Northwestern is on a four-game win streak and, no doubt, looking to make a splash this Saturday. Notre Dame must follow the ensuing three keys to ensure a victory against the Wildcats. Northwestern boasts a 5-1 Big Ten record with a 31-17 win against Wisconsin.
Key #1 – Be Successful Despite Injuries
Against Navy, Drue Tranquill went down with an ankle sprain. Tranquill is the leading tackler for Notre Dame and ankle sprains can be a contentious injury to deal with. It is important to remember that he also has a history of knee injuries. How will the ankle sprain affect Tranquill? Will he be available for the Northwestern game? Tranquill is the uncontested leader of the defense. A game without Tranquill could prove to be disastrous for the Fighting Irish.
Next, kicker Justin Yoon suffered a groin injury during the Pitt game and missed last week’s game against Navy. According to team reports, Yoon could have played against Navy and will be ready to go against Northwestern. Now, we wonder – will the groin injury affect Yoon in a game situation?
With eight games already completed, there is no doubt other Irish players are dealing with bumps and bruises. At this point in the season, it becomes mind over body. Moreover, this game against Northwestern will be telling to see how mentally tough the Fighting Irish team is.
Key #2 – Ian Book Needs To Be Ian Book
The second key of the three keys to a Notre Dame victory is Ian Book needing to play like himself. Since being named starter of the Fighting Irish before the Wake Forest game, Ian Book has been on a roll. He has completed over 70% of his passes in all of his starts. As a result, he leads the country in completion percentage (76.5%). Accuracy in the passing game was a huge hole in the Notre Dame offense with Brandon Wimbush under center. Book has filled that hole. He is the change the Fighting Irish needed. The addition of Book’s accuracy has given the Irish a smoothness that it has been missing under the Wimbush era. His accuracy and consistency should bode well for Notre Dame’s remaining schedule. In a game that has all the makings of an upset – the Irish need Ian Book to be Ian Book.
Key #3 – Offensive Line Success
The offensive line is the reason Book has been so accurate this season. They are also the reason behind the Fighting Irish’s improving run game. Although the rushing offense has been average at best, it has shown improvement as the season progresses. The offensive line was questioned after senior left guard Alex Bars went down for the season with a knee injury. However, 319-pound sophomore Aaron Banks was inserted into the left guard spot prior to the Navy game. The Irish running game had it’s best showing of the season against the Midshipmen amassing 254 yards and four touchdowns with a 5.9 average per carry.