The boys of fall are back at it in South Bend, IN and are ready to bounce back from a so-so 2011. This year they will start in an unfamiliar place: Dublin, Ireland against friendly rivals: THE United States Naval Academy.
We are going to break down the season in this post. Keep in mind we are both Notre Dame fans and may be a little bias in our review. Bare with us, we will try to be fair and just.
Brian Kelly enters his third year with the Irish with a 16-10 record. He looks to improve on his “winning” record this season despite tough pre-season ranked opponents.
He will be aided by Chuck Martin (new Offense Coordinator) who spent last year as the safeties coach and Bob Diaco/Kerry Cooks (Defensive Coordinators). Coach Kelly will have to work on filling the holes left by players that were drafted/transferred, never an easy task.
Coach Kelly announced last week that sophomore (Redshirt Freshman) Everett Golson will be the starting Quarterback for the season opener in Dublin. Yes, the same Everett Golson who has never taken a snap at the collegiate level will be calling the shots for the Irish Offense. He beat out incumbent Tommy Rees (suspended for first game because of an offseason arrest), Junior Andrew Hendrix, and true freshman Gunner Kiel.
No more Michael Floyd as a target – which is a good thing. The Irish won’t be so heavily dependent on a #1 player to catch the ball and that leads to more touches for other players. The Irish have some key starters returning to make up for Floyd’s departure. RB Cierre Wood will do his best to split defenses on the ground. Watch out for TE Tyler Eifert to step up his game this season…he will be the security blanket for the young QB.
The Wideouts really need to prove they belong in Division I (let alone ND). WR T.J. Jones and Theo Ratliff will be expected to sure up a young receiving crew. Lookout for John Goodman to be a sleeper in the NCAA, kid will be a STUD.
C Braxston Cave will be coming back from a injury plagued 2011 season, which will make a HUGE difference in QB turnovers.
Gone are the days to Jeff Samardzija or John Carlson…but we can only hope for another battery like that!
Aaron Lynch decided he rather have sun, girls, and lesser academic heavy school when he transferred to South Florida. If you don’t want to be apart of the greatest tradition in collegiate sports, get off this team.
With that being said, the defense may be the difference maker this season. Golf Clap for Manti Te’o for being a stand up gentleman and return for his senior year. Te’o is the next Brian Urlacher (remember how nasty he was coming out of University of New Mexico?)
Cornerback Lo Wood is out for the season with a rupture achillies…who was my Defensive MVP candidate prior to this injury. Tough break, but they will survive.
The secondary is going to be in big trouble: 3 of the 4 starters from last year are gone. Safeties should hold their own and be productive. Cornerbacks are a HUGE hole now. Only time will tell.
Notre Dame is losing 82.5% field goal kicker David Ruffer but will have Junior Nick Tausch (yes, that nick Tausch from 2009) replacing him. Nick Tausch was a great freshman kicker in 2009 before he hurt his leg in a late season play.
Punter Ben Turk had an atrocious first two years but became an asset towards the end of 2011, lets hope his momentum can pick up in 2012.
They need to improve on their punt return. The Irish TOTALED 48 yards in punt returns in 13 games in 2011. Riddick will be the primary return guy and needs to execute. Watch out got George Atkinson III to provide some fireworks, he returned two kickoffs of 89 yds and 96 yds for scores.
Game by game predictions after the jump:
(W) Sept 1st: Navy (In Dublin): The Irish will win in convincing fashion, but won’t embarrass the future protectors of our nation.
(W) Sept 8th: Purdue (1st home game): This will be a trap game for the Irish. Coming back from Dublin and looking ahead to Michigan State. Look for the Irish to play so-so but get the win as the Irish Faithful cheer on.
(L) Sept 15th: At Michigan State: The Irish will have a BIG test early with this preseason top 25 team. They will be fired up as the remember what happened last time they went to east lansing. They will Lose though.
(W) Sept 22: Michigan: The 2011 match up between these two schools was legendary. The first night game in the Big House and the last 3 minutes of the game gave each side’s fanbase heart attacks.
(W) October 6th: Miami: Catholic vs. Conficts Rivalry of the 80s and 90s is renewed now in the Windy City. The Irish will wear gross uniforms. The will beat the U and cruise to a 4-1 record.
(W) October 13th: Stanford: The Cardinals will need some new “Luck” in order to beat the Fighting Irish, especially at home.
(W) October 20th: BYU: If they Irish come into this game with a 6-0 or 5-1 record they will be in a bit of trouble. They will underestimate the BYU boys and get beat bad on their own field. Regardless I have the Irish winning and continuing to 6-1.
(L) October 27 At Oklahoma: No Chance the Irish win this game. Sooners are TOO good.
(W) November 3rd: Pittsburgh: The Irish will send Pitt into the ACC with one more loss in South Bend to their record.
(W) November 10th: Boston College: The Irish will prove to the nation that they are the premier Catholic institution on and off the football field.
(W) November 17th. Wake Forest: The Irish may be headed to the ACC (according to sources) but they are still independents and will eat up the demon deacons. 9-2 heading to Southern California
(L) November 24th at USC: If Notre Dame wins this game, I’ll donate $1,000 to Barack Obama’s campaign. USC is the best team in the nation and will be BCS champs.
Final record: 9-3…I hope