There is a lot of uncertainty heading into the Notre Dame-Texas tilt especially at the quarterback position. Charlie Strong and Brian Kelly are keeping their starting quarterback choice secret. All we know is, in Notre Dame’s case, both quarterbacks will play.
The Irish have two veteran quarterbacks in DeShone Kizer and Malik Zaire whereas Texas’ choice is between an ineffective veteran (Tyrone Swoopes) and true freshman (Shane Buechele). After Zaire’s injury Kizer led Notre Dame to an 8-3 record as a starter with two close losses at Clemson and at Stanford.
The Irish come into this game with some drama after a couple of off field incidents that produced an indefinite suspension and dismissal.
The quarterback competition between Kizer and Zaire is a good “problem” to have. Last season, after Zaire’s injury, Kizer led Notre Dame to an 8-3 record as a starter with two close losses at Clemson and at Stanford. Even in the losses, Kizer was impressive.
At Clemson, Kizer threw for 321 yards in a driving rain storm and led a drive in the last two minutes that gave the Irish a chance at tying the game with a two point conversion. Kizer worked similar magic at Stanford as he led a potential game winning drive with under a minute left only to see the Irish lose on a last second field goal. Kizer showed his versatility against the Cardinal with 234 passing yards and 128 rushing yards.
The Irish’s running game should be as powerful as it was last season when it averaged 207.6 yards a game (26th in the nation). Notre Dame is led by the 3-headed monster of Taurean Foster, Josh Adams and Dexter Williams and an offensive line that should be effective against the Longhorns’ front seven.
The biggest question coming into this season for Notre Dame is their defense. They have yet to be able to execute Brian VanGorder’s system effectively. Last season, the Irish gave up an average of 175.6 yards (67th in the nation) rushing per game. In their three losses (Clemson, Stanford & Ohio St.) that number ballooned to 216.7 yards a game. A lot of this has been blamed on VanGorder’s complex scheme. This year the message coming out of South Bend is that the defense is more “likable and learnable”.
Only time will tell the impact of Max Redfield’s dismissal but the depth that Coach Brian Kelly has built over his time at Notre Dame should lessen the blow.
Texas has a new offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert and a new scheme but still a lot of uncertainty at quarterback. Despite this being a road game, expect the Irish to get rolling and leave Austin with a win.
Notre Dame -3.5