2010 Record: (8-5)
Head Coach: Brian Kelly (8-5 at ND, 179-62-2 Overall)
Last Bowl Game: 2010 Sun Bowl: beat Miami (Fl) 33-17
9/10: at Michigan (2010 result: lost 28-24)
9/17: Michigan State (2010 result: lost 34-31 OT)
9/24: at Pittsburgh (2010 result: won 23-17)
10/1: at Purdue (2010 result: won 23-12)
10/8: Air Force
10/22: USC (2010 result: won 20-16)
10/29: Navy (2010 result: lost 35-17)
11/5: at Wake Forest
11/19: Boston College (2010 result: won 31-13)
2010 Offensive Statistics:
Scoring: 26.3 ppg (66th in Nation)
Rushing Yds/Game: 126.62 yds/game (92nd in Nation)
Passing Yds/Game: 253.1 yds/game (34th in Nation)
Total Yds/Game: 379.7 yds/game (61st in Nation)
2010 Defensive Statistics:
Scoring: 20.2 ppg (23rd in Nation)
Rushing Yds/Game: 143.85 yds/game (51st in Nation)
Passing Yds/Game: 214.6 yds/game (53rd in Nation)
Total Yds/Game: 358.5 yds/game (51st in Nation)
2010 Misc Stats:
Turnover Margin: +0.08 per game (50th in Nation)
Penalties: 40.7 yds/game (14th in Nation)
Top Returning Statistical Leaders:
Passing: QB Dayne Crist, Sr (174 for 294 for 2,033 yds, 15 TD, 7 INT)
Rushing: RB Cierre Wood, Jr (119 for 603, 5.0 ypc, 3 TD)
Receiving: WR Michael Floyd, Sr (79 rec for 1,025 yds, 12 TD)
Tackles: LB Manti Te'o, Jr (129)
Sacks: LB Darius Fleming, Sr (5.5)
Interceptions: S Harrison Smith, Sr (7)
Athlon Sports: Sugar Bowl (vs LSU)
Phil Steele: Fiesta Bowl (vs Boise State)
Notre Dame has one of the richest histories in college football. They have won over 70% of all of the games they've ever played. That being said, their recent history has not been as rich. No coach has matched Notre Dame's 70% winning percentage since Lou Holtz left in 1996. Bob Davie, Ty Winningham and Charlie Weis all finished with career records of under 60% winning percentage for the Irish. Brian Kelly is the newest coach to take his shot for the Irish and all things considered he had a pretty successful first year at 8-5.
Last year it took a while for Kelly and his crew to get rolling as they dropped three of their first four games losing to Michigan, Michigan State and Stanford. Kelly and his team went on to win seven of their last nine and beat Boston College, Pittsburgh, Utah (ranked #14 at the time of the game) and USC. Not exactly a who's who of teams last year but a bunch of solid teams and good wins. Maybe that's why it's so out of place that they lost back-to-back games to Navy and Tulsa during this stretch of winning football. Kelly and his team grew a lot last year and finished the season by winning four straight games. The question is how big of a leap will they make this year? Some pre-season publications have pegged them for great things. Athlon and Phil Steele both put them at #6.
There are definitely reasons for optimism surrounding this team as it appears they have the right coach and they return just about everybody on offense and the majority of players on defense. Phil Steele has them as the 27th most experienced team in college football but he also has them with the 14th toughest schedule as they face teams that had a combined winning percentage of 61% last year. I think there is no doubt that the Irish will be a better team in 2011 and they have a chance to be very good this year if the football bounces their way. That being said the first four games of the season are critical for them as the play a talented USF team, go to Michigan where Brady Hoke will want to make a statement, play Michigan State and then go to Pitt where they face another new coach who wants to make his mark by beating Notre Dame. With the exception of Stanford and Andrew Luck (and possibly Michigan State) there aren't any heavyweights on this schedule but there are a lot of teams that have talent and have promise and will be gunning for the Irish this year. Notre Dame definitely has a chance to live up to the lofty expectations that magazines like Athlon and Phil Steele have for them but I'm not sure they are quite ready to make that big of a splash this year. Are we under-rating the Irish, are others over-rating the Irish, or is the truth somewhere in between? Only time will tell. That's our view from a far on the Irish, now for a local take we caught up with the Subway Domer to get his thoughts on the 2011 version of the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame.
Brian Kelly made it through a year in South Bend. What are your overall impressions of the job he's doing so far?
If you look at every single job criteria that Brian Kelly has as the Head Football Coach of The University of Notre Dame, I would have to say that he is getting the job done. There was a lot of work in store for Kelly when he arrived, and possibly more than he would have imagined. Recruiting, schmoozing with the alumni, winning, culture changing, system changing, player development, and so much more are involved. Kelly is hand on and submerged in ALL of that.
