September 03, 2010

WeIs Roundtable Week 1 Picks: Notre Dame - Purdue

Dan: Notre Dame

For the past 9 months, people have been asking me how I feel about Brian Kelly. How are the Irish going to do this season? How many games are they going to win this year? And for most of the time, I’ve been stressing my caution. I let myself get lured in by Weis. It took about 5 or 6 games, but I began to believe in Willingham in that first year. My thought was that I am giving Kelly at least a season before I even begin developing an opinion.

However, over the past two weeks, the kool-aid has been flowing. And for this week, I really like our match-up. We all know Notre Dame is going to score points. Dayne Christ, Michael Floyd, Kyle Rudolph, and Cierre Wood (yes, Wood) are going to find the end zone this year. Purdue is going to try and blitz the inexperienced Dayne and the inexperienced Irish O-Line. But Crist is mobile enough and I think Kelly’s game plan will successfully utilize screens and quick passes (watch for a break-out game from Theo Riddick) to neutralize the Boilermaker pressure.

On defense, the Notre Dame secondary has been much maligned. However, I am strongly in the camp that the blame lies with a lack of development from the coaching staff – not a lack of talent. I don’t have much confidence in Harrison Smith, but look for a major step forward from Darrin Walls (now in his 7th season) and Gary Gray this year. To call Purdue’s running game anemic might be complimentary at this point. I don’t see a good ground game from the Boilermakers developing at all, despite ND’s 3-4 defense.

Bottom line – look for a big start to the Brian Kelly era.

Notre Dame 31 Purdue 17

Jeremy: Notre Dame

The Brian Kelly Era in South Bend opens with a very interesting matchup. Not many pundits are giving the Boilers much of a chance here, though predictions have generally called for a close game. The boys at Irish Illustrated are calling for a sloppy, penalty-filled game, which I could definitely see as the Irish offense will almost certainly suffer some growing pains for the first few weeks.

On the offensive side of the ball, Dayne Crist will be the key (of course), but I'll be keeping an eye on the offensive line, particularly the rookie tackles. Zach Martin has gotten some serious publicity in the past few months, and I'll be interested to see how he covers the blind side. The Kelly scheme tends to take some pressure off the tackles by sticking to short, quick passes, which will be very important to allow these tackles to gain some experience and confidence. The Irish will face some serious pass-rushing talent this year and Ryan Kerrigan might be the best DE they'll see. Neutralizing the Boiler pass rush and grabbing some "easy" first downs with the ground game is the ticket to starting off fast.

On defense, many are pointing to the change in scheme as leading to something of a renaissance with the Irish D. Of course, everything starts with the D-line, and the combo of KLM, Ian Williams and Ethan Johnson has the potential to do some really special things this year. The problem on the D-line will be the depth, as there's not much waiting in the wings (yet) to take over if the starters need a break. The LBs have the unenviable task of bottling up uber-athletic Purdue QB Robert Marve, who could create some big plays with his arm and his legs.

I do find myself scratching my head a bit with some of the praise that's being heaped on Marve this week. Sure, he's talented and his recruiting rankings reflect that, but what has he done on the collegiate gridiron? Here's hoping the ND defense doesn't provide Marve with his own highlight reel.

In the end, I think the Irish offense starts a bit slow, but eventually finds its legs and takes advantage of the thin Purdue secondary. The defense shows some growth, but depth issues and some big plays by Marve support the ongoing concerns about the ND safeties in particular.

ND 27 Purdue 17

Notre Dame

The 2010 season is here. With it comes the dawn of the Brian Kelly Era, the Dayne Crist Stewardship, the Manti Te’o Dynasty, the Christ Stewart Residency, the Theo Riddick Comet Sighting and the Michael Floyd Cover Me If You Can Farewell Tour.

