Notre Dame Football 2012: One Good Reason Why the Irish Can Beat Every Opponent
Fans know the potential that many of the players on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish have, but what about some of the weaknesses of the team's 2012 opponents?
Brutal is just one adjective used to describe Notre Dame's 2012 football schedule. And while I can't disagree that this season's schedule is going to be particularly difficult, there shouldn't be a sense of dismay among the Irish fanbase.
In fact, there are reasons that the Irish have a chance to win in every game they play in 2012.
Reason: Defensive Line Won't Be Surprised by Option
The Fighting Irish gave up quite a few yards to the option attack of Air Force in 2011, but when it was time to face a similar yet less dynamic offense in Navy, Notre Dame played very well in a 54-14 victory.
While every position on defense needs to be disciplined in order to stop the option, the defensive line is as vital as any to a team's success against that type of offense.
With a year of experience behind them, Aaron Lynch and Stephon Tuitt won't be caught sleeping. Both players will be able to get into Navy's backfield, and Louis Nix shouldn't have a problem plugging up the middle.
If the Irish defense can stay disciplined, then the team should start out 2012 1-0.
Navy will have a new quarterback that is more athletic in Trey Miller (he saw limited action against the Irish last season), but the change shouldn't make too much of a difference.
Plus, the Fighting Irish have to win in Ireland. Don't they?
Reason: Not Enough Firepower
Purdue has a few solid pieces and should be improved from its 7-6 2011 record.
However, the Boilermakers are still lacking the overall firepower on offense to stay with a Notre Dame team.
The team has a number of capable skill players. Three players on the roster had 29 receptions or more in 2011, but the team just isn't getting enough from its offense.
Purdue does have a interesting dilemma at quarterback. While rising senior Caleb TerBush knows the Boilermakers offense very well, fifth-year quarterback Robert Marve has shown flashes of his soaring talent.
This won't be a rollover game, but if Brian Kelly can get his offense to score 24-30 points, the Irish should win.
Michigan State Spartans
Reason: Departure of the Offense
After a productive career at Michigan State, quarterback Kirk Cousins is going to try his hand at the NFL.
Cousins is leaving just in time because receivers B.J. Cunningham, Keshawn Martin, Keith Nichol and tight end Brian Linthicum are not coming back.
That is the team's top four receivers, and no wide receiver or tight end currently on the roster had more than 12 receptions in 2011. Saying the wide receiver unit will be depleted is an understatement.
The Michigan State defense will once again be a force to be reckoned with, but the team's offense won't be nearly as prolific.
Reason: The Fighting Irish Will Play for Four Quarters
If it wasn't for one of the worst quarters in Notre Dame history, then Notre Dame would have taken the game in 2011.
The better team is the one that walks away with a victory, but the Irish outplayed Michigan for most of the game.
Coach Brian Kelly will remind his players over and over again that a game is four quarters, and the Notre Dame secondary won't let Denard Robinson get away with launching so many underthrown deep passes in 2012 either (at least the coaching staff will have the players prepared for them if he does).
I have no doubt that Michigan will continue to improve under Brady Hoke, but fans should feel the same way about Notre Dame and Brian Kelly.
Reason: Loss of Lamar Miller, Jacory Harris and Tommy Streeter
The Miami Hurricanes will have some big shoes to fill in 2012. The team lost one of the top running backs in the nation to the NFL in Lamar Miller.
Also, the raw but extremely skilled wide receiver, Tommy Streeter, is heading to the NFL as well.
To make matters worse, longtime Miami quarterback Jacory Harris is graduating, so the team will have a new face running the team this season.
Miami's roster is filled with talent, but the team will be shaping and adjusting its offense in 2012.
Notre Dame should be capitalize on a team going through some changes.
Reason: Andrew Luck Is Gone
Obviously, Stanford is going to miss everything that Andrew Luck brings to the table.
There is a reason Luck is unanimously considered the best draft prospect in the nation, but he isn't the only player the team is losing to the NFL.
Offensive linemen Johnathan Martin and David Decastro are expected to get nabbed in the first round, and Coby Fleener and Chris Owusu are going to go rather early to name a few.
