OK. Maybe not every game requires a name, but it doesn’t mean that No. 7 Notre Dame will be taking on No. 8 Cincinnati is not a huge match this weekend. It would seem that the Irish have passed the most difficult test of the season. However, there will be more challenges over the coming weeks and months.
For Cincinnati, it would be the marquee victory that they need if they want to make the College Football Playoff party at year’s end.
Here are the five most important things that Luke Fickell, Cincinnati’s head coach, had to say ahead of Saturday’s big matchup:
“The unique thing is I’m sure that it’s not been something for the last two months that they’ve been completely working on, having Florida State and Wisconsin and Purdue and all that other stuff. There will be some familiarity between the two sides of the ball. They’ll know what we do, and they’ll know what to do defensively. This is because they have been around men for so long. There are always changes, just like everything else. Mike Tressel introduced things to us that were not natural or common to people watching. But unless you’re actually breaking down the things, which I’m sure they are, there’s a lot that’s different because of how much they’ve changed in one year. The familiarities, I think you have some ideas of that, but once the balls kicked off, I think a lot of those things go out the window and it has a lot to do with obviously the preparation and making adjustments.”
4. Takeaways from Notre Dame-Wisconsin
“They’re a really good football team. They’ve been battle-tested, which I believe is the most striking thing you’ll notice. I doubt you’d say that. We, for example, have been battle-tested a bit because we didn’t perform well in the first game and the Indiana game was on the road. They have been tested every week. Because of their uniqueness, they’re comfortable with it. It’s amazing to see the wins and the struggles they have to overcome to win. That’s how you learn. You can see them getting better and better, whether they had to come, not from behind, but score 31 points in the fourth quarter of last week’s game. You just see a team and a program that plays well down the stretch as they get better, whether it’s in a game or in a season, that’s when you know you’re in for a battle.”
3. On bigness of Notre Dame game for Cincinnati program
“It’s big. We won’t lie to you. We won’t lie to you. It’s the emotions that you experience throughout the week that can drain your energy. Saturday is where you have to be your best, and that’s when I struggle the most. You suddenly find yourself at Saturday, and you wonder what energy you have left. It’s a nice balance. I think even our 18 to 20 year olds, our kids do a better job of that because they’re used to the emotional swings of everyday life, where some of us like to get into a routine and kind of stick with it. Then, you have these players. It’s a huge game whenever you play Notre Dame. Notre Dame is obviously a top five program and it just happens to be a year where we’re both really good and ranked high, but I think that more than anything is you got to go about the process of making sure you stay focused and not spending too much of your emotions worried about all the other things that are going on with it, because it’s two Top 10 teams.”
2. What would Notre Dame win?
“Proving it is one thing. Let’s hear from the outsiders. We like to prove things to ourselves too, but it is definitely a measuring stick where we said when you play Georgia, you’re playing a Top 10 program and when you’re playing Notre Dame, you’re playing a Top 5 program. There’s nobody that’s been historically, and I don’t mean over 100 years, I mean in the last five years, in the playoffs and things like that, one of the best teams in the country. This is huge for us. But again, to the 18 to 22 year olds, the here and the now, those kinds of things aren’t as much into the wheelhouse as, okay what’s important to these guys. This is a chance to move from 3-0 to 4. This is a big game. It controls the emotions, but it’s an ultimate measurement stick for all we do. I think that’s what’s great for us as a program.”
1. Plans for taking in Notre Dame Stadium
“We’ll arrive on Friday, go over to the stadium. We will be staying just a few minutes from the stadium so that we can walk around and get a feel for the place. The same goes for Saturday. You want them to be focused and excited about the things they have done. It’s going to be hard enough not to have those distractions. It’s important to let that go. There’s no kid on the team who has ever played there, except Michael Young. There’s obviously some incredible history for us to be able to absorb and soak in.”