My final thoughts about Notre Dame vs. Toledo and other Irish related topics ahead of tomorrow's home opener.
1. In a reverse of last week’s game against Florida State, Notre Dame starts slow shaking off the malaise from a short week, which allows Toledo to hang around for more than a quarter.
But the superior depth from the Irish on both sides of the ball allows them to pull away for a victory. The defense doesn’t make the same mistakes against FSU, which is mainly missing tackles. Isaiah Foskey has another big day, and Notre Dame gets four turnovers. The offensive line and running game shows improvement but it’s hard to tell how much that means because the Rockets, while a very good Mid-American Conference team, can’t compare with FSU.
Prediction: Notre Dame 45, Toledo 17
2. Time to start checking the preseason optimism with the reality of last week’s 41-38 overtime victory over Florida State. Quarterback Jack Coan was easily the big winner, exceeding expectations after throwing for 366 yards and four touchdowns. The defense was the biggest loser when it came to expectations, giving up 269 yards rushing and missing multiple tackles. Still, the Irish had three interceptions. Their problems seem fixable. The biggest area of concern is the offensive line, which lost starting left tackle Blake Fisher and didn’t get much push up front for the running game. This may or may not be a fixable problem. Stay tuned.
3. Speaking of Coan, Asher Lowe in Badgers Wire does a great job of unraveling the myth that somehow Coan was an inferior quarterback to current Wisconsin starter Graham Mertz in a column called, “Wisconsin had no choice between Graham Mertz and Jack Coan.” I plead guilty to wondering if ND was bringing in a quarterback who couldn’t start at Wisconsin. Coan made his case last week while Mertz struggled in a loss to Penn State. Coan was never going to return to Wisconsin after his injury, and he would’ve started in 2020 if he hadn’t been injured. Covid 19 turned the season upside down. Besides, Coan wanted to play at Notre Dame. It just didn’t work out four years ago.
4. Former Notre Dame coach Terry Brennan died this week at the age of 93. Brennan is an example of why it’s hard to judge the quality of coaches at Notre Dame without providing proper context. Brennan was 32-18 in five seasons (1954-1958). Had he started 10 years earlier, he could’ve been Frank Leahy. Leahy won six national titles. If he had started 10 years later, he could’ve been Ara Parseghian. Parseghian won two national titles in 11 years. Brennan, who was 26 when he was named head coach, had the number of scholarships reduced when he started because Notre Dame was deemphasizing football. He still managed to go 7-3 and 6-4 his last two years. Brennan was fired around Christmas, and replaced by Joe Kuharich. Brennan was likely a good coach who never got a fair shot.
5. Notre Dame defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman didn’t have a great first game at Cincinnati either. The Bearcats gave up 224 rushing yards to Austin Peay in his 2017 debut. Cincinnati won 26-14. Kelly and the players seem confident that the deeper the season goes, and the more repetitions the team gets in Freeman’s system, the better it’ll be.
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