Notre Dame Fighting Irish College Football Preview 2021: Keys To The Season
Notre Dame Fighting Irish Biggest Key: Offense
Get the offensive line together in a hurry, and be far, far better in the red zone. The Irish always seem to find ways to reload up front without a problem, but this year they’re likely going to end up being way too young and inexperienced.
This will be a killer group soon, but it might take a little bit to get there. It’ll happen – the star recruits just need a wee bit of time.
With some new parts up front, a new quarterback, and too many new receivers in the rotation, the offense still has to find a way to do more inside the 20.
The 2019 Irish O scored points 93% of the time when it got into the red zone. The 2018 version scores 87% of the time, and the 2017 attack came away with points on 91% of the drives.
The 2020 offense only scores on 77% of its red zone trips, including two misfires in the loss to Alabama, and an empty drive in the ACC Championship loss to Clemson. Even worse, the offense came away with touchdowns just 58% of the time.
Things turned out just fine – the team did get to the College Football Playoff – but it’ll be tougher to get away with that this year.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish Biggest Key: Defense
The run defense has to stop the skid. The Irish were a brick wall against the run last season – stuffing everyone including North Carolina – right up until the final three games.
There was a letdown against a Syracuse ground game that rolled up 229 yards – the most Notre Dame allowed all year – and two scores, and then Clemson made up for the miserable showing by the ground game in the first meeting by rumbling for eight yards per carry in the ACC Championship. Alabama was too busy bombing away to care about the ground game, but it averaged 5.6 yards per pop.
Those were the only three times the Irish allowed more than five yards per carry.
Virginia Tech beat Notre Dame 34-31 late in 2016 despite running for just 3.2 yards per carry and 152 yards overall. The Irish won their next 30 games since then when they held teams to under four yards per pop.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish Key Player To A Successful Season
WR Avery Davis, Sr.
The 5-11, 202-pounder had a good 2020 with 24 catches for 322 yards and two scores, but now he has to turn into a No. 1 target.
He was good for around two catches more game, but he never grabbed more than four and never hit the 80-yard mark. He’s got the quickness and he has the experience, but does he have the chops to be a go-to guy for a receiving corps undergoing an overhaul?
Notre Dame Fighting Irish Key Game To The 2021 Season
Wisconsin, Sept. 25 (in Chicago)
The Irish need a lot of work and seasoning, but that’s what the road game at Florida State and the home dates with Toledo and Purdue are for. They need to roll through those three with what’s next.
They go to Chicago to deal with Wisconsin for the first time since opening up the 1964 season – a 31-7 Notre Dame win. With the gauntlet of Cincinnati, at Virginia Tech, USC and North Carolina to follow, there realistically can’t be a loss to the Badgers if they’ll have any hope of getting back to the College Football Playoff.
2020 Notre Dame Fighting Irish Fun Stats
– Rushing TDs: Notre Dame 33 – Opponents 12
– 2nd Quarter Scoring: Notre Dame 148 – Opponents 59
– Onside Kicks: Notre Dame 1-for-1 – Opponents 1-for-1