A Game-by-Game Prediction of Notre Dame's 2013 Schedule Without Everett Golson
Quarterback Everett Golson was suspended for Notre Dame's fall term due to "poor academic judgment," according to WNDU. This leaves Notre Dame without its starting quarterback going into fall camp.
Quarterback Tommy Rees was the former starter. He started against BYU and Miami last season and had 16 starts prior to 2012.
Head coach Brian Kelly has not indicated who will be his quarterback this fall, but Rees seems like the obvious choice over the untested true freshman Malik Zaire and junior Andrew Hendrix, who in two seasons in a reserve role has thrown for 304 yards, with one touchdown and two interceptions.
Assuming Rees is the quarterback when Notre Dame kicks off its season on August 31, how would the Irish do against their opponents?
This is one way Notre Dame's season could unfold without Golson.
August 31: Vs. Temple
Last year the Owls' defense was ranked 92nd among all FBS teams.
Temple's secondary is without starting safeties Vaughn Carraway and Justin Gildea. Rees takes advantage of the inexperienced safeties by opening up the passing game after establishing the running game.
The Owls can't run the ball due to outstanding Irish defense, so they resort to the pass. Uh oh.
Temple's passing offense was ranked 120th last season. The Owls fail to move the sticks on 3rd-and-longs and are forced to punt after stalled drives.
Prediction: Notre Dame 31, Temple 6
September 7: At Michigan
Michigan lost 13-6 to Notre Dame last year. The Wolverines return 11 starters—the offense took a big hit with quarterback Denard Robinson and three linemen gone. However, there are some intangibles that should not be overlooked in this game.
The home team has won five of the last six contests. Notre Dame announced that it is shelving its series with Michigan starting in 2015. Michigan head coach Brady Hoke said Notre Dame was "chickening out," according to ESPN. The Big House will be rocking for this game.
This is a tightly contested, low-scoring game. Rees and his offense get called for numerous minor infractions like offsides and illegal motion. Blame the crowd.
Rees cannot escape the blitzes and is sacked in critical down-and-yardage situations. Michigan also struggles to move the ball against the Irish defense.
Notre Dame attempts to take advantage of Michigan's new defensive linemen by running up the middle, but the Wolverines' linebackers crash the middle with their run defense support.
Michigan wins in an ugly, low-scoring affair, and Kelly considers starting quarterback Malik Zaire in the next game.
Prediction: Michigan 12, Notre Dame 9
September 14: At Purdue
After taking a bye, the Irish travel to West Lafayette with Rees still starting at quarterback.
Purdue has not beaten Notre Dame since 2008. The Boilermakers are in their first season under head coach Darrell Hazell.
This battle is won in the trenches. Purdue lost too many starters on its offensive line to get a push on the Irish defensive linemen.
Last year Notre Dame won by a field goal in a close game. But that game also saw four Irish stars not playing—receiver DaVaris Daniels, tight end Tyler Eifert, defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore and running back Cierre Wood. Daniels returns this year.
Purdue relies on the pass to score points because its interior line can't open holes for the running game.
Rees has a superb day and his confidence grows.
Prediction: Notre Dame 33, Purdue 10
September 21: Vs. Michigan State
Michigan State has lost two consecutive games to Notre Dame. Will this be its third?
The Spartans have two new co-offensive coordinators in Jim Bollman and Dave Warner. The offense will run a "pro-style, power running attack," according to Athlon Sports. This is pertinent because the two toughest games for Notre Dame last season were against Stanford and Alabama—who both ran that style of offense.
Michigan State has a huge offensive line and gives Notre Dame's defensive line a fight. The Spartans' defensive line is without William Gholston and Anthony Rashad-White but there is no drop-off in talent.
Head coach Mark Dantonio has recruited his front seven well. They are coached well. And they have Rees in their sights. While the pass rush was not as effective as last year's, the Spartans linebackers make Rees' day miserable.
Notre Dame gets caught looking ahead to its date with Oklahoma.
Prediction: Michigan State 20, Notre Dame 17
September 28: Vs. Oklahoma
The Sooners arrive in South Bend to exact revenge after last season's 30-13 rout.
Oklahoma returns four starters on defense, and that may lull Notre Dame into complacency. The Sooners front seven is a rebuilt unit. Oklahoma's offense is stocked with weapons despite losing quarterback Landry Jones.
If head coach Bob Stoops resorts to inserting Blake Bell in a goal-line jumbo package, the Sooners will lose this game. Everyone knows what the play is when Bell lines up in the vicinity of the end zone. Stoops has to get more creative with his red-zone offense to have any chance of beating Notre Dame.
Notre Dame runs the ball on the Sooners, and Oklahoma passes and runs on the Irish.
Rees has a decent day passing, but the running game wins the game ball for the Irish. Bell is 0-for-2 on sneaks in the red zone.
Stoops has a meltdown on the sidelines after a controversial call on the last play of the game favors Notre Dame.
Prediction: Notre Dame 38, Oklahoma 31.
October 5: Vs. Arizona State at Cowboys Stadium
This game may be at a neutral venue, but plenty of Arizona State fans will make the trip to nearby Arlington, Texas.
Arizona State's pass rush is relentless—it has one of the best front seven in the country.
Scout's Rich Cirminiello calls it "one of the nastiest and most aggressive D-lines in the league, if not the country."
