Not So Fast Lou – 3 Games that Scare Me in ’09

Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love Lou Holtz.

Syracuse safety Paul Chiara (34) pressures Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen (7) during the Syracuse Orange 24-23 win over the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. (Photo - Icon SMI)

I loved him as head coach, I love his books, I love him on ESPN, and I even love him as a possible candidate for Florida’s 24th congressional district. Let me state categorically from the outset that I am full-fledged Holtzian in all things.

I just wish he wouldn’t have said what he said.

Within minutes of Lou’s now infamous prediction on Sportscenter that, in fact, it will be the Irish who will be playing the Florida Gators in the BCS National Championship game this season, the fandom blogosphere was atwitter with rage. Well, maybe not rage per se, but certainly mocking incredulity, an incredulity that Irish fans must now shoulder every week as we boldly stand by our predictions of great things in 2009.

To be sure, I completely understand the logic. After all, Notre Dame has the dual advantage this season of a relatively weak schedule and that benefit of the doubt that we tend to garner in the polls (oh, just admit it), twin forces that appear poised to propel the Irish to a January bowl.

But am I the only one among us that stares daily at this supposedly cream-puff schedule and finds things to worry about?

True, I tend to be a pessimist by nature. Generally, I use my pessimism as a defense mechanism so that any good stuff comes as a pleasant surprise and the bad stuff merely confirms my already low expectations. Try it; it’s actually not a bad way to live.

When it comes to the Irish it seems that this bleak outlook is only intensified. Mind you, I absolutely didn’t anticipate the Syracuse and Boston College debacles last year, but let’s just say that back in the day when that notorious underselling Coach Holtz (as opposed to cheery and hopeful Prognosticator Holtz) used to play down our chances against a Navy or a Rutgers I believed him.

With that in mind, I sat down with my most critical, fearful, distrustful, and end-of-the-world mindset and realized that there are, in fact, three games this season that give me pause.

Here’s why.

September 5, vs. Nevada

The season opener. The great unknown. Colin Flippin’ Kaepernick.

Don’t be surprised if the Nevada Wolf Pack, our first “easy win” of the season, finish as WAC champions this year.

That’s right, our season kick-off is with a team that behind eight returning starters on a unique, difficult to defend, pass-happy offense, led by an underrated junior

dual-threat quarterback in Colin Kaepernick, will likely be the champions of a conference that is now better than the Big East. Don’t believe me? Track down a high-res copy of Nevada’s last game, a seven-point loss to Maryland in the Humanitarian Bowl. That’s Nevada moving the ball at will. That’s Kaepernick throwing for nearly 400 yards on a sore ankle. That’s him receiving the game MVP award. This is me feeling sick.

If the Notre Dame defensive secondary isn’t at the top of its collective game this Saturday expect a long hard afternoon.

October 17, vs. USC

Well, duh.

I know that most of you are thinking, well, yeah, when was the last time USC didn’t scare you? But I am flabbergasted at how many of my fellow Irish fans are almost offhandedly putting this one in the win column without even flinching.

True, the Trojans will come into South Bend with a freshman quarterback, two new coordinators, and missing their best receiver (collarbone) and cornerback (academics), but why is Pete Carroll still grinning like that?

Well, maybe it’s because he knows something that the Notre Dame Nation doesn’t, namely, that USC is still loaded, they’re still well coached, and Matt Barkley just might be the best USC quarterback since Carson Palmer. Of course, the Notre Dame defense may never even get to see Barkley in action since he’ll be passing from behind an offensive line that is likely the best in the country.

The Trojan defense is young but still the type of scary that makes me look away from the television. NFL scary. Throw away from Taylor Mays, Jimmy. Throw away from him.

November 28, at Stanford

It’s a night game and the Irish will be in white jerseys. That rarely bodes well.

Jim Harbaugh has his veteran team heading in the right direction and this is the kind of final game of the regular season that could trip up the Irish if they’re already busy making hotel reservations for Pasadena.

Remember the faces of the Trojan coeds in the crowd as the second ticked down to a Cardinal upset two seasons ago? Yeah, I don’t want that.

Expect the Cardinal to pound Toby Gerhart behind an excellent offensive line and keep the Irish offense off the field entirely. That’s the thing that kills you against a team like Stanford: time of possession. The tragically underestimated Tavita Pritchard is probably the quarterback in Palo Alto come November and I have this sinking feeling that Stanford will be playing for their bowl lives in this game.

Anyone else think we might play hare to their tortoise?

