Preview: Notre Dame at UCLA
The Losing Streak Continues
By Denis Brown
October 1, 2007
NOTE: This marks just the second visit to the famed Rose Bowl by Notre Dame, but the first time was a classic matchup. Notre Dame, coached by Knute Rockne and led by the fabled Four Horsemen, met Stanford, coached by Pop Warner and featuring Ernie Nevers, in the 1925 Rose Bowl Game. FB Elmer Layden scored three touchdowns in leading the Irish to a 27-10 win. The victory gave Notre Dame its first-ever national championship - courtesy of the PAC-10.
Most experts think Notre Dame (0-5) will lose the next three games and go 0-8 on the season. The Fighting Irish were unable to pick up victories against Michigan State and Purdue in the last two weeks, games that were thought to be the best shot for Notre Dame to secure a victory before the losing streak got out of hand. UCLA (4-1) will be the next team that will try and continue the Irish’s losing ways. UCLA has looked good this season except for one hiccup against Utah in the third week of the season, a game the Bruins lost 44-6. Since then, however, UCLA has recorded wins against Washington and Oregon State in back-to-back weeks.
Notre Dame began to show some signs of life on offense last week against Purdue, but it came on the arm of backup junior quarterback Evan Sharpley. The Fighting Irish were down 26-6 in the third quarter before Sharpley lead Notre Dame on two touchdown drives in the fourth quarter and got the Irish to within one score, 26-19. Notre Dame’s defense could not hold the Boilermakers’ offense down, allowing Purdue to score a touchdown and go on to win 33-19.
Freshman Jimmy Clausen was the Notre Dame quarterback before suffering an injury, but at no point this season has the offense moved as well as behind Sharpley at the end of the game against Purdue. Clausen should be back for the game against UCLA, but articles in the Chicago Sun-Times and Northwest Indiana Times have suggested that a quarterback controversy could be developing between Clausen and Sharpley.
The Bruins have put up good numbers this season compared to other Pac-10 schools. UCLA ranks fifth in scoring offense (32.4), fifth in scoring defense (24.6), and fifth in turnover margin (+1), while all four of the Bruins wins have been by 10 points or more. The play of quarterback Ben Olson sums up the season for UCLA. Olson has thrown seven touchdowns on the season, five against Stanford and two against Oregon St. and has been picked off five times, three of those against Utah in the loss (Olson did miss the game against Washington with an injury). Basically, the numbers can be deceiving when it comes to UCLA. On the whole, the Bruins have played very well with the exception of one bad game against Utah.
However, the numbers do not lie about Notre Dame. The Irish rank 118th out of 119 Division 1-A schools in scoring offense (9.2), 96th in scoring defense (33.2), and 88th in turnover margin (-3). The Fighting Irish will have a tough time when they head west to take on UCLA this weekend at 8 PM.
Denis Brown is an independent contributor to College Football Poll.com.