We're finally here. The longest day of the year. So while you sit there, willing the clock to speed up while the Victory March plays on an endless loop in your head, take 30 seconds to enter your preseason prediction for the 2008 Fighting Irish.
Ok then, now that your picks have been locked away, here for your fun and enjoyment are the BGS 2008 season predictions.
|2008 ||SDS ||UM ||MSU ||PU ||Stan. ||UNC ||UW ||Pitt.||BC ||Navy ||'Cuse ||USC ||W-L|
|Brian ||W||L ||L ||W||W||W||W||W ||L ||W||W||L ||8-4 |
|Dylan ||L ||L ||L ||L ||L ||L ||L ||L||L ||L ||L ||W||1-11 |
|Jay ||W ||W ||W ||L ||W ||W ||W ||W ||L ||W ||W ||L ||9-3 |
|Jeff ||W ||W||L ||W||L ||W ||W ||L||L ||W||W||L ||7-5|
|Mark ||W||W ||L ||W||W||L||W||L||W||W||W||L ||8-4 |
|Michael ||W ||W||W ||W||W ||L ||W ||W ||L ||W||W||L||9-3 |
|Mike ||W||W ||L||W||W||L ||W||W ||L ||W||W||L ||8-4|
|Pat ||W||W ||L||W||W||L ||W||L||W||W||W||L ||8-4 |
|Pete ||W||W||W||L ||W||L||W ||W||W||W||W||L ||9-3 |
|Teds ||W||W ||L ||W||W||L||W||W ||W||W||W||L ||9-3 |
As per usual, we also had a mini-roundtable about the upcoming season.
We were all way off last season on predicting the season. What was the one thing you overlooked last year and aren't this season?
Michael: Great question. There wasn't one thing. There were many things. Forced to choose one, I would say that I overlooked the general void of talent and numbers in the upper classes. That reared its ugly head all over the field. This year I think there is the same or more talent across the board with the exception of DE (Trevor Laws) and TE (John Carlson). Some might argue for the inclusion of Darrin Walls in that list, but I think it's a negligible difference (time will tell). I think the overall defense should be better, as Laws made many of his 100+ tackles 5-6 yards downfield by jumping on the ball carrier from behind. I think we should do a better job holding the edge on defense, the secondary should be good, and the aggressive blitzing defense should be able to rattle some of the more inexperienced QBs on our schedule. Speaking of which, that schedule is weak, and I think it's good that we play games like Michigan State and Michigan earlier in the year.
Mark: The overall youth and inexperience of the team, particularly at QB and OL. One is bad enough to deal with but the combination of the two can be, as we saw, brutal. And that was made worse by the mistakes Weis and company made, particularly in summer camp and early in the season.
Overall, ND was one of the youngest teams in the country last season. And while I think the situation is better in 2008 it's still not where the program should be and I think we will be inconsistent this season as a result. I had a hard time deciding which games to put down as wins and which ones to put down as losses. Because I see as many as seven games that I think are toss ups. We'll lose at least one game to a team everyone considers to be inferior. But I think that is basically par for the course in today's world of college football.
Pat: To be blatantly honest, I overlooked the fact that Charlie is inexperienced too. I assumed he would be good enough head coach to cover up all the inexperience on the roster. I knew we were young, but I figured the raw talent would be enough for Charlie to whip up some Irish magic. That didn't happen. I probably underestimated a few of our opponents too and Corwin Brown's ability to scheme against the triple option.
Pete: That talent alone won't win you football games, but experience is perhaps an even stronger component. We had all these talented freshmen coming expected to contribute, and I'd seen other freshman on other teams immediately make a difference, but I failed to account for the fact that last year's squad really had no foundation that the young guys could lean on while they learned the ropes. Effectively, last year's team was a high-school All-Star team in terms of cohesion, consistency, and comprehension. We really had no idea how much the team was starting from scratch last year.
Brian: The offensiveness of the offensive line.
Dylan: I overlooked the fact that college football is just a silly little game. It really, really, really isn't that big a deal. Seriously! We all have more important things to do, like yard work. And walks on the beach. It's all about the children!
Mike: The cumulative effect of inexperience. Every year, there are freshmen contributing in college football, but those freshmen contributors are usually surrounded by experience (think Sam Young in 2006). When the number of inexperienced players is small, coaches can adjust their playcalling and schemes to protect the inexperienced players. Not so when you have inexperience across the board.
Teds: The value of experience and the prudence of a balanced schedule. Okay, two things.
What one unit will be the most improved from last year?
Pete: The offensive line. If they're bad this year, it'll be a marked improvement.
Mark: Offensive Line. If not, then a lot of my predictions will be as useless as last season's.
Brian: The offensive line, almost by default, since there's so much room for improvement. It's a more seasoned unit this year, and the young guys have an extra spring and summer in the weight room under their rather large belts.
Dylan: I would say Charlie's headset, since it clearly didn't work last year. Otherwise he would have heard Haywood screaming "KICK THE GODDAMN FIELD GOAL" against Navy.
Michael: Offensive line. I think they're better, and they'll be put into a position where they'll be more likely to be successful (running the ball).
Pat: I'll go against the grain a bit and say special teams. Not that I don't expect the OL to get a lot better, but I think the special teams units will be improved across the board from returning kicks and punts to covering them to being somewhat consistent kicking field goals to finally landing a few kickoffs in the endzone.
Mike: Offensive line. Only one loss to graduation, and Wenger got experience when Sullivan missed the last few games due to injury.
Teds: Offensive line. Frankly, they have the most upward mobility after last year.
What will have a greater impact. Tenuta working with Corwin or Charlie stepping back from calling plays?
