FTRS: It's already been a season with plenty of high's and low's for Notre Dame fans. You've had the dominant win over Texas, the nail-biting win over Virginia, and numerous injuries to impact players on the team. Can you give me the general feeling of the fan base right now? Have the injuries lulled the expectations, or do fans still have high hopes due to the depth of the roster?
OFD: The general feeling is definitely subdued following the win over Virginia, with the loss of Malik Zaire. I would call it a classic Notre Dame fan malaise: the sky is falling, nothing is going right, we're going to go 6-6, the whole nine yards. There's still some folks fully on the bandwagon, but most in the middle realize that the loss of Zaire makes 9-3 a lot more likely than 12-0.
FTRS: What do you expect from DeShone Kizer? Explain the differences between him and Malik Zaire, and do you think those differences hurt or help the Notre Dame offense?
OFD: I don't think I actually have any concrete expectations for Deshone Kizer the rest of the way; I'm definitely in wait-and-see mode on him. He made a huge ump in Spring/Fall camp according to all reports, and acquitted himself well last week against Virginia. There's hope that there won't be a ton of drop off from Zaire to Kizer, but that remains to be seen.
Kizer is a similar dual threat QB to Zaire, with a little less focus on the running aspect of his game. He can make all of the throws in the offense, as well as hurt an overactive defense with his legs. I think, however, the biggest loss from Zaire to Kizer is the loss of Zaire's vocal leadership of this Irish team. This was (and still is) "his" team, and the loss of that driving force off the field may be missed more than any thing on the field.
FTRS: Are you more optimistic about facing the option since the team goes against it every year, or are you even more worried since the defense has struggled against it at times?
OFD: Definitely the latter, especially with Brian VanGorder's defenses having not acquitted themselves very well against the option thus far. The big question is, following an offseason with a lot of behind the scenes prep for the two option teams on our schedule (one coach only focused on option, recruiting a highly rated option QB as a preferred walk-on just to run the scout team, etc.), will all of the extra work pay off in handling the option? Hopefully, some impact will have been made that lets us get the option off track enough to stay ahead on the scoreboard.
FTRS: Talk a bit about what Brian Kelly has done for the program since his arrival. Would you say that he's established a team that the fan base believes has championship potential every year at this point?
OFD: I don't think he's quite there yet, but he certainly has pulled us to a pont where we are right to expect an absolute floor of 8-4 each season. The depth of this team is pretty impressive when compared to that of some earlier Irish teams, and I think Brian Kelly has this program going where it needs to go to get to the land of yearly playoff hopes in the future.
FTRS: Do you think the Paul Johnson/Brian VanGorder rivalry is being overhyped? Are fans worried about angry Paul Johnson?
OFD: Little worried, mostly think its hilarious that this is a thing. I would love to be in the room with just these two guys to see what happened.
FTRS: Give me three offensive players for Tech fans to watch out for on Saturday.
OFD: RB C.J. Prosise - Converted WR who is playing his first season at RB and has been truly impressive thus far.
WR Will Fuller - Big plays right when the Irish need them, that's pretty much exactly what Will Fuller brings to the table.
TE Alize Jones - A bit off the radar, but the Freshman tight end should see an increase in workload with the injury to starting TE Durham Smythe.
FTRS: Give me three defensive players for Tech fans to watch out for on Saturday.
OFD: This is a little tougher since I really have no idea how the Irish are going to line up against the triple option on Saturday, but here goes:
LB Jaylon Smith - There likely won't be a game this season where Jaylon Smith isn't the best player on the field. He will be everywhere this weekend.
DB/LB Drue Tranquill - Sophomore Swiss Army knife player who many expect to be a big part of the option defense.
DL Sheldon Day - Linemen likely don't have a huge impact against the option, but Day will ensure that the rest of the line plays smart and solid.
FTRS: The Tech fan base is a little annoyed that Gameday didn't head to South Bend for this game. First, do Irish fans feel the same way, and second, should we be surprised at all that they chose Tuscaloosa instead?
OFD: I havent heard anything from the ND fanbase that is disappointed. It briefly crossed my mind that it could happen, but I'm not surprised they chose Bama. From a national sense it is likely a "bigger" game. It also doesn't hurt that there's the whole ESPN/SEC thing happening while we are on NBC.
FTRS: Does Kizer lead Notre Dame to a huge victory to silence the worries of the Irish fans? Does Georgia Tech get a statement victory on the road to jump into the playoff radar? Give me your predictions for the showdown on Saturday.
OFD: Head Prediction: Kizer performs well and puts up enough points to be dangerous, but the defense can't do anything against the triple option and the Irish lose a nailbiter, 41-35.
Heart Prediction; BVG figured out the triple option and comes up with some timely stops. Irish win 31-24.