Frankie V’s Prediction: Notre Dame v. Northwestern

Notre Dame is back in action tonight after making the quick trip to Evanston to face Northwestern in Ryan Field for the first time in over 40 years.  The Irish checked in at #4 in the first playoff rankings earlier this week and will be looking to stay undefeated on the season and potentially move up in the rankings with a win since #1 Alabama plays #3 LSU today as well and one of them has to lose.  Let’s take a look at what Notre Dame has to do to stay unbeaten.

What Worries Me This Week

Notre Dame playing without Drue Tranquill.  On Thursday Brian Kelly wouldn’t rule out Drue Tranquill from playing this weekend, but at the same time it sure sounded like he was planning on not having his 5th year senior captain tonight.  If Tranquill can’t play we will get a glimpse at how Notre Dame plans on answering one of the biggest questions they will have this off-season – how they plan on reshuffling their linebackers after Tevon Coney and Tranquill head to the NFL.

Against a fast pace offense like Northwestern, this could be a great time to get a look at Asmar Bilal at BUCK since conventional wisdom suggests that Bilal could transition to BUCK next year like Tranquill did last offseason.  If that happens, Notre Dame could turn to Shayne Simon at the ROVER tonight.  That combination could be something we see next year.  If Bilal stays at ROVER, the Irish will likely use a combination of Drew White and Jordan Genmark-Heath to replace Tranquill.

However they replace Tranquill tonight, it will be players without a lot of experience.  Getting experience against an uptempo offense like Northwestern’s isn’t necessarily an ideal situation.

Northwestern’s fast pace offense. I already touched on this, but Northwestern likes to play fast, just like Wake Forest did earlier this year.  The Wildcat offense is going to try to run as many plays as possible tonight and offenses like that are always worrisome.  Much like Navy’s offense, these kind of offenses can do damage IF they get off to a good start.  And then even if they don’t, because they run so many plays, there is always the chance for them to score quick and get back into the game.

Notre Dame’s defense conceded a lot of yards and plays to Wake Forest earlier this season early on by keeping everything in front of them and it’s possible they do the same tonight.  Unlike that game, it won’t be 90 degrees in Evanston tonight to wear down the defense even more.  The Irish rotated a lot of players in and out last week too so the defense should still be fresh.  If they do that, just prepare yourself to get frustrated because it’s never fun seeing an opponent move up and down the field even if they stall in the red-zone.

The worry here is that Northwestern doesn’t stall in the red-zone and makes this a game early.  If the Irish defense lets Northwestern score early, it’ll give the Wildcats even more confidence. Which brings us to….

The “Super Bowl” factor for Northwestern.  This game is Northwestern’s biggest game of the year – even bigger than whatever bowl game they end up making it to.  They have a chance to upset a top 5 team at home for the first time since a guy named Ara Parseghian coached the Wildcats.  For Notre Dame, this game isn’t even the biggest game of November.  Syracuse is ranked higher, Florida State is still Florida State even if they are a dumpster fire right now, and the season finale against arch rival USC is always a big game.

Brian Kelly admitted earlier this week that it’s impossible for teams to play with the kind of energy Notre Dame had against Michigan and Stanford every week.  It was an eerie warning from Kelly.  If Notre Dame comes out and plays disinterested, Northwestern is good enough to beat Notre Dame.  Michigan played disinterested against them earlier this season and the Wildcats held a 17-0 lead over them until Michigan finally woke up.

The Navy hangover.  Notre Dame has not fared well in games the week after Navy under Brian Kelly just like a lot of teams suffer from a hangover following playing option teams.  Brian Kelly was asked about this earlier this week and he said the Irish staff have a plan in place to avoid this.  We’ll find out how good of a plan it was tonight.

What Doesn’t Worry Me

Turnovers from Ian Book.  In the last two games Ian Book has been a little more careless with the football than we saw from him earlier this year.  That will change tonight.  I am expecting Notre Dame to rely on the ground game more than usual tonight and not ask Book to do too much.  I know, I know you’re thinking, “has this guy forgot who the head coach is?”  With Notre Dame having a full complement of running backs though, the Irish will look to play some keep away.

