After inconsistency plagued the Notre Dame defense in the first two wins of the season the unit responded with an outstanding performance in the win over Purdue.
Notre Dame faces a completely different type of test against Wisconsin. While Purdue was a pass-first team that is more of a finesse offense, the Badgers are a physical, run-oriented team that will look to wear the Irish down.
The Irish need to get off to a fast start defensively, and there are several things I will be looking for to feel comfortable about the defense being ready to shut down the Wisconsin offense.
1. Speed is beating size - The defensive keys aren't that difficult. Notre Dame has the better athletes but Wisconsin has great size, power and scheme. So what wins in this game, will it be Notre Dame's speed and athleticism or will it be Wisconsin's size and power?
If Wisconsin is moving Notre Dame off the ball and gashing the Irish early it will be a very bad sign.
On the flip side, if Notre Dame's speed is resulting in a lot of stuffs and negatives it will be a sign that the Irish are prepared to shut down the Wisconsin ground game.
This is true on the perimeter as well. Notre Dame needs Cam Hart and Clarence Lewis to handle business on the outside and it needs Kyle Hamilton to have a dominant game regardless of how he is used.
2. Big boys came to play - Notre Dame must win at the line of scrimmage and so the big boys need to come to play. Jayson Ademilola, Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa and Isaiah Foskey are all playing a game today that will be one of the first game films that NFL scouts pop in whenever these three leave the program. This is their chance to show themselves as among the nation's best linemen, and more importantly as one of the nation's best lines as a whole.
Obviously impressing scouts isn't priority number one, but impressing NFL scouts would be a result of the Irish big boys playing at a level that allows them to consistently win their battles against the Wisconsin big men. Big games from this trio would go a very long way towards the Irish not only winning, but winning convincingly.
3. Defense is gap correct - I want to see defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman design a gameplan that uses what his team does best to attack the Badgers. I want to see an aggressive game plan that looks to create negatives in both the run and pass game.
We've seen that in each of the first three games, but what wasn't always there was a defense that executed their assignments with the consistency needed within that scheme. The result was too many big plays, and if the Irish aren't gap correct on the first and second levels the result will be Wisconsin just gashing the Irish defense.
Play hard, be aggressive, but be correct.
4. Irish are finishing - Notre Dame needs to finish in this game in every way, and we'll know right away if that is happening. Linemen need to finish on the quarterback. The first front seven player to get to the running backs need to bring them down. The secondary players need to finish off coverage snaps with incompletions and not sloppy penalties.
As a unit this also means finishing on third-down and keeping Wisconsin out of the end zone.
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