Wait…aren’t you the hockey guy? What are you doing talking about college football?!? Well….SEPTEMBER is upon us, and with that, comes the opening weekend of College Football. Being from Texas, you might think this article is about Texas…but you would be wrong! I bleed blue and gold and will be screaming on the Irish in the middle of enemy territory, aka Darrell K. Royal – Texas Memorial Field in Austin, TX this weekend. GO IRISH!
Typically, opening weekend of the college football landscape consists of traditional cupcake games; however, this year is quite the anomaly. Oklahoma will face off against Houston, Georgia takes on North Carolina, USC and Alabama square off in Arlington, TX, and Ole Miss will take the field against Florida State in Orlando, FL…but for the state of Texas, the Fighting Irish come to Austin to complete the second half of a home-and-home that began with the Irish dismantling the Longhorns 38-3 in South Bend.
The Irish hold a 9-2 all time record, dating back to their first match-up in 1913. The only two Texas victories came in 1934 (7-6) and 1970 (21-17). Since 1970, the Irish are a perfect 5-0, outscoring the Longhorns 127-48…but aside from last year’s beating, the current Seniors were infants the last time Notre Dame took on Texas (1996…27-24 ND Victory), not to mention that the current rosters are a bit different from last year. For ND, the loss of Will Fuller (WR), Ronnie Stanley (OL), Sheldon Day (DL), Romeo Okwara (OL) and Jaylon Smith (LB) to the NFL and the loss of Sr. defensive back, Max Redfield, after being dismissed from the University due to a recent arrest for drug and gun-related charges, will be a lot to overcome. The Irish are big proponents of the “next-man-in” mentality, so I believe this may not be as big of an issue as other programs, but the Irish definitely have their work cut out for themselves.
The big question that many have been trying to work through is which QB will ND be using this season. Last year, Malik Zaire torched UT for 313 yards, things were looking up for the Irish. The Irish walked into UVA and while the work on the field was not moving like it did the week prior against Texas, Zaire and the Irish were handling their business. With 1:29 remaining in the 3rd quarter, that all came crashing down when Zaire tried to crash through a hole and ended up fracturing his ankle and being put on the IR for the remainder of the season. Backup QB, DeShone Kizer stepped up, throwing the a 40-yard bomb to Will Fuller with 12 seconds remaining for a 34-27 victory. The Irish ended up going on to win 8 more games and finished the season 10-3, with losses to Clemson, Stanford and Ohio State. This year, both Zaire and Kizer will both see time under center, and knowing Brian Kelly, there should be some interesting plays coming from both players.
On the Texas side of the ball, Charlie Strong enters his 3rd year as head Coach of the Texas Longhorns. After Texas’ 5-7 campaign last year, grumblings for Charlie’s release started to simmer…every loss this year could slowly turn those grumblings into a dull roar. A win over the Top 10 ranked Irish will provide some early season relief; however, the Longhorns are in a similar situation with two quality quarterbacks in Shane Buechele and Tyrone Swoops. Charlie Strong has indicated that he will also be using both QB’s as well. This game has the makings of a slug-fest and will be a lot of fun to watch.
But in the end…GO IRISH! And as always, remember…