Scouting Report

Obviously, no 2007 game tape exists on Georgia Tech, so this scouting report is based on rosters and what I recall from last year. No mean feat since, as Mike has often stated, I'm old and he always harps on all things that go with being old. Father Time gets us all, Mike.

The Notre Dame versus Georgia Tech series first began in 1922 with an Irish 13-3 win. Since that inaugural contest the Irish have forged a dominating 27-5-1 record in the series. The longest hiatus of this series was from 1981 to 1997. The "Rudy" game also involved a contest with Georgia Tech.

The Rambling Wreck of Georgia Tech finished the 2006 season with a record of nine and five, seven and one in the ACC, and an outright win of the AAC Coastal Division. Out of those five loses were three point loses to Georgia, West Virginia, Wake Forest, and a four point loss to Notre Dame. Only once was Georgia Tech blown out, that being a thirty-one to seven shellacking by Clemson on the road. A significant road win by the Yellow Jackets was a thirty-eight to twenty-seven win over Virginia Tech.

The major offensive loss for Georgia Tech was, obviously, the graduation of their great wide receiver and ACC Player of the Year, Calvin Johnson. Johnson's fifteen touchdowns may be hard to replace. The other losses of note were the Wreck losing their right tackle as well as quarterback Reggie Ball.

On defense the Wreck lost All ACC defensive end Joe Anoai, linebacker and leading tackler KaMicheal Hall, and cornerback Kenny Scott. That's all they lost on defense, returning eight starters which projects as a very experienced defense.

Notre Dame, on the other hand lost three offensive line starters in Bob Morton, Ryan Harris, and Dan Santucci. The Irish lost the bulk of their 1634 rushing yards in Darius Walker's 1267 yards, plus Jeff Smardzija, Rhema Mcknight, and Walker took 2309 yards of the Irish's 3433 receiving yards with them to the next level. Oh yeah, there was that Brady Quinn guy as well.

Defensively, Notre Dame lost three starters from the defensive line in Chris Frome, Dekek Landri, and Victor Abiamiri, one cornerback in Mike Richardson, one safety in Chinedum Ndukwe, and had a linebacker, Travis Thomas, go back to offense.

Two interesting side notes of the game is that Charlie Weis, a veteran offensive signal caller, will again butt heads with veteran Georgia Tech defensive coordinator, Jon Tenuta. Coach Weis, often of a mind set that says let them blitz and we'll throw all day, doesn't enter this game with an experienced quarterback. No matter who starts for the Irish you can be sure that said individual is nowhere near being on par with Brady Quinn's ability to read progressions as well as read defenses. On the opposite end of the spectrum, rookie defensive coordinator Corwin Brown faces new Georgia Tech offensive coordinator, John Bond. Coach Brown enters his first season at Notre Dame, I believe, never having called a defense during a game, where as Coach Bond, while offensive coordinator at Northern Illinois and Army, set numerous school records for offensive production.

Georgia Tech Advantages

Many Irish fans think a victory, even a blowout, over Georgia Tech is a foregone conclusion. I'm more pessimistic in assessing this game. My pessimism is derived from what both teams have lost through graduation, what returns in the way of starters, and the experience level of the replacements and the respective coaching staff changes. On paper the Irish have more talent but, as the cliché goes, the game isn't played on paper. The Irish, who delivered when it mattered in last year's contest, were fortunate to come out of Georgia with a win last year after being down ten to nothing. A veteran offensive line had some problems opening up holes for the running game and in pass protection early in the contest, but fortunately the Irish pretty much stymied the Tech running game, and Reggie Ball was, well, Reggie Ball. Remember too the hit by Ndukwe over the middle on Calvin Johnson that may have been a game saver in terms of no reception and a message being delivered with the hit.

Offensively I see Georgia Tech having several advantages in the opener with the Irish. Georgia Tech has more returning starters, hence more experience on offense when compared to the Notre Dame defense. Georgia Tech's new quarter back, Taylor Bennett, at least by his bowl game performance against West Virginia last year, is a step up from Reggie Ball. The punting specialists of the respective teams cancel each other out, but Georgia Tech gets the edge in its place kicker.

