Notre Dame is on the road this weekend for the biggest road game in years. The 7th ranked Irish attempt to slay another Goliath this weekend when they face off against 3rd ranked Georgia. No one is giving Notre Dame much of a chance in this one – even Notre Dame fans. There is a reason they play the game though so let’s dive into this week’s preview.
What I’m Worried About this Week
Notre Dame’s ability to stop the run. Lousiville and New Mexico both had success running the ball against Notre Dame. Georgia is a whole other beast. Notre Dame’s inability to shut down those rushing attacks early this season backs up most Notre Dame fan’s fears from the summer. It will be interesting to see which linebacking grouping Clark Lea uses this weekend because getting some like Bo Bauer on the field makes sense to slow down the run, but he is a liability against the pass.
Whatever grouping they use might not matter much, though. Georgia is going to have success running the ball. Limiting that damage is Notre Dame’s only hope in slowing down the Bulldog offense. So far we haven’t seen much evidence to think that is possible.
Notre Dame’s short-yardage rushing. The hope here is that Notre Dame has some third-down package we haven’t seen yet because if they don’t, don’t expect to see much running on 3rd and 1 or 2 this weekend. Notre Dame couldn’t pick first downs up in those situations against New Mexico and Louisville running right at the Lobos and Cardinals. Not a good indicator they will be able to against Georgia. Add in the loss of Jahmir Smith and Notre Dame is down to one back with any size right now – Tony Jones Jr.
Ian Book‘s pocket presence. The last time we saw Ian Book on a national stage, he wasn’t comfortable in the pocket – even when there was time to pass. Then against Louisville Book bailed from clean pockets too early as well. There were big throws available to Book against both Louisville and New Mexico that he missed because he gave up on the play too soon. Georgia is going to try and rattle Book early, and to date, we haven’t seen Book show that he can stand in a collapsing pocket and stay calm. If he does on Saturday, Notre Dame has a chance.
What I’m Not Worried About this Week
Julian Okwara and Khalid Kareem. Notre Dame’s star defensive ends have been relatively quiet the first two games of the season. Both of these players came back for their senior seasons, at least in part, to improve their NFL stock. There is no better stage for them to do that this season than tomorrow. Notre Dame’s stars on defense will come out to shine. Something tells me that Okwara will get some redemption for that awful roughing the passer penalty the led to Georgia’s game-winning score in 2017 too.
Notre Dame’s secondary versus Jake Fromm. Even if Okwara, Kareem, and co don’t get a ton of pressure on Fromm because of the Georgia offensive line, the Notre Dame secondary should be up for the task. They might not be tested that much if the Georgia running game is humming as most expect it to be, but when they are, the Irish secondary will be ready. Freshman phenom Kyle Hamilton already got his hands on a turnover and found the endzone already this season. Notre Dame needs him to get another this weekend.
Notre Dame being ready to play. This one might be a leap of faith here by me, but I think Notre Dame’s shaky first quarters in games one and two are in part the team looking past Louisville and New Mexico and having this game in their sights all off-season. After the Clemson debacle, this team heard again and again that they don’t belong on the national stage and no one right now is giving them even a chance to keep this one close.
For as bad as the Clemson game was, it wasn’t the same story as the Miami disaster from 2017. Notre Dame was prepared and ready to play from the opening whistle. They weren’t shell shocked like they were in Miami. They just ran into a buzzsaw and suffered a really, really untimely injury to their best player.
Players I’m Watching This Week
- Ian Book – He looked scared in the pocket against Clemson and then again on the road against Louisville. He has a chance for redemption tomorrow night. For Notre Dame to win, Book needs to have the best game of his career.
- Tony Jones Jr – Notre Dame is thin at running back with the injuries to Jafar Armstrong and Jahmir Smith. Notre Dame needs Jones fresh and needs him to run with power and authority.
- Javon McKinley – After breaking out last week, it wouldn’t be a shock if he is in the starting lineup tomorrow. Starting him outside would let Notre Dame move Chris Finke back inside where he could be a real weapon this weekend.
- Avery Davis – Can Notre Dame find a way to get the ball in his hands in space? We saw how fast he is in the open field last weekend.
- Tommy Tremble – With Cole Kmet back this weekend, Notre Dame can use those two tight end sets we heard about but haven’t seen yet. The Georgia native could have a big game in his homecoming.
- Asmar Bilal – We saw a different Asmar Bilal last week. Look for Georgia to still test Bilal this weekend.
- Jeremiah Owusu-Khoramoah – JOK got fooled a few times early against New Mexico because of his over-aggressiveness. Georgia is going to throw a lot of misdirection at JOK this weekend. If he is disciplined, he could have a few more TFL.
I want to pick Notre Dame to win. I really do. A win this weekend for Notre Dame would be program-altering. I just don’t see it happening. Notre Dame’s interior defense is just too susceptible to the running game right now. To beat a team of Georgia’s caliber, the Irish would need to match strength to strength. Instead, Notre Dame is facing a team with an elite offensive line that wants to run the ball at a time when their defense hasn’t shown it’s able to slow down such a rushing attack.
The line on this one is right around two touchdowns, and I think that is probably how this one ends up playing out, unfortunately. Hopefully the Irish prove me wrong, and I can write about how wrong I was on Sunday.
Notre Dame 13, Georgia 27