9-3 and the grace of Touchdown Jesus will keep the Notre Dame Fighting Irish within the national spotlight and keep Charlie Weis fully employed when the 2009 College Football Season closes up shop in January.
That's Notre Dame realism.
Notre Dame has had some national buzz. NBC.com recently offered up a scenario in which ND could go undefeated. Numerous preseason magazines have tapped them as dark horse national title contenders. Rivals has them as a preseason number 23.
But let's get real. It's time to separate stone cold fact from hyper-inflated fiction in five short preseason headlines without nauseating overkill stories on Jimmy Clausen, the ND wide receivers, and Charlie Weis play calling. It's time to go a little deeper and it's time for some Irish reality.
1. Notre Dame Will Lose 3 Games. Colin Kaepernick, Don Treadwell, Dave Wannstedt, and Taylor Mays. Three of those men will be the key components in Notre Dame losses while ND will barely slip by the other.
Why 1-3 in these games? Kaepernick, the first team All-WAC QB from Nevada, will scare a pint of Guinness out of Irish fans with 200-yards passing and 150-yards rushing on opening day. Treadwell, the Michigan State Offensive Coordinator, will turn four major receiving threats loose at Notre Dame Stadium on September 19th. Pitt returns 15 starters with loads of experience. And Taylor Mays? The USC man-child hits like Ronnie, runs like Keyshawn, and hawks quarterbacks like Troy P. Add them up and you find three tough losses and one slim, painful, luck-of-the-Irish victory.
2. The Third Faulk. Armando Allen will catch and block like former Weis protégé Kevin when facing USC, Michigan St., and Pittsburgh. More importantly, he'll run like Marshall against Nevada, Navy, and Connecticut. If he adds in a few Faulk-like TiVo moments on kick returns he'll put himself in an elite category of all-purpose backs and become the first Irish All-American running back in years.
3. The Secretary of Defense. On opening day in 2006 Brady Quinn led a miracle drive to put an end to a scare at Georgia Tech. GT responded a year later with a 33-3 dismantling at Notre Dame. Most can't name a single Tech player on either of those teams without a quick google search. It was a man who sat a few hundred feet away from the field that played a bigger role than any single Ramblin' Wrecker in uniform.
Now Jon Tenuta wears the blue and gold and the title of defensive coordinator for ND. Now Jon Tenuta has freaks like Brian Smith, Manti Teo, Kerry Neal, Kapron Lewis Moore, and Ethan Johnson to line up next to blue collar Irishman like Harrison Smith, Ian Williams, and Kyle McCarthy. Now Jon Tenuta has too many toys to play with. And now Jon Tenuta will orchestrate a 50-plus sack and 15-plus interception season with (for once!?!) superior talent, plenty of speed, and at least seven new starting QB's standing on the other side of the ball.
4. The Uglies. The Irish lose only one offensive lineman from a much improved line that allowed 36 fewer sacks last year than 2007(the lightly recruited yet over-achieving warrior Mike Turkovich). Now ND must not only protect Clausen but turn the 2008 109.7 ypg rushing into pure gold in 2009. Enter the likes of Duncan, Olsen, Wenger, Stewart, Young, and Robinson. These six road-graders will make up the most dominant offensive line since Autry Denson was sprinting through gaping holes ten years ago. A 2000-yard rushing year will become a reality as names like Jonas Gray and Cierre Wood compliment experienced talents like Allen and Robert Hughes.
5. An Irish Bowl. 9-3 will get the Irish into an upper-middle-class bowl. Think Jacksonville on New Years Day and the Gator Bowl. They'll match up with a top 25 team, likely from the southeast, and they'll be knocked for being slower, more methodical, and typically northern during the lead-up analysis by the ESPN heads.
But fear not. Jimmy Clausen will be pushing for NFL draft consideration, Jon Tenuta will have more to prove than Michael Corleone at Dempsey's, and young men like Robert Blanton, Darrin Walls, Golden Tate, and Michael Floyd will feel the need to show the American sporting landscape that Armando Allen isn't the only Irishman who can run a sub-5.0 40. The Irish will score forty multi-faceted points, play stunning Tenuta defense, and finish with a respectable 10-win season.
Charlie will be safe, Notre Dame will finish ranked in the low-20's, and Dayne Crist will loosen in the bullpen faster than Mariano Rivera as Jimmy takes his limo to the Pro Football Hall of Fame to announce he just signed with Drew Rosenhaus.
Mission accomplished as reality sets on South Bend.