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  1. What am I reading we should be totally concerned about any number
    of teams on our schedule USC and MSU have totally owned us for how
    many years, heck when was the last time either lost at our house.
    I think we must be realistic, for God sake things don’t change in one year.

  2. To paul
    there’s nothing wrong with cheering both universitys.i love nd but iam worried about this game.because i know what Nevada can do if givin the chance.THE WOLFPAC ARE A GOOD TEAM.ND FANS THINK IT’S GOING TO BE A WALK IN THE PARK,WELL I’V GOT NEWS FOR THEM.BY THE WAY I LIVE IN RENO,LET;S JUST HAVE A GOOD CLOSE GAME BLOWOUTS SUCK.RENOSBEST ND FAN

  3. I hate to be the ultra-optimist, but we should beat Nevada by three TDs. Seriously, guys, we have good players and, I think, a coach who has played most types of offenses. So, we need to come out and blow out Nevada and get this home winning streak started.

    And, if we don’t Weis will begin to hear a very loud, very very loud, call for new blood in South Bend. I think we can handle losing to Michigan or to Purdue or to Southern Cal for the millionth time under Weis. We can’t handle losing to Nevada, regardless of whether they win the WAC or not. It’s the WAC. We’re Notre Dame.

    I’ve been a Weis defender, but if we lose to Nevada — whether on a trick play, a blowout, a bad call, a good call, no call, or a one-point squeaker — this would be a very bad sign.

    I don’t care , if the score is 56-7 or if it’s 14-13, we have to beat Nevada. There will be first game jitters and there will be new guys playing in South Bend for the first time. But, let there be no doubt: our guys are much more talented. They’re bigger, stronger, quicker, smarter and better.

    So, let’s get rolling. Let’s use that strength, that size, that quickness, that agility, that focus, that confidence — and let’s blow out Nevada.

  4. Uh Shazamrock,
    Calm down and pump your brakes because your floodgates are open. We all love ND. Your critical reading skills, spelling, grammar, punctuation etc. do not reflect well on you stud.

    ” Man, I hate these kinds of stories that talk about being scare of teams on the schedule. It perpetuates defeatism.” No, it doesn’t. These aren’t the players or coaches making these comments. It’s the fans. It’s just discussion. We cannot actually affect the outcome of games at this point.

    “The players on this team have been down these roads before. The world didn’t end. They learned and grew because of them. What doesn’t kill us, makes us stronger.” In theory you may be correct. However one could very easily argue that NONE OF THESE FACTORS YOU MENTIONED HAVE MADE US STRONGER. Did you pay attention from 2006-2008? I for one did not see many lessons learned or strength building going on. I saw the bottom fall out because of horrendous coaching and weak play. I saw some of the worst college football, of any program, I’ve ever witnessed in my life.

    “What can they do to us that hasn’t already been done?” This I agree with.

    Don’t misinterpret my post. The past is the past and I look forward to great improvements in 2009. But this is a site for fans to discuss issues. Showing concerns and dissecting games before the season is not defeatism. It’s quite normal and is done ad nauseum amongst ALL FANS OF ALL TEAMS, FROM ALL SPORTS.

    1. JDH, I hear where you are coming from. But please Don’t berate me for being passionate about my team.
      Obviously I wasn’t Born a Rhode Scholar when it comes to expressing my views, but there does seem to be a few fans whom are in agreement with my observations.

      As you correctly point out there has been plenty of horrendous coaching and weak play. No so long ago we couldn’t protect our quarterback or open any running lanes. While we continued to struggle in running the football, pass protection did improve. I saw improvement in our special teams as well, and our defence seems to be improving with each passing game.
      To be honest,I haven’t checked the stats, but I expect that they do prove out some year to year improvement. I would bet that previous game experience may have been one of the many contributing factors towards this continuation of improvement.

      I have witnessed other programs that morphed into a downward spiral with each loss (See the University of Washington) It didn’t happen with ND.(See the Bowl game agianst Hawaii)I believe we played the best game of the year. They seemed to be mentally stronger to me. But that’s just me.

      I regret in using the term Defeatism. My interpitation of it’s use was in the context displayed by the term “scared” being used to identify some teams on our current schedue. I don’t think Notre Dame, or any of it’s fans should be scared of any team on their schedule. Respect them, yes. 100%.