To say tomorrow has been a long time coming is a ginormous understatement. The Weis regime’s last three years were a train wreck in slow motion, and sometimes instant replay, with the predictable ineffectiveness. Shaking out disillusionment isn’t as easy as a rug. Hard evidence and proof that change is in place is necessary before true belief can be restored. The mere fact that Brian Kelly has enjoyed success at every stop on his coaching journey places him in stark contrast to his three stooge predecessors – Bob, Ty and Charlie. I have faith that Kelly will win at Notre Dame, though I’m suspending belief until his body of work grows over the next several Saturdays. Tomorrow is the first opportunity to see how the mindset and expectations among the players has changed. Players improving over the course of the season. 2nd half adjustments. Developing an edge that refuses to underachieve and play down to competition. These are just a few examples of the obstacles Kelly must overcome. They don’t involve wins and losses, at least in 2010. But they will set the tone for future success.

Concerns abound, especially when pinning hopes on a QB with 20 career pass attempts. On the defense alone, there’s a lack of secondary depth, an adjustment to the 3-4 scheme that may take a few games, finding a consistent pass rush, breaking in a new ILB – be it Calobrese or McDonald. If Notre Dame is to realistically compete for a national title this decade, the defense must improve by leaps and bounds.

Enter the Purdue Boilermakers. Charlie found a way to squeak by our in-state counterparts last year after getting pasted in 2007. Our success, or lack thereof, against Purdue foretold the mediocrity that mired the last three years. The Boilers, as usual, boast a capable offense that will challenge Bob Diaco’s new look defense. Frankly, it’s just what the Irish need. With Michigan ahead, former Hurricane Robert Marve & Co. will provide a necessary test for the unit to work out some kinks. The Boilers will probably have success moving the ball, but turnovers will be drive killers – Purdue tied for the most turnovers (29) in the Big Ten last year.

Prepare the christening oils as the debut of Kelly’s spread offense figures to anoint Crist the next Golden Boy, for better or worse. Nobody can guard Floyd, who will feel like a gazelle roaming the African savanna. I’d love to see Crist spread the ball around and get a flavor for all his options, without tipping too much of the playbook to the Wolverines, of course. I’m most curious to see how the offense operates on 3rd and shorts and near the goal line. It’s been too long since the big uglies paved the way for dependable chunks of yardage. Imposing their will in the trenches is an absolute must.

The electricity on campus and in the stadium will be incredible. There’s no way the crowd lets the team falter. I see a rousing start to the 2010 campaign, followed by the inevitable media circus churning out overzealous praise. Purdue isn’t that good, so there should be no BCS-bound pronouncements after this week. The Irish will beat a team they should beat, and should look like the better team.

Notre Dame 38 Purdue 23

Matt: Notre Dame

I’ll admit – I have an Irish Kool-Aid problem. I look at the schedule, read the glowing reviews of practice, study up on the stellar history of Coach Kelly, and I can’t help but daydream of being undefeated rolling into Southern California in late November. But at the same time, there is this little pudgy New Jersey accent in the back of my mind saying “You are what you are folks. And that’s a .500 team.” Of all of the lasting memories of the Weis era, and thankfully there aren’t many, that opening press conference remains the most poignant for me. Throw out the stats, the recruiting rankings, the schedule, Touchdown Jesus, the classy fans and everything else. Notre Dame is a about a .500 team since the end of the Holtz era. So why have I allowed myself to be sucked into the hype surrounding one more coaching change?

