The last time Notre Dame was in the Rose Bowl was in 1925. This was before the Pac Ten and Big Ten normally played in the Rose Bowl, so Notre Dame's only shot was back then. Today, Notre Dame will be back. This time, there will be no more Four Horsemen. Knute Rockne is not roaming the sidelines. Today, Notre Dame will have to find one horseman. The backfield has gone from Stuhldreher, Layden, Miller, and Crowley to Clausen, Schwapp, Aldridge, and Allen. No one will confuse the latter with the first. Today's Notre Dame is trying to focus on the passing game with one Golden player.
Last week, Golden Tate exploded for 104 yards on three catches. For once, Notre Dame has shown a glimmer of hope. Golden Tate is a speedy receiver whose vertical gives him a major advantage over the corner or safety. Golden Tate's first year may not have started great, but he can make it end historically. Tate is the fastest receiver for Notre Dame since Arnaz Battle. Notre Dame should look his way more often if they want to knock off the Bruins of UCLA.
Golden Tate's complement on the other side of the ball is Duval Kamara. Kamara is a tall, skinny receiver who also has a great vertical. Evan Sharpley and Jimmy Clausen were hitting Kamara on short slants. If the Bruins give him too much space, he'll make them pay. He looks like a young Calvin Johnson. No one will question his skills. He is a Combine player. He does everything well. For Notre Dame to win, he needs to do something great.
Although Notre Dame missed out on another great freshman receiver, Arrelious Benn who is now tearing up defenses for Illinois, no one should question Charlie's offensive recruiting. Even the offensive linemen who were terrible at the beginning of the year are doing better. Notre Dame only gave up two sacks last week. It seems like Notre Dame needs to focus on the defense.
The main problem with the defense is the wrong players in the wrong position. For years now, Notre Dame has played a 4-3. Now, they hired Corwin Brown to switch to a 3-4 (or 5-2 depending on who you ask) defense. Defensive ends are playing outside linebacker. Defensive tackles are playing defensive end. Offensive linemen are playing defensive tackle. Nothing is right. Everyone should have expected this. You can't expect to change the scheme and have the perfect players waiting. But Notre Dame seems to have some freshmen that fit in quite nicely.
When starting outside linebackers are resting, freshmen Brian Smith and Kerry Neal come in to reak havoc on the quarterback. Brian Smith is a big outside linebacker who roughs up the QB, sometimes too much. Smith cost Notre Dame fifteen yards on a questionable late hit. He also hit Curtis Painter in the throat, but the ref missed it. If he can keep his head in the game and out of his you-know-what, he will make a huge impact.
Kerry Neal came in with more expectations than Smith. Neal has a wingspan of an albatross and the speed of a cheetah. He gets off of the ball fast enough to be in the backfield before the offensive linemen get out of their stances. Drew Olsen needs to get rid of the ball quickly if he wants to stay on his feet. Neal doesn't hit hard, but he hits fast. If Notre Dame keeps Smith and Neal in for the majority of the game instead of the disappointing Vernaglia and Ryan, then Olsen should look out.
It's pretty sad when all Notre Dame fans have to look forward to are a group of talented freshmen, but on this team, that's all there is. There are only 21 seniors and juniors, so Notre Dame can't expect too much greatness out of them like they have gotten from defensive end Trevor Laws. Travis Thomas is the most disappointing player on Notre Dame. Not only is he a common thug, but he can't run the football! Zbikowski has been performing well, but not like the All-American candidate he was in 2005. Geoff Price the punter has been benched, and John Sullivan the center can't snap the ball in the shotgun. The fifth year seniors have been terrible. They needed to step up more than anybody on the team. The captains aren't good leaders.
Weis recruits have been outperforming the Ty recruits. As a Notre Dame fan, it's in my DNA to blame Ty for the fall from glory, terrorism, global warming, and everything else, but he's not coaching anymore. No one remembers him. I can remember some bad years, but you have to focus on the coach today, Charlie Weis. So far, Notre Dame fans have been praying for Knute Rockne to rise from his ashes in Kansas and come back and coach. That's probably not going to happen. Charlie needs to step it up or step down.
Now to the game, UCLA seems to have Notre Dame beat in almost everything. The running game is one of the best in the nation with Chris Markey and Kahlil Bell. Drew Olsen is a great QB, and the defense hasn't given up a point since getting down 14-0 to Oregon State last week. Despite all of that, I'm not buying their defense. 44 points to Utah? UCLA is going to overlook Notre Dame. Wow. You never hear that. Karl Dorrell is the Norv Turner of college football. He's a good coach, he's just not a motivator. That leads to UCLA choking in the final minute like they did last year against Notre Dame. Golden Tate and Duval Kamara can terrorize this defense if Sam Young can stop Bruce Davis, the All-American defensive end.
With all of that being said, I like Notre Dame winning 28-24. Golden Tate catches two touchdowns. Duval Kamara catches another. James Aldridge will run in another. Kahlil Bell and Chris Markey will combine for 200 yards and three touchdowns, but it won't be enough. Notre Dame scores in a two minute drill situation. 1-5.