If I had to use one word to describe Kelly right now, it would be, "CONFIDENCE." His confidence, the team's confidence, the administrations confidence, and the fans confidence is at a very high level. I think he's doing a really good job of positioning Notre Dame to return to the elite of college football, which may be in 3...2...1....
What is the latest on the QB competition and who would you like to see under center this year?
No new news has come out of South Bend about the QB situation since spring ball. That's not to say that there haven't been subtle hints- like Dayne Crist being the QB on the Davey O'Brian and Maxwell watch lists.
I really don't care who is under center, as long as we win. However, I think Dayne Crist brings more to the table to help us do that. So... Crist have mercy- it should be Great Dayne. The team played better while Rees was the QB, but that was more due to better defense, and a resurgent running game.
Notre Dame's last 1,000 yard rusher was Darius Walker in 2006. Will we see RB by committee this year or does the Irish have anybody with the capability to be a game-breaker?
We shouldn't confuse the term "game-breaker" when talking about 1,000 yard rushers. Especially when that 1,000 yard rusher is Darius Walker. Don't get me wrong; I really liked Walker and think that he was a better running back then we gave him credit for at the time, but he never had the ability to change the game with one play. He was definitely a back you could lean on (Michigan 2005 was the most awesome example), but he could never run over 15 yards. He got his 1,000 because he was all we had, and he took advantage with every carry.
After Walker is when ND went RB by committee with guys like Aldridge, Thomas, Allen, and Hughes. The later two getting a bulk of the carries. Perhaps one, or all, could have reached 1,000 yards if they had more carries, less injuries, and better offensive line play.
Back to the question... I'm not really sure that ND can use the RB by Committee system this year. Cierre Wood looks like the real deal, and should get a bulk of the carries. He does possess phenomenal speed and certainly falls into the "game-breaker" category. 1,000 yards? Well, first he has to run for over 100 yards in a game- something no Irish back was able to do in 2010.
With Kelly's offensive system geared more towards the passing game, it will be interesting to see if he tries to duplicate the late season success ND had on the ground in 2010. Wood will get his 1,000- but the bigger question is "how" will he get it. Racking yards up against inferior defenses, or will it be a consistent rip through the season?
Give us three players on the schedule you don't look forward to playing this year?
For the sake of diversity- I am NOT going to list Andrew Luck. He's as good as they get and an absolute given. So then...
- Denard Robinson. Although the Irish shut Denard down in the second half of their game last year (and by shutting down- I mean he only scored the one TD), he sprinted through the Notre Dame defense like a red hot samurai sword through room temperature butter. This may be a new system, but that may make him MORE dangerous if the system allows for anyone else to produce.
- Edwin Baker. I could have listed any of Michigan State's three running backs, but Baker just scares the crap out of me. I guess I could have listed Kirk Cousins as well, but again... Baker scares the crap out of me. Notre Dame's defense is very much improved since last year, but I think MSU is balanced enough to allow the possibility for water to slip through the cracks. Edwin Baker is a tsunami.
- Matt Barkley. I want to hate this kid. God knows I am trying, but he isn't the typical USC quarterback. Meaning: I don't think he is an asshole. Barkley is all about competing and proving himself. He will want to prove that it was his absence that made all the difference in the loss to Notre Dame last year. His will scares the crap out of me alone, but throw in his talent and I just chewed off my middle finger.
Looking at the schedule, what are the most important games this year?
OK... To me they are all important, but here are the top 3:
- South Florida. In a season with the loftiest expectations, there is no bigger game than your first game. South Florida is a better than "quality" opponent and should prove to be quite challenging for Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish must win- and do it with some room to breathe to gain momentum for a tough September.
- U$C. Notre Dame's biggest rival has also been their biggest hurdle. Despite the disadvantage of the NCAA sanctions and an incompetent head coach, U$C still has more talent than most of the country. If 2010 was the stepping stone for ND in getting the advantage back in this rivalry, 2011 could be the gigantic neon sign that says "We're back- bitches!"
- Michigan. Notre Dame should have won the last two games against Michigan. ND has only themselves to blame. However, they did lose. With this game being played in prime time in Ann Arbor (whore!) there will be a lot of buildup and national interest. ND has to show to the country that they can win these games. Games where ND has the talent advantage and with the season on the line. That's a lot of pressure for the second game of the season. Welcome to Notre Dame.
What is your gut feeling on the final record for the 2011 season and what makes the season successful in your eyes?
There is always the same gut feeling I get every year. 12-0 and National Champs. I don't hide behind it. I throw it out there in the midst of razorblades covered in scorpion venom and hippopotamus piss. However, there is the realistic approach one could take- and even that one has me calling for an 11-1 Irish team on their way to a BCS bowl.
True success, and the only real goal at ND every year, is a National Title. With that said, no one in ND Nation will be bitching if ND goes 12-1 that includes a win in a BCS bowl. (That's actually NOT true. Someone will be bitching and screaming for Brian Kelly to be fired. Welcome to Notre Dame.)
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