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Join Date: Apr 2011
Total Bankroll: 28,648,800,901,831,495,680.00
Here's the post-GT Rakes' Report:
1) It’s nice when you know basically everyone involved with your football program, from fans to walk-ons to the team captains and head coach, are looking ahead to the following weekend’s game and you still just go on the road and cruise to a win. Was the fumble return touchdown a little spooky on Halloween afternoon, harkening back to darker days? Indubitably, but the Irish were fine, walking down the field in seven plays to immediately retake the lead and never finding themselves really threatened after the break. 6-0, 17-2 since the start of last season and 29-3 over the last three years. The Irish held up their end of the bargain through the first two months to set up Saturday’s epic clash and did so with a workmanlike dominance.
2) The final score and stats don’t accurately portray the smothering we saw on Saturday. Before their host’s horrific “hurry-up drill” at the end of the first half, Notre Dame had outgained the Yellow Jackets 240 yards to 25 and achieved 15 first downs to their two. We were wondering when the sacks would start to register and they came in waves, as senior captains Daelin Hayes and Ade Ogundeji started to cook, leading the charge on a day where the Irish registered five total.* Hayes had two sacks and two forced fumbles, almost adding thirds on the overturned call, starting to play the best football of his career at an opportune time. It is tricky to evaluate Isaiah Foskey because when he’s unblocked he does incredibly violent stuff but in theory teams might block him better in the future? Still, fun to see, along with the great awareness from a motoring MTA to end the opening drive of the second half with a fumble recovery.
* If you were wondering if sacks had been a problem for the Jackets all season due to having a freshman quarterback and offensive linemen recruited for a triple option, surprisingly no, as they came in having given up just 10 in their first six games.
Georgia Tech did some really dumb stuff to make life easier. Throwing to your fullback in the flat against Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah? Sure, go for it. Running at Kyle Hamilton on fourth down? Yeah, why not. I enjoyed the absolute disdain with which Hamilton snuffed out the two-point conversion attempt, casually throwing the runner for a loss as he openly pined for the actual challenge he’ll be presented with on Saturday. With the exception of Louisville (which was played in a wind tunnel), the Irish haven’t faced much in the way of good offenses, but they’ve done exactly what you should do when faced with an inferior foe: Piledrive them into submission. You know things are going well when Georgia Tech makes it into the red zone twice and that’s more visits than the last two opponents combined.
3) Very vanilla day for the offense as they rolled their way to 31 points (so close to 38 – thank you for trying for the cover, C’Borius) and six yards per snap. Ian Book looked really sharp on the opening drive, including a nice ball on the move to Joe Wilkins for the first score. Things became a little sloppier as the day wore on, but let’s not take his rushing ability (8 yards per carry, three first downs) for granted. There were some flashes from Javon McKinley and Avery Davis in addition to what we expect from the tight ends, but Tommy Rees wasn’t interested in showing much the week before Clemson, a game in which the passing attack must be better. I was wondering if Chris Tyree was maybe hitting a freshman wall but he averaged nearly 10 yards per carry so he seems fine? Kyren Williams had a fumble but had another impressive day, with 100 yards from scrimmage and two scores.
I don’t want to skim over just how good the Irish have been at converting third and shorts, or really just third downs in general, as they’re now at 29 of the last 48 over the previous three games, good for a 60 percent clip. Obviously the big test is upcoming, but it’s been a great run.
4) Stuff to improve upon for Saturday if the Irish hope to keep winning: Have to cut back on fumbles, as both Williams and Tyree had drops, although thankfully only one was lost. Book has to be sharper overall, particularly in targeting the tight ends when they’ve slipped behind the linebackers because that’s going to be a thing that’s there most of the time. The Notre Dame offense has been hyper efficient but not explosive, and unless that second part changes they’ll have to run a bunch of plays to score against Clemson without having one of the various freak athletes scattered across their defensive depth chart doing something mean to throw things off schedule. It’s possible, of course, if Book and Rees get into a groove but it won’t be as easy as it’s looked in some of these previous games as Clemson doesn’t seem like a team reckoning to get ground down to paste.
Also, I guess if you’re going to be bad at a special teams thing it might as well be onside kicks because facing onside kicks is usually a good sign but let’s be better at those, please. I honestly don’t know what to suggest for the defense beyond turning more of the passes broken up into interceptions, which is kind of a no duh request. It’s a good football team, folks – not sure what else to tell you.
5) Winning is Hard/Schadenfreude Round Up: Well, Brian Kelly dropped another “Winning is hard” immediately after the game and while I realize the television isn’t talking to us it’s starting to get a little weird, right? Anyway: Last week, the big ABC primetime match up was between ranked Michigan and ranked Minnesota and they both went into Week 2 of Big Ten play as three-touchdown favorites. Well, on Friday night the Golden Gophers blew a 17-point fourth quarter lead to Maryland (who got crushed by Northwestern in their opener) and lost in overtime on a missed extra point, P.J. Fleck opting not to go for two even though his kicker isn’t available due to COVID protocols.
