Roles Reversed for ’05 Notre Dame -Tennessee Matchup

( — A season ago Notre Dame entered their matchup against Tennessee with a 5-3 record coming off a disappointing home loss to Boston College in a game they should have won. Meanwhile, the Vols entered the game at 7-1 with BCS and outside national championship hopes. The Irish played the role of spoiler with a road upset of the #9 Volunteers.

This year however, the two teams are in completely different roles. Tennessee limps into this content with a 3-4 record after losing at home to South Carolina on a last second field goal. The Irish meanwhile are the ones coming into the game with a top 10 rank and BCS hopes. All signs are pointing to a big home win for the Irish, but just as the Irish played spoiler last year, the Vols have the ability to do the same this year.

Tennessee’s offense has been dreadful this year with Phil Fulmer and staff playing musical quarterbacks because on injuries and inconsistent play. Furthermore, the Vols will be without starting running back Gerald Riggs for the rest of the season.

The Vols however have a strong defense and will be out to prove something after getting beat by South Carolina this weekend. Tennessee started off the season ranked in the top 5 and was as high as #3 but have now lost 3 straight games against a brutal schedule.

Some on the boards are looking for an Irish blowout this weekend, but don’t count out the Vols who have lost to 3 top 15 teams (Alabama, Georgia, and Florida) and handed LSU its only loss on the season.

There is a reason Tennessee started the season #3 — they have a lot of talent. Offensively however, the Vols have been inconsistent and have scored 30 points just once this season while being held under 10 points twice.

Defensively the Vols are holding opponents to 16 points a game against some pretty good offenses. The Vols are athletic and very talented on the defensive side of the ball. The defensive line is big and fast and can control the line if the Notre Dame offensive line doesn’t bring their “A” game.

Last season it was the Irish who had an inconsistent offense, but used a strong defensive performance to upset the Vols a season ago. This season however the Irish come into the Tennessee game with one of the nation’s most high powered offense. Notre Dame has scored under 30 points just once this season — a 17 point outing against Michigan.

Statistically, Notre Dame should win this game easily, but games aren’t played on paper and you can count on Weis building up Tennessee in his press conferences this week and stressing the talent that Tennessee has to his team. Last season it looked like Notre Dame had no chance heading into a hostile environment, but still pulled out the victory.

If the Irish come out and play their game, they will win this game, but if they overlook the 3-5 Volunteers, they will be in for a dog fight. Tennessee’s defense is good enough to slow down the Irish offense, but won’t be able to keep the Irish to 16 points as they have been averaging.

Last season’s game was a defensive battle with Notre Dame using a defensive touchdown to take the lead in the second half. This season, the Vols will find out they have their hands with an Irish offense that has been breaking records all year.

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