I've seen a lot of predictions already among Irish fans. "We should kill them" has been seen more often than not on Irish Eyes message boards.
I wonder what the prediction would've been, say Dec. 7th, 2003? The day after the Irish were embarrassed in the Carrier Dome. I doubt many would've thought the Irish could've "killed" many high school teams considering the results of the Syracuse game.
So why all the optimism?
Has the Irish suddenly found new talent stashed away among the underclassman? Not with 10 seniors starting on defense. Has BYU fallen even further from their 4-8 season last year?
There is no question that the Cougars have some turnover from last year. BYU returns just 10 starters from a 4-8 team, but with BYU's missions and reliance on junior college recruiting, you can't really say what we should expect from this team.
The Irish have never played against quarterback John Beck, who is known as a more mobile quarterback than 2003's starter, Matt Berry. Like Irish quarterback Brady Quinn, I'm sure both Beck and Berry have made marked improvement since last season.
The Irish will likely also see a brand new group of skill position players, who appear to have the potential to stretch the field--something BYU didn't do a lot of last season.
The Cougars also possess a very deep and big defensive line (282-pound average) and some experience and playmakers in the secondary.
But, with all that being said, the reason the Irish will win this game is the inconsistency of the BYU offensive line.
The Cougars return just two starters from 2003 along the offensive line. That offensive line also gave up an alarming 35 sacks on the season. Inconsistency along the offensive line usually spells doom for any offense—something most Irish fans can relate to after watching the 2003 season.
BYU will be a better team than they were in 2004, I believe. I also don't think they'll quit so the Irish will have to play four quarters to sneak out with a victory.
In the end, you'll see the Irish run the ball effectively, just as they did last year in South Bend (204 yards on the ground), and Notre Dame throw a lot to their tight ends and backs to exploit the Cougar inexperience at linebacker (zero returning starters).
On defense, we expect to see the Irish come after Beck (or Berry) and hit him (them) on every play. With their depth at defensive line, and the experienced and talented linebacker corps, the Irish will harass BYU quarterbacks to try to cover up any inefficiencies they might have in the secondary.
Because the Irish are playing their first game of the season, I won't pick them to win big. Too many things can, and likely will, happen to pick the Irish to win big in Provo.
The Irish sneak out of Provo with a victory in a game a lot closer than many anticipated.
Notre Dame: 30