Notre Dame's 26-game home winning streak will be tested this weekend when the 9th-ranked Fighting Irish host the 7th-ranked Cincinnati Bearcats. Cincinnati has been outstanding on defense in recent seasons and the 2021 unit is off to a good start. It will be matched up against a Notre Dame offense that has struggled in recent games.
How well the Notre Dame offense performs this weekend will have arguably the biggest impact on the outcome.
Notre Dame Rush Offense vs Cincinnati Rush Defense
Notre Dame's rush defense has been awful through the first four games of the season, with the Irish coming off a disastrous output against Wisconsin in which the offense churned out just 39 yards on 20 rushing attempts. Notre Dame has yet to rush for more than 132 yards in a game this season and talented running backs Kyren Williams and Chris Tyree are averaging a combined 3.5 yards per attempt.
Cincinnati's rush defense has been adequate this season, giving up just 138 yards per game, but that is partly due to the Bearcats holding FCS opponent Murray State to 93 yards on the ground. Miami (Ohio) and Indiana averaged 160.5 yards per game against Cincinnati.
If Notre Dame's line can finally put it together and play solid football the Irish can run on the Bearcats, but until we see the line actually do that the advantage must go to the opponent.
Notre Dame Pass Offense vs Cincinnati Pass Defense
This is arguably the best good-on-good matchup of the game. Notre Dame's pass offense, when it has been on its game, has been outstanding. The Irish have already racked up touchdown passes of 62, 55, 41, 39, 37 and 36 yards in four games. When Jack Coan has been given time to throw he's been really, really good.
Of course the concern is the lack of time he has been provided and what that will mean against a Cincinnati defense that is outstanding against the pass. The unit is led by All-American cornerback Ahmad Gardner, and we explain in the video above how the Irish need to prepare for Gardner and defensive end Myjai Sanders.
It won't be easy, but there is certainly a game plan that Notre Dame can execute that will allow it to have success throwing the ball on the Bearcats, and the video above explained it all.
Notre Dame Scoring Offense vs Cincinnati Scoring Defense
Notre Dame has the better roster, of that I have no doubt. The Irish have outstanding weapons like Kyren Williams, Chris Tyree, Kevin Austin, Braden Lenzy, Avery Davis and arguably the best tight end in the country in Michael Mayer. The question is can the line hold up and can Coan - or Drew Pyne - play well enough to allow that talent to carry the day. That will ultimately determine the outcome of this matchup, and game.
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