While Book won’t be asked to do a ton, I do also expect Notre Dame to take more chances downfield this week.  They have to start hitting on those passes down the stretch if they want this offense to fully evolve and to not just be a playoff contender, but a team that can do damage once there.  Book hits a couple downfield early tonight.

Notre Dame’s reshuffled offensive line. Aaron Banks and Trevor Ruhland played well in their new positions last week but it was against Navy.  The Midshipmen aren’t exactly known for their defense and they have one of the worst pass rushes in the country.  The Northwestern defense isn’t a whole lot better.  They only have 12 sacks on the season and rank only slightly better than Navy in terms of generating pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

This week will be a good test for the new look Notre Dame defense line though because Northwestern’s defensive front is not strong.  It will give Banks and Ruhland – and possibly Tommy Kraemer if he gets worked back into the mix – a chance to get more comfortable in their new positions and allow their fellow linemates to get more comfortable with them.

With Northwestern’s offense looking to run a ton of plays, Notre Dame would be wise to use their offensive line to run the ball and control the clock to keep the Wildcat offense off the field.

Cole Kmet getting the start with Alize Mack out. Notre Dame will not have starting tight end Alize Mack this week after he suffered a concussion against Navy last weekend.  With Mack out, Notre Dame turns to Cole Kmet as their top tight end and there is a good chance that we end up looking back at this game as the breakout performance of Kmet’s career.  With Mack out for the second half last week, Kmet was targeted more than he ever has been and he ended up hauling in a career high four receptions for 31 yards. Had  it not been for an errant pass from Ian Book, Kmet would have had over 60 and a touchdown as well.

Look for Notre Dame to test the Northwestern defense down the seam this week with Kmet.  It was wide open all second half for the Irish last weekend, but they only connected on it once.   Kmet could be in for a big night.

Place kicking now that Justin Yoon is back.  Jonathan Doerer had a rough start to his place kicking career last weekend before settling in.  The good news here is that Notre Dame won’t have to find out how if it was just a rough start or more indicative of his place kicking skills since Justin Yoon is back tonight.  Brian Kelly said earlier this week that Yoon is back to 100% so look for Yoon to handle all place kicking duties this weekend.  Now there could be some concern since Yoon wasn’t healthy enough to kick last weekend, but if Yoon wasn’t ready to play, he wouldn’t be playing.

Players to Watch

  • Kevin Austin – We saw a glimpse of him with the ball in his hands last weekend, let’s hope we see that a little more this weekend.
  • Aaron Banks – He makes his 2nd career start tonight.  He was good in his debut last week, but he’s facing a better opponent than he did last week.
  • Tommy Kraemer – He lost his lock on a starting spot earlier this year and barely played last weekend.  Kraemer has a ton of talent, but his junior season has been a disappointment. If Notre Dame tries to go run heavy this weekend, Kraemer could get back into the mix.
  • Daelin Hayes – He finally gets his first sack of the season tonight.
  • Julian Love – This is a homecoming for Love and it’s been a few weeks since we’ve seen a huge, game swinging play from Love.  That changes tonight.
  • Jafar Armstrong – Last week we saw Armstrong return and make an impact in the passing game.  This week we see him get going in the running game.  We also got a glimpse of the Notre Dame offense with Armstrong and Dexter Williams on the field at the same time.  We should see more of that this weekend.

Prediction Time

It seems like every Notre Dame fan is terrified of this game and while I listed a lot in the “what worries me” section, for some odd reason, I am not as worried as most others.  Maybe it’s because I am a bit preoccupied this week with that little marathon I have to run in the morning and my biggest concern is actually watching the game and then still getting enough sleep so that I am not exhausted for my 4:00 AM wake up tomorrow.  Whatever the case, I am not overly concerned this week.  That doesn’t mean that I am predicting a blowout, but I just think Notre Dame will control this one from start to finish.

