Notre Dame football hosts the Ball State Cardinals Saturday. The Fighting Irish open as 35-point favorites, but there is plenty to play for for the Irish.
The matchup with the Ball State Cardinals will not draw the same fanfare for Notre Dame football fans, but as the saying goes, “the next game is always the most important.” That holds true for this Irish team. Notre Dame will look to avoid a let-down after their season-opening win over the Michigan Wolverines.
Although not many expect the game to be hotly contested on the scoreboard, there will be a great deal of storylines that are worth watching for the Irish.
First, given the new redshirt rule, which allows players to participate in 4 games or fewer without burning a year of eligibility, might mean that Notre Dame can insert young players such as freshman quarterback, Phil Jurkovec.
In past years, Notre Dame would not have had the luxury of getting a freshman who doesn’t factor into the team’s short-term success into a game the way the should if they are able to take care of business Saturday afternoon.
In addition, while the Irish already expected to rely on freshmen Houston Griffith and Kevin Austin as the season progresses, they certainly didn’t want to rely on them heavily versus Michigan. Expect to see those guys to get worked into this game early and often, especially if Notre Dame can jump on the Cardinals the way they jumped on the Wolverines.
The Irish will look to answer a few questions the next few weeks with games against Ball State, Vanderbilt, and Wake Forest on the docket. And outside of the personnel questions previously mentioned, the Irish will match up against a spread offense for the first time this season.
Given the type of offense Notre Dame saw against Michigan, seeing a different type of offense (run by someone not wearing blue and gold) will be valuable for Cleark Lea’s defense and should not be understated. Ball State touts a big-play passing game lead by quarterback Riley Neal and a host of young, talented receivers.
The way Notre Dame manages their personnel decisions and responds to a spread offense for the first time this season will potentially answer a lot of questions going forward. For more on the Irish and their matchup with Ball State, check out the latest episode of the Under the Dome Podcast: