Notre Dame Preview

Washington has never beaten Notre Dame in a series that dates back to 1948. It isn't like the Irish have been dominant every single time they have played UW but they have had the recent luck of playing them during some of the biggest down times in Husky history.

The first two games played in the late 40's were marked by a romp by the Irish in South Bend followed by Washington doing the logical thing at the time the following year by convincing the referee's to call holding all day to keep the game more competitve the second time around. The Irish weren't amused and Notre Dame athletic director Moose Krause vowed to never schedule Washington again and they didn't until the big guy was finally laid to rest.

Overall the Huskies are 0-7 against the Irish and there is a good chance the series will be renewed in the future because the Irish love playing a big time program they can beat with regularity. Washington on the other hand enjoys the prestige involved with playing the Irish along with the full stadium and TV money that results when they are on the schedule.

Things aren't exactly rosey in South Bend as we roll into 2009. Charlie Weis is on the hot seat even though he has recruited well since the day he arrived. The problem is the Irish aren't winning nearly enough and you can't keep blaming Ty Willingham for it indefinitely. This is put up or shut up time for the rotund Irish coach. He needs to win this year or the Irish faithful are going to call for his head.

Weis should have the talent and experience he needs this year to produce a turnaround. The holes from the Willingham years are about filled and QB Jimmy Clausen should be on track to have a good season. On paper this is the best Irish team during Charlie Weis's tenure. Big things and a BCS bid are what is expected in South Bend. Anything else won't cut it and Weis who has preached patience knows it.

For Notre Dame to get anywhere this year they have to do two things on offense. Item number one is Jimmy Clausen needs to stop throwing interceptions and number two is the Irish need to establish a power running game to take the heat off of him.

Clausen has great targets in WR Golden Tate, and TE Kyle Rudolph. Both of those guys are going to be playing on Sunday's. WR's Michael Floyd, and Duval Kamara give the Irish a lot of talent at the receiving positions. Some think this may be the most talented collection of receivers in the school's history.

RB's Armando Allen, Robert Hughes, and James Aldridge will share the TB position but one of them needs to emerge as the go to guy in 2009 for the Irish to really get things going on offense.

The offensive line which has been rebuilt over the last couple of years passes the eye test. G Erik Olsen, C Dan Wenger, T Sam Young, and T Paul Duncan have a lot of experience. The Irish are counting on Duncan to return to form after a season ending injury last season. If he doesn't they are going to have to put somebody inexperienced in his place which as Husky fans know is never a good thing at tackle.

Defensively Jon Tenuta returns for his second years as the DC. Tenuta is a big time coach who is one of the most respected men in his profession. Most experts think with a year under his belt in South Bend the Irish should improve dramatically on defense.

The Irish run a three man front on defense and DT Ian Williams is the only returing starter. Sr Morrice Richardson finally get his chance to start at DE after playing quite a bit the last two years. On the other side So Ethan Johnson who had 3.5 sacks as a reserve moves into the starting lineup.

The Irish return Harrison Smith, Brian Smith, Kerry Neal and John Ryan at LB. Harrison is their anchor in the middle and they need to find another guy to line up beside him. Ryan is more of a utility rush end type of guy who they use when they want to sport a four man front. No matter how well any of these guys do it won't take long for all world recruit Manti Te'o to force his way into the lineup. Recruiting experts think he may be one of those once in a decade type of talents.

The Irish return two starting DB's for 2009 in S Kyle McCarthey, and CB Raeshon McNeil. McCarthey is just a stud and he will be one of the bright spots for the defense in 2009. Jr Darrin Walls returns to take over the other CB position after missing 2008 because of injury. Sergio Brown and Harrison smith will battle it out for the last safety position

Consensus

Most experts think Notre Dame will finish with a winning record and go to a bowl game in 2009. Most of them think the Irish have a decent chance of going to a BCS bowl game because of a weaker schedule. It isn't like the Irish are ducking anyone either. They just have the fortune of playing some traditional big time programs that are down or rebuilding going into 2009.

The Irish were 6-6 last season and sneaked into a bowl game against Hawaii which they won to end up 7-6. In 2009 they open the season against Nevada, Michigan, Michigan State, Purdue, and Washington. There is a very good chance they could be 5-0 when they face USC on October 17th. After losing to the Trojans they get BC, WSU, Navy, Pitt, UConn, and Stanford. With a schedule like that a 11-1,10-2, or 9-3 season is a real possibility. Weis needs a season like that to keep his job.

Early Prediction

Steve Sarkisian and Nick Holt have a lot of experience beating Notre Dame. However Washington has only played one competitive game in the history of this series and that went up in smoke as Jim Lambright watched his team blow a two TD lead in the fourth quarter due to special teams errors back in the Lou Holtz era. The Huskies are due to put on a good performance against these guys. If Jake Locker is still healthy at mid season the Huskies actually match up pretty well with the Irish.

Notre Dame is going to blitz all day on defense using a pretty good group of linebackers. For Washington to win they need to take advantage of that with the passing game and make a few things happen down field to open things up for the run. On defense Washington needs to take advantage of Clausen and make him turn the ball over. If they can get a rush on the QB he is prone to make game changing mistakes.

Since this game is on the road and we haven't seen Washington play a game yet the pre season edge has to go to Notre Dame. The Irish aren't world beaters coming off a 6-6 regular season but Washington on the other hand is coming off an 0-12 campaign. If you put Notre Dame in the Pac Ten in 2009 they would probably finish in the middle of the pack. Most experts are picking UW for the basement along with WSU so advantage Irish,

All that being said I think if the Huskies arrive in South Bend with a 2-2 record they have a decent chance of leaving 3-2. I have never thought much of Charlie Weis as a coach even though he has recruited well. Washington's new staff which has experience beating him like a drum is a factor that can't be ignored in this one.

If Jake Locker is healthy I go on record as saying this game will be too close to call.

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