Here are the five Big Questions for Purdue.
#1 – Is Dayne Crist healthy and does he understand enough of the offense to have a successful game?This is where Brian Kelly is a master. Not only does he get guys going out for their first game after an injury feeling like they can do everything asked of them, he is also one of the best I have seen in getting a quarterback ready to run a solid game plan. Kelly will have Crist ready and Notre Dame fans will get their first chance to see Kelly's offense in action.
Here is a look at Kelly quarterbacks in their first start over the past three seasons.
Aug 2007 – Ben Mauk goes 18-27-1-244 2 TD and rushes for 15 yards on 5 carries. Team wins over SE Missouri State 59-3.
Sept 2007 – Dustin Grutza goes 25-35-0-290 2 TD and rushes for 16 yards on 5 carries. Grutza was tabbed the starting quarterback 25 minutes prior to kickoff as Ben Mauk was not able to go at the last minute. Team wins 47-10 over Miami Ohio.
Sept 20, 2008 – Tony Pike goes 20-24-0-241 3 TD and rushes for 33 yards on 5 carries. Team wins over Miami Ohio 45-20.
#2 – How will the changes in Brian Kelly's staff affect his game management?From 1989 until the end of the 2009 season, Brian Kelly had Jeff Quinn by his side. Quinn was responsible for setting the table for Kelly to work his magic and the pair enjoyed great success at Grand Valley State, Central Michigan, and Cincinnati. Quinn is now in Buffalo along with Greg Forest who worked for Kelly for 18 seasons. At Cincinnati, Forest was responsible for the quarterbacks and giving the signals from the sidelines. Both Quinn and Forest are gone and Charley Molnar has taken Quinn's place as OC and QB coach at Notre Dame.
Molnar is a veteran coach who has worked with Kelly since the 2006 season. There could be a small chance for some uncertainty when the game gets underway. However, Kelly and Molnar have talked offensive shop prior to both coming to the Irish and I feel they will both be on the same page.
#3 – How far has Bob Diaco progressed with the Irish defense?Last season Diaco came into Cincinnati and helped the Bearcats, go 12-1. Now, he will bring his 3-4 schemes to Notre Dame looking for even better results as he uses the great athletic talent on the Irish roster. This will be a work in progress and may be the biggest question of this game and the entire season.
While many talked poorly about Diaco's defense a season ago, he knows Kelly will have the offense running at a high level and he will be able to work the scheme to get the results needed for a victory.
Look for Manti Te'o and the linebackers to post some eye-popping numbers in this scheme.
#4 – Who will score the first TD in the Brian Kelly era?This was a question from the IrishEyes.com premium message board and one that I felt deserved to be in this list of questions. Pick your poison as Kelly's offense always favors the pass as being the main source of scoring.
Last season, Kelly watched as his team totaled 23 rushing touchdowns and 39 through the air while in 2008; Kelly saw his team score 15 touchdowns on the ground and 26 by air. However, if you go back to season one at Cincinnati, you would find that Kelly's team scored 20 times on the ground and 36 time by air.
Here is a breakdown from each season opener and the how the first touchdown was scored.
2007: Running play as running back Bradley Glathaar scored on a 2 yd run.
2008: Pass as Dustin Grutza hit Mardy Gilyard for a 15-yard score.
2009: Running play as Isaiah Pead scored on a 2 yd run.
So while the odds favor a 2-yard running play from a running back, I will still go with a pass play on a crossing route in the back of the end zone for the first score in the Brian Kelly era.
#5 – What type of score should Irish fans expect?During his three seasons at Cincinnati, Brian Kelly saw his teams have great openers going 3-0 and lighting up the scoreboard while keeping opposing teams down. Overall points in the three season openers saw Kelly's team score 146 points while only giving up 25.
So sit back and get ready as Brian Kelly's high octane offense is gearing up to give Irish fans a lot of excitement over the course of the next several weeks.
We'll review these five questions next Monday morning.