September 02, 2009

WEISND Roundtable -- Week One Picks: Notre Dame-Nevada, Virginia Tech-Alabama, Boise-Oregon, Georgia-Oklahoma State, Miami-Florida State, and more

FOOTBALL!! It is finally here. I love March Madness and the start of the spring sports season with the Masters and baseball and the NFL Draft and spring football, but is there anything better in sports than the start of the college football season?? It is like Christmas Day for male adults. Only 12-13 weeks a year. Treat these things like they are precious stones. You will miss football when it is over.

We're back for another year of weekly picks against the spread. We'll be keeping track of our picks all year in a little contest format, so feel free to follow along or make your own picks in the comments section right alongside us. Heck, if you want to do it ever week, we'll even throw you into the contest.

The WEISND team will all be in South Bend this weekend for the home opener and will be tailgating somewhere in the South JACC parking lot, so feel free to drop on by for a beer and some Irish football discussion. Never a bad day to spend a Saturday afternoon in the fall gearing up for Irish football.

On to the picks:

Thursday September 3, 2009

South Carolina +4 at NC State (ESPN 7pm)

Jeremy: N.C. State (-4)

Normally, in a close call, I’d go with the SEC team, but something doesn’t feel right in Columbia. The Ole Ball Coach has never found a QB that’s made him comfortable, and as a result, the Cocks haven’t been able to put up the kind of offensive numbers many expected when Spurrier returned to the college ranks. Tom O’Brien’s squad is still a bit rough around the edges, but expect the Wolfpack to take care of the ball, win the turnover battle and pull out a close one at home. A late NC State FG gives O’Brien a cover, and a nice head start to a solid season in Raleigh.

Dan: NC State -4.5

Matt: NC State -4.5 - Lock of the Week

Mike: N.C. State (-4)

I am bullish on N.C. State in 2009 after its strong performance down the stretch last year under QB Russell Wilson and a strong defensive front seven. South Carolina manhandled the Wolfpack in last year’s opener, but the game was in Columbia and Harrison Beck, not Wilson, started at QB for N.C. State. Although Steve Spurrier has brought in some talented athletes, his Gamecocks are still very green at a number of positions, which does not bode well in a road opener against a veteran, disciplined N.C. State team that will be out for revenge.

Doug: NC State -4

Very interesting opener here. Sort of a battle of the middle classes of the ACC and the SEC. You could say that both these programs are heading in different directions. NC State is on the rise, and South Carolina is slipping further away from the top 25.

NC State might be the biggest sleeper in the ACC this year. I'm looking at their division in the ACC, and it would not shock me if they won the Atlantic Division this year. The Wolfpack found something with Russell Wilson at quarterback last year and won their last four games of the year.

I know I've said this a couple times on the blog before, but I'm a huge admirer of Tom O'Brien as a coach. The guy might be a disciplinarian and sort of a sour puss, but he can flat out coach. Maybe one of the most underrated coaches in the country. Not only is he a tough coach, but he always found underrated players (he recruited BJ Ravi and Ron Brace) and other good linemen who developed into eventual pros. O'Brien is a Cincy guy who always came into Ohio and raided the local Catholic schools for players. It is worth noting that BC looks like their program is steadily eroding now as they get further away from Tom O'Brien's time there. I expect Tom O'Brien to do real well at NC State and maybe make them a top 25 type team.

Meanwhile, the momentum in the South Carolina program has stalled, and I get the feeling that they could start bottoming out this year. They are pinning their hopes on Stephen Garcia, but everything about this guy screams out that he's a shaky guy and not very reliable. Maybe Spurrier has one last run in him, but I think he has lost his fire a little bit. The game has changed so much since his hey dey, and he hasn't really adjusted in his second stint in college football. You can't really roll the balls out at a place like South Carolina. You have to be ahead of the game at all times to win there. South Carolina brought in five new assistants this year, but that feels like a "rearranging the deck chairs" move of desperation.

