Notre Dame is 4-0.
Let that sink in little bit before reading any further. Okay – refocus.
Color me in the group that would have been pleased with a 3-1 start to the season only to view 4-0 as a pipe dream. Beat both Michigan schools not only in the same year, but back-to-back? C’mon, just let the Irish take their lumps or lose dramatically against one of them and I’ll take their 3-1 record into the bye week. I may actually get something done around the house on an in-season Saturday for once.
2-2 would have been a disaster. That most likely would have meant both losses were to the Michigan schools and the Irish would have been deemed unemotional, unorganized, unmotivated, and the worst “un” of them all – underachieving. You think there are questions about the offense now? Imagine a 2-2 record with a freshman starter and the 2011 winner of the Mr. Turnover award coming off the bench on two separate games with one of them being a failure. Oh boy.
Not to mention the funeral like atmosphere the Irish would have had to endure for two weeks before going to Chicago to face Miami. And the confidence – man oh man – the confidence would have been shot to pieces. The confidence alone needed to wear the uniforms they’re wearing against Miami would have even taken a beating. A team needs confidence to beat teams like Stanford, Oklahoma, and USC. Even at 4-0 that’s a tall order - envision it at 2-2.
But winning, and a great defense, changes everything. So with all the ups and downs of the first four games of the season we’re going to play may favorite game and it’s called “If I had told you…”.
Here we go!
If I had told you at the beginning of the season that Notre Dame would be 4-0 with Tommy Rees coming in on two separate occasions and performing well enough in crunch time to get two big wins you would have told me I was crazy.
Many of us cheered when Golson was name the starter, but it’s hard to ignore the job Rees has done in his two stints as Dennis Eckersley. Coming in cold against Purdue and Michigan to lead the Irish to victory wasn’t easy, but he got the job done. You may not like the decision by head coach Brian Kelly, but it’s tough to argue with the outcome.
If I had told you at the beginning of the season that Notre Dame would be 4-0 and average only 3.8 yards per rush you would have told me I was nuts.
What looked like a strength at the beginning of the season has turned into a pretty average part of the Irish offense. Mike Golic Jr and Christian Lombard’s struggles have been well documented, however, Zach Martin and Braxton Cave haven’t been their usual self thus far either. Notre Dame is going to need to run the ball in the next eight games of the season and time will tell if they can build off the fourth quarter success they had against the Michigan schools.
If I had told you at the beginning of the season that Notre Dame would be 4-0 and only turn the ball over an average of one time a game you would have told me I was off my rocker.
The more a team hangs on to the ball the more chances they have to score points and, apart from the Navy game, the Irish have needed just about every point they scored in the other three games. Ball protection was preached by Kelly since the beginning of spring practice and so far the message has been heard loud and clear.
If I had told you at the beginning of the season that Notre Dame would be 4-0 and not allow a touchdown by Michigan or Michigan State you would have had me committed.
A great defense can subsidize a struggling offense and at no better time has the defense showed their mettle than against the Michigan schools. Great run defense, disruptive pass rush, and eleven guys playing together and flying to the football is a warm security blanket that will be the key to beating the big boys down the road.
If I had told you at the beginning of the season that Notre Dame would be 4-0 and John Goodman would make a one-handed catch with a defender hanging off of him you would have told me I was insane.
Goodman and the other veteran receivers have stepped up big time in the passing game. They are sure handed, run good routes, and been a productive part of the offense through four games. The young receivers like Chris Brown and Davonte’ Neal will continue to get their feet wet, but don’t expect them to be every down receivers for quite some time.
If I had told you at the beginning of the season that Notre Dame would be 4-0 and tight end Tyler Eifert would only have one total catch against Michigan and Michigan State while only averaging 2.2 receptions a game for the season you would have told me I was mad.
This is a serious issue. He needs to get the ball thrown to him more, obviously without compromising ball security or the integrity of play selection, but he needs to be the number one priority of the offense when game planning from week-to-week. One fade route to him per game is just not enough, it really isn’t. He causes too many issues for an opponent’s secondary to use him as a decoy.
If I had told you at the beginning of the season that Notre Dame would be 4-0 and the defense would have eight interceptions and five fumble recoveries you would have told me I was batty.
A motivated defense is one that craves turnovers. One turnover is all it takes to launch a defense into a frenzy for more and this has been the case with the Irish. They’re looking for the ball, hawking it, and taking advantage of offensive miscues. The only thing that would make this sweeter is if the Irish offense could figure out how to get more points off those turnovers.
If I had told you at the beginning of the season that Notre Dame would be 4-0 and their closest game would be a three point win against Purdue you would have told me I was loopy.
Purdue? Oh man, the Irish beat them by 28 points last season. Purdue will be another blowout just like it was in 2011. Well, the Purdue defense isn’t the only defense allowed to get better in the offseason and they gave the Notre Dame offense all they could handle and more. The offensive line was exposed and the juggernaut of a running game we saw against Navy was put on notice. As Chris Berman likes to say, “That’s why we play the games.”
If I had told you at the beginning of the season that Notre Dame would be 4-0 and not allow Michigan State’s offense in the red zone the entire game you would told me I was loony.
Talk about the catalyst to a nationwide outburst of attention for the Notre Dame front seven. It’s one thing to not allow a touchdown, but to not allow a top 20 team in the red zone for an entire game is nasty and completely dominant. And doing it with as many players, young and old, who got on the field at important times is even more impressive. (I won’t even tarnish it by talking about what they did the following week.)
If I had told you at the beginning of the season that Notre Dame would be 4-0 and the defense would have 14 sacks - all but erasing the memory of Aaron Lynch - you would have petitioned for Mike to fire me.
Stephon Tuitt, Prince Shembo, Kapron Lewis-Moore, Louis Nix III, Sheldon Day, and Tony Springmann – all products of a defense that plays hard every down and plays for each other. Averaging 3.5 sacks a game is big time football and puts the Irish on pace to record 42 sacks this year. Even Alabama’s defense only had 30 sacks in 2011 and LSU’s finished with 39. The biggest factor though? Nothing helps a young and inexperienced secondary like a front seven that gets to the quarterback, which makes me believe the 16 quarterback hurries are nothing to sneeze at either.