Who, and What, to Watch?

Your weekly handful of storylines for Saturday’s contest.

1 – Substance Plus Style: Today’s game will be won or lost by Notre Dame’s starters, but it’s the Irish backups that, in an ideal world, will make the Irish coaching staff proud (they didn’t last week, failing to hold a 42-17 lead at Pittsburgh) and in turn please the potentially fickle Playoff Selection Committee.

It would be a major surprise if Brian Kelly’s Irish don’t lead by more than 21 points at some point Saturday – can the second string maintain a sizeable advantage to provide the necessary style points – aka, a large final margin – that will impress the only 12-person panel that matters?

2 – Confidence Booster(s): Joe Schmidt, Max Redfield, Corey Robinson, and Andrew Trumbetti – four competitors in key roles for the 2015 Irish. Each was inarguably a more consistent player in 2014, each has time – Notre Dame could play five more games including today’s contest – to improve upon his current season’s efforts to date.

If two from the quartet are able to reach their peak over the next three, four, or ideally five contests, Notre Dame will be tough to beat. And while you’re at it, throw KeiVarae Russell’s name on that list.

3 – Too Good to Sit: Regardless of senior running back C.J. Prosise’s status, it’s imperative that now-proven backup Josh Adams receives a heavy workload today – and next week against Boston College. Prosise isn’t close to 100 percent (shoulder, concussion, wear-and-tear of a long season) and Adams has shown he’s capable of handling more than his fair share.

A dozen carries should be the minimum number per game for Notre Dame’s No. 2 runner from today through season’s end. Share the wealth.

4 – RB3: Freshman running back Dexter Williams is likely to receive at least eight carries today – and that’s whether Prosise plays or not. The key for Williams though is the timing of those carries, and competitive game action (the first half, early third quarter) is essential, because if he’s thrown to the wolves next week against Boston College (the nation’s No. 1 defense) or Stanford, he’ll likely struggle mightily.

Rhythm is necessary for a running back, and the rookie Williams can begin to find his on Senior Day.

5 – Scoreboard Watching: On the topic of shared allegiances Saturday – aka, Plausible Playoff Positioning Upsets that favor the Irish – here’s your wish list in order of importance:

1.) Mississippi State at home over Alabama
2.) Illinois at home over Ohio State
3.) Oklahoma over Baylor at Baylor
4.) Minnesota over Iowa at Iowa
5.) Iowa State at home over Oklahoma State
6.) Arizona at home over Utah
7.) South Carolina at home over Florida (Unlike Utah, the Gators will be underdogs again this season, and likely have a loss coming on Dec. 5)
8.) Arkansas over LSU in Death Valley

And with USC escaping Colorado Friday night, it’s GO! Stanford (vs. Oregon), Clemson (at Syracuse), Navy (vs. SMU), Temple (at South Florida), and Pittsburgh (at Duke).

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