Just looking at South Carolina's schedule, I think they're headed for a 1-3 start. At that point, the whispers about Spurrier are going to increase. He's a legend in the game, but I'm not sure he's ever going to put the Gamecocks over the top.

Wolfpack roll BIG in the opener and make a statement in front of a raucous Thursday night crowd. I also like the under a lot in this game at 44.

NC State 23 South Carolina 7

Oregon +4.5 at Boise State (ESPN 10:15pm)

Jeremy: Oregon (+4.5)

The Chip Kelly era at Oregon begins with a bang and a game on the famed blue turf of Boise. Kelly, an offensive guru, should be able to continue to rack up the points in Eugene. If the Ducks can play even a bit of defense this year, they could make a serious run at the Pac-10 title, with USC coming to town. Oregon is too much for Boise, even at home, and pulls out a big W to get Kelly’s career off to a flying start.

Dan: Boise State -4.5

Matt: Boise State -4.5

Mike: Oregon (+4.5)

While I cannot recall a Mountain West-Pac 10 matchup ever being referred to as a “rivalry game,” there is some serious bad blood between these two teams after several Oregon players called out Boise for several perceived cheap shots in last year’s meeting. Boise State has, to my knowledge, the best home record against the spread of any Division 1-A team over the last ten years, but I am buying into the motivation factor, which I usually ignore. More importantly than motivation, however, Oregon should have explosive offense this year and a talented defense, thus giving the Ducks a clear talent edge over the host Broncos. If – and this is a big “if”- the Oregon players can avoid suffering from “Blue Turf Vertigo,” which, according to my personal theory, is the chief reason for the aforementioned home advantage of Boise State, the Ducks will roll to a big road victory.

Doug: Oregon +4.5

One of the more intriguing games of the weekend. If you want to see what should be a dandy, make sure to stay up late on Thursday and check out this game on the smurf turf. Two very good teams, and I'm expecting a great crowd in Boise. It's not often that a big name school like Oregon comes to Boise for a game. I gotta hand it to Oregon for having the guts to schedule Boise in a home and home. Oregon is playing Boise, Purdue, and Utah in the nonconference this year. That is strong work by the Ducks. Year in and year out, the Pac 10 teams are the gutsiest in America when it comes to nonconference scheduling. I really would like to see these teams rewarded for ambitious scheduling with more BCS bids for the league.

Boise is 64-2 at home in the past 10 years, and people are saying this is the biggest game ever played at Boise STate. People out there are thinking big and looking to make a statement at home. 14 starters back, and a BCS bowl is looking like a strong possibility. At this point, it's impossible to ignore Boise State as a program. They are a legitimately good program that continues to get better and better every year in a football crazy region of the country. I'm happy to see them getting some home and homes with the big boys.

But I'm going with Oregon in this game to not only cover but win straight up. Jeremiah Masoli might be the best quarterback in the Pac 10, and LeGarrette Blount is an absolute stud. I think Oregon is a sleeper team in the national title picture. If they go undefeated, I don't see how they couldn't be in the title game with the schedule they are playing.

Oregon is a power program these days. There's no denying it. Look at what they did to Oklahoma State in the Holiday Bowl last year. One of the most impressive performances I saw all last year. They have talent and speed everywhere. They are what Washington was 20 years ago. And they have the facilities and the money and the fan support to be a power for a long time. I know Chip Kelly is a new coach and Washington is probably going to start ramping up their recruiting, but Oregon is the dominant player in the Pacific Northwest these days.

Oregon 38 Boise 31

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Georgia +6 at Oklahoma State (ABC Sports 3:30pm)

Jeremy: Georgia +6

I know many have picked the Pokes as something of a dark-horse national title contender this year, but I’m not convinced. Oklahoma State had a chance to make a real statement last year against Oklahoma but fell flat on their faces. I don’t think they’re ready to make a splash on the college football scene yet. Dez Bryant may be the best player in the country that Midwesterners don’t know about, but Mike Gundy’s boys won’t be ready for the Dawgs. Even without Matthew Stafford and Knowshown Moreno, Georgia has enough firepower to pull this one out.

