Note: My game preview column will be published late Friday morning. But in an effort to cut to the chase: Notre Dame 27 USF 12
Brian Dohn – Irisheyes.com Recruiting ReporterOne thing Notre Dame has to be careful of is not to overlook South Florida's physical talent. The Bulls don't get the athletes the Big Three get in Florida, but there are plenty of leftovers, and coach Skip Holtz did a good job in his first year of getting them to play with more discipline than in previous seasons.
The biggest wildcard is quarterback B.J. Daniels, who has not been accurate in the past but if teams are not careful, he will make plays with his feet and gain confidence as the season grows.
I think this opener is a little tighter for three quarters than the Irish want, but Notre Dame will pull away in the fourth quarter and win 34-24
Dave Berk – Irisheyes.com Recruiting AnalystMore important than the behind-the-scenes story line in this opening game – Skip Holtz's return to South Bend – is that Holtz brings with him a South Florida team full of athletes looking to make a name for themselves by knocking off the Irish.
While the Bulls have talent, the Irish will be pumped and ready to go as Brian Kelly looks to get them off to a fast start. Look for Dayne Crist to have a solid day and the Irish defense to knock off the rust before taking over the game.
The Irish will ride the Bulls for more than eight seconds and come away with the first victory of the season. 31-14
Christian Zavisca (Staff Writer)Listening to The Score (AM 670 Chicago sports talk radio, for the non-locals), I was struck by how confident Notre Dame football coach Brian Kelly sounded in an interview. Not unrealistic. Just confident and eager for the season to start, like most Irish fans. Kelly believes in his system, and he is especially positive as that system continues to gain traction in its second year.
I think it's appropriate to reflect on last year's opener, a workmanlike 23-12 home triumph over Purdue in Kelly's Notre Dame debut. The home team threw 26 times and ran 36. The Irish defense held the Boilermakers to 220 net passing yards on 42 attempts and 3.2 yards per rushing attempt. Notre Dame jumped ahead and didn't let up.
Notre Dame rode that formula to late-season success. An improbable run for those of us who were on the sidelines and in the postgame press conference after the disastrous home loss to Tulsa dropped the Irish to 4-5.
I don't see Notre Dame's players looking ahead to the Ann Arbor trip. I do see them welcoming an opponent that is no pushover, but at the same time shouldn't pose more than a moderate threat to keep things super-interesting deep into the fourth quarter.
Notre Dame 30 South Florida 15
SeattleND (Moderator)South Florida is my pick for Big East champion this season, they are coming off an eerily similar 2010 season to ND at 8-5 and with a winning streak to end the year after a disappointing start. They have talent and speed including a few guys who chose them over Florida and Florida State. They have Skip Holtz entering his second year in that program and there is not a coach in the nation I respect more than Skip.
What they do not have is depth, especially at QB, where if BJ Daniels goes down they are looking at playing a walk on (Pat Dillingham says hello, but so do Rick Neuheisel, Kerwin Bell and technically, Jake Locker, all of whom were walk on QB's as well). USF's walk on is a 6'5" kid who had his own D1 scholarship offers, so he's no Rudy…If this game were in Tampa I would favor the Bulls. I predict Skip will have them at year's end ranked higher than Irish opponents Michigan or Stanford (but not MSU). Notre Dame wins this game on defense and it is every bit as close as the score indicates.
ND 20 USF 17
KurzND (Moderator)South Florida is in a similar position to Notre Dame this year: Both coming off strong finishes to reach an 8-5 record and both are entering their second year under a new staff, with the Bulls current head coach very familiar to Notre Dame fans. Just as some ND fans are predicting a BCS bowl, USF fans are also thinking about a Big East title and a BCS bowl berth.
The key for South Florida would be to protect the ball on offense as, Bull's QB B.J. Daniel had some issues with that last season. The main strength for USF lies in their defense. They have to replace some prominent members of the D, but they are fast and athletic, especially at the linebacker position. They hope to get after the QB and force turnovers while preventing their own.
As for ND, they should stay in the same groove that ended last season: pounding the ball behind the big O-Line and playing smart aggressive defense. Daniels can hurt a defense with his legs, a skill that has been an Achilles heel for the Irish defense (Denard Robinson, Ricky Dobbs) as of late. The Irish offense should try to pound an inexperienced USF line and limit the athletic advantage of the Bulls linebackers and back seven. The Irish defense needs to be able to get after Daniels and force him to make errors and let the senior DBs make the plays. By doing that, the Irish should enjoy opening day.
