Notre Dame is supposed to be on some sort of season of destiny, with experienced starters all over the field on the two deep. That march to a crown however was derailed by Clemson in a 24-22 Tigers win last weekend. Here is a look at what the Mids will see on Saturday in South Bend.
Season so far
The Irish sit at number 15 in the AP Top 25 with a 4-1 record. Notre Dame won their opening contest over Texas in dominating fashion as they held the Longhorns to just a field goal in a 38-3 rout. This victory has since lost some significance as this Texas team is one of the worst in the history of UT football. Single possession wins followed for the Irish as they beat Virginia 34-27 and Georgia Tech 30-22. A blow out of UMass (62-27) put the Irish at 4-0 before the aforementioned loss to Clemson which included some bizarre coaching decisions in the fourth quarter and a team loaded with experience committing too many turnovers and penalties. In a year where no one seems truly great, however, it is not unthinkable that Notre Dame could get back in the playoff picture by going undefeated the rest of the way.
Injuries and Suspensions
When Notre Dame allowed Everett Golson to transfer during the summer it was with the knowledge that quarterback Malik Zaire would step up and lead the Irish to the National Title with a solid running game and a competent passing attack. That idea lasted all of a quarter before plowhorse running back Tarean Folston was lost for the season with an ACL tear against Texas. It was okay though, because the Irish had Zaire, a player with high level intangibles who could make plays out of nothing. At least they did until Week 2 when Zaire went down with a season ending ankle injury.
In total the Irish have eight players who have been lost for the season including two defensive linemen and two potential starters in the defensive backfield.
Even with all the injuries. Even with a redshirt freshman starting at quarterback. This is still a Notre Dame team that is loaded with talent. The offensive line had by far its worst outing of the season on Saturday allowing nine tackles for a loss and failing to open any running lanes for the talented C.J. Prosise. In addition to the line struggles the Notre Dame wide receivers dropped at least half a dozen easy passes AND the Irish turned the ball over four times. Yet in the fourth quarter the team roared back and in the end the game was only decided by two points. The Irish now know they have no margin for error if they wish to make the College Football Playoff. That makes this a very dangerous team.