For the freshmen, it'll be the first time in their careers that they get to experience the run out of the locker room, through the tunnel and down to the sidelines in front of 80,000 people. Head coach Charlie Weis remembers his first time in front of a huge audience.
"I remember the first time I was ever involved with a big crowd," Weis said on Thursday night. "I was a graduate assistant at South Carolina in 1985. The biggest I'd ever been to was 5,000 people during Thanksgiving. It was 72,000 people at Williams-Brice Stadium. Half the game, I was looking at the stands. I was saying, ‘Wow, big time.' If I had the wow factor and I was in my mid-20's, imagine what an 18-year is going through their first time."
The Irish practiced indoors this afternoon at the Loftus Center. Before the Georgia Tech game, Weis had his team practice here to simulate the heat and humidity down in Atlanta. Today, it was to help the defense out for what they can expect on Saturday from the home crowd.
"People miss the boat sometimes on noise," Weis said. "Everyone practices it when you're going away but you forget that your own defense has to deal with crowd noise every week. A lot of people don't practice their home crowd noise. It's significant for the non-verbal communication on defense as it is on offense."
Notre Dame is preparing for a Nittany Lion (1-0) team coming off a 34-16 season-opening win over Akron. The last time these two teams played was back in 1992 in the "Snow Bowl" when Rick Mirer hit a diving Reggie Brooks for a two-point conversion and the 17-16 win. But in fourteen long years, the two programs have not met on the football field.
"Sometimes I think a game played a decade ago doesn't have as much significance as a game that was played a year ago or more recently," Weis said. "I'm familiar with it and sometimes I have to read up on it, to tell you the truth. Sometimes I say give me some information that I could look upon. I only use that if I can find a lot of significance in the current timing.
"It's a nice, natural rivalry but it's been awhile since we played. The longer the time frame between games, the less significant it becomes. I try to use it as some teaching period and psychological ploy."
Penn State head coach Joe Paterno pulled an unusual move when he barred the media from talking to his Nittany Lions players this week. Only Paterno addressed the media on Tuesday. In contrast, in the lead up to the Yellow Jacket contest, a few Georgia Tech players made some comments that caught Weis's eye and eventually made their way to the team by way of hanging the quotes up in the Irish lockers. Weis doubts that he would ever not let his players speak to the media before a game. The Notre Dame head coach always tries to be take the high road.
"If you know your opponent and respect your opponent, you'll never cause a negative reaction by your opponent," Weis said. "If you ever talk in a condescending or demeaning way about your opponent or to a favorable light to your own team, you usually will suffer the consequences accordingly as far as how they respond to it. I try to show my respect to all the opponents."
Weis showed respect to other teams this week in the coaches poll. The Notre Dame head coach gets a vote in the USA Today coaches poll and admitted on Thursday that he dropped the Irish more than one spot after last week's game. This topic came to light after Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel stated that he voted upcoming opponent Texas No. 1 when actually the Buckeyes voted for themselves in the spot. Weis didn't say where he originally voted his team so the two spot drop could have been from No. 1 to No. 3 or No. 2 to No. 4. He and Tim McDonnell, Coordinator of Quality Control, meet every week for a few hours to put together a fair and honest list.
"He and I do it every week," Weis said, who would be up for making the votes public on the account that every voting coach makes theirs public as well. "We study all the teams and all the games. We rank accordingly. We dropped ourselves this week. We try to vote accordingly. People might say things. We try to be as practical as possible.
"We have the most trouble between 12-25. Usually, in the first ten, they're so close at the beginning of the year. One team can go from ten to four by winning 50-0 whereas we win 14-10 and drop some spots against a very good opponent. It's really not that important right now on how that works. It's tougher when you're dealing with 12, 13, 14, 15 and they all won 34-7. And you're thinking is this team they played against good or not? You're trying to be honest as possible and not get wrapped up in what people are saying."