Two-A-Days: Notre Dame

In the morning session we covered a team coached by one of the greatest coaches off all time. The afternoon session is dedicated to the eighth opponent on the schedule, Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish are everyone's favorite team and the world is waiting for them to return to their rightful place atop the football world. To do that, they must find a way to beat the Boston College Eagles.

Last Year: If not for a few bad breaks, Notre Dame would have won another national title. But, some bad luck and a few bad calls sent the Irish to a 6-and-6 record and a trip to Honolulu. They showed their talent with a dominating performance over a great Hawaii team, winning 49-to-21.

Coming off their worst season in forever, the Irish offense bounced back and showed tremendous improvement. They finished 65th in total offense and 56th in scoring. The passing game really improved, finish 34th in the country. Jimmy Clausen was the 43rd rated passer last season.

The defense also improved over the 2007 season. They finished 39th in total defense and 43rd in scoring defense, allowing just over 22 points per game. They also generated 25 turnovers, which resulted in a slightly negative turnover margin for the year. The overall improvement was a big part of the winning season.

Why They Could Be Better: Most of the offense returns from last year, including Jimmy Clausen. After taking a beating for two years, Clausen is ready to show what he can do as an experienced starting quarterback. He also has four returning linemen from last year. That should mean he spends less time on his back and more time throwing down field.

They also return some of the best skill position players in the country. Michael Floyd and Golden Tate are special players at receiver. Kyle Rudolph can be a great tight end in this system. Throw in guys like Duval Kamara and Mike Ragone and Clausen will have plenty of targets.

The biggest reason why they could be better is the schedule. They have five games against teams with losing records last season. Two of the seven with winning records come from non-BCS conferences. Two more are from the Big East. In other words, they have nine games against mediocre to poor teams. They also have seven home games.

Why They Could Be Worse: The defense returns just three players from last year. Two of those returnees sat out spring with injuries. So, this is not a group with a lot of starting experience. More critically, they will be field a lot of players getting their first shot to play at the colleges level, including several freshman.

The defense is also going to have to learn Jon Tenuta's system. He served as an assistant last year and now takes over the defense. His system is a high risk approach that can put a lot of pressure on opposing offenses when run correctly. Without the right players, however, it can be a disaster.

The other concern is at offensive coordinator. Weis is back calling plays this year and that seldom works out very well in college. With no one to reign in his worst instincts, Weis has proven to be a disorganized and impulsive play caller. This year it is all on him again.

What To Expect: It will be bombs away for Notre Dame as they try to make every game, not just this one, a track meet. Certainly Weis and Clausen will want a little pay back for the beating they took at BC last season. That means they will have the peddle to the metal from the opening whistle.

BC will face the weakest defense of the year in this one. The goal will be to run the ball down their throats and shorten the game. The more BC can run the ball, the more that powerful Irish offense sits on the sidelines.

Prediction: Boston College will have the better defense and the better running game. Notre Dame will have the much better passing game and special teams. Plus, they have an enormous home field advantage. The Irish have to win one eventually and this looks like the one. ND 31 BC 21


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