Sunday, May 1, 2011

2008 Schedule: Easiest to Toughest Games

The 2008 season is still a couple of weeks away from fall camp, but it is never too soon to talk about the upcoming schedule. IBB has complied its list of the easiest to toughest contests on the Irish schedule. So without further adieu, here's the rundown of the #1 easiest game to the #12 toughest game for Notre Dame:

#1) San Diego State: The Aztecs lost their best player, Quarterback Kevin O'Connell, and their entire offensive line. Also SDSU had one of the worst rushing defenses in the country.

The Irish will want to wipe away any memory of last season with a blowout. It's a home game, in front of a national television audience, so SDSU could be in for a long day. Notre Dame will want to explode on the Aztecs. This should happen. No, in fact, it needs to happen!

#2) Syracuse: The Orange are coming off a 2-10 campaign, and lost their two best players to graduation and academics. Out of SU's 24 total offensive touchdowns, Mike Williams and Taj Smith combined for 15 scores. It will be late in the season, and the Irish should be in full stride to make a run at a bowl game.

Syracuse quite possibly has the worst coach in college football, next to the Washington Huskies. Greg Robinson is so bad that the last time ND faced the Orange in 2005, he was quoted as saying that he was surprised that the Irish went no-huddle against them. HELLO? Did he or his staff watch any game tapes of the Irish prior to their contest? YIKES!!!!

#3) Navy: The Midshipmen lost their best weapon in Coach Paul Johnson. He just elevates his teams to a different level. His successor has some big shoes to fill.

Paybacks are a you know what! Here's a start to a new streak against Navy.

#4) Stanford: The Cardinal are picked to finish near the bottom of the Pac 10 Conference again. Despite having 16 starters returning, including 9 on defense, Stanford will have plenty of personnel issues. Heck the Irish beat the Cardinal with a pretty bad team by two touchdowns (Yes, I'm counting David Grimes diving grab as a TD, eff the refs!).

Tavita Pritchard will be under center after his stellar 4 TDs, 9 INTs season in 2007. Look for the Irish to stuff the run and force Pritchard and the Cardinal to throw a lot to Notre Dame's best attribute, their pass defense.

#5) Washington: This will be a tiring trip to say the least. A week right after the Irish faced North Carolina, ND will go to the West Coast and face their former coach Ty Willingham. It will also be tiring to hear everyone make comparisons to him and Coach Weis, and his remaining players (3- 5th year seniors).

Although Washington might have one of the best Quarterbacks the Irish will face all season in Jake Locker, the Huskies do not have a lot of depth.

* One interesting side note: It was rumored after Willingham let go of long time Defensive Coordinator Kent Baer, Washington was going to get Jon Tenuta as their man. Thank goodness Tenuta went for the better coach and better program! Definitely a win-win situation.

#6) Pittsburgh: Two words for everyone - Dave Wannstedt! Good old Pornstache will most likely have his Panthers in a lot of preseason Top 25 polls, but he'll always find a way to screw it up somehow. Pitt is 2-12 against the Irish since 1988, and only averaged 98 yards on the ground last season.

The Panthers do have on the best passing defenses in the country, however Charlie is good at knowing his opponents tendencies; especially one he faced numerous times in the NFL. Too bad you can't say the same about Wannstedt. Hell he can't even remember his previous players. In 2005 before the Irish manhandled Pitt, Wanny talked about how great Bernie Parmalee will be as ND's linebackers coach as he was a great one when playing for him. I hate to break it to Dave, but Bernie didn't play linebacker for ya; he was on the other side of the ball running.

#7) Boston College: The Eagles could be the Notre Dame of last season. They lost most of the their top weapons, including quarterback Matt Ryan. You never know what BC is capable of; and since it is in the later portion of the season, the Eagles could possibly have a decent signal caller. Who knows, maybe they have another Hasselback hidden in their roster.

The Irish will always have a hard time with BC, but what is in the Irish favor this season is that Notre Dame is the middle game of a brutal and important stretch of the ACC. Clemson, a possible ACC front runner, will be before the Irish, and Florida State will be BC's opponent after the ND game. Talk about a murder's row!

#8) Michigan: Notre Dame is playing the Wolverines at the right time of the season for once. If this was in November or middle of October, maybe it would be a tougher game. But with a new coach, a new QB, and a new system, it will be tough sailing for Meechigan. You just don't know how good the Maize and Blue will be at the start.

It's going to be a big mental hurdle for the Irish. Most of the guys on the Michigan roster are back, and 38-0 will still be fresh on their minds. Charlie and Co. will have the boys full attention, that's for sure.

#9) Purdue: This game definitely means a lot to Wilfred Brimley, err, I mean Joe Tiller. He will have them ready for his last time against the Irish. The Boilermakers always have a dangerous offense, especially with Curtis Painter behind center.

Notre Dame has better talent from top to bottom, but that doesn't mean everything. There definitely is no love loss between Tiller and Weis. Charlie would like nothing better to give Joe and PU a proper sendoff back to West Lafayette.

#10) North Carolina: This one has all the makings for a trap game. The Tar Heels are not as good as Michigan and Purdue, but they have a defensive genius in Coach Butch Davis. A ND scheduling birdie said last season if they [coaching staff and administration] knew Davis was going to be their coach, they wouldn't have scheduled it at all.

UNC will have 18 starters back from a squad that went 4-2 at Kenan Stadium. The Tar Heels beat a not so impressive Miami squad at home, and nearly pulled off upsets at Virginia and South Carolina. This could be the game that makes or break Notre Dame's season as either a major player or an average joe.

#11) Michigan State: Brandon Hoyer, Javon Ringer, and three returning offensive linemen return from a team that put up 31 points against the Irish last season. D'Antonio is a good coach, but doesn't have a lot of great elite players on offense.

This is another dangerous game for Notre Dame because the Irish could be back in the National Spotlight if they start off the season 2-0 with wins over SDSU and Michigan. Just think of it, ESPN College GameDay at East Lansing and the ABC Saturday Night Game of the Week.

MSU has been giving the Irish fits the last decade, however the road team has been the winner most of the time. This one will be real close in East Lansing.

#12) Southern Cal: USC is still talented, still well coached, and still beating the NCAA system by paying their players. Notre Dame hasn't won at the LA Coliseum since 2000. This could be the game that pushes the Trojans into the National Championship game.

Well SC, get your licks in now, because the tide is turning!

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