2008 CFN Notre Dame Preview
Notre Dame LB Maurice Crum Jr.
Notre Dame LB Maurice Crum Jr.
Posted May 9, 2008

So Notre Dame had one of the worst seasons in the history of its long and glorious program. Whatever. It's always going to be BCS or bust for the Irish, so just how quickly can Maurice Crum Jr. and the boys get back into the limelight? Check out the CFN Notre Dame Preview.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Preview 2008

By Pete Fiutak

- 2008 CFN Notre Dame Preview | 2008 Notre Dame Offense
- 2008 Notre Dame Defense
2008 Notre Dame Depth Chart
2007 CFN Notre Dame Preview | 2006 CFN Notre Dame Preview 

Let's take this from a different angle.

This all-time clunker of a miserable 2007 season. This disaster that made everyone question Charlie Weis just a short year after he took his program to a second straight BCS game. This campaign that saw a loss to Navy for the first time in about a bazillion years, had the worst rushing attack in Irish history, and had the nation's worst offense was bad, but at the end of the day, it really didn't matter. 

At this point in the college football world, with its own network deal and without a conference affiliation, Notre Dame either makes it to a BCS game, or nothing. That's where the unrealistic bar has been set, and that's the standard for the most loved and hated team in sports.

Head coach: Charlie Weis
4th year: 22-15
Returning Lettermen:
Off 20, Def 17, ST 0
Lettermen Lost: 26
Ten Best Irish Players
FS David Bruton, Sr.
2. LB Maurice Crum Jr., Sr.
3. OT Sam Young, Jr.
4. QB Jimmy Clausen, Soph.
5. CB Terrail Lambert, Sr.
6. RB Robert Hughes, Soph.
7. RB James Aldridge, Jr.
8. WR Duval Kamara, Soph.
9. TE Mike Ragone, Soph.
10. CB Darrin Walls, Jr.

2008 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2008 Record: 0-0

Sept. 6 San Diego State
Sept. 13 Michigan
Sept. 20 at Michigan State
Sept. 27 Purdue
Oct. 4 Stanford
Oct. 11 at North Carolina
Oct. 25 at Washington
Nov. 1 Pitt
Nov. 8 at Boston College
Nov. 15 Navy (Baltimore)
Nov. 22 Syracuse
Nov. 29 at USC

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2007 Record: 3-9

Sept. 1 Georgia Tech L 33-3
Sept. 8 at Penn State L 31-10
Sept. 15 at Michigan L 38-0
Sept. 22
Michigan St L 31-14
Sept. 29 at Purdue L 33-19
Oct. 6 at UCLA W 20-6
Oct. 13
Boston Coll L 27-14
Oct. 20 USC L 38-0
Nov. 3
Navy L 46-44 3OT
Nov. 10 Air Force L 41-24
Nov. 17 Duke W 28-7
Nov. 24 at Stanford W 21-14

Will anyone remotely care if the Irish get an invite to the International Bowl? Is the Gator Bowl really a prize? Sure, the Cotton might be like a BCS-lite game (sort of like the Gator), but it's not the primetime spotlight showcase the Irish need to make a season worthwhile.

Forget for a moment that the 2005 and 2006 teams were way overmatched in their bowl games, and that last year's team was starting from square one, this is still Notre Dame with a fan base that expects national titles, and the money to make it happen.

And that's why Weis is on such a hot seat. He's trying to improve his overall image, especially after last year, and he has been able to recruit well, something Ty Willingham was accused of being unable to do, so either everyone has to relax, sit back and groove on average year in hopes that everyone matures and improves at the same time in 2009, or else there could be a major shock because of the other key factor in the Notre Dame equation ... the schedule.

Notre Dame never ducks anyone and has a slate made years in advance, but the schedule could be a stunning breeze outside of trips to Boston College and USC. If there's just a little bit of an improvement on defense, and if the offense grows up and gets something out of the line, the possibility is there for an immediate turnaround making 2007 an aberration.

