#22 Notre Dame (1-0) v. Purdue (*1-0)
Notre Dame Stadium – South Bend, Indiana 3:30 PM EST on NBC
First Thing – Don't ever tell your future bride, "Honey, as long as I don't have to plan anything at all you can do whatever you want for our wedding." Some poor sap who claimed to be an Irish fan did just that and landed himself a 6:00 PM EST wedding on a Saturday during football season. Guess who is friends with this guy and is dating a girl who grew up with him. THIS guy. In conclusion, I'll be heading to a wedding around halftime on Saturday and if the bar doesn't have a TV my Lady Friend might spend a few hours asking everyone "Hey … have you seen Steve recently??" while I chill back in the Man Cave with a brew and my Great Dane re-watching the DVR'd version. I'll invite Allen Pinkett like last week, but since he didn't actually lose his job he's in charge of libations. I want some Goose or fine Irish whiskey Al – none of that well crap.
First thing about football – We can probably tell a lot more about Notre Dame from the NAVY game than Purdue can from taking out Eastern Kentucky in Week 1. I spoke to Yahoo! Sport's Purdue blogger Brian Neubert, from GoldandBlack.com, about the match-up and he also felt that taking much stock in their win is probably fool's gold. If anything is to be gathered from the game it's this – Purdue can't turn the ball over 5 times this week and win. They know it and we know it. Also – they have a QB controversy between Caleb Terbush & Robert Marve for about the 5th consecutive season. Terbush got the dreaded "violation of team rules" a few hours before kickoff and Marve enjoyed a fine afternoon against the overmatched Colonels. Feels nice knowing our QB is the one who needs to throw more INTs to get the hook.
Five Things to Watch
5. Everett Golson's Passing Growth - While I expect the game plan to remain largely in tact from last week, it will be interesting to see if Golson gets the chance to really show off his cannon of an arm. He didn't take a chance on any deep throws or attempt a throw in the middle of the field. Purdue's front seven is bigger and features at least one player who will start in the NFL – Golson will need to start getting defenses stretched a little more for him to continue his success.
4. Crowd Noise & Game Atmosphere - After an offseason mocking the use of Ozzy Osbourne's "Crazy Train" but not it's actual intention, some pretty hefty shots were fired leading up to the 2012 Home Opener. Eric Hansen kicked it off Wednesday night exposing some pathetic stories from the stands and Notre Dame Senior Associate Athletic Director John Heisler brought the hammer Thursday at high noon with a clever marketing ploy.
The new message is clear and its intended target is clearer: Notre Dame Stadium is no longer catering to those who wish to attend private social gatherings and muted soiree's. Get up and cheer or get out and watch at home. When I spoke to Hansen Thursday, a man whose opinion and expertise on Notre Dame Football is matched by few, I asked him how he might react to an usher telling him he was "cheering too loudly for the home team" and he responded like all fans who care – "I wouldn't take kindly (to it)". Bravo to Hansen and Heisler for taking a stand that will likely draw ire from some prominent benefactors.
3. All the DBs, NOT Just the Cornerbacks - While September's slate may not be easy, Caleb Terbush & Robert Marve might be the #1 & #2 pure passers the Irish face this month. Neubert claimed that Terbush is the "safer pick with fewer tools" … sounds familiar to another player who sat at home in Week 1? Purdue is going to come out attacking this defense vertically and on the edge. The defensive game plan will most certainly be very different from Week 1, but Bennett Jackson, Keivarae Russell, Jamoris Slaughter & Zeke Motta will be put in even more positions to make plays on balls in the air. Notre Dame needs answers there now, not later. Expect Jalen Brown and Josh Atkinson to get their shots again.
