By Stewart Mandel, SI.com
Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis made it clear on the first day of fall camp that his team will no longer discuss the 2007 season -- but in case you need quick refresher on last year's 3-9 debacle, this video should suffice.
For a team that's looking to regain its confidence, the Irish could not have picked a better opening-day opponent than San Diego State. While Weis is known for his incredibly detailed press-conference scouting reports -- like this one -- here's all you need to know about Saturday's foe:
· The Aztecs have not posted a winning season since 1998. They posted a 7-17 record in coach Chuck Long's first two seasons.
· Last weekend, San Diego State suffered a heartbreaking, 29-27 loss ... to Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo.
· In that game, the visiting Mustangs outgained the Aztecs 263 to 27 on the ground. San Diego State coughed up three fumbles and threw two interceptions.
This did not stop Weis from finding a silver lining in the Aztecs' performance. "The most impressive stat coming out of last week's game for me was that they held Cal Poly to 2 of 13 on third down and 0 of 2 on fourth down, [with] three sacks," he said. "They were getting off the field on third down and were getting some pressure on the quarterback."
What was that? Three sacks? Pressure on the quarterback?
If, like Notre Dame, you happen to have given up a national-worst 58 sacks last season, that kind of news can put knots in your fans' stomachs.
The anticipation for this season has been building in South Bend all summer, with buzz of a possible improvement to eight or nine wins. So what signs of this coming surge should we look for in Saturday's opener?
1) Notre Dame should be able to score at least five offensive touchdowns and amass no fewer than 450 yards. Anything below 400 -- and, in particular, anything less than 200 on the ground -- does not bode well for their chances of moving the ball on Michigan in two Saturdays.
2) By no means do the Irish need to shut down San Diego State's offense -- after all, Aztecs QB Ryan Lindley did throw for 352 yards on CPSLO -- but they certainly should control the line of scrimmage (i.e. multiple sacks and tackles for loss).
3) Most importantly, Notre Dame's oft-maligned offensive line better not succumb to SDSU's aforementioned, suffocating pass rush. If Jimmy Clausen's butt touches the turf more than three times, the offensive line's much-ballyhooed weight push may have been for naught.
Basically, if we are to believe the Irish have truly morphed into a respectable football team over the offseason, then they should do to San Diego State exactly what the nation's other top teams did to their overmatched opponents last weekend: Humiliate them
If Weis' team gets remotely challenged beyond, say, the second quarter ... get ready for another year of SNL skits.