#10 Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs Purdue Boilermakers Game Preview

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This week brings a sense of symmetry and symbolism as Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly will tie Knute Rockne for most wins in school history should he defeat the opponent in front of him on Saturday. That opponent is the Purdue Boilermakers, the very first team he faced as ND coach back in 2010.

“I see it a little differently,” Kelly said of the approaching milestone. “It means longevity. It means stability. It means winning. But it doesn’t mean anything else relative to comparisons or who’s better. Those things don’t mean much to me. I came here to do a job, and that was to bring Notre Dame back to its winning traditions.”

Let’s run through the FYIs. It’s a 2:30 p.m. ET kickoff in NBC. As always, if you’re wagering according to nevada gambling laws, then you’ll see Notre Dame favored by about a touchdown in this home game. The over/under is 59.

No. 12/10 Notre Dame (2-0) Preview 

The Irish come in having narrowly escaped disaster last week, in the home opening win over Toledo. The season opener was a nail-biter too, as the Fighting Irish needed overtime to win at Florida State, and that’s alarming because FSU just suffered their first FCS loss ever, to something called Jacksonville State.

So what’s gone on wrong for the Irish so far? Well, not the passing game as they rank 11th nationally in passing yards per game (341.5). ND is also in the top 50 nationally in scoring offense (36.5 ppg) and total offense (440 ypg). However, the run game has yet to get on track, and Kyren Williams hasn’t fully been Kyren Williams as of yet this term.

And the defense has been kind of a mess.

“What we’re talking about is executing for 80 snaps,” Kelly said of the explosion plays that have been surrendered.

“We’re executing for 75 of the 80, but when we don’t execute at the level necessary, we’re giving up big plays. I could give you all the reasons, and they’re immaterial.

“But the fact of the matter is we were in a sound and fundamental defensive structure, and we had a blown assignment. What does that come down to? It’s coaching. We have to make sure it’s communicated correctly and the guys are hearing the call. And then executing.”

To put it bluntly, this really doesn’t look like a top ten team right now, and they REALLY miss JOK, as he was a true defensive linchpin and leader.

For more on the Rockne record and Kelly’s career go here.

Our x-factor for this week is crowd size. Notre Dame has a capacity of over 77,000 but they only drew 62,000 last week. Kelly was asked about this on Monday, and he said that while the reporter had a valid point, this isn’t something he has the time to be too concerned about right now.

“How much time do I really have to worry about getting fans in?” Kelly said.

“Would I like to get 76,000, or whatever capacity is? Yeah. But we’re living in a time where there’s electronic tickets, there’s COVID. Did people see it as a marquee matchup? I don’t know.

“I have so many other problems I have to deal with on a day-to-day basis that I have to hope our marketing people and everybody else take care of that.”

He added that he’ll see it as something to worry about if/when the time comes that more fans are showing up for the opposition, instead of the home side.

This should be a sellout, given that it’s an instate battle, and lots of black & gold should be present in the stands.

Purdue (2-0, 0-0 B1G) Preview 

Last week was extremely impressive for the Boilers, as they achieved their first shutout since 2011, first one against a FBS program since 2004 (Syracuse, 51-0) and first one on the road since 1981 (Northwestern, one of the worst teams in Big Ten history). Right now, the Boilers look like a bowl team at worst, a potential sleeper that could challenge for the Big Ten West title as best. 

However, let’s not get too aroused over the blowout of the Huskies, as UConn barely qualifies as football. They have literally lost 28 of their last 29 against FBS foes.

That said, Purdue did to this hot mess of a program exactly what you’re supposed to do, as this was the worst shutout loss for UConn since a 49-0 drubbing at the hands of New Hampshire in 1931.

Jack Plummer had 4 TD passes in the 1st half last week, 3 of which went to David Bell. Here’s what Kelly had to say about preparing for Plummer:

“He’s so accurate. He can make it a long day because his precision is really good. If you try to get too aggressive, he can put the ball over your head. He has really good receivers.

“It’s not just [All-Big ten receiver David] Bell. He has two really good tight ends. It’s a really good offense.

“We’re going to have to do some things in coverage — we can’t just line up and play man all day. We have to do some other things to disrupt him, and we have to get a pass rush.”

Bell is so good…he might end up living to the kind of hype that Rondale Moore had. Maybe not, because the Rondale overhype was pretty insane. On the other side of the ball, the man to watch is first round draft prospect and defensive end George Karlaftis.

purdue

“He has fast-twitch athletic ability,” Kelly said of Karlaftis.

“You have to have that element. He has an incredible desire to get to the quarterback. He doesn’t have a sack this year, but he has 11 hurries.

“He’s going to disrupt the quarterback. He doesn’t get frustrated and just keeps coming.”

“It’s three things. He has the athletic ability. The motor he has in the way he plays, and then his mindset. He will just keep going. That’s what makes great players, whether they’re defensive ends or quarterbacks.”

purdue boilermaker train track

Prediction: Notre Dame 35, Purdue 31

It’s a major step up in class for the Boilers now this week, and I have a feeling this could end in a manner similar to what we have sometimes seen in march madness with the men’s basketball team in recent years- a big lead, eventually blown, and a golden (pardon the pun) opportunity missed.

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank, partnered with News NowBanks, the author of “Transatlantic Passage: How the English Premier League Redefined Soccer in America” and “No, I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry,” has regularly appeared in WGNSports Illustrated and the Chicago Tribune.

Follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

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