My final Take 5 of the week takes one last look at the Notre Dame/Purdue matchup and makes a final prediction.
1. This could get awkward quickly. Starting quarterback Jack Coan answered more questions about how well backup Tyler Buchner played than about his own play. Which by implication, means he didn’t play great. Except for the first and last drive, Coan struggled. Coan also talked about how he needs to be able to run the ball. That was the gist of Tuesday’s media availability with Coan. In the meantime, Coan is still the starter but head coach Brian Kelly said they are adding more every week to the playbook for Buchner. It’s easy to see where this is going. Kelly is going to be increasingly impatient with Coan if the offense isn’t moving. Coan was gracious at answering questions and he clearly understands the dynamics of the situation.
2. Or this could be great. Using Coan and Buchner interchangeably could be a reincarnation of Chris Leak and Tim Tebow in 2006. Tebow and Leak led Florida to the national title. Leak was the designated passer, throwing for 2,942 yards and 23 touchdowns while Tebow, a freshman, was the designated runner. He rushed the ball 89 times for 469-yards. He only threw 33 passes in 14 games. Don’t misconstrue the national championship reference with this Notre Dame team. It’s not in that stratosphere. Also, I’d add that Florida’s offensive line was much better than ND’s line. There is still hope for the line but it’s not going to be easy.
3. The best case scenario for Notre Dame is if Coan plays well enough that Kelly doesn’t feel like he has to use Buchner. It certainly didn’t seem like it happened that way last week against Toledo. For the sake of discussion, can you imagine how the quarterback debate would be framed this week had Coan not been successful on the final drive against Toledo? Kelly would feel immense pressure to start Buchner. The tipping point will come if Coan plays poorly and Notre Dame loses a winnable game. So, yes, there is only a sliver of upside for Coan here now.
4. JD Bertrand has arrived. In a way that was perhaps unexpected. And a way that’s been beneficial to a Notre Dame team that’s been gutted by injuries. Bertrand, a 6-foot-1, 230-pound junior linebacker, leads the team with 22 tackles. Bertrand was awarded a game ball after finishing with 11 tackles, three tackles for losses and a sack against Toledo. Bertrand didn’t play much his first two seasons. He was overshadowed in the preseason by safety Kyle Hamilton, defensive end Myron Tagovailo-Amosa and linebacker Marist Liufau, who is out for the season with a knee injury. Bertrand won’t be under-the-radar for much longer. He’s a legitimate star.
5. Finally, a week of normal practice, which should embolden Notre Dame to its best performance. The Irish had a long week of practice against Florida State but openers are always unpredictable. Notre Dame had a short week against Toledo, and they were lucky to win. The platooning quarterback system will take pressure off the offensive line and the defense has its best game of the season.
Prediction: Notre Dame 45, Purdue 21.
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