Dan: Georgia +6

Matt: Georgia +6

Mike: Georgia (+6)

Two factors are at play for this pick. The first factor is that Georgia simply has better athletes than Oklahoma State across the board. On the other hand, Oklahoma State will benefit from the timing of this game, since both teams will be at full strength, thereby negating the importance of Georgia’s superior depth. The second factor is the specter of looming expectations. Oklahoma State supporters and the media are already dubbing this game as “the most important in school history,” so the pressure is squarely on the ‘Pokes. In a curious attempt to shield his team from this pressure, Mike Gundy has already banned media members from viewing practice or interacting with players, but this may only add to the collective stress level among the team. The college football history books are littered with examples of second tier programs that have fallen flat in the face of unprecedented expectations (see, most recently, the 2008 Arizona State team that was throttled by Georgia in Tempe) and I expect there to be a new chapter written on the 2009 Oklahoma State Cowboys.

Doug: Georgia +6

Wow, I have absolutely no reason to take Georgia here considering all of their personnel losses, but I'm going with a hunch and taking the Dawgs on a little Ewing Theory and a little "In the SEC I Trust" theory. Georgia has a new QB and a new RB, but they have most of their offensive line and defensive front seven back . Georgia went out to Arizona State last year and destroyed the Sun Devils with their physical style of play.

Honestly, I think Georgia goes out to Stillwater and wins this game by double digits. Oklahoma State is fun to watch, but their defense is awful. I expect Georgia to put up points at will against that defense, and I'm not sure I can say the same about Oklahoma State's offense.

We saw it in the bowl games last year. The Big 12 is WILDLY overrated. Look at what happened in the bowls. Texas Tech got slaughtered by Ole Miss. Oklahoma State got run over by Oregon. Florida beat Oklahoma. Texas needed a miracle comeback to beat a mediocre Ohio State team. None of these teams play defense!! It's wide open and fun when they're playing each other, but they fold when they go up against a team with a real defense. The Big 12 has almost turned into the WAC East lately.

Everyone is assuming that Georgia is going to stink this year without Stafford and Moreno, but I think both those guys were a little overrated. Ewing Theory could be in play here. I would be willing to bet that Mark Richt has been circling the wagons all summer. For fantasy purposes, I've been following their skill players a little this summer, and people have had some decent things to say about Joe Cox as a quarterback. And remember this name if you're looking for a sleeper running back: RICHARD SAMUEL. The next star running back at Georgia. Plus, you got AJ Green.

Now Oklahoma State is also loaded with talented offensive players. I'll admit that I drafted Zac Robinson and Dez Bryant and am expecting big things out of them. Probably not in week one though.

I think this game is your big week one upset. Georgia goes to Stillwater and comes away with a big win. The SEC is so far and away the most dominant conference in the land, and I expect that to show up on the field again on Saturday.

Georgia 27 Oklahoma State 17

Missouri +7 at Illinois (St. Louis, Missouri ESPN 3:30pm)

Jeremy: Illinois (-7)

I’ve gone back and forth a few times on this one, but finally decided that the losses sustained by the Tigers outweigh the coaching acumen on the opposing sidelines. This is exactly the type of game that Ron Zook finds a way to lose – the opponent is seemingly overmatched, both in talent and experience. This is also a game that human turnover machine Juice Williams could lose on his own. But I actually think the Zooker might have a shot to make a real run at a conference title this year. He’s got good experience, and his talent at the skill positions on offense is as good as any other team in the Big Ten. Another BCS trip might get Zook a lifetime contract and a statue on campus. In this game, the firepower of Juice and Benn are just too much for Mizzou.

