Landmines Throughout_Part II

Part II of our review of the pre-season "Trouble Spots" column, with a final post-season rating of the games – and weeks – that presented Notre Dame with its biggest challenges.

Click here for Part I

Predicted Trouble Spot No. 6 – Stanford

I underrated Stanford, referring to them as the "fourth-best opponent" when they were clearly the best team the Irish faced this fall. I noted prior to the contest that ND would need to score at least 35 points to defeat the Cardinal…so I'm not a complete moron.
IrishEyes Prediction: Stanford 44 ND 37
Final Score: Cardinal 37 Irish 14

Game Day Situation and Recap: Brutal battle No. 3 in a row for Notre Dame after difficult losses to rivals Michigan and at Michigan State, but let's face it: Stanford was better prepared, much more physical, and a much better team. The game would be closer if played today, but would be over-zealous fandom to believe (or put your money where your mouth is) that the Irish would win.

Final Analysis: ND's defense allowed just two touchdowns and no carries in excess of 11 yards. That should have been enough to compete.

Of interest: Stanford lost just once – to the juggernaut that is Oregon, no less – en route to a well-deserved BCS at-large bid. Only one team (Arizona State) held the Cardinal below 30 points this season.

Predicted Trouble Spot No. 5 – Pittsburgh

Similar to the opening matchup with Purdue, I never believed the Panthers would take down the Irish in South Bend this season. Pitt was noted by IrishEyes as ND's third-best foe entering the season; an overvalue of about three (maybe four) slots.
IrishEyes Prediction: Notre Dame 28 Pittsburgh 20
Final Score: Irish 23 Pittsburgh 17

Game Day Situation and Recap: The Irish were at the tail end of their six-game start vs. BCS foes but were riding high after their most complete effort of the season, a blowout win at Boston College. Kyle Rudolph was on his last leg at this point but Riddick was peaking as was a rejuvenated Michael Floyd.

Final Analysis: I was careful not to overrate this matchup with the Panthers; one that the Irish simply had to win entering the supposed weak point of their schedule. The game played out much like the Purdue contest with the Irish dominating for the bulk of the contest, but in need of a key first down (they didn't get it here) and defensive stop late (mission accomplished) to secure the victory in the fourth quarter.

Of interest:Pitt is bowl eligible at 6-5 with one game remaining (at Cincinnati) but nowhere near the Panthers of 2009.

Predicted Trouble Spot No. 4 – Boston College

I wildly overvalued both BC's defense and the program's hold over Notre Dame in Chestnut Hill, a place the Irish hadn't won since 1998.
IrishEyes Prediction: Boston College 23 Notre Dame 22
Final Score: Irish 31 Eagles 13

Game Day Situation and Recap: Great effort by the Irish who entered with a three-game losing skid. BC debuted freshman QB Chase Rettig and the Irish baptized him with a dominant defensive effort, limiting the Eagles to five rushing yards while overwhelming their hosts on both sides of the line of scrimmage.

Final Analysis: Notre Dame's best game of the first two months and likely BC's worst. Turnabout is fair play, Eagles "fans."

Of interest:BC finished 7-5, losing five straight before winning five in a row to finish the season. That program rolls out of bed with a bowl bid…

Predicted Trouble Spot No. 3 – Utah

Cathartic, to say the least.
IrishEyes Prediction: Utah 33 ND 24
Final Score: Irish 28 Utah 3

Game Day Situation and Recap: Notre Dame's much-needed Week 10 Bye worked wonders and Kelly's crew hasn't looked back since. The Irish dominated the No. 14 Utes up front and won all three phases vs. what was considered a top-notch special teams foe. Utah entered on an all-time down note after suffering a 47-7 home humiliation vs. conference rival TCU the previous Saturday.

Final Analysis:Considering the opponent, it was Notre Dame's best total team effort since either the Bush Push in 2005 or a the 41-24 win over Penn State in September 2006 – coincidentally the program's most recent win over a ranked foe prior to this Saturday's demolition of Utah.

Of interest:Utah finished with wins over San Diego State and rival BYU to conclude the regulars season at 10-2.

Predicted Trouble Spot No. 2 – USC

The Fall of Troy was predicted in both August and prior to the contest, though the circumstances changed significantly.
IrishEyes Prediction: Notre Dame 24 USC 20
Final Score: Irish 20 Trojans 16

Game Day Situation and Recap:Notre Dame entered playing its best football of the 2010 season; USC entered without starting quarterback Matt Barkley and a sense of impending doom.

