Here is what we take away from Notre Dame's 35-21 loss Saturday to Oklahoma.
1. Expectations should be adjusted. Yes, Notre Dame's schedule is front-loaded. But the team can't play the way it has the last four weeks and expect to win. Teams better than Purdue and Michigan State eventually were going to make them pay again, and Oklahoma did just that Saturday in getting off to a 14-0 start and converting three turnovers into 21 points. Arizona State, USC and Stanford are probably the three biggest games remaining. And while crazier things have happened in college football, Notre Dame has given little indication through August and September that it can win out and become a BCS bowl team.
2. Ground game gains traction. George Atkinson III had a career day, rushing for 148 yards and a touchdown on just 14 carries. The Irish ran for 220 yards as a team, five more than they did last year during their win in Norman, Okla. Tarean Folston showed some promise on his 36-yard first-quarter burst, as well. If there is a silver lining to take away from this contest for Irish fans, it is certainly that the rushing offense seems finally to have found its footing.
3. Hendrix offers a changeup. Part of that extra running dimension came from inserting Andrew Hendrix into some zone-read plays. Hendrix finished with only 10 yards on five carries and misfired on his only pass attempt. Still, he offers a nice change of pace under center against good defenses, and he adds a little more creativity to an offense that has been stale at times early in the season. It is nice to see his size, speed and strength being put to use in some form or another as a redshirt junior.