      Lastly. I stand in total agreement that Fan Discussions
      like these cannot, on their own, change the outcome of a game. The exchange of opinions, views, and knowledge, amongst fans is part of the entire college football experience in today’s world.
      But I don’t agree that “Fans” can’t have an infuence on a games’out come.
      If that was the fact Notre Dame might as well do away with their weekly pep rally’s and pregame pagentary.
      Texas A&M has their 12th man. There is a definte home field advantage at places like Tennessee, Michigan, and Florida. Notre Dame Stadium used to be at the top of that heap. I believe in positive energy. I’ve witnessed the affects first hand and believe them to be real.
      I would rather try to instill some positive energy in my fellow ND fans then lay there like a dead fish, or throw snowballs at the players when things don’t go your way.

      1. Shazamrock,

        We are on the same page now. This last post of yours is steel on target.

        I couldn’t agree with you more that fans CAN AND DO influence the outcome of games. I was of course pointing out that, just by having discussions about our team before games (and the season), that is not going to prevent winning. If folks are being “defeatist”, then yes they should be called on it. I personally didn’t see that going on in this thread- just my opinion.

        Also, you are dead on about being scared of an opponent vs. respecting them. As a former D1 athlete, I’ve lived that many a time. And the way that attitude translates to on-field play is obvious.

        Lastly, my intention was not to “berate” you. If it came off that way then I apologize. We are all bleeding green here.

        GO IRISH!

      2. The fans need to rally around the team. This year it surely will make a difference.
        Let ESPN criticize us for not selling out to them. Let the punks from other schools’ blogs beat on us. WE ARE ND!! Let make life for opposing teams nighmarish. It’s still Rock’s House. Let em know what that means. Go IRISH!!!!

  5. Nevada will tell us alot about ND.
    Stanford’s O-line is completely rebuilt. Gebhardt might find the going a little tougher….

  6. Michigan State bothers me and Boston College psychs ND out in recent years.
    That said, I think Stanford has a BIG chip on their shoulder.
    USC –little if ANY academic regulations and the Trojans are smiling about a lot. ( Heaven only knows what does and DOES NOT happen with grades at the University of Spoiled Children)
    Still I am their biggest fan when they beat up on OHio State.
    9-3 with those 3 losses having the Irish playing 60 minutes of full fooball is a B plus. An A- grade is winning all AND sweeping those from
    the Big 11( big 10) conference. A PLUS–well duh–
    Winning all of them!!! GO IRISH!!

  7. Shazamrock, your comments mirror my exact thoughts. You’re either an Irish fan, or not, plain and simple. I live in SoCal, and have taken a ton of flak for wearing my ND shirts in Trojan territory, especially after the past few seasons. It’s gonna be nice to finally get alittle payback this year, we’ve all waited long enough. I’m optimistic about every game this season. As long as we’re playing for the title every game, it’s gonna be a great season. Can’t wait to see Tate and Floyd out there blowing guys away!

  8. Hey, Paulsy. You say that you’re a Nevada fan AND a ND fan. Sounds like a fair weather fan to me. Ether you’er with us or you’er agianst us. We here at ND take our wins and we take our losses. But we don’t ride both sides of the fence. The way you say it no matter what happens on game day you somehow come out a winner. Sounds to me like you come off as a whinner. Buck up and choose a team. Stick with them. Show some loyality. If you win, great. If you loose, deal with it.
    That’s what we do…. You asked.

    1. Get over yourselves. I’m first and foremost a Nevada fan. It’s where I went to school and where I grew up. However, growing up my dad was an Irish fan and I grew to like them as well. I’m not sitting on the fence, my loyalties are with Nevada. Sorry if you can’t see that.

      1. Mr.Nevada Fan. Now we’re getting somewhere. Thanks for taking a stand.
        Best of luck to you this Saturday.
        Although I don’t know you, or where you grew up, or who your daddy is, I was right about you being a whinner.

      2. What the hell is a “whinner”? It’s not a word. Now I hope Kap throws on ND for 300 yards, 3 TDs, and runs for 2 more.

      3. Paul,

        “Now I hope Kap throws on ND for 300 yards, 3 TDs, and runs for 2 more.”

        Now isn’t that what you wanted to say all along?

        Even though I messed with you a little bit I did wish you and your team good luck. It still stands.

  9. All good points, however I must agree with Shazamrock…ND needs to attack with confidence. This is our year and all the talking is over…lets get the job done by any means necessary.

    Go Irish!

  10. First games ALWAYS scare me….I live in LA and read nothing of what beast Taylor Mays has become. Can we put up major points against him?…….I was also in the stadium last year when Stanford almost ruined my trip to South Bend…..I share Lous enthusiasm but I prefer to take one game at a time. I pray we aren’t second guessing a coaching scheme or a kid on the depth chart. We need this year but one game at a time.
    Go IrISh!!!!

