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Notre Dame Football: W.I.N. (What’s Important Now) — Central Michigan Chippewas Week

The Irish are 3-0 and have a Saturday MACtion date coming up with Jim McElwain — let’s discuss last weekend and what to expect this Saturday!!!

*grumbling to myself as I climb the stairs to my office loft, AKA “Pat’s Perch”*

I cannot believe it’s already Monday morning...I swear it was just Friday evening and I was riding the high of the busy short week being done and a full weekend of football ahead, and now here I am, trudging up to my desk to run this damn weekly call all over again.

Welp, I guess at least on the bright side the Notre Dame Fighting Irish football team is looking strong so far, and the team’s coach seems like a good guy who isn’t getting fired for sexually assaulting a sexual assault survivor and prevention advocate. There’s always that.

Ooookaaaaay, time to guzzle my coffee and do this thing. Put on an energized face, Pat!!!

*clicks “Join Call” button*

Good morning everybody! How’s everyone doing this morning? Anyone do anything fun this weekend?

Oh, very nice Ryan — glad to hear your son’s grade school football game was a roaring success. I’m sure we’ll see Ryan Jr. playing on Sundays one day, for sure.

Ha! Yeah, I bet — so true, Melanie.

Okay, so do we have a quorum? I know Sergio and Marissa both won’t make it because they had a conflicting meeting, and Tanner is on PTO this week. So I think we can go ahead and dive in — yeah, I think Fran was questionable but we can get started and I can always catch her up after.

Cool cool, so can everyone see my screen?

Excellent, so it should be a pretty standard deck to run through this week — same agenda as always, with plenty of talking points in our review of last week and then some useful info as we all prepare for the Central Michigan Chippewas this week.

I’ll skip through these next couple definition and refresher slides — I think we all know this at this point and I mostly leave these in for reference and/or for any new team members we add to the project as we go (or for any 3P consultants we onboard throughout).

Sound good?

Okay great, so let’s start off with Last Week’s Results, which were once again largely positive, but as you can imagine with the first Power 5 opponent of this young season, there were a few more negatives to overcome and learn from in the matchup with the NC State Wolfpack.

I think we should start with the negative, just to knock that out and then finish with some good vibes, considering we should have largely good vibes after that 45-24 win on the road.

The first negative really reared its ugly, Brian-Kelly-reminding head before the game even began on Saturday, with inclement, stormy, flash-flood-warning weather giving all Irish fans major PTSD to the last time the Irish went to Raleigh in 2016, when ND managed to lose a game in a hurricane while throwing the ball ~30 times in one of BK’s most stubbornly stupid coaching jobs in his long career full of plenty of them.

Eventually, the weather seemed to calm down a bit for warm-ups and for the beginning of the game, which gave way to a sluggish start for the Irish on the road — Hartman was hit and fumbled on the first series (recovered by ND, thankfully) and the Irish were forced to punt, and it took until the 8:45 mark in the 1st quarter before either team managed to pick up a first down, with Hartman using a 16-yard run on 3rd and 10 to finally get things going a bit.

The Irish struggled to run the ball with any sort of efficiency early on, Benjamin Morrison dropped an easy interception, and then the bad weather returned with a vengeance, forcing the game to be delayed and forcing Irish staffers to go out and buy a bunch of hotdogs from concessions in order to keep the team fed during the long break.

Once the game restarted, there were still some other negatives the Irish need to get figured out over the next 2 weeks leading into the Ohio State game. Hartman got hit several times, including another fumble that ND wasn’t so lucky to recover, and the Irish made lots of mental mistakes as the Wolfpack stuck around in a close game for 3 full quarters.

ND had 10 penalties on the day for 82 yards, the receivers had a few drops, the defense managed precisely 0 sacks until late in the game, and J.D. Bertrand had to leave the game with a head injury.

The above obviously paints a way worse picture than the actual result of this game, considering how much ND dominated in the final quarter. But all of the above is also definitely a cause for concern, because committing those kinds of mistakes in combination against better teams — Ohio State, USC, Clemson, Duke — could leave the team in a position where they’re unable to just impose their will and take control of games in the 4th quarter.

Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch Brooke LaValley / USA TODAY NETWORK

With that said, let’s start talking about the positives, because as much as we need to identify and learn from all opportunities and areas we’ve fallen short, we should also celebrate our successes and try to keep in perspective that the Irish won by 21 — by putting up 45 points — on the road against a good defense and a solid opposing QB.

Sam Hartman had himself another great game overall, completing 15 of 24 passes for 286 yards and 4 more touchdowns, which has moved him into 10th in the all-time FBS list for career touchdown passes. NC State was bringing the heat and have some really good players at each level of their defense, so Hartman hanging in there and delivering strike after strike after strike was just massive in the Irish’s ability to maintain a slight lead all game and then explode in the final 15 minutes.

Audric Estime, also, put up another spectacular performance. This one was largely driven by his momentum-shifting 80-yard touchdown run after the weather delay (fueled by a hotdog), which was a terrifying display of power and acceleration and involved a fun formation and blocking scheme from Gerad Parker.

How does a guy that big and strong move that quickly through a decent defense?? He finished the day with 134 yards and 2 touchdowns on just 14 carries, averaging 9.6 yards per rush on the day. He’s now at 345 yards and 4 touchdowns while averaging 8.0 YPC over 3 games, so that’s pretty good I guess.

The other big offensive skill guy to step up on the day was TE Holden Staes, about whom we’ve heard he’s going to be good and can move like a big WR, but we hadn’t totally seen it until this one.

The sophomore managed 115 yards and 2 touchdowns on just 4 catches, including a 40-yarder and a 35-yarder, both for scores.

Jaden Greathouse added another really nice touchdown catch right before the half on an absolute DART from Hartman, and then in the 4th quarter former walk-on Davis Sherwood got his first career touchdown catch to put ND up 31-17 and essentially jump-start the run that stepped on the Wolfpack’s throats.

Oh also, it was just one brief flash, but it happened and we all need to acknowledge it and hope it happens a lot more as the year goes on — Tobias Merriweather caught a pass and then showed why he’s such a high-ceiling receiver, using his incredible combo of size and speed to BOOK IT down the field for a 45-yard gain. If they can just find a way to get the ball into his hands more — especially downfield — he’s gonna make some jaw-dropping plays over the next couple years.

Defensively, the Irish managed to pick off Brennan Armstrong three times, with Benjamin Morrison getting one while executing absolutely perfect coverage on a deep ball, and then he was joined by Xavier Watts and D.J. Brown.

Watts made a fantastic shoestring catch on a tipped pass, and Brown jumped a route and took one himself.

That was a pretty encouraging performance by the Irish secondary (along with some nice coverage/passes defended by Cam Hart and a few others), especially as the Irish prepare for a stretch that includes needing to try to stop Marvin Harrison Jr., Emeka Egbuka, Jalon Calhoun, Tahj Washington, Dorian Singer, Zachariah Branch, Brenden Rice, Mario Williams, etc. Obviously Armstrong is not Caleb Williams, but holding him to 22-of-47 passing for 5.5 YPA and getting 3 INTs is a really nice job.

Also, despite the missed tackles at times, the Irish defense still deserves credit for playing a pretty damn strong game overall — they held the Wolfpack to 84 yards rushing on 2.8 YPC, including corralling Armstrong to the tune of just 26 yards on 12 rushing attempts.

Thomas Harper showed up big to lead the team in tackles with 7 on the day (plus 2 PD), Jack Kiser got himself 6 tackles, Marist Liufau seemed to be everywhere at times (5 tackles, 1 TFL), and several defensive linemen had nice games too (Javontae Jean-Baptiste had 5 tackles, Howard Cross had 5 tackles, Junior Tuihalamaka had 4 tackles).

Oh, and we got a glimpse of the next great Hinish at ND, with Donovan Hinish getting some PT and managing 3 tackles and a sack during that showing.

