As the season gets closer and closer we start to see predictions come out. We know a few things: the SEC is still going to win the National Title (a safe pick), Ohio State has already won the Big Ten (debatable) and will play in the National title game (eh, I don't know), and Notre Dame has an easy schedule that assures 10 wins.
Wait a minute, what?
You see, this is another reason I can't stand some of the more vocal and obnoxious Notre Dame fans. They see their schedule and think 10 wins is going to be easy. Apparently they are the only team that can have vast improvement at multiple positions, which is needed to get to 10 wins. They are also the only team that can suffer downgrades at multiple positions and still shine. The reason? Brian Kelly knows how to coach talent!
Well, the team still needs to do a few things such as establish a running game, get the same consistency at quarterback with Dayne Crist, and adjust to a different offensive system with Michael Floyd as the lone standout receiver. On defense... Well, they need to find a defense, something that Brian Kelly wasn't exactly noted for.
I think in time Notre Dame can be good. You can't recruit that much talent every year and not have at least a few good seasons. But using the schedule as a reason to expect 10 wins this season is a stretch even for their fans. Watch as I use facts (something your average Domer chooses to ignore) to debunk this myth.
Game 1 vs. Purdue
Reason it is Easy: "It's just Purdue"
Ah yes, "Just Purdue". Your typical Notre Dame fan can never believe that Purdue would ever challenge the vaunted Irish, let alone win. The reason I was told last year's game was so close was because Jimmy Powlus wasn't totally healthy. Well, Purdue has an upgrade at quarterback from Joey Elliott to Robert Marve, a deeper receiving group, and possibly a better running back with Al-Terek McBurse over Ralph Bolden. On defense both teams have a suspect secondary and were awful against the run. The Fighting Irish don't have as big of a pass rushing threat as Purdue's Ryan Kerrigan, but Crist has an advantage in that most of his game experience came in last year's Purdue game.
If I were a betting man I would lay down a ton of money on Purdue beating the ridiculous 10.5 point spread. This is going to be a much closer game than people think because neither team is that strong defensively, while both are strong offensively. Notre Dame must attack with Armando Allen against a run defense that did little to nothing last year. As of now, it looks like they are going to use a hurry-up no huddle attack. This is good if it is clicking, but it is a risk considering it is game one with a new system. There's also the real possibility that the new members of Purdue's secondary might just be better than the players they replaced. We just don't know considering that as many as three starters weren't playing college ball last year. Ricardo Allen may be better better than Brandon King. Michael Eargle might be better than David Pender. Max Charlot or E.J. Johnson might be better than Dwight McLean. If they are, the secondary question is solved on day 1.
Notre Dame was smart last year and attacked Purdue with a variety of rushing looks, including Tate in the Wildcat. They would be wise to do that again and prove Purdue can finally stop the run. They also need to get the ball to Michael Floyd as much as possible. The Irish should be favored, but this is far from an easy game.
Game 2 vs. Michigan
Reason it is Easy: "RichRod"
Ah yes, the Wolverines will be an easy win because they were 5-7 last year. That same 5-7 team beat Notre Dame too with a much more experienced quarterback running the show. The game will be in South Bend, and Michigan may desperately need a win before a total meltdown occurs.
Truthfully, I think this is an easier win for the Irish than Purdue. Michigan is in nothing short of chaos right now. The defense, especially against the pass, looks terrible on paper. The offense can't settle on a quarterback and Denard Robinson is no kind of passer. Tate Forcier is the best choice, but when you hear transfer rumors about a player they are never good. Danny Hope's players are ready to run through a wall for him and he has Purdue heading in a positive direction. At the Big Ten Kickoff luncheon you could see the fear in RichRod's eyes. It was undeniable. The Wolverines are in trouble, and I do give this one to Notre Dame
Game 3 at Michigan State
Reason it is Easy: Michigan State always chokes
That may have been true under John L. Smith, but Michigan State is a much more disciplined team (at least on the field) than in past years. They showed a lot of resolve in their fourth quarter comeback at Purdue to clinch a bowl game last year. Under Smith, they lose that game. They have an experienced quarterback and dynamic receivers, plus this is a home game for them. Notre Dame just has three true road contests this year, and if not for an overthrown receiver last year the Irish would have lost. Michigan State also had a solid offensive line.
Unfortunately, Michigan State is another team with secondary issues. They struggle to stop the forward pass like they have never seen it before. The Spartans offset that by having a solid pass rush that generated 35 sacks and one of the best linebackers in the country in Greg Jones. If they can get after Crist and disrupt the timing of the offense I expect a Michigan State win.
Game 4 vs. Stanford
Reason it is Easy: No more Toby Gerhart
Hold on, I think Toby Gerhart just had another big run. With 205 yards and three touchdowns last year the Fighting Irish could not stop Gerhart. The Cardinal rode him all night long too. Stanford outscored the Irish 18-7 in the final quarter after simply wearing them down. Gerhart is gone, but why would the Irish ever struggle with a team that stayed in the Pac-10 race much longer than long-time rival USC?
