After a dominant performance over Wisconsin (5-3, 3-2) this past Saturday, the Wildcats move on to host Notre Dame (8-0) this Saturday. The Wildcats, still atop the Big Ten West, are hoping to give the Fighting Irish their first loss of the season. Here are three things to know about Northwestern’s Week 10 opponent, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish:
Quarterback Ian Book leads a potent offense
Notre Dame began the season using returning senior Brandon Wimbush at quarterback, yet after some early season struggles he was superseded by junior Ian Book in Week 4. Book threw for 325 yards and two scores in his first start and hasn’t looked back. He is an effective dual-threat quarterback, rushing 54 times with three touchdowns in his five starts. Book had an 82 percent completion rate in his most recent start against Navy, completing 27 passes for 330 yards and two touchdowns. However, Book threw a late-game interception and has been prone to turning the ball over recently.
Many Irish players are recovering from injury
Similar to Northwestern, Notre Dame has also had issues with kicker injuries, with Irish kicker Justin Yoon suffering a groin injury during the Pitt game. However, Yoon is expected to return in time for this weekend’s clash in Evanston. Against Navy, Notre Dame’s second leading tackler Drue Tranquill suffered what appeared to be an ankle sprain with his current status unknown. He was seen wearing a walking boot on the sidelines later in the game, though at times he was seen without the boot as well. Additionally, Tranquill has been playing with a cast on his broken left hand. Irish running back Jafar Armstrong returned to action against Navy after treating an infection in his knee. One Irish player that could also potentially make a return is defensive lineman Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, who suffered a broken foot against Michigan. While I don’t expect him to return, it is not completely unrealistic.
Notre Dame’s defense is talented, although not without questions
Notwithstanding the uncertainty surrounding Drue Tranquill, the Irish defense has looked very impressive. They rank sixth in the nation in defensive S&P+, holding the Navy offense to 74 yards in the first half. However, the Navy offense is a very different style of offense than Northwestern’s pass-heavy attack. In the second half against Navy, the Irish were a completely different team — they struggled to execute plays that they were making early and were increasingly reliant on arm tackles, which they struggled to make in open field. Cornerback Troy Pride Jr., who recently returned from injury, looked out of place at times, being burned for at one point for a 58 yard pass. The Northwestern offense should provide the Irish with a good test, seeing how they can adapt from a unique Navy offense to a more standard passing attack.