Notre Dame: Pretender or Contender?
October 19th, 2012 By Troy Jefferson
Notre Dame has been overrated for the better part of the last decade. However, the Fighting Irish have raced out to an impressive 6-0 start, which has opened some eyes in 2012. The road to success has not come easy, as the Fighting Irish defeated Michigan State (ranked 10th at the time), Michigan, and Stanford (both ranked 17th at the time) throughout their first six games. Notre Dame’s season got off to a good start when they traveled to Ireland and trounced Navy 50-10. They later came back later to cool off a hot Miami Hurricanes team with a 41-3 victory. The Fighting Irish are currently ranked 5th in the AP poll after not being in the Top 25 at the beginning of the season. Now, they have everyone wondering are they contenders or pretenders?
One may ask, how is Notre Dame winning these games? It’s quite simple, with good defense. Notre Dame is second in the nation in points allowed (8.7 per game) and has only given up a national-low four touchdowns. Three times this season Notre Dame’s defense hasn’t allowed more than ten points and the most they've given up thus far has been 17 (Purdue). The Irish have made a living on harassing opponents’ quarterbacks; accumulating fifteen sacks and twenty-six quarterback hurries through six games. Notre Dame’s secondary, led by Zeke Motta and Bennett Jackson, are no slouches either. Jackson is fourth nationally in interceptions (4) and senior Zeke Motta seems to always be around the football (37 tackles).
However, when it comes to the Fighting Irish’s defense one name comes to mind, Manti Te’o. NFL teams are savoring at the chance to draft the Hawaiian-born native, who decided to stay at Notre Dame and forgo the 2012 NFL Draft. The senior linebacker made a big impact against Stanford when they needed him the most. During Notre Dame's controversial goal line stand, Te’o was able to anchor the Irish defense for four consecutive downs by not allowing Stanford RB Stepfan Taylor to cross the plane. Although the senior's big game vs. Stanford was no surprise, Te’o (59 tackles and three interceptions through six games) should receive strong consideration for the Heisman Trophy.
Notre Dame’s offense won’t be mistaken for the high-flying Oregon Ducks or the smash mouth Alabama Crimson Tide, but they get the job done. The Fighting Irish are 47th in rushing yards, 86th in passing yards, and 69th in points scored. Notre Dame sophomore quarterback Everett Golson is not being asked to do too much and by most is labeled as a “game manager”. After a big 107-yard rushing performance in the season opener, Theo Riddick has been put in check for the last five weeks. George Atkinson III provides the occasional big play out of the backfield and Tyler Eifert has the frame to be a menace in the red zone.
Notre Dame has the pieces on defense to make a run at the National Championship, but I think the offense is too spotty to expect a BCS National title. The Fighting Irish went unscathed through the first half of the season, but will be tested at Oklahoma (Oct. 27) and at USC (Nov. 24). They should have no problem with the other teams on their schedule and, even with one or two losses, they may still have a chance to play in a BCS game. Brian Kelly, in just his third season, has put it all together and is giving fans plenty of reasons to smile in South Bend. Notre Dame is indeed a contender in 2012 and will be continue to be going forward.
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