Saturday, September 03, 2005

Go Irish, Beat Panthers...

I came in early last night for a number of reasons. One of them, I’m pretty sure I’m getting sick, which makes sense because I’ve been here for about two weeks and it only takes that long before the Catholic-Conservatism dust starts accumulating in your lungs. Secondly, the party wasn’t that good, and in my state of relative-sickness, having to be at work at 9:30 the next morning and having about a hundred pages of reading to do in the middle of the afternoon while I missed football, I didn’t have the luxury of “drinking it fun”.

Regardless, the total crappiness of my life cannot knock away the fact that the Notre Dame Fighting Irish season kicks off today, and things are certainly getting a little buzz around campus. Marker boards have score predictions, the Irish Insider takes up half of The Observer and half the campus has migrated east to the Steel City, because Pitt fans are pretty terrible overall and it’s easy to get tickets.

Anyone who says they know exactly what’s going to happen tonight is a liar. Whether they’re basing their opinion too much on the game last year or basing it on a man that hasn’t ever been head coach at a high level, the truth is going to fall somewhere between. There are so many questions for an entire season that will be answered tonight that ESPN sent Gameday there. Partly because both Dave Wannstedt and Charlie Weis are making their debuts at their alma maters, partly because of the amazing game last year and partly because of the talent on the field, this contest is surrounded by a sort of daytime TV drama that makes it even tougher to predict.

Some of the questions that need to be answered in the sixteen minutes I have before I leave for work? (Lucky for you folks I can’t sleep more than seven hours at night. The bonus time goes to you because I love you.)

Does Brady Quinn transition to Tom Brady under Weis’s tutelage?

That’s what everyone in South Bend land is wondering, and I’m hoping that the Chuckster manages to take the Most Successful Sophomore Quarterback in ND History (simply on passing numbers only, and from the guy who was there watching him short-arm third down conversion after third down conversion, those were some empty numbers). If Brady can become the sort of coach-on-the-field, precision-passing monster that the elder Brady is, Pitt’s defense is going to have a tough time, because…

Just how good is the offense going to be?

On paper, it looks fantastic, but that same paper only trotted out a middle-tier O last year. Under Weis, one would have to think that a veteran line, stud running back, experienced QB and deep, talented-but- underachieving receiving corps would get mixed together for some fun-time, high-flying, play-actioning offense. But the thing is, you can assume this, but you cannot know, which is why tonight is so damn exciting.

Is the defense capable of stopping anybody, let alone the guy who put up five touchdown passes against them last year?

Unless Weis unearthed some major talent Ty didn’t realize was here, or has some incredibly clever defensive scheme capable of taking away Greg Lee while not giving up gonzo yards to everyone else, this is going to be an old-fashioned shootout. Sure, we can run clock all we want – and we will – but it comes down to the fact Tyler Palko can go in the huddle, tell G-Lee to run a deep post, drop back and toss him a jump ball. Over, and over, and over again, with nothing Tommy Z or anybody else can do to stop it. We’re going to have to stop freshman running back Rashad Jennings, then work our way back from there. Again, if the offense is good enough, then we’ll be playing from ahead, meaning at least we only have to worry about Palko’s arm.

Not that we’d be able to stop it, but at least we’d make the Panther offense sort of one-dimensional. Of course, if Diamond Dave decides he wants to be a running team, despite the talent he has at wide-out and QB, we’ll take that gift smiling, but somehow, I don’t even think The Guy That Destroyed the Dolphins is that stupid.

So what’s the score going to be?

Despite the fact I just told you anyone who pretends to know what is going to happen is a liar, I have to make a prediction. I’m going to believe that last year’s game will be a solid model and that Charlie Weis will make an amazing difference in the offense. If it wasn’t for the fact I can’t trust our defense to stop anybody, I would gladly pick us, but I can’t do it and not have the nagging feeling in the back of my mind that I’m being slightly biased.

No, it’ll be Brady Quinn and D-Walk vs. Tyler Palko and G-Lee, the defenses just attempting to stop two high-scoring offenses. But the Panthers are at home and have a genuine play-maker on defense with Horatio Benedict Blades, so I will lean towards them, despite the fact I obviously want the Irish to win.

Panthers 38, Irish 31

Chad's Hungover Prediction, From Across The Office: Irish 17, Pittsburgh 10

No comments: