Wisconsin Badgers 2021 football opponent preview: Notre Dame Fighting Irish


Now is August, which means it’s time to take college football seriously. the Wisconsin Badgers open fall practices on Friday and the rest of the country will join them shortly. For the rest of the month, we’ll be posting two articles on each opponent on the Wisconsin calendar.

The first post will be written by one of our staff and give you a basic overview of each team the Badgers play for. The second post will be written by a variety of fans and writers from each team, giving us a deeper look at the team from those who follow it closely. We have other SB Nation site contributors, newsletter writers, podcast hosts, and other Twitter town criers on deck. It should be a lot of fun.

Next, in our series of insights, we take a look at our Lady.

Robert Franklin-USA TODAY Sports

Team name: Irish Combatant of Notre Dame
2020 review: 10-2, ACC n ° 1 (editor’s note: lol)
Date / place of the 2021 match: Saturday September 25, Soldier Field, Chicago, Ill.
Last time against Wisconsin: 1964 (!), Notre Dame 31 – Wisconsin 7

Returning leaders:

Who passed: N / A. With the 2020 QB Ian Book now on the Saints, the transfer of Badgers alumni Jack Coan will likely be the departure of the Irish.
To rush : Redshirt SO Kyren Williams, 1166 yards (5.5 ypc), 13 TDs
Reception: SO TE Michael Mayer Dotson, 42 receptions, 450 yards (10.7 ypc), two touchdowns
Attacks: JR FS Kyle Hamilton, 63 tackles, 4.5 TFL
Bags: Redshirt FR DE Isaiah Foskey, 4.5 bags
Interceptions: JR FS Kyle Hamilton, among others, an INT

Key offensive player: While Kyren Williams and Chris Tyree’s running back pairing is electric, they’re also a known quantity after last season. Notre Dame’s offense reaching the college football playoff level it reached last season will rely on the play of graduate quarterback Jack Coan.

A name that Badger fans will know, uh, extremely familiar, Coan will enter his final year of college with major shoes to fill. Although Ian Book was never a competitor to Heisman, he was arguably the most successful quarterback of the Brian Kelly era at Notre Dame, leading the Irish to two undefeated regular seasons and an academic record of 30 victories. Coan, as Wisconsin fans know, is a reliable option who has always made up for his lack of a dynamic deep ball with impeccable precision on short and medium passes. Notre Dame’s heavy offense should be tailor-made for such a skill set, but if Coan isn’t able to match Book’s output, it’s hard to predict the Fighting Irish to return to the playoffs.

Key Defensive Player: Kyle Hamilton will almost certainly be the centerpiece of the Irish defense this fall, after a 2020 monster that only gets more impressive when you remember he played injured for most of the season.

Hamilton led Notre Dame in tackles, broken passes and interceptions last fall, while scoring 4.5 tackles for a loss. Putting “free” into “free security”, the junior is a threat that can impact the game at all levels, able to both go through the secondary and shut down ball carriers. Unsurprisingly, traits like these are the reason it’s currently rated as a foolproof first round on most 2022 draft boards currently available.

Preview of the 2021 season: As with many seasons at Notre Dame during the Brian Kelly era, the question to be answered is where the team ceiling will be, not the floor. It’s fair to say that the Irish are sort of in a year of rebuilding (rebuilding being used extremely loosely). They lost four offensive linemen from a squad that was one of the best in the country of 2020. Gone is the two-year-old captain and starting quarterback who guided the team to their two most recent playoff spots. Last season ACC Defenseman of the Year (and Butkus Award winner) Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah is now in the NFL, and much of the receiving core is unproven. At first glance, there are a lot of question marks on the list.

NCAA football: Syracuse at Notre-Dame

Kyren Williams carrying the rock.
Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

But there are also a lot of promises. Kyren Williams and Chris Tyree have proven to be an amazing backfield tandem as freshmen (red and true shirt respectively), and they will only grow taller this year. Tight end Michael Mayer looks like he could be an All-America contender as a sophomore. At Jack Coan, the Irish have, at a minimum, a proven QB who has led some top teams before. And, as mentioned in the section above, having a future All-American draft pick roaming high school never hurt a team either.

But Notre-Dame’s biggest advantage in 2021 is their timing. Four games stand out on the Irish ‘fall roster as clashes with teams likely to be in the top ten in Wisconsin, Cincinnati, Southern California and North Carolina – and three of the four will be played in South Bend, the fourth being a neutral site game with Wisconsin in Chicago that is more than switchable from northern Indiana. The Irish don’t have an easy list this year, but aside from Wisconsin, all the major tests they face will be at Notre Dame Stadium, where they have claimed 24 straight wins.

All things considered, Notre Dame has a more than achievable schedule. In eight games, they should be comfortable favorites (although a trip to Virginie Tech still looms as dangerous), and none of the other four comes across as a clash in which the Irish would be the weakest team. The game against the Badgers could very well be the most important of the entire season for Notre Dame – if Kelly & Co. can take out a top 15 team, end September undefeated and head to October with all of their biggest challenges remaining at home, morale will be at their highest in South Bend.


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