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It’s been an up-and-down first two games for the Irish. Each game saw Notre Dame build a late lead, 18 points against Florida State and 8 points against Toledo, only to have to fend off the opposition and escape with a win. It might be more of the same this weekend, as instate foe Purdue would love to come away with an upset in Notre Dame Stadium. Here are a few predictions for the Irish as they face the Boilermakers.
Tyler Buchner leaves with a firm grip on the starting job
Sept. 11, 2021; South Bend, Indiana; Notre Dame Fighting Irish quarterback Tyler Buchner (12) stiff arms Toledo Rockets linebacker Dyontae Johnson (2) in the fourth quarter at Notre Dame Stadium. Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports
I have gone over this many times since Jack Coan announced his transfer to Notre Dame, but the Irish offense looks better with the mobile Buchner at the helm. He got his first real playing time last week and two of three drives ended in touchdowns. Coan’s inadequacies showed last week, especially throwing for a pick six. Yes, Buchner will have issues. He’s young, but the upside for Brian Kelly and Tommy Rees should shine bright with more opportunities. The true freshman goes for over 300 total yards and helps the offense find the end zone more than five times.
JD Bertrand continues to breakout
Sept. 11, 2021; South Bend, Indiana; Toledo Rockets running back Bryant Koback (22) is tackled by Notre Dame Fighting Irish linebacker JD Bertrand (27) and safety Kyle Hamilton (14) in the second quarter at Notre Dame Stadium. Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports
If you were to guess who’d be leading the Irish in tackles after two games, most likely Bertrand’s name wouldn’t have come out of your mouth. He leads the team by a wide margin, his 22 tackles is 10 more than Cam Hart. Don’t forget Bertrand has a sack and fumble recovery as well. Expect more big plays to continue for the “fill-in” linebacker with 10 tackles and another takedown of the quarterback.
A back finally goes for over 100 yards
Sept. 11, 2021; South Bend, Indiana; Notre Dame Fighting Irish running back Kyren Williams (23) reacts after scoring on a two point conversion in the fourth quarter against the Toledo Rockets at Notre Dame Stadium. Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports
Through two games, the rushing group has struggled, averaging a measly 2.7 yards per carry. Some have to bounce back don’t they? The two main ball carriers, Kyren Williams and Chris Tyree, are too talented to continue to struggle. I have a feeling that Kelly and Rees will lean on the experienced Williams, and he’s going to finally breakout. Yes, Purdue’s rush defense is statistically solid, but its competition has been suspect. This is the week the offensive line finally gets going and allows Williams to gain 100 yards and find the end zone.
Kyle Hamilton continues to be a ball hawk
Sept. 5, 2021; Tallahassee, Florida; Notre Dame Fighting Irish saftey Kyle Hamilton (14) intercepts a pass past Florida State Seminoles running back Jashaun Corbin (0) during the second quarter at Doak S. Campbell Stadium. Melina Myers-USA TODAY Sports
Even though his pick was called back last week, Hamilton was in the right spot, like always. This week he gets back in the pick column as Jack Plummer throws his first of the season and it’s the All-American taking it away. Not only does Hamilton pick off a pass, he’s also going to recover a fumble. It’s just a case of big-time players making big-time plays today.
The Irish coast to a win
Kyren Williams #23 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish celebrates with teammates during the second half against the Toledo Rockets at Notre Dame Stadium on Sept. 11, 2021 in South Bend, Indiana. Michael Hickey/Getty Images
You’re probably wondering why this one is here after reading our staff predictions. Yeah, I called a close game there, but this is the let’s get wild article, where the full homer comes out. We’ll go back to the fact that the Boilermaker’s haven’t really faced quality competition this year, in Oregon State and UConn, a combined 1-4 record. Yeah, the Irish opponent’s haven’t been much better, but it’s time for a breather. This team is better than it’s played so far and sometimes a solid win comes at an unexpected time. Today is that game and the Irish “coast” to a two-score victory.