Monday, May 15, 2006

Engineers vs. Irish

"They will beat us about nine times out of ten, but in losing we will learn a lot of football. We will gain a lot of prestige nationally. And when we win, it will be a mighty sweet victory." Coach William Alexander

So I enjoy watching a baseball game here and there, but I have a hard time getting into the Stanley Cup and the NBA playoffs. That pretty much means there is very little sports related news I can get excited about except for the World Cup “A ball can change everything” commercials on ESPN. While I am on that note, make plans to come up to Nashville on the 23rd to see the National Team warm up against Morocco in the Coliseum. It is going to be the closest some of us ever get to the National Team and it is an opportunity not to be missed. All of you who bellyached about not going to the Music City Bowl, this is your chance to show them how big they screwed up. Alright, enough on that tangent. Back to football.

For me, the first game of the season holds all of the excitement from the previous year in one game. There are no regrets, no what ifs going into that game. It is a fresh start, like crisp dollar bills. Maybe that is why we do so well in opening games. Since 1990, we are 11-5 in opening games. Since 1999 we are 6-1 with wins over Auburn, Syracuse, and Central Florida, among others. The tailgate party at the opening game is second only to the Georgia game. Everything is exciting, “Up with the White and Gold” is a little louder, the Wreck looks a little shinier, and even Buzz doesn’t seem as gay.

Maybe that is why I am so optimistic about this year’s game against Notre Dame. Terence Moore wrote an article in the AJC last week about what playing Notre Dame has typically meant for programs in regards to the boom a game with Notre Dame means to teams financially and in terms of national prestige. While I don't necessarily agree with Mr. Moore, in case you haven’t read it here it is. Playing Notre Dame in itself is exciting, but when two teams like Georgia Tech and Notre Dame square off, one cannot help but be giddy at the possibilities.

Since 1922, Georgia Tech and Notre Dame have met 32 times, with the Jackets only winning five contests and tying once. While those results seem pretty lopsided, so do the results of the Sox-Yankees series, but that does not keep it from being one of the best rivalries in sports. Now I am sure that Irish and Jacket fans alike will downplay this game in the overall scheme, much like when Georgia fans try and tell us that Florida is their biggest rival. While we may not be on par with Army, Michigan, or USC to Notre Dame, few schools have ties going so far back. While we have not played as often as some of their other opponents, the thought of Knute Rockne and Bill Alexander squaring off every year from 1922 to 1929 is exciting to think about. Even though Tech won only once in those eight games, 13-0 in 1928, these guys were Tech's original FSU. We couldn't seem to beat them consistently, but I don't think anyone would trade away the memories of some of the games between the two.

So we all know how hyped up the Irish were last year, but who are they going to be this year. A preliminary, uninformed analysis would say they are going to be in the hunt for the national championship. But my gut tells me that Tech has a legitimate shot at winning this one, and not just by squeaking one out. and ESPN have posted their Notre Dame previews already, and I recommend all Tech fans do their homework and scout the competition. Here are just a few things I found interesting from the previews I’ve read:

The Irish really have no backup QB. With our game being at the beginning of the season, injuries to Brady Quinn are probably not a factor, but if he goes down in preseason workouts or during the game, look for this to be an issue, especially since...

Notre dame has some key holes to fill on the offensive line. This plays right to our strength at defensive line. Hopefully we will be able to exploit this weakness and get pressure on Quinn so he does not have the time to exploit our weak secondary. All this will be easier if...

The Shark is Quinn’s only real option at receiver. With everyone else gone, Samardzija seems to be the only accountable option at receiver. Hopefully this will allow our secondary to shut down the passing game, forcing them to rely on an inexperienced O-Line to open up holes for their running game. On the other side of the ball...

They still have questions on defense. Notre Dame didn’t really light anybody up on defense last season and this one does not seem to be any different. They seem to have a weak pass rush, no real standout at linebacker, and a very vulnerable secondary. With all of our questions on offense, I think this is the best possible scenario.

These are my minimally informed and obviously very biased observations on our coming foe. A lot can happen in the three and a half months until our nationally-televised battle. In the eighty four year history of the series between Notre Dame and Georgia Tech, wins for tech have come about once every 10 years and never twice in a row. With our last victory over the Irish coming in 1999 at the Gator Bowl, it may be too soon to expect another win. But coming out of Spring practice, the conditions are good enough for their to be more than just a chance that the Golden Tornado will once again triumph over the Golden Dome. -yb


Blogger Stumpy's Bear said...

Wow, I didn't realize the series was so lopsided. I like those opening day stats though, great work.

9:54 AM  
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6:31 PM  
Blogger Paul said...

Yellowblazer -- A few notes:

(1) Never trust anything you read on

(2) Notre Dame is looking for a backup QB. True. But they have 2 guys who have been under Weis now for a year, plus two freshmen coming in. None of them will be Quinn but, as you mention, it is the first game.

(3) The Irish really only have a single spot to replace on the tackle. Last year, ND rotated 4 guys at the center and guard positions on the OL. 3 are back, plus 1 starting tackle. OL depth is a problem, but not experience.

(4) Rhema McKnight, the leading receiver from 2003 and 2004, returns from injury to join the Shark as starting WR.

(5) Notre Dame's defense is the key to a NC run. Will the pass rush improve? Who will step up at linebacker to replace Hoyte and Mays? Will the secondary play better? That side of the ball is a true concern for Irish fans.

(6) If you are looking for another area of potential Irish problems, kicker and punter are question marks with the graduation of D.J. Fitzpatrick.

3:00 PM  
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3:38 PM  
Blogger mikes1160 said...

Good blog, but you're dead wrong on the receiver situation at ND. McKnight could have a monster year, since da Shark will get his share of double teams. As mentioned, O-Line is much more solid than one might imagine. Need a freshman to step up behind Darius Walker at RB, since it appears that Travis Thomas will get a shot at linebacking.

Defense: yes, a weak spot last year, but hope is there. Look for Abirmari at DE to being the key to us having a pass rush. Also, look for more nickel out of the Irish this year as well....

11:38 AM  
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7:13 AM  

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