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IBG: Prepping for primetime

Sep 13, 2012, 5:06 PM EDT

ibg_nokelly3

As we do every week in season, we’re rolling with the IBG. After a chaotic day on campus, UND.com’s Josh Flynt of the Strong and True blog answered my questions.

Here goes.

1. Let’s get it out of the way — How excited are you about the move to the ACC? Taking football out of it, it’s a great opportunity for the Irish sports teams to play in a prestigious conference that pretty much elevates the level of play across the board. Taking the subject back to football, what teams are you most excited to renew or build rivalries with during Notre Dame’s five ACC games?

Thrilled. Excited. Pumped. “Insert other adjective to describe happiness.” And if you watch any of FIDM’s videos from yesterday, you’ll hear almost every Notre Dame coach comment on how their sport’s best competition resides in the ACC.

Men’s basketball at Cameron Indoor and the Dean Dome? Sign me up.

Men’s lacrosse, already a strong conference, becomes a who’s who list of the sport’s best, with the addition of Syracuse and Notre Dame.

In women’s soccer, Randy Waldrum’s team will have the opportunity to battle North Carolina, the country’s premier program, for conference titles.

These are just a few of the many exciting opportunities that await the Fighting Irish and their fans in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Aside from athletics, the conference is also home to several “peer institutions,” in top academic universities such as Duke, Virginia and Wake Forest, just to name a few.

As for football, the idea of games in Blacksburg and Death Valley has me wishing the 2014 season started today. Virginia Tech and Clemson are two of the strongest teams in college football, and Notre Dame has very little historywith either (none, in fact, with the Hokies). It will be a fun day when ND meets Va. Tech on the gridiron for the first time.

Though we’ve played Florida State and Miami in the past two bowl games (and will obviously take on the Hurricanes again next month), it’s exciting to know these rivalries will soon return to Notre Dame Stadium. Not to mention, the Irish have a pretty long history with Georgia Tech, so it will be nice to see that series renewed as well.

As an alum and East Coast guy, I’m truly ecstatic about this move. The BIG EAST was a great home for Notre Dame for quite some time, but in the shifting landscape of college athletics, I think moving to the ACC was the best decision the university could have made for the long-term future. Now, if only we can get the ACC and Madison Square Garden to sign an agreement for March, we’ll be all set.

2. Brian Kelly said the coaching staff could’ve done a better job getting George Atkinson touches against Purdue, a game where he inexplicably got only one carry. With Cierre Wood coming back from suspension and Theo Riddick still starting, what do Kelly and Chuck Martin need to do to get the ball to these three guys?

It’s funny – this is nearly the exact question that I asked Bayou Irish from HLS. Getting all three of these backs on the field will certainly be a challenge, but I think it’s very important to Notre Dame’s season moving forward. As Coach Kelly said on Tuesday, each of these guys has the talent to be a starter, and it just seems like a waste of talent to not use them frequently.

I’m not really sure what the solution is, to be honest. While Theo has said he feels more comfortable as a running back, he does have some experience as aslot receiver, so maybe we’ll see him back at that position for a few plays each game. Whatever happens, I’d really like to see two of the three on the field at almost all times. If that can’t happen, sub them in and out of the backfield frequently. It can’t hurt to have three sets of fresh legs, right?

3. The is the first time Notre Dame and Michigan State face each other ranked and undefeated since 1987. It’s Everett Golson’s first time playing in a hostile environment. I’m not going to make you make a prediction, but if you had to pick two lines on the box score that you wanted to put in the Irish’s favor, what would they be?

Rushing yards and sacks/QB hurries/etc.

With two tough defenses, I wouldn’t expect it to be a high scoring contest, but the Irish need to re-establish the ground game with their stable of running backs, especially with a young quarterback at the helm. The Spartans obviously have a very talented back of their own, in Le’Veon Bell, whose name has been mentioned in the early Heisman conversation. If Cierre, Theo and GAIII can outrun Bell, the Spartans only major rushing threat, I think we’ll be in good shape. Much of this will come down to the Notre Dame offensive line, which dominated in Dublin, but struggled against Purdue. It should be interesting, as Michigan State has allowed just 109 rushing yards in two games.

