Notre Dame was put in quite the sticky situation coming into the season with the suspension of QB Everett Golson, the man who managed the offense well enough to get the Irish a shot at playing for the national title last season. So, head coach Brian Kelly decided to go with a familiar, yet somewhat unreliable hand in senior Tommy Rees. In the past, Rees had a penchant for turning the ball over in some inopportune times, and he’s displayed that unfortunate trait yet again. He’s completed just a shade over 51% of his passes, and has six picks. Three of those interceptions alone came during a crucial game against Oklahoma. The fact remains that Rees just isn’t built for big-game situations.
Rest of offense: C+
Passing wise, when Tommy Rees is in control, Notre Dame hasn’t been all too terrible, averaging 250.5 per game through the air, which is good for 53rd overall in the country. But, it’s been the absence of the running game that’s hurt this offense. Their 136.3 on the ground per game ranks 95th in the country, and has really hurt this unit. George Atkinson has proven that he’s not one to carry an entire backfield by himself as he himself has just over 300 yards rushing.
We knew that this unit wasn’t going to be on the level it was last year with the losses of key players such as Manti Te’o and Zeke Motta, but they’ve held their own thus far. In the outing against Arizona State in JerryWorld, the front seven showed they can get pressure when they need to by combining for six sacks. If anything, the secondary needs to do a much better job than they’ve done so far as they’ve given up some big plays.
Taking everything into consideration, the Irish might once again be on a fast track to another BCS appearance despite the setbacks. Basically, anything nine wins or higher gets them into one of the coveted matchups, and their schedule the rest of the way gives them the opportunity to accomplish that feat. If the defense can keep growing and if Kelly can keep Rees in some positions where it’s tough for him to turn the ball over, they can manage their way to those nine wins.
Offensive spotlight: WRs DaVaris Daniels and TJ Jones
If there has been one saving grace for Rees so far it’s been the emergence of Daniels and Jones to help him out of some trouble. It was clearly evident in some games that Rees and Daniels were developing a decent amount of chemistry, and Jones has stepped in nicely as well.
Defensive spotlight: Louis Nix
Losses on defense aside, Nix has once again been a great anchor on the defensive line and some NFL team is going to get a steal with him down the road. Halfway through, the man affectionately known as “Irish Chocolate” has 20 total tackles and has continually been a disruption in the opponent’s passing game.