The trainers and hot tubs will be working overtime after the Champs Sports Bowl. Two bruising defenses will put the hurt on any offensive player who touches the ball. That's right, Notre Dame has a defense that's more than respectable. We asked our N.D. correspondent Douglas Farmer, Editor and Chief of the campus newspaper, for a snapshot of the Irish D, including its strengths and any possible weakness:
"Notre Dame’s defense has been a nice surprise for Irish fans this season. Coming into the season, the offense was expected to carry the defense, but as the season has progressed, the exact opposite has been true.
Junior inside linebacker Manti Te’o anchors the defense – and will again next year, having opted to forgo the NFL Draft about two weeks ago. His leadership is most evident in the front seven. In the last decade or so, Notre Dame’s defensive line has been a significant weakness. Brian Kelly addressed the issue with his first recruiting class, bringing in freshmen defensive linemen Stephon Tuitt and Aaron Lynch, as well as lineman-turned-linebacker Ishaq Williams.
Tuitt was hamstrung by mono for the last month of the season, though Kelly has claimed this means Tuitt will have fresh legs for the bowl game, and Williams has not seen much playing time amidst a very deep linebacker corps, but Lynch has exploded onto the scene. I guarantee he gets at least one sack in the bowl game.
In a brief summary of the front seven, one more name demands mention: Louis Nix. The sophomore nose tackle is a big man, and there is no other way to say it. His passion for the game is evident on every play, and despite carrying 325 pounds or so, always finds a way to the ball. In a few years, I’d see him as a cleaner version of Ndamukong Suh.
While the front seven has played well all season (the first team defense has limited opponents to four rushing touchdowns all season), the secondary has been a sore spot. The losses at Michigan, against USC and at Stanford could have been avoided if not for complete lapses downfield.
Nonetheless, Notre Dame has an odd streak going: I think the team has gone nine games now without giving up a third quarter touchdown. For whatever reason, the Irish come out of halftime ready to roll.
Yet, the FSU defense should still take priority. With this Irish team, if it can get ahead, it rolls. It thrives on momentum. If the Seminoles can keep this a low-scoring affair, the Notre Dame defense is liable to blink first, if not often as well."