Irish trends: Mobile QBs a problem, but schedule setting up nicely

Irish trends: Mobile QBs a problem, but schedule setting up nicely
September 9, 2013, 3:00 pm
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Revisiting a few angles from Notre Dame's 41-30 loss to Michigan...

1. Mobile quarterbacks look like a problem for the Irish defense.

Devin Gardner certainly gave Notre Dame's defense more fits than Connor Reilly, but a weakness Temple revealed in Week 1 was exploited by Michigan in Week 2. Notre Dame struggled to contain Gardner on Saturday and chased him quite a bit -- like, for example, when he easily eluded Stephon Tuitt outside the pocket. Michigan's offense is more pro-style and power-oriented than Temple's spread attack, and is obviously far more skilled, but the worry here is that Notre Dame's defense hasn't proven to be good enough to keep opposing quarterbacks from making plays with their legs.

[More: Notre Dame searching for its playmakers]

"A lot of things are on our plate to examine," coach Brian Kelly said when asked about those mobile QB struggles. "But I think when it comes down to it, you're dealing with an offense that can run option as well as power, and we've got to be prepared for a little bit of everything. At times we were not in a good position to handle some of the option things."

2. Kyle Brindza is the answer for Notre Dame's kicking woes.

Nick Tausch's grip on Notre Dame's No. 1 placekicking job may have lasted just one attempt. While Kyle Brindza missed his only field goal try against Temple, it was a miss Kelly chalked up to a bad hold by Luke Massa. Against Michigan, Brindza drilled all three of his field goals, including two of 40 yards or more. He also punted twice, although didn't have a chance to redeem himself after booming two of his kicks out of the end zone in shorter-field situations against Temple. Alex Wulfeck could still get in those situations in which Notre Dame needs a precision punt, but for now, Brindza's the guy all around.

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"If Kyle feels tired, we've got to be careful that he doesn't get a dead leg," Kelly said Sunday. "I've talked to a number of kickers who have done this in college, and that's my biggest concern. He obviously kicked very well last night for us, but I think this is something that I've got to be careful with from week to week."

3. Notre Dame's schedule doesn't look incredibly difficult going forward.

A quick rundown of how Notre Dame's future opponents have fared through two games:

-- Purdue was blown out by Cincinnati, 42-7, in its opener and eked by FCS-level Indiana State over the weekend. Cincinnati was then blown out by Illinois, while the week before Indiana State let up 73 points against Indiana. Through two games, Purdue looks like one of the worst BCS-conference teams in the country.

-- Michigan State's offense continues to look inept: A week after unimpressively beating Central Michigan 26-13, the Spartans managed just one offensive touchdown at home against a USF team that allowed 53 points to FCS-side McNeese State in Week 1. Connor Cook (12/27, 74 yards) replaced Andrew Maxwell (15/30, 114 yards this year) and didn't look like a solution. The Spartans still have an excellent defense, but the offense is so bad if Notre Dame doesn't throw any pick-sixes, it should probably be fine in Week 4.

-- Speaking of struggling offenses, Oklahoma will have an interesting decision on its hands when it comes to South Bend at the end of the month. Quarterback Trevor Knight, who beat out Blake Bell for a starting job in preseason camp, is out 1-2 weeks with a shoulder injury, meaning the run-first Bell will start for the Sooners this weekend against Tulsa. OU gets a bye week before the Notre Dame game and has time to figure out its offensive issues, but it only put up 16 points against a West Virginia defense that was pretty awful last year.

[More: Tony Rice breaks down Notre Dame's loss to Michigan]

-- It's too early to get a read on Arizona State, which lit up an FCS team in Sacramento State 55-0 to open its season on Friday. There's a chance, though, that ASU on a neutral field is Notre Dame's toughest game until Stanford, because...

-- ... USC lost 10-7 to Washington State on Saturday. A team with Marqise Lee and Nelson Agholor scored seven points. The Trojans have some impressive skill players, but the offensive line is bad and its quarterbacks (Cody Kessler and Max Wittek combined for 54 yards and two interceptions vs. WSU) are worse.

-- Air Force was blown out, 52-20, by Utah State at home over the weekend.

-- Navy beat Indiana, 41-35. Like Air Force, its option offense could create some headaches for Notre Dame, but its defense likely won't be good enough to challenge the Irish.

-- Pittsburgh had a bye weekend to lick its Jameis Winston-inflicted wounds. It's been eight years since a Notre Dame-Pittsburgh game was decided by more than a touchdown, though, so maybe this is one to circle just based on that.

[More: Kelly puts Notre Dame's loss to Michigan on the offense]

-- BYU had by far the best weekend of any 2013 Irish opponent (well, obviously, outside of Michigan), racking up 550 rushing yards against a hapless Texas defense. The game proved Texas is still Texas, but BYU QB Taysom Hill rushed for 259 yards and three touchdowns. That may be concerning for Notre Dame, but BYU doesn't have much of a passing threat (Hill is 22/66 for 304 yards in two games).

So between now and Nov. 30's date with Stanford in Palo Alto, Notre Dame may only have a few tests, none of which appear likely to resonate on the national level. That's both good and bad: The Irish have a chance to rack up wins between now and Thanksgiving, but the perception may be that it's not against quality competition. Still, for the Irish's BCS chances, losing early may help: If Notre Dame rattles off nine straight wins heading into Stanford momentum could be on their side for a BCS berth, even if they lose in Palo Alto.

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