On the other side, I think the Irish defensive needs to put pressure on Andrew Maxwell. So far, Notre Dame has registered seven sacks, led by four from sophomore Stephon Tuitt. The defensive line is arguably the Irish’s strongest unit, and Stephon, Big Lou and Kap need to show the nation that on Saturday night.

If you’re interested in seeing my answers to Subway Domer’s questions, head on over and check them out.

  1. irisheyesnate - Sep 13, 2012 at 6:12 PM

    And they will.

    GO IRISH!!!!!!

    • 808raiderinparadise - Sep 13, 2012 at 6:37 PM

      Anyone hear about Manti Teo losing his GF to cancer and a realtive (grandma?) this week? Questionable to play? Awful. Thoughts and prayers to him if this is true.

      • 808raiderinparadise - Sep 13, 2012 at 10:42 PM

        as far as the game goes … MSU has won 15 straight at home …. I only mentioned that stat because ITS GOING TO BE BROKEN !!!

      • heartofgoldandblue - Sep 13, 2012 at 10:51 PM

        According to The Chicago Tribune his GM and close female friend (not sure if it was his GF) did pass a away in a matter of 48 hrs. He will play on Saturday and they talked about him possibly going home on bye week. Thoughts and prayers go put to him and his family.

      • 808raiderinparadise - Sep 13, 2012 at 11:53 PM

        thanks. Lets hope the team rallies for him.

  2. jimbasil - Sep 13, 2012 at 6:19 PM

    It’s an excellent place for all of ND’s sports sans football. But let’s not keep spinning this as ND football is independent too much longer. It was tough enough saying it, believing it, while ND was with the BE and now, it really is a fable with a label.

    Yes, you’re all going to take umbrage with this post but take a look around and how many of you hollered when ND had a contract with the BE. Well this is a more entrenched idea of football affiliated with a conference. ND football is independent in label only. It’s sort of, easing the fans into the cold water of a new reality.

    Back to ND vs MSU. Well, ND had better find themselves playing a better “brand” of football or MSU will make ND look a lot like CMU from last week.

    Cierre Wood needs to see the ball along with GAIII and Kelly should not abandon the run game. It will be ball control and ND needs the ball. Punting unit better be up to snuff because MSU will make short work of ND in a shortened field. Take a look at the Outback bowl from last season vs Georgia (who is by the way one of the better SEC teams last year and this year.) where MSU stymied the Bulldogs in the second half of game.

  3. mtflsmitty - Sep 13, 2012 at 6:43 PM

    Jim,

    If you’re going to point to a game 8+ months ago as a litmus test for how tough MSU will be for us, why not go back 6-7 weeks more to when we kicked the crap out of them in SB?

    This is going to be a great game. But IMO it’s way too early for any of us to really know how this is really going to pan out. Each team has shown strength and weakness in the first 2 games. Let’s see which can elevate for the big game.

    My inane overly obvious comment of the week:
    We’ll all know a lot more about our team on Sunday morning.

    • jimbasil - Sep 13, 2012 at 7:02 PM

      It’s odd you’d say that, I pointed out PU’s game against OSU from last year and the reasons why PU won that game and what ND had to look forward to, and guess what?

      PU did exactly what I said they would do. Their big defender ran over Golic the exact same way I said he woud and I called the sacks.

      Not to toot my own horn, but, if you think a game in early Jan. has no bearing on a Sept game when almost all of MSU’s D is back from that team who stymied the Georgia O, you don’t know much about football.

      PS: No offensive TD’s have been made against the MSU D.
      Again, should ND have a similar game to the PU game, ND will run over and not by Bell (though he could) but by Larry Caper.

      Maxwell can throw, but makes mistakes too easily; he’s certainly capable of going on a streak of good passes for big yards.