Finally, in terms of special teams and special stories, Spencer Shrader just casually went out there and set a record for longest field goal in Notre Dame HISTORY with a 54-yarder, and on College Gameday the entire country was treated to the story about Sam Hartman’s mom making his rib bone into a necklace for him to wear — truly a special day all around for the Irish.

Oh also, upon rewatching highlights (since I was either watching at a bar with no audio or following along on my phone), I would like to call out one other positive, that the term “spider 2-Y banana” was mentioned numerous times because the Irish kept calling that play (Staes touchdown, Sherwood touchdown). Love to bring that one back, easily one of the only good things Jon Gruden has brought to our attention/to popularity.

Okey dokey, now let’s quickly check out a few important charts and graphs — because some of us are visual learners and need to see the advanced stats shown graphically here.

We all know at this point that Sammy Hartman has officially entered the Top-10 of all-time touchdown passes, but I wanted to sketch out for everyone whom he’s surpassed and who’s still ahead of him. It’s fun to see him top guys like Matt Barkley and Colt McCoy and Russell Wilson, and also fun to see that he will very likely be able to keep moving up this list.

7th place is pretty much a given, 3rd or 4th place is quite attainable, and if Hartman has some very special performances over the next 9+ games, he could absolutely be knocking on Kellen Moore’s door for 2nd place. And if he approaches Keenum, well then I have a feeling he’s had a Heisman season with some 4 or 5-TD performances against some top opponents, which I wouldn’t complain about.

Secondly, let’s check in on Audric Estime’s very awesome start to the season...

The dude is currently leading the country in rushing yards and tied for 4th in rushing touchdowns (with the obvious caveat that ND has played 3 games and many other teams have only played 2), but what’s fun is to see how he stacks up in the rankings for Yards Per Carry and Rushing Attempts.

Estime is in the top-35 in yards per carry, and no one above him in the list is anywhere close to him in terms of rushing attempts, with several of those guys propped up by small amounts of rushing attempts and a couple long runs to boost their averages. Meanwhile, when you rank everyone by rushing attempts, Estime has had the 7th-most carries in America, but no one above him in the list has been as productive as him with his 8.0 YPC average. In fact, the only person who comes close is Kimani Vidal of Troy in 13th for rushing attempts.

All of this is just to say that Audric Estime is an absolute stud and he’s had an electric start to the year, and it’ll be fun to see how his stats evolve against better competition.

Finally, let’s quickly talk about those weather delay hotdogs, because there was some fun reporting that came out of that hilarious tidbit...

Needless to say, I love that Pete Sampson is giving us updates on whom he can or cannot confirm ate hotdogs during that break, and it’s hilarious that one of the people we can confirm ate one then proceeded to run 80 yards for a TD very soon after play began again.

With that said, I’d like to present the below chart with my estimates for starters (plus a few other rotational guys) as to how many hotdogs each of them ate during the break.

I’ll leave most of these without any context or comment, but do want to say that it’s clear Donovan Hinish had a dozen (he’s a Hinish and he had a great game), Spencer Shrader had one in celebration of his long field goal (but should have had two to fuel his other field goal attempt that he missed), Rocco Spindler and Rylie Mills housed a handful each, Holden Staes clearly tossed back about 4 with the way he balled out in the second half, and Xavier Watts somehow managed to have 0 but also get a pick, which means he could have maybe had like 5-6 INTs if he has just housed a few hotdogs during the break.

Also, side note: the person I think was most likely to have tried to sneak-eat a hotdog in one of their sleeves because he’s not sure you’re allowed to just move lunch like that:

Davis Sherwood, which explains how he was able to sneakily catch NC State off-guard for his first career TD.

Alrighty, now let’s make sure to recognize the team members who really drove nice wins this week and exemplified all the corporate values that we’ve identified as pillars to our culture here!!!

