Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Notre Dame Preview

Washington has never beaten Notre Dame in a series that stretches back to the late 1940's. The series was renewed the last decade after the retirement and death of former Notre Dame AD legend Moose Krause. Krause swore that the Irish would never again schedule Washington after the Huskies paid off the refs to keep it close in a game at Husky Stadium back in 1949.

Time heals most things, and the Irish and the Huskies are now starting to play each other regularly. Since the series was renewed Washington has been outclassed by the Irish at home, and on the road. This year may prove to be different since both programs are trying to rebuild from one of the lowest points in their storied histories. UW just may have the edge going into this one.

Most Notre Dame fans blame Tyrone Willingham for most of the teams current problems. It is no secret that Ty didn't recruit that well at Notre Dame. It is also no secret that Weis did pretty well his first two years using Ty's players. The Irish fans are not enamored with Weis anymore after last years pathetic season. Notre Dame demands victories, and BCS bowl games every single year, there is little margin for error in South Bend.

Notre Dame is coming off one of its worst seasons in history and Coach Weis is on the very hot seat after being sainted his first two years as head man at ND. It’s hard to imagine the Irish repeating last year’s 3-9 campaign in 2008. They were blown out in their first five games, crushed 38-0 by rival USC, and lost to both Air Force and Navy, but 6-6 in 2008 is a more likely scenario.

The Irish, like Washington figure to field a better team in 2008. A much better team, in fact because of all the talent Weis has been stockpiling. Like Washington, the strength of the team is in the last two recruiting classes, so there is a major maturation process going on. Young talent aside, there are still major questions about this team on defense, along both lines, and most importantly from a psychological standpoint. This Irish have to figure who they are, what they represent, and how they are going to get there.

The Notre Dame offense was so bad last year that the defense's troubles sometimes escaped notice, but the fact is, this is a very average defensive unit. Notre Dame gave up 30 or more points in each of its first five games, then let Navy score 46 and Air Force score 41 before finding a groove in its last two games, but those games were against lowly Duke and Stanford.

The lone bright spot for the defense appeared to be in the secondary where three starters were supposed to return. Safety David Bruton had a great junior campaign and will be looked to as a leader during his senior season. The pass defense was ok last year and corners Terrail Lambert and Darrin Walls seemed adequate enough to handle just most receivers.

Walls unfortuantley left the team this summer to head home to deal with undisclosed personel problems which means the Irish defense is going to have another big hole to fill in 2008. Jr. Rasheon McNeil will try to fill the void left by Walls at CB.

Without tackle Trevor Laws, who is now in the NFL, the defensive line could be even worse than they were last season when they gave up nearly 200 yards a game on the ground. Linebackers John Ryan and Maurice Crum need to have big years if the defense is going to get a lot better.

Coach Charlie Weis has nine starters back from last year’s offense, including a couple good skill guys. You know the guy is on track to get it turned around because he has a top five recruiting class each season. The talent will be there, but Irish fans are questioning whether Weis can coach or not.

Leading the way for the Irish offense will be quarterback Jimmy Clausen (1,254 yards passing, 7 touchdowns, 6 interceptions) who almost certainly will be better this season than he was in 2007. Clausen has all the talent in the world; he just needs a little confidence, and some time to throw the ball.

Clausen's biggest hurdle this season is going to be wiping out the memories of 2007. The kid played way before he was ready, and only time will tell if he can recover psychologically from the beating he took last season.

Clausen loses his top target, reliable tight end Jon Carlson, so he will likely rely on promising receiver Duval Kamera, who caught 32 passes and scored four touchdowns in 2007.

Running back is a position of mild concern, though Robert Hughes showed some promise late last season, when he rushed for 110 yards against Duke and 136 against Stanford. The offensive line, which was quite frankly horrible in 2007 (Clausen alone was sacked 34 times), will be anchored by right tackle Sam Young.

How Do You beat Notre Dame?

You let Notre Dame self destruct and you punish them with Jake Locker all night. No way can the Irish defense deal with Locker at Husky Stadium. The Irish can't stop the run, and the defense still will be weak this season. UW just needs to hammer it all day to pick up its first W in the series.

What do I think?

I think Notre Dame will be one of the weakest teams we play all year. The Irish are down, and they were much worse than us last year. I am not buying the Jimmy Clausen hype, I will take Jake Locker, and our defense any day over this squad. The Irish have a lot of young talent, but until they get a years experience under their belt they will still struggle in 2008.

