As we get set for Northwestern-Notre Dame, we went over to SB Nation's great Notre Dame site, One Foot Down, to get a little bit of intel on the Fighting Irish. Patrick Burns was nice enough to answer our questions. Make sure to follow him on Twitter at @pburnsOFD and be sure to follow One Foot Down at @OneFootDown. And check out OFD to see my answers to Patricks' question, including the best burgers in Evanston and Chicagoland.
1) What do Notre Dame fans think of Northwestern and this series? Would they want to see more of it?
I think most fans view it as a fun game outside of the "normal" opponents we normally play. I would say fans wouldn't be upset to see more of Northwestern on our schedules, but it's not something that they would want the school to go out of the way to do on a more regular basis.
2) Everett Golson has been really turnover prone in recent games. What has changed?
There have been a lot of posts on our site breaking down the Golson turnovers that provide some insight. In a few words (and mostly my own opinion), I think the interceptions that Golson has thrown have largely been acceptable mistakes, outside of one or two of them. His fumbles, however, have been the most worrying. He's slowly improving, actually getting down/out of bounds on his long runs instead of trying to make the hero plays, but he still carries the ball like a loaf of bread, and doesn't have the sixth sense of when to hold the ball w/two hands when he's being pressured in the pocket (usually he has left the pocket by then). Overall, I think they're fixable mistakes that we can expect from someone playing only his second full year of college football.
3) Northwestern actually had decent success against Wisconsin's 3-4 defense. How can they attack the Notre Dame defense?
Surprise for you, ND actually runs both odd and even fronts this year under Brian VanGorder, and are actually a bit skewed towards 4 down linemen. Notre Dame's weakness in the defense is really just inexperience across all parts -- losing senior LB Joe Schmidt against Navy really hurt against ASU, forcing Freshman Nyles Morgan into the starting role at MLB. ND is extremely thin in the secondary. We currently only have 2 actual safeties on the roster due to injury and suspension. Given that, however, the defense has overperformed mostly due to the scheme of Brian VanGorder -- he uses plenty of complex blitzes and personnel packages to put his players in the best spot to succeed.
4) What is the goal for Notre Dame this season now that the playoff looks out of the picture?
The obvious goal is to win out, and sneak into one of the "big money" bowl games (old BCS + Peach + Cotton). Barring that, beating USC will suffice for most fans. Personally, getting to 10 wins would be a really good finish to the season, leaving Irish fans with the last three seasons of 12 wins, 9 wins, and 10 wins. There were some dark years before Brian Kelly, and I wasn't sure we'd see sustained success like we are seeing now.
I think ND has the possibility of coming out a little bit flat, especially given the gametime temperature and likely subdued ND crowd. If they don't come out flat, and play like they are able, I could see something along the lines of the Wake Forest game last year, where they just have fun and drop some big points.
Something in between a blowout and uncomfortably close seems right for this game. ND 34, Northwestern 17.