Major congratulations are in order for Holden, Jaden, Davis, Chris, Tobias, Sam, Audric, Thomas, Jack, Marist, Howard, Javontae, J.D., Benjamin, Xavier, D.J., and Spencer* well as to the Carter-Finley concessions staff for providing all those hotdogs!!!

You all should be able to check your inboxes at the end of this call and see a Starbucks gift card, on us, for all your hard work and excellent job living our company values this week!

*Pat Rick Note: saying Spencer Shrader’s name makes me think of Sherman Shrader from Accepted, which of course gives me an excuse to make yet another classic pop culture hotdog reference:

Okay, final thing before we move ahead to this coming week — here’s a quick gander at Pat Rick’s live journal from the game, as he has now managed to go 3/3 on seeing not even a half of each game the Irish have played so far this season.

I’ll let you read those journal ramblings on your own time, but just want to shout-out Parlor Pizza for being ranked #1 in the AP Poll for Bloody Mary Bars in Chicago, and also give a shout-out to our friends Erik and Krys for being awesome (but not for moving away, which is very not cool and I’ll never forgive you for it).

Also shout-out to our friends’ one-year-old, he is incredible.

Alright, so here’s a quick review of where we are in the Project Timeline after that 45-24 shellacking of the Wolfpack...

Next up, as you can see, are the Central Michigan Chippewas. Let’s learn some things about them, courtesy of the competitive intelligence team who’s put together a comprehensive overview for us...

I will let you guys go through this in detail on your own time, per usual. But I do think it’s worth our time right now to quickly reiterate a few key bits of information here:

  • “Wisdom, Virtue, Friendship” feels like three separate people were asked to name the most important thing to them and/or what they think the meaning of life is, and then the CMU marketing team just used =concatenate() to toss them all together into one motto
  • Wikipedia said their mascot is named “Action C” and I honestly thought that was one of the stupidest mascot names I’ve ever heard. Then I looked it up and it’s just the name for their logo — the Chippewas do not have a mascot at all, which is even lamer than that being the mascot’s name
NCAA FOOTBALL: OCT 31 Central Michigan at Akron Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire/Corbis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
  • Mount Pleasant, more like Not Pleasant!
  • Almost fell out of my chair when I saw they had a claimed national title, but then realized it was from when they were in D-II in 1974
  • These dudes have never been able to beat Michigan State Freshmen or Purdue Junior Varsity, which explains their struggles beating Varsity squads these days
  • Awesome array of “alumni” here, including some equally horrible people (someone involved in the OKC bombing, someone involved in Abu Ghraib, the author of Marley & Me)
  • I’ll let you decide if me including the author of Marley & Me in that category was on purpose or an accident
  • Other fun “alumni” include Tim Allen (attended but transferred), Dick Enberg, Tom Crean, someone from Little People, Big World, and of course, pornographic actress Brandi Love — everyone’s favorite Central Michigan alum
  • I refuse to believe that naked-guy-with-a-shark photo isn’t Jim McElwain — you will not change my mind on that

Okay, now that we have the most basic idea of who these Chippewas are, let’s really dig into the important stuff — let’s double-click on that roster of theirs to see what the best and brightest names are on that squad of theirs!

Again, I won’t read these all off to you, but just have to call out a guy named Shatavious, the wonderful and silky name Germanuel Tanelus, some names that would be super fun to hear someone like Gus Johnson scream as they score TDs (Jakivion Calip, De’Javion Stepney), and of course my guy Tayte Vanderleest, whose name needs no “more like...” joke to make fun of him.

Oh also, Michael Heldman as a name for a defensive lineman is just too perfect. I don’t think that’s a real person — has to be a bit by Jim McElwain.

Okay, now you’re probably wondering if there’s even anything else to learn about these guys. Seems like we’ve covered almost everything important, right?

Yes and no, as there are just a few other things I think we should cover here — let’s take a look at these Key Competitive Insights we’ve pulled together about Jim McElwain’s 2023 team:

The main thing to take away here, as you can see on the slide, is that Central Michigan is a really bad football team. There are MAC teams out there who can cause issues and maybe even give a scare (looking at you, Toledo), and CMU has had teams like that in the past — but this version is unequivocally not one of those dangerous MAC teams.

