Nevada-N. Dame Odds

South Bend, IN - The days of Notre Dame contending almost annually for a national title are gone.

The talk around South Bend is that if the Fighting Irish don't at least get back to a BCS bowl this season, Charlie Weis could be, too.

Bet College Football Week 1

The embattled coach enters what could be, for better or worse, a defining year for the historic program as No. 23 Notre Dame hosts Nevada on Saturday, looking to prove it is deserving of its first preseason ranking in three years.

Oddsmakers from online sports book Sportsbook.com have made Notre Dame -14.5 point spread favorites (View College Football odds) for Saturday’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 59% of bets for this game have been placed on Notre Dame -14.5 (View College Football bet percentages).

Weis' teams qualified for BCS bowls in his first two seasons of 2005 and '06, but Notre Dame moved quickly in the wrong direction after that, losing a school-record nine games in 2007.

The Irish improved somewhat last year, going 7-6 and beating Hawaii 49-21 in the Hawaii Bowl, but the 15 losses in two years are the most in such a short span in the program's history.

The Irish are making their first Top 25 appearance since the end of the 2006 season, but Weis has said he's not listening to the speculation about his job security.

"I'm not worried about hot seats, cold seats, anything," Weis said Tuesday. "I'm just worrying about trying to beat Nevada."

The Wolf Pack open what looks like a manageable schedule for the Irish, with USC the only ranked opponent. This continues a recent trend, with Notre Dame getting away from extremely difficult schedules it was known for in the past.

"I think our fans need to recognize how the BCS landscape has changed,'' athletic director Jack Swarbrick said. "... I don't know that Nevada isn't this year's Utah. I think we all have to have a more expansive view, a more studied understanding of how quickly it changes in the top level of college football today."

A home game against a seemingly weak opponent has not always resulted in a victory in recent years, with home losses to teams like Syracuse and Air Force on Notre Dame's resume.

Weis, though, has reason to be more optimistic about this year's squad, starting with Jimmy Clausen. After struggling as a freshman in 2007, Clausen threw for 3,172 yards and 25 touchdowns with 17 interceptions last year.

"I don't want to be good at anything; I want to be great at everything," Clausen said. "That's not only for me, but the entire team. We're not trying to be good this year. We're trying to be great."

Most of the skill players around Clausen have returned, including leading rusher Armando Allen and top receivers Golden Tate and Michael Floyd. The Irish also appear deeper on defense, with freshman linebacker Manti Te'o joining the team after being ranked as one of the top high school players in the nation.

The unit will have to contend with an experienced Nevada offense centered around quarterback Colin Kaepernick, the 2008 WAC offensive player of the year. Kaepernick became the first player in NCAA history to pass for 2,500 yards and rush for 1,000 in a season, combining for 39 touchdowns through the air and on the ground.

"The sky is the limit for this team," Kaepernick said. "We're not going to Notre Dame just to be competitive and keep it close. We're going there to win."

The junior will have plenty of help on offense, with Vai Taua and Luke Lippincott forming a dangerous duo in the backfield. Taua ran for 1,567 yards in 2008 while Lippincott was recovering from a torn ACL. Lippincott racked up 1,420 yards on the ground in 2007.

The concern for the Wolf Pack is on defense, as they ranked last nationally against the pass in 2008 at 321.1 yards allowed per game. That happened even though returning defensive ends Dontay Moch and Kevin Basped combined for 21.5 sacks.

"Last year is in the past," Moch said. "It's all about the future now."

Nevada (7-6), which has never faced Notre Dame, has home games against Missouri and UNLV on its early schedule, meaning it could learn right away whether it can contend for a WAC title.

"I expect us to be a good football team," said longtime Nevada coach Chris Ault, who will go for his 199th win. "The tests will come early. Those first four weeks will dictate the character of this football team."

Betting Trends:
NEVADA: 16-5 Over as road underdog

NOTRE DAME: 1-6 ATS 1st month of season
Key Player Injuries
NEVADA

No significant injuries.

NOTRE DAME

No significant injuries.

Bet College Football Week 1

Posted: 9/1/09 8:19PM ET

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