Fighting Irish Digital Media intern Josh Flynt ('11) continues to provide the inside scoop on the Notre Dame football program for Irish UNDerground. Here's a look at what to watch for this weekend when the Irish return to the friendly confines of Notre Dame Stadium ... Home Sweet Home: It's been a few weeks since the Irish were back home under the Dome. After a short trip to West Lafayette last Saturday, Notre Dame will spend the rest of October at home in South Bend. The matchup with Air Force will be the first of three home games this month. After this weekend, the Irish will have two weeks to prepare for a primetime showdown with USC on Oct. 22 before squaring off against Navy during Halloween weekend. As head coach Brian Kelly said on Tuesday, "Our guys love playing at home. There's nothing better than the pageantry of Notre Dame game day." However, the excitement of a home game can also be accompanied by many distractions, which the Irish will need to put aside if they hope to continue their three-game winning streak. "I've talked about this several times. There's a balancing act. You'd like to be at home, but you don't mind being away once in a while because it allows you to really focus," Kelly added. Honoring Devine: On Friday afternoon, a sculpture of former Irish head coach Dan Devine will be dedicated at Gate A of Notre Dame Stadium. Devine, a member of the College Football Hall of Fame and the coach of the 1977 national championship team, will be the fifth Notre Dame football coach to be recognized outside the stadium. After this weekend's dedication, each of the University's national championship coaches - including Knute Rockne (north tunnel), Ara Parseghian (Gate B), Frank Leahy (Gate C) and Lou Holtz (Gate D) - will have been honored with a statue. Option Attack: In my experience playing video games, the option playbook is one of the most fun offensive sets. If I ever told that to a defensive coordinator, he would probably laugh at me. While it may be a fun scheme for the offense or in a video game, the option and its occasional trickery can give the defense nightmares. Notre Dame's rushing defense has been one of its key strengths through the season's first five games. The Irish have limited the strong running games of teams such as Michigan State and Pittsburgh, but perhaps their biggest test will come against an Air Force squad that is one of the best in the nation on the ground. In addition, quarterback Tim Jefferson remains a threat passing the ball as well. The Falcons, do not throw often, but when they do, they're efficient. Jefferson has completed 70% of his passes for 493 yards this season.
No. 1 Comes to Town: Nearly every March, the Connecticut men's and women's basketball teams are among the favorites to cut down the nets in the Final Four. What may be a surprise to some people is that this fall, the Connecticut men's soccer team is the top-ranked team in the nation. The 11th-ranked Fighting Irish will host the Huskies at noon (ET) on Saturday at Alumni Stadium. Irish head coach Bobby Clark's squad will look to knock off its unbeaten BIG EAST foe before the afternoon's action shifts to Notre Dame Stadium. Defeating UConn will be no easy task, as the Huskies have allowed just two regular-season goals through 11 games. Building Momentum: After a difficult 0-2 start, the Irish have won three in a row and are starting to play with the confidence we had expected to see when the season began. Looking at the remainder of the schedule, many analysts have suggested that Notre Dame will be favored in all of its regular-season games, except for the late November meeting at Stanford. That being said, it is important to take one game at a time and not look ahead. If the Irish can get a victory on Saturday, they will improve to 4-2 heading into the bye week and halfway point of the season. At that point, opening losses to USF and Michigan would truly be in the rearview mirror and the confidence boost and continued momentum of a four-game winning streak would go a long way towards preparing them for a showdown with the Trojans and the rest of the 2011 campaign.