      This MSU team has played in big games so that won’t be as much of a factor as it will be for ND. This ND team wilts in big games. USC, Stanford, UM, FSU…

      • don74 - Sep 13, 2012 at 7:42 PM

        Jim,

        No arguing with the facts as you present them. The good news is the team slept in their own beds, well maybe some of them didn’t, this week and they are only traveling a 100 or so miles up the road for this game. Starts at 7 pm or so.

        Last week could be we witnessed the ND that we have seen for the last 10 years that plays down to opponets or it simply could be chalked up to jet lag.

        This week is the test. Quality team, long time rival that’s highly rated. All the experts have ND losing this one. If their track record shows they play pretty good on the road and play much looser with little expected of them.

        You are correct that the inside pressure got to the OL but MSU is more stout on the outside. My guess is there will be TE support as well as a better run package for this one.

        EG now has 6.5 quarters under his belt and while that certainly doesn’t put him in expert status, being an elite athlete I have to imagine he is better equipped to handle the speed this week.

        Kelly says he’s had a good week of practice…..but then again what’s he supposed to say.

        All in all I think this won’t be over in the second quarter meaning it will be a fun evening.

        My sense, it’s time for an upset. Why not?

        Go Irish

      • jimbasil - Sep 13, 2012 at 8:14 PM

        Don; I agree. Tons of factors could be added together in the poor play of ND vs PU. I’d like to think Kelly was sandbagging D’antonio. At least I really hope it to be true. GAIII not seeing the ball but one play? Golson threw for almost 300 yds but in the end they were very quiet yds. Rees coming in and moving the team down field in a minute and change coming in cold. It really made me think, why didn’t ND do this all game long. Simple – the two minute drill on every offensive possession.

        Also, the pace of ND’s O was chilled at best. PU D had all kinds of time to analyze the play. It was painful to watch. The ill use of Times out was incredible.

        So, yes, physically ND can hold their own, but for how long before they are tired. They need a game where everything clicks to win this one.

        I don’t think MSU’s Oline can stand up to ND’s D and Maxwell doesn’t appear to like being rushed. He makes poor throws. The ND secondary if alert will have many opportunities for INT’s, again if they’re alert.

        Will ND win? I don’t think we’ve seen to the full extent how well ND can play or how talented they really are. We have however seen the close to the full extent of how MSU can play. They are very well coached by D’antonio.

      • dvbagnasco - Sep 16, 2012 at 10:18 AM

        Jim,

        You should be eating your words right now for breakfast. Notre Dame dominated Michigan State in a very convincing fashion. Kirk Herbstreit was even impressed last night with the Irish. And he has been one of the biggest Irish naysayers of all.

        So, anyway, I just wanted to say……

        “Have a nice breakfast. ;-)”

  4. mtflsmitty - Sep 13, 2012 at 7:37 PM

    Well, Jim. You’re a smarter man than…everyone else. And honestly you make a couple fair points.

    Certainly the bowl game is suggestive of the next season opener. But I’d argue comparing NDs 1/12 squad to the 9/12 version will result in more differences than similarities. Think QB, RB, defensive consistency, secondary, influx of freshmen, exit of MF, etc.

    If I had to bet my left arm on the game, you bet I’d wager that appendage on Sparty. And of course, i dont know as much about football as you. Heck, to hear you break it down for the rest of us (ever careful not to toot your horn) one might conclude they might as well not even play the game.

    • jimbasil - Sep 13, 2012 at 8:03 PM

      It’s not about smarter, it’s about not dumbing down what is out there to please my want of ND’s perfect season.

      Yes there will always be differences between seasons and the execution of every teams O’s and D’s and so on.

      But the basic point is, if you have talent who have tendencies one year, it’s likely those tendencies will remain the next year. Ask the NFL.

      If I’m Dantonio, I will blitz the crap out of Goslon early. I’ll attack the Golic side of the ball with Gholston and send in a corner wide because – Golson likes to roll right to throw from the right. I’ll also send the other corner wide back side to take away the a throw to the RB. If Golic does not hold up, he will be on his back often. Cierre seems to disappear in big games and Kelly calls bad plays when the pressure is on. Tendencies.

