Author’s Note: This post contains nearly 100% football content. If you are Football Intolerant, you may want to skip this one.
On Saturday, Notre Dame plays its first football game of the season. It’s probably the one thing I am most excited for every year. It’s more exciting than Thanksgiving or Christmas for me. Thanksgiving tends to get in the way of watching football and it’s hard to get too excited about Christmas when you don’t even buy the premise. So the beginning of Notre Dame’s football season is my favorite time of the year.
It also often brings me much pain.
I suspect this season will bring much pain. Why? Well…
…look at this schedule:
8/30 — Rice
9/6 — Michigan
9/13 — Purdue
9/27 — @ Syracuse
10/4 — #11 Stanford
10/11 — #23 North Carolina
10/18 — @ #1 Florida State
11/1 — @ Navy
11/8 — @ #19 Arizona State
11/15 — Northwestern
11/22 — Louisville
11/29 — @ #15 USC
(Notre Dame is ranked #17)
October is going to be rough. There are only five teams on this schedule we should definitely beat (Rice, Purdue, Syracuse, Navy, Northwestern). There are a few more we should beat (Michigan, North Carolina, Louisville). The rest are either toss ups or losses. That’s before I even consider…
…we may be without our best wide receiver (DaVaris Daniels) and our second-best defensive player (KeiVarae Russell) and another starting defensive lineman (Ishaq Williams) due to academic misconduct. These guys were going to be key cogs to a successful 2014. They’re not practicing right now and it doesn’t look like they’ll be available for Rice. Who knows how long they’ll be out — if they even return at all.
Add that to the fact that we already had an inexperienced defense learning a new system under our new defensive coordinator (Brian VanGorder) and we should expect some major mistakes and big plays to happen against this squad. Which means…
…there is going to be a TON of pressure on our offense to score lots of points — which is entirely possible, IF a few things happen:
1) The offensive line — which lost its best player in a decade and a second player to the NFL — is as good or better than last year. I mean, if you think unproven but athletic dudes can step up and fill the shoes of two of the team’s best players from a season ago, this can definitely happen. I’m not holding my breath.
2) Everett Golson is significantly better than he was in 2012. Sure, he sat out last season but no one ever comes back rusty after something like that. I’m sure he’ll be refreshed and perfectly accurate and make all the right decisions.
3) Our special teams improves. Aside from the kickers, special teams have been pretty sad under Brian Kelly. This is the area where I have the most hope. We have a roster full of good players and we should be able to put some athletes on our coverage and return teams who can make a difference.
I’m painting a bleak picture. I hope I’m wrong, but I see too many things stacked against this team right now. This will not be a great season for the Fighting Irish. It could end up being a very good season or it could be an awful season.
Best Case Scenario
The Irish beat Rice, Michigan, Purdue and Syracuse to start the season and everyone stays healthy. We lose to Stanford, beat North Carolina and lose to Florida State. We finish with wins against Navy, Northwestern, Louisville and a banged-up USC squad to finish 10-2. No playoff.
Worst Case Scenario
We beat Rice but lose to Michigan. We bounce back to beat Purdue and Syracuse only to lose three straight to Stanford, North Carolina and Florida State. Injuries start to pile up. The defense is depleted. We squeak by Navy, lose to Arizona State, beat Northwestern and lose the last two to Louisville and USC to finish 5-7. Everyone freaks out and people start calling for Brian Kelly’s job.
Realistically, the Irish will win 7 or 8 games but I can easily talk myself into either of the two scenarios above. Or I could talk myself into an even worse scenario where we lose to Navy and everyone in our defensive front seven walks away from that game with a major knee or ankle injury because, you know, Navy, and we don’t win another game. Brian Kelly is fired, the stadium is razed, they paint the dome purple, denounce Catholicism as a sham and revoke all alumni degrees.
So, yeah, that’s where my head’s at. BUT I CAN’T WAIT FOR THIS SATURDAY.