Look for Notre Dame to run the ball a lot this weekend now that they have Jafar Armstrong and Dexter Williams back and healthy at the same time.  We didn’t see a ton of it last weekend with Navy since it was Armstrong’s first game back, but we should see it more his weekend along with a few deep passes mixed in.  Notre Dame’s defense will force Northwestern into some field goals early and then they will go into attack mode.

Notre Dame 31, Northwestern 13

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  1. I love Notredame been following them since 1964. It pains me to say this but I don’t think their 1 of the top 4 teams in the country. More like top 6. If I’m the committee watching every team play right now the 4 best teams are Alabama Clemson Michigan and Oklahoma. The reason I say Oklahoma is their offense is unreal.I know their defense isn’t very good but if they get a few stops a game they can beat you. Their skilled athletes are all blazers including Murray their offensive line is really good and Riley is an amazing offensive mind and play caller.It hard to tell about Chip Long because we don’t know how much power he has in the offense or is he somewhat under Kelly’s thumb.I know some would argue that Notredame beat Michigan so how can you rank them ahead of Notredame.Just my observation.Notrrdames online nerds to be a lot better.


    2. Alabama and Clemson are a clear 1 and 2. After then its hard to say. Notre Dame deserves the #3 slot based on still being undefeated but Michigan, Georgia, Oklahoma and even LSU would be a very tough matchup for the Irish on a neutral field. No WAY you can rank any of those $ teams ahead of the Irish based on any criteria other than EYE TEST. If the committee felt LSU was better than the Irish then whats to keep them from placing Michigan, Georgia, or Oklahoma ahead of them in the next playoff ranking. There are still a lot of games left to sort this out.

  2. Ive said this on the boards very politically correct in the past and tried my best to sugar coat this issue so not to upset anyone else that reading it but enough is enough and Brian Polian NEEDS TO BE FIRED and we need a new special teams coach. PERIOD

  3. SteelFanRob,

    Your comments are ridiculous about Michigan hahahahahaha! We beat them with Wimbush and no Dexter Williams and you think they’d beat us now? Wow! I can’t take your comments seriously ever again on here haha!

    However I do agree that we probably wouldn’t be able to stay with Bama but only because of our coaches. We don’t adjust on offense quick enough. Long is just bad. They load the box all night just like Pitt did and we don’t throw downfield until late in the 3rd quarter. I mean what is he thinking? Finally a jump ball to Boykin in the end zone and TD. Claypool goes off and has a deep pass call for him…success! Michael Young deep bomb TD. It’s easy when you play to what the defense gives you. Long has proven he doesn’t do this until late in the game and against a team like Baka or even Clemson’s defenses, you better be ready to make adjustments quick because you know they are going to be doing it against you.

    1. In defense of SFR, You, Chris are afraid of the truth. SFR calls it as he sees it. He is the print facsimile of audio Don Criqui. Oh, how I miss Him.

    2. If you think that Michigan team ND beat week one is the same now then you are the one who is ridiculous, Chris J.

      And frankly I couldn’t care less about what you think about my comments, Chris J. I’ve been here way longer than you.

      Ironically you say you can’t take me seriously and then proceed to agree with me about how ND would fare against Bama or Clemson.

      So, Chris J, what is it?! Not that I really care

      1. You said “right now Michigan would best ND” haha! And you’re also saying that Michigan is better. Maybe. But so is ND with Book and Williams back. And our defense is still playing really well. Your argument is retarded. And I don’t care how long you’ve been posting here. Does that make you more legit or something haha? That was a really stupid comment you made about MI.

