With the season right around the corner, I figured I would compile a list of 10 things I think will happen this year. Sure, they may be a bit optimistic, but that is what the preseason is for.
- The offense will put up 50+ in a game this year. A little known and somewhat surprising fact is that ND has yet to hang a 5-0 on the board in the Weis era. This probably stems from the NFL philosophy on not running the score up, but I am guessing that CW has learned a thing or two from the double digit meltdowns in ’08 and won’t be afraid to keep the petal to the metal until the game is well in hand.
- Jimmy Clausen completes 65+% of his passes. I think we should expect to see the quantum leap in maturity and results, similar to the ’05 Quinn season (who had a 64.9% completions in ’05). Look for the willingness to find the check down receiver out of the backfield and not try to force as many passes into tight coverage.
- Jimmy Clausen eclipses the 4,000 yd mark for the season. Assuming 13 games, this amounts to 308 yds/game. This would be 2nd on the all time ND list behind guess who—Quinn (334.1 yds/game ’05).
- Jimmy Clausen approaches the 4:1 TD:INT ratio. Right now, most “experts” place the bar at 5:1 for elite QBs in the college game. I think that number is unrealistic, but possible. I think he finishes the year somewhere in the 35-38 TDs with single digit INTs.
- John Goodman throws a TD pass. This may be the most outlandish of my predictions, but considering he has a strong throwing arm, consider the possibility of a gadget play or two in the book very probable. I also think you see this play just before the USC game (vs. Washington), just to add another dimension for the Trojans to prepare for.
- Armando Allen sets the season mark for receiving yards by a running back (442 yds). Considering he caught 50 passes in ’08 and I expect an increase in ’09, this is very realistic. Consider that he will probably get 20+ carries a game and another 5-6 touches through the air, which puts him at ~70 receptions. Can he average 6.5 yds/reception? I think so.
- The Irish win the time of possession battle in every game. The Irish averaged 31:17 per game in 2008 with the football, and that was without an effective ground game. I think this season you will see the average a bit closer to 33+ minutes a game.
- Someone other than a safety leads the team in tackles. I am not sure how everyone else feels about having Kyle McCarthy and David Bruton 1-2 in tackles last year, but I would feel a lot better if a LB actually led the team in tackles for once. My money is on Brian Smith, but that’s just a guess.
- The defense puts up 30+ sacks this season. I don’t think someone will approach Justin Tuck’s 13.5 sacks (2003) or the team get close to the record is 41 sacks (2001), but either one is possible. If the Irish can average just over 3 sacks a game, which puts them right at the record. One thing is for certain—we will see plenty of blitzing.
- The secondary records 20+ INTs on the season. Given the talent at corner and safety, combined with the pressure that should come on the opposing QB given the Tenuta blitz schemes, I think this is realistic. By the way, the season record is 29 INTs in 1977.
So there you have it, a few predictions for the upcoming season. Whether or not any are actually right, only time will tell.