Notre Dame’s offense is starting to get very hot, and there might be a notion that the bye week might stunt that push. There might be something to that, but the reality is Notre Dame is getting this bye week at the exact perfect moment, and that goes well beyond not having to play during finals week.
1. Defense Is Wearing Down
Notre Dame struggled on offense for the first month of the season, and the unit is just now starting to catch fire. During the period when the offense was finding its way the Irish defense had to carry the team. Simply put, without the defense playing at an elite level for much of the season this football team would not be undefeated.
That unit is wearing down a bit after four straight physical football games, and the last two games were physically and emotionally draining. Notre Dame allowed over 30 points in back-to-back games for the first time since the 2016 season, and it gave up over 800 combined yards in its two most recent games.
This group needs a break physically, it needs a break mentally and it needs to regroup a bit. Getting that chance to regroup before having to face North Carolina is even better, but I’ll get more into that in a minute.
2. A Tune Up Is Needed On Defense
Fatigue can result in mistakes that don’t normally happen, and we started to see that in the victories over Clemson and Boston College. The Irish defense gave up a lot of big plays in the pass game in both contests, and that needs to get corrected. Clark Lea and the defensive staff now gets extra time to figure out the schematic and/or technical issues that have played a role in those big plays, and the players get a chance to take a deep breath and get their legs back underneath them.
Tackling wasn’t as much of an issue against Boston College’s wideouts and backs, but that wasn’t a surprise. The defense did have some issues tackling against Clemson, and the Irish are getting ready to face two offenses down the stretch in North Carolina and Wake Forest that can make the Irish pay for that. And then there is the anticipated rematch against Clemson.
Being able to regroup schematically and physically could go a long way towards limiting those big play mistakes that have plagued the defense at times.
3. Extra Time To Figure Out The Next Center
Notre Dame center Jarrett Patterson was lost for the season when he injured his foot against Boston College. The bye week gives the staff time to take a deep breath and talk/work though different options. If there was a game coming up Saturday the staff would need to quickly make a decision and go with it. Now, they can take a few days to work a couple of different options at the position, and they have a bit more time to see if someone steps up and seizes the position.
Ideally, the staff will find a solution sooner rather than later, even if that means working two players in at the position. Whatever they decide, the sooner they make it the more time they have to work that solution - or solutions - in from a reps standpoint. The new center gets extra time in the film room to work with the rest of the group and he will get extra time to work with quarterback Ian Book on the snap count, and finding a rhythm.
4. Offense Has Extra Time To Get Healthy
Notre Dame came out of the Boston College game far more banged up than it was when it went into that game. Running backs Kyren Williams and C’Bo Flemister both went down with injuries in the game, and the bye week gives them extra time to rest and heal. Tight end Tommy Tremble has been banged up lately, and now he gets an extra week to rest up and heal.
Momentum is great, but being healthy and fresh down the stretch is just as important, if not more so.
Note Dame also gets an extra week to work wide receiver Braden Lenzy back into the mix and figure out what he can do. With Javon McKinley, Ben Skowronek and Avery Davis finally setting into roles the offense is starting to click. Lenzy doesn’t need to be “the guy” anymore, and he’s now in position where he can be more of the big-play complementary weapon he was in 2019.
Using the extra time during the bye week to get Lenzy healthy and also find that role for him could give the offense a huge boost in the arm just as its starting to heat up. With how well the offense has played the last two games, it might have been more challenging to get Lenzy going in just three practices, but now the staff has a bit more time to figure out that role.
5. Extra Time To Prepare For North Carolina
North Carolina is averaging 43.1 points on the season, and it has averaged 48.0 points in its last six contests and 51.0 points in its last four games. The Tar Heels are averaging 607.2 yards and 8.1 yards per play in the last six games.
Unlike Clemson, North Carolina has its veteran quarterback healthy and ready to go, and the Tar Heels are much better rushing team than the Tigers. A strong, strong case could be made that North Carolina has the best offense Notre Dame will face all season, unless the Irish matchup against Alabama at some point.
The extra time to heal and regroup is so important before a game like this. When you consider the game is scheduled for a Friday, the last thing you want is to face that kind of offense on a short week. With the bye week happening before that game, the Notre Dame defense gets much needed time to prepare for what could be its toughest test of the season.
To comment below be sure to sign up for a FREE Disqus account, which you can get HERE.
Become a premium Irish Breakdown member, which grants you access to all of our premium content, our premium message board and gets you a FREE subscription to Sports Illustrated! Click on the link below for more
Be sure to stay locked into Irish Breakdown all the time!
Join the Irish Breakdown community!
Subscribe to the Irish Breakdown podcast on iTunes.
Subscribe to the Irish Breakdown YouTube channel.
Follow me on Twitter: @CoachD178
Follow me on Parler: @BryanDriskell
Like and follow Irish Breakdown on Facebook