So I skimmed through "Irish"'s hyperbolic preview and I thought, "ok, well allow me to retort."
Playing against a WAC defense must be every OC's wet dream. Nevada's DB's were small, and slow, and timid. ND seemed concerned about Nevada's DE's who managed to make a few plays, and so they ran a lot of screens and draws and even some QB zone read from the wildcat. Nearly every deep pass was off of playaction. The running game looked better than it had in recent memory, but against a pretty soft defense. Most of the runs were off tackle or outside.
QB: Clausen did look pretty sharp. But he's still not very mobile and was taken down by the shoelaces on several occasions. He was making good decisions and was very accurate on the deep balls. Has a good playfake. His confidence seemed pretty high (as it should be vs. last year's 119th ranked pass defense) and was putting the ball on guys even when they were covered. Against our more athletic DB's this should result in more tipped balls and hopefully an interception or two. He was continually throwing high to his taller wideouts and TE's. Lucky for him that his receivers are tall and strong. Cryst looked like a real QB (not some gay balding emu) but very inexperienced. If Clausen goes down, there is a big drop off.
RB: Armando Allen was the featured back, and he has good speed. Likes to cut to the outside. Not a real strong runner and doesn't break very many tackles. Was used in a wildcat formation several times. Jonas Gray (who we remember as the guy that Carr and staff passed over for Mike Cox) has pretty thick legs and good speed. He's more of a straight line runner who can run through arm tackles but doesn't have much wiggle. Their third back Riddick or something showed off some good hurdling ability but not much else.
TE: Rudolph (i think) looks like a good pass catcher who is pretty nimble for being so tall, but he's a bit skinny to be an effective run blocker.
WR: Floyd and Tate are the real deal. Floyd is a bit taller and stronger at 6'4". His two long catches came on a jump ball where he out muscled the defender and kept his feet and the second was on a simple buble screen where tate got a great block and Floyd used his speed around the outside.
OL: This unit was not very exceptional in speed, size, or strength, but they seemed much more technically sound than in the past two years when they couldn't block anyone. They executed pretty well on screens and did a fairly good job of giving clausen time.
Can you say blitz? Can you say blitz 47 times? (estimate). ND's front seven was pretty unexceptional in every way. The only time they looked good was when they brought 6 guys and someone came through unblocked. But that was frequent enough to kill drives after Nevada had marched into ND territory.
This was one of the least impressive shutouts I've ever seen. Nevada missed a FG, had an unforced fumble in the redzone, and pretty much marched up and down the field on ND until something flukey happened to keep the from scoring. It was 28-0 at the half but could have easily been 28-17. ND got some help from its crowd which caused a couple false starts and delays of game once nevada got to the closed ends of the field. The only play that really made you stand up and say "Now that's good D!" was when they got penetration on 4th and inches to stop another scoring threat.
Dline: Nothing to really note here. They didn't fight through blocks very well and were not much of a factor in the game. Nevada's Oline was opening up running seams left and right to the tune of 150+ yards and over a 5 yard per carry average.
LB: Showed good speed on the blitz, and the blitzes came from all over. But they didn't seem very strong or smart. Nevada's QB (who is a pretty good runner, and kind of looks like a cross between vince young and Gumar, but sadly Whitecastle is not in Korea) managed to get away from them several times. Their best player is a true frosh from Hawaii who doesn't start. He has good instincts and brings the hammer, but can probably be tricked into a bad play or two.
DB's: Hard to evaluate here. They seemed to tackle well, but they weren't pushed very hard as Nevada was missing their best receivers from last year and the Nevada QB had a problem with slippery balls (No giggling!) This probably means that the DB's have gotten better since the days of Manningham getting "OH, WIDE OPEN!". Not being mentioned much is a vast improvement over the toastings they used to get with regularity. But, with so much blitzing it was strange to see the DB's playing so far back at the snap.
ND definitely looks better, but they're vulnerable on both sides of the ball. I like the way we match up with them. We seem to have faster and stronger athletes along both lines. And with home field advantage and barring any major injuries we should be able to answer anything they throw at us.
When we have the ball:
Our RB's against their front seven looks like a definite advantage for us. We should be able to control the pace of the game with our rushing attack and put together lots of long drives. The key in the passing game will be all about our ability to pick up the blitz. We need a big day from the TE's are RB's and good communication along the line. But I expect our QB's to run for over 100 yards and our RB's to combine for 150. So here's to hoping that Koger, Webb, Brown, Minor, and Grady (24) have a great week of practice.
When they have the ball:
If we can get pressure with our Dline, we should be able to shut down their offense pretty well. Graham and Roh should be able to get around their tackles, and Martin shouldn't have much problem with their centers and guards. Donovan should be glued to Floyd all day and Bouboucar on Tate if he's healthy. Stevie can take their TE. That just leaves our other LB's vs. their RB's on screens and zone options. This looks like a push or a slight ND advantage. The one thing we cannot do is fall for their excellent playaction. We need a big game from our safeties.
I expect we'll be able to move the ball with ease. I'm just not sure how our 3rd, 4th, and 5th DB's will hold up. I expect ND will gain decent yardage on screens and a few runs, but we might give up a huge play every now and then. I think the game will be shortened due to long drives and we'll pull out a squaker in the 34-30 range as we control the clock and their D gets tired.
Or if we can knock out Clausen it'll be 38-0.