So, no more of me being all sad and depressed about the games. Last week I spent a lot of words explaining why I was sad about the Virginia game even before it happened. The game itself was amazing (well, the very end, let’s not speak of the rest right here and now), but the sadness was real. People lamenting the players lost are missing an opportunity to enjoy Will Fuller doing his thing and CJ Prosise becoming one of the most versatile, explosive players in recent Notre Dame memory. A lot of folks seem resigned to a fate of ND “settling” into mediocrity or just being bitten by too many injuries. I refuse to go this route. Oh yes, I’ll be accused of riding my unicorn across rainbow road, and to that I say: You are damn right I am. There may come a week where I need to re-calibrate possibilities, but as of the time of this piece Notre Dame is 2-0, ranked #8 in the country, and still in possession of some excellent pieces.
I’ll acknowledge that the injuries have certainly stung. Not every outcome may be as sweet as honey like last week’s win over Virginia, but such moments shouldn’t be ignored either. The buzz around the stadium is now about DeShone Kizer, Notre Dame’s new queen bee. Will he learn to fly or turn yellow when confronted by a formidable opponent? People are also still waiting to see if the ND defense can get themselves in gear and swarm the opponent, but it’s certainly not a given. Despite all of these questions and concerns, there is reason for hope. Now, who is it they’re playing this week???
The When/Where/What Time/Etc. vs. Georgia Tech, 3:30 PM ET, Our Lady of the Lake, TV – NBC (Feherty pending)
The Opposing Coach: I’d like to thank Textradamus for totally knowing this week was going to be busy for me. While he’s refused to shell out hundreds of thousands of dollars for each writer so we can quit our day jobs, he did handle discussion of Paul Johnson in his KTKTE piece.
The Bee’s Last Game: Tech tested the limits of what constitutes an FBS game by bashing in the Tulane Green Wave 65-10. They ran the dang ball 56 times. They passed it 10. It didn’t much seem to matter. Justin Thomas, perhaps the best actual quarterback Johnson has had to run his system, finished the day 7/9 for 97 yards and 2 touchdowns. He finished second on the team in rushing yards with 71 on the day. The Bees had 8 different rushers rush for at least 30 yards with none that finished above 72 on their way to 439 total rushing yards, 6 TD’s, and a 7.8 YPC. Tech kept scoring so fast that they only wound up with a 6 minute possession advantage. I refuse to dignify this match anymore. Tech’s good. Tulane….my lady went there, so I can’t call it worthless, but well….
Team Talent: Same thought process as last week. Tech clocks in at 7/12 among this year’s opponent in cumulative recruiting points since 2011. They rank 2 slots behind Virginia in 5 year cumulative value. Notre Dame boasts a near 100 point per cycle advantage on Tech’s recruiting classes. That said, when it comes to true “systems” like Georgia Tech’s and even to a lesser extent Oregon, I don’t think recruiting rankings tell the whole story. Fit will always matter as much if not more for such programs because they’re looking for specific types of players. Johnson’s an absolute master at program building. He searches for guys who are willing and able to run his version of the spread (don’t you DARE call it the triple option), and programs under his guidance do very well at running (quite literally) his scheme. Notre Dame will from a straight recruiting standpoint be suiting up better athletes, but this is not necessarily the advantage it would appear to be.
Trends/Thoughts/Stats: Did I thank Tex yet for basically doing this preview for me already? Well, let’s do it again because he also talked about Tech at length in his fear factor ratings. The two enormous story lines will obviously be how DeShone Kizer performs and what to make of the defense. I’ll admit, my gut was to say that Notre Dame needs to pull the old LSU playbook back out: slow the pace, run to control the clock, avoid turnovers, etc. The problem is that Tech, who scores more than you think, is just as happy if not more content to grind out victories. So, I went searching, and here’s what I found about 2013 and 2014 Georgia Tech:
- Georgia Tech is 2-7 when their opponent scores 30 or more points.
- Only 2 teams have defeated Tech with less than 30 points. Both games happened in 2013 (Ole Miss, Virginia Tech)
- Tech’s style doesn’t leave them open to home/road splits. 4 losses occurred at home. 4 on the road. and 1 was a neutral site game.
- Forget about trying to win the rushing game or time of possession battle. Tech out rushed its opponent in each of the 9 losses. They also had even or better clock control. If you think the defense sucks if they gave up a bunch of rushing yards, prepare to think the defense sucks. Even in losses, Tech will get their yards.
- It’s not insightful, but the most common thread between the losses was Tech giving the ball up more than its opponent. The first two games have seen the ND defense force just 1 turnover. The offense has been mistake free, but the key is to force Tech into 2+ mistakes. Letting Tech rack up yards that lead to zero points is a great way to turn their well oiled rushing machine into a rambling wreck.
I wanted to say something bold about this game like ND will do it the hard way and out rush Tech if they want to win. Now, I think the opposite. ND needs to come out looking to make it a scoring battle and exploit their air attack weapons. Doing the “protect the new starter” thing is a recipe for being too conservative to exploit where Tech can be got: the defensive side of the ball. Notre Dame’s offense ranks 15th in the nation after 2 weeks in yards per play a 7.0. To hammer home a fun early season point: They’ve done it against 2 Power 5 conference teams. Sure, Malik Zaire, Tarean Folston, and Durham Smythe are gone for the year, but CJ Prosise, Will Fuller, and a stable of other athletes remain. There’s a mantra that athletic discrepancies show up the most when a defense lacks talent. It’s still entirely possible Georgia Tech’s defense is inept and just hasn’t seen a real offense in the first two weeks. Notre Dame needs to test this theory early and often. Don’t get into a ball control battle with one of the ultimate ball control teams. Attack. Attack. Attack!