IBG: Evaluating Notre Dame at the Bye Edition


Notre Dame might be a on bye week this week, but the Irish Blogger Gathering isn’t.  We’re hard at work again this week with our weekly roundtable discussion of the Fighting Irish as we discuss where Notre Dame is headed into the bye week and what our expectations are for the remainder of the season.

Here is the question that I posed to the group: If there was only one thing that the coaching staff could address and fix during the bye week, what would you want it to be? What happens if the staff isn’t able to correct that one thing between now and two weeks from now?

NDSportsBlogger: As we head into the bye week, the Irish are 3-0, averaging over 30 points per game, while allowing just over 10 including shutting out Michigan. If I were to tell you that those three facts would be true prior to the season beginning, would you have taken it? Through 1/4 of the year, how do your expectations of this season match up?

Kolin Hill - Notre Dame v. Michigan
Michigan Wolverines quarterback Devin Gardner (98) is sacked by Notre Dame Fighting Irish linebacker Kolin Hill (43) in the second quarter at Notre Dame Stadium. (Photo: Matt Cashore / USA TODAY Sports)

Of course I would have taken it, who wouldn’t?  I don’t think anyone really objectively saw that coming.  The shut out of Michigan is what would have taken me by surprise the most though.  Up until kick-off and even slightly after I was very worried about that game given the struggles Notre Dame has had with the Wolverines in recent years – even in years when Michigan hasn’t been that strong.  I expected Notre Dame to win easily versus Rice and Purdue – actually I expected Notre Dame to beat Purdue much more soundly in the pre-season.  All that said, I did not expect the Notre Dame defense to give up on average of just over 10 points a game.  I expected there to be many more growing pains for Brian VanGorder’s young defense.

With the 3-0 start I would say my expectations are slightly raised but I am still a little cautious about jumping on the playoff bandwagon at this point.  Every time I let myself start to dream of a playoff run I think of that October stretch of games and the run of games to end the year.  While the Irish are playing better than I though they would as a whole, the schedule still worries me even though USC and Stanford both already have a notch in the loss column.

NDNation: At the first bye week, who is your MVP on offense and on defense so far?

Offensively, I think there is only one choice and that’s Everett Golson.  He’s been borderline phenomenal in his return and while I think the Heisman talk might be a bit premature at this time, he is the main reason that I think a playoff run could potentially happen.  I don’t think we’ve seen the best of #5 yet either.  I have a feeling he is going to have a couple games where he just flat out goes off before the end of the season.  The only other player I really think can even be in the conversation on offense at this point is Will Fuller, but he’s been doing his damage thanks to Golson getting him the ball.

Sheldon Day - Notre Dame vs. Rice
Junior DT Sheldon Day in action versus Rice in Notre Dame’s 48-17 victory. (Photo: Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire)

Defensively, I think the easy choice is Jaylon Smith because he is a ridiculous athlete and has been all over the field, but I’m going with Sheldon Day here.  Day has been a beast in the trenches and the push he’s gotten up front has in part allowed Smith to roam as freely as he has been.  Day’s made a number of plays that don’t show up int he stat sheet too such as flushing Devin Gardner out of the pocket to set up one of Kolin Hill’s sacks against Michigan.  Day’s grunt work in the trenches has helped lay the groundwork for the solid work VanGorder’s defense has been turning in.

Subway Domer:  Bye week means SCOUT week. What games are you looking forward to watching this week? Do you have any non CFB plans for Saturday?

I will be taking a bye week myself most likely this weekend without the Irish playing.  The only game that has me really interested over the weekend is Clemson and Florida State, but that game had me interested last year and it turned out to be a complete laugher.  I’ll get some work done and rest up for football Sunday when my 2-0 Philadelphia Eagles try to improve to 3-0 just like the Irish.   The last time that happened was 1993.

Her Loyal Sons:  What’s your temperature after this game? Happy because a win is a win or upset with poor play against or are you somewhere completely different?

I would probably say I am leaning more towards upset… and I am absolutely thrilled about it.  It’s been too long since I’ve felt that empty after a 16 point win.  It’s a sign that expectations are raised and that more than just winning is what is expected of Notre Dame now.  When was the last time we could truly say that?  What made Saturday so frustrating was how close that game was to being a blowout.

At the same time, it’s really easy to forget how young this team is and how many players are playing prominent roles for the first times in there careers.  It’s almost crazy to think that Notre Dame is currently starting two players (with Austin Collinsworth injured) who are in their final years of eligibility – Cody Riggs and Ben Koyack.   All of that youth, however, is what should make the rest of the season both equal parts exciting and at times frustrating.  Even with a bye week to get in some more reps and work out kinks, this is still a very young team that is going to have some more growing pains along the way.

So in a very circuitous way, I’m saying that I was upset with the poor play because of the potential that is so easy to see while at the same time realizing we are probably going to have some more moments like that the rest of the way given how young the team is.  Should be a hell of a lot of fun to watch along the way though.


