Notre Dame has exploded into the BCS Top 5 after an impressive 7-0 run. The Fighting Irish have been winning with stingy defense, but the offensive game plan must improve for the Irish to reach the BCS.
Defense wins championships. That saying has been uttered since the beginning of football with a lot of results to back it up. The Irish are among the elite in 2012 defensively boasting the No. 2 scoring, No. 6 total, No. 14 passing and No. 15 rushing defense.
Manti Te’o is in the Heisman discussion as a linebacker because of his leadership and level of play for the Notre Dame defense this season.
It is the strength of this team and can guide the Irish to an undefeated season. This Saturday’s game against Oklahoma will be won by the Irish if they can stop the Landry Jones-led offense, but Notre Dame will also have to score more points than it is averaging through the first seven games.
The Irish are the No. 76 scoring offense in the country. Oklahoma is No. 5 in scoring offense. It is a 19 point difference on average that separates the performances of these offenses on a weekly basis.
The Sooners will score points at home this Saturday. Can the Irish keep up?
Find a Starter at QB
Notre Dame has used two quarterbacks consistently through the first seven games, splitting time between Tommy Rees and Everett Golson. Golson is leading the tandem with 968 passing yards, but he only has six touchdown throws. Rees has 335 yards and two passing touchdowns.
The two Irish quarterbacks have combined for six touchdowns and four interceptions. The two have also completed 58.5 percent of their passes—not combined, but individually.
There has to come a point where the Fighting Irish narrow it down to one quarterback. Both are performing equally, but Golson gives the best option to win the remaining games.
He has received the majority of the snaps for Notre Dame and has to have a solid feel for the offense at this point. The sophomore will make mistakes, but so will the junior Rees.
The Irish are falling short of elite status as the quarterback quandary continues. To become a solid team that can win the BCS, Notre Dame has to settle on a starter soon.
Keep Pushing the Ground Game
The rushing offense has fared better than the passing attack—mounting the No. 38 rushing offense through seven games—but these backs have not performed well enough consistently to take over games on their own.
There are three backs that are leading the charge for the Irish. Theo Riddick has the most carries with 95 on the year, but George Atkinson III is doing the most with his opportunities, averaging 8.1 yards per carry on his 37 carries.
Cierre Wood is also having a quality season, punching out 393 yards and two touchdowns on 65 carries.
The Notre Dame offense has to continue to lean on the backs to produce yards, but the Irish can’t expect them to carry the entire weight of the offense. More production has to come from every facet of the offense, but continuing to grind the ground game is a must if Notre Dame wants to push for a BCS victory.
Keep it Balanced
While the Irish must get more production from the offense, keeping the unit balanced is a must.
So far this season the Brian Kelly-led Irish have produced 1,357 yards through the air, and 1,358 yards on the ground. This offense has been almost perfectly balanced.
The Fighting Irish have been able to use the balance to control the clock against their opponents, controlling nearly five more minutes of the game than the opposition this season.
As long as the Irish can continue to produce a balanced attack, opposing defenses will find it tough to focus on tendencies. The overall production for the offense still has to get better.
With key games against Oklahoma and USC remaining, finding more offensive production will lead to wins. If Notre Dame continues to struggle offensively, the BCS dream may not become reality.
If the Irish keep pushing the run and settle on a quarterback, they will have an offensive surge and should win out.