Posted on July 9, 2021
This is the primary in a brand new collection of interviews with beat writers masking Pac-12 non-conference opponents that play at the very least two Conference groups this season.
Those groups embody Notre Dame, Hawaii, Fresno State, and BYU.
We begin with Bryan Driskell, who covers the Fighting Irish for the Irish Breakdown of SI/FanNation.
Notre Dame holds the higher hand in each rivalries, main the all-time collection 47–36–5 over USC, and 20–13 over Stanford.
This season, USC visits the Irish on October 23, and Stanford hosts Notre Dame on November 27.
Nick Bartlett: First of all, thanks for taking the time share your ideas on the Irish and their Pac-12 opponents this season.
Bryan Driskell: My pleasure.
Bartlett: How do you suppose Notre Dame will carry out this yr? Do you count on them to return to the College Football Playoff like final season, or extra of a transition yr with the lack of Ian Book and 9 whole starters on offense?
Driskell: Getting again to the College Football Playoff received’t be straightforward for a workforce that’s changing a three-year starter at quarterback, misplaced 4 offensive linemen from one of many nation’s greatest blocking items, and should additionally exchange its defensive coordinator.
Notre Dame additionally faces a harder schedule week-to-week in 2021 than what we noticed final season when the Irish performed Clemson, North Carolina, after which a bunch of mediocre groups.
The keys for Notre Dame would be the offensive line gelling early, and Jack Coan getting in control in a rush.
This must be a a lot sooner offense and it has extra playmakers, however the offense will want a giant soar in manufacturing if the Irish are going to make one other playoff run.
Bartlett: How do you view USC and Stanford respective applications this season, do you suppose both workforce is able to making a run this yr?
Driskell: USC is an intriguing workforce. They at the moment are going into Year Three of the Graham Harrell’s offense and Year Two of Todd Orlando’s protection.
Despite some key personnel losses, I feel the Trojan protection might take a giant soar. That will likely be key to USC once more difficult for a Pac-12 title.
Offensively, the Trojans will put up factors once more, however they’ve to determine a option to be extra balanced offensively.
I’m not saying USC has to get again to being the type of run recreation it had in the course of the Pete Carroll glory days, however in addition they can’t go for below 100 yards per recreation prefer it did in 2020.
When Stanford was at its greatest, the run recreation and protection dominated, and each areas have been issues in current seasons. Giving up over 30 factors per recreation received’t lower it over the course of a 12-game schedule.
Losing Davis Mills to the NFL was additionally an enormous blow for a workforce that confirmed life on offense for the primary time in a few seasons. There are some weapons within the backfield (Austin Jones) and on the perimeter, however the Cardinal have to discover a set off man.
Bartlett: How effectively do you suppose The Fighting Irish matchup in opposition to the Cardinal and Trojans? What are ND’s largest aggressive benefits vs. every workforce?
Driskell: Notre Dame has dominated Stanford within the trenches in current seasons, which is why the Irish are 2-0 in opposition to them lately, after going simply 2-6 in opposition to them in Brian Kelly’s first eight seasons.
The Irish averaged 41.5 factors and 231.0 dashing yards in its final two matchups in opposition to the Cardinal whereas holding the Stanford offense to 86.5 dashing yards. If that doesn’t change, Stanford will as soon as in opposition to wrestle to compete in opposition to Notre Dame.
Despite Notre Dame successful three straight video games in opposition to the Trojans, the final two video games have been much more aggressive than they need to have been, contemplating how a lot better Notre Dame was record-wise.
USC ran the ball successfully in opposition to the Irish within the second half of the 2019 matchup, which helped them outscore Notre Dame 24-13 within the second half, turning a 20-3 third-quarter deficit right into a slim 30-27 defeat.
That is the recipe for that offense. Throw it everywhere in the area, however if you wish to win huge video games you want some semblance of steadiness.
With all of its personnel losses on protection, the Trojan protection received’t be fairly as gifted because it was in current seasons, and the very last thing you wish to do early within the season is power that protection to be on the sector all day.
Bartlett: Do you suppose Notre Dame working again Kyren Williams will be capable to replicate one other 1000-yard season in his sophomore marketing campaign? How will the Irish’s floor assault look this yr with the departure of 4 veteran offensive lineman?
Driskell: He’ll be used extra as a flexible weapon this season, catching throws out of the backfield and lining up exterior because the Irish use him and sophomore speedster Chris Tyree as a potent one-two punch.
Williams would possibly get fewer carries per recreation, however I count on his yards per carry to take a soar.
I count on him to proceed racking up yards this season, however the important thing to the run recreation’s final success will rely upon the offensive line getting on observe early, and Tyree changing into extra of an impactful complement to Williams.
Bartlett: In your opinion what’s the larger loss? Defensive Coordinator Clark Lea, or the plain (or perhaps not-so-obvious) selection in quarterback Ian Book?
Driskell: I don’t suppose both will likely be enormous losses for the Irish, but when I needed to choose one I’d most likely go along with Lea.
Book was a recreation supervisor and I count on Wisconsin grad switch Jack Coan to—on the very least—replicate Book’s total manufacturing. I’m somebody who really thinks Coan will outplay Book this season.
Lea is a loss as a result of he was an ideal coordinator, however I’m extraordinarily excessive on Marcus Freeman, who inherited a Cincinnati protection that gave up 28.5 factors per recreation within the three seasons previous to his arrival.
But in his remaining two campaigns within the Queen City the Bearcats gave up simply 19.0 factors per recreation, together with 16.8 in 2020.
Bartlett: What are your predictions for the 2 video games with USC and Stanford?
Driskell: There are nonetheless so many unknowns with all three applications that I don’t really feel nice about making predictions.
If I used to be compelled to make one proper now, I’d predict the Irish to win each video games.
I’d count on one other high-scoring however aggressive recreation in opposition to USC, one thing alongside the traces of a 34-27 Irish win.
I don’t suppose Stanford matchups up effectively in opposition to Notre Dame proper now, and I feel the Irish will roll in that recreation to the tune of a 41-20 kind of consequence.
Bartlett: Any different ideas about Notre Dame, Stanford, or USC this season?
Driskell: I’m simply glad to see Notre Dame and its rivals (USC, Stanford) again on the schedule.
Win or lose, not having the Cardinal, and particularly the Trojans, on the schedule was not good for the sport of soccer. Notre Dame and USC is without doubt one of the greatest rivalries in school soccer and I’m thrilled it’s again on after final season.
Bartlett: Thanks once more on your time. I want you success in masking the Irish this season, and look ahead speaking with you once more.
—Recent Nick Bartlett Stories—
Sign Me Up!
Subscribe to our publication to maintain up on the most recent from SportsPac12.