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      1. I’m convinced BJ/Bruce Johnson has to be a troll persona of some sort. I know experience tells me otherwise, but there is no way someone can consistently be this inane and, in the truest sense of the word, stupid.

        The lack of self awareness is staggering and one of the most spectacular things I’ve ever seen on the inter-web.

        To think that he repeatedly, for years, posts youtube videos, in some bizarre attempt to prove his point, is amazing. And I’m betting he believes that we actually click on said videos.

        The fact that, for years, pretty much every regular here has told him that he is the village idiot, no one takes him even remotely seriously, doesn’t deter him in the least.

        BJ, find your home in politics.

  2. I beg to differ on the ND defensive MVP.

    Joe Schmidt should change his name to Rodney Dangerfield Schmidt because that kid gets no respect.

    Of all the thousands of defensive football players playing in college football over the last 3 weeks, Jaylon Smith comes in at 181 in the nation in tackles.
    That’s actually really pretty impressive considering he did it against 2 BIG10 teams and the defending Conference USA Champion while many others on the list have compiled their early season numbers at home against their team’s non-conference cupcake schedule.

    And he isn’t even the leader in tackles on the ND defense.

    That current claim to fame belongs to Joe Schmidt who ranks 87th in the nation and number one on the ND defense.

    I would surmise that a big reason that Schmidt is ahead of Smith in tackles is that teams have a tendency to avoid Smith and target Schmidt more… which helps make my case for defensive MVP after the first 3 games.

  3. Heading into this bye there is only one thing that needs to be fixed and that’s the running game. If we have any hope of double digit wins this year it needs to be fixed. First of all Kelly needs to pick 2 RB and stick with them. Greg Bryant is averaging close to 5 yards a carry while the other 2 are in the mid threes.

    The O Line has struggled run blocking but Bryant is still getting it done. It blows my mind why Kelly continues to stick with playing a different back for each series. I have never seen any other coach do this. It makes as much sense as bringing in a new QB for each series.

  4. I disagree. Ultimate flexibility even within a given set of downs keeps the defense within a state of Flux. It is important to acknowledge and reward the players that got you here each and everly game and year in order to build on team work, loyalty, senority and family. What makes Notre Dame unique is that it stands by the individual through the the stardom and the contributor phase

  5. believe that the rotation of the running backs is in its self a nightmare for the opponents, I want to expand the planning requierments of the opposition by rotatiting the running backs within a set of downs. ulitimate flexibility and defensive headache and maiximum versitility of options.

  6. I agree that it needs to be folston and Bryant. Im tired of seeing Cam run the ball because he’s a captain or because he’s a senior. Im also hoping that when Collinsworth returns, Shumate still remains the starter.. With Brian Kelly who knows what he’s thinking at times. He has a tendancy to play small, smart, white players that are slow, over players that are younger and more talented. I have some advice for Kelly that could help the running game: try being creative with different running formation etc.. rather than the same old handoff up the middle out of the shotgun… and im hoping Nyles Morgan keeps improving and adapting to the college game– im concerned with Joe Schmit and his limited skill- set going forward because our schedule coming up is downright daunting….Go irish

    1. “Small, smart, white players that are slow” ???

      Just when you think you’ve heard it all!

      I’m sure your advice is right at the top of Kelly’s “to do” list!
      (Move over bj, you got company)

      1. Cam seemed to be big enough to bust through Michigan’s line quite a few times, particularly the first TD of the game.

        People think thoroughbred-type backs like Folston and Bryant will just run forever and can be used in any/all situations. The logic and value of using a utility back like McDaniel is lost on them.

        Think Mark Edwards for example.

  7. Agreed, Kelly needs to stop giving the ball to Cam McDaniel simply because he’s a senior. I’m fine with a 2 rb rotation of Bryan and Folston, but 3 is too much. Folston is clearly the best runner in my opinion. Reminds me of Lesean McCoy…not saying he is, just reminds me of him. Body type and the way he cuts.

  8. I think Kelly needs to start choosing a STARTING rb. This rotation of 3 RB’s is getting old and none of those kids can get any kind of rhythm….not too mention, the O-Line has to get a rhythm with a RB too and they can’t if there are different running styles going in all of the time. Choose one and go with it! I don’t see this team going any worse than 10-2. USC/Stan/Louis aren’t as good as some people were talking. We will beat two of them and probably lose to FSU as well.

  9. I am concerned about the Oline. That needs to get fixed a running game will be a must in October. I am also worried about Dline depth when they play teams that are more physical. It is a young team and 9-3 or 8-4 is where they will end the year.

  10. “As we head into the bye week, the Irish are 3-0, averaging over 30 points per game, while allowing just over 10 including shutting out Michigan.”

    Not since Ara Parseghian have I seen a Notre Dame team capable of this level of play.

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