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Irish Blogger Gathering: Beat Spartans Edition

Sep 13, 2012, 9:29 AM EST

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Pretty quiet week for ND, huh? Though it’s probably gone overlooked in the last couple days, the Fighting Irish have a huge game this weekend. They will travel north to The Mitten State for a game against longtime rival and tenth-ranked Michigan State.

For this round of IBG, I asked Bayou Irish of Her Loyal Sons three questions about this week’s game.

In turn, Keith Arnold from NBC’s Inside The Irish blog sent his questions my way.

Check out Keith’s blog for my answers, and read below for Bayou’s thoughts on the big game (Saturday, 8 pm ET, ABC).

Saturday will be the first road test of sophomore quarterback Everett Golson’s young college career. And it’s not just any road contest. It comes against a top-10 team on primetime national television. How do you think Golson will respond?

Well, Golson’s first start came amid the hooplah and craic of Dublin and, as I recall, he did okay. While the Aviva Stadium holds a (much) smaller crowd, the start time was only screwy for us — to Golson Ice it was a regular, afternoon start.

I am not trying to discount the effect of a hostile environment or the “bright-lights effect,” but I have been impressed by his poise. Remember, too, that this is a team that had Michigan dead-to-rights last year in the Big House, with funky unis, at night, on ABC.

Golson should be able to rely on his veterans for reassurance and upon his previous Red Hat brigade experience. You are free to discount everything I just said, however, since I predicted RGIII would walk into the Super Dome (a/k/a The House that Bayou Built) and absolutely delaminate in his first start. But he certainly didn’t. I actually believe that unless you are taking about the England national team or the New York Knicks against Jordan’s Bulls, professional-caliber athletes don’t get fazed by the moment all that often.

There’s a real reason why Coach Kelly picked Golson and why he trotted Tommy Rees out against Purdue. He wants to put the ball in the hands of the player who is going to get the win. It’s not lost on Coach that this is “The Third Year” and that he’s all the more under the microscope. He wants the W more than anyone, so if Golson wasn’t ready for primetime, he wouldn’t be under center.

Three of Notre Dame’s most talented skill players (Cierre Wood, Theo Riddick and George Atkinson III) all play the same position. In his press conference on Tuesday, Brian Kelly remarked that all three backs have the ability to be starters and that he needs to make sure to integrate each into the offense. What’s your solution? How do you balance these players with the rest of the offensive gameplan?

Just like an Irish fan to turn something awesome (Wood’s return) into a problem. I think you’re going to see two backs all game and you may even see all three on the field with Theo lined up in a receiver position.

We saw the Irish roll out, twice if I recall, that nifty little push-pass play against Purdue and I think the way to keep everyone involved and happy is to let Golson create a lot. He got those opportunities against Purdue and was able to run the ball himself and stretch the field on a couple of 20+ yard plays in the second half.

Wood’s return may also get Sparty’s D to play a bit more honest and force their inside linebackers to keep an eye on him more and not concentrate as much on Eifert. Speaking of our TEs, it wouldn’t surprise me if they’re both (Eifert and Niklas) used a lot at the same time. The key to how involved any of those three are is going to be our O-line. If they come out and get pushed around by Gholston et al, it’s going to be another nail-biter. If the Purdue game was an anomaly, and Wood plays with a chip on his shoulder, we won’t have a problem keeping them all happy.

If the Fighting Irish win on Saturday, they will be 3-0 for the first time since 2002. What does Notre Dame need to do to return from East Lansing with a W? What are the keys to victory?

O-line play. Period. Our D-line is really developing well and I am pleased with the secondary relative to where it could be right now. We have enough weapons to challenge Sparty, so it’s going to come down to Zack Martin‘s bunch to get Theo, GAIII and Cierre to the next level. If that starts happening, the Irish win. If, though, you see Gholston getting after Golson a lot, it’s going to be a long evening in East Lansing.

The other two IBG posts can be found on the Subway Domer and Her Loyal Sons blogs.

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