If Notre Dame wants to remain unbeaten and keep its College Football Playoff hopes alive the offense must be at its best. There are many different keys to victory, which we will get to later in the week, and the Irish must perform better across the board.
But there are four players above all others that must be on top of their game if the Irish are going to get this win over the Badgers.
KEVIN AUSTIN, WIDE RECEIVER
Notre Dame wideout Kevin Austin was a standout for the Irish in the first two games, hauling in 8 passes for 154 yards and a score. In the win over Purdue the talented senior took a big step back, failing to catch a pass and dropping three chances for big plays in the win.
If Notre Dame is going to have an effective pass game against the Badgers the offense needs Austin to bounce back. Austin shining in this game is also important for the future, as the staff needs to find a way to make sure the confidence drop we saw from him last week doesn't last.
Austin has the size to make the contested catches that are a must against a well-coached and aggressive Wisconsin secondary. Winning contested catches is a must, and Austin being able to make plays after the catch and stretch the field would also go a long way towards the offense getting the chunk plays needed to score against the Badgers.
Austin also needs to be strong in the run game against a Badger secondary.
JOSH LUGG, RIGHT TACKLE - CAIN MADDEN, RIGHT GUARD
Right tackle Josh Lugg had a rough game against Wisconsin and transfer guard Cain Madden has not played well in his first three games in a Notre Dame uniform. The most veteran members of the Irish line absolutely must bounce back and be on top of their game against Wisconsin.
If Notre Dame is going to run the ball with any kind of success against the Badgers the veteran right side has to handle their business. Both are capable of playing better and getting a push against Wisconsin. They must be physical, they must work their feet through contact and they must be assignment sound against Wisconsin defense that is going to run a number of twists and stunts against the Irish front.
Getting Lugg and Madden going would give the Irish a chance to establish a ground attack.
This pair is also important in the pass game. Lugg's pass set technique has been a mess the first three games, but he said this week that those issues have been fixed. If his pass protection against Wisconsin looks like it did when he started five games at right tackle in 2019 he'll be able to play a key role in giving the Irish quarterbacks time to throw. Madden must keep his feet moving in the pass game as well and use his power and leverage to anchor effectively in the pass game, which will give the quarterbacks time to step into the pocket and have room to get rid of the ball.
JACK COAN, QUARTERBACK
Forget the Wisconsin ties and the mental/emotional matchup, that isn't why Jack Coan is on this list. Coan is on this list because him playing well is the ultimate key to Notre Dame thriving on offense in this game, and every other game.
Coan has to be poised against the pressures that are sure to come. He must work through his progressions and not lock in on his initial target as much as he did against Purdue. He must set his feet, be accurate and when the opportunities are there for him to make a big play he absolutely must make those throws.
Coan getting the ball out quickly and accurately, and Coan showing poise in the pocket and making good decisions will go a very long way to deciding if the offense is going to continue to scuffle or if its going to finally catch fire.
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