. I think Toby made him look a ton better than he actually is last year, because every team they faced had to stack the box against the run. This year? Not so much. I think ND will be able to do a decent job against the Stanford passing offense (along with a lot of teams). I’m just not buying the Luck hype.
This doesn’t mean I think Stanford is the cakewalk they once were. They’ll have an average defense, and the O will move the ball. It’s just not going to be some fireworks show ala Clausen-to-Tate like some are claiming.
ND will most definitely move the ball again this year. Last year showed the issues Stanford has in the defensive backfield, and now they actually have to care about the run a bit too.
I think ND will win this one, but the big question mark is the Cardinal running game. If they can somehow replace TG, it could be a bit tighter than I’m thinking right now.
ND wins 33-21.
Week 5 – @ Boston College
BC is another foe that will depend on its running game to beat the Irish, so the DL/LB challenge is pretty similar to the MSU game. Shinskie isn’t a great QB, so they’ll just need him to manage the game, not screw up, and make plays here and there when needed. Montel Harris, however, is a solid RB. He’ll be aiming to give the Irish fits. Look for Spaz to try to put the pressure on the ND DL and MBs with a lot of leaning on Harris – once again the result of this game will be heavily dependent on ND’s ability to stop that run.
On the other side of the ball, ND should have some success by targeting the defensive backfield. (again – this is a ridiculous trend, but everyone’s strength seems to be the MLB.) That said, the DB situation at BC isn’t as dire as Michigan or MSU – they have a few decent and experienced players back there, having lost 2 of 4 starters from last season. The BC pass rush was weak last year (after being lights out the year before) and will be less than stellar again this year. That’s not some great glaring advantage for ND in an offense that gets rid of the ball in .2 second though.
This game is a tough one to call. BC’s defense will probably be one of the tougher D’s ND will face up to this point. We’re away for this one, and BC tends to be solid year to year.
This game will resemble MSU, but I think BC has the better OL and the better RB between the two programs. I think BC takes this one, but so much rides on that ND DL’s development or lack thereof that I’m not all that confident in the pick.
BC Wins 24-21.
Week 6 – Pitt
Genac this, Pitt!
Pitt is the highest ranked opponent ND will face this year, and they do look like a pretty solid squad. They have a solid running game with Dion Lewis, and a talented set of receivers on offense. The big question on the skill positions on O for them is QB. Tino (Tino!) Sunseri is the projected starter, and he comes into the season with almost no experience. Tino isn’t an all-world talent, and they won’t need him to be with Lewis carrying the load, and with solid WRs like Baldwin and Shanahan. His bigger concern should be the OL, where Pitt needs to find new guys at C and Guard, as well as blocking TEs (they lost 2). If Pitt can plug and play there, the offense is going to be dynamic.
Defense is solid for the Panthers as well. They finished 23rd overall in 2009, and return a solid core. They did, however, lose solid defensive players at every level (DT, LB, CB, S). That said, the Stache has done a good job recruiting on this side of the ball and they’ll have some pretty talented guys moving into those spots.
ND will be able to score against this defense – considering Cincy’s success last year that shouldnt be a big surprise – but Pitt will be moving the ball against ND as well, and they’ll be holding onto the ball a looooooong time with Dion Lewis churning out yards. This is a spot where I just dont think the ND DL will be able to hold up, and Pitt will get away from us.
Pitt Wins: 31-24
Week 7 – Western Michigan
The days of ND losing to inferior opponents are over. Granted, ND will come into this game beat up and bruised after a pretty difficult start to the season with tough games week in and week out. But no way. ND will not lose to a school that is directional in nature, regardless of which way the arrow points. Not to a West and not to an East. Not to a South and not to a North!
ND Wins: 45 – 10
Week 8 – @ Navy
Navy is a legit college program. Forget about it ‘being Navy’ simply because we beat them for 40 years in a row. Navy is legit. Look at their 00’s. Bowl games, lots of wins, success. I’d take their 2000’s over ours in a heartbeat. So let’s all quit saying that Navy is ‘just Navy’. Okay, that’s that.
Now….last year’s game was insane. Really, think about it. All those trips to the red zone. Fumbles on the 1 yard line, randomly weird things happening every time we got inside the 20. Last year’s game was really, really weird. And our D struggled big time. Despite Corwin yelling about their coaches’ comments, the Navy guys were right – ND brought a very similar plan back, which Navy expected, and they exploited it. That + our inability to finish off drives = Navy Victory.
Not this year.
First of all, I don’t expect BK to make those same boneheaded calls that Weis became famous for. Will he be aggressive? Yes. But I don’t expect to leave 23 points on the board like last year. Second, the defense should be better against the Navy Triple Option. Part of this will be improved fundamentals, but the other part is just being a year older and a year stronger and a year more mature along the DL. Yes, our coaching and the scheme was weak last year, but the guys in the trenches were also young and undersized (and sometimes out of position). Winning that battle along the line will drastically impede Navy’s ability to move the ball. And while I’m not sure about our run defense against teams like MSU and Pitt, that have huge 300 lb dudes pushing towards us, I’m liking it against Navy’s undersized OL later in the season.
