Notre Dame Fear Factor: Ranking the Irish Opponents (Part One)

Marc HalstedCorrespondent IAugust 28, 2009

SOUTH BEND, IN - OCTOBER 07:  A member of Notre Dame Fighting Irish holds up his helmet on the opening kickoff during the game against the Stanford Cardinal on October 7, 2006 at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Indiana.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Mark May and Mel Kiper Jr. weren't available for comment on the Notre Dame page so I had to settle with my own evaluation of the 2009 Irish schedule. The degree of difficulty isn't at its traditional level but there's plenty to fear over the next four months if your a faithful follower of The Dome. We'll start with the No.12 team and work our way up over the course of two articles. 

For your approval, I submit the first six. Let the countdown begin.

12. Washington State

The biggest offseason news out of Pullman was that three-dozen guys gained weight and the center might be a preseason All-Pac 10 candidate.

Memo to Coach Wulff: Uh-oh.

If the Notre Dame scout team can’t beat Washington State on a slanted field in the pouring rain, than I will start writing for the Akron Zip website on Sunday morning, November 1, and never again put pen to paper about the plight of the Irish. 

The good news for the Cougars is that they have Hawaii, SMU, and Washington on the schedule. The bad news is that they play Notre Dame two weeks after USC week in South Bend when ND will be out for blood after the biggest win in ten years or the most disappointing loss of the season.

If the Irish go all Santa Anna on Wazzou and their fourteen new starters on offense and defense than it could be a true Alamodome massacre.

11. Washington

For those of you who read the ND website and follow every piece of Irish news, this could be deemed the Montana Bowl. 

One son left ND for junior college, the other son shunned the alma mater for UW, and Father Joe recently called out the academic standards. What, did Father Jenkins change the Psych 101 grade on your transcript?  Did the July issue of Blue and Gold Illustrated show up late?

Add in the fact that we all still think of Coach Sarkisian as a Trojan and you could have the first Spurrian blowout of the year in week five.

Defensively, it’s not hard to imagine Brian Smith running over an ill-placed Huskie guard to blow-up Jake Locker on the first Tenuta blitz of the game.

Offensively, it’s not hard to imagine the veteran Irish offensive line laying pavement over the weak Husky front en route to a 200-yard rushing day.

Nothing to fear here. Advantage ND. Enjoy the flight home Stevie. Enjoy finishing seventh in the Pac 10 for the next four years Nick.  Enjoy wearing purple Joe. 

10. Purdue

Oh, Coach Hope. Can I call you Danny? Look pal, this isn’t going to look too good for you.  Your best returning quarterback threw for 81 yards last year.  Your best returning runner picked up 37 yards. Your best returning receiver caught two touchdown passes…against the perennial powerhouse programs from Northern Colorado and Indiana.

The Fighting Tiller’s have moved into the era of everlasting Hope. The poets say that Hope springs eternal, which is good, because the Boilermakers won’t have anything more eternal than a miserable Big 10 season and a devastating loss to Notre Dame in 2009. 

Danny Boy, you gave up 38 to the Irish last year and your defense lost five starters. Is it too late to switch in a home game with Northern Colorado?

9. Connecticut

I’d like to apologize to Bob Griese, Don James, and Drew Bledsoe for ranking the men of Storrs ahead of their more highly reputed schools. But Zach Frazer should play with a the passion of a spurned woman, the well-regarded Husky defense should slow down the Irish offense for a quarter or two, and every kid who never even received a note from Coach Weis with Notre Dame letterhead will play with the BC-like “you never recruited me” chip on their shoulder. 

That is, until Jimmy finds Golden down the far side for 75-yards and the touchdown. That is, until Jame Aldridge knocks snot-bubbles out of one of your defensive linemen. That is, until Charlie Weis discovers that he's not still angry about the whole "neutral site" thing with you guys.

Remember, you're UConn. This is Notre Dame. Rebecca Lobo can't help you now. Fear the Irish.

8. Boston College

There’s a shirt being worn on campus at BC these days that says “What Rivalry?” and lists all the recent BC wins going back to the Ryan Grant fumble game in 2002.

The rivalry will be back when the Eagles come to South Bend on October 24th and college football fans find out that God favors Irish Catholics.

Coach Spaz is a heckuva guy and our thoughts and prayers are with Mark Herzlich. But you guys have a quarterback who's hasn't thrown a pass in a game since we were searching for WMD's and Madonna spoke without an English accent. You can run the ball but Ethan Johnson and Ian Williams are a little bitter about last years trip to Chestnut Hill.

Big win Notre Dame.

7. Stanford

The best thing to happen to Jim Harbaugh’s mouth is Lane Kiffin. Thanks to the new head man in Knoxville, Jimmy Boy doesn’t look like the lead clown at the CFB circus anymore. Sure, he can sell Stanford to top recruits but there are only so many slow tight ends and 5’8 defensive backs you can get on the field at one time. 

At some point the Cardinal are going to have to find a quarterback and a few receivers.  Until then, we’ll chalk this up to another probable Notre Dame victory. If the Irish could beat Stanford with Jimmy Clausen as a freshman in 2007, imagine what could happen with the high-octane offense of 2009.

That’s the bottom six for 2009. Is there an upset to truly fear in this group? Only if the Eagles find their inner Flutie or Toby Gerhart can run for 270-yards on 45 carries and keep the ball in Stanford’s hands for three quarters of the game. Beyond that, this list should equate to at least five victories and the bedrock for a nine or 10 win season for the Irish.

Stay tuned—the top six are on the way.


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