2. Evolution of the WR Rotation - Yes, it's still surprising that 10 Irish players caught passes in a single game and none of them were John Goodman. Eric Hansen put this topic into a different spin than others. NBC's Keith Arnold found it telling that the 2nd/3rd teamers at the end of the game against Navy included projected starters Toma, Goodman and TJ Jones while Hansen believes that the offense simply likes to send WRs out in groups and the constant revolving will be a staple moving forward. I just want to see a deep bomb to Chris Brown, but DaVaris Daniels certainly looks like the back end of many future Everett Golson connections. All early seasons feature coaches toying with lineups and personnel. A 5-7 WR rotation should be closer to solid by Michigan, but there's plenty of time to test the waters now.
1. Mike Golic Jr. vs. Kawan Short – The offensive line's deficiencies after Center Braxton Cave went down in 2011 were well documented. Golic, his replacement and now starting at right guard, was consistently outmatched against multiple opponents. Fair to note 2011 Stanford & Florida State were both Top 5 nationally in rush defense. You can bet your gambling winnings from Week 1 that 2013 top NFL Draft pick Short is lined up with Golic early and often to see if he is the OL's weak link. Expect the Irish defense to identify Short on every play and provide plenty of help on his side of the field, but there's only so much to be done. He couldn't possibly be benched the same week his kid brother made Sportscenter's Top 10 for playing beer pong in the locker room, could he?
Predicting the Game & What We'll See
It will take a South Floridian effort from the Irish to drop this game against Saturday. That is the modern way of saying "If ND throws the ball away and every single bounce goes their opponent's way, then the Irish could lose to an inferior opponent and it will stain the entire season if not decade." Purdue could certainly find some success through the air while the offense struggles to hold onto the ball, leading to a tight game … seriously there is no way Notre Dame should lose this damn game. Kawan Short aside, ND should be able to rush it down their throats and dictate play from the outset. You think ND will have to adjust to the size increase from playing NAVY? Purdue was toe-to-toe with a team that went 7-5 in the FCS! Anything less than a 21 point win will be disappointing.
Purdue – The Boilermakers will move the ball, but barring multiple big plays it's hard to see them finishing drives as the field shortens. Terbush, who led the 2011 game with a backbreaking interception to Gary Gray, is making his season debut and Purdue fans expect a rotation there. In one of the odder exchanges with Purdue blogger Neubert, I praised senior WR Antavian Edwards who racked up 105 yards and a TD on seven catches against ND in 2011. Neubert downplayed the whole receiving corps as a "small, athletic group but no deep threats" and "if (head coach) Danny Hope plans to air it out it will be the first we've seen of it." I just don't think Purdue is confident as a fan-base or a team that they can win this game
Notre Dame – Keep it Simple Round 2. Notre Dame should dominate line play on both sides of the ball. No need to open the playbook too much more other than to run some tests with the new toys and let Golson rip his first few deep passes on play action. Golson should see a slight bump in passing stats as this game might be competitive a quarter longer. This also means the rushing attack will be given the opportunity to top 300 rushing yards so expect big days out of Riddick and GAIII again. Is this dominant front seven combined with questions in the backfield a recipe for bend, but don't break every week? Time will tell, but the defensive line should disrupt Purdue enough to end the majority of their drives and divert threats.
Notre Dame heads to the break up 21-10 after rushing for 150+ yards but missing a few other deep passes. Purdue can't keep pace in the 2nd half and is down 35-10 before tacking on a few late scores to make it look respectable.
Vegas: Notre Dame (-14) Over/Under: 52
Herring Bone Says Take Notre Dame & The Over
Final Score: Notre Dame 35-20
Follow me on Twitter @ManCaveQB and listen to my Irish podcasts at our feed or on iTunes. My solo podcast, The Man Cave Quarterback, features former ND quarterback Matt Mulvey breaking down the QB play in his "Red Army Review" and I'll be joined by former Irish players and current CFB writers and bloggers. Maybe even Subway Domer himself will stop by. This week's podcast featured former Sports Illustrated writer John Walters (@jdubs88) & CollegeSpun.com writer and Notre Dame Senior Tyler Moorehead (@TMoorehead627)