Washington has never beaten Notre Dame in a series that stretches back to the late 1940s. The series was renewed the last decade after the retirement and death of former Notre Dame AD legend Moose Krause.
Krause swore that the Irish would never again schedule Washington after the Huskies paid off the refs to keep it close in a game at Husky Stadium back in 1949.
Time heals most things, and the Irish and the Huskies are now starting to play each other regularly. Since the series was renewed, Washington has been outclassed by the Irish, at home and on the road.
This year may prove to be different, since both programs are trying to rebuild from one of the lowest points in their storied histories. UW just may have the edge going into this one.
Most Notre Dame fans blame Tyrone Willingham for most of the team's current problems. It is no secret that Ty didn't recruit that well at Notre Dame. It is also no secret that Charlie Weis did pretty well his first two years using Ty's players.
The Irish fans are not enamored with Weis anymore after last year's pathetic season. Notre Dame demands victories and BCS bowl games every single year—there is little margin for error in South Bend.
Notre Dame is coming off one of its worst seasons in history, and Coach Weis is on the very hot seat after being sainted his first two years as head man at ND.
It’s hard to imagine the Irish repeating last year’s 3-9 campaign in 2008. They were blown out in their first five games, crushed 38-0 by rival USC, and lost to both Air Force and Navy. 6-6 in 2008 is a more likely scenario.
The Irish, like Washington, figure to field a better team in 2008—a much better team, in fact, because of all the talent Weis has been stockpiling. Like Washington, the strength of the team is in the last two recruiting classes, so there is a major maturation process going on.
Young talent aside, there are still major questions about this team on defense, along both lines, and most importantly, from a psychological standpoint. The Irish have to figure who they are, what they represent, and how they are going to get there.
The Notre Dame offense was so bad last year that the defense's troubles sometimes escaped notice, but the fact is this is a very average defensive unit. Notre Dame gave up 30 or more points in each of its first five games, then let Navy score 46 and Air Force score 41 before finding a groove in its last two games. However, those games were against lowly Duke and Stanford.
The lone bright spot for the defense appeared to be in the secondary, where three starters were supposed to return. Safety David Bruton had a great junior campaign and will be looked to as a leader during his senior season. The pass defense was okay last year, and corners Terrail Lambert and Darrin Walls seemed adequate enough to handle most receivers.
Walls unfortunately left the team this summer to head home to deal with undisclosed personal problems, which means the Irish defense is going to have another big hole to fill in 2008. Junior Raeshon McNeil will try to fill the void left by Walls at CB.
Without tackle Trevor Laws, who is now in the NFL, the defensive line could be even worse than they were last season, when they gave up nearly 200 yards a game on the ground. Linebackers John Ryan and Maurice Crum need to have big years if the defense is going to get a lot better.
Coach Charlie Weis has nine starters back from last year’s offense, including a couple of good skill guys. You know the guy is on track to get it turned around because he has a top five recruiting class each season. The talent will be there, but Irish fans are questioning whether Weis can coach or not.
Leading the way for the Irish offense will be quarterback Jimmy Clausen (1,254 yards passing, seven touchdowns, six interceptions), who almost certainly will be better this season than he was in 2007. Clausen has all the talent in the world—he just needs a little confidence and some time to throw the ball.
Clausen's biggest hurdle this season is going to be wiping out the memories of 2007. The kid played way before he was ready, and only time will tell if he can recover psychologically from the beating he took last season.
Clausen loses his top target, reliable tight end John Carlson, so he will likely rely on promising receiver Duval Kamara, who caught 32 passes and scored four touchdowns in 2007.
Running back is a position of mild concern, though Robert Hughes showed some promise late last season, rushing for 110 yards against Duke and 136 against Stanford. The offensive line, which was quite frankly horrible in 2007 (Clausen alone was sacked 34 times), will be anchored by right tackle Sam Young.
How Do You Beat Notre Dame?
You let Notre Dame self-destruct, and you punish them with Jake Locker all night. There's no way the Irish defense can deal with Locker at Husky Stadium. The Irish can't stop the run, and the defense will still be weak this season. UW just needs to hammer it all day to pick up its first W in the series.
What Do I Think?
I think Notre Dame will be one of the weakest teams we play all year. The Irish are down, and they were much worse than us last year.
I am not buying the Jimmy Clausen hype—I will take Jake Locker and our defense any day over this squad. The Irish have a lot of young talent, but until they get a year's experience under their belts, they will still struggle in 2008.
So Husky and Irish fans, that's right—I am predicting a Washington win over Notre Dame, which means the Huskies win two out of three non-conference games in 2008.
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