1. Describe your worst nightmare coming true on Saturday. Can that nightmare become a reality?
Well, since my worst nightmare involves being chained in Pete Carroll's basement with him dressed as The Gimp, I pray to God this does not come true. As for the game itself, my biggest fears are that, A) Locker's elusiveness enables him to avoid being tackled and generating yards both on the ground and through the air and, B) the injury bug hits again and any combination of starters go down. In both cases, I do think they can happen and only time and, in the case of the former, good coaching, will determine whether or not they do.
2. Can we all agree that Jake Locker will be the best quarterback that we have/will face all season?
When the season began, I thought Locker would be one of the best we'd see but, to this point, I would have to put him in the top spot. Given the propensity for Notre Dame's defense to turn marginally talented (ahem, Joey Elliot) or completely inexperienced (Oh, I don't know...Tate Forcier and Kirk Cousins) quarterbacks into superstars, this is particularly alarming. ND's defense is going to have to play better against this offense than any they've faced to date, including Nevada, to avoid getting shredded. Think of it in these terms, if Joey Elliot of Purdue can go for nearly 300 yards, what could a guy like Locker do? If you'll excuse me, I'm now going to go rock back and forth while sobbing.
3. Replace two starters on both sides of the football for the Washington game. Who are they, who are they replacing, and why?
Since the defense has been the most inconsistent, I will start with them. First and foremost is Manti Te'o in for Toryan Smith. Washington's run game is not going to terrify many teams (94th nationally) but, as mentioned above, Jake Locker will. Te'o is quicker and more agile than Smith and, as a result, a much better fit to combat both Washington's passing game and Locker's scrambling. In the secondary, I am going to with Gary Gray for Darrin Walls. Walls has really seemed to struggle a bit this season and, based on his performance last game, Gray would appear to have the hot(ter) hand at the moment. Until that changes, I would go with Gray. On offense, I'd bump Robby Parris up past Duval Kamara. Kamara had a miserable game against Purdue with two illegal formation penalties and a few drops as well. Parris, conversely, seems to be a fundamentally solid player who catches what's thrown to him - that gets the nod from me every time. Other than that, it's a tough call. Most other players on offense have played pretty well, so I don't know that any warrant replacing. The only thing I might suggest is rotating in running backs with some regularity to A) ease Allen back into the line-up, B) keep fresh legs in the game and C) give Washington's poor rushing defense more to think about.
4. Ty Willingham enters the stadium in the second quarter. What happens?
Since Willingham is basically King Midas in reverse (to borrow a line from The Hollies), the only thing I can imagine happening is something approaching apocalyptic cataclysm. Both teams would likely contract the ebola virus immediately while the stadium's structural integrity would suddenly become unsound resulting in thousands of fan casualties. What's important to remember, though, is that the real cause of all this will have been racism.
Ty and the rest of his foursome
5. Are you impressed with the improvement in the run game in 2009, or is it a figment of our imagination?
Mostly impressed. While Notre Dame's four opponents don't exactly have the most stout of run defenses (MSU is 45th, UM is 69th, Nevada is 71st and Purdue 99th nationally against the run), ND has definitely asserted themselves on the ground in a manner which was not evident the last two seasons. The Irish are currently 54th in the nation averaging 158 ypg. They ended 2008 101st averaging a shade below 110 ypg and, in 2007, they were 115th averaging about 75 ypg. Clearly, improvements have been made. What's particularly impressive is that this is an offense that, at least until Purdue, really kept their focus on the passing game - the rushing yards have only been a, relatively, minor accompaniment to the pass. What's more, the offensive line proved in the second quarter last week that, if called upon to switch their attention from passing/balanced attack to rushing offense, they can do so. That too represents a step forward. USC will really be a good test of how far this aspect of the offense has come but, to date, they've made great strides.
6. Who's hotter, Wendi Nix or Erin Andrews? Why. Is your hottie a defensive or offensive player?
Erin Andrews. While I certainly think Wendi Nix is attractive, she strikes me as more reserved than does Andrews. Certainly, I can never picture Wendi Nix staging a nude video of herself in order to garner attention (that's right, Andrews, we all know). In addition to the video, Andrews seems, to me, the type that just oozes sex appeal. For one thing, she was on the dance team at Florida which, by virtue of stereotype, means she has the sexual appetite of a young Catherine the Great coupled with the intellect of a young Koko the ape (I kid, I kid...I have no idea if Andrews knows sign language). As to whether she is an offensive or defensive player, my hope would be for defense. Certainly, I can imagine no other sideline reporter whom I'd rather have tackle me.
7. Predictions please...
While the Huskies have been impressive in the early part of the season, I have a hard time believing that a team which was incapable of winning a game last year has improved dramatically enough in the offseason that Notre Dame shouldn't still be able to beat them. Last year, in Seattle, Notre Dame won by 26 points while throttling the Husky offense. This year, in spite of the return of Jake Locker and arrival of Steve Sarkisian, the outcome should be the same. The game's in South Bend and, if anything, Notre Dame's offense is more versatile than they were a year ago. This combination should be enough to propel ND to another victory in this series. I'm going with, Notre Dame - 31, Washington - 17.