Notre Dame Football: Why Next 2 Games Will Be Litmus Test for Irish Season
Notre Dame has taken care of business in its first two games, but the next two will define the season.
The football team easily defeated Navy in Ireland by a score of 50-10, and followed that up with a close 20-17 victory over Purdue. These games showcased the depth of the Fighting Irish. However, they will need a lot more to defeat Michigan State and Michigan.
Against Michigan State, Notre Dame must focus on the run defense. Running back Le'Veon Bell has made himself a Heisman candidate in his first two games with two touchdowns in each. Against Boise State, the Ohio native rushed for 210 yards and added 55 more through the air.
So far the defense for Notre Dame has been very good, especially against the run. Navy is known as a rushing team—it was fifth in the nation last season—but the team was held to only 3.7 yards per carry in Week 1. Purdue was also held in check with only three yards per carry.
Michigan has struggled in its first two games, but they will also present quite a challenge. Quarterback Denard Robinson is a better rusher than almost anyone in the league and he will be difficult to contain.
However, the Irish need to worry about their own team before focusing on any opponents. There are a number of depth chart issues that must be resolved in the next few weeks.
Everett Golson has had two solid performances in his early career, but he was removed for the game in favor of Tommy Rees in the fourth quarter. Brian Kelly still lists Golson as his starting quarterback, according to ESPN, but this maneuver could hurt the starter's confidence.
There is a similar issue at running back, where Theo Riddick will stay No. 1 on the depth chart despite the return of Cierre Wood. Like Rees, Wood was a starter throughout last season and finished with 1,102 rushing yards.
It is nice to make the former starters earn their spots back, but Riddick did not show enough on the ground against Purdue to guarantee the bulk of carries next week.
Regardless of who plays at these positions, it is important to come to a conclusion and not switch back and forth throughout the year.
Like always, Notre Dame has a tough schedule this season. After the upcoming rivalry games, the Irish also must face Stanford, Oklahoma and USC among others. However, the battles against Michigan State and Michigan will show whether this team is a contender for the BCS picture, or just pretenders.
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