  11. Man, I hate these kinds of stories that talk about being scare of teams on the schedule. It perpetuates defeatism. What can they do to us that hasn’t already been done? They can’t do nothing. Are we supposed to be scared of loosing to weaker teams… like Syracuse or Navy. Or having USC hang 40 on us. Or playing in the Big House. The players on this team have been down these roads before. The world didn’t end. They learned and grew because of them. What doesn’t kill us, makes us stronger. We got nothing to fear from any of these teams. Respect and fear are to different things. Give me a team that has been through some adversity and knows how to pull together when the going gets tough and I’ll show you a scary team. Now some of those schedules of teams in the SEC and Big 12.

  12. Until the Irish demonstrate they are ready to be an elite team then all the predictions mean nothing. The road back begins with a win against Nevada, then Michigan, then…

  13. I agree 100%. Not only will Nevada win the WAC but if they beat us I think they will run the table. Kaepernick is scary. I hope Tenuta has something special in store for them. GO IRISH!!!!!

  14. Good article, as always. But I disagree with a few of your comments.

    First, if anything Kaepernic is overrated not, under. He completed less than 50 percent of his passes last year and struggled against all the good teams he played. He’s a talented QB no doubt, and ND needs to be ready. But people are talking about him like he’s a skinny Tim Tebow. He’s not–at least not yet.

    I haven’t heard a single ND fan offhandedly putting the USC game in the win column. A lot of us think this is ND’s best chance to beat SC in recent years and I think it could happen, especially if they force SC’s young QB into some mistakes. But that doesn’t mean anyone is chalking it up as an easy win.

    Regarding Stanford, should hope Tavita Pritchard is Stanford’s QB when ND arrives in Palo Alto. He almost single handedly game ND the game last year. Why Harbaugh let him throw instead of continuing to pound Gerhardt is a mystery to me. I agree, this game is scary. Especially if Andrew Luck is the real deal at QB.

  15. Michigan State still scares me. Dantonio is turning that program into a respectful one. Their defense should test our offensive line, which opens up a lot of questions. A maligned BC team also scares me. They’ve all but owned us for a while now.
    USC for sure. Pete might be smiling because he knows that Michigan is getting beat up for minor version of what he gets away with. You can look loaded when the school keeps academics from interfering with, “voluntary” time. What’s the secret and don’t tell me the USC players come out of highschool that much better. They are spending time that other team aren’t. So yes, until the code is cracked, USC can do something no one else can. And that means don’t count on any drop off in performance while Carroll is doing what he has been the last 7 years.

    Bottom line: The Irish have to play like every game is a single elimination tournement game.

  16. I’m glad we all have some concerns about these games (you were right on about which ones, too Frank), which means that the coaching staff probably does too!!!

    Stanford scares me the most…hands down. Obviously USC is a difficult opponent, but they aren’t coming outta our periphery like Stanford may. Harbaugh is building a beast of a team.

  17. Hey, I’ve dealt with defeat many times before.And I will in the future. It’s part of the game. The sun still came up and life still goes on. But with each new football season there is renewed hope. After a pretty rough past couple of years the players on this team might as well just cut loose and let it all hang out. Have some fun. What have they got to loose? They got good coaching, skilled players, more speed than I’ve seen in a long time. They are deep at linebacker, running back, wide reciever, and the secondary might be the best in all of college football. A little luck and good fortune early and this team could turn out to be a real monster. There is no law that says that ND isn’t allowed to win them all. Yeah, there are a few teams out there that scare me too, but I think it’s high time we start putting some fear into those teams as well. Let’s dish it out for a change!

  18. I think the Nevada game will be closer then it should be, but only because it’s the first game of the Year, I think if Nevada was game 9, we’d blow’em out. I think we will win a good close game over USC, or for some reason Our momentum and emotion puts us into over drive and we beat them by 10-14. JMHO

    Stanford is always a tough opponent, beating also USC at the Colliseum.
    But the only game that Truely worrys me is MSU, which isn’t one of your 3, so you must feel that we will beat them, so could you give us your opinion of why you’re not worried about them and why we’ll win that paticular match-up ?

  19. Solid article……I agree 100% on Nevada….if we come out slow they have the ability to put a few on us. That being said, I think this is a game that I expect to be competitive early, but by mid 2nd we should begin to pull away

  20. Good points but the Michigan State and Michigan games scare me more than Nevada and Stanford. I dont know why I just get this feeling about MSU and U of M that they will be tougher than most people think.

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