Thoughts for Thursday

O'Malley examines the heart of Notre Dame's schedule, unearths a few undervalued Irish, and locates high profile coaches, a few long since forgotten.

Though most publications have online countdowns and daily updates these days, nothing has historically indicated that "Summer Has Arrived" at my house like the day college football preview magazines hit the shelves. First per usual, Lindy's Sports, an annual that helped me uncover these pertinent facts for Irish fans, each I either forgot or never knew:

Coaches on the Move

I knew Bob Davie resurfaced at New Mexico (better get a clock management coach to Albuquerque, stat), but former national champion and Miami Hurricane Larry Coker is at UT-San Antonio? (Also, UT-San Antonio has a team?) Former mad scientist Mike Leach is in Pullman coaching Washington State? I apparently spend way too much time writing about one team…

Ex-Auburn head coach Terry Bowden replaced former Notre Dame wide receivers coach Rob Ianello as the head coach of the Akron Zips. As many website subscribers know, Ianello reunited with Charlie Weis at Kansas, as did Ron Powlus. The trio is joined by former Irish and Kansas City Chiefs great, Tim Grunhard, not to mention Dayne Crist, Mike Ragone, and Anthony McDonald.

In addition, Mo Crum, Jr., has joined Weis as a graduate assistant as has Mike Brey's son, Kyle, as new Quality Control coach for the offense. (Brey played football at Buffalo, graduating after the 2010 season.)

I have no idea what this Irish influence means long term, but after a 2-10 record last fall, 2012 improvement is likely for the Jayhawks.

Schedule Quirks

Notre Dame faces three of the top five consensus Heisman Trophy candidates next fall. Each is a quarterback and each matchup wraps up one of three months of the collegiate season for Irish fans: Denard Robinson (Michigan to conclude September); Landry Jones (at Oklahoma at the end of October); Matt Barkley (at USC in the season finale).

Win or lose, can Notre Dame exit those games at 3-1, 6-2, and 9-3 overall?

I knew Michigan opened with Alabama in Arlington (that might be a touch tougher than Appalachian State in Ann Arbor) but I forgot that Michigan State, Notre Dame's Week Three opponent, will host Boise State on August 31. Not since the late 80s (and never that I can recall for the Spartans) have both Michigan schools received such tough tests prior to facing the Irish.

I forgot Notre Dame's Game Six opponent, BYU, won 10 games last season. Looks like the Miami Hurricanes are Notre Dame's "break" in a four-game October slate that also includes 11-game winner Stanford and 10-game winner Oklahoma.

Notre Dame's five consecutive opponents from Game #3 (at MSU) to Game #8 (at Oklahoma) combined to win 59 games last season. In four true road tests, the Irish will face teams that won 11, 10, 4, and 10 games last fall.

Michigan State has won 22 games over the last two years (22-5). Remarkably, that doesn't lead the way among ND's 12 foes this fall: Stanford is 23-3 since the beginning of the 2010 season. The last time Notre Dame lost three games or fewer over a two season span? 1992-93 when the Irish finished with 21 wins vs. two losses (#19 Stanford; #16 Boston College), and one tie (#6 Michigan).

Personnel Points

Judging from Lindy's and, I'll guess most pre-season annuals, Notre Dame's consistently underrated players entering 2012 are Zack Martin, Jamoris Slaughter, and Cierre Wood. None of the talented, veteran trio received much national love. In Martin's case, that's ludicrous. If ND can be a Top 20 team, Martin can earn All-America honors at season's end.

The key for Slaughter? Staying in good health despite a heavy workload at multiple positions. For Wood? Running angry, and in fear of losing his starting role for the second straight season.

Manti Te'o and Tyler Eifert took the top spot in Lindy's list at inside linebacker and tight end, respectively. Braxston Cave (#8 center) and Wood (#18 running back) are the only other Irish players to appear in the respected annual edition. My guess is that Martin, Slaughter, Chris Watt, and potentially Stephon Tuitt will crack everyone's lists at season's end.

Notre Dame did not appear among the top 10 position groups in any of the six rated categories: offensive backfield, receivers, offensive lines, defensive lines, linebackers, or defensive backs.

(Of note, Michigan State placed in all three defensive categories while Oklahoma placed in each of the three offensive units ranked 1-10.)

Pre-season ratings will be meaningless if what we perceive as Notre Dame's best unit -- its offensive line -- plays to that level next fall. Top Stories