That was pretty funny, obviously, but really just set up the hilarity of Saturday where Michigan lost at home to the same Sparty team that opened the season falling to Rutgers. The Wolverines got the ball back with five minutes left down 10 points and proceeded to put on one of the worst two-minute drills I’ve ever seen, almost exclusively throwing to the middle of the field short of the chains to chew up as much time as possible. They scored with just 37 seconds left, failed to convert the onside kick and that was that. Very excited for Mike Valenti.
Undefeated Oklahoma State had a late lead against Texas but couldn’t hold on, losing at home in overtime on a day in which they turned the ball over four times and allowed a kickoff return touchdown. The Pokes outgained the Longhorns by 243 yards and had a 97 percent postgame win expectancy – brutal, brutal loss, but maybe Tom Herman won’t get fired now? No. 15 North Carolina lost on the road to 1-4 Virgnia, their preseason darling status seeming like a distant memory already. No. 16 Kansas State got boatraced in Morgantown. LSU was a slight road favorite at Auburn and got destroyed, so now they sit at 2-3 and still play Alabama, Florida and A&M so they could easily go from champions to a losing season. (I’d take that deal if offered, obviously, if any crossroads demons are reading this.) Georgia survived at Kentucky, 14-3. Oklahoma trailed Texas Tech briefly before blowing them out. Iowa blew a 17-0 lead at home to Northwestern and is now 0-2. Penn State is 0-2, too, but I’m not going to throw too much shade for losing to the Buckeyes because they’re really good.
6) You’ll notice a team absent from the previous section, as I figured it would be best to just tackle it all here. In their first of at least two games without Trevor Lawrence, the Clemson Tigers fell behind Boston College by 18 points but got enough from five-star freshman D.J. Uiagalelei, their all-world tailback and a defense that choked out the Eagles in the second half to prevail. (Oh, to be a program that can play the No. 1 team in the country and get relegated to a sleepy noon kickoff.) The Tigers were dinged up before they lost Lawrence to COVID and now they’ll have a week of hard practicing after the near upset, but at least we’re not in a position where we need to hope they lose consecutive games for the first time since 2011.
We know the stakes for all involved. It would be the single biggest victory of Kelly’s career, Lawrence or no Lawrence, a capstone for what he’s built from the wreckage of 2016. If Book plays well in a win Saturday night, it will cement his legacy. (If he loses, well, he’ll still be 26-4 as a starter with 22 of those wins coming by double digits while being prominently featured in the Irish record books, which is pretty good.) I am confident that the defense will come out ready to play and a little worried about Book maybe being slightly too amped up, but I’m sure he and Rees have been planning for this for months and months and have some idea of what they’re going to do to attack the Clemson defense.
It’s a shame Lawrence isn’t playing because a) I’m not a fan of people contracting respiratory viruses, generally b) We’re now in a position where some are going to expect Notre Dame to win which is an uncomfortable position to be in against the Tigers. Last time the Irish played Clemson, they lost by 27 points to a five-star freshman quarterback, and while it’s admittedly disingenuous to make this comparison because many of the stars from that 15-0 team now play on Sundays this is still going to be a tough haul. Brent Venables is perhaps the best defensive coordinator in football. Travis Etienne is the reigning two-time ACC Player of the Year and has had one of the most successful careers in the history of the sport. They have blue-chip recruits up and down their roster and they’ll get to talk themselves into being an underdog, little old Clemson as the disrespected visitor rolling out a back-up quarterback (never mind that the back-up is 6’5, 250 with a rocket launcher attached to his shoulder or that they’re currently a touchdown favorite) against big bad Notre Dame. And of course, when the Irish finally get to host one of these big games, it’ll be in front of a mostly empty stadium on an unseasonably temperate northern Indiana evening, but so it goes. Clemson has had this game circled as well and the Irish will have to scrap and earn every yard, but this team is capable.
(Not particularly interested in the idea that a win against Clemson wouldn’t count or whatever because Lawrence is missing. It will certainly be less impressive versus if Lawrence was playing because beating him would be one of if not the most impressive thing you could do in college football this season, but prevailing over a team with the Tigers’ Lawrence-less roster and coaching staff would still be a momentous achievement. Anyone who tells you otherwise honestly isn’t worth engaging with on the topic of college football.)
Go win it. People want to talk about playoffs and ACC title game rematches and all of that but I would caution against looking too far ahead considering the increasingly dire pandemic situation in this country and the precarity of everything. Notre Dame has a chance to improve upon their best-in-the-nation overall win streak, continue their undefeated ways at home and put a legendary victory in the history books. They’re playing great football, they know they can win and now it’s just the matter of going out and doing it.
Due to the nature of this week it’s highly unlikely I’ll have time to compose a preview email for Friday morning so I leave you with the obvious. Book must be sharp. Both lines must come through. Win the turnover battle. Big plays from Hamilton and JOK along with a receiver or two stepping up. But you know all of this, so let’s cut to it:
Go Irish. Beat Tigers. We’ve come this far so no reason to stop now.