    3. WOW 3rd quarter 17 pts wasn’t enough of an adjustment? SPECIAL TEAMS kept NW in the game, as well as 4th qrtr conservative play! Adjustments by the offense at haltime WON THE GAME!! What team has made the adjustment against BAMA this year to solve there defense? NOT LSU LAST NITE!! IRISH penalties in 2nd qrtr with first and goal at the 5yrd line, that pushed the ball back to the 25 yrd line kept the game from being a blowout, and gave NW momentum!!

      1. Ndcm,

        Read what I said. I never said we didn’t make adjustments. I said we always seem to make them way too late on offense. It was WELL into the 3rd quarter before we started going over the top of the defense who had 8 in the box all night long. Tell me why it takes it being late in the third to do that?? Tell me why we didn’t over the top in the Pitt game until the game winning drive at the very end?? These teams don’t change their defense and continue to stack the box and we continue to RUN up the gut instead of taking what the defense is giving us which is the bombs downfield with our great receivers. You are blind if you don’t see that. Clearly Long is. I think this kind of stupid crap is what is going to cost us going deep into the playoffs but we will see. Hopefully Long sees that Book can throw deep and we have receivers that can make plays downfield.

      2. FIRST off you make adjustments at HALFTIME, HALFTIME!! THEY scored 17 pts in the 3rd qrtr !! NW got the ball first in 3rd qrtr , then ND scored on the first 3 possesions of the second half!! THATS NOT LATE IN THE GAME , theres the 4th qrtr that’s what’s considered late in the game!! I played and coached HS football adjustments are made at HALFTIME, if you didn’t see that you don’t watch the game!! The team was flat against PITT they threw short and long all day, sometimes it’s not your day!!

      3. Well I’m glad NDCM is not our coach. NDCM only thinks you can make adjustments at halftime haha! Nope, can’t do it three to four series into the game. It can ONLY be at halftime. So by NDCM’s account, if the defense is putting 9 in the box the entire first half, he would continue to run it up the middle if that was his gameplan going into the game. Only at halftime would he make an adjustment.

        Stupidest thing I’ve heard on here in a while…

      4. Let me clarify…stupidest thing I’ve heard other than SFR saying Michigan would beat ND right now because MI has gotten better (but ND hasn’t? :))

  4. Thank God that game is over. This season is going to give me high blood pressure. I actually don’t think they will take a hit at the polls. NW was looked at as a team that was rising so this will be seen likely as a decent (though not dominant) win.

    Of the remaining games I think Syracuse will be the toughest. FSU is a mess. USC isn’t much better. While they’ll play ND tough, I’m not seeing a lot out of those teams. Syracuse though is an up and comer with lots to prove and I think that makes them the most dangerous of the remaining teams.

    But now it’s on to FSU. They should be able to dominate them but then I remember Ball State and Vanderbilt. So we’ll see.

  5. Phew. The game ain’t over yet, but NW will have a hard time scoring twice in less than 3 minutes. Now guys, just stay focused and win the game.

  6. Feel like someone just gave me nice fat stogie, lit it up and exploded in my face. Hopefully it is a bad dream.

    1. No, GK, it’s ND football under BK. Steal defeat from the jaws of victory!

      This feels like the lat NE game from a few years ago.

      What a freakin’ humiliation!

  7. WTF! They had NW on the ropes. Even though they had to settle for a FG for their last score they were up 3 scores. Then the defense started having echoes of Navy with missing tackles and they got sloppy. Then a blocked punt and an easy NW score. All they had to do was stay disciplined. That’s it. Stay frosty.

    They better get their freakin heads in the game or their dreams of playoffs are going to crash and burn.

  8. The ND O would not score against Bama or Clemson.

    ND STs strike again!

    ND will find a way to lose this game to begin the November swoon, folks!

  9. That’s more like it. Hopefully they can keep it going. Our defense is playing good tonight mostly, and thankfully making tackles. Just stay focused and I think they can come out with a win. Just don’t get sloppy.

    I’m just glad not to be Louisville. 77 points. Hell. Division 2 teams usually don’t give up that much.