Dan: Missouri +7 ---- LOCK OF THE WEEK

Matt: Missouri +7

Mike: Illinois (-7)

This is a difficult game to call. As observed by many of the pundits, these are two teams that are seemingly moving in two different directions. Missouri, which lost many key contributors on both sides of the ball, does not have an established track record as a program that has the depth to replace major stars without skipping a beat. Still, the Tigers seem to have a stronger roster, though inexperienced, than the commentators recognize. By contrast, Illinois returns many players from a team that outgained opponents by a significant margin last year, despite its mediocre record, so many people expect the Illini to thrive by improving their turnover margin. The problem, however, is that Ron Zook, despite his recruiting acumen, simply isn’t a good coach, so it is fair to conclude that the turnovers and mistakes from last year were not bad luck, but merely bad coaching. Nonetheless, while I expect Missouri to exceed expectations and Illinois to fall short of expectations over the course of the season, the timing of the game provides a key edge for a veteran Illini squad over a young Missouri team.

Doug: Missouri +7

Missouri has owned this series in recent years, but Illinois could be on the rise this year. I like what I'm hearing out of Illinois. Juice Williams is now a senior, and Arrelious Benn is going to wreak havoc in the Big Ten this year. Illinois really needs to win this game with Ohio State and Penn State coming up later this month.

But seven points seems like too many. Missouri has highly touted Blaine Gabbert at QB now that Chase Daniel is gone, and I expect them to remain potent on the offensive end. At this point, Missouri's program is superior to Illinois' program.

I'll take Illinois to pull this game out, but I think the game will be close. Seven points feels like a little too much for what I see as a pick em type game.

Illinois 31 Missouri 28

Virginia Tech +7 at Alabama (Georgia Dome ABC 8pm)

Jeremy: Alabama (-7)

Utah’s throttling of the Crimson Tide may have been the worst thing to happen to the SEC West. I know Bama is working in a new QB, but they’ll win plenty of games this year on defense alone. Virginia Tech puts up a sporting effort, but Bama’s defense scores one TD and directly causes another, knocking Tyrod Taylor out of the game early in the 2nd half. Saban might have the best defense in college football this year, and Alabama will never be out of a game the whole season.

Dan: Alabama -7

Matt: Virginia Tech +7

Mike: Alabama (-7)

Given the track record of Frank Beamer, this should be a much better contest than Alabama’s mauling of Clemson last year at the Georgia Dome. Alabama returns Julio Jones and a stable of talented running backs, but Greg McElroy, behind a reshuffled offensive line, will be making his first career start against a talented Tech defense led by Bud Foster. On the other side of the ball, the Hokies’ offense, which has been rather pedestrian under Tyrod “T-Mobile” Taylor, could be in for a very long evening against an Alabama defense that is absolutely loaded at all positions. As with any Virginia Tech game, special teams could be a major factor, but I expect Nick Saban to have his team prepared for “Beamer Ball.” In a slugfest, look for Virginia Tech to hang tight before eventually falling short against the slightly more talented Crimson Tide.

Doug: Alabama -7 -- LOCK OF THE WEEK

I couldn't be more excited for this game mainly because I want to spend three hours at Between the Buns apologizing to all things SOUTHEASTERN CONFERENCE!!! The only conference that matters in college football today!!

For all of you out there who think that Virginia Tech is winning this game, you are kidding yourselves. I'm not buying it for a second. I think Bama will do to VT what they did to Clemson last year. A complete M and Mer as Dickie V would say.

Look at the personnel! There isn't one guy in VT's lineup who would be starting at Alabama. Bama is loaded on defense, loaded at the skill position spots, and I even think McElroy will be solid. I think Bama is a legit top 10 team and maybe even a top 5 team at some point this year. Their defense will be as good as any defense in the country.

And then there's the man, the myth, the legend. NICHOLAS MONTGOMERY SABAN. Tell me you aren't getting goosebumps just thinking about "The Nicktator" jogging out of that tunnel with that uber-intense Saban face going. There is NO WAY Nick Saban is losing to Virginia Tech with a whole year to get his team ready to win this game. Saban is now in his third year at Alabama, and I expect to see his team playing even better football this year.

