Notre Dame football: Keys to the game
CONTROL THE NOISE
This will be a difficult challenge for Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly. The Irish are coming off an emotional win. The routine has been disrupted by fall break. While the student population is gone, the players need to maintain focus. Air Force has a terrible record and its offense is struggling to find a quarterback, let alone an identity. Any of those could cause a letdown.
The Air Force offense, which is premised on the option, is averaging 269 rushing yards. Irish nose guard Louis Nix could get a week to rest his sore shoulder, while Notre Dame's defense puts a premium on mobile players like Sheldon Day, Romeo Okwara, Ishaq Williams, Prince Shembo and Jaylon Smith to be among the primary playmakers on the front seven.
Will it be Karson Roberts or Nate Romine getting the bulk of the snaps at quarterback for Air Force? According to Kelly, it doesn't matter who the Falcon quarterback is. The Irish defense is more focused on the scheme than the personnel. Air Force has seven rushers that have rolled up triple-digit yardage this season. Broam Hart (386 yards) and Jon Lee (350) lead the way.
When Wyoming can score 56 points against the Air Force defense, the prospects look pretty good for what the Notre Dame attack can generate. The Falcons are giving up 489 yards of total offense a game. Air Force has seen few running backs like George Atkinson, Amir Carlisle or Cam McDaniel, or athletes like receivers TJ Jones, DaVaris Daniels or tight end Troy Niklas.
This is a game when quarterback Tommy Rees can get some work to make sure the neck injury from the Southern Cal game won't be a factor the rest of the way. It's also an opportunity for Andrew Hendrix to wash the sour taste from a miserable relief appearance out of his mouth and enjoy the sweet taste of success. This game's all about confidence.