The Chippewas are 1-1 on the season, having lost their season opener 31-7 to the Michigan State Spartans. Now, they DID play Sparty close (only down 10-7 at halftime of that one), but got absolutely smacked in the 2nd half, and let’s also not act like Michigan State is any good (even pre-Tucker suspension/inevitable firing).

But the game that tells even more about Central Michigan is their 2nd outing of the year, last weekend — they defeated the mighty New Hampshire Wildcats of the FCS by a final score of 45-42, needing a 47-yard field goal as time expired in order to not go to overtime with UNH in a game they really shouldn’t have expected to win based on how it went.

Y’all, that is NOT a sign of a dangerous MAC opponent, and so I feel pretty confident in saying these guys will not put up too much of a fight (which will be nice for those of us going to the game with our entire families and just looking to have a fun, relaxing time).

The stats and advanced stats so far this year largely agree with me on this, too.

Bill Connelly has the Chippewas at 109th in his SP+ ratings, with a #118 ranking on offense and a #94 ranking on defense. CMU IS ranked 44th on special teams, so I suppose they can hang their hats on being top-50 there!

Delving into the basic offensive and defensive statistics yields some pretty similar takeaways. On the offensive side of the ball, the Chips are T-89th in the country in scoring (26 PPG), T-108th in total offense (329.5 YPG), 117th in yards per play (4.78), 125th in 3rd down conversion % (27.59%?!?), and T-125th in red zone conversion % (60%).

Syndication: Lansing State Journal Nick King/Lansing State Journal / USA TODAY NETWORK

They’ve been especially abysmal through the air — coming into this game, they’re ranked 122nd in passing offense (150 YPG), T-94th in yards per attempt (6.7), 115th in passer rating, and dead last — 133rd — in completion percentage, completing just 46.7% of their passes through two games. It’s no wonder they’re also T-122nd in passing attempts, choosing to run as much as they can.

That preference for the ground game has led to CMU being tied for 9th in the country in rushing attempts per game and 51st in the nation in total rushing offense (179.5 YPG), but that looks a lot less impressive once you see that they’re tied for 92nd in the country in yards per carry (3.86). They simply run the ball a lot — they are not at all good at doing so.

That can probably be traced to some major struggles up front — McElwain’s offensive line is T-109th in the country in sacks allowed (3 per game) and T-125th in tackles for loss allowed (9 per game). Plus, if you can believe it, that poor blocking and lack of a passing game also equate to a pretty not-explosive offense — the Chippewas are T-101st in the country in plays of 10+ yards from scrimmage, and T-95th in plays of 20+ yards.

One note: CMU HAS had a few nice 30+ yards plays (T-28th in the country there), so they might have the speed at the skill positions to break a big play if they somehow get the space to work with — but that seems like an unlikely occurrence, generally speaking.

The Chippewas offense is led by quarterback Bert Emanuel Jr. (son of Bert Emanuel, who played in the NFL as some of you may remember from ~1999), a run-first signal caller who’s scampered for 142 yards and 2 touchdowns on 3.7 YPC so far this season, while throwing for 280 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 3 interceptions while completing 50% of his passes. His backfield mate is RB Myles Bailey, who’s run for 127 yards and a score while averaging a healthy 4.9 YPC, so he and Emanuel will be the guys the Irish need to corral most of the game.

When Emanuel does pass, he’ll certainly look for WR Chris Parker first and foremost — the 6’3” sophomore has 5 catches for 142 yards and a touchdown this year, and has shown he can make a big play or two (he already has a 56-yard reception on the year).

Other targets the Irish secondary will need to focus on covering include WR Tyson Davis (3 rec, 52 yds, 1 TD), WR Jesse Prewitt III (32-yard TD catch), TE Mitchel Collier (3 rec, 30 yds), and WR Shatavious Hogan (1 rec, 17 yds).

