DUBLIN — Looking out the window, it’s hard to believe we’re in Ireland. There’s not a cloud in the sky on this beautiful Saturday morning, and in a few hours Notre Dame will open the 2012 season in Aviva Stadium.
Here are a few questions I’ve been thinking about as the season finally gets underway.
Will Notre Dame show composure and handle their business?
Last season, the Irish’s opening drive was moving like clockwork until Jonas Gray’s goal line fumble short-circuited the team. It was also a harbinger of things to come, with the Irish offense (and on occasion, the defense) making crucial errors at the wrong times.
No doubt, this football team will be fired up and excited to play football. But can it keep its composure and play clean and effectively? If they can, today will go just fine.
How vanilla will Chuck Martin and Brian Kelly keep this offense?
Breaking in a new quarterback and playing a team that can’t physically match-up at the line of scrimmage, how vanilla will the Irish offensive attack be? And if it is, how much of that will be a strategic decision versus the realities of playing a quarterback that’s never taken a collegiate snap and will be learning on the job?
There were valid complaints last year that the offense skewed too simple. With Golson, the threat of a running quarterback is there, which opens things up dramatically. But it’ll be interesting to see how the team uses its multiple weapons at tight end and strengths at running back.
Do all first year quarterbacks make things interesting?
Last night, Michigan State and Stanford fans got to see what young starters look like. After Kirk Cousins and Andrew Luck anchored their respective programs, new starters Josh Nunes and Andrew Maxwell had more modest debuts, with Nunes putting up minimal yardage numbers as Stanford eeked out a victory against San Jose State and Maxwell was intercepted three times before the Spartans rode Le’Veon Bell and good defensive play in their tight win over a rebuilt Boise State team.
If we’re making snap judgments, Irish fans have to feel better about both opponents after last night.
What will we see out of the freshmen?
I’m incredibly excited to see young talent like Chris Brown and Davonte Neal in uniform. Both speedy wideouts will likely make some plays today. It’ll also be good to see what Sheldon Day does on the defensive line and how KeiVarae Russell does out on his island. (Don’t think Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo doesn’t know the Irish have a first-time cornerback in the secondary.)
It has to be quite a surreal moment playing your first college football game in this situation.
How many tackles will Manti Te’o make?
I’m setting the over-under for the senior All-American at 13.