After watching the ND vs. Purdue game, my fear/paranoia level has dropped dramatically. Here's some scouting notes:
The strength of their team is the running back position. The wide receivers are serviceable, but Crist as a first year starter doesn't look ready to take advantage of their ability yet.
#5 Armando Allen is their most experienced RB. He's their best pass blocker and does just about everything pretty decently.
#20 Wood, dynamic, shifty runner. Reminds me of vincent smith. Doesn't have great hands, not as big of a threat in the passing game. Usually gets pulled for allen on third down.
#9 Rudolph, looks to have put on some bulk from last year. But by the same token, seems to have lost some speed. Soft hands, makes for a good possession receiver from 5-10 yards. ND likes to use him on drags over the middle and outs and ins from an 'extended' TE position
#3 Floyd. Still big, still fast, still got great jumping ability. Unfortunately for him, Crist doesn't seem able to hit him on a fly. Twice they tried a double move, with crist missing badly. Somethings not right with their timing. But he's a huge threat on deep hooks and other sit down routes against a zone.
Kamara something duvall something. Lanky kid, seemed serviceable. Could cause mismatches against shorter db's.
Crist, He's a big athletic pro style QB. Sucks for him that he's running a spread option. He doesn't really have a feel for reading the DE. He's got good speed once he knows where he wants to go, but he's not shifty by any means. He's much closer in ability to Steven Threet than Tate Forcier when it comes to running.
Big strong arm. But it's surprising that he doesn't have better touch on the long balls for being a pocket passer. Perhaps it was just first game jitters.
The interior linemen seemed ok. But again the problem is that they're not designed to do what the offense is trying to do. These are big strong, slow, kids. They get a pretty good push up the middle on running plays. But time and again they missed downfield blocks due to a lack of speed. Craig Roh should have a field day speed rushing around the tackles on either side coming from a 2 point stance. He might get pushed around a bit if he's down in a 3 point stance, however.
The spread that kelly runs is different than ours, but similar enough that our defense should be able to recognize and blow up plays pretty quickly. Plus they won't be going up against denard, so they'll be pretty happy about that. The #1 threat is the running back. Most times on the read option, crist will hand off, since he doesn't read the end well. And ND called many designed runs, even when there was a QB/RB mesh handoff. Their coachers are probably well aware of crist's limitations in the run game.
There were a variety of draws and tricky ways to get the ball to the RB, including our favorite counter draw that saw MSU tear us up a few years back. The RB will line up at a variety of depths when in the shotgun. Sometimes, nearly in a pistol formation. The further back he is, the more likely it will be a run play. If he lines up 3 yards directly to the side of the QB, it's going to be a lateral motion mesh. If he's closer, like 1 yard, then watch out for the counters and traps.
Due to their lack of speed on the OL, they cannot run the wide screens like we can now. Screens will be toward the middle of the field, so it's important that our linebackers pursue inside out and not get too sideways, since they'll be coming back against the grain. Most of their passes were hitches and crosses, square ins. Crist is at his best when he's got a stationary target he can rifle it to.
This is a very different mindset from last year. Gone are the bazillion blitzes. They do look much improved on D, but they were coming from pretty far back, so there's still a lot of weaknesses to attack. (hmmm... that sounds vaguely familiar)
Hard to tell. Big and strong, not so swift. Had a couple sacks where the DLinemen managed to shed a block. But Purdue spent the entire afternoon running bootlegs, so the DL didn't factor in much.
They did this one crazyass play on third down where no one was in a three point stance and all the front seven were bouncing around trying to confuse the pass protection. Purdue promptly ran it for like 20 yards. I doubt we'll see much of that this week.
#5 Teo, the kid from Hawaii, is still their best athlete. He has a good instinct for the game and great speed to get where he wants. But he's usually out of control, relying too much on his athleticism. He doesn't breakdown and make a solid tackle. he's more like a loose missle. He can be juked.
#45 A run stopper. Good straight line speed. Not very fast on the edge. Reminds me of Obi ezeh.
#59? OLB. Smith He's a weak link. Not good at maintaining contain. can be sucked in on reverses and read options. Denard should have a field day running circles around him.
Mostly played off the ball. Were good in run support. Look like they don't have the speed to run with our receivers. ND played a soft zone much of the time. Can be beaten deep.
Hard to tell. Marve didn't throw deep down the middle often since he was always rolling out. These guys were mostly back in a cover two all day.
We match up really well against them. Better than last year even. It looks like their offense is not ready to take advantage of our depleted secondary. I'd have floyd doubled whenever possible, have obi knock rudolph to the ground on every release, and have the rest of the team keying the running backs, or better yet, blitzing into the running backs on passing plays to blow up any draws.
Our dilithium fueled offense, (*now with passing attack!) should be able to put up at 35 on these guys.
It's still ND, at ND, so there's always concerns about shenanigans in their sheleighlies, but on paper we should win this game by a couple of TD's. So of course I expect a wild shootout with us winning by a mere point.
gawd I love college football!