Going into 2008, I think ND still has a lot of work ahead of them, but the schedule benefits this process. My prediction of eight wins has a lot to do with the order in which the games are played. Obviously, teams progress or regress as the season goes on. In my opinion, ND plays a couple of games at just the right time to set up at least an eight-win season.
For starters, I think SDSU, Stanford, Navy, and Syracuse will be easy wins—SDSU and Syracuse because both lack coaching and talent, Navy because their coach left, and Stanford because of talent. I would be hard pressed to find a logical argument to counter this.
Here are the other four wins for ND.
Michigan: Yes, I know they have a great D, but the offense has serious challenges. The weakest part of ND is the D-line. The weakest part of Michigan is the O-line. When these two are stacked against each other, ND is less weak on D than Michigan on O.
Added to this, Michigan will be in a new system with a zero-snap QB, and they lost their top three wide receivers. Minor is a good RB, but at times he has a case of the fumbles.
Against an average D strategy, Michigan has challenges. When you add in the fact that Tenuta has for years made four-year QBs with good O-lines look like freshmen, it gets even worse. Now if this game was later in the year, my confidence would be much lower.
Purdue: This game was a LOT closer than the score last year. Even with the horrible offense, ND had more yards than Purdue.
Purdue, when they win, will win on the back of Painter. The challenge of going against ND is his top two targets are gone, and the strongest aspect of ND as a team is the D-backfield. Wall and Bruton are All-American/first round quality.
Lastly, the Purdue defense did not get any better, and I see the ND offense being MUCH MUCH better this year.
Washington: Outside of having one of the best QBs in the nation, I do not see Washington having much else. Regardless of who is playing, this game will be won by Notre Dame 100 percent on emotion. This will come down to who wants to win more for their coach.
While some former players have said that Weis is not a players' coach, I can also recall being mad at my parents when I did not get my way. Time has shown the maturity level of those who made those comments has more to do with the comments than how they were actually treated by the staff.
Weis is not known for big pregame pep talks, but I feel Washington will be different. Even if he doesn't, the players, I feel, have a bone to pick with Ty. Because of his efforts, or lack thereof, he was let go. In typical Ty fashion, he found a way to deflect any blame.
He also, by lack of action and words in his interview with John Saunders, allowed for the myth that ND was a racist university. I think there are a couple of very talented African-American kids on the team that feel otherwise. Their counter will simply be to point to the scoreboard when the clock strikes zero.
Boston College: It is one thing to try and replace a four-year starter like Matt Ryan. It is even harder to replace a Heisman candidate. A lot of criticism of Weis in 2006 was that he did not play his young O-line or give his second-string QBs more snaps. While this was a mistake, the reason was he was trying to get Brady Quinn the Heisman.
The same can be said for Boston College in 2007. Replacing the talent AND experience of Matt Ryan is going be a big challenge for BC this year. Added to all of the challenge on the field, BC plays ND between Clemson and Florida State. These two items are why I feel Notre Dame will win.