Notre Dame was humbled Saturday night in Ann Arbor, falling to Michigan, 41-30. The Fighting Irish now must regroup before traveling to Purdue next Saturday for their second of three straight games against Big Ten opponents.
Before the focus shifts fully to the Boilermakers, let's take a look back at what we learned from Notre Dame's loss in its final visit to Michigan Stadium.
1. Tommy Rees Is Still Tommy Rees
Yes, Tommy Rees' arm appears a bit stronger, but the senior is still prone to untimely decisions. He wasn't terrible, but he did not do enough, particularly in the red zone, for the Irish to rally for a victory.
2. Amir Carlisle Is the Clear No. 1 Running Back
The running back position will be by committee all season, but Amir Carlisle has proved to be the most consistent of the group of five battling for carries. Cam McDaniel should continue to get touches in short-yardage situations.
3. Troy Niklas Is Going to Be a Great Tight End
Troy Niklas isn't quite the field stretcher that Tyler Eifert was, but he's a more complete tight end and is a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses. His six catches for 76 yards and a touchdown, all in the second half, was one of the few bright spots for Notre Dame.
4. Red-Zone Offense Is Again a Problem
Notre Dame had to settle for too many field goals Saturday night, and one of its touchdowns came on a deflected pass. Rees' limited arm strength is more noticeable in the red zone, where passing lanes are narrowed.
5. The 2013 Defense Isn't the 2012 Defense
Not having four of the leaders from last year's defense—Kapron Lewis-Moore, Zeke Motta, Danny Spond and Manti Te'o—has hurt the Irish far more than it was initially thought. Fundamentals broke down far too often Saturday night, something rarely seen a year go.
6. George Atkinson III May Be Relegated to a Return Specialist
Expect George Atkinson III's role in the offense to diminish as the season progresses. He's failed to show he can be a No. 1 back, with Carlisle getting the majority of carries against the Wolverines.
7. The Kicking Competition Is Over
The Nick Tausch experiment lasted all of one game, as Kyle Brindza converted all three of his field-goal attempts. We've likely seen the last of Tausch, a fifth-year senior.
8. The Linebacking Corps Has Become a Weakness
Yes, it's difficult to replace a Heisman Trophy finalist, but the Irish thought they would be just fine at linebacker. That may not be the case, as too many times the unit appeared out of place and missed tackles. Mobile quarterbacks appear to be their Achilles' heel.
9. Elijah Shumate Still Has a Lot to Learn
Elijah Shumate has the talent to be a great safety, but the sophomore still appears to be struggling with some of the nuances of the defense. Austin Collinsworth and freshman Max Redfield will continue to push Shumate throughout the season.
10. The Season Is Far from Over
Yes, national title hopes are probably gone, but a BCS bowl is still within reach. This team probably isn't good enough to win nine straight, but there's no excuse for not being 9-2 when the Irish travel to Stanford for the season finale.
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