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No. 18 Wisconsin begins the heart of their 2021 football season on Saturday when they face Jack Coan and No. 12 Notre Dame.
The beginning of the season was a bit of a false start for the Badgers, as a Week 3 bye put them out of action after beginning the season with a tough loss to No. 6 Penn State and a blowout victory over Eastern Michigan.
Now the Badgers look forward at a tough game this weekend against No. 12 Notre Dame, a home test against No. 19 Michigan and a looming Big Ten West showdown against No. 5 Iowa.
First up is Saturday’s Soldier Field showdown with a Notre Dame program that Wisconsin hasn’t faced since 1964.
Notre Dame enters the contest 3-0 on the year thus far, though the first two of those victories left more questions than answers. The team needed overtime to beat a bad Florida State team Week 1, then needed some late-game heroics from Jack Coan to beat Toledo at home.
It’s an interesting team to evaluate on both sides of the football. So with that, here is a complete team preview of the 2021 Notre Dame Fighting Irish:
Sep 18, 2021; South Bend, Indiana, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish head coach Brian Kelly leaves the field after defeating the Purdue Boilermakers at Notre Dame Stadium. The win was his 105th as Notre Dame coach and tied Kelly for most wins at Notre Dame with Knute Rockne. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports
Head coach: Brian Kelly Offensive coordinator: Tommy Rees Defensive coordinator: Marcus Freeman
Sep 11, 2021; South Bend, Indiana, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish quarterback Jack Coan (17) runs on to the field as quarterback Tyler Buchner (12) leaves the field in the third quarter at Notre Dame Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports
Quarterback Jack Coan
Running back Kyren Williams
Tight end Michael Mayer
Wide receivers Kevin Austin, Avery Davis
Safety Kyle Hamilton
Defensive end Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa
Linebacker J.D. Bertrand
Cornerback Clarence Lewis
Sep 18, 2021; South Bend, Indiana, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish running back Kyren Williams (23) runs the ball on a punt return in the fourth quarter against the Purdue Boilermakers at Notre Dame Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports
37.5% on third down
302 passing yards-per-game, 9 passing touchdowns, 2 interceptions, 14 sacks allowed
317 rushing yards, 2.9 yards-per-carry, 105.7 rushing yards-per-game, 3 touchdowns
Notre Dame's offense is led by a familiar face at quarterback: former Badger Jack Coan. The unit as a whole is an interesting one to evaluate, as the group has shown real struggles at times moving the football yet continues to connect on home-run touchdowns. Running back Kyren Williams is one of the best in the country and can take a handoff to the house at any time. He's struggled to find space at times due to Notre Dame's struggles on the offensive line---something which has led to an interesting statistical breakdown. https://twitter.com/ToddFuhrman/status/1440426342177067013?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1440426342177067013%7Ctwgr%5E%7Ctwcon%5Es1_&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fbadgerswire.usatoday.com%2Flists%2Ffive-statistics-that-will-decide-the-winner-of-wisconsin-vs-notre-dame%2F Those struggles on the offensive line have been mainly at the tackle positions, as the Fighting Irish are yet to find a consistent starter at left tackle and have received sub-par play at right tackle. Many of those early down problems have been fixed by the unit's playmakers, though, as tight end Michael Mayer has proven to be a real weapon and wide receiver Avery Davis is a blur on the outside. For Wisconsin, the matchup is similar in a lot of ways to Week 1's contest against Penn State---there is a solid quarterback, really good running back and weapons on the outside. It is a unit that the Badgers can shut down, though, if they avoid the home-run plays.
Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton (14) celebrates an interception during the fourth quarter of an NCAA football game, Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021 at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend. Credit: Nikos Frazier / Journal & Courier-Imagn Content Services, LLC
26.7 points allowed-per-game
381 yards allowed-per-game
5 interceptions, 1 forced fumble, 22 tackles-for-loss, 13 sacks
The breakdown of the Notre Dame defense must start with safety Kyle Hamilton---their star and one of the best defenders in the country. Through three games he's recorded 21 tackles, 2 tackles-for-loss, 3 interceptions and 2 passes defended. https://twitter.com/dpbrugler/status/1440368501466664971 He has game-wrecking talent in the back end, can fly around the field to break up passes and even comes down on the line to help his team hold strong in the running game. Remember what Penn State S Jaquon Brisker was able to do against Graham Mertz? Well, Hamilton's even better. Aside from him, DE Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa is a name to watch on the defensive front and LB J.D. Bertrand is the other big name to keep an eye on. Despite the team's talent, though, they have given up production on all levels. Florida State gained 442 total yards Week 1 (264 rushing yards), Toledo gained 353 total yards Week 2 and Purdue gained 348. It is a defense with game-changing talent in certain spots that has shown a knack to force turnovers. It is also a defense that has given up a lot of points and production, even to some poor competition.