Originally posted on isportsweb.com  |  Last updated 9/7/12

The Notre Dame football team takes the field again this Saturday, going up against a Purdue team that is expected to make some noise in the Big 10/12 (whatever). The Fighting Irish will try to win the Shillelagh Trophy (not to be confused with the Jeweled Shillelagh given to the annual ND-USC victor) for a fifth consecutive year. Over that four year span, Notre Dame has beaten the Boilermakers by an average score of 31 to 16, including last year’s 38-10 win at Ross-Ade Stadium in West Lafayette. In the 54-year history of the trophy, Notre Dame has taken it home 36 times.

If the Irish want to complete it’s bid for a 37th time, they’re going to need to play against the Boilermakers in a near-similar fashion as they did versus Navy. Especially since they again start sophomore Everett Golson at quarterback. In my mind Golson was solid – but not spectacular – against a putrid Navy defense. Purdue’s defense isn’t going to much of a step up from Navy’s, but Big 10 talent is far different than talent level of the kids Navy is able to play.

Notre Dame’s defense, especially the secondary, will have to show up way better than they did last week. Navy never throws the ball – never – and the Irish gave up 192 yards and a touchdown. The lone interception the Irish registered was by star linebacker Manti Te’o. We know that Coach Brian Kelly couldn’t have been too pleased with that effort. Purdue’s Caleb TerBush didn’t dazzle last year (his first as a starter) but did manage to complete 61% of his passes with 13 touchdowns, so there is some potential there.

3 Things to Watch

1. The Notre Dame running game – Theo Riddick and George Atkinson III demolished Navy’s defense, going for a combined 206 yards, with each man scoring twice. The Irish will have to do more of the same against Purdue. Like Navy, Purdue ranked very low against the run last year, surrendering an average of 185.7 yards per game (Navy allowed 187.0 per game). With Tommy Rees not ready yet (more on that in a moment), expect the coaches to continue pounding the ball down the throat of the Boilermaker’s defense.

2. Everett Golson – I’ll be the first to point out that I thought Golson would be a one-and-done starter for the team this year. Not because he isn’t talented or a good kid, I just had the feeling Coach Kelly would feel more comfortable with Rees going forward. I was wrong. Golson gets his second shot, and the question for him this week is “Will he or won’t he?” Will he improve upon a decent performance last week against Navy, or will he make too many mistakes and let senior Tommy Rees take the starting job back? If Golson is able to put up slightly better yardage and completion numbers than he did in Dublin (12-18, 188 yards) and eliminate the mistakes, I see no reason why Golson can’t hold off Rees, at least for one more week.

But if Golson starts to struggle, don’t at all be surprised to see Kelly pull him in favor of Rees, or even Andrew Hendrix. That could potentially be a big blow to Golson’s confidence, but he’s young and should be able to recover from that fairly quickly should it come to pass. I would like to see Golson try and throw it a little more than he did in the Navy game, but if the Irish are able to run the ball as well as they dis last week, there’s really no reason for him to do so.

3. The Notre Dame Pass Defense – Since I started as the Notre Dame correspondent for iSportsWeb, I’ve been saying time and time again that the Irish’s inability to recruit top tier defensive backs was going to ultimately bite them in the ass. And now it seems that with the season ending injury to Lo Wood that the check has come due. The bottom line is that freshman KeiVarae Russell needs to play better, and he needs to do it now. He was horrible against Navy’s pass game. Navy’s pass game. It seems like it’s not been since Roger Staubach was a Midshipman that Navy has thrown for as many yards (an over-exaggeration, I know). Even against Purdue and the Great Unknown Caleb TerBush, the Irish absolutely cannot allow the same kind of plays they did last week. If Russell struggles as much against Purdue, he’ll be sitting for the Michigan State game, you can count on it.

My 5 Predictions

The Riddick/Atkinson Combo will go for a combined 250 yards – This may be a bit of a conceit, but based on the numbers they put on Navy, I don’t think this is outside the realm of possibility. Especially against a team that returns 8 starters on a defense that surrendered an average of 185 yards in 2011.

Golson throws for 2 TDs – I think Golson will be more accurate and more careful with the ball than he was last week in Dublin. Expect senior TE Tyler Eifert to be his favorite target again.

TerBush will have a coming out party – The issue isn’t with Notre Dame’s front seven. In fact, it’s almost solely because of the front seven that I am making this prediction (almost). Because of those guys, Purdue should be passing the ball well more than running it, given that they have two highly inexperienced tailbacks likely to play (the two Akeems – Shavers and Hunt). If Notre Dame can’t get to TerBush quicker than they normally would be expected to, he could really eat Notre Dame’s secondary alive.

Te’o will get his second career INT – In case you missed it earlier in the post, Te’o's first pick came just last week. If Purdue brings a pass-happy offense on Saturday, Te’o very well could notch another INT.

Final Score – Notre Dame 38, Purdue 28.

Follow me on Twitter @expertfan1

This article first appeared on isportsweb.com and was syndicated with permission.

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