So, the season is now upon us. The team has finished up training camp and transitioned into game week mode for practices. Most of the positional battles have shaken themselves out, and we are now on the verge of beginning the Kelly era in South Bend.
Last year, a poor defense allowed Purdue to keep it close, and a last second touchdown pass by Jimmy Clausen sealed the win.
This year, look for the Irish defense to be improved, and the Purdue offense may take a little while to get going under new quarterback Robert Mavre, a transfer from the University of Miami. While the Irish offensive attack may also take some time to develop, Purdue's weak secondary should allow the Irish passing attack to gain some confidence early in the season.
The battle to watch here will be Purdue's defensive end, Ryan Kerrigan, doing battle with our new offensive tackle Zack Martin. If Martin is as good as the Irish coaching staff thinks he is, and he can handle Kerrigan, that will bode very well for the season. If Martin can't contain Kerrigan and we are forced to keep a back in to double team him, the Irish may struggle a bit.
Optimistic prediction: Notre Dame 49 Purdue 24 (W)
Notre Dame comes out of the gate guns blazing, torching Purdue's weak secondary en route to an impressive debut for Coach Kelly.
Realistic prediction: Notre Dame 24 Purdue 14 (W)
Notre Dame's offense is productive, but their inexperience rears its ugly head, shooting themselves in the foot on multiple occasions, allowing Purdue to keep it close. But we do get some glimpses of what this team is capable of.
Pessimistic prediction: Notre Dame 14 Purdue 17 (L)
The Irish can't keep Dayne Crist upright and as a result, Notre Dame loses the turnover battle. Purdue comes out looking like the team that beat Ohio State last year, and finds a way to squeak out a victory.
They have two dangerous QBs, Denard Robinson and Tate Forcier, who are still battling for the starting position. Robinson is a speedster that can be dangerous running out of the backfield, while a little inconsistent as a passer. Tate Forcier is a much better passer, but isn't as dangerous running the football.
Michigan is still looking for receivers to step up their game and fuel this spread offense, and they are dangerously shallow at several positions. Unfortunately, we get them early in the season before the lack of depth really starts to damage this team's potency.
Even Michigan fans don't really know what to expect here. If Rich Rod goes 5-7 again, he'll surely be canned at the end of the season. However, if he finds a way to win eight or nine games, then he'll develop some momentum to build this program long-term.
The key matchup to watch here will be Michigan's cornerback Troy Woolfolk versus Notre Dame's wide receiver Michael Floyd. Indeed, I may go so far as to say whoever wins that battle wins the game. Michigan will score some points, but they will also struggle to keep Notre Dame from scoring if they can't contain Floyd one-on-one with their senior cornerback.
Optimistic prediction: Notre Dame 35 Michigan 10 (W)
Notre Dame's offense, confident off the previous week's torching of Purdue, comes out with a lot of confidence and Michigan can't figure out how to cover both Floyd and Rudolph at the same time. Meanwhile, Michigan still can't seem to find consistency at the quarterback position and disgruntled Michigan fans start to call for Rich Rodriguez's head.
Realistic prediction: Notre Dame 45 Michigan 35 (W)
I think that both teams score a lot of points, but ultimately the Irish advantage at the receiver position means that Michigan just can't keep pace.
Pessimistic prediction: Notre Dame 14 Michigan 38 (L)
Notre Dame's offense continues to struggle finding its identity, while Michigan finally starts to get it under Rich Rod's system, as the defense doesn't have an answer for Michigan's team speed.