Notre Dame Football: For Irish, Purdue Is a Stepping Stone

Mike MuratoreCorrespondent ISeptember 6, 2012

Sep 1, 2012; Dublin, IRELAND; Notre Dame Fighting Irish head coach Brian Kelly yells from the sideline in the third quarter against the Navy Midshipmen at Aviva Stadium. Notre Dame won 50-10. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-US PRESSWIRE

Brian Kelly calls it white noise. Most would call it hype. To a young football team loaded with talent but lacking experience, it all amounts to pressure.

After Notre Dame's stronger-than-expected opener against Navy, suddenly dire forecasts for the result of the 2012 season have somewhat turned. In what amounts to a blink of an eye, this team has gone from having little pressure as a team expected to lose five to seven games to a ranked squad slipping into BCS conversations.

The talk is truly meaningless.

Still, it will continue as long as Notre Dame wins. Given the stature of the Notre Dame football program, win or lose, it is news.

Now that the Irish have shown that they possess an offensive line that can blow another FBS football team off the ball and amass nearly 300 yards without ever deviating from a straight up single set I formation, prospects have brightened.

It also helps that Michigan and Michigan State looked less than stellar in their openers, giving rise to the notion that Notre Dame could welcome Miami to Chicago as a 4-0, Top 10 team.

As Lee Corso would say, "Not so fast, my friend!"

This Saturday, Notre Dame welcomes the Boilermakers of Purdue to Notre Dame Stadium, in what may be the first true test for the Irish.

Navy was easy to defend because they were a run first, run second, run third, and if all else fails pass in desperation opponent. Notre Dame matches up extremely well with run-first teams as the Irish strength is its interior defense.

The fear is in what happened when Navy went to the pass, reeling off a three-play, 75-yard drive with consecutive completions to wide-open receivers.

Purdue has a pair of talented signal callers in senior tandem Caleb TerBush and Robert Mavre.

Starter TerBush fulfilled a one-game suspension for team rules violation, and Mavre stepped in against FCS Eastern Kentucky, connecting on 30 of 38 throws for 295 yards and a trio of scores.

Both QBs are also mobile and will be difficult to contain inside the pocket, and they will further challenge the young Irish secondary by extending the play forcing longer coverage.

The Boilermakers also have a talented pair of receivers, led by junior O.J. Ross, who pulled in eight receptions for 74 yards in Purdue's opener and will challenge first year starter Bennett Jackson on the boundary.

On offense for Notre Dame, things will be a little easier, as Purdue has little answer for the Irish rushing attack. The trio of Theo Riddick, George Atkinson and USC transfer Amir Carlisle bring speed and power that Eastern Kentucky simply cannot prepare a defensive line to face.

No defense in college football can match up with Notre Dame's tight end and H-back sets, pulling linebackers and safeties to cover players with tight end size and wide receiver speed.

Sophomore quarterback Everett Golson will get a chance to spread the field more with both his legs and his arm, as the offense displayed against Navy only used two formations and featured heavily on interior runs that are not all that common in Brian Kelly's slant spread offense.

It is best to leave all the hype on the table and think of Navy as what it was, a tune up.

Purdue is in no way as talented as Michigan State or Michigan.

They are, however, a pro-style offense that can hurt you through the air as well as on the ground. They have a couple of legitimate playmakers that can beat you on the outside, and they have quarterbacks that can get them the ball.

Purdue will be a better gauge of where Notre Dame is against much of its schedule.

The game plan for the secondary will be much more normal, utilizing some Cover 2 and three-deep coverages and placing the corners off rather than in press looking for constant run support.

Not only will we know a lot more about the secondary, but they will also know more about themselves.

Game planning to face the pass should make the secondary look better when the opponent throws the ball, then having a good amount of film to break down will make improvement more efficient.

This should be a quality game, and covering the 14.5 point spread will serve as a stepping stone as Notre Dame prepares to run through the most daunting stretch of the season.

The Navy win was a confidence booster, but little more.

A big win against Purdue will begin to solidify the notion that the 2012 Notre Dame football team may truly be on the right track.