Keys To Victory For The Notre Dame Offense vs. Cincinnati


The 9th-ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish (4-0) host the 7th-ranked Cincinnati Bearcats (3-0) in one of the biggest matchups of a weekend filled with huge matchups.

Notre Dame is a home underdog to Cincinnati, and a big part of that has been a scuffling offense. That unit must get better if Notre Dame is going to win this battle of top ten teams. There are many things Notre Dame must do to thrive on offense, but here are the primary keys to success for the Irish.

1. Start Fast - Notre Dame has scored just 14 first quarter points in its first four games. Against a team like Cincinnati a fast start is a must. Either the defense is keeping Cincinnati's points down and the Irish need to start fast in order to get out to an early lead, or the Irish defense is giving up early points and the offense needs to keep pace until the defense figures it out.

Either way, Notre Dame needs to start fast against the Bearcats and move the ball, score points and force the Cincinnati offense to be in catch up mode all game.

2. Give Jack Coan Time - Notre Dame's offensive line must be physical and play assignment sound football, something it hasn't done all season. If quarterback Jack Coan can get clean pockets the Irish will have plenty of chances to make big plays in the pass game against the Bearcats.

Notre Dame has a lot of weapons in the pass game, and there are several pass game matchups the Irish can win in this contest. Cincinnati is good enough to take away one or two, but not all of them. That was true against Wisconsin, Purdue, Toledo and Florida State.

When Coan has been given time this season he's been very good, and the pass game has been very dangerous. If the line gives him time he needs to hit some of the throws he has missed in recent games.

3. Mix Up The Looks - Offensive coordinator Tommy Rees has become a bit predictable in recent games due to the offensive line struggles. Against Wisconsin, the Irish offense ran the football just two times out of its 11 personnel looks. Every other run was out of 12 personnel, and the Irish rarely throw to their second tight end in those looks, which can limit the pass game.

Going with an extra tight end is one way to try and get the run game going, but that limits the pass game, and the pass game is the strength of this team. Against Cincinnati, Rees needs to mix up the looks more presnap and focus more on the spread formations. He needs to use motions more effectively, be creative with alignments in order to gain advantages or get Cincinnati overreact, which then opens up other opportunities.

Rees needs to keep Cincinnati on its heels and not be as predictable as we've seen the offense become in recent weeks. He needs to get back to being the aggressive play-caller we saw in the first two games, and that begins by him mixing things up.

4. First Down Success Is A Must - I could easily write about getting better on third down or being better in the red zone, but the struggles in those two areas begins with the team being very poor on first down in recent games.

If Notre Dame's offense is going to consistently move the football and generate big plays the offense must be better on first down, which puts it in more situations where it can move the chains and more comfortably take big shots without risk of getting way behind the chains.

5. Spread The Ball Around - Coan has gotten focused a bit too much on throwing to Michael Mayer and Kevin Austin, and Rees' play-calling has done the same thing.

Coan needs to do a better job reading the defense and going to the open receivers and also working though his progressions better. Rees needs to do more things to get players like Braden Lenzy and Chris Tyree more involved on things like screens, jets and reverses.

I'd like to see him start to use Williams more in the pass game, even if that means more empty sets. I'd love to see them actually throw to the second tight end, because the more they ignore that position the easier it is for teams to handle the other pass catchers when there is a second tight end in the game.

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