Pete: Tenuta working with Corwin. I think Weis will still have a finger in formulating Haywood's gameplan and overall strategy, but he's really leaving the nuts and bolts to his offensive coordinator. On the other hand, I think Tenuta's inclusion could result in a major makeover of the defense, a complete change in philosophy.
Mark: Corwin working with Tenuta. Corwin, overall, did a good job last season but our performances against Navy and AFA, and the gameplans we utilized were, uh, subpar. Tenuta is a college lifer. He's attacked options teams, spread teams, pro style teams, etc. And that's something that I think we will be doing more of this year on defense - attacking.
Michael: Tenuta working with Corwin. I still am not sold on the idea of Haywood calling plays, though I realize it's en vogue with Richt, Tedford, and Spurrier also giving up the job. Also, some of Corwin's gameplanning and playcalls against option teams were called into question last year by folks whose Xs and Os knowledge I trust. Tenuta's college game experience should be invaluable. The combo of Tenuta in the box and Corwin on the field with the players could be extremely successful.
Mike: Tenuta working with Corwin. Given Corwin's NFL background, I think Tenuta's college experience will be a big help in facing some of the offenses that you see in college but not in the pros.
Teds: Tenuta. I think his impact is actually being understated by many of the ND fans I converse with. People will complain that the personnel isn't quite there yet, but he's fared better in other places with less than he and Brown have to work with now.
Brian: Tenuta, and it's not close. That was a key addition to the staff at a time when the defense appears on paper to be a little thin on depth up front.
Everyone loves an impact freshman. Who's your pick?
Michael: Kyle Rudolph. I think it's telling that, despite losing Mike Ragone for the year, Weis still said, "We're excited about our tight end situation" in the 9/2 presser. If Weis were playing poker, that'd be a big tell.
Mark: On one level it's Dayne Crist. He was one of the lynchpins that helped keep that class together through signing day and one of the big reasons why we held onto Floyd, Rudolph, Johnson, etc. On the more traditional level, Kyle Rudolph.
Pete: Michael Floyd. I think he'll be a regular contributor by the end of the year, and will likely gain a bit of national attention.
Dylan: I prefer not to think in terms of "impact." I prefer to think of them all as gears. Foam gears. Spongy foam gears turning together in a beautiful, soft, quiet machine that uses the fuel of kinetic energy to produce a parade of peace and harmony. This is my dream.
Mike: Kyle Rudolph. A few weeks ago, the contenders would have been Rudolph, Michael Floyd, Ethan Johnson and Robert Blanton, but Mike Ragone's injury gives Rudolph the biggest opportunity to have an impact.
Teds: Floyd, hands down.
Pat: Kyle Rudolph will start the season as the impact freshman, but by the end it will be all Floyd.
Brian: Omar Hunter. Oh, wait....On second thought, Kyle Rudolph and Michael Floyd or, as I like to call them, Thunder and Lightning.
Any general expectations for 2008?
Michael: Strong defense, solid running game, inconsistent passing game. Ultimately, I think the success/failure of the season may hinge upon the plays Haywood calls when teams load up the box and dare us to pass: how well will the passing game execute in those situations?
Pat: We'll have a team that will be fun to watch. There will still be mistakes and a few losses scattered about, but the team will fly all over the field on defense and the young talent on offense will provide the highlights and production that were missing last year. We may even finally live up to the description "nasty".
Mark: I think ND will be a solid football in 2008. Not as good as the 2005 team but not as bad as the 2007 team. But I don't see the amount of impact upperclassmen needed to be anything more than solid. As talented as were are in the freshmen and sophomore classes (and I think we are just as talented as any team in the country in that respect) we're still average at the top. That won't stop us from being good but it will stop us from being great.
Mike: Less anguish than 2007, not as much fun as 2005.
Teds: I expect to see a great deal of growth this season, though probably not on the smooth curve everyone surely hopes for. I do believe that this team will be capable of pushing SC and
anyone else they might have to play by the end of this season and ready to unleash hell in 2009.
Dylan: Michigan will continue to suck
Brian: A greatly improved win-loss record, but more importantly, legitimate progress in every aspect of the game, leading to an abundance of optimism for 2009 (yet another Return to Glory).
Pete: The team will be better this year, no doubt. I can't imagine a world where they don't improve from last year's historic debacle. However, just because they'll be better doesn't necessarily mean they'll be back to 2005/2006 levels; by all accounts this is still an exceptionally young team, and if last year taught us anything, a youthful team should also come with tempered expectations. This year, we'll see more of the some of the very brief flashes of excellence we saw towards the end of last season, and on a more regular basis, but there still will be times where the team will seem stomach-churningly similar to 2007. However, with this year's schedule, it could be easy for us to get very quickly overconfident and declare Glory Returned, only to end the season by playing USC and being sternly reminded that we still have some work to do.
While I seriously doubt we'll be hoisting the crystal football this year, if anything else, 2008 should be more fun than 2007, and we'll probably end the year looking forward to 2009.
Finally, will ND win a bowl game this season?
Mike: If the regular season win total is 7-9, then yes.
Mark: No. Which will make for another fun filled off season.
Pat: Yes, and then ND fans will lord it over the losers of the 31 other bowl games about how their favorite program hasn't won a bowl game since at least 2007.
Brian: I don't care if it's the Shamwow! Absorbency Bowl---they will by god win a bowl game.
Pete: If Notre Dame is mediocre, they win a bowl game. If they are good, they don't, because we'll get shoved into some BCS or other top tier bowl against a bunch of fire-breathers and get smoked again. We need to win the RonCo Rotisserie Bowl or something, not be sacrificed at the hands of Fiesta.