IBG: Prepping for primetime

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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.