Prediction Time

<P>Prediction time is here and we all know that I can't keep my mouth shut. I will go on record as the optimist and always have been a homer. I have reasons to be optimistic this year but nobody can be sure what they will see on Saturday night. The only thing I know about this game is that I am glad we have Willingham in our corner. I believe that he has fixed the fragile psyche of this team and they will come ready to play and to prove to the world that they are a good football team.</P>

That is all fine and dandy but what matters is how they react when things don't go as smoothly as they hoped. This is where the Ty factor comes into the play. Will this team be able to look at their leader for leadership and to settle down a struggling offense? Our first glimpse of Ty the coach will likely come in the second quarter.

I say this because I have a feeling that this offense will sputter out of the gate. I think you will see some tentativeness and some confusion. I think you will see missed assignment and some pretty bad football in the first quarter from both teams. Maryland has a new quarterback and a new runningback. Their offensive line is patched together because of injuries or suspensions. They are banged up at wide receiver as well. I think Maryland might struggle more than the Irish on offense.

The Irish have a veteran (although underachieving) offensive line. They have a brand new system and new starters at runningback, tight end and receiver. The new system will be the problem for the Irish on offense. The good news is that the new starters do have a lot of playing experience.

The other good news is that the Irish defense has a lot of players that have played a lot of football for the Irish. Some of the best athletes on the team are on the defense and that should keep the Domers in the game from the start. A big play in special teams or on defense could swing the momentum of this game very early. I have a feeling both teams are not quite sure how good they really are.

I don't think we will know much about Coach Willingham as a coach until they face some sort of adversity. I have told everyone that would listen that Dan McCarney is the best coach in the Big 12. If you think of the unbelievable task of trying to motivate your team after being down big against Florida State at half, that is quite impressive. What impressed me the most about McCarney after that loss was how he addressed his team after the loss. He told his team that they should take zero pride in coming back and hanging with Florida State. They didn't win and there is no pride in that. Can Ty bring Notre Dame back from adversity? Will this team believe in Ty and his staff like the ISU players believed in McCarney and his staff?

I don't think you will see that circumstance in this game however. I don't think Notre Dame will ever be down more than 10 points in this game. I actually think they will be leading the game most of the game. I think the Notre Dame offense will come to life quicker than the Maryland offense. I also believe that Notre Dame has the better defense of the two. Early turnovers could be the momentum swing that either team can grab onto. Holding on to the football and throwing smart passes will be the key to this game. Special teams could also be a big factor in the outcome because I think both teams will be about even going into the game. I think Notre Dame has the better athletes but that does not win games.

I expect a low score at half (10-7 or 7-3). I don't think either team will get things clicking early. In the second half, I think Notre Dame will start to pull away. The offense will come together enough to make some big plays. I think Maryland will move the ball some but I don't see a patchwork offensive line with a new quarterback and a new runningback scoring many points on this Notre Dame defense. Notre Dame 28 Maryland 17.


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