After a few weeks of technical difficulties and the bye week, it’s time for another UHND Football Friday. Good to be back.
This week is one of the hardest weeks for me, as an Irish fan, to watch. It’s Senior Day, and it’s time for another group of Seniors to say goodbye to Notre Dame Stadium. It’s the worst part of being a college football fan; you grow attached to these young men, and before you know it, they are gone. It also reminds you how fast life moves sometimes. It seems like just yesterday that these kids were freshmen, playing under the lights at Yankee Stadium. I can’t believe it’s been nearly four years since the Irish started my New Year’s Eve off right with a trouncing of Miami in the Sun Bowl.
This year’s group of seniors is not as flashy as last year’s group. There is no superstar player leaving like Manti Te’o, or a big time record holder like Tyler Eifert on his way out. For that reason, I feel like this week is being overlooked a bit in terms of saying goodbye to these seniors. Last year, if you recall, the buildup to the game against Wake Forest was heavy all week, talking about Manti and Tyler’s last game in South Bend. This year, I haven’t heard too much.
The impact that this year’s seniors have had is immeasurable. It seems like that is said every time this day rolls around, but I feel like it is especially true this year. Notre Dame wasn’t exactly an attractive destination when these kids committed to play here back in 2009. They had a lame duck coach, they were in the the midst of a .500 season; their second consecutive in which they wouldn’t be playing in a bowl. They were one year removed from a disastrous three win season. Many of us at the time didn’t want to believe it, but it truly looked like the aura of Notre Dame was dead. Everybody in the country but the Irish fans knew it. The Irish fans, and apparently a group of high school seniors who saw *something* in this school. Many of these kids have gone anywhere they wished; but they picked South Bend. The aura, to them, was not dead.
Since then, the team has been competitive each season. They’ve played in three bowls with a fourth on the way. They have taken three out of four games from Southern Cal, and, of course, returned the team to a #1 ranking and a National Championship berth during a magical 12-0 run last season. Even at the beginning of this season, the expectations were sky high, and it hasn’t been that way around campus in a long time.
We’ve watched them grow as players, but most of all, as people. We’ve gotten to know Louis Nix as “Irish Chocolate”, and have been entertained by his videos the past few years. We’ve watched them grow as people as well. Tommy Rees and Carlo Calabrese did some things early on in their time at South Bend that, I claimed, would make me never like them again. Now, both of them are leaders on this team and on their way to getting their degree. With all the changes these kids have gone through as players; the changes those two went through as people may have been the most enjoyable.
They have two more games after Saturday, but the Irish faithful will say goodbye to these seniors on Saturday. They are Brian Kelly’s first recruiting class, and we should never forget that when the program was in a state of flux, and not the cool place to be, they wanted to be part of it anyway. These young men are leaving the Irish football program in a better place than they found it; and for that we should thank them.
Game Ball: Week 12
Andre Williams: RB, Boston College – Rushed for 339 yards on 42 carries in a win over NC State. He’s a kid that played high school ball about 20 minutes from my house, so I’m possibly biased.
This week for the Irish:
ND will wrap up their home schedule on Saturday when they host BYU. The Cougars have an identical 7-3 record to the Irish, and will bring a fierce rushing attack into South Bend that includes two future 1,000 yard rusher, including quarterback Taysom Hill. Hill missed the game against ND last year, but you may know him as the guy who shredded the Texas defense to the tune of 259 yards on the ground back in September. The Cougar offense averages nearly 90 plays a game, so their tempo is ridiculous. The Irish have to run the ball in this game and give their defense a rest. BYU is a team that is capable of dragging you to deep waters and drowning you conditioning wise, and it’d be smart to keep that offense offense off the field. So far, I’ve correctly predicted the winner of each Notre Dame game this season, and I’m looking to make it 11-0 this week. When sitting down to predict this game; the first thing I noticed was that BYU was a 1 point favorite, which seemed odd to me, and not very good news for the Irish. I was ready to pick the Cougars in this one, but I just can’t. Defensively, the Irish matchup well with them. Last season BYU couldn’t run the ball on the Irish front seven, and even with Hill this time around, I don’t see them carving them up. If ND can run the ball, I think their defense will do enough to win this one. Hill is a truly gifted runner, but he is inaccurate and turnover prone when he has to turn to his arm. I look for the opportunistic Irish defense to win this one and send the seniors off with their final home victory. Prediction: Notre Dame 24 BYU 14
What else I’m watching this week:
#12 Texas A&M @ #22 LSU
I was very critical of him at the beginning of the year, but I have come around to Johnny Manziel. The kid, at least on the field, has made some great strides over the past year and looks to be a guy that will be taken in the first round next May. He is truly must see TV, and I’m looking forward to seeing how he handles a tough Tigers defense in a hostile environment
Week 13 Picks (15-12 YTD)
NC State +7 hosting ECU (may have more on twitter later in the week)
Questions or feedback? Contact me via Twitter, handle is @tylerdonchez.