Andrew Luck will certainly help. Luck is expected to be a breakout star in the Pac-10 and a nationally televised game at Notre Dame will be nice for him. As it was he was 14 for 20 with 198 yards passing last year. He will give Notre Dame a lot to think about.
Game 5 at Boston College
Reason it is Easy: This is one of the two games their fans see them losing
Wow! If Notre Dame fans think they are going to lose a game before the season start the Eagles must have the greatest team in the history of college football! Let's just leave it there and move on.
Game 6 vs. Pittsburgh
Reason it is Easy: We're at home!
Ah, but if you look at the preseason rankings this is the only team ranked in the top 25 that Notre Dame plays at home. Therefore, shouldn't this be their toughest game? Pittsburgh nearly ruined Cincinnati's perfect regular season and Big East championship past year, and who was the coach of that Cincinnati team again? If Pittsburgh can get past Miami on September 23rd they can look at the Notre Dame game as their last big roadblock before an undefeated season. This is one of the better teams in the Big East even though they are replacing Bill Stull. Playing Utah and Miami early on toughens them up as well.
Oh, and Pittsburgh did beat them last year. Just another small fact.
Game 7 vs. Navy (at Baltimore)
Reason it is Easy: It's Navy
Yes, the same Navy that has beaten you two out of the last three games and felt it was no big deal to beat you in South Bend last year. This is a disciplined football club that trusts its system and won 10 games last year. SI lists them as a BCS dark horse with "Just Purdue" and Boston College. Also, SI says the Irish's schedule is just too tough to see anything more than the Champs Sports Bowl. I'll let the rest of their facts (since they are a respected real publication and I am just a "worthless bag of hot air.")
I do have a shirt available for Notre Dame fans for the Navy game though.
Game 8 vs. Western Michigan
Reason it is Easy: "We don't play MAC schools"
Oh wait, Western Michigan is in the MAC. As much as I would love to see the carnage of Notre Dame losing to a MAC team, it is not likely to happen.
Game 9 vs. Tulsa
Reason it is Easy: It's Tulsa
G.J. Kinne is a decent senior quarterback and the Golden Hurricane has been known to chuck the ball around, but Notre Dame should still win this one easily.
Game 10 vs. Utah
Reason it is Easy: We should always beat non-BCS teams
Newsflash: Utah is 2-0 in BCS bowls, was the last team to beat Defending champ Alabama (in dominating fashion, no less) and will officially be joining a BCS conference in a year. Utah is more of a BCS team than the Irish themselves are. They are coming off of a 10-3 season, were 13-0 the year before, 9-4 in 2007, and 12-0 back in 2004. They have more undefeated seasons (2) in the last six years than the Irish have in the last 30. You can argue that the Mountain West Conference is not a BCS conference, but they are close to making the unprecedented step of earning a BCS automatic bid, making it a tougher league than people give it credit.
But what do facts mean, anyway?
Game 11 vs. Army (in New York City)
Reason it is Easy: Army used to be good, but not anymore
I would favor Notre Dame heavily in this one. Army is improving, but they still shouldn't be in Notre Dame's class. It will be fun to watch a game in Yankee Stadium though.
Game 12 at USC
Reason it is Easy: They are on Probation
A lot of Notre Dame fans are thinking this would be the other loss in a 10-2 season. That's fine. USC has owned the Irish for almost a decade now and Notre Dame's biggest moment of the past decade was almost beating them in 2005. The Trojans don't have much to play for this year, and I am far from sold on Lane Kiffin as a coach. Call me crazy, but I actually want to give this one to Notre Dame as a big win they can build on for next season.
That is the big thing. The Irish can be very good in time under Brian Kelly. What better way to build a buzz that the tables are turning by beating USC this year? I think Notre Dame has hard games against Purdue, Michigan State, Stanford, Boston College, Pittsburgh, Navy, and Utah, but with frat boy Kiffin in charge at USC I like Notre Dame. Kelly has accomplished something on the field as a coach. Kiffin has not. With nothing to play for USC is going to take a bigger step back than people think.
My best case scenario for Notre Dame: 8-4
I think the Irish are going to be a team that gets better as the season goes on. That is why I am very glad Purdue gets them in game 1. If we were playing them in game 6 they might be worth that 10.5 point spread. With all the questions on both side and Purdue dedicating its focus of the first half of the schedule on the Irish it makes things different. We are the ones with the easy schedule after Notre Dame. If we can beat the Irish I think we should be 6-0 going to Ohio State.
Once the passing game comes together, however, the Irish will be a much better team. They will be a polished team at the end of the season with the Tulsa, Western Michigan, and Army game to get better. That should pay dividends against USC.