Notre Dame Preview 2006
Posted Aug 7, 2006

9-3 isn't good enough ... 9-3 isn't good enough ... 9-3 isn't good enough ... 9-3 isn't good enough ... 9-3 isn't good enough ... 9-3 isn't good enough ... 9-3 isn't good enough ... 9-3 isn't good enough ... Literally, that's the writing on the wall.

Offense | Defense | Depth Chart | Further Analysis

No matter what your feelings are about Notre Dame football, deep down, you have to wish Charlie Weis was your head coach for no other reason than for his attitude.

You want to feel like your head coach cares more than you do. You want to feel like your head coach will accept nothing less than winning. You want to feel like your head coach understands that a moral victory means nothing when your obnoxious fan-of-another-superpower friend calls you to laugh at your team's loss.

Weis appears to get that more than any other recent head coach, and his attitude marches step for step with the beliefs of the Irish nation.

The issue under former head coach Ty Willingham wasn't necessarily his record, it wasn't his mediocre recruiting classes, and it sure as shoot had nothing to do with skin color. The issue, for many Irish fans, appeared to be that the program wasn't headed in the right direction and was starting to slip further and further from being a superpower. Real or imagined, the perceptions meant a change had to be made to get someone like Weis, who with his Super Bowl background, understood that either you win, or you don't; there's no middle ground.

Head coach: Charlie Weis
2nd year: 9-3
Returning Lettermen:
Off 15, Def 20, ST 1
Lettermen Lost: 23
Ten Best Irish Players
1. QB Brady Quinn, Sr.
2. WR Jeff Samardzija, Sr.
3. FS/PR Tom Zbikowski, Sr.
4. RB Darius Walker, Jr.
5. LB Maurice Crum Jr., Jr.
6. DT Derek Landri, Sr.
7. OT Ryan Harris, Sr.
8. DE Victor Abiamiri, Sr.
9. DT Trevor Laws, Sr.
10. WR Rhema McKnight, Sr.

2006 Schedule
CFN Prediction: coming

9/2 at Georgia Tech
9/9 Penn State
9/16 Michigan
9/23 at Michigan State
9/30 Purdue
10/7 Stanford
10/21 UCLA
10/28 at Navy
11/4 North Carolina
11/11 at Air Force
11/18 Army
11/25 at USC

2005 Schedule
CFN Prediction: 5-6
2005 Record: 9-3

Preview 2005 predicted wins

9/3 at Pittsburgh W 42-21
9/10 at Michigan W 17-10
9/17 Michigan St L 44-41 OT
9/24 at Washington W 36-17
10/1 at Purdue W 49-28
10/15 USC L 34-31
10/22 BYU W 49-23
11/5 Tennessee W 41-21
11/12 Navy W 42-21
11/19 Syracuse W 34-10
11/26 at Stanford W 38-31
1/2 Fiesta Bowl
Ohio State L 34-20

Now, Notre Dame fans are already figuring out flight schedules to Arizona for the BCS Championship game assuming that if Weis could do that in one year, the next logical step is a national title, right?

(thhhtweeep ... sound of a whistle blowing) Time out. Everyone take a deep breath, pop a Ritalin, and relax for a little bit.

Last year proved that the team, problems and all, can get by on great coaching, a phenomenal set of offensive players, and, as cliché as this might sound, plenty of heart. However, there's a reality to face about last year.

It's not Notre Dame's fault, but Pitt, Michigan, Purdue and Tennessee weren't nearly as good as they were expected to be, and the two games against the really, really big boys, USC and Ohio State, were losses. As harsh as it might sound, Notre Dame might not have really accomplished anything quite yet. The person who'd agree with that more than anyone else is Weis.

This is a tremendously flawed team with average corners, a limited pass rush from the front four, and no developed depth anywhere meaning the machine might quickly grind to a halt if injuries hit the skill positions. The secondary didn't get any faster in the off-season, and the overall athleticism and talent level, which was exposed in the Fiesta Bowl by Ohio State, is a year or two away from being up-to-snuff for a national title-caliber powerhouse. There's a whole boatload of talent on the way, but not all of the stars are in South Bend quite yet. Does that mean the Irish can't play for the national title? Not necessarily. And why? ...

The Schedule: ... If you want to play for a national championship, this is a good schedule to do it with thanks to a great mix of high profile games and winnable home dates that not only sets up well for a big run, but also is strong enough to mean one-loss might still not crush title hopes. At Georgia Tech isn't going to be a walk in the park to start the season, but a team looking to play for all the marbles has to win a game like that. Penn State, Michigan, Purdue (who's better this year), and UCLA all have to come to South Bend. The only road trip to worry about between September 2nd and the finale at USC is at Michigan State (who's a lot better this year). An elite, national-title level team goes 11-0 before the showdown in L.A.

Best Offensive Player: Senior QB Brady Quinn. He went from being a nice passer who put up big numbers to an oh-my-goodness pro prospect who might go number one in the 2007 NFL Draft and likely would've gone in the top ten this year. He has always had the size, mobility, and arm, and now he has the coaching and the proof that his decision-making ability can be Super Bowl caliber.

Best Defensive Player: Senior FS Tom Zbikowski. He might not be the prettiest defensive back around, but he's tough-as-nails and is the type of college playmaker who changes games with one play. He can be a difference maker both as a defender and a punt returner.

Key player to a successful season: Outside linebackers Steve Quinn and Anthony Vernaglie. Throw Joe Brockington, Mitchell Thomas and Kevin Washington in the mix. The Irish have to replace 172 tackles, 11 sacks, and 29 tackles for loss worth of production from Brandon Hoyte and Corey Mays. Maurice Crum, Jr. will move to the middle to take over for Mays meaning immediate production will be needed on the outside.

The season will be a success if ... Notre Dame plays for the national title. If 9-3 isn't good enough for Charlie Weis, then it's not good enough to hope for anything less than a shot at the championship. Setting the bar a bit too high isn't a bad thing.

Key game: November 25th at USC. Notre Dame could lose to Georgia Tech in the opener and still end up playing for the national title. It can't lose in the regular season finale to USC and hope to have a shot at the big prize. Lost in the magnificence of last year's classic is that the Irish have lost its last four to the Trojans.

2005 Fun Stats: 
- Third down conversions: Notre Dame 90 of 184 (49%) - Opponents 58 of 165 (35%)
- Second quarter scoring: Notre Dame 145 - Opponents 47
- Punt returns: Notre Dame 14.1 yards per return - Opponents 6.4 yards per return

The Last Time Notre Dame…
…played in a bowl game…2005 (Fiesta Bowl vs. Ohio State)
…missed a bowl game…2003
…pitched a shutout…2002 (Rutgers)
…was shutout…2003 (Florida State)
…scored 50 points…2003 (Stanford)
…went undefeated…1988
…won a conference title…never
…had a 3,000-yard passer…2005 (Brady Quinn)
…had a 1,000-yard rusher…2005 (Darius Walker)
…had a 1,000-yard receiver…2005 (Jeff Samardzija and Maurice Stovall)
…had a first-round draft choice…2003 (C Jeff Faine)

Related Stories
Notre Dame Preview 2006 - Offense
 -by  Aug 7, 2006
Notre Dame Preview 2006 - Further Analysis
 -by  Aug 7, 2006
Notre Dame Preview 2006 - Depth Chart
 -by  Aug 7, 2006

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