What We Know After Six Games

Notre Dame's 31-10 victory over Stanford, Saturday, capped a 5-1 finish to the ninth-ranked Irish's so-called first season. Head coach Charlie Weis said he is going to use the bye week to play more young guys in practice, rest some injured starters and also for self evaluation.

Through the first six games, many things have become evident regarding this Irish team.

*Notre Dame is still in the National Title hunt: Yeah the Irish aren't in control of their own destiny anymore, but there is no doubt the players are thinking about winning out and seeing where that takes them. With the level of parity in college football, there is a solid chance a one-loss Irish team could still find a place in the title game. Teams are already dropping left and right and it's only halfway through the season. If Notre Dame can win out they will be in great position to win the National Championship.

*Charlie Weis' confidence never wavers no matter what: After getting beaten badly 47-21 by now No. 4 Michigan at home, Weis showed up the next day for his press conference his usual confident self. He came across as a prize fighter that was upset once but it won't happen again.

*Weis has plans for James Aldridge: The freshman running back is going to help Notre Dame win games this season or else he wouldn't be out there. Weis is still planning on making a run for the National Championship, and if Aldridge can help in the final six games, it's worth burning a year of eligibility.

*Weis doesn't trust a fifth receiver yet: If he did, you'd see somebody other than Rhema McKnight, Jeff Samardzija, David Grimes and Chase Anastasio play meaningful downs. When the Irish spread the field with five receivers, tight end John Carlson is in the mix. When Grimes was slowed by injury, there was no replacement.

*The Notre Dame defense is pretty good on third down: The opposition is only converting on 28 percent (19-of-69) of their third-down attempts. There are glaring weaknesses on the defense, but getting off the field on third down is a very positive sign.

*One of the glaring weaknesses on the defense is getting pressure on the quarterback: The Irish have only sacked the quarterback 11 times, five of those coming against a horrible Stanford team last Saturday. Maybe the team will never generate a pass rush this season.

*The offensive line isn't very physical: Though the offense has been putting up numbers in recent weeks, the offensive line has been exposed in protecting quarterback Brady Quinn this year, not generating a push in the rushing game and been called on for many mental mistakes. They appear to be getting better, but is that because they have been playing weaker competition?

*Travis Thomas will eventually be a solid linebacker: He has looked pretty good this year. The former running back has great speed and instincts for the position. Now it's just a matter of knowing his responsibilities. He has a fifth-season of eligibility remaining.

*Mike Richardson and Chinedum Ndukwe are pro prospects. Scouts are asking Weis about both of them. Other than the Calvin Johnson's fade-route touchdown reception, it seems like Richardson hasn't been beaten all year. The soft-spoken corner used get picked on all the time a few years ago. Now he is very invisible on game day which is a good thing. Weis said a slimmed-down Ndukwe is an improved player. He certainly has a knack for the ball as he is tied for the team lead with Maurice Crum in tackles with 43. He has also forced quite a few turnovers the last two seasons.

*There is no drop off with Carlson: The tight end is making moves in the ND record book, and is putting together the same type of season Anthony Fasano had a year ago, if not better.

*Even with Ryan Burkhart aboard, the kicking game is still struggling: Everyone would have guessed the freshman Burkhart would have won the major kicking duties and the future would be bright. Senior Carl Gioia beat him out and has only made three-of-six field goals.

*Darrin Walls will finally be the big-play threat in the kick-return game: Walls got loose on a return against Stanford. The play was called back because of a holding penalty, but the freshman cornerback showed is great speed. The Irish haven't seen speed on kickoff return like his since Vontez Duff.

*Bob Morton is a class act: Enough said.

*Quinn is still in the Heisman race: If the Irish win out, the quarterback will have a chance to be ND's eighth Heisman Trophy winner.

*The Irish look best in the no-huddle: Sometimes ND struggles to find offensive rhythm. In the hurry-up offense, Quinn and company are usually effective.

*Geoff Price will play on Sundays: The Irish punter is averaging 46.6 yards per boot on 28 attempts, ranking fifth in the nation.


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