October 6, 2007
UCLA to host Notre Dame
On paper this game would seem to give a decided advantage to UCLA. The Bruins stand at 4-1 while the Notre Dame Fighting Irish is on their worst skid since 1960 and are an unbelievable 0-5 to open the season. This is the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame perhaps the pinnacle program of all of college football.
But this is Notre Dame and aye that's the rub of the matter. It is not a matter of if they will awake from their slumber it is a matter of when. You can almost hear the ghosts of Knute Rockne, George Gipp and Frank Leahy shout encouragement to those young who carry on the legacy.
You couldn't blame UCLA's fan base for being a tad uneasy. Teams that have been down before have risen to spank the Bruins and one only has to go back three weeks to the massacre in Salt Lake City.
There are two big questions going into this contest. The question is will this be the game Notre Dame puts it altogether and their talent lives up to their recruiting rankings. The second question is what UCLA team will show up.
It is highly unlikely that the Bruin team that showed up Utah will be in the Rose Bowl today. They had a focused week of practice and the tempo was very good.
By all indications UCLA will bring their A game. The reason is simple. There is still a sting from last year's game in South Bend when the Bruins left, what would have been one of those signature wins, on field when with less minute in the game the Irish only needed three plays to go the length of the field for the win.
The painful pangs of that game still linger for the Bruins. It doesn't seem to matter, that much of the Notre Dame's cast who orchestrated that heartbreaking loss are gone, it is still Notre Dame.
This a very young Notre Dame team and if healthy will be led by true freshman quarterback Jimmy Clausen.
What a difference a year makes for the freshman signal-caller from nearby Westlake Village (Calif.) Oaks Christian where he never lost as a high school player.
At Notre Clausen is 0-4 as a starting quarterback and has played in all five games. He has completed 57 passes out of 94 attempts for 474 yards and one touchdown against three interceptions.
Clausen's best game as a collegiate was last week against Purdue before he down with an injury. He is expected to play, but if the not junior quarterback Evan Sharpley.
Sharpley has hit on 32 passed out of 51 attempts for 344 yards and two touchdown against two picks.
The Irish also have a couple of very talented freshman receivers in Duval Kamara and Golden Tate.
Kamara has 11 receptions on the season for 116 yards and one touchdown. Tate had a breakout game last week against Purdue raking in 104 yards on only three receptions and a touchdown.
While the Irish have a lot of young talent on offense they may find it tough sledding against a Bruin defense that is beginning to find itself and flex its muscle.
If the Bruins play defense like they did last week against Oregon State then there probably won't be a lot of offense by the Irish.
The Irish rank 118th in scoring offense averaging a paltry 9.2 points a game. They are also 118th in total offense averaging only 194.8 yards a game. They get worse in the running game where the Irish land 119th and are only rushing for 30.4 yards a game.
The most glaring advantage that the Bruins have is their ability to rush the passer and Notre Dame's inability to protect the quarterback.
UCLA is ranked 16th in sacks with an average of 3.2 and Notre Dame is 119th in sacks allowed averaging 5.8 sacks a game.
While there is no doubt that the Irish will see better days ahead because of all the young talent on the roster the matchups in this game favor the Bruins in overall athleticism and experience.
The Bruins hope to put off Notre Dame's eventual rise off another week. If the Bruins play up to their capabilities than they should win handily.
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