    1. No, Damian, the ND D hasn’t played well tonight. They have allowed one of the worst rushing Os to run over them and have given up plays in the passing game. That last NW drive encapsulates the overrated ND D!

      1. I don’t think I agree. I don’t think they’re elite–but I think usually they’re solid. For large parts of the game they have made stops. Their front 4 almost blitzes all by themselves so the rest of the defense can handle everyone else.

        They had some breakdowns yes, but a BVG defense would be down by 41 points by now.

        And the key for me for this defense is when the game is on the line, when they have to make that last stop to preserve a win they do. It’s not elite, but it’s reliable. If the offense can get them a lead with little time on the clock the defense can hold.

      2. We don’t disagree, DM. All I’m saying is that the D isn’t elite. Just like you just said.

        I just don’t think ND could play with Bama or Clemson.

        If ND had Nelson and McGlinchey on the O line and Stepherson at WR, they might hang in there for a half. But Bama’s or Clemson’s O would tear this D up!

        I think not making the POs woulddn’t be the worse thing. After all, do we really want to hear the haters after ND gets blown out in a big game on national TV.

        For now play to win and cross the Bama or Clemson bridge when you get there.

      3. Yeah, no doubt about Clemson or Bama. In ND’s defense there are probably few defenses that could.

        But I do want to get into the playoffs. ND haters be damned. If they don’t get in then the haters will just say, see, knew they’d blow it and not get in. So might as well go for it all.

        Do I expect ND to be able to take on Clemson or Alabama, not really. But I figure any given Sunday. The only sure way to not get a NC is to not get in at all. Might as well go for it all. You gotta take the chances when you have the opportunity.

        All 4 of my pro-teams have won their respective NC’s since I started following them. I started following the Irish as a hard core fan in 2002 in both football and basketball. I’d love for them to win it all just once. To hear ND, national champions in football would be a great sound. Back in 2012 it was so nice to see 1-Notre Dame before the NC game. It was just a few weeks, but for a time ND was number 1 in the country and it had a nice feeling.

  10. Damian,

    Right now, Michigan would also easily beat ND. The Wolverines are much better now than week 1.

    ND isn’t elite. They are good but nowhere near great. That’s just the honest truth.

    This team is like the 2012 team, a lot of smoke and mirrors.

    I can see ND losing this game and getting beat by a good Syracuse team and SC in the Coliseum.

    If that happens BK should resign or be fired. How many more November nosedives would we need to see?!

    1. I think they can be better than they were in 2012 overall. 2012 had an elite defense that won the games (I’m still shocked at how Alabama mauled them–Alabama was the better team but our defense should have had a better showing then they did–I saw nothing in the regular season that year that told me they were that bad). The defense this year is solid, I don’t think they are elite but they are reliable. I don’t cringe when they take the field. If ND has the lead with less than 2 minutes I think they can hold it more times then not.

      Offense is better this year then they were in 2012 and that’s the difference. They are not elite. But they can score if they do things right. What’s concerning is they are uneven. You see games like VT and Stanford where they are dominant, then you see games like Pitt where they suddenly realized in the 4th quarter they need to score.

      ST’s. Well they’ve been a mess. They have had ok games this year, and bad games this year. But they haven’t had any breakout plays. Yoon is good with his FG’s and Newsome usually is great with punts. But it’s all the little things with ST’s.

      That’s why I think they can hang with most teams this year. But Bama and Clemson are in a class by themselves and I just don’t see the Irish being able to take them on.

      This year, I’m just taking it game by game and hope they win each one. But I’ve seen enough to know the wheels can come off at any time. I just hope ND can hold this lead, and maybe add to it. Fingers crossed. Go Irish!

  11. Got to see first five minutes, then click and subscribe. Heard Drue made nice open field tackle. Hope Irish get the ball to start the remainder of this.

  12. I could see Georgia and Michigan jumping ahead of Notre Dame if Notre Dame wins a squeaker tonight . That would be absolutely crazy but I could see it happening

    1. I noted the same thing at least about Michigan in the poll article. If LSU loses and ND wins though, I think they’re safe. NW is getting some kudos so a win will look good enough to keep them in the top 4, if LSU loses.

