Threat(s):Washington has a few guys in D'Andre Goodwin and Terrence Dailey that could hurt the Irish. If he plays, freshman receiver Cody Bruns is a guy Notre Dame will have to mark.
Life is ironic.
Notre Dame could play a part in ending Tyrone Willingham's employment at his last two jobs. After firing the head coach four years ago, a loss to the Irish this week could see Washington sending Willingham to the same fate.
The Huskies 0-6 start is the worst in program history dating back to 1969. After what some thought was a messy firing of Willingham by Notre Dame, you can bet the Washington administrators are making sure they cover their rears entirely before giving Willingham his eventual walking papers.
A loss to the Irish presents the perfect situation for Washington and Willingham to cut ties. A Huskies defeat eliminates all possibility of a bowl game or winning season that fans have given up on weeks ago. Word is that season ticket holders have sent their football tickets back to the school president after watching Willingham accumulate an 11-32 record to date. Willingham is 5-20 at home, with just two wins inside Husky Stadium against BCS opponents.
Though not likely, if Willingham and Washington do indeed pull off a huge upset against Notre Dame this weekend, it will be because receiver D'Andre Goodwin and running back Terrence Dailey picked up from where they left off in last weekend's 34-13 loss to Oregon State.
Goodwin had his first 100-yard receiving game of the season, hauling in five passes for 136 yards. He also had a 61-yard reception negated because of a holding penalty. The problem is, injured quarterback Jake Locker and now Ronnie Fouch key in on the sophomore Goodwin nearly every time they drop back to pass.
Washington fans got their first good look at the true freshman Dailey against the Beavers. The fourth different running back to earn a start this fall, Dailey had 106 yards on 16 carries and a touchdown, becoming the first Huskies back to run for over the century mark.
Willingham has said that freshman receiver Cody Bruns is in the team's plans this week. He has only played in one game this fall, and Willingham is receiving heat for burning a year of Bruns eligibility. That's no concern for Notre Dame. They just want to make sure Bruns, who led the nation with 109 receptions as a high school senior last year, doesn't catch a pass and become famous this weekend.
Achilles Heal(s): The offensive line and plenty of youth.
The Huskies offensive line has been a huge disappointment. The unit entered the season with 75-career combined starts, and the players talked about how they were going to put the offense on their backs during fall camp.
However, the offensive line has been the reason by the offense is mainly on its back.
The Huskies are ranked 99th in the nation in sacks allowed, and the group of Ben Ossai (6-6, 332), Jordan White-Frisbee (6-5, 368), Juan Garcia (6-3, 305), Casey Bulyca (6-6, 339) and Cody Habben (6-6, 316) are certainly big, but they've looked very slow. If Notre Dame's defensive ends can't get around the edge against these guys, they're not going to be able to do it against anybody.
Because of injuries and graduation, Willingham has had to play plenty of young players at the skill positions. Goodwin was the only Washington receiver that entered the season with a catch. A lot of players have just been thrown into the fire, and obviously that hasn't turned out well so far.
The new quarterback is Ronnie Fouch, who has started the last two games for the injured Locker. The 6-foot-1, 203-pound signal caller is a much more accurate passer than Locker, and more of a vertical threat, but he isn't nearly the runner or playmaker Locker was. Washington has abandoned all of its read option and zone plays since Locker went down.
Fouch threw for a career-high 276 yards against Oregon State, but also had three interceptions. Sometimes he sits in the pocket too long, and the offensive line has obviously made him look bad. For the season, he's 54-of-107 passing, for 782 yards and three touchdowns to four interceptions.
Miscellaneous: Washington is 45-of-91 (49 percent) on third down this season. They're winning the time-of-possession battle, 30:05 to 29:55. The Huskies have been good in the red zone when they get there, scoring on 12-of-17 opportunities, including 11 touchdowns. Despite not playing the last two games, Locker is still the team's leading rusher with 180 yards and three scores. Goodwin leads the way with 32 catches for 451 yards. Devin Aguilar's 14-yard punt return against Oregon State was 15 yards more than anyone else on the team had combined coming in. Kicker/punter Jared Ballman is definitely not a bright spot, making just 2-of-5 field goals on the year and averaging only 38.8 yards per punt. Freshman running back Chris Polk is out for the season.
Threat(s):Not much but Daniel Te'o-Nesheim.
Stop No. 66 from getting to Jimmy Clausen, and the Irish offense should have a field day against this defense.
Te'o-Nesheim is a talented defensive end that has all three sacks Washington has for the season. All three came against Arizona. Teams haven't allowed Te'o-Nesheim to be much of a factor with all the youth surrounding him on defense.
Achilles Heal(s):Take your pick.
Washington can't stop the run, and they can't stop the pass. They're dead last in pass-efficiency defense, and 105th nationally against the run. The Huskies are dead last in tackles for loss, and 114th in turnover margin. Notre Dame should be able to have its way with this unit.
Miscellaneous: Teams are an astonishing 44-of-72 (61 percent) on third down against the Huskies. Opponents are 23-of-26 (88 percent) in the red zone against Washington, including 19 touchdowns. Sophomore linebacker Mason Foster leads the team with 50 tackles. Washington has only forced four turnovers all year, two interceptions and two fumble recoveries..
Game Notes: This is the 7th-ever meeting between Notre Dame and Washington. The Irish lead the series with a 6-0 record. The Vegas line has Notre Dame opening as 12-point favorites. Charlie Weis' record against Washington is 1-0. Tyrone Willingham's record against Notre Dame is 3-3.
Prediction: Notre Dame 42, Washington 14: Evan Sharpley will make his seasond debut, playing the majority of the fourth quarter in the Irish win. Jimmy Clausen and Armando Allen will have big games in the win, as Notre Dame doesn't turn the ball over.
Game Forecast: Washington Week
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