Best: Quarterback Clayton Thorson has not yet returned after an ACL tear last season. Whoever wins the battle between Aidan Smith, TJ Green and Andrew Marty struggles to live up to the ability of Thorson. The running back stable, most likely lead by Jeremy Larkin, is also failing to perform at the level of Justin Jackson. The secondary, the main defensive concerns, still has some issues, allowing for another huge Wimbush day through the air.
Notre Dame beats Northwestern for the first time since 1994.
Worst: Clayton Thorson is back in full force, but the real story is on defense. The Wildcats’ defense plays similar to last season, when they were 20th in the nation in scoring defense. Paddy Fisher and Nate Hall, a pair of dominant linebackers, play great enough that any concern at safety has been erased.
The game turns into a battle on the ground, but Notre Dame’s advantage on both lines does enough to give the Irish a close win.