The goal last week against former #1 Clemson was to come up with a championship performance just when they needed it. Peak for the big game, as they say. And that’s exactly what Notre Dame did. They played as well as they’ve played in any single game in years. Ian Book was sharp and effective, the lines were punishing, the receivers made play after play, Kyren Williams was sublime. It was all happening for Brian Kelly’s troops. They got just was they were looking for.
But, that’s one game on one night and the key to greatness is consistency. No one would argue that game was by far Notre Dame’s best performance of the season on a number of fronts. The question is can it be maintained?
It’s not as though the way they’ve played up to last weekend was substandard, they’ve had a couple rough games, but they’ve also looked dominant as well. The dominance does have to be a little more frequent now though, because the gap between good play and great play needs to get much smaller if they hope to make the ACC Championship game, be a playoff team, and make a run towards a national title. That means raising the floor on how they play from here on out and it starts this weekend against Boston College.
Is The Passing Attack Going To Be An Every Game Thing?
What Notre Dame got from Ian Book, Javon McKinley, Avery Davis, the tight ends, etc. against Clemson is more than good enough week after week. The good news is this portion of the Notre Dame offense has gotten better and better since the stinker against Louisville three weeks ago, culminating with the game against Clemson. A step back to what this unit looked like early would be disheartening and it would leave the group vulnerable to defeat in the remaining four games of this regular season.
The good news is they are dealing with veterans here; Book, McKinley, Skowronek, and Davis are all seniors who are less prone to inconsistency. The other good news is we’ve seen this sort of progression from Ian Book as the season has moved forward before. Book was hit and miss last season in the opening games, culminated with a stinker against Michigan, and then his play steadily improved from there, likely saving his job and career at Notre Dame. Wherever Ian Book’s play goes from here, the receivers will likely follow.
Is This Shayne Simon For Real?
Maybe the biggest surprise from the Clemson game from a “where did that come from” standpoint, Simon went from a liability to a strength against the Tigers. He was active and in the backfield early on, he was excellent in pass coverage. It was exactly what the defense needed, just in general, not necessarily against Clemson, though that didn’t hurt.
This is the position that means the most to the team in terms of long term projections from the defense, because aside from Jack Kiser against USF, the Buck linebacker spot has been far from bright this season. Because of the strengths on defense in other spots, Simon doesn’t have to be spectacular week after week, just solid. This will be something to monitor this week.
Will Corner Return To Form?
Among all the position groups last week, the corners probably had the toughest time against the Clemson receivers. TaRiq Bracy’s struggles were particularly curious; he’s been beaten before, but there was not the compete level we’ve seen from him the last couple of seasons. He literally had to be pulled from the game for poor play, a pretty shocking development from a player who has been impressive in big games before. It’s one thing if freshman Clarence Lewis outplays Bracy for the position, it’s another if Bracy outright loses it. Players have bad games sometimes and bounce back, Bracy will likely get his chance against a Boston College team that likes to test the corners in the passing game.
Nick McCloud was again solid, though he gave up another deep ball, something that is happening a little too frequently. Obviously, allowing the deep passes is not something the team wants to deal with. Free and easy yards and points are not a recipe for success for any defense. As mentioned above, Notre Dame has Boston College coming up, who likes to throw it deep, and North Carolina, who likes to chuck the ball. The play here has to improve and stay improved or else they are going to get damaged in games that could seriously cost them (not to mention what playoff teams do to defenses who can’t cover the deep ball).