The Irish made it through Navy week with a solid win, but not necessarily unscathed. Drue Tranquill limped off with an ankle injury (that looked a lot worse at the time), and Alize Mack entered concussion protocol after a second quarter reception. Dexter Williams earned the game ball with three touchdowns, Jafar Armstrong was integral in the offense, and Troy Pride was a little shy against the run. All in all, it was a four touchdown lead at half time and a three touchdown victory. It’s on to Northwestern.
S&P+ Team Trends
- They rose to 6th in the overall team rankings following the win against the Midshipmen, with the defense falling a spot to #6 nationally, and the offense rising 10 spots to #4 in offense. They held steady in the AP poll at #3 in the nation, with the first installment of the College Football Playoff rankings to come tonight. The expectation will be the undefeated Irish will be in the top 4.
- They stand a 42% chance of finishing with 11 wins and a 36% chance of finishing the regular season undefeated. Their week 9 opponent, Northwestern, is ranked 64th in S&P+, and the Irish have a 78% win probability with a projected winning margin of 13 points. This is Notre Dame’s second highest win probability remaining, with just Florida State above them.
Dexter Williams and Jafar Armstrong
I wrote a lot over the bye week about the possibilities of these two sharing the field at the same time and let me tell you, things are happening. The two players combined for 285 total yards on 40 touches and four touchdowns against Navy in their first action together. They featured in the same backfield a number of times and with Armstrong split out or in the slot.
It’s obviously nice to add a weapon to the offense, but especially so when that addition isn’t at the expense of another player. What we’ve seen at running back previously was either/or. If it wasn’t Prosise, it was Adams. If it wasn’t Adams, it was Williams. And so on. Being able to integrate both at the same time, while getting everyone their touches, adds a dimension not seen for this team, which means other teams don’t have film or tendencies to study. That will change obviously in the coming weeks, but in the meantime Chip Long should be able to do some serious damage.
Banks earned his first start following the bye week at left guard and made the most of it. Paired next to left tackle Liam Eichenberg, which appears to be a nice fit, some rather large holes were opened up on the left side and Banks held up nicely in the passing game, showing nifty footwork pass blocking. If Banks can continue to improve and build some continuity with Eichenberg on the left, and Ruhland can shore up right guard, could the vulnerability on the offense be mitigated in the latter months of the year? If yes, the ceiling of this team goes way up.
Drew White, who knew? When Tranquill went down and White entered the game, I turned to my wife and said “I’m not completely sure, but I think #40 is Drew White.” I write about Notre Dame football twice a week. Needless to say, White wasn’t my first guess as a replacement.
While White wasn’t perfect, he posted six tackles as a pinch hitter for the senior captain, and was generally serviceable during his time on the field. The good thing about this defense is being serviceable is ok if only in short service. If this is a long term thing, they’ll him or anyone else to be a bit better. But, he was good enough to not send everyone into sheer panic if Tranquill isn’t out there against Northwestern.
My man, what were you doing on those tackle attempts? It wasn’t just the long run that did it. It was the whiffed tackle in the first half, and it was the whiffed tackle on the play directly after the four yard gain turned 50 yard gain down to the one. When my wife in the stands immediately gasps “what was #5 doing?” then you’ve made a poor effort. He was immediately pulled following the second miss in the second half, not to be seen again. Pride might still be dealing with a poor ankle that plagued him before the bye week, but if you’re out there, you have to be out there. I imagine he’ll do better next week.