With no disrespect to Alcorn State, Tulane, Texas and Virginia, but this is what we've been waiting for. It almost didn't happen because Virginia evidently decided it was tired of being pushed around. The end result pits an undefeated Notre Dame hosting No. 16 Georgia Tech. The first couple of weeks probably felt like quizzes for both teams, while this weekend will certainly be a test.
However, when we all first saw the schedule we thought this game was going to be about the Fighting Irish's ability to stop Tech's spread option attack...
But, when highly heralded quarterback Malik Zaire went down for the season with a broken ankle, it brought along a whole new perspective. The unappeasable coach with a quirky offense facing a veteran defensive coordinator whose group is one more year mature and confident in its scheme. You guessed it... Notre Dame Head Coach Brian Kelly vs. Ted Roof's defense.
Even without Zaire, Kelly's offense poses a variety of threats. C.J. Prosise and freshman Josh Adams take over at running back for the injured Tarean Folston. Both have been very productive in the first two games and running the ball will be more of a focus with the injury to Zaire. William Fuller, Chris Brown and Amir Carlisle could be the best collection of receivers the Jackets face all season. Quarterback will still be a major concern.
Notre Dame's victory over Virginia rose more questions than answers for a 2-0 team ranked No. 8 in the country: Is Virginia getting much better or were the Fighting Irish overlooking their week 2 opponent? Would the team have won last week if Zaire stayed healthy? Is DeShone Kizer a better option for Kelly's offense? How will the sophomore quarterback react when teams prepare for him? Does Tech know how to prepare for a player they've only seen for a little more than a quarter? The highly-recruited Kizer is a big guy with a big arm. Other than some videos from high school, no one knows what kind of college player he is or will be.
Defensively, Tech could cause a lot of problems for the Fighting Irish as they prepare for Saturday... and not just because of their scheme. In two games, the Jackets' starters have played a little over three quarters this season. Roof's defense has impressed as much as they could, given up 16 points, but it's difficult to evaluate with such a short sample and against lower-level competition.
That opens a ton of questions for both the Notre Dame and Tech coaches: How fast is the Jackets' secondary? Can their linebackers stop the run? Does this team have legitimate pass-rushers or they have to blitz to get pressure on Kizer?
The Irish know a little about individually players. They know D.J. White has great ball-skills. P.J. Davis combines speed with a veracious tenacity. Adam Gotsis is great with his hands at the point of contact. Both what they don't know is the same things we all want to learn. Like how good will this team be at stopping the run... how will they handle receivers who are tall or fast... how will some of the young guys respond against better competition.
Despite losing their quarterback, Notre Dame is a good football team. This will not be the ultimate test, but a significant upgrade from the competition they've faced so far. For most of us, Saturday can't get here soon enough to answer these questions. The Yellow Jackets defense will show up well and I think they will at least put themselves in a position to win the game. I am most interested in how the players handle adversity.
...But I still want the offense to beat the snot out of the Irish defense led by Brian Van Gorder.