Well folks, it’s finally here! The 2021 ND Football season is about to commence. I am not going to mention the “C” word at all in this article. The landscape of football has changed drastically as well. The NCAA has approved the “Name, Image and Likeness” law. The SEC expanded by two more teams and there is more discussion underway of more super conferences forming. It was quite an off season for college football.
The landscape of ND Football has changed as well from the 2020 season. The offensive sent nine players to the NFL. QB1 Ian Book, Offensive Linemen, Aaron Banks, Liam Eichenberg, Tommy Kraemer, Javon McKinley, Ben Skowronek, Tommy Tremble, and Brock Wright. The defense sent five to the NFL, Shaun Crawford, Daelin Hayes, Nick McCloud, Ade Ogundeji, and Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah. Those are big shoes to fill.
With Coach Rees in his second year as Offensive Coordinator and Coach Freeman’s arrival from Cinncinnati as Defensive Coordinator, the offense and defense are primed for excitement. QB1 for the 2021 season is transfer graduate student Jack Coan. The big name on defense in his Junior season is Kyle Hamilton.
First Half 2021 Season
ND vs Florida St University September 5 7:30 PM EST (ABC)
Jack Coan gets to take his first snaps as QB1 at Notre Dame. After sitting out the 2020 season due to an injury, Coan won the starting QB job of Sophomore Drew Pyne. Coach Kelly said that Summer and Fall ball went well. The team has plenty of leadership on both sides of the ball. ND wants to get back to the College Football Playoff in 2022. That run starts against FSU.
FSU is coming off a 3-6 season. They were 3-2 at home and 0-4 on the home. Coach Norvell wants to turn this team around and return them to glory. Last year on the road, FSU lost to ND 42-26. FSU will not want to lose their home opener after a “C” season of 2020. They will want that stadium loud and at the end when the clock hits 0:00 in the fourth quarter,
Toledo vs Notre Dame September 11 2:30 PM EST (Peacock)
The Toledo Rockets come to Notre Dame Stadium after a 4-2 Mid-American Conference season in 2020. Coach Jason Candle has an opportunity to show his team off at Notre Dame Stadium. Coach Candle got his team as nineteenth in the country back in 2015. As the Head Coach, Candle comes into the 2021 season with a 38-21 record in his sixth season. The Rockets have a very young QB room. They have two redshirt Freshman, two Freshman, and wrap up with one Sophomore QB. Their offensive will have to protect the QB because ND’s defense will be all over whoever it is,
The Irish Freshman class will get to experience their first game in Notre Dame Stadium. They can enjoy the moment, but there will be work to be done. Ask Kyle Hamilton, his first INT came in his first game at Notre Dame Stadium that resulted in a pick-six back in 2019. The offense will need to dictate tempo, while the defense dominates the young quarterbacks of the Rockets.
Purdue vs Notre Dame September 18 2:30 PM EST (NBC/Peacock Simulcast)
A rivalry that once was, come together again on September 18th. Notre Dame leads the series 56-26-2. Coach Brian Kelly got his first win as a Head Coach of the Irish on September 4, 2010 in a 23-12 win. Another connection to Purdue is the guy calling the game for NBC, Drew Brees will call the game from the NBC suite.
Jeff Brohm will bring his team to Notre Dame Stadium in his fifth season as Head Coach of the Boilermakers. Purdue comes into the game after a 2-4 season in the B1G. The Boilermakers will want to play with urgency as the don’t want another season like last season. They will bring a diverse QB room. The offensive line is going to have to stop the ND defense. If ND comes into this game 2-0, then the Boilermakers will have to “Boiler Up” because if the ND defense gets on a roll, they won’t be stoppable.
Same thing can be said for the Irish offense. Wanting to keep the consecutive home streak alive, the very talented offense will difficult to stop. They will need to make sure they are playing their game and not playing down to an opponent. Coach Rees will have his guys prepared for a convincing victory. Also, the Shillelagh Trophy will be up for grabs. The Fightin’ Irish will want to keep the Shillelagh Trophy in the rivalry trophy room.
Notre Dame vs Wisconsin 12 PM EST FOX
This a homecoming for Jack Coan. Playing against his old alma mater. Coan will want to show them that he could still play. This will be the Shamrock Series for the Fightin’ Irish. Last years game was supposed to be played at Lambeau Field, this year it shifts to Soldier Stadium in Chicago. This will be the second consecutive game against a B1G conference team.
Wisconsin started the 2020 season 2-0, then lost three consecutive games and ended the regular season 3-3. Graham Mertz will square off with the guy he replaced in this game. Wisconsin will be trying to better their record and that means not dropping games early in the season. Wisconsin needs to right the ship.
Cincinnati vs Notre Dame 2:30 PM EST (NBC/Peacock Simulcast)
This is just not a reunion game for Coach Kelly, it’s also a reunion for a freshly departed Defensive Coordinator Marcus Freeman. Coach Freeman was a big reason why the Bearcats went 9-0 in the regular season in the American Athletic Conference. But now he is on the other side of the field. ND will basically home for its fourth game in a row. There is nothing better than sleeping in your own bed versus a hotel bed. Coach Freeman will put his new defense on display in this game. He will make sure that the ND defense is more than ready for this game.
Cincinnati will not go silently in this game. They will want to show that they can win without Coach Freeman. Cincinnati still has a bad taste in their mouth after not being selected for the College Football Playoff last season. They are going to make some noise, but they are going to have to muster up a game plan that will beat Coach Kelly and Coach Freeman.
The Wrap Up
I know it’s not quite the first half of the season but it works. Right now in the pre-season prognostication ND is 5-0. If the team plays well with the talent they have, there is no reason not to be 5-0. Four of the five games are basically home games which is an advantage. Team 133 is better than Team 132. Up and down the roster, even the Freshman class has a chance to be a game changer. One thing remains constant, they need to just play their game. This team once again has a chance to be special. They just need to play ND Football..
Cheers and Go Irish! ☘🏈🌩