In this series we will look at the Mids football opponents for the 2016 season. Today the school we are looking at is Notre Dame.
Date/time/location/TV: November 5, 11:30am EST, EverBank Field, Jacksonville FL, CBS.
2015 Record: 10-3 (Independent). Lost to #7 Ohio State 44-28 in the Festa Bowl.
Head Coach: Brian Kelly. Seventh year at Notre Dame (55-23).
Series History: Notre Dame leads the series 74-12-1.
Last Meeting: The Mids could not get out of their own way as they turned the ball over repeatedly in a 41-24 loss to the Fighting Irish in South Bend last season.
Top Returners: QB DeShone Kizer (So.) 2,880 yards passing and 21 TDs, 654 yards rushing and 10 TDs. QB Malik Zaire (Jr.) 428 yards passing and 4 TDs. FS Max Redfield (Sr.), 51.5 tackles, 1 sack, and 1 INT.
Key Losses: RB C.J. Prosise, 1,048 yards rushing and 11 TDs. WRs Will Fuller, Chris Brown and Amir Carlisle, 2,206 yards receiving and 141 catches combined. LT Ronnie Stanley, 2015 All-American. DT Sheldon Day, 39 tackles, 15.5 TFLs, and 4 sacks.
What You Need To Know: The 10-3 record that Notre Dame finished 2015 with may well have been the best coaching job of head coach Brian Kelly's career. Kelly lost his starting RB in week one. He lost his starting QB in week two. He lost one defensive playmaker after another as the year went on. Yet through all that the Fighting Irish were a couple of minutes away from an undefeated regular season.
The biggest challenge for Kelly will be what to do with his quarterback situation this season. In Malik Zaire and DeShone Kizer he has two of the very best in the country at his disposal, but working out how to juggle when and maximize their abilities is not going to be an easy task. Both want all the minutes, so if one struggles the plan to play both could fall apart.
The QB will be working behind a rebuilt offensive line that is breaking in three new players to replace long term starts. As always the recruiting at Notre Dame is at the four and five-star level, but outgoing LT Ronnie Stanley was a once in a generation talent, so some drop off from the line has to be expected until proven otherwise.
The biggest question though will be on the defensive front. The Notre Dame players have now had three years to understand the scheme that Brian VanGorder wants to use, but in 2015 there were too many broken plays and missed assignments by the defense. This was especially true in the run game and, to make matters more difficult, the Irish lose their three best front seven players from last year.
If this Notre Dame team can find its identity quickly, and if a few strong leaders can emerge from the group, then Notre Dame will be challenging at the head of the college football pack once again. If not, however, this will again be a season that challenges the coaching ability of Kelly. Thankfully for Notre Dame fans, he has already shown he is up to the task.
2015 Stats That Matter: Offensive points per game, 34th; Defensive points per game, 39th.
Fun Fact: Gold flakes collected in the re-gilding of the famous dome at Notre Dame are used in the painting process pf the team's football helmets.
Famous Alumni: Condoleezza Rice (Politician), Regis Philbin (TV host), Joe Montana (NFL Hall of Famer).