Notre Dame decided it was a good idea to first torture us with a Monday game on opening weekend, then take the next week off entirely. It has not been fun, first having to wait all weekend to our boys play, then another week entirely. I don’t speak for everyone else, but I did not appreciate it. The bright side is it afforded a lot of time to focus on our upcoming opponents and two weeks is good enough to come up with some trends.
Generally speaking, everything is breaking as expected, the frisky teams are frisky, the November games will be stressful, and the elite teams are elite. (Well, at least one of them is.)
PSA, I’m going to skip over New Mexico in this, mostly because they’ll be previewed a ton this week.
A Blast From The Past
Before getting into upcoming opponents, I wanted to highlight Louisvilles 42-0 victory last night over Eastern Kentucky, who came into the game 1-0. Normally, I don’t like to do the “hmmm, maybe the team we just beat in somewhat underwhelming fashion might be pretty good, eh?” thing, but I think the Cardinal rushing for 322 yards and 8.5 yards per carry is notable. Rush defense was clearly the biggest flaw for Notre Dame last Monday, and it needs to improve, but it appears Louisville will be a pretty good rushing team this season. Eastern Kentucky isn’t a great opponent, but those numbers are good against anyone. At the very least, it was a good test for Notre Dame’s linebackers and interior line.
The Bulldogs are 2-0 and are just as threatening as you would imagine, especially on the ground. Through two games they are averaging 296 yards on the ground on 7.4 yards per carry, with five ball carriers who would probably start for our team, even with Jafar Armstrong. Not only is their strength on offense in direct conflict with our weakness on defense, but they might be the best running team in the nation. So that’s daunting, to put it frankly.
The passing game hasn’t really gotten going yet, they average 224 yards per game, but on 9.5 yards per attempt. When they throw it, they are pretty efficient. Not really what you want to see against a rushing attack like that.
The defense has been predictably stout, but they haven’t been anywhere near tested, and won’t be leading up to the Irish. With games against Vanderbilt, Murray State, and Arkansas State prior the date with the Irish, even Georgia isn’t sure how they’ll handle a real team.
If you were hoping Virginia was one of these teams that received a lot of preseason hype without much substance, then your hopes have been dashed so far. They are good defensively, dangerous offensively, and they play like a team that’s well coached and confident. They are 2-0 with wins over Pittsburgh by 16 and William and Mary by 35. They give up 2.1 yards per carry on defense and 5.8 yards per attempt to opposing quarterbacks. Given the way Notre Dame looked against Louisville on offense, Virginia looks like they’ll be a very good test for Ian Book and his offense.
The offense has been solid, but certainly not spectacular. The key is limiting quarterback Bryce Perkins and forcing field goals instead of touchdowns, because they will move the ball but aren’t very explosive. This will be a game though, and likely all the more tougher following Georgia.
They opened with a 46-3 win over Morgan State and likely started to feel good about themselves, then followed that up with a 52-0 defeat to Kansas State, and have been brought back down to earth. This team is not very good, Notre Dame should roll them, and there isn’t much more to say.
If you were hoping USC would be a dumpster fire heading into this matchup, you’d probably be wrong. They’ve got a new freshman quarterback operating their Air Raid offense, they just put up 45 points against Stanford, and everyone out west is fired up and feeling hopeful and all that. The good news is what USC wants to do on offense will allow Notre Dame to play more defensive backs, which is what they want to do. The bad news is those guys are super talented and if given time this quarterback can hurt us. This game will likely come down to the defensive ends getting pressure.
USC’s defense has been spotty, although their pass rush has looked good so far this year. Their secondary can be had, and hopefully by game time Book has figured things out and Kmet and Young are back. And you never know, maybe Kevin Austin will be available.
It’s been an underwhelming start to the season for the Wolverines, who have looked ineffective running, inconsistent passing, and basically been getting by on overall talent (a 40-21 win against Middle Tennessee State) and the skin of their teeth (a 24-21 overtime win against Army).
The defense held Army to 3.3 yards per carry in the game, so they held up well on that end, and were on the brink of defeat thanks in large part to their offense being a fumble machine, especially from quarterback Shea Patterson, who has been wildly inconsistent.
The biggest surprise has been their running game, averaging a measly 3.79 yards per carry so far this year. It really is the nicest thing that USC and Michigan, two teams that have been able to out physical us when they were at their best, have decided it’s a good idea to move away from that and go more finesse.
This was my pick for the trap game candidate and I’m sticking by it, because they don’t look frisky at all, in fact they look to be down again, and Notre Dame is likely to overlook them. But, they’ve got an experienced quarterback and good enough receivers to where a sleepy Notre Dame team can be had at home. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time. But, they dropped their opener to Boston College 35-28, they can’t really run the ball, and the defense doesn’t look as good as they’d hoped. Yep, perfect trap game.
Another team who most would have predicted to be exactly what they are. Pretty good on offense and competitive on defense. They’ve got a really good coach, a good running back, and they’ve shown enough the first couple weeks to believe they’ll have a good plan against Notre Dame, a lot like Louisville did. This is the point of the season where it’s possible things have gone wrong for the Irish, in which case this game is a danger game (and frankly they all would be in that scenario). A motivated Notre Dame team should come out of this matchup fine, as they did in the opener.
Won the opener against Holy Cross, 45-7. Didn’t play this week, so not enough data to decide on any trends. But, it’s Navy, so we know if they’ve got a solid quarterback they’ll be a tough out. We don’t know if that’s the case yet, so we should all stay tuned.
BC has a very good running game (251 yards a game on 5.1 per carry) and a dynamic quarterback (219 yards per game, 11 yards per attempt, 5 touchdowns, no picks) so it looks like a stressful Senior Day is upcoming. They’ve got the star running back in AJ Dillon, which everyone knew about, but also sophomore David Bailey who is averaging 67 yards a game on 5.4 a carry.
The defense doesn’t look like anything special, which is nice, but given the weapons on offense, the final home game won’t be the laugher we want.
Stanford at Stanford is what it is, Notre Dame hasn’t won there since 2007, but it sure seems like the fall we saw coming from them has arrived. They don’t look dynamic on offense, their defense has some good defensive backs, but the front seven looks weaker than in the past, and they aren’t that physical juggernaut they have been. Stanford has a way of building and getting better as the season goes on, so I might regret these words, but a loss to them as it stands right now would be a huge disappointment.