Coming off the first win of the Jeff Scott era, USF prepares for their first real test of the season. The Bulls will be on the road to South Bend to face the bluest of blue bloods, Notre Dame. And much like Tom Selleck, the star of the hit CBS show Blue Bloods, Notre Dame was also last relevant in the 80’s.
All joking aside, USF will have their hands full with a talented Fighting Irish team. Notre Dame comes into this contest ranked seventh in both major polls, and much like USF, they also played their first game this past weekend. They pulled away from a scrappy Duke team in the second half behind a strong running game, and some timely passing. Let’s take a look at some of the week one numbers.
The numbers show this as a pretty even statistical matchup. However, context is king, and we must remember that Notre Dame played a much stronger opponent. Duke would have no problem handling The Citadel. But you can only play who’s on your schedule. I mean, most years at least. Regardless, lets see how these two teams rank compared with the other 40 teams that have played this season.
The Fighting Irish are highly-ranked on third downs, which will be crucial component to this game. USF is much better through one game than they were a year ago, but still lag behind in this matchup.
Another key factor will be explosive plays. USF is on the right side of this number, having produced more explosive plays on offense, and allowed fewer on defense than Notre Dame.
USF also has the advantage in turnover margin while slightly trailing in penalties. The reduction/elimination of turnovers and penalties have been something continually stressed by the new coaching staff. The attention to those details certainly paid off in week one.
Notre Dame had a fine first week statistically, but let’s take a closer look at their schemes to see what the Bulls can expect this weekend in South Bend.
The Notre Dame offense is led by quarterback Ian Book. Book is coming off a season in which he passed for over 3,000 yards and 34 touchdowns. Book has been in plenty of big games and so has his offensive line. Notre Dame has been churning out pros in the trenches for a while now, and it would seem that they have a few more future pros on their current offensive line.
Another player with a seemingly bright future is running back Kyren Williams. Williams burst onto the scene in game one with 113 yards rushing and 93 yards receiving on his way to ACC RB of the week honors. The Irish also have a few promising young tight ends and some experienced receivers. Let’s see how they plan to deploy those players this weekend.
New offensive coordinator Tommy Rees (remember him?) seemed to get a good feel for his team as the game went on. I would expect to see a lot of their running game mixed with some screens and a good bit of play action passing. This will be a totally different challenge for USF this week.
The Notre Dame defense is a physical, aggressive unit. They use front movement and blitzing to create problems for opposing offensive lines. They also aren’t afraid to play man coverage. DC Clark Lea does a great job mixing up his looks and confusing quarterbacks. Let’s take a look at some of the ways he schemes up havoc on defense.
The Notre Dame defense is well-coached. They have great scheme that is designed to complicate and take advantage of an offense’s rules. They try to wrest control of the game from the offense and play on their terms. If USF isn’t able to generate some explosive plays, it could be a long night.
I don’t care who you are, it’s always awesome to see your team play at Notre Dame. So many unbelievable players and coaches have been on that sideline. So many memorable moments in the history of college football happened on that field. I mean, the “Play Like a Champion Today” is there. The Bulls are getting the opportunity to play in one of college football’s cathedrals.
It’s an opportunity that USF has taken advantage of before. The Bulls will need a similar effort to escape South Bend with another victory. After playing an FCS team in week one, it’s hard to say exactly what we’ll get from USF this week. Even with all the uncertainty surrounding this USF team, there is one thing we can all, universally, agree on: Rudy Was Offsides.