Rees has no time to pass the ball and is sacked at least four times. He also encounters a personal meet-and-greet by defensive tackle Will Sutton (pictured above). His inability to escape the pass rush forces Kelly to insert true freshman Malik Zaire at quarterback.
Zaire avoids the sack, but his inexperience at quarterback causes rookie mistakes. He throws into double and triple coverage. He holds on to the ball too long instead of throwing it away.
Arizona State wins this one in a shoot-out.
Prediction: Arizona State 38, Notre Dame 28
October 19: Vs. USC
Zaire gets his first start at quarterback.
The Irish beat USC 22-13 at the Coliseum last year. Four-year starting quarterback Matt Barkley was injured against UCLA and Max Wittek was named his replacement. Wittek had no starting experience.
The Trojans kept the game close and that ought to concern Irish fans. Arizona, Oregon and UCLA all scored at least 38 points on USC last year. This year, USC addressed its biggest weakness—stopping the run—by hiring Clancy Pendergast as its defensive coordinator.
Pendergast installed the 3-4 instead of the Tampa/Cover 2 defense favored by his predecessor, Monte Kiffin. USC's front seven looks good, but the secondary has yet to prove it can keep up with speedy receivers.
Zaire is flushed out of the pocket by ends Morgan Breslin and Leonard Williams. USC spreads out the box to contain Zaire, but that opens up the running game for the Irish.
The crowd noise rattles the quarterback, whoever he is. Zaire frustrates USC's defense and causes it to overpursue. USC's receivers burn the Irish secondary, with Marquis Lee striking the pose after an 80-yard touchdown catch. Inexplicably, a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty is called that negates the touchdown.
This game goes into overtime. USC loses after head coach Lane Kiffin surprises absolutely no one by calling a quarterback sneak on 4th-and-goal at the 2-yard line.
Prediction: Notre Dame 31, USC 24 (OT)
October 26: At Air Force
The Irish will not be flat following their overtime victory against USC. Kelly is too good of a coach to let that happen.
Zaire is the star as he sets a Notre Dame single-game record for total yardage. Quarterback Joe Theismann held the former record with 519 total yards.
These teams last met in 2011 and Notre Dame won 59-33. Air Force has two key returning starters on its offense: running back Jon Lee and wide receiver Ty MacArthur.
The high altitude is no longer a concern—it is an Irish rout.
Prediction: Notre Dame 58, Air Force 12
November 2: Vs. Navy
Kelly has had no problem stopping Navy's triple-option attack the past two years. The Irish defense has limited Navy to just 24 points since 2011, and there is nothing to suggest that will change this season.
This is a showcase of Notre Dame's defense.
Zaire has a relatively easy day and Rees gets playing time early in the third quarter after the game is no longer in doubt.
Prediction: Notre Dame, 48 Navy 17
November 9: At Pittsburgh
The Panthers took the Irish to triple overtime before losing 29-26 last season. Part of the reason for that close game was that the Irish were probably still celebrating their victory over Oklahoma the previous week.
Pitt will be playing in eight ACC games this year. After playing Florida State, Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech, the Panthers may be a bit fatigued facing Notre Dame.
Zaire faces a veteran defense that defends well against the pass and the run, but he does not face much pressure in the pocket.
The Panthers averaged fewer than two sacks a game last season. With time to find open receivers, Zaire finds them and tires the defensive linemen chasing him.
At least the Irish defense won't have to contend with former running back Rushel Shell. But this game's score ends up closer than what Lou Holtz had predicted prior to the start of the game.
Prediction: Notre Dame 27, Pittsburgh 21
November 23: Vs. BYU
This game is intriguing for two reasons. First, it is against a team that was leading Notre Dame 14-10 in the fourth quarter before giving up a touchdown and losing 17-14. Second, starting quarterback Everett Golson was out of the game with post-concussion symptoms. Rees was the starter.
Rees went 7-of-16 for 117 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He also rushed twice for negative yardage. Golson was obviously missed.
BYU's losses last year were to Utah, Boise State, Oregon State, Notre Dame and San Jose State. All of those teams had defenses ranked 38th or better. Against better defenses, BYU's offense didn't click.
Zaire and the Irish defense are the difference-makers here. There is no negative rushing yardage against a Cougar defense that lost five of its front seven starters.
Prediction: Notre Dame 27, BYU 12
November 30: At Stanford
Stanford fans have been waiting for this one.
Last year Notre Dame beat Stanford 20-13 in overtime. The game ended in controversy as video replay showed Cardinal running back Stepfan Taylor going up the middle on 4th-and-goal and getting the ball over the goal line while his legs were still moving.
The officials ruled his forward progress had been stopped short of the goal line. Game over.
Will Zaire at quarterback make a difference this year? Probably not because Stanford did an excellent job of containing Golson, who, like Zaire, is a dual-threat quarterback. Stanford also beat the Oregon Ducks and their offense under dual-threat quarterback Marcus Mariota.
Stanford lost to Notre Dame because of superb defense by the Irish, lousy officiating and an incredible cameo performance by Tommy Rees. Golson passed for 12-of-24, 141 yards and one touchdown before Rees relieved him.
This game is revenge for Stanford. It's in Palo Alto, Calif., and David Shaw will be 2-0 at home against Brian Kelly after the game is over.
Prediction: Stanford 21, Notre Dame 13