Notre Dame Football: What To Expect From the Irish After Bye Against Utah
A corpse doesn't have many expectations.
It has to lie on a table, take some pokes and prods and occasionally allow a brave, aspiring medical student to saw off one of its limbs.
The goal for Notre Dame in this weekend's home game against No. 14 Utah is simply to have a pulse, that is, not to be the limp carcass of a football team it has resembled the past few weeks.
Right now, Notre Dame is still a team that doesn't know how to win, and it's not likely the players have achieved enlightenment during the past bye week. But as the Irish try to move along the competitiveness spectrum from quitters to undefeated champions, they do need to show the mental fortitude to take a punch, get up and throw one of their own.
With a week off that was hopefully used to do some soul searching, the Irish at the least should be prepared to be competitive. A home game against a top-15 opponent should not require much external motivation.
But that is easier said than done. The Irish team is already mangled with injuries at critical positions, including quarterback, where true freshman Tommy Rees will take his first snaps as a Notre Dame starter.
This game will be a baptism by fire for Rees as the Utes are likely to focus on the Notre Dame running game and then coax Rees into mistakes with a variety zone blitzes. If Irish head coach Brian Kelly needs to lean on Rees for 50 or more passes, the outcome is not going to be positive for Notre Dame.
The Irish will need to be prepared for a fight as Utah is out for revenge. The boogieman of weak strength of schedule still haunts the Utes following a blowout loss to TCU last week. While defeating Notre Dame would not do much to exorcise that demon, the symbolism of Notre Dame Stadium and the national stage will provide plenty of motivation to Utah's high-scoring offense to make a statement.
In particular, Ute quarterback Jordan Wynn will be looking for retribution following a dreadful performance in which he was booed by a home crowd as early as the third quarter. If Notre Dame is to have any success in this game, the Irish will need to pressure Wynn early and often to ease the pressure on Rees.
Most Irish fans have been surviving on blind hope for the latter part of the 2010 season, and Saturday's game will provide the indication of whether the rest of the season (and any dreams of a bowl game) actually may be resuscitated or is simply dead on arrival.
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