Final Analysis:Notre Dame's defense throttled the favored Trojans en route to a streak-snapping victory. The Irish prevailed with a backup QB, TB, TE, slot receiver, X receiver, nose tackle and inside linebacker earning starts vs. the talent-laden Men of Troy.

Of interest:The 7-5 Trojans will conclude their season Saturday vs. in-town rival UCLA. USC is one of two Irish foes deemed unworthy of a Bowl game this post-season. Purdue did not qualify with four wins in 12 games; USC because of a lack of institutional control. Fight On…

Predicted Trouble Spot No. 1 – Michigan State

One week after a tussle with chief early season rival UM; Dayne Crist's first road start; an evening kickoff on national TV and a rough-and-tumble opponent. Each factored into the call as for Week Three's trip to East Lansing as Notre Dame's toughest contest entering the season.
IrishEyes Prediction: Michigan State 31 Notre Dame 28
Final Score: Spartans 34 Irish 31 (OT)

Game Day Situation and Recap:The Irish were 1-1 after a heart-breaking loss to Michigan and, on the surface, appeared relatively healthy though damage had already been done to Kyle Rudolph and Armando Allen. Notre Dame was bullied early but the defense came of age in the 4th quarter, holding the Spartans to just six rushing yards in the final period and extra session.

Final Analysis:One of the most competitive games of the season for both programs, deservedly won by the Spartans on head coach Mark Dantonio's fake field goal in overtime: the Play Call of the Year in college football.

Of interest:Michigan State enjoyed its best season in more than 40 years, finishing 11-1 and No. 8 in the BCS rankings heading into Championship Week.

Trouble Spots: Revised

Determining factors include the opponent's talent level; relative health at game time of both teams; trials encountered along the way and the overall game week situation leading up to the contest:

(Pre-season forecast in descending order: WMU, Army, Purdue, Tulsa, Navy, Michigan, Stanford, Pittsburgh, BC, Utah, USC, MSU.)

Post-season "Trouble Spots" ranking:

  • 12: Western Michigan – Not bereft of skilled talent, but noticeably weaker on the both lines. Had this game been played two weeks later (Tulsa week) it could have been trouble.
  • 11: Purdue – Purdue deteriorated as the season progressed but Week One was still a great time to catch the Boilers who posed little problem in South Bend.
  • 10: Boston College – No quarterback; little offensive punch and a defense that had yet to hit its stride. After a handful of past matchups in which the Irish took on the Eagles at the worst possible time, the tide finally turned.
  • 9: Army – No chance the triple-option was going to sneak up on Bob Diaco, the defensive staff, the players and head coach Brian Kelly this time. Army could have used a Week Seven meeting with the Irish in an effort to stay close/pull off a colossal upset.
  • 8: Pittsburgh – Honestly, they just aren't very good (and had suffered a key loss along the defensive line in Greg Romeus)…
  • 7: Navy – The Irish were missing Michael Floyd and Kyle Rudolph but that's secondary. This was more about the game between the lines that Saturday than any tangential game week situation I can muster as an excuse. In reality, facing Navy in Week Seven was not that tall a task for Kelly's Irish. They just lost.
  • 6: USC – Notre Dame's confidence was at a four-season peak and the Irish had completely assimilated to life without the bulk of its starters. Credit the coaching staff for bettering the team through the season's final month and ending the Trojan's despotic rule.
  • 5: Utah – Seems easy now, but few predicted a win over the No. 14 Utes. Utah was on a down note following a 47-7 loss to TCU that destroyed its BCS hopes. The Bye week proved huge for the Irish.
  • 4: Michigan – Dayne Crist's injury leveled Kelly's spread offense in Week Two and facing Denard Robinson in September was far different than November.

  • 3: Michigan State – The Irish probably shouldn't have lost this game, but the Spartans proved to be more than a worthy opponent as one of the nation's 10 best. The forecasted outside influences at play came to fruition but the Irish also received a boost with a breakout performance by Theo Riddick.

    In the pre-season I predicted MSU would win but Notre Dame would prove to be the better team (more wins) at season's end. You get full-disclosure on this site!

  • 2: Tulsa – The worst possible game-week situation for the Notre Dame football program.
  • 1: Stanford – Quite simply: they're better than Notre Dame and caught the Irish after two hard-fought, physical rivalry game losses, to boot. Top Stories