As Notre Dame prepares for the Big Ten part of its season, the Fighting Irish once again will face their traditional opponents in Purdue and the two Michigan schools. When the schedule was released, Purdue looked to be the least dangerous of the three Big Ten teams. It was also a game that Notre Dame could easily get caught looking ahead with some very tough opponents following.
Ironically, Purdue actually had a very impressive opener while both Michigan teams struggled. To be fair, Purdue did play an FCS team in Eastern Kentucky and beat the Colonels, 48-6. Michigan State did beat Boise State which would generally be a very impressive feat. However, neither team was impressive at all, especially on offense. That game was really a letdown.
Michigan got routed in a game against Alabama. To be fair, I don't think too many people outside of Ann Arbor expected Michigan to win. However, I personally expected the Wolverines to do better than they did. You would expect a game between two teams in the Top 10 to be a dog fight, not a blowout.
Although Purdue's impressive win was against inferior competition, there is one aspect that is a real concern for Notre Dame. Senior quarterback Robert Marve threw for 295 yards and three touchdowns. That is a concern because if there was one glaring weakness of Notre Dame, it was the secondary. The safeties, Zeke Motta and Jamorius Slaughter, are both experienced seniors. However, the corner backs Bennett Jackson and KeiVare Russell are both very young and first-year starters.
Josh Atkinson is also in the mix at corner, but he, too, is inexperienced. There was one drive last Saturday where Navy threw at will against these guys with receivers that the CBS announcers called the least talented they will see all year.
Notre Dame did show after that that is a weakness that can be hidden with a great pass rush. It is no secret that if you sack the quarterback or force a bad throw, the secondary won't matter. However, that is not something that can be hidden forever and must be resolved.
If Purdue can exploit that weakness, that can be a long and disappointing afternoon for the Irish. Interestingly enough, Purdue coach Danny Hope decided to start Caleb TerBush this week at quarterback despite the strong performance from Marve.
In summary, this is a game Notre Dame should win but could lose if Purdue exploits the inexperienced secondary.