On the other side of the ball, things are pretty much just as bleak for the Chippewas. CMU is tied for 118th in the country in scoring defense (allowing 36.5 PPG) and is 125th in total defense (472 YPG allowed), and their efficiency numbers aren’t any better — they’re giving up 7.26 yards per play, which is 128th out of 133 FBS squads this season.

They’re definitely better against the run than the pass, considering they’re 32nd in the country in rushing defense (86 YPG allowed), but that’s almost exclusively a result of MSU and New Hampshire throwing the ball all over them. CMU has had the 2nd-least opposing rushing attempts in the country so far this year (and are T-123rd for least opposing pass attempts), and are giving up 3.82 yards per carry to opposing players (78th in the country). And BOY, does that make sense when you look at their pass defense stats:

  • 132nd in pass defense (386 YPG allowed)
  • T-120th in yards per attempt allowed (9.1)
  • 117th in passer rating allowed
  • T-57th in completion percentage allowed (surprisingly mediocre!)

They’re also not particularly good at pressuring the QB or even just making plays behind the line of scrimmage, as they average just 1.5 sacks per game (T-85th nationally) and 5 tackles for loss per game (T-84th nationally). Beyond the line of scrimmage they get worse, though, considering they’re T-104th in plays of 10+ yards allowed, T-126th in plays of 20+ yards allowed, T-126th in plays of 30+ yards allowed, and T-97th in plays of 40+ yards allowed. Simply put: these guys are susceptible to big plays, which may be an issue against an Irish team currently 2nd in the country in plays of 10+ yards from scrimmage.

NCAA Football: Central Michigan at Oklahoma State Sarah Phipps-USA TODAY Sports

Because opponents throw on them constantly, the Chippewas are top-50 in passes defended per game, but even with 4.5 of those per game they really struggle stopping anyone consistently. They’re T-93rd* in the country in opponent red zone conversion percentage (100% of opponent red zone trips have ended in scores), and they’re T-79th in 3rd down conversion percentage allowed at 40.74%.

*Pat Rick Note: as of the time I wrote this, Troy is showing on as being dead last in the country behind all the teams allowing 100% red zone scoring, because somehow they have allowed scores on 116% of opponent red zone trips. This is probably a typo, but I’m going to choose to believe Troy got crushed so badly by Kansas State last weekend that they somehow gave up a red zone score without the opponent actually entering the red zone.

With all that said about the Central Michigan defense, there are a few key names to know. LBs Kyle Moretti (19 tackles, 2 PD) and Justin Whiteside (9 tackles) are key guys in the middle, and cornerback Donte Kent is the team’s leading tackler with 20 through two games (while also adding a pair of passes defended himself).

NCAA Football: Central Michigan at Missouri Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Kent is joined in the secondary by safeties Trey Jones (11 tackles), De’Javion Stepney (7 tackles), and Elijah Rikard (3 tackles, 1 INT, 1 PD), and cornerbacks La’Vario Wiley (8 tackles, 1 PD) and Caleb Spann (6 tackles), who all stay busy as the last line of defense on a porous unit.

Up front, the names to know include DT Jacques Bristol and DEs Maurice White and Michael Heldman. Bristol has 8 tackles and a sack so far this year from the middle, while White and Heldman have combined for 5 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 PD, and 1 fumble recovery.

On special teams, kicker Tristan Mattson is perfect on the year in limited chances, having hit 7 of 7 extra points and making the sole field goal attempt he’s gotten from 47 yards out. Punter Jake Walrath is 35th in the country in punting average (42.5 yards per punt) while also sitting tied for 3rd in punts per game (7), so he’s consistently good at his job.

Finally, the Chippewas are a bit dangerous in the kick return game thanks to Marion Lukes, who’s 6th in the country in kickoff return average at 33.3 yards per return, including an 86-yard kickoff return touchdown last weekend against New Hampshire. That was not the first one he’s brought to the house in his career, either.

Okay, that was a lot of info — so with all that detail, What’s actually Important Now as we prepare for this MACtion Saturday at Notre Dame Stadium, y’all???

