Site Predictions

No surprises or staff/moderator disagreements this week: the Irish are expected to handle, though not dominate Rice.

Tim O'Malley -- Publisher

I'm tempted to pick a 40-plus point effort by head coach Brian Kelly's Irish in the opener, but I think what will be an explosive 2014 Irish offense will first need time to gel. In other words, expect plenty of yards but also a few red zone errors and field goals instead of touchdowns as has been the case in South Bend since Brady Quinn left town in 2006.

Full game preview forthcoming Friday afternoon, but I expect Notre Dame to win comfortably, though not easily. Notre Dame 34 Rice 20

Anna Hickey -- Recruiting Reporter

Notre Dame's offense will start the first quarter moving the ball very well and will have success in the red zone, both in the air and on the ground. The defense will also get off to a fast start. Rice settles down in the second half, and that's when Notre Dame's weaknesses/inexperience on defense get exposed. It won't be to the extent this game is ever in question. Notre Dame wins decisively and has no trouble putting points on the board. Notre Dame 38 Rice 20

Morrissey79 -- Moderator

Rice was a solid football team last year. They won 10 games, won Conference USA, and lost to Houston and North Texas in respectable battles.

That being said, starting with the Liberty bowl debacle against Mississippi State, things have trended downward.

While David Bailiff does the best he can with what he has, he still has an overall losing record after seven seasons in Houston.

The offense lost their quarterback and running back, and are looking at injuries in their receiving corp. on defense, it doesn't get much better, needing to replace their top three tacklers and six total starters (the team lost 25 seniors overall).

While all the talk leading up to the game will be on the suspended five-some, NDs lack of depth at WR and DL, and LB concerns, ND is just far more talented.

I expect the offense to have its way, Golson to get back into a groove, and the defense to have some hiccups mixed in with some big plays.

Rice will score some points, but it will never feel in doubt. ND-38 Rice-17

SeattleNDFan -- Moderator

Rice brings the type of dual threat QB to Notre Dame Stadium this Saturday who gives not just the Irish but just about every college football team matchup issues and he has a reliable target in 6'5" WR Jordan Taylor who will be matching up against ND's newly height-challenged cornerbacks. Rice is the defending Conference USA champion from last season but has lost 5 straight openers and are picked to finish second in their Conference USA division this season.

Expect ND's new defense to give up a few big plays but to also show some impressive speed... ND's new look may not match up as well as in previous years against the Stanfords and Michigan States of the world, but fortunately, that is not what this Rice offense tries to do and their strengths should play well into ND's strengths. On offense, unless Everett Golson gets turnover happy, the Rice defense should not have the tools to slow them down at all. This game could be close for a quarter but I see the Irish build a comfortable lead by halftime and win going away. Notre Dame 38 Rice 17

GaviND -- Moderator

Following yet another drama-filled summer camp, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish are most certainly relieved to kick off their season Saturday against an upstart Rice team.

With 2012 starting quarterback Everett Golson back under center for the Irish, fans can finally look forward to the explosive offense that has been expected since Brian Kelly was hired in December of 2009. The dynamic signal caller should force the Rice defense to take a conservative approach -- something that should allow a deep stable of talented wide receivers and running backs to shine.

While the offense is locked and loaded, the 2014 Irish defense comes chock full of questions. While this group may well represent the most talented defense that Notre Dame has had in the Brian Kelly era, they are also the least experienced. New coordinator Brian VanGorder brings an attacking style to South Bend and while we can all expect to see some explosive athletic plays this weekend, growing pains are just as likely.

Fortunately, no matter how you slice it, the team lining up across from the Notre Dame this weekend will be Rice -- a middle tier foe -- and that means the Irish have an opportunity to get their feet wet and build a little confidence before the guys from up north come to town. ND 41 Rice 17

Amruther24 -- Moderator

The Fighting Irish enter the 2014 season with a lot of question marks and that was before three starters were suspended two weeks ago. If only they could fly to Ireland to get away from it all. Between a tough schedule, rusty QB, a changing of the guard (and tackle) on the offensive line, a brand new defensive scheme, and a ton of fresh 18 year old faces dotting the front 7, the Irish have all the makings of a boom or bust team in 2014.

The good news is that the offensive unit's ceiling is elite, though don't expect that to happen until at least midseason. Additionally, if Brian Kelly and Brian VanGorder are true to their word, the defensive unit should get much better as the season progresses because the young guys will have experience, but heavy rotation should keep them relatively fresh.

The bad news is that they play Michigan, Stanford, North Carolina, and Florida State in their first 7 games.

Before all of that happens, the Irish open with Rice this weekend. Rice averaged 227 yards per game on the ground last year and opened with a 306 yard game against Texas A&M. They're going to run the football and that is not good news for the Irish defense. Fortunately, Rice's defense should provide a nice tuneup for the next era of Irish offenses under Brian Kelly. 

Expect the game to go up and down the field in the first half while each defense tries to figure out how to stop their offensive counterparts. The Irish will open the game up in the second half and never look back. Notre Dame 41 Rice 24

KurzND -- Moderator

Finally, football season is here to get our minds off of the pressing academic issues of August. Rice won Conference USA in 2013, winning 10 games, though their season ended in a disappointing way, losing 44-7 to a 6-6 Mississippi State team. 

The Owls return talent on offense, but that could be slowed with their starting TE out and their top playmaker on offense (WR Jordan Taylor listed as probable). Rice's QB Driphus Jackson isn't much of a passer, but can be quite the runner, which will present a challenge for Brian VanGorder's D. Rice has two talented players that should hear their names called in the NFL draft in DT Christian Covington and CB Bryce Callahan

Offensively, Notre Dame should be able to contain Covington and run the ball at will and ND's trio of backs should each have their names called often. Covington is a talented player and will be a good early test for the Irish interior O-Line, but the rest of Rice's D is not particularly experienced or big enough to hold up against Notre Dame's front. As good as Callahan is, he doesn't have 3rd Rd NFL pick Phillip Gaines shutting down the opposite side as was the case in 2013.

The Irish D has to get after the QB but not allow him running lanes, because Jackson can pile up yardage in a hurry. Saturday is a good opening test for the inexperienced Irish defense to get after it and see what they can do. 

Look for ND to run the ball with a big pass or two and for the Irish defense to limit big runs -- they will play fast this year and be an opportunistic group. 

Notre Dame 45 Rice 19

BNolan -- Moderator

I'm never sure what to expect from a Kelly team in an opening game. Coach-speak aside, program drama aside, personnel changes considered... what will we see?

Despite Rice being a pretty good small program team, ND should roll -- which doesn't mean they will. They often don't do things they should.

An ND defense with question marks will likely give up some plays, while an ND offense with a reasonably effective Golson and crew should make a few of their own. In a fundamental football game, the bigger, better horses eventually dominate.

Rice will be sticky in the beginning, but ultimately will be fried. ND 34, Rice 17 Top Stories