With a hole still open on the 2010 schedule, last October athletic director Jack Swarbrick added Western Michigan to the home schedule, the final egg to the face of those that hated former athletic director Kevin White’s 7-4-1 scheduling model. Said Swarbrick of the marriage of convenience:
“We had one opening left on our 2010 schedule, and Western Michigan was able to move some things and get it done. We’re thrilled because there is great value in having teams play here that are coming from close by. The fans from Western Michigan will make this a difficult ticket, and there’s always energy in the stadium when you play someone from not far away.”
After a schedule that opens with six straight BCS teams, sliding the Broncos in before prepping for Navy isn’t the worst thing in the world. While Western Michigan starts up a streak of four straight games against non-AQ teams, Swarbrick has shown with later moves that adding the Broncos to the Irish schedule was a move of necessity, not something he plans on continuing.
Last time against the Irish:
Lead by coach Knute Rockne and captain Frank Coughlin, the Irish faced off against their second straight team from Kalamazoo (Kalamazoo College opened the season) and behind 123 yards on 14 carries and two touchdowns by George Gipp, the Irish cruised to a 42-0 victory in front of 3,500 fans. Gipp also chipped in three PATs, and finished 1 for 2 passing for 10 yards, moving the Irish to 2-0 on the 1920 campaign, a season they’d finish 9-0.
Degree of Difficulty:
Of Notre Dame’s 12 opponents, Western Michigan ranks twelfth-most difficult game on the schedule.
3. Boston College Eagles
4. Michigan Wolverines
5. Michigan State Spartans
6. Pitt Panthers
7. Stanford Cardinal
8. Purdue Boilermakers
12. Western Michigan Broncos
Coming off a 5-7 campaign, the Broncos will try and replace four-year starter Tim Hiller and all-purpose running back Brandon West. Hiller holds just about every passing record in Broncos football history and West was even more prolific, departing as the FBS record holder for kick return yards and all-purpose yards. The Broncos will plug into their spread attack quarterback Alex Carder who has thrown only seven passes in his college career. Carder will have the support of a deep offensive line and three solid wide receivers, Robert Arnheim, Jordan White, and Juan Nunez.
Most of the secondary is back for the Broncos, but the unit struggled last season, finishing 92nd in the nation. Jamail Berry provided the lone bright spot, making five interceptions and returning at strong safety. The defense will have to replace All-MAC linebacker Austin Pritchard, as well as two other front-line players, DE Justin Braska and DT Cody Cielenski. Former Hofstra head coach Dave Cohen was brought in to coordinate the defense, but he may have been given a knife for a gunfight.
How the Irish will win:
They should win by showing up. The Broncos offense will be in a state of flux, and even the most experienced offensive line the Irish will face shouldn’t slow down a pass rush that should be coming into their own. More importantly, the Irish offense should feast on a green defense, exploiting physical match-ups and moving the ball up and down the field with both the first and second team offense.
How the Irish will lose:
It’d have to be a an Armageddon-like scenario, and my creativity is struggling to come up with a way for this to happen. For the Irish, getting their starting personnel through this game and ready for Navy should be what’s most important.
If you’re a Notre Dame fan, get to the game on time, because I expect the Irish offense to score early and often. That said, if there’s any game on the schedule that’s a hang-over / look-ahead game, this is it. Unfortunately for the Broncos, they lack the firepower needed to compete against the Irish. If Hiller and West were still on the roster, I’d give them a 1 in 100 chance, but this should be a easy victory for the Irish.