We get back into the IBG this week as the Irish travel to the Big Apple to take on Army in this year’s neutral site game.
1) Saturday’s result against Utah was a very pleasant surprise, but an unexpected one, to say the least. What was the biggest positive you took from the win over the Utes, and what concerns you most as the Irish head into their final two games of the regular season?
The fact that the Irish came out fired up and played hard from start to finish was very encouraging because it shows that the team has not quit on Brian Kelly after a very rough stretch of a few weeks. The players have said all along they were all in with this staff and the effort shown on Saturday is proof they are still very much in Kelly’s corner. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention how promising it was to see the Irish defense dominate the Utah offense from start to finish as well. If you throw out the Navy debacle, the Irish defense has been much improved this season.
Army’s option attack. I expect Notre Dame to play better against the option this weekend, but after how bad the defense looked against Navy, who knows just how much better the defense will look. Notre Dame has to win this game. Another performance like the Navy could derail this year’s recruiting class further. A win this weekend also makes the Irish bowl eligible giving them some much needed extra practice time.
2) The Irish will have to take a completely different approach against the Army option than they did against the Navy attack a few weeks ago. Who do you see playing the biggest role in slowing down the Black Knight attack? Who will be the big performer on offense?
The defensive line is going to have to play much better against Army than they did against Navy in order for the Irish defense to have a better performance this weekend. Ethan Johnson, Kapron Lewis-Moore, and Sean Cwynar are going to have to control the line of scrimmage and take up blockers.
If the defense slows down Army, the Irish safeties will be the stars of the show. Think back a few years to the 2006 Air Force game. The Irish defense shut down the Air Force offense and Chinedum N’Dukwe had a career day. Against Navy the Irish safeties routinely played deep even though Navy had no intention of passing the football. I expect to see Jamoris Slaughter and Harrison Smith play much closer to the line of scrimmage and help secure the edge. If they do that effectively, Manti Te’o and Carlo Calebrese will hopefully be able to slow down the inside runs.
3) Should Notre Dame win one of their final two games, they’ll likely be going bowling. There are a lot of tie-ins that may or may not be fulfilled from other conferences that will likely end up deciding their postseason fate, but what bowl do you see the Irish playing in?
The new Pinstripes Bowl in Yankee Stadium would definitely be an interesting scenario for Notre Dame since it would mark three Notre Dame games in New York for the Irish in 2011. With a couple high profile recruits in the New York vicinity, another game in the Big Apple wouldn’t be a bad a thing.
The best chance for Notre Dame to make a statement in a bowl game, however, would be in the Champs Sports Bowl. For that to happen, the Irish would have to beat both Army and USC. Should the Irish land in the Champs Sports Bowl, Florida State or Miami could potentially be their opponent depending on how the ACC shakes out.
4) This isn’t a question any of us thought would be an issue at the start of the season, but who do you see as Notre Dame’s starting quarterback against South Florida next year?
Right now, I think it’s too early to make any predictions on the starting quarterback. Tommy Rees is playing strong enough to warrant him holding the starting spot going in to spring practice. Fellow freshman Andrew Hendrix and Luke Massa will have a say in the spring as well – especially if Dayne Crist misses all of the spring as many think he will. The wild card here is Everett Golson. Golson visited Notre Dame this past weekend and is looking to enroll early wherever he ends up which means he could be in the mix as well should he select Notre Dame.
One thing is for sure, Crist is going to have a tough time wrestling back the starting spot if he misses spring ball. Tommy Rees has already looked more comfortable running Brian Kelly’s offense in limited action and the other quarterbacks on the roster will have all have more time to learn the offense.
5) We’re all very excited for Saturday night at Yankee Stadium, which is a nice turn towards some pretty exciting neutral site games (Miami at Soldier Field, Arizona State at Cowboys Stadium) after a rather lackluster start (Washington State in San Antonio). What are three neutral site games you’d like to see down the road?
- Nebraska in Kansas City at Arrow Head Stadium. Two great programs with great histories in a great city and a great stadium.
- Alabama in New Orleans at the Superdome. A rematch of the classic 1973 Sugar Bowl.
- Wisconsin in Green Bay at Lambeau Field. How great would it be to see the Irish play in one of the most historic stadiums in the NFL?