Note Dame on the other hand, has a new defensive coordinator who again, to the best of my knowledge, has never called any game on defense. The Irish have only three returning starters in their front seven, with defensive end Trevor Laws, who most likely will face constant double teaming, and inside linebackers Maurice Crum and Joe Brockington. David Bruton at free safety and Darrin Walls at left corner are the two new starters in the secondary to go along with a healthy and lighter Tom Zbikowski at strong safety and a much improved Terrail Lambert at right coner. Outside linebackers John Ryan and Anthony Vernaglia make their first starts as well. Throw in a new defensive scheme, lack of size and depth on the defensive line, game experience, and much being made about the lack of physical play of the linebackers, real or imagined, and in my mind the Irish have a battle on their hands.

Georgia Tech's defense, as previously stated, returns five starters from the front seven that are well versed and experienced in Tenuta's blitzing schemes. Notre Dame returns two previous starters on an offensive line that has faced the Yellow Jackets' defense, leaving quite a challenge on the shoulders of Dan Wenger, Paul Duncan, and Mike Turkovich. In the hackneyed, but oh so true coach's mantra, the game is won at the line of scrimmage, and it is at the LOS that the Yellow Jackets appear to have the advantage.

Considering that last year the Irish had their hands full against Georgia Tech with a veteran offensive line the Irish are thrown into the crucible with three new offensive line starters, a new quarterback, return only the third receiver, and face a very blitz oriented, experienced defense with very little in terms of game experience. To me the success of Notre Dame in this game rests heavily on the shoulders of the three new starters on the offensive line and of course the new quarterback. Scary thought if I was an offensive coach at Notre Dame and I'm not just employing Lou Holtz or Frank Leahy media type pessimism. Fortunately, for the Irish faithful, it's Weis and company at the offensive helm, and of course, we all know they know a lot more than I do.

Irish Advantages

Besides the general mindset of Irish fandom that Notre Dame recruits better talent and that Notre Dame is superior physically to Georgia Tech, ( put Lou Holtz's quote about the other team gives out scholarships too in here) there are questions that the Georgia Tech staff must face. Who does Georgia Tech prepare for at quarter back? What tricks does Charlie have in terms of offensive packages and plays? Is the new offensive line as physical as some think? What schemes and packages are the Irish going to employ defensively? With a game time prediction of temperatures in the low eighties Notre Dame, according to Coach Weis does have enough depth to spell the starters. Adding to the questions is the fact the game is in South Bend.

Key Points for an Irish Victory

Unknown is the word that comes to mind when assessing this year's Notre Dame football team. The sections above in terms of what Georgia Tech's advantages are compared to Notre Dame's advantages are decidedly different in scope and length. Will the team fall into the level of most so-called prognosticator's belief of a barely or non-winning season? Or will the new starters bring back memories of Ara's Super Sophs and the euphoria of 1964? As coach Brown stated in spring ball, "I'm tired of playing each other. I want to play another team." That time is here and we're about to find out about this year's Irish.

The Irish must run the ball better than they did last year. In fact, I'd like to suggest that the lads from Notre Dame will win a close game if they can run the ball, and if not dominating from the outset, they wear down the Yellow Jackets using….dare I say this…the Woody Hayes concept of, "I will pound you and pound you till you quit." Should the Irish be able to pound the ball history suggests that Tech will cave. A moderate success, at opportune times, in the passing game may be just enough to push the Irish over the top provided they can grind out the yards on the ground.

Conversely, it's a no brainer that the Georgia Tech staff will try to force the Irish to pass in order to win the game, and with their veteran defense and blitz packages it may become a test of wills, field position, breaks, and penalties. Poise and toughness will decide this game for the Irish offensively.

Of course, the defense, highly inexperienced in several areas, must keep a new and raw Irish offense in the game. From what I remember from last year's game the Irish would have lost the Georgia Tech game had Ball played with the stats of most quarterbacks that Notre Dame faced last year. Bennet, on the surface of one game, appears a much better passer than Ball. So despite a new and better secondary the Irish need to harass him with a pass rush that may miss Abiamiri and Landri. Coach Brown's reputation as a coordinator, and not just a great recruiter, could be made in this game.

No turnovers and at least one special team success are needed to win this game.

So to me, the game rests on all those clichés and musings that precede an opener. An opener that will make for a close and interesting ball game.

Irish 21 Georgia Tech 17 Top Stories