      I would make Golson and Golic beat me early and make them prove they can. If Golic and Golson can, MSU will be in a battle.

      ND needs good field position right away to stop MSU from a big blitz package to start the game.

      Get the punting team ready, they’re gonna need to be.

  5. don74 - Sep 13, 2012 at 10:05 PM

    Agreed. I think Purdue caught them(the coaches) off guard. No real knowledge of the DC, a game plan designed to pass 40 times, TE’s split wide and 1 RB featured.

    2nd half they tried to adjust but injuries changed some things. They know what they are getting and aside from a trick play it’s straight forward hard nosed ball. I think we can play that game but we will see.

  6. gtizzo - Sep 13, 2012 at 10:58 PM

    This guy is little better Keith,

    He has the pass rush issue reversed. The Spartans need to get into the back field and get sacks. Michigan State won every game in which they had 2 or more sacks last season. They had one against ND in that big loss. Boise State did a good job at keeping William Gholston (MSU defensive end) away from the QB. GA III needs to see at least 10 touches in space where he can make use of his speed.

  7. yaketyyacc - Sep 14, 2012 at 7:46 AM

    our offensive line met and defeated Purdue, and it will excel against MSU. and yes, they will blitz, only to find that Goldson is deceptive, fast and can outrun their defense. the only flaw will be Kelly using Riddick as his security blanket. use several runners, and pass receivers, and QB draws, screens, look in passes, options, etc, and for goodness sake, don’t go back to
    Rees. Put Gunner in. He is the future……
    Come on Irish, take the spark out of Sparky!

  8. ndgoldandblue - Sep 14, 2012 at 9:44 AM

    Absolutely no one outside of the Notre Dame fanbase is picking the Irish to win this one. Come on Irish! Beat MSU and shock the world…apparently.

  9. bearcatirishfan - Sep 14, 2012 at 10:59 AM

    gholston scares me.

  10. nudeman - Sep 14, 2012 at 11:55 AM

    I find myself like the rookie, ex player “analyst” on ESPN (who lasts one season, max)

    Q: So how do you see this going?
    A: (me) Well, I think MSU has some very stout defensive players and that running back can really grind out the yardage.

    Q: So you see MSU winning this one?
    A: (me) Well, ND has some very fine players too; Tuitt, Nix, Atkinson; and Golson has looked very good.

    Q: So you see ND winning this one?
    A: Well, they’re on the road and East Lansing is a tough place to play. And they haven’t beaten a top 10 team in quite a while.

    Q: So you see MSU winning this one?
    A: Well, you can never count out those Irish; and they’re due!!!

    etc

    This is also called the Tom Jackson Syndrome.

    I can’t figure out if I feel bullish or bearish on this one. So I’ll go with a tie.

    • papadec - Sep 14, 2012 at 8:13 PM

      nude – very funny. With msu favored by 6, I’ll take the points & hope ND wins in OT. We all know it can’t end in a tie (like ’66). In the meantime, I’ve got Wazzu tonight to prep & hold me over until Saturday night.

    • 9irish - Sep 15, 2012 at 6:42 AM

      I hate statistics like that (last time they beat a top 10 team). Doesn’t mean squat, people act like they’re talking about a person, not a program that is in constant flux.

      Hell, I LIKE it when Jeter comes up to bat and is 0 for 3 in the game…the odds are actually in HIS favor!

      Biggest thing about this game is to see if the Irish can deal with the madhouse and not make jittery mistakes…and if they do, just brush it off and march on. That’s what I want to see. I think they’ll pull it off.

      Go Irish

      • nudeman - Sep 15, 2012 at 12:33 PM

        Like Jeter
        Hate the Uankees
        Sorry papa

      • nudeman - Sep 15, 2012 at 12:33 PM

        Like Jeter
        Hate the Yankees
        Sorry papa

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