Stepfan Taylor looks to be who the offense will turn to in Luck's absence. The team will be run-heavy, and Taylor will need to carry the load. But Taylor will be without two of the best linemen in the country and a number of receiving threats that would have taken some of the pressure off of him.
With the question of who will replace Luck at quarterback up in the air, the Irish should be able to sneak out of South Bend with a win going up against an inexperienced quarterback.
Reason: A Shock to the System
No team that BYU faces in 2012 before it sees the Irish will be able to prepare the team for the talent Notre Dame has.
BYU will face a Boise State squad without Kellen Moore, but outside of that, the team won't be up against great competition.
The Cougars play Washington State, Weber State, Utah, Boise State, Hawaii, Utah State and Oregon State before they head to South Bend to take on Notre Dame
BYU is also losing a number of players from a respectable defense which should play to Notre Dame's advantage.
Reason: A Weak Passing Defense
The game against the Oklahoma Sooners won't be a walk in the park, but are they beatable? Absolutely.
So, where should Notre Dame attack Oklahoma? The Sooners didn't have a great defense in 2011, although they always have tremendous depth and talent on their roster.
In 2011, Oklahoma had a respectable but not spectacular run defense (ranked 43rd in the FBS).
The Sooners passing defense didn't fare as well. They were ranked 79th against the pass in 2011.
The Irish could have a new quarterback in 2012, but whoever is the starter should be able to take advantage of the Oklahoma pass defense.
Reason: A Program in Transition
The Pittsburgh Panthers have had to deal with quite a bit of change in recent years. After Dave Wannstedt left in 2010, Michael Hayward was introduced as the team's head coach.
Some problems with the law led the team to dismiss Hayward before he coached a game and hire Tulsa coach Todd Graham.
Graham didn't last long at Pittsburgh either. After just one season, Graham left to take the head coaching job at Arizona State, and Wisconsin offensive coordinator Paul Chryst has been selected to take his place.
Chryst has a lot of issues to deal with in 2012.
Tino Sunseri hasn't been very effective as the team's quarterback, and Pittsburgh was 120th in the FBS in sacks allowed giving up a staggering 64 on the season.
Chryst has his work cut out for him this season, and the Irish shouldn't have a problem winning this game.
Boston College Eagles
Reason: Lost Heart of the Defense and a Bad Offense
Luke Kuechly was a beast last year and gave Notre Dame fits in the 2011 defensive matchup that ended 16-14 with an Irish victory.
He was the best linebacker in the country and fearless leader. Kuechly's departure will have a negative effect on the whole Boston College defense.
On offense, the Eagles just aren't very good to put it lightly. Last season they were ranked 112th in total offense with just 298.75 yards per game.
However, if Boston College can get some offensive production in 2012, the team will be much improved. But until the Eagles prove they can score, then Notre Dame will be a heavy favorite.
Wake Forest Demon Deacons
Reason: No Running Game
Wake Forest played well at times last year and gave Notre Dame a run for its money, but the Demon Deacons have some serious problems to address.
Wake Forest's pass protection was horrid too. The team was ranked 100th in the FBS in sacks allowed.
The team had struggles on defense as well. The Demon Deacons were 115th in sacks and 82nd in tackles for loss. They just couldn't get in opponents' backfields
Notre Dame should be able to make Wake Forest one-dimensional in 2012 by forcing the Demon Deacons to pass.
When the Irish do, they can simply let Aaron Lynch and Stephon Tuitt loose. And whoever the quarterback is will have all day to pass.
This may be the toughest game on Notre Dame's schedule in 2012, and fittingly, it is the last game played in the regular season.
Matt Barkley returns as a Heisman front-runner, and Robert Woods has become one of the best wide receivers in all of college football.
And the USC Trojans will be allowed to play in a bowl game in 2012, so the team will do everything it can to avoid having the Irish spoil its BCS hopes.
But the USC game left a bad taste in Notre Dame's mouth last year. There was a lot of talk about how the Irish just lost the will to play at the end of the game.
Fans better believe that Notre Dame will remember vividly how that game went down, and the team will play like it has nothing to lose.
The Irish will be out for revenge after being defeated in South Bend. This game is going to be intense, and trust me, there will be no love lost when it is over.