Virginia Tech is a very nice team with a great coach who has overachieved like crazy with the players he has had through the years, but they aren't Alabama. After watching them up close last year at the Orange Bowl, I like their defense and ability to run the football. They are one of those teams that just wears you out and beats you in the second half.

But I think this game will serve as the second edition of the "We're Alabama and we're not messing around" storyline. Alabama is too physical and too talented for the Hokies. Saban is in the process of building the Tide into a powerhouse again, and I expect them to come out and put on another impressive show.

One final reason to get excited about this game: Mark Ingram!! My #2 fantasy running back. I think he's going to have a great year.

Rolllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll Tiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiide! I need to get down to a game in Tuscaloosa someday.

Monday, September 6, 2009

Cincinnati +5.5 at Rutgers (ESPN 4pm)

Jeremy: Cincinnati (+5.5)

I know the Bearcats lost quite a bit from last year’s squad, but this line is pretty baffling to me. I fully expect Brian Kelly to win this game. Can’t say I understand the hype over Rutgers this year – they lost just as much if not more than the Bearcats, but are being picked to possibly win the Big East? I don’t get it. I will be very interested to watch Demetrius Jones try his hand at LB this year for Cincy.

Dan: Cincinnati +5.5

Matt: Rutgers -5.5

Mike: Cincinnati (+5.5)

Rutgers is another team that is getting plenty of love from the college football cognoscenti, most notably from the incomparable Phil Steele. While I respect Steele’s opinions immensely, I disagree with his projection for Rutgers in 2009. On offense, the Scarlet Knights must replace a multi-year starting quarterback and several highly productive receivers. In addition, there are question marks regarding Rutgers’ defense, particularly in the secondary. Cincinnati, on the other hand, returns plenty of playmakers on offense, which should allow them to move the ball with relative ease in this game. Defense is a concern for the Bearcats, insofar as they are breaking in nine new starters, but the comparable inexperience of Rutgers’ offense will prevent the Scarlet Knights from exploiting this area of weakness for Cincinnati. Overall, Rutgers may have a slight edge, especially at home, but I am more comfortable casting my lot with Brian Kelly than Greg Schiano.

Doug: Rutgers -5.5

Very intriguing opening game in the Big East. Two teams that I think easily could win the Big East. I'm not sure what to expect of Cincinnati this year. I like that they have Tony Pike and Mardy Gilyard back, but I don't know what to think of their defense. The other concern for Cincinnati is that they are switching to a 3-4 this year. Huh?? I do not understand that move at all. Maybe the first move out of Brian Kelly that I've questioned. Cincy's defense has been great the last couple years, and now they're switching?? I don't get it.

Rutgers lost their QB and their best WR, but they have their entire offensive and defensive lines back. That concerns me as a Cincy fan. I don't know what got into Rutgers last year, but they went crazy down the stretch. Perhaps their line really started to mature at the end of the year.

I can't believe I'm making this pick, but I think I'm going with Rutgers to win this game and cover the spread. I think Cincy will be fine this year, but not sure if they'll be able to go to Rutgers in week one in and win that one.

Rutgers 27 Cincy 20

Miami (FL) +5.5 at Florida State (ESPN 8pm)

Jeremy: Miami (FL) +5.5

Since I picked the Hurricanes as a program on the rise in one of our roundtables, I suppose I’m duty bound to pick them to win the opener. Not sure why I’m bullish on Randy Shannon’s prospects in Coral Gables, but I think he’s got the talent to take this team a long way, even with a bear of a schedule to open the season. The recent QB transfers leave the Canes with very little depth behind center, and if Jacory Harris goes down, Miami is going to have a tough time beating anyone, much less the Noles. I do think that Jimbo Fisher is a talented coach, but he’s still got a ways to go to return FSU to the explosive glory days of the mid-to-late ‘90s.

Dan: Florida State -5.5

Matt: Miami (FL) +5.5

Mike: Miami (FL) (+5.5)

In terms of national championship implications, this game is obviously far less important than it was in years past. Nonetheless, I still enjoy watching these rivals play and, as such, I am quite pleased that this game has returned to its Labor Day timeslot. As I have mentioned before, I am far from convinced that Randy Shannon will lead Miami back to the promised land, but he has upgraded the talent in Coral Gables significantly over the past few years. The Canes return a very talented outfit, led by a stable of talented receivers, a promising young quarterback in Jacory Harris and an athletic defense, that should benefit from another year of seasoning. While Miami, at least from a recruiting standpoint, appears to be on the rise, it seems clear that these are not your father’s Seminoles. On balance, Florida State has fallen back closer to the middle of the pack in the ACC and this year does not look especially promising. The Noles, behind Mickey Andrews and Jimbo Fisher, should have the coaching edge in this game, but the talent advantage is squarely with the visiting Canes.

Doug: Florida State -5.5

Battle of two programs that are in a state of complete disarray. Remember when this was basically the game of the year in college football?? Amazing how long ago that seems. There are 17-18 year old kids today who don't really remember the glory days of Miami and Florida State when every year they were 1-2 when they met. Fifteen years ago, having this game on Monday night would have shattered the ratings. Now it's not even one of the top 3-4 games of the week and probably will have no bearing on the national championship race. Until major changes are made at both programs, I expect them to chug along at 7-8 wins a year and underachieve. When you think about all the talent in the state of Florida, it is amazing how poorly these teams have done in recent years. You would think it would be almost impossible for Miami or FSU to win fewer than 9-10 games a year just on talent alone.

I know everyone is excited about Miami's young talent on defense, but forgive me for being skeptical. I'm not buying into Randy Shannon at all. There's a reason he was never a serious head coaching candidate before getting the Miami job, and now players are leaving. I could see them losing six games this year.

FSU does seem to be getting a little better, and I credit Jimbo Fisher for that. They quietly won 9 games last year and played much better football as the year went along. The Noles completely dominated Wisconsin in their bowl game.

I know this game is usually close, but I'll just go with FSU since I trust them a little more than I do Miami. Bobby Bowden has lost control of his program, but at least they seem to have a succession plan in place and some sort of commitment to winning. Miami has absolutely no clue about how to get their program back to prominence.

By the way, this game is not sold out. WOW.

Notre Dame vs. Nevada (Notre Dame Stadium NBC Sports 3:30pm)

Jeremy: Notre Dame

Consider me drunk on the Kool Aid. Nevada may test the nerves of many an Irish fan early in the game, but ND pulls away and turns this one into a rout in the 2nd half, earning Dayne Crist his first playing time in an Irish uniform. I’ll be very interested in two things: whether the DL will be able to contain and shut down the Nevada running game, and whether the Irish are able to run the ball effectively. Clausen should have no trouble moving the ball through the air, but if the Irish struggle to run the bal against a porous Nevada run defense, it could be another long season for the offensive line.

Dan: Notre Dame

Matt: Notre Dame

Mike: Notre Dame

I have no idea whether Notre Dame will cover the spread, although I would bet Nevada if you put a gun to my head. Still, ND should be able to score enough points against an inept Nevada defense to force the Wolfpack into a one-dimensional team on offense. This, in turn, should play into ND’s expected strength on defense: its talented secondary and the blitz-happy tendencies of Jon Tenuta. I will be at Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday and, if the Irish do not prevail, I will be one belligerent and insufferable person. Then again, most people consider me to be belligerent and insufferable when the Irish win as well.

Doug: Notre Dame

Couldn't be more excited for this game and to get up to South Bend. Really, we have waited two years for this day to come. We slogged through two brutal seasons of growing pains, and now it appears that the program is finally on solid footing for the foreseeable. For me, that is an exciting feeling. I literally can't wait to get into that stadium and hear Mike Collins' voice. The best P.A. announcer in all of the land!!

