No that's not the frequency of a new radio station, its the most important number from last year that Irish fans can use to look forward to the 2009 season. The fate of Notre Dame in 2009 relies on them vastly improving their running game which played a large part in defeats at the hands of North Carolina, Pittsburgh, and Syracuse last fall. Had the Irish been able to run the ball, control the clock and keep their defense off the field the 6-6 regular season mark probably turns into a 9-3 season with a trip to Jacksonville for the Gator Bowl instead of the Hawaii Bowl this past Christmas Eve.
I have very little doubt that this year will be Jimmy Clausen's coming out party and it will only be that much greater if there is a running game there to compliment him. He has the gift of having perhaps the most talented receiving core in the nation with Golden Tate, Michael Floyd, Duval Kamara, Robby Parris returning while potential newcomers to on the field action Shaq Evans and Deion Walker both have the potential to turn into playmakers quickly.
Throw in more experience at the tight end position with Mike Ragone returning from injury while Kyle Rudolph promises to remain a threat after a stellar freshman campaign. Missing two solid tight ends over the past two seasons has made Charlie Weis lose much of what his offense is based around, much of the offense that was so lights-out in 2005 as well as 2006. It helps not only allowing for extra receivers to throw to but also in putting in an extra blocker or two in the running game.
I have made the claim that running the football will be the key to this team finding their way to a BCS game this fall. Broad statement alert but its the truth. The inability to run the football the past two falls in South Bend has cost the Irish a good four or five games over the past two seasons, four or five games they should have won.
Four of the five starting offensive linemen return from last years team, a squad that gave up only 22 sacks after allowing 58 in 2007. Can they improve that much in the running game? Time will tell but there is no question that the addition of Frank Verducci as the offensive line coach/running game coordinator will bring changes, but will those changes bring more success?
That is the multi-million dollar question in South Bend this off season. Multi-million dollars in the fact that if it does not the university will likely spend several millions to buy out the rest of Charlie Weis' deal. Multi-millions in the fact that if this offense plays to its full potential in both the passing and running games that the school could be looking at a multi-million dollar check from the BCS.
I understand that many feel this Irish team could win as many as eleven games this coming season while some of the skeptics have the win total closer to seven. Its not time for me to be making any predictions yet, heck, NCAA '10 hasn't even come out for my PS3 yet (Username: NickShep10 if you ever want to play).
What I can predict is that if the Irish are going to be playing in a BCS game like so many predict, it is up to the running game of the offense. Sure they will likely put up a good 30+ points per game but will they be able to bury anyone by running down the field on them? It's not going to matter win/loss-wise unless they do.