That Time of Year

IrishEyes examines September schedules around the BCS and discusses part of its publishing plan for the upcoming season.

In one week, all the speculation ends. Talk of camaraderie, feats of summer strength, and dominant 7-on-7 quarterbacks ceases to be (somewhat) relevant. Freshmen stars will drop passes and blow coverages; new coordinators' revolutionary playbooks will mysteriously yield the same results of the former men in charge; and after pouring through multiple pre-season annuals and Irish-related subscription sites, a team you never considered will prevail over a "Sleeper BCS Contender" simply because they played sound football, punted often, and didn't make a mistake.

In one week, No.1 Florida will win by 60 and it won't mean a thing. In one week either Virginia Tech or Alabama will begin the long journey back from an 0-1 hole. And in one week, Irish fans will display one of three emotions: elation, disgust, or (more likely) satisfaction…with another week of speculation and over-analysis before emoting again.

College football is upon us and IrishEyes' coverage of Notre Dame's 2009 regular season begins with our Publishers' Season Previews on Monday; analysis of the first meaningful 2009 depth chart on Tuesday; full previews of Nevada beginning on Wednesday; a historical look at home openers on Thursday; and game score predictions (for informational purposes only, of course) and a weekend preview on Friday.

We're excited about our in-season coverage for 2009. Joining IrishEyes in May resulted in four months of necessary speculation with the only tangible evidence to back up any claims, projections or predictions, being previous seasons' game film.

(I'm proud to say through zero games played that not a single prediction has been proven wrong).

In addition to the columns listed above (and the requisite practice/press conference reviews), our in-season coverage will include (but is not limited to):

  • Detailed film review of the previous week's contest
  • Weekly game reviews of verbally committed Irish players
  • Weekly updates on recruiting visits
  • Statistical analysis of each game, each month, and any other numbers I can fabricate, excuse me, analyze in between
  • Weekly columns tracking every play a particular Irish player is involved with each Saturday (the player will change week-to-week)
  • Irish player "rankings" (top 15 or 20 depending on the number of games that have been played)
  • Weekly updated rankings of the 11 key positional units previewed in July
  • Pieces tracking the contributions of each class (freshman, sophomore, junior, senior, 5th) each week
  • An article from guest publishers from opposing Scout.com sites
  • Columns covering the history of the series with each weeks' opponent
  • And of course, your personal fill of subjective opinion columns and a few other surprises along the way.

Unless of course ND starts the season 1-4; doesn't score an offensive touchdown for two weeks; runs out of time inside the red zone to end games in consecutive losses vs. Big 10 teams; and breaks out the green jerseys vs. a sub-.500 opponent…then I'll just quit.

Coming into Focus

Nearly 320 articles and videos regarding Notre Dame players past, present and future were featured on these pages since May 5th…zero games were played.

Today I'm taking a break from speculation about the Irish and embarking on a quick look around the BCS for the season's first month. Each week during the season I'll have a brief column profiling Irish (upcoming and previous) opponents as well as the nation's best teams as a whole (aside from one team from SoCal, those two sets are mutually exclusive in 2009).

The first installment examines a few notable scheduling quirks of BCS and other high level teams one week before the bullets start to fly.

Anywhere, Anyplace, Anytime

Fresno State head coach Pat Hill's mantra from the early portion of the decade applies to a few BCS conference teams this September, including:

  • Georgia: September Opponents – at Oklahoma State, South Carolina, at Arkansas, Arizona State (followed by consecutive October dates vs. LSU and at Tennessee). In the immortal words of Michael Scott: YEEASHH…
  • Virginia Tech: September Opponents – Alabama, Marshall, Nebraska and Miami. The catch? Marshall is a bit down; Miami is a conference foe; and Nebraska should rank somewhere between the Callahan and Solich eras in terms of its level of play. Still, out of conference dates with ‘Bama, Nebraska, and generally strong non-BCS foe Marshall deserves kudos.
  • Oregon: September Opponents – at Boise State, Purdue, Utah, California. Sure Purdue is down, but this ranks as quality (and dangerous, no-upside) out-of-conference scheduling, followed by a potential top ten conference foe in California. If the Ducks begin 4-0 they'll likely reach a 7-0 start before a battle with Southern Cal on Halloween.

