Midweek Musings

Thoughts on Notre Dame football, its recruiting efforts and college football.
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Thoughts on Notre Dame football, its recruiting efforts and college football.

MUST SEE MATCHUP - OFFENSE

Aaron Banks, Tommy Kraemer, Jarrett Patterson vs. Georgia Tech Defensive Tackles — Georgia Tech has talent on its defense, at least in spots. It’s linebackers are solid, there is some quality athleticism at end and their secondary is probably where they have the best talent. Where Georgia Tech struggles, however, is at defensive tackle, and that is where Notre Dame needs to take advantage early and often.

If the Notre Dame interior blockers are able to exert their will upon the Georgia Tech defensive tackles the run game will dominate. Dominance includes getting a strong push in the run game, dominating combo blocks in a way that allows the second blocker to get up to the second level, and securing cutback lanes.

Everything starts with dominating up the middle, and if Notre Dame does that the run game will be impossible for Georgia Tech to defend. It would mean the inside zone cut back lanes will be big, it means the counter runs will break wide open and the outside zone concepts should create big gash runs.

It should also open up the play-action game, and will result in quarterback Ian Book having plenty of time to throw.

BIGGEST CONCERN - OFFENSE

Turnovers — I’m not going to sit here and try and convince you that Georgia Tech is good, or dangerous, or if X player doesn’t play well this could be a tight game. Notre Dame’s talent and experience gap over Georgia Tech is enormous. When that is true there is really only one thing that can make the game competitive, and that is turnovers.

If Notre Dame protects the ball, they will win the game.

STATS THAT MATTER - OFFENSE

Turnovers and Inefficiency — To build on the previous point, Notre Dame just needs to protect the football in order to beat Georgia Tech, but there is a lot more at stake in this game than just beating Georgia Tech. It’s also about going into the Clemson game on Nov. 7 with momentum on offense.

The Irish got that started against Pitt, and it needs to build on it this Saturday against the Yellow Jackets. That means protecting the ball, but also being efficient and explosive. I’ll care a lot about Notre Dame’s yards per rush, yards per pass attempt and yards per play. I’ll also care about the efficiency in the run game. If Notre Dame rips off several big plays but is sloppy in between it will be a bad sign, as the win will simply be about the Irish out-talenting Georgia Tech, and that won’t work against Clemson.

If Notre Dame is efficient and explosive it will mean the offense is building on its breakout performance against Pitt, and that is how the Irish can compete with the Tigers.

STEP UP TIME - OFFENSE

Both Javon McKinley and Ben Skowronek have had “break out games” this season, with McKinley topping 100 yards in the win against Florida State and Skowronek going over the century mark in the win at Pitt this past weekend. Outside of those games the pair has been mediocre, and that’s being kind.

If Brian Kelly and Tommy Rees are going to ride this veteran duo all season, the wideouts need to reward that loyalty with more consistent and effective performances. Georgia Tech’s corners are solid football players, and breakout against them would be a positive step in the right direction.

MUST SEE MATCHUP - DEFENSE

Shayne Simon vs. Jahmyr Gibbs — Louisville took advantage of Shayne Simon, and Pitt tried to do the same thing, but Simon stepped up in that matchup and handled himself well in the pass game. Against Georgia Tech, however, Simon will face a freshman back with far more talent, athleticism and pass game talent than what he faced against the Panthers.

Gibbs is not only a talented runner, he’s also a legit weapon out of the backfield and with the ball in his hands. The freshman has 15 catches for 206 yards and three touchdowns, and he showed his explosiveness when he returned a kick almost 100 yards for a touchdown against BC prior to it being wiped out with a penalty.

Georgia Tech is going to create as many situations as it can where Gibbs is matched up against Simon in the run game and pass game. If the Irish junior plays well the defense should have a great opportunity to shut Georgia Tech down. If he struggles, the Jackets will be able to take advantage and score some points.

BIGGEST CONCERN - DEFENSE

My concern on defense is the same on offense, just limit mistakes and continue playing at a high level. Notre Dame needs to avoid the letdown game on defense, and continue building on its impressive recent success. If they play assignment sound football, play with energy and eliminate the big mistakes this should be another strong defensive performance.

STATS THAT MATTER - DEFENSE

Georgia Tech’s only chance to make this game competitive is to run the ball effectively and hit some big plays in the pass game. The stats I’ll be looking for in this game is Georgia Tech’s yards per rush attempt on non-sack plays (yes, scrambles matter in this situation), and how many plays they have of over 20+ yards.

If Notre Dame keeps both numbers low this game will be over early.

STEP UP TIME - DEFENSE

Notre Dame’s pass rush has been relatively mediocre for much of the season. Although I’ve become less and less of a fan of their work in recent years (especially in 2020), Pro Football Focus ranks the 2020 pass rush as the 43rd best in the country. The pass rush ranked 4th in 2018 and 5th in 2019, so this year’s lack of success is concerning.

It might not hurt Notre Dame against Georgia Tech, but like much of this article has focused on, getting rolling heading into the Clemson game would be ideal. I’m not talking about blitzing as much as I’m talking about the need for the front four to provide more pressure on the quarterback.

RECRUITING THOUGHTS

Notre Dame’s 2021 class could take a hit soon, as defensive end commit David Abiara was recently charged with criminal trespassing. According to the Star-Telegram, Abiara was originally booked on charges of “suspicion of burglary with intent to commit a felony,” but that was later reduced.

Of course, Abiara is innocent until proven guilty, but instances like this have rarely gone well for recruits when they have yet to enroll at Notre Dame.

Notre Dame has commitments from Abiara, Rhode Island end Jason Onye and California edge rusher Will Schweitzer. The class would still be in solid shape should he leave, but keeping Abiara in the class would be a significant upgrade for the future Irish defensive line.

TWEET OF THE WEEK

Former Notre Dame tight end Cole Kmet is starting to become more and more a part of the Bears offense. His big-time catch against the Rams should help his cause for getting the ball more.

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