Notre Dame 24 South Florida 17
Morrissey79 (Moderator)I've been back and forth on this, and maybe I've drunk a bit of "kool-aid", but I expect ND to handle USF fairly easily. USF is physical and athletic, but B.J. Daniels is simply prone to too many mistakes. Take that, and an undersized front 7 in my opinion, and ND controls the flow of the game from the get go.
USF tries to hang on, holding ND to 3 FGs after getting inside opponents territory, but ND wins 30-13
BNolan (Moderator)Every year we go into the season chugging Kool-Aid and hoping to win them all. Obviously, we have nonetheless suffered a barge load of disappointment for oh... a decade and then some. Is this our year to feel better?
For the first time in years, I want to believe that we really are a good team. On the rise. Headed back to elite status. I expect to win Saturday, but I'm really interested in seeing how we win. We need to look solid; prepared, organized, disciplined, and tough. Not to denigrate Skip's squad, because he will put a good team on the field, but we are better and need to play like it. Saturday will tell us a lot about the program, and obviously the remainder of the season.
I'm hoping for cheers, not jeers, and no tears in my beers.
ND 27 USF 13
GaviND (Moderator)The 2010 football season in South Bend was an interesting campaign to say the least. If most Irish fans had been told before the season that their team would have finished 8-5, fans would have been beside themselves. Yet, in spite the fact that they sported a record that suggests mediocrity, the finished 2010 product may well have actually exceeded all expectations on the field as a stingy defense helped lead the squad to four straight wins to end the year.
The bulk of the starting defense is back and a monster recruiting class has created depth at many positions, the likes of which has not been seen in decades.
This Saturday, when USF rolls into town I expect a very athletic Bulls defense to challenge the Notre Dame offense, however at the end of the day, I see the Irish wearing the Bulls down and exposing their lack if quality depth in the second half.
Irish 31 USF 13
Weisass (Moderator)Year Two for college coaches has become a defining moment. Second-year coaches such as Bob Stoops at Oklahoma, Urban Meyer at Florida, Jim Tressel at Ohio State and Gene Chizik at Auburn have each won a national championship this decade. What do all of these schools have in common besides a Year Two Title? Three of the 4 have been investigated by the NCAA and/or are currently on probation or soon will be. Brian Kelly can have success with the Irish in the first category and stay clear of the second.
The Irish were much improved during the last half of the 2010 season and seemed to start to gel as a team. We all know Kelly has been successful at the smaller schools but lets face it, he's playing with the big boys now. Kelly in his first season beat a USC team that the Irish have struggled with for some time and he also won in the resurrection of a bad-blood rivalry of the 80s, the Catholics vs. Convicts era, pounding Miami to end 2010.
Kelly has the Irish focused on the prize but and that USF is an up-and-coming program. The Bulls are very well coached and have a ton of speed and talent and could be a great opening test. If the Irish can start the 2011 campaign clicking on all cylinders look out. This Irish team is fired up and ready to make a run at a BCS Championship.
My wife and I will say our good bye's on Saturday morning as I will be sitting on my couch glued in front of the TV until the first few weeks of January 2012.
ND 42 USF 17
Dosch44 (Week One: Guest Prognosticator)The 2011 season starts off with a much anticipated, first time opponent in South Florida, coached by Skip Holtz, the son of the legendary Notre Dame coach, Lou Holtz. Due to Skip's experience as a student, player, and as an assistant coach on his father's Notre Dame staff, the Bulls will know what to expect which should make for a competitive game between two second year coaches and a pair of programs on the rise.
Personally, outside of this game, I will be pulling for USF and believe that they are a sleeper for the BCS bowl slot out of the Big East.
The obvious strength for the Irish will be their defense which ranked 23rd nationally in points allowed (20.2 points per game) and suffered minimal losses to graduation. USF's defense is very athletic and was one position better than the Irish (22nd overall) at 20.0 points per game, but did lose more front-line talent to graduation. The key offensive players for the Bulls will be QB BJ Daniels, RB Darrell Scott and WR/TE Evan Landi. All three players are explosive and are difference-makers which will give USF a puncher's chance in this matchup.
The way I see the Irish winning this game is through a commitment to the run which will set up the play action and big plays to Michael Floyd, Tyler Eifert and Theo Riddick. Defensively, I look for the Irish to attack the green USF offensive line, shutting down the run and forcing the very active Daniels to try to beat them through the air. Look for the Irish to get out to a fast start so they can lean on the Bulls with their experienced defense and offensive line. The Irish eventually become too much for the Bulls to handle as the final score ends up much closer than it feels, 35-24