Hardest test for Notre Dame lies ahead, starts with Badgers
Jimmy Ward | Wednesday, September 22, 2021
The Irish may have come away with a win on Saturday at home against an in-state rival, but their hardest work of the year still lies ahead of them. Although it was their most dominating performance of the season, the Boilermakers still gave the Irish a run for their money at the end of the day. Of course, at the end of the first half, Notre Dame only held a 10-3 lead over Purdue and was struggling to get much of anything going in front of their large home crowd.
This was apparently a big enough game for someone pretty high up on the ladder to deem it an “Irish Wear Green” game. Now, these green out games have historically been taken advantage of by the people calling the shots in order to sell shirts and merchandise while not actually wearing the famous green jerseys. Green scheme aside, they usually at least have the self-awareness to choose a big game as opposed to, oh, I don’t know, maybe a 2:30 Week 3 matchup against Purdue, where the biggest star hailing from West Lafayette in the weekend is NBC’s new poster boy in Drew Brees. At least someone had the wherewithal to give all the students green pom-poms so as to ensure the product and branding on Peacock looks good; but in this case, who knows? For all we know the pom-poms could have made all the difference in this game. I mean, I guess it definitely lends to the unique story of how this team has achieved a 3-0 record. It truly has been an interesting one.
But the Irish will play their first ranked team this weekend; graduate transfer quarterback Jack Coan will square off against his friends and former teammates in a College Gameday showdown between the No. 12 ranked Irish and the No. 18 ranked Wisconsin Badgers. It is not going to be an easy game for the Irish, and it very well may result in the first loss of the season for this team; but, unfortunately, it very well could also not be the last. The Irish will return home after their Shamrock Series game at Soldier Field and turn around to host now No. 8 ranked Cincinnati. That will kick off the month off October for the Irish, and by the end of the month, the Irish will have hosted one more opponent that is ranked at the time of this writing against No. 21 North Carolina.
The hardest work is by no means out of the way, but the Irish also have managed not to trash their whole season against an early opponent. They are still in contention for the College Football Playoffs, and sitting at No. 12, they really aren’t in a terrible position to strike on teams that have historically cemented themselves inside the top four that have, so far this season, come off a little shaky and start to not look themselves. It’s important for the Irish to be able to carry this momentum from the win over Purdue over to their first competition against a ranked opponent this week. If they are able to come together as a congruent unit, they will be difficult to stop. The offensive line needs to be patched up, but there have been glimpses and sparks of great play that have snuck through in moments this season, even if this hasn’t resulted in any major domination on the scoreboard. The run game has started to show sparks, Coan is finding targets, and if, heaven forbid, he goes down, his backup true freshman Tyler Buchner has served as a dynamic weapon when his number has been called this season. Looking ahead, playing together as a complimentary unit is one of the most important things for this group to do if they want to be successful.