Notre Dame returns to action tomorrow after a rare week two bye week for their home opener. This weekend was supposed to feature the return of Bob Davie to Notre Dame, but unfortunately, Davie is not making the trip with New Mexico due to his current health issues. The Irish will look to turn in a more crisp performance this weekend in their final tuneup before their showdown with Georgia.
What I’m Worried About this Week
Notre Dame dinking and dunking in the passing game. I really hope that we see Notre Dame push the ball vertically this weekend, but I’m worried they might not much because they don’t have to to beat New Mexico. Ian Book needs to get his confidence back and show Georgia that the Irish offense can get vertical. If not, the Bulldogs won’t respect the passing game next week in Athens.
I’d love nothing more than to see Book drop back and launch a deep ball on the first offensive snap of the game. We just haven’t seen Notre Dame do that much with Book in command.
Overlooking New Mexico. With Georgia on their mind, it would be very easy to overlook New Mexico this weekend. An uneven performance two weeks ago against Louisville should have the Irish focused, but on a week when there shouldn’t be much to worry about, overlooking a weak opponent is something to watch out for.
What I’m Not Worried About this Week
Notre Dame’s pass rush. Khalid Kareem, Julian Okwara, and Daelin Hayes were quiet in the season opener. I don’t think they will be for a second week in a row. Not only were they quiet though, but they also made some uncharacteristic mistakes by jumping offside on several third downs. I don’t think we’ll see those kinds of errors again this weekend.
Notre Dame’s ability to run the ball. Notre Dame pounded the ball against Louisville in the first half before the Cardinals adjusted and it was a bit slower going for the Irish. I think we’ll see Notre Dame pick up where they left off in the first half and run when they want – including short-yardage situations where they struggled in week one. Look for Notre Dame to run for over 200 yards again this weekend.
Notre Dame’s rushing defense. Louisville had success running on the Notre Dame defense early in the opener before Clark Lea adjusted. It was mildly concerning given Notre Dame is going to be tasked with slowing down the Georgia rushing attack next weekend. I’m expecting a rebound effort tomorrow.
Players I’m Watching This Weekend
Kyren Williams & C’bo Flemister. With Jafar Armstrong out for an extended period, Notre Dame is going to be looking for some extra help in the backfield. Freshman Kyren Williams and sophomore C’bo Flemister are two options Brian Kelly and Chip Long have. Flemister specifically is one to watch because he’s got better top-end speed than Tony Jones Jr or Jahmir Smith.
Shaun Crawford. In his first game back from his latest significant injury, Shaun Crawford looked like his old, ball-hawking self. How he holds up early in the season after all of the injuries is worth watching. It will be tempting for Notre Dame to give him a lot of snaps because he just makes plays, but in an ideal world, they have him on a “pitch count” to keep him healthy all year.
Cole Kmet. Speaking of injuries, Notre Dame could have Cole Kmet back in action tomorrow. Brian Kelly said that Kmet is available, but didn’t say that he was definitely playing. Like Crawford, having him on a pitch count this weekend makes sense since he just broke his collarbone a little over a month ago. If Kmet plays, it’ll be interesting to see how much of the two tight end set we see or if they save that all together for Georgia.
Notre Dame has played well in home openers in recent years blowing out the likes of Texas, Nevada, and Temple and taking down Michigan last year. The steak of impressive openers will continue tomorrow with a bounce-back effort from the Fighting Irish.
Notre Dame 49, New Mexico 10