So Husky and Irish fans, that's right, I am predicting a Washington win over Notre Dame which means the Huskies win two out of three non conference games in 2008.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

What a ridiculously slanted garbage-fest of an "article". Putting aside the factual errors (John Ryan isn't a linebacker), it's just too unbalanced and unmeasured to be taken seriously.

"LIKE WASHINGTON, the strength of the team is in the last two recruiting classes..."

Your 2007 recruiting class was terrible.

"I will take Jake Locker and OUR DEFENSE..."

Your defense was a joke last year, and you lost two 5th year seniors and 4 year starter off the d-line. Savannah won't be able to practice at all before the season starts. Good luck.

"...you punish them with Jake Locker all night."

That's assuming he's still healthy. Despite what you think, your skill-position talent sans-Locker is both sub-par and inexperienced; a legion of two and three star studs. No more Reece and Russo. No more 1,300 back that single-handedly won about 3 games last year with 200+ yard efforts. Locker will be a one-man team, and will be pounded on as such. He'll be lucky to still be on the field by the time the ND game rolls around.

You're in for a very rude awakening this Fall. Oh yeah, and you have zero commitments so far.

Bryan said...

Since my favorite team is the Irish and my second favorite team is the Huskies, this game is definately of interest and I´m sorry that I won´t be able to see both teams win this weekend.

Sorry anon/jerk, but Jake Locker will be healthy and I really don´t expect that my Irish will be able to contain him at all. The Huskies will win this game, and Jake locker will produce a TON of yards with his feet and probably in the air as well.

I read this blog almost everyday and I must say I disagree with your thermometer... Weiss´ seat isn´t really that hot. I could be wrong but although we demand a lot from our team we could also use some stability. Weiss made some terrible play calls last year, but I believe that he´s given his play calling duties away to his OC (although I follow so many freakin teams I can´t keep them straight).

Also, I don´t think that the ND defense will be worse than last year. The defense was actually VERY good last year... they were just on the field for 3/4 of the game and any defense would be ineffective in that situation. With the improved offense (and I really do believe it is improved) a slightly less talented defense will be just fine.

But I´m picking the Huskies in this one.

John Berkowitz said...

I tend to call it as I see it, and Notre Dame traditionally is one of my favorite teams. Notre Dame also was one of the worst teams in college football last season, and I mean on both sides of the ball.

I see the Irish improving to 6-6 in 2008, and back into probable BCS contention in 2009. You can't deny that Weis hasn't done a great job recruiting.

Washington's defense was terrible last year, and if you take the time to read the blog we aren't covering up anything in that respect.

The loss of the interior defensive linemen is negligible, they weren't very good as the record indicated.

Everyone who observed the Huskies this Spring felt the defense was improved in many ways. How improved will be determined immediately over the first three games.

I think our 2007 recruiting class was pretty good, and it filled a lot of needs. particularly in the skill areas on both sides of the ball.

As for departed seniors Reese, and Russo weren't anything special, the kids taking over have much more talent.

Rankin picked up a lot of yards, but he certainly was not a game winner. The guy couldn't pick up the third and two, and that cost UW 2-3 wins.

I am not too concerned about recruiting and the lack of commitments in mid July.

As far as Jake Locker goes the kid is a horse who will be a dramatically improved player in his second year. He is going to take his knocks here, and there, but it isn't like he is fragile.

Anonymous said...

berk:

I see the irish having a solid season. It is easy to predict 6-6. all of the analysts are doing that. Bottom line is they have a lot of young talent. And Clausen will be a good one just as Quinn was a good one. here is the difference between the huskies and the Irish.
Notre Dame has better overall younger talent. Ty has recruited well for you not the Irish. Weis has had 3 solid recruiting classes which puts the better ones domination the team as sophomores and juniors. They also have 1 year of experience under their belts. Jake Locker is a terrific running QB. He is forced to. He is not very accurate and that causes problems. Although 1 year more of experience may help him there. the husky D was horrid last year. I do not expect any improvement there. Notre Dame D was below average mostly because the O was awful. Notre Dame D will be very good this year.
Notre Dame O is the big question if they improve as much as I think they will. The Irish run game and Clausen to karma , floyd will devistate most teams.

My prediction is Notre Dame 27 Washington 14
Notre Dame's record will be 8-4 possibly 9-3

Anonymous said...

I thought the article was great. My friend from ND agreed with your analysis almost completely.