We finally saw the Notre Dame defense play to its potential in its 27-13 victory over Purdue last week. If Notre Dame is going to earn its second straight win over a Big Ten foe the Irish defense will need to continue that strong performance.
Of course the Badgers present a completely different type of challenge for the Irish defense. Purdue was a pass dominant team that used the run to keep teams honest. Wisconsin is a run dominant team that uses the pass to keep teams honest. Notre Dame's speed was a key to success against the Boilermakers, but the Badgers want to play bully ball.
The entire defense must shine against the Badgers, but there are five players above all others that have to standout if the Irish are going to earn a win.
JAYSON ADEMILOLA, DEFENSIVE TACKLE
Wisconsin's ground attack this season has been at its best when it can go right at teams. The Badgers aren't an overly athletic offensive line but they are big and physical. For Notre Dame the best way to slow down the Wisconsin ground attack is to win right up the middle. The best way to get beat by Wisconsin is to get whipped up the middle.
Senior three-technique Jayson Ademilola has been Notre Dame's most disruptive interior player thus far in the season, and he absolutely needs to be at his best against the Badgers. If Ademilola wants to help his team win and also impress NFL scouts this is the game where he must be at his best. He thrived in the Rose Bowl against an Alabama line that very much resembles the Badgers in size and style, now he needs a repeat performance.
Ademilola's athleticism and disruptive ability are exactly what Notre Dame needs up front in this game. Creating stuffs and negatives are essential for Notre Dame and he must be a driving force behind making that happen.
CAM HART, CORNERBACK
Notre Dame needs to commit resources to stopping the run, and the best way to do that while also limiting big plays in the pass game is for the cornerbacks to be able to lock down the outside receivers. You could throw Clarence Lewis into this conversation as well, but Cam Hart has been Notre Dame's best cornerback so far and he needs to be that guy again on Saturday.
Hart has the length and speed to take away the deep shots and he's already broken up three passes on the season. The Irish cover man needs to continue bring disruptive against the pass, make smart decisions in coverage and limit big plays. Hart also needs to thrive on third down.
The junior cornerback has also been a strong run and screen defender, traits that will need to be at their best against a physical Wisconsin offense.
ISAIAH FOSKEY and MYRON TAGOVAILOA-AMOSA, END
Wisconsin likes to go after the edge players in the run game with their power and counter concepts. A big key to this game is the Irish ends - Isaiah Foskey and Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa - being aggressive attacking the edge of the line in the run game. This is especially true on that concepts when the offensive line has a kickout block.
Tagovailoa-Amosa will be especially impactful in the run game, or at least he could be. If he's aggressive, assignment correct and is on point with his block destruction I could see the veteran playing a key role in slowing down the Wisconsin ground attack.
Foskey needs to be good in this area as well, but where I think he could have the biggest impact is in the pass game. Wisconsin has big tackles but they aren't overly athletic and are susceptible to good edge rushers. Foskey has been Notre Dame's best edge rusher this season and he hasn't really taken off yet. This is the game where he needs to be at his best. He'll have a chance to really get after quarterback Graham Mertz, especially in the play-action game, and if Foskey can win this battle he'll play a huge role in the Irish shutting down the Badgers.
DREW WHITE, LINEBACKER
All the linebackers need to play well, but the Irish need Drew White to really be on top of his game. Wisconsin is really big and physical, and this is the kind of offense that White has struggled in the past. He has a tendency to get engulfed on snaps against power run teams, but he must avoid that against the Badgers. White needs to be decisive, he needs to be great with his block destruction technique and he absolutely must make a living beating the Wisconsin blockers to the point of attack.
If White has a big game the run defense will thrive, but if he's off his game the Badgers will have chances to gash the Irish up the middle.
Irish Breakdown Content
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 YouTube channel
Subscribe to the Irish Breakdown podcast on iTunes
Follow me on Twitter: @CoachD178
Follow me on Parler: @BryanDriskell
Like and follow Irish Breakdown on Facebook