The Irish have risen into the CFP discussion on the backs of their star quarterback and running back.
It’s not often a team gets to take down their most hated rival while simultaneously bolstering their CFP resume. That’s exactly what Notre Dame did by knocking off USC this past Saturday. In what was considered a CFP elimination game, the matchup between the Trojans and Irish didn’t live up to the hype. Notre Dame opened the game as 3.5-point favorites, but only eight minutes into the game, they had a 14-0 lead.
Things didn’t get easier for USC as the game went on. They trailed 28-0 at halftime and eventually fell by a score of 49-to-14. The Notre Dame defense deserves a lot of credit for the win by forcing three first-half turnovers, but the spotlight shines brightest on the offense. Junior quarterback Brandon Wimbush and running back Josh Adams make an explosive pair that has Irish fans believing in this team again.
Notre Dame’s awesome AND super fun? Sorry, haters. https://t.co/WCe7nPCDK7— Bill Connelly (@SBN_BillC) October 22, 2017
Coming out of Saint Peter’s Prep, Wimbush was ranked as the fourth-best dual-threat high school quarterback but saw limited action during his first two years in South Bend. He’d only thrown five total passes and all of them came in 2015. With Deshone Kizer bolting for the NFL, coach Brian Kelly named Wimbush the starter way back during spring practice. Lucky for the Irish, the first-year starter has lived up to the billing.
Wimbush shouldn’t be judged in the same regards as a pro-style quarterback. His passing numbers are far from impressive, only completing 51.3% of his passes for 903 yards, eight touchdowns, and two interceptions. While he did flash a bit of potential with two perfectly placed touchdown passes against USC, where Wimbush really makes a difference is in the running game.
✌️ passing TDs— NBC Sports (@NBCSports) October 22, 2017
✌️ rushing TDS
Brandon Wimbush is 🔥🔥🔥 pic.twitter.com/eOPRS9SpM1
Through six starts Wimbush has made his mark and should be held in the same conversation as other electric playmakers. Lousiville’s Lamar Jackson and USF’s Quinton Flowers are two of the better dual-threat quarterbacks in the country, and Wimbush holds his own when looking at the numbers
|Carries||Rushing Yards||Yards per Carry||Touchdowns|
|Brandon Wimbush-Notre Dame||82||508||6.2||10|
Unlike Jackson and Flowers, Wimbush has more weapons on his team than just himself (more on that later) which affects his overall rushing numbers. However, he makes the most of his opportunities. His 10 rushing touchdowns is a Notre Dame quarterback rushing record and good enough to be tied for 11th most nationally.
As stated before, the offense doesn’t completely rely on Wimbush to produce. Notre Dame’s sixth-ranked rushing offense has another player that is more than capable of busting a big run at any point.
Unlike Wimbush, Josh Adams was a major part of the Notre Dame offense the last two seasons. As a freshman in 2015, Adams broke the Irish record for rushing yards by a freshman with 835 yards on 7.1 yards per carry. He backed that up with an impressive sophomore campaign where he lead the team in rushing yards with 933. Coming into this season, everyone around the team knew Adams would be showcased more on the offense, and that notion holds true through the first half of the season.
Penn State’s Saquon Barkley and Stanford’s Bryce Love are in the conversation for best running back in college football, but Adams has shown that he deserves to be in the same conversation as those two.
|Carries||Rushing Yards||Yards Per Carry||Touchdowns||40+Yard|
|Josh Adams-Notre Dame||105||967||9.2||8||4|
|Saquon Barkley- Penn State||117||757||6.5||8||2|
|Bryce Love- Stanford||135||1,387||10.3||11||8|
Barkley is seen as the Heisman frontrunner because of his ability to be a threat in the passing game, as evidenced by his 448 receiving yards and three touchdowns. But Adams has a long track record of finding holes and breaking long runs, even dating back to his freshman year where he broke off a 98-yard touchdown against Wake Forest.
Adams is having a historic season and will go down as one of the best running backs in Notre Dame history. He was already the fastest Notre Dame player to reach 2,000 career rushing yards and with his 191-yard performance against USC, jumped to sixth on the Irish all-time rushing list. The most impressive statistic might be his yards per carry. If Adams keeps up his pace, he’ll break the legendary Irish hero George Gipp’s single-season record of 8.1 yards per carry from way back in 1920. Notre Dame fans know they have a good running back when he’s being compared to the Gipper.
Notre Dame has already surpassed what they accomplished last season, but there is still more on the horizon. What Wimbush and Adams have been able to accomplish together is nothing short of amazing. Wimbush has shown improvement in the passing game which just adds another layer of danger for opposing defenses. Adams, until recently, was one of the nation’s best-kept secrets. With three of their final five games against ranked teams, expect this duo to get a lot more coverage, especially if the Irish keep winning.
Edited by Jeremy Losak.
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