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Questions for the Week: A No. 2 WR, a RT decision & more

Temple v Notre Dame

SOUTH BEND, IN - SEPTEMBER 02: Sharif Finch #6 of the Temple Owls intercepts a pass against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the third quarter of a game at Notre Dame Stadium on September 2, 2017 in South Bend, Indiana. The Irish won 49-16. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

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A loss brings questions, even — perhaps especially — a one-point loss to a top-15 opponent. Most of those questions, though, will be answered on the field. Some, however, might be resolved before then.

Will a second receiver emerge behind Irish junior Equanimeous St. Brown?
More exactly, will junior Chris Finke move up the depth chart? Even that query, though, leaves room to evade the point, considering Finke is already listed as an “or” option along with senior Freddy Canteen in the slot. That two-letter loophole means Finke has been considered a starter, or co-starter, all season.

Finke finished Saturday with three catches for 36 yards while Canteen did not pull in any. Only one Notre Dame receiver had more receptions than the former walk-on, graduate student Cam Smith with four gaining 44 yards.

“Cam has made a couple of plays,” Irish coach Brian Kelly said Sunday. “We know what Cam can do, but we need other guys to step up and show some consistency.”

Finke could be that other guy. Removing a two-letter qualifier from the depth chart this week would indicate his role is going to expand, arguably deservedly so. At that point, perhaps opposing defenses will stop focusing so much coverage on St. Brown, part of the cause of interception such as the one pictured above.

Along with this conversation, sophomore Kevin Stepherson warrants mention. It may be doubtful he returns to the fold this week, but if/whenever he does, he will immediately be part of the search for St. Brown’s complement.

Will a decision be declared at right tackle?
The Notre Dame coaching staff, mainly Kelly and offensive line coach Harry Hiestand, would likely prefer to see sophomore Tommy Kraemer and freshman Robert Hainsey rotate snaps for another week or two before settling on one or the other to lead the way the rest of the season. By no means did getting beat by Georgia’s talented defensive line reveal either Kraemer or Hainsey as the clear-cut better right tackle.

Nonetheless, it would not be too shocking to see one of the two named the right tackle moving forward. With some criticism already directed toward the offensive line — some of it justly and some of it reactionary — this could be a ripe moment to make that decision. Consider it something of a parallel to a Friday afternoon news dump.

On a pure-football level, giving the nod to Hainsey could fit in line with developing better pass protection, something Kelly discussed after reviewing Saturday’s film.

“What we have to do better is we have to sustain box and be more consistent in pass protection,” he said. “What we learned is we’ve got to obviously go back and be better coaching the fundamentals and we have to be better at our techniques.”

Through two games, are the Irish really still this healthy?
There is no reason to think otherwise, but it should be noted somewhere. Notre Dame’s health through 18 percent of the season is notable if for no other reason than this is a conversation about football, and football is not typically conducive to physical health on a week-to-week basis, let alone amid long-term concerns.

The biggest health question for the Irish right now is junior defensive tackle Micah Dew-Treadway. He did not dress for the season opener due to a knee sprain, but was expected to play against Georgia. Dew-Treadway did not, but that may have been a decision influenced by the game itself and not Dew-Treadway’s health.

How will the opening line of Notre Dame by 14.5 continue to move?
More than a commentary on the projected spread, this entry is here to provide an opportunity to once again remind Irish fans the kickoff against Boston College has been moved to 3:30 p.m. ET on ESPN. This change is due to Hurricane Irma altering other games as scheduled.

The spread, meanwhile, has already moved to Notre Dame by 13, notable for its dipping below the magical two-touchdown number. With a combined points total over/under of 49.5, quick math and rounding indicate a final score similar to Irish 31, Eagles 18.

Michigan State has a bye week this week.
There is no question inherent to this point, simply an acknowledgement the Spartans will be well-rested when Notre Dame heads to East Lansing in two weeks. Michigan State cruised past Western Michigan 28-14 this weekend.

Can Bob Diaco’s Nebraska defense finally stop someone?
The Cornhuskers host Northern Illinois at noon ET on FS1 this weekend. The Huskies hung 38 points on Eastern Illinois this week, after managing only 20 against Boston College to open the season.

Nebraska and the former Irish defensive coordinator have been torched for 36 points by Arkansas State and 42 points by Oregon. Favored by 14, all Cornhusker eyes will be looking for any semblance of defensive success.

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