Washington Run Offense vs. Notre Dame Run Defense
Washington's leading rusher this year is running back #1 Chris Polk, averaging 21 carries and 79 yards per game. Quarterback #10 Jake Locker is also a threat with his legs, but perhaps not as much as opposing fans might expect. This year, Locker is averaging only eight carries and 18.5 yards per game. He does have two of the team's four rushing touchdowns on the year, though.
Washington's run game, averaging 108.2 yards per game and 3.3 yards per carry, has been a pretty straightforward dose of Locker and Chris Polk. Outside of those two, wide receiver #82 Jordan Polk has one carry, and three backup tailbacks have split 13 carries.
Notre Dame's run defense—and its defense as a whole—has been a concern for the Irish faithful this year. ND is giving up 130.5 yards per game on the ground and 4.4 yards per carry. The problem isn't getting into the backfield, as the team is averaging close to seven tackles for loss per game. The problem is one of consistency—those TFL are often offset by significant runs.
The key for the Irish front seven is discipline. Locker may not be running much this year, but he still has the ability to. That means ends Kapron Lewis-Moore and Kerry Neal have to keep contain on the outside and tackles Ian Williams and Ethan Johnson have to clog holes on the inside. Then, once they do, the linebackers have to finish the job.
Notre Dame Run Offense vs. Washington Run Defense
How much has Notre Dame's run blocking improved this year? Even Dayne Crist is averaging 4.0 yards per carry. Not only that, but of all Notre Dame Running backs (yes, Golden Tate included), only Jonas Gray has a YPC average that can't match Crist. Armando Allen started running with a purpose in week one, Robert Hughes picked up his slack against Purdue, and strong, purposeful running has become the motto of the Irish backfield.
Allen is expected to return this week, but James Aldridge isn't. Allen is averaging 20 carries and 109 yards per game. Gray and Hughes are both averaging five to six carries and 20-plus yards per game. Sprinkle in some Theo Riddick and Tate out of the Wild Leprechaun, and you have the makings of a team averaging 158 yards per game on the ground.
If Armando Allen has any consolation for missing the Purdue game, it's that he gets to return against a Washington run defense giving up 195.8 yards per game and 5.8 yards per carry. Surprisingly, the three starting linebackers still lead Washington in tackles. Notably, #9 Donald Butler leads the team with 38 tackles, 4.5 for a loss.
Washington Pass Offense vs. Notre Dame Pass Defense
Jake Locker has improved commendably this year, raising his completion percentage to 58.1 with six touchdowns to three interceptions. In an average game, Locker will complete 20 of 34 passes for 250 yards.
Locker's top target is freshman wideout #3 James Johnson, who's averaging five catches and 55 yards per game. Locker has also done a very good job of distributing the ball, as after Johnson come six players averaging at least two catches per game. They include tailbacks Chris Polk and #23 Johri Fogerson; receivers #15 Jermaine Kearse, #11 D'Andre Goodwin, and #9 Devin Aguilar; and tight end #80 Kavario Middleton.
Notre Dame's pass defense has been disappointing this season. Perhaps it's the schemes—blitzes mean no safety help, so the corners have to play loose, opting for the sure tackle instead of the pass breakup. That's a discussion for those who know more about football than I do. Coach Weis mentioned that the team mixed in more Cover 2 against Purdue, but the Boilers still had a very effective day in the air.
The Irish have managed just six sacks on 138 opponents' pass attempts, led by Darius Fleming with two. Notre Dame has also picked off five passes, led by Kyle McCarthy with three.
Notre Dame Pass Offense vs. Washington Pass Defense
Whispers of "Jimmy Heisman" have begun as Jimmy Clausen has gutted his way through the last six quarters of football and still managed to look good doing it. When healthy, Clausen's average game consists of 19 completions on 29 attempts for 280 yards and at least two touchdowns.
Dayne Crist has also been reasonably effective, completing 57.1 percent of his passes for 61 yards.
Golden Tate is the new leading receiver for the Irish, averaging six catches and 89.5 yards per game. Next comes Kyle Rudolph with 4 catches and 53.5 yards per game. After the big guns, Armando Allen, Duval Kamara, Robby Parris, Jonas Gray, and Robert Hughes are all averaging at least one catch per game.
Washington's pass defense is giving up 183.5 yards per game. That number looks respectable at first, until you realize that opponents are attempting less than 25 passes per game thanks to UW's porous run defense. Multiply the Washington D's 7.7 yards given up per pass attempt by Notre Dame's 32 attempts per game, and the number jumps to 250 yards. Multiply Washington's 12.9 yards per completion by ND's 21.5 completions per game, and the number jumps to 277.
To make matters worse for Huskies fans, Washington has only recorded four sacks and two interceptions so far this year. No UW player has more than a single tally in either category.
#17 Erik Folk is in his first season kicking field goals for the Huskies. Folk's lone miss on the year is from 42 yards, but he did make a 46-yard kick against USC. For the Irish, Nick Tausch is now five of six on the year, with a long of 46.
Notre Dame faces another strong-legged punter this week in Washington's #46 Will Mahan. Mahan is averaging 42.7 yards per punt, with five of his 15 boots sailing 50 yards or more. His long is 61. In addition, Washington's punt coverage is giving up a modest 10.2 yards per return. After inconsistent play from Eric Maust, Ben Turk will get a try as the Irish punter this week. Notre Dame has only allowed two punt returns this year, but they've gone for a combined 49 yards.
Washington's primary kick returner is #28 Quinton Richardson, who is averaging 21.8 yards per return with a long of 35. Nick Tausch getting stronger by the week, now averaging 62.7 yards per kickoff. But the Irish kickoff team hasn't lived up to its past performance, giving up an average of 22.1 yards per return. That gives opponents an average start on the 28 yard line.
Theo Riddick has become the primary kick returner for Notre Dame. He's averaging 24.9 yards per return with a long of 38. Erik Folk also kicks off for the Huskies. He's averaging 56.5 yards per kick with one touchback in 19 tries. UW's kickoff coverage team is giving up 19.8 yards per return, for an average start on the 33 yard line.
Johri Fogerson returns punts for Washington. He's only had two chances so far this season, one going for 14 yards and the other for 23. Golden Tate is Notre Dame's punt returner. He's now averaging 9.2 yards per return, with a long of 23.
Notre Dame Players to Watch
Jimmy Clausen, Armando Allen, Kerry Neal, Kapron Lewis-Moore, Ben Turk, Golden Tate
Notre Dame 34, Washington 21