Notre Dame has made it to their much needed week off, with a 7-0 record. The talk about the Irish making the College Football Playoff is very real and warranted. The AP Poll have the Irish fourth behind Alabama, Ohio State, and Clemson.
But Notre Dame doesn’t have the built-in advantages those three have. First, all three play in conferences that have conference championship game. And, second, all three can sustain a loss and still be considered for one of the four slots. Notre Dame doesn’t have the same leeway. It’s undefeated or go to a bowl game. That’s it, that’s the list.
Over the last two weeks, Notre Dame has shown some chinks in the armor. Against Virginia Tech, the offense was out of sync in the first half sans the first two drives. Pitt seemed to build upon what the Hokies did by trying to confuse quarterback Ian Book pre-snap. The Panthers had success which was exhibited by how long Book was holding the ball. Eventually, in both Irish wins, Book and the coaching staff figured it out enough to come away with the win but the Pitt win was too close for comfort.
Looking ahead to the post bye-week schedule, reminds the Irish and their fans that there is still a lot of work to be done.
vs Navy (2-4)
The Mids are always a chore to prepare for no matter the record. Their option style offense means the Irish defense must stay assignment focused. This can tend to slow down defenders who are concerned about being in the correct place over letting their athletic talent take over. The best way for Notre Dame to deal with this is by getting out to an early lead. Navy stays patient with their offense but if they’re down multiple scores going into the fourth, they will have to open up. Once that happens, the Irish front four could dominate with their pass rushing skills.
at Northwestern (3-3)
This isn’t an easy as it might seem on paper. Sure, the game is in Chicago which will be an away game that will feel like a home game but the Wildcats are capable. They’ve won games at, then 20th ranked, Michigan State and Nebraska. The Spartans are coming off an upset win over Penn State so Northwestern’s win at East Lansing is nothing to sneeze at. They are home at Rutgers and home to Wisconsin before the Irish come to town. If they win both, which is possible, they will be riding a four game winning streak when Notre Dame comes to town.
vs Florida State (3-3)
The Seminoles are hard to figure out. Just when you think they’re terrible, they come up with the first half they had at Miami (Fl) only to blow it at the end. Key to this one will be the Irish front four. If they put pressure on Florida State’s quarterback, Deondre Francois, this could be an easy one. This would allow the Irish to drop seven in coverage and Francois will make mistakes if that happens. If the Noles stay close, the Irish could be sweating bullets on the seniors final true home game.
vs Syracuse (4-2) at Yankee Stadium
This is a tricky one. The Orange is for real despite dropping their last two games. In those losses, they dropped a four point loss at Clemson and an overtime loss to Pitt, who gave Notre Dame all they could handle. Two things should concern Notre Dame. This is a true neutral site game and they can score copious amounts of points. The Irish can control Syracuse’s offense by keeping them off the field. That would be up to Dexter Williams and the running back corp. Notre Dame controls the clock, they cruise to the win.
at USC (4-2)
Just like in 2012, if the Irish get this far undefeated, they’ll have to go to Los Angeles to seal the deal. That night it took a tough 22-13 victory to get out of their unscathed. The Trojans just handed Colorado their first loss of the season and are riding a three game winning streak. They’re averaging over 30 points in those three games. USC heads to Utah next. If they win that, which is entirely possible, they could run the table coming into the Notre Dame game.