A.J. Voelpel: Two games remain on the Notre Dame football schedule for 2009. Well, three if you count the “Consolation” Bowl sometime in December.
The UConn Huskies enter South Bend on a three-game losing streak and have lost their last three road games (all to ranked teams) by a mere nine points.
Add that to Notre Dame’s knack for delivering high television ratings and it looks like we have yet another nail biter. Let’s take a look.
When UConn has the ball:
It’s senior day for Notre Dame. That means the starting seniors on defense – Kyle McCarthy, Reashon McNeil, Toryan Smith – must be willing to play out of their minds. It’ll be their last time on the hallowed grounds of Notre Dame Stadium. With that said, I think you can expect an “all in” and inspirational performance. And by "all in" I don't mean Huskies in the end zone.
Okay, let’s get down to the facts and end this dream of mine. Uconn’s last outing was at No. 5Cincy, a ballgame where they put up 45 points but let up 47). They’re a ball control offense, meaning they love pounding the ball on the ground with their talented tailbacks Jordan Todman and Andre Dixon.
Todman leads the team with 826 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns, while Dixon isn’t far behind with 730 yards and seven TDs.
Zach Frazer will be taking snaps for the Huskies. Funny thing about Frazer is that he transferred from Notre Dame two years ago. The 6’4” Pennsylvanian has a live arm, but has seen limited action this year. He’s replacing starter Cody Endres who was lost in early November to a season-ending shoulder injury.
Expect UConn to run it more than 35 times, even with the suspect ND secondary. If they can plug the rush, I’m not sure Frazer has enough weapons to out- duel Clausen and the boys.
When Notre Dame has the ball:
It could possibly be the last home game for good ol’ boy Jimmy Clausen too. He’s got the option of entering the draft after this season. But first, he must take care of the Huskies.
As I mentioned earlier, Uconn is not coming off a good defensive outing, which is putting it lightly. Granted it was against a top team like Cincy, they gave up huge chunks of yardage early and often.
Cumulatively, however, they’ve played well throughout the season. They have a solid pass rush but a sketchy secondary. Against Rutgers, they gave up an 81-yard touchdown pass with just under 30 seconds left to lose the game. That kind of D won’t work against the Irish.
For all the talent Notre Dame has on offense, they have little to show for it. I’m not sure if it’s the play calling or execution or motivation, but 20 points against this UConn team would be a travesty. If they do fail to put up less than four TDs, look for the Athletic Director to come down to the field and yank Weis off the sideline before he hits the locker room. You can run but you can't hide, sir.
It’s simple really; run the heck out of Allen Jr. and then throw to the two biggest playmaking receivers in the country again and again. No one on UConn’s sideline can cover those two. No wildcat, no trick plays, just straight forward football from Clausen, one of the finest signal callers in America. It sounds easy, I know. But it should be that easy! We're talking Golden Tate and Mike Floyd here for cryin' out loud!
To sum it all up:
UConn is dedicating this season to safety Jasper Howard, who was stabbed and killed on campus just over a month ago. They’ll be especially motivated to play on national television and in front of the roaring ND crowd. They'll keep this close like they do every game, but it'll be ND's offense that comes up big in this one.
Charlie Weis is just about out of time as the Irish coach. Hopefully the team will leave with nice parting gifts, in the form of wins.
Prediction: ND 31, UConn 24