ND Wins 38 – 20
Week 9 – Tulsa
Tulsa has shown the ability to put up points in recent years, and their staff has a consistent approach to get the most out of their guys (sound familiar?). Forget about last year’s disaster, as Tulsa was super injury-prone (especially along the OL) which wreaked havoc on their offense. At the same time, Tulsa plays a very weak schedule, and they don’t face defenses like ND often, so I don’t expect to see them lighting it up at ND Stadium this year. They’ll be able to move the ball, but I expect mistakes and turnovers to kill drives and lead to ND points.
Defensively, Tulsa employs a Tenuta-esque approach – get after it. Not sure, though, if they’ll be able to do so against BK’s super-quick-release offense. What’s the point of sending dudes after the QB if he never has the ball when you get there? If they get burned early and often, they’ll be forced to adjust, and ND will have them unstable.
Tulsa will be outmanned and outcoached in this one, and ND will roll at home.
ND Wins 45 – 17
Week 10 – BYE
Week 11 – Utah
Utah enters ND stadium as the 3rd highest ranking team the Irish will face (according to preseason rankings), falling in around 24-25 in the polls. Utah has had great success since the days of Urban Liar, and this year should be no different. They return most of their offensive firepower, and 4 guys along the OL. While they weren’t a super-productive offense last year (mid-50’s), they put up points and they won games. This year’s fairly veteran squad, with another year under their belt, should be better. Look for Utah to be pretty balanced with a quick strike passing attack and giving the ball to their trio of talented RBs.
Defensively, the Utes are returning a number of their better performers, though Linebacker remains the question mark going into the season. ND will have to be able to run the ball well in this game to give the WR group some space.
Despite the BYE week to rest up, I don’t know if ND will be able to dominate this game as we’d all like them to. Utah is a legit program and will likely be playing for significant BCS opportunities. I think this will be another toss-up, with the game going down to the wire.
Utah Wins: 30-27.
But again, this is a toss-up.
Week 12 – Army
Army is a respectable institution and I’m glad that ND continues to honor our armed forces by keeping them on the schedule. But Army hasn’t been able to do what Navy has done. The Black Knights will fight valiantly, but they don’t have the coaching or the scheme to keep up with Notre Dame.
This is a waxing, just in time to get the boys firedup for USC and their cheatin’ ways.
ND Wins: 44 – 13.
Week 13 – @USC
Many think this is the year that the streak ends.
I am here to say that I agree with that.
ND will come into USC sporting a 7-4 record, which is probably right around where the Trojans will be. The Trojans are not Pete Carroll’s Trojans, especially now that they have to stop paying players. And Kiffy is no Poodle. Not much is the same over at the Coliseum, except that USC is still ridiculously talented. Hence, the ‘maybe’.
ND has finally closed the talent gap. While we don’t have the same depth of talent that USC has had the past 7 years, USC doesn’t have that depth of talent anymore either due to transfers and graduation/the draft. But they’re still one of the most talented programs in the country. ND is behind, but barely.
On the Coaching front, we’ve finally passed USC. Despite his cheating ways, Poodle was a good football coach. Bob, Ty, and Weis? Not so much. Now, we have a good football coach. And Kiffykins is not a good football coach. He’s a good recruiter with good assistants, but he’s no head coach. At least, he hasn’t proven himself to be one yet with his sub-.500 performances in Oakland and Tennessee.
So USC has the slight edge on talent, ND has the edge in coaching, both teams will have similar (3-4 loss) records and the game is away for ND.
It’s game time.
ND will be up for this game, and they will be ready. USC will be up for this game early, but they won’t be as motivated. They’ll be playing for nothing. They are bowl-banned, and guys are thinking of jumping ship to the NFL early. With 2-3 losses on the year already, they’re starting to mail it in. It won’t be like they WON’T try, it’s just that they won’t have that edge anymore. The chinks in the armor are clear. Troy is falling.
But ND can’t just waltz to a victory here. USC still has the horses, so it’s going to be a battle.
But ND pulls off the W.
ND Wins: 27-24.
So that puts ND finishing up the regular season at 8-4. I think 7-5 is a realistic downside, and I think we could win as many as 10 games if some of the close ones go our way. But it’s a pretty tough schedule despite the WM/Tulsa/Army matchups. Steele says #19 in SOS, but I think we end up Top 15 in SOS by season’s end. There are some good squads on this schedule.
I think the 8-4 number feels right-ish. 9-3 and an Orange/Champs Sports Bowl appearance seems possible, and would be a good start to the BK era. Let’s do it boys.