Saturday's Keys

If last Saturday was an indicator, than the Notre Dame football team will look improved against Purdue when the battle for the Shillelagh kicks off today at noon. Week two of back to training camp and basics was the tone in practice, as the Irish try and put four losses to start the season behind them. The Boilermakers and their potent offense that is ranked eighth nationally will be a tough test.

Purdue is a three-touchdown favorite, but if the Irish can grow off the mild success it had last weekend in the loss to Michigan State, this game should be closer than that. Maybe, Notre Dame could even put one in the win column.

To have a chance, the Irish will have to stick to these three keys.

***Establish the run: For a number of reasons, the Irish will need to able to run the ball if they have any chance of winning. If they can run the ball, they eat up yards and game time while keeping Purdue quarterback Curtis Painter and the offense on the sideline.

Can the Irish run the ball is anyone's guess.

Following three weeks of ineptness, Notre Dame finally showed some semblance of a running game last Saturday against Michigan State. The Irish came into the game against the Spartans with minus-13 rushing yards for the season, but the nation's worst rushing offense went for 117 yards against a solid defense. Sophomore James Aldridge was good for 104 yards, and his number will be called quite a bit today.

Michigan State has been pretty solid against the run this season, ranking 26th nationally (95.75 yards per game) and the Irish did okay in moving the rock. Purdue isn't nearly as good. They've been allowing 147 yards per game, good for 61st in the nation. If the Irish make the same strides they did against Michigan State at Purdue, they should be alright.

***Pressure Painter while only rushing four: Purdue is going to spread the Irish defense out and try and pick them apart, while mixing in a little Kory Sheets and the running game. Blitzing is not so much of an option as Painter and his 16 touchdown passes to just one interception, makes quick and accurate decisions. The Notre Dame defense will have to try and keep everything in front of them by dropping everyone back, and the only way they can be successful is if the four players rushing can get pressure on the quarterback.

This is a tough task as for one, Painter feels pressure, moves well, and again makes quick decisions. He has only been sacked twice on the season with a veteran offensive line in front of him. That stat is good for third in the nation. On the other side of the spectrum, Notre Dame has only managed four sacks, ranking a lowly 103rd in the country. And that's been with blitzing. This will be a game where guys like Irish fifth-year senior defensive end Trevor Laws really needs to stand out.

***A few explosives out of the pass game: The only reason why Notre Dame's passing attack hasn't taken more heat, is because the offensive line and the rushing game take the brunt of the criticism. The Irish are averaging just a shade over 111 yards passing per game, ranking 117th nationally. Freshman Jimmy Clausen and the receivers haven't hit one big pass play downfield. A couple deep balls to say David Grimes and or George West, and that opens things up for the offense on the ground, and potentially gives a couple quick-strike scores Notre Dame is going to need to keep up on the scoreboard.

Prediction: Purdue 35, Notre Dame 21: The Irish offense looked better last week, but they really only put together one nice drive. I think there will be improvement, but not enough to stay with Purdue. Notre Dame's defense hasn't been terrible this season, but this is by far the best offense they will see up to this point. It might not look pretty. Top Stories