      Now if ND does win out….and LSU loses tonight, then I think they’re in.

      1. You’re forgetting about Georgia I wouldn’t be surprised if they surpassed Notre Dame in the next polls that’s if they barely win this game but if they pull away and win easily I think ND is safe

  13. This is shaping up to be a battle of defenses. On paper ND should have the edge. NW has a pretty good defense but I think ND is better. Now who knows what happens after halftime. I’m not all that confident in ND’s halftime adjustments.

    At this point the game can go either way (nothing like stating the obvious). I thought all was lost against Pitt and ND kicked and screamed their way to a win. They may have to do that tonight unless the offense starts making plays. I can’t help but think there must be some way to get Wimbush in the game. He brings an added elusiveness that give the offense an added wrinkle. But barring some injury to Book, I think we’ve probably seen the last of BW. He’s probably already thinking about what team he wants to play for next year.

    But these are the games that make me think they are no where near ready for a Clemson or Alabama type team. I think the ESPN announcers hit it on the head. They can likely hang with the Michigans and Oklahomas of the world this year. But Alabama and Clemson are in a class by themselves. ND is just not there—and neither are 99% of the other CFB teams out there so it’s not really a knock on ND. OK, Michigan—they’d get nailed to the wall by Alabama too.

  14. This team is not anywhere near Bama or Clemson. So to not make the POs and get humiliated by one of those two isn’t a bad thing.

    Now, lose tonight and another November swoon is in the making. ND could go 1-3 in Nov. if they lose tonight.

    If ND collapses again then BK has to go. I’m done at that point. I wonder if Pat Fitzgerald would ever consider going to ND? Young coach who has personality and is used to recruiting student-athletes.

    Just a thought.

  15. The weekly PI on the non-elite ND D!

    Let’s hope that that NW 4th down conversion is a sign of things to come.

    the 126 run O just went down the field on the non-elite ND D!

    Let’s be honest. ND would get killed by Bama or Clemson. a NY day bowl might be a better match up for ND. So a loss might have a silver lining. Just can’t lose two games or there’s no NY day bowl.

  16. That little shit fest down there that went from first and goal from the four to a 44 yard FG (which Yoon can’t be trusted to make) is exactly why ND isn’t elite.

    Remember that lost opportunity at the end of the game; might be the difference between a PO run and the Pinstripe Bowl!

  17. Agreed. Not worried about this game. Also, I don’t subscribe to “this is their Super Bowl”. This game has no bearing on their season. Their big game is next week vs. Iowa.

    If ND can’t win this game handily, maybe they shouldn’t be in the discussion of playoff caliber teams.

    ND rolls 38-17.

  18. I look for Notre Dame defense to methodically take control of this game. I’m not about to get extorted on pay tv. I’ll have to rely on my good buddies, SFR, NDCM, Burgie and newcomer Jeff, for ingame commentary. If I happen to find this somewhere I’ll be sure to weigh in. Irish 38-24.

    1. Greg, I have a solid Plan B currently in effect. Just teed off about an hour ago at the Beautiful Hunter Ranch golf course in Paso Robles, Ca. Going to hit up Firestone Brewery after the round for a couple of cold ones then im off to Cal Poly university for a pre season baseball game between Cal Poly Mustangs and the Pepperdine Waves. Then its BBQ and Irish Football at the pad in San Luis Obispo. Now that’s a solid day Greg. Let me know what kind of chores your wife has you doing today? im guessing youll be spending your day raking leaves. Am I right? ND over Northwestern 37-16.

      1. SoCal Jeff, Maybe windbag Davey could come over and blow all the leaves away. The OL is already planning Thanksgiving with Her belligerent grandkids, you know Davey types. You gotta give us blow by blow at the Coliseum when Irish Go 12-0.

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