Notre Dame Football: Western Michigan Preview

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Notre Dame Football: Western Michigan Preview
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Western Michigan Run Offense vs. Notre Dame Run Defense

Western Michigan is averaging a respectable 103 yards per game on the ground, although they are achieving that number through quantity, not quality.  The Broncos are averaging 35 carries per game, but just three yards per carry.

No. 23 Aaron Winchester, small but strong at 5'6", 181 lbs, is averaging 29 yards per game on less than 11 carries per game.  Quarterback No. 14 Alex Carder is the next leading threat.  Discounting sacks, Carder is averaging just under eight carries and 46 yards per game.

WMU has cornered the market on diminutive running backs, as 5'4", 160 lb. freshman No. 22 Dareyon Chance is Winchester's backup.  Chance is averaging less than five carries and 26 yards per game.  He's had the most success of any of the regular backs, averaging 4.5 yards per carry.  Fellow backs No. 20 Brian Fields and No. 21 Antoin Scriven are averaging three carries for fewer than 10 yards per game.

Western Michigan did take the redshirt off of prize freshman No. 21 Tevin Drake last week.  The 6'1", 210 lb. beast carried the ball eight times against Ball State for 63 yards.

Notre Dame's run defense is still giving up 146 yards per game, but they've steadily improved against six very good rushing teams.  Bob Ross-devotees Manti Carlo (that's Te'o and Calabrese) lead the way—Te'o with 69 tackles and four tackles for loss, and Calabrese with 46 and five.

 

Notre Dame Run Offense vs. Western Michigan Run Defense

Armando Allen is averaging 16 carries and 75 yards per game, but he is a bit banged up.  One wonders if the Irish will save Allen and instead employ co-second stringers Cierre Wood (four carries/18 YPG) and Robert Hughes (one carry/three YPG) more.  Jonas Gray (two carries/nine YPG) has also been cleared to play for this game.

Western Michigan essentially employs a 4-2 defense, with a "rover" who's listed as a safety on the roster, but who can drop down as a third linebacker when necessary.  No. 34 Jamall Berry, WMU's starting rover, has done it all for the Broncos, sacking the QB, breaking up passes and forcing fumbles.  Berry is also second on the team in tackles to "Mike" linebacker No. 47 Mitch Zajac.

"Will" linebacker No. 42 Dex Jones and defensive end No. 99 Paul Hazel lead the team in tackles for a loss, with seven and six respectively.  The team as a whole has been pretty disruptive on defense, averaging six TFL per game.

Of course, playing what is essentially a nickel package at all times has had its cost for the Broncos, who are holding opponents to just 195 yards per game in the air, but giving up 168 yards per on the ground.

 

Western Michigan Pass Offense vs. Notre Dame Pass Defense

Western Michigan runs a "one back, one tight end, three wide receiver" spread similar to Notre Dame's.  Quarterback Alex Carder has seen mixed results as a first-year starter.  On average, he's completing 25 of 42 passes for 258, a rate of 60 percent.  But at the same time, he has almost as many interceptions (seven) as touchdowns (10) this year.

Carder has two main targets averaging five catches per game, wideouts No. 83 Jordan White and No. 81 Juan Nunez.  White is more of a big-play threat, averaging 107 yards per game to Nunez's 59.

No. 8 Ansel Ponder is the first receiver off the bench and is averaging three catches and 24 yards per game.  Running back Aaron Winchester, starting slot receiver No. 12 Robert Arnheim and tight end No. 85 Blake Hammond are all averaging at least one catch per game.

Jordan White leads the team with three touchdown catches, with Nunez, Ponder and Hammond right behind with two apiece.

Notre Dame's pass defense, giving up 252 yards per game, is starting to pile up the interceptions.  The Irish now have eight picks, led by Harrison Smith and Darrin Walls with two apiece.  Darius Fleming and Prince Shembo lead the way with three sacks apiece.

 

Notre Dame Pass Offense vs. Western Michigan Pass Defense

Theo Riddick and Michael Floyd lead the Irish with six catches per game.  Riddick is averaging 66 yards per game to Floyd's 78.  Look for Floyd to pick on WMU's smaller corners and Riddick to just run around them.

Kyle Rudolph is out for the year with a hamstring injury, leaving Mike Ragone, Tyler Eifert and Jake Golic to pick up the slack. 

However, it's John Goodman who has picked up most of Rudolph's slack recently.  Goodman is now averaging two catches and 16 yards per game.  Armando Allen and TJ Jones are also averaging a pair of receptions per contest.

As mentioned above, WMU likes to use what is basically a permanent nickel set to limit opponents' passing.  They're registering just under three sacks per game, led by the aforementioned Paul Hazel and Dex Jones.  The team also has six interceptions on the season, led by cornerback No. 24 Lewis Toler with three.

 

Special Teams

No. 17 John Potter has connected on four of five field goals for the Broncos, with a long of 38.  David Ruffer remains perfect on the season for the Irish, now converting all 11 attempts.  His long is 50, but he says his range is 52.

No. 37 Ben Armer is averaging 43 yards per punt for WMU, with a long of 65.  The Broncos are giving up 10 yards per punt return, but the longest return they've given up so far has been for 20 yards.  Ben Turk is averaging just 38 yards per punt, but has been booming the ball as of late.  Irish opponents have only returned three of his punts for an average of less than one yard per return.

Ansel Ponder returns kicks for Western Michigan.  He's averaging 20 yards per return with a long of 31.  Nick Tausch is now kicking of for the Irish by virtue of his hang time.  Tausch is averaging 55 yards per kick, and ND's coverage team is giving up 21 yards per return.  That's an average start on the 26-yard line.

Bennett Jackson is averaging 24 yards per kick return for Notre Dame, with a long of 43.  John Potter kicks off for the Broncos.  He's averaging 65 yards per boot with five touchbacks in 28 tries.  Western Michigan is giving up 21 yards per return, leaving opponents with an average start on the 25.

WMU's punt returner is Jordan White, who's averaging just six yards per return with a long of 14.  John Goodman is averaging just four yards per punt return for the Irish, with a long of 13.

 

Notre Dame Players to Watch

Cierre Wood, Jonas Gray, Harrison Smith, Darrin Walls, Bennett Jackson, John Goodman

 

Prediction

Notre Dame 38, Western Michigan 14



This article originally appeared on Kanka's Sports Page

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