Friday, August 31, 2007

#1 - The Countdown Ends...

And so we've arrived...

#1 - Leaving Me in the Trenches, Taking Grenades

I hope you flip over your handle bars and knock your two front teeth in! You selfish son of a B&*&H!!! You're leaving me in the trenches, taking grenades John!!!

This quote from America's consummate Notre Dame fan, Vince Vaughn, neatly summarizes the one thing on which success hinges for the Irish - winning the battle in the trenches, and not merely from one side. It isn't only that the Irish front line defense, reduced to 3 in Corwin Brown's new scheme (Justin Brown, Trevor Laws, & Pat Kuntz) needs to succeed against great running backs over the first two months. Or that the Irish offensive line must break in three new starters and so quickly and without missing a beat in front of an inexperienced quarterback. Either of these things would prompt huge concern for the Irish coaching staff and become a point of emphasis. The fact that both are paramount at the same moment demonstrates why the battles along the trench line will make or break the Irish season.

Funny thing is, that might be just where Charlie Weis, John Latina, Jappy Oliver, and Brown want it to be. Like several other positions, they see each line as "question marks" more because they are unknown rather than untalented. While green, the o-line certainly has tremendous upside, with a Rimington Award-caliber center surrounded by prep All-Americans plus a right tackle coming off a solid freshman year in which he became the first frosh to start every game for the Irish since freshman regained their eligibility. On defense, Laws more than proved his worth at the interior tackle spot, and Brown was a capable backup over the last two seasons. So it isn't a question of talent, it's a question of results.

The "results" could determine the win or loss in as many as half of Notre Dame's games, starting with tomorrow. If the Irish 3-4 scheme controls the line of scrimmage and beats up last year's ACC-leader in rushing, Tashard Choice, the Irish win the game. Plain and simple. On the flip side, if the Irish offensive line asserts itself against elite caliber defenses like Michigan and USC, building opportunities for a deep running back corps and a (one might assume) mobile quarterback, ND will be more than capable of pulling the upset.

So pull up a chair, Irish fans. We're a little over 14 hours from kickoff, and the biggest key for the Notre Dame season is also football's greatest cliche: the game will be won and lost in the trenches. Be rooting for Laws/Brown/Kuntz to provide the complement to Young/Wenger/Sullivan/Turkovich/Duncan. Be looking for the Irish to make a statement.

Be looking for them to leave some other teams stuck in the trenches, taking grenades.



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