Notre Dame is 1-2 on the season, but it’s not like the two losses have been to cupcakes. Still, it’s two losses. Have you noticed any common themes in these games that have caused problems for the Irish?
Fundamentally, Notre Dame’s defense has some major issues right now. You can expect at least a few coverage breakdowns where the secondary doesn’t get properly aligned and turns a slot receiver or outside receiver loose. The Michigan State game was particularly rough in this department, both early and late. Playing a freshman safety hasn’t helped much either, although the Irish don’t really have a choice because they are so poor athletically at the back end.
I wouldn’t call special teams a reoccurring issue, but they were a problem last weekend against Michigan State. Notre Dame returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown but it got called back. They didn’t properly call off a short punt and it hit one of the gunners, turning into a fumble that Michigan State recovered. They fell asleep on a two-point conversion. They had a stupid personal foul by basically the 80th best player on the scholarship roster.
Offensively, Notre Dame has been just fine. Quarterback DeShone Kizer is the real deal.
The front seven, as you noted, is strong despite some statistics to the contrary. For a team like Duke, which struggled to run against both Wake and Northwestern, what would be the best way to attack the Irish defense?
First, play as fast as you can. Notre Dame struggles with tempo. And then I’d make sure I played 11 personnel (one back, one tight end, three receivers) because the Irish get younger when they have to play more defensive backs. With all that in mind, I’d figure out where cornerback Nick Coleman is (No. 24) and focus the passing game there. Coleman is a good athlete, but he’s really in a funk right now.
For those Duke fans making the trip to South Bend, what are some of the things they should make sure they check out (tailgates, watering holes, etc)?
Definitely give yourself some time to walk around campus before the game. It’s not a big place, but check out the Golden Dome, Basilica and Grotto, which are all next to each other. Generally, I think you’ll find Notre Dame fans to be among the most accommodating anywhere and pretty hospitable. As far as places to eat, I love The Crooked Ewe about 10 minutes from campus. It’s a brewery with an interesting menu, good beer, cool space. Other spots worth checking out: Evil Czech (brewery), Prized Pig (BBQ), Legend’s (on campus bar), Fiddler’s Hearth (Irish bar). There’s your run of the mill chain places too.
Finish this sentence: Duke could pull the upset if…
DeShone Kizer has an off day. While that’s unlikely to happen, I really think that’s the only way Notre Dame loses, even with the defensive and special teams issues happening here right now. Kizer is probably good for four touchdowns on his own rushing/passing.
And, Notre Dame will likely win by…
The offensive line plays to its potential and the secondary simply tackles better. The offensive line hasn’t been great this year and it’s very, very talented. But I think that group is getting better. The secondary is what it is. It’s not a strength of the program and probably won’t be this year. Still, just tackle better and that cleans up a lot.
Notre Dame 35, Duke 21