Notre Dame returns to action this week after its heartbreaking and disappointing season opening loss to Texas on Sunday in Austin. The Irish face a familiar face this weekend with former Irish assistant Brian Polian bringing his Nevada squad to town on the heels of their OT win over Cal Poly.
Notre Dame’s season now has zero margin for error and needs to get back on track in a hurry with #8 Michigan State on the schedule next weekend. Luckily for the Irish a team that needed overtime to take out Cal Poly should allow for Notre Dame to get things turnaround before the Spartans visit.
How’d I Do Last Week?
- For a little while there it looked like I had the outcome pretty close. I had Notre Dame by four last week and there the Irish were with a four point lead in the fourth quarter with a chance to get a stop and potentially run out the clock. Instead, the Irish surrendered the lead.
- Notre Dame’s safeties were a problem. The safeties were one of my biggest concerns last week and Drue Tranquill ended up getting benched by half time and Avery Sebastian’s reign as a starter at free safety looks like it’s over after one week. Devin Studstill helped stabilize the Notre Dame defense when he came in the game and will get the start this week.
- Texas’s up-tempo offense caused problems. Silly me, I thought that the first game in a new offense with a true freshman QB would be manageble for the Irish defense, but it turned out to be a problem. Many times Texas snapped the ball without the defense set and they exposed Notre Dame’s problems with an up-tempo offense yet again.
- The two QB system last just a bit too long. The two headed monster at QB worried me last week and Kelly kept it in place just a little too long when it was clear Deshone Kizer was moving the offense well while Malik Zaire wasn’t
Players the Watch
- Deshone Kizer – Kizer was named the starter on Wednesday and it looks like it’ll be his show to run this weekend. Will he play looser without the pressure of knowing he will be alternating series or will that give him the confidence to take some more chances?
- Malik Zaire – Watch Zaire’s body language on the side language this weekend. Notre Dame needs Zaire to stay engaged and positive on the sideline after losing out to Kizer. We saw last year how important a backup quarterback is.
- Corey Holmes – If Torii Hunter is unable to play due to his concussion suffered on the
targetinghit in the end-zone, look for Holmes to get the call. Freshman Kevin Stepherson looked a bit lost on the big stage when he filled in for Hunter and Kelly said he wants to keep Equanimeous St. Brown at the W position.
- Devin Studstill – The rookie will get his first career start. He more than held his own against Texas on the road. A home game against Nevada should be an easier assignment.
- Drue Tranquill – The junior will get a chance to reclaim the strong safety position after getting benched last week. It is in Notre Dame’s best interest if Tranquill can solidify this spot so that the Irish do not have to rely on two frosh on the backend of the defense.
- Shaun Crawford – The sophomore played well in his starting debut. He excels as a nickel but with Nick Watkins injured and Devin Butler in a walking boot and awaiting trial, Notre Dame doesn’t have any other outside corenrs capable right now. Look for Crawford to stay on the outside more this week.
- Dexter Williams – Tarean Folston and Josh Adams are both reportedly a bit banged up this week. With Michigan State coming into town next week, it could be a good week to give Williams some carries and Adams and Folston a little more rest than normal.
What Concerns Me this Week
- The short week. Notre Dame didn’t get back to South Bend until the early morning hours on Monday and has to prepare for a game this weekend on short rest. Brian Kelly and his staff adjusted the team’s normal routine accordingly. Short weeks can be tricky to work around though when a team isn’t used to them. Remember how the Irish looked in 2012 after traveling home from Ireland?
- Notre Dame Tight Ends. The TE position was relatively invisible last weekend. Can Notre Dame get either Durham Smythe or Nic Weishar involved in the passing game this week?
- The nose tackles. While Daniel Cage graded out well and Jarron Jones had a monster blocked PAT, the pair of nose tackles weren’t heard from much against Texas. Jones didn’t record a single tackle and played less than 30 snaps. Notre Dame needs a lot more production out of Jones for the defense to turn things around.
- Notre Dame’s defensive scheme. Let’s hope the Irish left the 3-3-5 scheme in Austin and we don’t see it again this year. Notre Dame struggled with the adjusted scheme and played MUCH better in their normal four man front. The strength of this defense is its defensive line – let them get pressure.
- Nevada’s “Bowl Game”. We’ve seen this story before. Small time school comes to town and treats this game like their bowl game and plays the game of their season.
What Doesn’t Concern Me this Week
- The running game. Nevada gave up 383 yards to Cal Poly. 383. Yards. Cal. Poly. Enough said.
- The wide receivers – even if Torii Hunter sits out. Even if Hunter sits this one out – and with a concussion and a short week that’s probably in his best interest – the wide receivers don’t worry me this week. ESB looked like a star in the making last week with his two touchdowns and CJ Sanders showed he can be electric in the open field. Whether it’s Holmes or Stepherson or even Hunter, the wide receivers will get open and make plays again this weekend.
- Deshone Kizer. After his six touchdown performance last weekend, don’t worry about a big letdown from Kizer. He appears to have his head screwed on straight and no situation seems to phase him. Another multiple touchdown should be expected this weekend.
- The defensive line. Even though the NT’s are on my concerns list, the defensive line as a whole played well when they weren’t handcuffed in a three man front. Isaac Rochell racked up 2.5 tackles for loss last week and a multiple TFL performance again this week shouldn’t be a surprise. Jerry Tillery needs to do a better job of tackling this week though. The big man missed some crucial stops including one on Tyrone Swoopes on the game winning play.
On paper this is a game Notre Dame should win handily, but we all know how that goes sometimes. Add in a short week for Notre Dame and it’s not exactly ideal circumstances this weekend for the Irish. That said, this is a game Notre Dame will win running away even on a short week and even if Nevada treats this as their bowl game.
With Nevada giving up almost 400 yards on the ground last week conventional wisdom says that Notre Dame should run, run, run this weekend. With its running backs a bit dinged up and a bruising Michigan State on the docket next weekend, Kelly may want to save some hits on his backs this weekend. He may also want to let his newly named starting quarterback air it out a bit this weekend.
However Notre Dame decides to attack Nevada, it shouldn’t have any problem. In fact, this is the kind of opponent that Notre Dame shouldn’t game plan around and outsmart itself. They should come out this week and play their offense and play their defense and dictate the pace to Nevada.
Notre Dame 52, Nevada 21
Season Predictions v. Actual Outcomes
|1||@ Texas||W, 27-23||L, 47-50 OT||One defensive stop in the 4th could have saved the prediction.|
|2||Nevada||W, 52-21||W, 39-10||Thought there'd be more scoring, but margin of victory wasn't far off.|
|3||Michigan State||W, 31-21||L, 28-36||Completely overestimated the defense's ability to slow the run game|
|4||Duke||W, 42-24||L, 35-38||I got nothing on this one.|
|5||@ Syracuse||W, 47-38||W, 50-33||Irish show some signs of life and for once an opponent doesn't score more than I predicted.|
|6||@ NC State||W, 42-35|