South Florida Staff Predictions
Observer Sports Writers | Thursday, September 1, 2011
South Florida is not a familiar name to most Irish fans – but the Bulls cannot be overlooked. Quarterback B.J. Daniels leads a potent offensive attack, and the Bulls are quick on the defensive side of the ball.
This will not be an easy test for the Irish – but they are up to the task. Dayne Crist has an embarrassment of targets when he throws the ball, and the ground game will be an effective change of pace. On the other side of the ball, the defensive line will harass Daniels and limit his effectiveness.
It’s a season opener, though, and that will bring some jitters and mishaps with it. The Irish will win, but not quite as comfortably as they could have. The outcome, however, won’t be in doubt.
FINAL SCORE: Notre Dame 31, South Florida 21
All around the world opponents crumble for the Irish.
Okay, not really. That’s the whole point of my column on page 2 of this Insider.
Every year, the season-opener comes to Notre Dame ready for the biggest game of its life — see San Diego State, Nevada and Purdue over the last three years. Skip Holtz and South Florida will be just as motivated.
But every year, the Irish come into their opener actually ready for a game. For the past three years, Notre Dame has set fans aflutter with its opening-weekend flair. This year won’t be any different, but again, it’s only one weekend.
So, for this weekend, the Irish can go ahead and just fly.
FINAL SCORE: Notre Dame 35, South Florida 13
For the first time in years, the Irish ended the season better than they started. Wins over rivals USC and Miami, as well as over Utah and Army, to end the 2010 campaign propelled Notre Dame into the offseason on a high note, leading to its highest preseason rank since 2006. Dayne Crist is healthy, Michael Floyd is back and the defense looks stronger than it has in some time. Brian Kelly has changed the attitude around the football program, and changed it for the better. The Irish are frankly tired of being average, of being just another Notre Dame team. Losses may come, because in games against Michigan and USC, anything can happen. But one will not come at the hands of the son of the last Irish coach to win a national championship.
FINAL SCORE: Notre Dame 23, South Florida 10
Associate Sports Editor
South Florida has no shortage of speed on its team, and should not be taken lightly. They enter 2011 as one of the favorites to win the Big East after finishing with an 8-5 record that was identical to Notre Dame’s in 2010.
The Bulls will keep it close in the first half, but their inability to move the ball against a top-notch Irish defense will lead to excellent field position for a Notre Dame offense with plenty of playmakers.
The Irish defense will be the best Notre Dame fans have seen since the ‘90s — even better than the 2002 unit that carried the team to a 10-win season, and it all starts with a dominating performance against a worthy opponent. Manti Te’o will anchor the defense to top-15 finishes in every major category.
PREDICTION: Notre Dame 27, South Florida 10
Assistant Managing Editor
Notre Dame’s deceptively difficult schedule begins this Saturday with a legitimate test in the form of South Florida. Dayne Crist’s return to the offense brings back the deep game, setting up an interesting matchup with the experienced Bulls secondary. Skip Holtz’s long-awaited return to Notre Dame may be a welcome sight to some Irish fans, but I would have liked to see someone with a different last name.
Actually, Holtz is a good coach because he’s a good coach, and South Florida is a good team because of B.J. Daniels. As long as the defensive line holds, the outside backers keep containment and Manti Te’o introduces himself to Daniels, the Irish should run away with the first win of the year.
FINAL SCORE: Notre Dame 31, South Florida 13