The bad news is that Notre Dame played their worst game of the year against Michigan. The good news is that they still won. For the first time since 2002, Notre Dame is 4-0. As ugly of a game as this was, the Irish still found a way to win. That is a good sign.
It is also good that Notre Dame has a bye week. Even though they are 4-0, there are definitely some things the Irish have to work on. First and foremost is the third-down conversions. They have only converted three third downs in the last two games. That is terrible and not something that Notre Dame can continue to do if they expect to keep winning.
Next is that Everett Golson needs a lot of work. His game-management skills, leadership and ability to read a defense all need improvement. He has way too much ability to let these aspects hold him back from being the quarterback he is capable of being.
Tommy Rees did come in halfway through the second quarter and managed the game well. However, Notre Dame's future is with Golson, not Rees. The fact is that although Rees is a heck of a competitor, the offense is just too limited with him in there.
For that reason, there is no controversy. Golson is the guy and Rees is a guy that the Irish can depend on if they need him. Personally, I think that is a good thing. When developing a young quarterback, he will have bad games. It is inevitable. However, having a veteran to help out is a nice luxury.
Although Golson struggled against Michigan with two interceptions, we can't forget the positives we have seen from him in the previous games. Therefore, Notre Dame needs to proceed with Golson as planned and have Rees there if he is needed.
However, as the season progresses, he needs to be needed a lot less. After all, Rees getting a touchdown run each week is not exactly a sure bet.
I do have to say that I was a little disappointed in Golson against Michigan. That is not for the performance. That happens with young quarterbacks.
I am disappointed because after he got pulled, I saw him with his head hung on the sideline once and then he was not seen. If he wants to be the quarterback of this team, he needs to be a leader even when he gets benched.
I did not see him supporting any teammates after he was out. It was as if he wasn't there. That is not good.
Reestablishing the running game that was so dominant in Ireland is another huge priority. With backs such as Cierre Wood and Theo Riddick, this running game should be more effective. I do recognize that opposing defenses are keying on it, but still there needs to be more production. Michigan actually held them to fewer than 100 yards total.
On defense, one might think that there is not much to work on. That is not true, though, as good as they have been. This is possibly the best defense in the country and what makes them so good is that they tackle really well.
However, they did get a little sloppy against Michigan, as they gave up 161 yards rushing. Michigan did penetrate to the red zone five times.
To Notre Dame's credit, they did only give up two field goals and did get six takeaways. While it is good that they stiffened in the red zone, Bob Diaco really will breathe easier if they don't let them there in the first place and have to rely on the turnover.
Notre Dame's secondary has really heard a lot of scrutiny about being the weak link of a strong defense. Being honest, I am not seeing at all. Zeke Motta is a great leader back there at safety.
I thought that both Bennett Jackson and Kei Varae Russell played very well against Michigan. Mathias Farley has also filled in well replacing Jamoris Slaughter.
Although the unit is better than many thought, the problem is depth with all the injuries they have already had. Josh Atkinson is the only one I can think of who can come off the bench.
During the bye week, the Irish might want to consider taking a look at a few offensive guys. The name I immediately think of is Andrew Hendrix. I know he is a quarterback, but he won't play there unless there are injuries to both Golson and Rees.
Hendrix is too good of athlete to be sitting on the bench with a red hat on. His natural ability will help him learn the new position. So as long as he somewhat knows how to tackle, give him a look back there. Davonte Neal is another possibility.
Some other names to consider playing in situational spots are Robbie Toma, Theo Riddick and George Atkinson. Keep in mind that those guys to play significantly on offense.
Going both ways does have its drawbacks. That is why I really like the idea of trying out Hendrix and Neal because it won't really affect the game plan.
Manti Te'o might be the best defensive player in the country and he definitely earned a trip home to Hawaii during the bye with eight tackles and two interceptions. He has to take care of his business with his family.
In closing, it is great to be 4-0 and finally breaking the streak against Michigan. However, it was an ugly win and there are definitely some aspects that need to be looked at in the bye week.