Analysis

Fighting Irish: With a Big Season Needed, the Irish Have Delivered

Notre Dame’s football season has pretty much gone how I expected it to, minus the slip up against Georgia. They have been a team that is run oriented while still trying to make things easier for young Brandon Wimbush. Wimbush has taken great strides forward in terms of his ability to throw the ball, and he has shown that tough road environments do not faze him one bit.

Facing a good Michigan State team on the road in prime-time is no easy task, but the Irish went into East Lansing and handled business. Looking back on the Georgia game, the mistakes were understandable. It was a young team still trying to learn how to play together and find its footing against one of the best defenses and teams in the entire country. Playing the Bulldogs close and having multiple opportunities to win the game proves that the Irish are a legitimate playoff contender.

Notre Dame went on the road this week and beat UNC. They now have a bye week to prepare for a nationally ranked USC team in prime-time on their home field. There have been many things to like about the Irish, and a few things that they need to improve before facing USC.

The Positives 

The running game has been the most impressive so far this season for the Irish. They have a trio of running backs in Josh Adams, Dexter Williams, and Tony Jones Jr. That is not even including quarterback Brandon Wimbush and red-shirt sophomore running back Deon McIntosh. All of the players mentioned have shown an ability to run the ball effectively, and that makes it extremely hard on the defense because they have to prepare for multiple players out of the backfield.

The receivers struggled a little bit in the Georgia game, but have been very good in all of the other games. They have helped make life easier on first year starter Brandon Wimbush by getting open, and making some spectacular catches as well.

Last year, the defense was a major weak spot for Notre Dame. This year is different, though, and so is their defense. Under the direction of new defensive coordinator Mike Elko, the Irish have played with more energy, focus, and have a better understanding of their jobs than last year. The defensive line is generating more pressure up front, causing  the opposing quarterbacks to make quicker decisions and occasionally turn the ball over. Although the secondary is very young, they have improved mightily from last year. The future looks bright for an already flourishing Irish defense.

Needs to be Improved 

Special teams have never been exceptionally good under head coach Brian Kelly, and they need to do some work to improve for a successful ending to the season. Although punter Tyler Newsome‘s year has been solid, averaging 45.7 yards per punt, kicker Justin Yoon could strive for a better field goal percentage, as he is seven for 10 on field goals.

What to Expect During the Second Half

The second half of the season will be more challenging for the Irish, but they are only going to get better with every game. After their bye week, Notre Dame hosts 13th ranked USC under the lights, and the following week the 20th ranked NC State Wolfpack come to South Bend.

Overall, five of the last six teams the Irish face are ranked in the Associated Press top 25. If Notre Dame can win out, the playoffs seem very realistic. Even if they go 9-3 I think Kelly’s job is safe considering the tough schedule as well as the notable improvements his team has made this season that are evident to the naked eye.

I expect the Irish to finish the season strong, and win at least 10 games. At the beginning of the year, I picked the Irish to go 11-1 with their only loss coming to the Miami Hurricanes. I have to stick with my original prediction of the Hurricanes beating the Fighting Irish for now, but I will update my prediction as the match-up gets closer. A 10-2 season with a losses to Georgia and Miami would be a tremendous season for Kelly and the Irish, and nothing to hang their heads about. Currently, Georgia and Miami are both undefeated and ranked 4th and 11th, respectively.

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