I think this game is a perfect opener for the Irish. A competitive team with some weapons that will give us a test but also a team that we should beat with relative ease if we play our game.

Nevada fans, it sounds like you all are geeked up for this game. I don't blame you. There is nothing like a football game at Notre Dame Stadium, and I hope you have a great time all weekend. You will remember your time at ND forever. It is truly the most special place in all of college football.

Anyway, enough of the pomp and circumstances. Let's break down the big issues in this game:

1) ND receivers --- For my money, this is really the key factor heading into this game. There is absolutely no one on the Nevada roster who can slow down our slew of talented receivers and tight ends. Floyd, Tate, Rudolph....who is guarding those guys on Nevada?? Nevada had one of the worst pass defenses in the nation last year.

I know everyone wants to see how the Irish run the ball next year, but I see no reason why we shouldn't come out five wides and put this game to bed early. We did that in 2005
(came out no huddle against Michigan), and it worked. If we could get out to a big early lead, these guys will fold up.

We might as well play to our strengths. We have really good receiving weapons, and this offense could be great if Clausen can hang in there and spread the ball around to everyone. I think we'll run the ball better this year with Aldridge at fullback and Armando coming into his
own, but we're probably never going to going to line it up and play power football that much (except against teams like Navy and Nevada).

Honestly, I don't want Weis to "establish the run" if deep down he knows we can't do it. Just win games through the air and mix in the run as a change of pace. Now, if we can do it, that's another story and I'd love to run out the clock with a physical running game. But
I'm skeptical that we'll actually be able to do it.

If we play good defense this year, we can run whatever offense we want for all I care as long as we put up enough points to win the game.

2) Talent Factor -- I know Nevada is a good WAC team and well-coached and has a few great athletes, but we have vastly superior personnel to them. Nevada has MAC talent. They're like Navy. They can beat the Louisiana Techs of the world with their scheme, but they get blown out every time they play a BCS school. Our lineman outweigh them by 40-50 pounds at every position. We should be able to blow them off the ball like we do against Navy in most years and like we did against Hawaii last year. We completely dominated Hawaii up front last year. Our defensive line blew them up, and our combination of size and speed completely overwhelmed them. I just watched a replay of that game on ESPNU a couple days ago, and it was amazing how well we played in that game. That's what we should be able to do to Nevada on Saturday if we show up ready to play.

I look at the matchups, and it's no contest. Our receivers are too athletic and skilled for their DBs. Our linemen should control the game, especially since we are going to be rotating in linemen all day long. I love that move by Weis by the way. The fact that he has enough confidence in Romine and some other backups to get them into the game in the first half is a great sign. We have not had that kind of depth in a long time.

3) ND defense -- While I am really not going to take much away from how we look on offense against Nevada, I will be paying attention to how the defense looks. Nevada is basically running the spread option type stuff, and I hope we show up ready to shut them down. Kaepernick is a good player, but we can limit his effectiveness if we get in his face all game long.

I want to see ND completely shut down Nevada's running game with our defensive line. I hope we see guys like Ethan Johnson and Ian Williams blowing up plays all game long. It doesn't necessarily mean we'll do it against USC, but it would certainly be a better showing than what we did last year against the run.

4) Charlie Weis -- While I think Charlie has really adjusted and become more of a college coach in his five years at ND, it's hard for me to completely say that we're out of the woods with Charlie Weis. I'm prepared for anything on Saturday, including losing the game and Weis getting fired the next day.

I think it's a perfectly reasonable position to be on the fence regarding Charlie Weis. Put it this way. If you are absolutely sure that Weis is the answer, then you're being intellectually dishonest based on what we've seen. And if you're already given up all hope on Weis, then you're just bitter and need to put the past behind you. I'm inclined to straddle the fence for now and hope that he can fully get me on board over the next two seasons.

