Notre Dame Football Preview

Q: So how many Notre Dame fans does it take to screw in a light bulb??? A: Ten. One to actually do it and nine to discuss how great the old one was. And so it goes under the Golden Dome. The Fighting Irish … a team with a glorious past … becoming more and more distant every year. ND last won the national title in ’88 and contended valiantly in ’93. (Career appreciation gift for Bobby Bowden and FSU). The Irish actually went to BCS bowl games in 2005-06, but weren’t very competitive in those.

This year’s Notre Dame squad is looking to redeem itself after an ultra-embarrassing 3-9 record in 2007, including a home loss to Navy. The ’08 Irish are dominated by Freshman and Sophomores; both classes are stocked with talent (concensus top 5 recruiting classes both years). Approximately only 24 players on the roster will be juniors or seniors. A handful of starting positions will feature serious competition from freshman … this is a testament to the talent recruited by Charlie Weis this past winter. So here’s a high level summary of the Irish at this moment:

The Good news: Lots of young talent. A healthy and stronger QB Jimmy Clausen. A new defensive coordinator, Jon Tenuta from Ga Tech. Charlie Weis handing over the OC duties to Mike Haywood. An emphasis on the running game. Charlie Weis revamping his own attitude and approach, recognizing (finally) that what works in the NFL does not necessarily work in college. Potential for improved OL play. And lastly, an easier schedule (vs ’07).

The Bad news: lack of significant contribution from the upper classes. Risk that the offensive line has not progressed enough since last season. Mental baggage carried forward from finishing 3-9 last season. Overall team speed still lacking. Standout TE Ragone will miss the season due to knee surgery. Nobody really fears the Irish. And USC is still awesome.

With that said, here’s the 2008 schedule and subsequent analysis:
Oct: STANFORD, @ North Carolina, @ Washington
Nov: PITTSBURGH, @ Boston College, @ Navy (Baltimore), SYRACUSE, @ Southern Cal

Gimmees (3): SD State, STANFORD, SYRACUSE
Likely W’s (1): @ Navy
Coin Flips (5): PITT, MICHIGAN, PURDUE, @ No Carolina, @ Washington
Likely L’s (3): @Michigan State, @ Boston College, @ Southern Cal

It’ll come down to the “Coin Flips” for the Irish in 2008. I think they will win three of these 50-50 games and finish with 7 wins … or a total regular season record of 7-5. Optimists see 8-10 wins, but don’t count me among them. Okay … as an absolute upside, maybe an 8-4 record. It could also be 6-6 with some poor luck. I don’t see another unmitigated disaster of a sub .500 record, nor do I see a BCS bowl game for ’08. If ND has a lot of losses, they will be close and competitive ones. I truly believe 2008 will be a positive step for the Irish. They should go to a bowl game, possibly win it, and continue the positive momentum with another great recruiting class in Feb 2009. From a talent perspective, ND should definitely contend for at least a Top 10 spot on the field in 2009 with a potential BCS bowl bid … and a serious chance of winning that game.

In 2008, Notre Dame will do well to be on par with the squad at the university I’m currently at … Boise State. I’ve seen the Smurf Turf … and it is … blue. So let us know how you see the Irish faring in ’08. Meanwhile, this is Wally … signing out from the bowels of Bronco Nation.