Notre Dame faces their biggest early season challenge of the year this weekend with #15 ranked Georgia coming to town to take on the #24 ranked Fighting Irish. The Bulldogs will arrive in South Bend with a true freshman quarterback making his first career start in Jake Fromm. Quarterback play from Georgia won’t be the deciding factor in this one though. The Bulldog ground attack and Notre Dame’s ability to slow it down will.
How Did I Do Last Week
Well, my concerns about the Notre Dame offense were overblown. Yes the timing in the Irish passing game wasn’t quite there, but at the same time, the Notre Dame offense did not start slow like I thought they would and this game was hardly ever in doubt. I expected a much closer, harder fought game from Temple, but their offense looks like it has fallen off more than I thought it would. I predicted a 10 point Notre Dame win but instead they won by 32. Sometimes I LOVE being wrong.
What Concerns Me This Week
Georgia’s Running Game. Because well duh, of course it does. Georgia features a pair of NFL bound running backs in the backfield and they will look to run the ball right into the heart of the Irish defense. Even with a little bit a shaky line (more on that later), they will feed their backs over and over again until Notre Dame proves they can stop them. Last week missed tackling was an issue for Notre Dame. If that happens this week, 10 yard gains will turn into 30 or 40 by Nick Chubb and Sony Michel. Notre Dame did a good job stopping the run against Temple, but this ain’t the Owls. Mike Elko has his hands full in his second game as Notre Dame’s defense coordinator. Don’t forget though, Elko is used to scheming for the likes of Florida State and Clemson with Wake Forest talent. He will be up for the challenge.
Notre Dame’s Safeties. There was miscommunication on the backend of the Irish secondary last week against an inexperienced quarterback and it nearly cost Notre Dame deatly. Against a first time starter with the aforementioned strong ground game, I worry that the safeties will get caught overcommitting and turn a Georgia wide receiver loose a couple of times. If that happens, don’t expect Georgia to be as forgiving as Temple was with drops and missed passes.
Brandon Wimbush. Love, love, love the kid’s long term potential at Notre Dame but he made a few throws last week that if he makes the same ones this week, they’ll get picked off. It was his first start and first real game action in three years (2015 mop up duty doesn’t count) so maybe it was just some rust. If he makes similar mistakes this week, Georgia has the athletes to make those mistakes turn into points in the opposite direction.
Trick Plays. Not from Georgia, but from Notre Dame. Notre Dame’s running game was dominant last week but the timing in the passing game was still a bit off and likely won’t be monumentally better this week. It’ll improved some but will still probably need work. That said, I fear Notre Dame will attempt some sort of trick play that backfires this week.
Georgia Fans Taking Over the Stadium. I worry that we will be seeing another Sea of Red like with Nebraska in 2000 all over again. Notre Dame needed a last minute surge in ticket sales to sell out last week against Temple in the first game of the”new” stadium and Georgia fans are reportedly ready to invade South Bend for the Bulldogs first ever trip to South Bend. The combination of Notre Dame fans wearing every shade of blue, gold, green, grey, and white without and cohesion each week along with Georgia fans all decked out in red will make for some poor optics.
What Doesn’t Concern Me This Week
Notre Dame’s Offensive Line. Georgia’s got a good defense no doubt, but Notre Dame has an elite offensive line. Mike McGlinchey and Quenton Nelson will still open holes on the left side of the line for Notre Dame’s own trio of talented running backs. We might not see as many runs into open space as last week, but we will see Notre Dame have success running the ball. SEC defense or not, Notre Dame will be able to run the ball this weekend.
Alize Mack. Last week was a forgettable return to action for Mack, but I am not ready to give up on the young man just yet. I have a feeling that we’ll see Mack make at least one big catch this week. Something where he gets the ball in space, makes a defender miss, and then gallups downfield for a huge gain.
Jake Fromm. Everyone praising this kid all week long does remember after all that he was facing Appalachian State right? He’ll make some nice throws at times this weekend, but he’ll also get baited into some big mistakes this weekend as well by my man Mike Elko. I see Georgia moving the ball pretty well between the 20’s but once they get down close, I think Notre Dame ends up holding them to field goals because the Irish defense will force Fromm into mistakes.
Gerogia’s Offensive Line. While Gerogia will be able to run the ball at the middle of the Irish defense, they’ll have some problems protecting Fromm. This ins’t a great Georgia line by any means and I see the Irish pass rush that showed real signs of life last week get into the backfield again this week.
Players to Watch
- Jerry Tillery/Jonathan Bonner – Because of that Georgia running game, how well these two hold up in the middle will determine how successful Notre Dame is at slowing down the Bulldog backs.
- Nyles Morgan/Greer Marini – Have to clean up those missed tackles from a week ago.
- Tommy Kraemer – Georgia will throw everything but the kitchen sink at the sophomore making his second career start.
- Tony Jones – I have been a big proponent of Dexter Williams getting the second most carries behind Josh Adams for a while now, but this is a Tony Jones kind of week. Notre Dame will need to be patient running the ball early and Jones is the back they have to do that between the tackles. I hope we see Jones get a lot of carries early on before using Williams later on.
- Drue Tranquill – Tough assignment for him this week if he stays at ROVER.
- Kevin Stepherson – Will there be a sighting of the sophomore wide receiver, I mean he’s not suspended, right?
- Jay Hayes – Does Notre Dame give him reps inside this week to provide more depth even though Kelly said in the pre-season they wouldn’t?
- Equanimeous St. Brown – There will be a time and place this weekend that ESB has a chance to make a game changing play. Will he make it this week?
Two weeks ago I predicted every game of the season and had Georgia winning this game at the time. Even without Jacob Eason I am still feeling the same way. I think Notre Dame will slow Michel and Chubb early before eventually wearing down and dropping this one late in the game. If this game were in two months or even one month from now I would like Notre Dame’s chances MUCH better. I just didn’t see enough from the Notre Dame passing game last week to make me change my mind from then.
Sticking with my pre-season prediction here. Lots of field goals from the Bulldogs as the Irish stay in the game with some good red zone defense.
Prediction: Notre Dame 27, Georgia 29
Pre-Season Prediction: Notre Dame 27, Gerogia 29