Per usual, I will try to keep these as brief as possible — I know we’re running short on time and many of us have a hard stop in a few minutes. Let’s quickly talk through the 6 key points of W.I.N. for this week:

1. First and foremost, the Irish need to focus on having a mentally sound game. This is a bad opponent and next weekend is a MASSIVE matchup, but they can’t get caught looking ahead to Ohio State, even though I’m sure they could do so and still win fairly easily against CMU. But this week is critical for the team to clean up mental mistakes (starting fast, cleaning up penalties, shoring up ball security, crisper tackling, the line getting a better push from the get-go, etc.), because they need to be sharp if they want to take down the Buckeyes on 9/23.

Plus, focusing on playing well enough to get the starters out early and give the backups lots of reps will pay off down the line, if not also next weekend when OSU comes to town.

2. Run it down their Goddamn throats. Yes, Hartman should be able to toss it all over the place against these guys, but the Irish should also look to first just impose their will and run through such a bad defense. Let the offensive line get back into a better groove, get all the backs some touches, and make this thing look easy.

Aer Lingus College Football Classic - Notre Dame v Navy Photo by Mario Hommes/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

3. However, let’s also use this horrible pass defense as an opportunity to get the receivers some more reps, especially the young playmakers like Merriweather and Flores. If you want them capable of producing against better opponents, they need reps now, and especially Merriweather needs to figure some things out to be a more consistently productive receiver.

The effort is there and he clearly has the talent, but he needs to find himself a bit more I think — a couple touchdowns against the Chips would do it, for sure.

Notre Dame v NC State Photo by Lance King/Getty Images

4. Shut them down defensively. This is a vague and demanding sentiment, but this defense has been really, really good so far this year and this Central Michigan offense is one-dimensional and not very talented. There’s no reason Al Golden’s group shouldn’t completely stifle them — the starting defense giving up anything more than single digits would be a disappointment, and I’d love to see the backups flying all over the place and dominating too.

I think Jaiden Ausberry, Drayk Bowen, Brenan Vernon, Boubacar Traore, Christian Gray, etc. should all have a field day against these guys with a comfy lead and the starters kicking their feet up.

5. Stay/get healthy. The Irish need to dominate this game, but they also need to be at full strength next weekend, especially defensively against an OSU offense with so many weapons. Rest Bertrand to get him healthy, keep a strong rotation of guys going so the starters don’t get into any injurious situations due to exhaustion or overwork, etc.

Football is unpredictable and dangerous and you can never 100% protect against injuries, but the team needs to make this a focal point of how they prepare and execute this weekend so that they set themselves up to compete next week.

Aer Lingus College Football Classic - Notre Dame v Navy Photo by Mario Hommes/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

6. Get Steve “Peanut Butter” Angeli another 1-2 quarters of PT under his belt — this game should not be even remotely close and Hartman should be able to stop playing after halftime, allowing the backup to get some more valuable reps running the offense, throwing the ball, etc. Let’s keep building him up in experience so that whenever he’s called on — whether it’s this season or next — Angeli is a competent, reliable option at QB in critical moments.

Alright folks, that’s it for the project updates this week. Does anyone have any questions, concerns, or thoughts?

*20+ silent, deadpan faces stare back at me on Microsoft Teams, with a couple of them mercifully shaking their heads “no” so that I can know my screen didn’t freeze right before I asked that question*

Alright, I will take your silence to mean I crushed it — thanks!

As always, I will send the link to this deck out to the team right after we hang up, so please refer to that for this week and let me know if you have any concerns or questions you need me to help with!

I’ll go ahead and give everyone...about 6 minutes back in their day! So have a great week everyone, talk to you soon!

*waves awkwardly and then clicks “End Call” button*

Okay now how many days until the weekend? Oh shit, it’s not a short week — there are still 5 work days between me and a bunch of Miller High Life in the tailgate lots? Woof, well let’s get this over with, I suppose...