Players to watch: Notre Dame vs. Bowling Green
A few players to watch in No. 9 Notre Dame’s game against Bowling Green (1-3) on Saturday (3:30 p.m. EDT on NBC).
WR MICHAEL YOUNG, Notre Dame
Young’s return against Virginia after missing the first few games with a broken collarbone was about shaking off the rust. The junior recorded three receptions for 19 yards in last week’s 35-20 Irish victory. Notre Dame now needs Young to play like he did all spring and in preseason camp. The biggest games remaining on the schedule come this month in USC (Oct. 12) and Michigan (Oct. 26). Young may need the confidence to rise to the occasion for those games. That could be obtained this week against Bowling Green. The Falcons rank second to last nationally in pass efficiency defense.
LB JEREMIAH OWUSU-KORAMOAH, Notre Dame
Notre Dame’s leading tackler continues to display a wide-ranging skill set. With 26 tackles and 4.5 tackles for a loss this season, Owusu-Koramoah is effective as a blitzer and brings aggression through against the run. Look for the junior to show his capabilities in pass coverage against the Falcons. With Shaun Crawford out with a dislocated elbow, the Irish need a nickelback to cover the inside receiver during obvious passing situations. That may be Owusu-Koramoah, at least in dime defense (six defensive backs). The Falcons will likely air it out with frequency once they trail by a couple touchdowns.
WR JULIAN ORTEGA-JONES, Bowling Green
Ortega-Jones is Bowling Green’s most formidable home run threat. The 6-foot-2, 208-pound redshirt freshman averages 14.8 yards per reception this season. Sophomore cornerback TaRiq Bracy could be matched up against Ortega-Jones at times. The 5-10, 170-pound Bracy replaces Crawford at the field corner position. Bracy received snaps at field corner in a few games last season and has played in the dime package this season. After struggling against Virginia, Bracy may be Notre Dame’s biggest uncertainty in pass coverage. It takes one big play from Ortega-Jones against Bracy to cost the Irish a shutout.
LB BRANDON PERCE, Bowling Green
The biggest obstacle for the Notre Dame’s ground game is Bowling Green middle linebacker Brandon Perce. The 5-11, 211-pound redshirt senior leads the Falcons with 38 tackles and recorded 15 against Kent State last week. Since starting running back Jafar Armstrong went down with an abdominal injury, the Irish have struggled to run the football. Even against New Mexico, Notre Dame had just 12 rushing yards on 13 carries by the end of the third quarter. Perce hopes to help emulate UNM’s success against the run.