Oh no, the talent level isn't close to BCS game level, at least the talent hasn't matured to that point yet, and there are still major, major problems on both sides of the ball and with the kicking game, but after last year, this should be a far better season, even if it's a stepping-stone to potentially bigger things down the road.

What to watch for on offense: The new, improved Jimmy Clausen. He has receivers who know what they're doing. He has a good trio of backs behind him. He has a line that, well, he has a line that can't be any worse than last year when it allowed 58 sacks. Clausen, unlike last year when he was coming off surgery, is healthier, throwing the ball with more zip, and after closing last year strong, has the potential to be the player everyone has been waiting for.

What to watch for on defense: Jon Tenuta. The former Georgia Tech defensive coordinator will help out Corwin Brown mold an experienced defense that did far more last season. The problem was generating pressure ... the Irish couldn't do it. While the 3-4 scheme will stick for now, Tenuta will try to bring the noise and bring the funk from all areas with more blitzing, more pressure, and more more sacks. the outside linebackers like Brian Smith, Kerry Neal and John Ryan could blossom into statistical stars.

The team will be far better if … the line can pass protect. Brady Quinn survived getting nailed on every other play, but Clausen and the rest of the Irish quarterback didn't. Wholesale changes and awful years from some key players led to 58 sacks allowed, the most given up by anyone, and little push for the ground game. No one really knows if Clausen can play because he hasn't had two seconds to breathe. Job one is to let him work.

The Schedule: There's a tough-looking November road trip to Boston College and the regular season-ender at USC. Everything else is very, very winnable. With four home games in the first five, with the one road game at pesky Michigan State, the Irish have to come up with wins over beatable Michigan and Purdue, and wins over San Diego State and Stanford are a must, for at least a 3-2 start going into an interesting road game at North Carolina. The home game against Pitt won't be a walk in the park, but getting Syracuse in South Bend is a nice layup. All eyes will be on October 35th when it's Weis vs. Willingham as the Irish play Washington.

Best Offensive Player: Junior OT Sam Young. It's going to be Clausen sooner than later, but for now, Young has the most talent of anyone on the offense. Considering he was thought of as one of the nation's top few recruits a few years ago, he's a very big, very athletic player who has the upside to eventually become a ten-year starting NFL tackle. Now he has to be far better on a regular basis in pass protection.

Best Defensive Player: Senior FS David Bruton. LB Maurice Crum might be the leader and the star, but Bruton is the next-level talent with the freak-of-nature skills in a 6-2, 207-pound frame. He was a great all-around player last year, and now he's in better overall shape and in a salary drive. If he puts it all together and is the player he can become, even after all the good thing he has done so far, the Irish will have a major league playmaker to work the secondary around.

Key player to a successful season: Junior DE Morrice Richardson. The entire offensive line belongs here and there has to be better play, especially from Paul Duncan and Mike Turkovich on the left side, but replacing 112 tackles of Trevor Laws could be the team's biggest keys. Richardson is a different sort of player than Laws, who was a tackle designated as an end in the 3-4. Richardson is a linebacker with phenomenal speed who needs to be the pass rusher the defense has been missing.

The season will be a success if … the Irish gets to the BCS. No, it won't happen, and the realistic goal is to come up with a winning season and get back to a bowl, but at this point, either the Irish gets to the BCS or there's nothing to get that excited about. Again, there's no conference title to go after, so there's one and only real goal to go after outside of winning the national title. Realistically, the Gator or Cotton has to be what the team shoots for as a great stepping-stone to 2009.

Key game: Sept. 13 vs. Michigan. If the Irish lose the opener to San Diego State, back up the bus and start planning for the future. Assuming that won't happen, the Irish has to beat a rebuilding and retooling Wolverine team to show that this is a different year and an improved team. A loss to Michigan will mean yet another struggling season.

2007 Fun Stats: 
- Sacks: Opponents 58 for 415 yards – Notre Dame 19 for 132 yards
- Average yards per carry: Opponents 4.3 yards – Notre Dame 2.1 yards
- First half scoring: Opponents 182 – Notre Dame 83