It comes down to two things. Having a track record. And having a system. Coach Kelly has both of them, Coach Weis had neither. Perhaps the most popular word on this blog the last two years was grab-bagging. Weis would come out, throw the ball around, run some Wildcat, then maybe pump the running game, but there never really seemed to be any method to the madness. At least in Kelly we know that the Irish will be running the no huddle spread offense, and I must imagine there will be a handful of bread and butter plays that we can look forward to. And it’s been talked about ad nauseum, but obviously Kelly has won everywhere he’s been.
As for this game, I am a little nervous about the matchup of Robert Marve and Keith Smith against the ND secondary. It will be interesting to see how the safeties, especially Jamoris Slaughter, look in the passing game. And the cornerbacks did not play well for the most part last year, so Walls, Gray and D’s in the Dirt Blanton will have to perform better, hopefully aided by a fiercer pass rush. On the offensive side of the ball, I’ll be watching for the dawning of the Cierre Wood era. I like Armando Allen – he’s sure-handed, showed a little extra toughness last year, and has plenty of experience – but let’s face it, the broken leg in high school has sapped him of that extra gear. He has never evolved into a gamebreaker. I think Cierre Wood will bring that to the table. Also looking forward to the trio of Floyd, Riddick and TJ Jones outside. Should be an exciting Irish offense. Do you know what my biggest fear is? Well besides, a Crist injury. That this nagging ankle injury for Kyle Rudolph lingers all season and he is a limited factor on offense. I just have a bad feeling – it seems like he has been battling the injury all camp, and I can’t imagine playing in games is going to make it any better. Hopefully I am wrong.

I think the Irish play a close game into the third quarter, but ultimately pull away for a rather comfortable win. Bring on Michigan!

ND 31 Purdue 20

Mike: Notre Dame

Having been burned before, I am not as optimistic as the majority of the Irish fan base about Brian Kelly, but I am certainly intrigued. In fact, I will be in South Bend this weekend to bask in the glorious weather (forecast for Saturday: 67 degrees, sunny), visit with old friends and get blacked out drunk….good times, indeed. Anyway, onto the prediction:

ND on Offense: Given the returning talent on offense for ND and Purdue’s defensive woes, there is no real reason why the Irish should encounter much resistance from the Boilermakers, even with an inexperienced QB at the helm. Although ND’s offensive line is a major question mark at this time, particularly with its two young tackles, Dever and Martin, the Irish offense should be able to take advantage of its overwhelming mismatches at the skill positions. In particular, Purdue’s green secondary and slow linebackers will have no answers for Michael Floyd, Theo Riddick, Kyle Rudolph and others. As such, I expect the Irish to have early success on the ground, which will neutralize Purdue’s strong defensive ends, Gooden and Kerrigan, thereby allowing Crist to hit some big plays in the passing game. Simply put, Purdue is the ideal opening day opponent for Crist to experience immediate success on offense, which will serve him well in the upcoming weeks.
Purdue on Offense: For some reason, Robert Marve has received a healthy dose of praise for his play and his leadership in the spring. While it is not far-fetched to believe that Marve has matured since arriving in West Lafayette, there is no reason to believe that he will be particularly successful this season unless he has improved substantially from his Miami days. Marve may have been a highly touted recruit, but his play for the Hurricanes ranged from below average to downright terrible. I have an indelible image of Marve fleeing the pocket in a panic, chucking ill advised passes all over the field and inexplicably wearing a glove on his hand in 95 degree weather. Perhaps my memory is just bad though.

Anyway, Purdue does have some talent on offense, especially WR Keith Smith, and some of the younger skill position players, such as Justin Siller, Al-Terek McBurse and Cortez Smith, have shown promise. Moreover, considering ND’s considerable problems on defense last year, it is reasonable to assume that Purdue will be able to move the ball somewhat effectively against the Irish. Having said that, I believe that ND’s new defensive scheme will allow the Irish OLBs to apply some pressure on the edge against a questionable Boilermaker offensive line. Faced with said pressure, I expect Marve to revert to his inconsistent ways, which will enable ND to force multiple turnovers.

Special Teams: Purdue has the overall edge here with Carson Wiggs in the fold, but I expect an honest performance from placekicker Nick Tausch, punter Ben Turk and kickoff specialist David Ruffer, all of whom have elicited praise from Brian Kelly in the summer. As an ND fan, however, I have come to expect the worst on special teams. Still, it isn’t unrealistic to expect decent kick and punt coverage, which would be a refreshing change.

Prediction: Both teams should be extremely fired up for this rivalry game, so I expect a hard fought effort. Ultimately, however, the Irish are just too talented on both sides of the ball for the Boilermakers to keep pace. The Brian Kelly era will begin on the right foot.

Notre Dame 37 Purdue 21

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