I do think that 2009 is the best prepared Weis has been for a college season. He is completely in control of the offense, he has hired a defensive staff with guys that he trusts who are college coaches, and I think he has really embrace the idea of creating depth and competition at every position. I think his willingness to throw a couple linemen into the game in the first half is a GREAT sign that he is figuring out what college football is all about.

Deep down though, I still get a little nervous when I think about Charlie as the head coach. I'm not completely convinced that he's going to have this team hitting all cylinders week in and week out. The way this team has played at times in the last couple years is completely unheard of from a good football coach. I still fear that we'll lay a couple eggs this year in games we shouldn't lose. With that said, I want Weis to succeed, and I do credit him for working as hard as possible to right this ship.

A lot of people have made a big fuss about that billboard referring to Weis' internship, but there is a lot of truth to that statement. That is basically what has happened here. We have invested four years into Weis figuring out what works and what doesn't work in college football. A school like ND should not be hiring a first head time Fans have had a lot of patience with Weis, and it would be nice that see that patience rewarded this year.

By the way, has anyone else noticed that Charlie Weis loves to use those Joe Theismann expressions?? I thought only Theismann was allowed to say "Here's a guy...." when he starts talking about a player. Weis has been throwing out "here's a guy" and "you talk about a team" left and right. Pretty funny. He must be watching old Sunday Night NFL telecasts in the offseason or something.

5) Special Teams -- Just figured someone had to throw in the obligatory special teams reference. I would like to see us dominate them on the special teams front. Big kickoffs from Tausch, a good punting game if we have to punt, no missed field goals, and maybe a couple big returns out of the punt return and kick return games.

Looking forward to seeing Mike Anello in action this year, especially on kickoffs following an Irish touchdown.

Maybe this game will end up being much closer than I am anticipating, but I think the Irish will roll in the opener. This team is going to be looking for something to prove, and Nevada fits right into our strengths. If they try to blitz, we'll burn them with the passing game. If they try to play us straight up, I think there will be plenty of room to run against their small defensive front.

I'm excited to get up to South Bend. DJ Drew, if you're reading this blog, here are my requests for Friday nigh at the Backert:

Kenny Chesney - Out Last Night
Big N Rich - Save a Horse
Rocky Top
ND Fight Song
Proud to be an American.

Feel free to keep those on repeat all night long. GO IRISH!! Beat the Pack!!

ND 38 Nevada 17

Bonus Picks:

Navy +22 at Ohio State -- I'll make my annual plea to Jim Tressel to just let it all hang out one year and try to blow some teams out to give his team some confidence on offense. I'm not holding my breath on it though. Tressel is a big military guy, so I do not expect him to let this game get out of hand.

Miami (OH) +15 against Kentucky at Paul Brown Stadium -- First game of the Mike Haywood era at the Bengals stadium; I'll say they cover that 15 points

Wake Forest -2.5 against Baylor -- Intrigued to see this Robert Griffin guy, but I'll take the Deacs at home in the opener to cover

USC -33 against San Jose State -- First game of the Matt Barkley era; I wish this game was at night because I'd love to watch it; It's a 3:30pm kickoff though

Washington +18 against LSU -- First game of the Steve Sarkisian era; I'll say they come out inspired and cover that 18 points

Oklahoma -22 against BYU in Dallas -- I'll be watching this one for my fantasy running back, DeMarco Murray. Hope he has a monster game. Sooners roll.

Western Michigan +13 at Michigan -- Last but not least, maybe the most interesting game of the day for me other than Nevada-ND. This game is at 3:30 pm EST. You know what that means, don't you?? SCORE UPDATES from Notre Dame Stadium!! Imagine the reaction of the crowd if Mike Collins gets on the mic and says "Catching you up on scores around the nation. Third quarter in Ann Arbor....

Western Michigan 24

(wait for it)


You know you got goosebumps just thinking about that. Go Broncos!!

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