And the 2009 Early-Season Scheduling Champion:

  • The University of Miami: September Opponents – at Florida State, Georgia Tech, at Virginia Tech, Oklahoma. Combined 2008 season wins by the Hurricane's first four opponents: 40. Ed Reed is not walking through that door…

Finally, the "No-Upside Non-Conference Scheduling" award goes to Florida State, who travels to Brigham Young on September 19 and returns to Tallahassee for a matchup with South Florida on the 26th. Both are capable, dangerous non-conference teams for which the Seminoles will receive little national acclaim in victory but plenty of raised eyebrows in defeat.

Then they get Florida on Thanksgiving weekend.

Anywhere, Anyplace, Anytime…but by that we mean as long as it's at our place against a lower-level, non-BCS opponent of our choosing

Welcome to State College! Where the Yuengling flows like wine and traditional powers such as Akron and Temple bookend a date with Big East bottom-dweller (ahem) Syracuse. Penn State will gear up for its fourth consecutive home game on September 26 in a revenge match vs. Iowa…and welcome Eastern Illinois two weeks later.

So do they charge full price for the Spring Game, too?

September Out of Conference Matchups of Note:

The Irish play at 3:30; 3:30; 3:30; and 8:00 on consecutive September Saturdays. Check your local listings if you'd like to tune into a few of the other (or all, as the case may be) crucial non-conference matchups listed below:

September 3: Oregon at Boise State

September 5: Georgia at Oklahoma State

September 5: BYU vs. Oklahoma (Dallas)

September 5: LSU at Washington

September 5: Alabama vs. Virginia Tech (Atlanta)

September 5: Illinois vs. Missouri (St. Louis)

September 12: Stanford at Wake Forest

September 12: UCLA at Tennessee

September 12: USC at Ohio State

September 19: Nebraska at Virginia Tech

September 19: Utah at Oregon

September 19: Cincinnati at Oregon State

September 19: Florida State at BYU

September 19: West Virginia at Auburn

September 25: Missouri at Nevada (hopefully not a national game of note)

Getting Their Sea Legs

Some programs' early-season schedules fit their given level of national esteem (there's nothing wrong with IU playing Akron – especially traveling to face the Zips prior to playing a conference game).

Then there's Michigan:

The Worst Potential 3-1 Teams in the nation when we meet back here in October:

Iowa State: Home matchups vs. North Dakota State, Iowa, and Army, and a trip to Kent vs. the 4-8 Golden Flashes.

Michigan: Home games with new rivals Eastern and Western Michigan bookend Notre Dame's trip to Ann Arbor. The Wolverines then host IU.

Kansas State: Massachusetts (Marcus Camby is not walking through that door); at Louisiana Lafayette; at UCLA; Tennessee Tech. Former and current Wildcats head coach Bill Snyder's return to the site of the greatest reclamation project in the history of college football should be fairly smooth for at least a month.

Plausible 6-0 Start that Could End With a Thud:

Northwestern: Home games vs. Towson and Eastern Michigan are followed by a date at Syracuse. The Wildcats welcome peer Minnesota before traveling to Purdue and then a home date with Miami (Ohio).

Not until October 17 when Sparty comes to Evanston should Northwestern be anything but a favorite or "Pick ‘Em" in any contest. Home dates with Penn State and Wisconsin and road tilts at Iowa and Illinois populate the latter half of the Wildcats 2009 schedule.

Guaranteed Rivalry Victory in September: Florida over Tennessee in The Swamp on the 19th.

Wild, off-the-cuff opening weekend Upset Alert: Memphis at home over Mississippi on Sunday, September 6.


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