Sunday, August 11, 2013

Notre Dame season preview

    The last time there was a kickoff in a College football game, Notre Dame was the #1 team in the country, a position they had held for almost 2 months.

    That is when they run into the wrecking ball known as the Alabama Crimson Tide.

    On my birthday in 2011, I attended one of the most embarrassing and inexcusable Notre Dame losses in the history of the school. It also happened to be my first-ever Notre Dame game and the first ever night game in the history of Michigan stadium.

    In that game, Notre Dame lost despite more than 500 yards of offense. That is a staggering fact made even more amazing by the fact that they had done it now two consecutive times. The Irish were outscored 28-7 in the 4th quarter by Michigan.

    Since that game, the Irish are 20-4 with those 4 losses all coming to highly ranked teams- USC, Stanford, Florida State and Alabama. If they have accomplished nothing else, the Irish appear to be finally back to beating teams they should beat.

      This makes the current bear market on the Irish a bit puzzling to me. Last year, 5 teams on the Irish's regular season schedule were ranked higher than them in the pre-season top 25. Notre Dame won all 5 of those games- an unlikely accomplishment to say the least. People were quite justified in their belief that it was impossible for the Irish to run the table.

     But this year? There is only 1 opponent ranked higher and we get them (Stanford) the last game of the season. The Defense (especially the secondary) looks to be improved over last year. Yet, I am incredulous that people scoff when I say the offense will be better too.

     In 2011, Offense was not the problem. In 2012, it was. Look no further than the Michigan games for proof. In 2011, we hung 31 on the Skunks, in 2012, we managed only 13. I know. I was at both games.

     Yet, with 31, we lost and with 13, we won. It's a funny ol' world.

     This year, Tommy Rees' experience combined with a wealth of young talent at RB, shifty feet in backup QBs Hendrix and Zaire and some talented receivers, I look for a huge upgrade in point production. Combined with a shutdown defense, and a weaker schedule, I see no reason why the Irish cannot be 11-0 when the pull into Palo Alto Thanksgiving weekend.

Aug 31 Temple

Unfortunately for the Owls, they will be the brunt of the Irish wrath from January 7th. Eager to make a statement, the Irish paste the Owls 52-0 to earn their second consecutive home shut-out (Wake Forest 38-0). Tommy Rees is the MVP with 4 Touchdown passes.

Sept. 7th @ Michigan.

The Irish put together the last two games against Michigan. We score 31 but we only give up 6. Bennett Jackson is the MVP with 3 picks including one he takes to the house.

September 14th @ Purdue.

The Irish get the nation's attention with a 3rd consecutive rout. 38-17. This time, it is the trio of Bryant, Carlisle and Atkinson who stomp on Purdue for 350 yards rushing.

The Irish are 3-0 and ranked #7 in the country when the enter murderer's row. If Notre Dame loses a game this season, it will be in this brutal 4 game stretch.

September 21st Michigan State

If we do slip up, I predict it is here. State is always ready for us. I predict the Irish eek it out. Kyle Brindza is the hero with 5 field goals. The winner in overtime to preserve a nail biter of a 23-20 win.

September 28th Oklahoma. Notre Dame's dominance of Oklahoma continues as bruiser Blake Bell's running ability is held in check and his throwing ability produces 2 picks each for Kavari Russell and Bennett Jackson. A balanced offensive attack amasses more than 500 yards of offense and Oklahoma is exposed in a 40-17 blowout.

October 5th Arizona State (Shamrock series game at Texas stadium). Predicted to be a shoot-out, it does not disappoint. Rees is the hero, throwing for 355 yards and 5 touchdowns as the two teams blow out the scoreboard lights. Notre Dame wins a 44-37 barn burner.

October 19th USC. USC has beaten the Irish 6 straight times at South Bend. To put that in perspective, we have not won at home vs the Trojans since 9/11. The streak ends. This time USC is woefully out -gunned and ND has two weeks to prepare. The Irish paste USC and the fans storm the field. The Irish defense records 7 sacks and 2 interceptions and it is never really close. Stephon Tuitt records 4 of the sacks and enters the Heisman radar.Notre Dame 39 USC 10.

October 26th Air Force The triple option gives us a lot of trouble but we counter it by controlling the clock, moving the chains and gobbling up yardage. A close game blown open in the 4th quarter as the Irish power is just too much. Notre Dame 52 Air Force 24. Greg Bryant firmly establishes himself as our #1 back with a blistering 140 yard performance.

November 2nd Navy. It will be hard to imagine that this team once beat us in 3 games out of 4. Notre Dame 44 Navy 10. Another dominating performance by Tuitt.

November 9th @ Pittsburgh
Unlike last year, Louis Nix is healthy. He dominates. The game everyone expects to be close, isn't. Notre Dame 24 Pittsburgh 10.

November 16th BYU
By this time, Stanford has risen to #1 and the Irish survive a scary trap game, looking forward. Notre Dame 22- BYU 20. Kyle Brindza, once again, is the hero hitting the game winner with 8 seconds on the clock.

November 23rd @ Stanford
Having risen all the way to #3, the Irish fell to #4 after their ugly win over BYU. That's right, the Irish will be ranked #4, with an 11-0 record as they face #1 Stanford, Thanksgiving weekend.

The game.

It will be recorded as one of the greatest Notre Dame games in history. A brutal, grind it out game at some times, wild plays at other times. The two teams will change leads 6 times before Notre Dame produces a remarkably physical 78 yard drive that takes 7:54 off the clock and pulls Notre Dame to within 1 (27-26) with 1:42 left. Rather than kick the extra point, ND goes for two with Andrew Hendrix at QB. Bootlegging to his right, Hendrix is swarmed by defenders before throwing back to his left to a streaking George Atkinson who scampers in to give Notre Dame a 1 point lead (28-27).

Stanford takes over after the kickoff at their own 33 yard line with 1:33 left. Hogan goes to work and Stanford moves the ball all the way to the Notre Dame 30 yard line with 18 seconds left.

Lining up for a 47 yard FG, Stanford is flagged for a false start, backing them up to the 35.

14 seconds left, Stanford tries a draw to get back to FG range but the runner fumbles and Prince Shembo recovers, preserving the upset over the #1 team in the nation, Notre Dame's 24th consecutive regular season win.

When the BCS standings are released, Georgia has moved into the #1 spot after beating LSU in the SEC championship. Notre Dame is #2 and will play Georgia for the BCS championship.

The talk will be the same as this year- SEC too strong, Notre Dame over-matched.

The result is very different. The Irish defense harasses Aaron Murray into 3 picks and Greg Bryant and the running game take over as the double-digit under-dog Irish break the tie with Alabama and win their 12th consensus national championship by a score of 38-24.

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