Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Notre Dame Fighting Irish midseason report

By: Jon Opiela
Twitter: @jonopiela24

As the second half of the college football season begins for most teams across the FBS, the No. 13 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (5-1) are off to a hot start, but will need to prove their worth down the stretch.

The lone defeat for Notre Dame was a 20-19 loss to then-No. 15 Georgia in week two. With the Bulldogs now at No. 3 in the latest AP poll, the College Football Playoff could be a distinct possibility and proves the Irish can hang with elite teams throughout the county.

Notre Dame running back Josh Adams has the potential to be in the running for the Heisman Trophy by the end of the season. When compared with current favorite, Saquon Barkley from Penn State, Adams has more rushing yards (776), yards per attempt (9.0) and yards per game (129.3). While Adams carries the bulk of the load for the Irish running game, he also splits carries with Dexter Williams, Tony Jones Jr. and Deon McIntosh. The Notre Dame running game currently ranks fifth in the country with an average of 308.0 yards per game. 

Adams and the potent Irish offense will be tested down the stretch by some of the nation’s top teams.  For the remainder of the season, four of the six remaining opponents— No. 8 Miami (FL), No. 11 USC, No. 16 North Carolina State, No. 22 Stanford) are currently ranked in the AP Top 25 poll. Notre Dame also takes on Navy, who fell out of the Top 25 following a three-point loss to the now No. 25 Memphis Tigers.

First year starting quarterback Brandon Wimbush has impressed the Irish faithful throughout the first five games he played in.  On the season, Wimbush is 69-132 through the air for 782 yards and six touchdowns.  Wimbush has also established himself as a dual-threat quarterback, averaging 80.4 yards of rushing per game as well.  Wimbush also leads the team with eight rushing touchdowns.

Equanimeous St. Brown has led the Notre Dame receiving core throughout the season. St. Brown has hauled in 15 receptions for 211 yards and two touchdowns. Alize Mack leads the teams in receptions with 17.

Nyles Morgan leads the Irish defense with 44 total tackles and 4.5 tackles for a loss. Morgan has also added a forced fumble and a sack. Jerry Tillery has picked up five quarterback hits this season, which has lead to a team-high three sacks.  Shaun Crawford has also collected two interceptions on the season. 

In the red zone, the Irish have scored on 92 percent of their attempts (24-of-26) and are also 70 percent on their fourth down conversion attempts throughout the season.

Showdown with USC lurks:

After a bye week following its 33-10 road victory over North Carolina, Notre Dame returns home to take on arch-rival USC on Saturday. This will be the first of three consecutive home games for Notre Dame as NC State (Oct. 28) and Wake Forest (Nov. 4) round out an important stretch as it looks to get back into the CFP discussion.