Our “how you doing” feature is back for year three! Each week we at B5Q will review how each of Wisconsin’s opponents has fared heading into their contest with the Badgers.
Coming off of a bye week, the No. 18 Wisconsin Badgers (1-1 overall. 0-1 Big Ten) are scheduled to take on No. 12 Notre Dame (3-0 overall) in a neutral site game with both Big Noon Saturday and College GameDay in attendance.
Let’s begin by taking a look at how the season has gone to this point for the Irish...
- Win at Florida State 41-38 in OT
- Win vs. Toledo 32-29
- Win vs. Purdue 27-13
Status of the offense:
To this point, the Notre Dame offense has been inconsistent.
New starting quarterback Jack Coan, who of course is a former Badger, has played fairly well in a new system, but backup Tyler Buchner has also seen action in two games as a change of pace option. Coan has seen the bulk of the snaps under center and has completed 62.6% of his passes for 828 yards (slightly over 275 per game) and eight touchdowns compared to two interceptions.
While his completion percentage is down quite a bit from his time with Wisconsin, his average yards per attempt and overall statistics are up. A big reason for Coan’s heightened yardage totals has been the need for Notre Dame to throw the ball this season.
The Notre Dame offensive line has struggled this season. Losing four starters from a year ago, the group was expected to take a step back, but they have already surrendered 15 sacks in three games and have been unable to open up running lanes for the ground game. The Irish are down to their third tackle on the depth chart on the left side and have been trying to find the right combination elsewhere still to begin the season.
All-American candidate running back Kyren Williams has struggled to get going on the ground behind that patchwork offensive line. Williams is an electric playmaker though and has shown an ability to break off chunk plays both as a runner and as a receiver over the course of his career. Williams leads the Irish in all-purpose yards with 400, and he also handles punt return duties. Backup Chris Tyree is a speedster to keep an eye on too. He has only averaged 2.4 yards per carry so far this season, but he is the third leading receiver on the team. There is definitely talent in the backfield for Notre Dame.
Luckily for Coan, he has weapons outside to turn to, in addition to Williams out of the backfield who is the second leading receiver. Tight end Michael Mayer is maybe the top tight end in the country, and he leads Notre Dame with 17 receptions. He is a mismatch problem and he is by far Coan’s favorite target, but Purdue was able to limit him last week with double coverage.
At wide receiver, the trio of Avery Davis, Kevin Austin, and Braden Lenzy have combined for 23 receptions for 396 yards and two touchdowns. Davis and Austin each average over 18.5 yards per reception, and can stretch the field with big plays.
Similarly to the Badgers, Notre Dame’s offense is still a work in progress, but they have displayed an ability to pass the ball well this year when Coan has time. The running game has not been there through three games, with only 2.9 yards per attempt though, and that is notable. The Irish have relied heavily on big plays to move the ball this season, and that will be a key factor in the game Saturday.
Status of the defense:
Statistics can be a bit misleading for Notre Dame’s defense. While allowing 28 points and 4.2 yards per game on the ground is not great, they have a ton of talent.
A big reason for Notre Dame’s lackluster numbers against the run however is due to big plays. All three of their opponents were able to break off chunk yardage on the ground, which contribute to the elevated per carrying numbers. If you remove an 89-yard run by Florida State and a 67-yard run by Toledo, they are only allowing a little over 2.7 yards per attempt.
Notre Dame’s front seven rotates a bunch of bodies up front, but JD Bertrand is the leading tackler from his linebacker spot and Isaiah Foskey has a team-high 3.5 sacks through three games. As a team, the Irish have gotten to the quarterback 13 times and also taken the ball away seven times, five via interceptions and two through fumble recoveries.
By far the player to watch on Notre Dame’s defense is safety Kyle Hamilton. He is an absolute Dude with a capital “D” and leads the team with three interceptions. At 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds he is extremely fast and seemingly always around the ball. He is the leader of the Irish defense and is second on the team in tackles.
Just like the run defense, the secondary has also been susceptible to big plays. Florida State was able to rattle off a 60-yard reception, and Toledo was able to complete a 66-yard throw. Kyle Hamilton has been really good, but Notre Dame’s cornerbacks can be beaten from time to time.
Notre Dame’s opponents have not acquitted themselves well after playing the Irish, with Florida State now 0-3 including a loss to FCS Jacksonville State, and Toledo now sitting 1-2 with a loss to a bad Colorado State team at home last weekend.
On paper, this matchup is very evenly matched though. Both teams have given up big plays defensively, and have each been essentially been one-dimensional on offense. Offensive line play is probably a bigger question mark for the Irish, but the Badgers have also rotated a lot of different players under Joe Rudolph so far.
Notre Dame is an extremely talented and undefeated football team, so this weekend’s contest at Soldier Field should definitely be fun to watch.