Notre Dame is back in action tomorrow afternoon when they host the #18 ranked Virginia Cavaliers. The Irish are coming out a gut-wrenching six-point loss on the road to #3 Georgia. Returning home should help get Notre Dame back on track and return to the win column this weekend. Let’s dive into this week’s prediction.
What I’m Worried About This Week
The Georgia Hangover. You never know how a team is going to respond to a loss like the one Notre Dame suffered on Saturday night until they take the field. If Notre Dame comes out and sleepwalks through the first quarter, it’s a bad sign. This is a veteran team, so I don’t think this is going to happen, but that doesn’t mean I’m not worried about it heading into this game.
Everyone and their mothers in the Notre Dame community circled this game as the biggest trap game of the year. Fun fact, now national media “experts” like Dan Wolken are making bold predictions about Notre Dame being on upset alert. Thanks, Dan. No one noticed this months ago.
Problem with a traditional trap game is they are usually not against ranked teams. Virginia being pretty good makes this one even more worrisome.
Notre Dame’s Rushing Attack. Notre Dame needs Jafar Armstrong back yesterday. The problem is, it doesn’t sound like we’ll see him on the field again until the USC weekend. His absence next week won’t matter, but it could this week. Notre Dame needs to manufacture some running game this weekend. Chip Long wants to run the ball first – despite the opinion of some Notre Dame fans who swear Notre Dame doesn’t want to run the football. Long just hasn’t had the kind of backfield he’s had the last two years to work with this year.
Notre Dame gets Jahmir Smith back this weekend, and there is a good chance that Smith gets a decent amount of action. It was apparent that the staff didn’t trust C’Bo Flemister or Kyren Williams last weekend. Avery Davis, who was a cornerback in week one, saw more action in the backfield than either of those two.
Beyond just waiting for Armstrong’s return, Notre Dame needs to get one of these other backs ready to play the rest of the year given Armstrong’s injury history.
A Mobile Quarterback. Notre Dame has had trouble with mobile quarterbacks in the past, and as we saw first hand last year when Brandon Wimbush engineered an upset of Michigan, they can be critical to an upset. Bryce Perkins has run for 193 yards with two touchdowns on the season. If Notre Dame contains him, they won’t have much to worry about tomorrow. If they can’t, then they could be on upset alert.
What I’m Not Worried About This Week
Ian Book. Notre Dame’s QB1 looked much more comfortable in the pocket against Georgia than I expected last weekend and he’s getting another of his top weapons, Michael Young, back to take on the Cavaliers.
The Notre Dame Secondary. While the Notre Dame linebackers will have to be disciplined this week with the Perkins threat to run, the play of the secondary could make the backers job even harder. Notre Dame’s secondary has been very good so far this season. We knew the safeties would be lights out, but the corners are coming on strong as well. And then there is always Kyle Hamilton who Georgia steered clear of and who we saw racing to the endzone the last time the Irish played in Notre Dame Stadium.
Notre Dame’s secondary, if they play as well as they have been, will force Perkins out of the pocket because there won’t be a whole lot of places for him to the throw the ball. That’s where Notre Dame is going to have to be extremely disciplined with their contain this week.
Julian Okwara. I know I listed him here last week too and the senior defensive end with 1st Round Draft aspirations still doesn’t have a sack on the season. And this week he is facing a mobile quarterback. The thing about mobile quarterbacks though is that sometimes they are easier to take down in the backfield because they tend to hold on to the ball longer knowing they can escape the pocket. It’s a catch 22 in that you don’t always catch them, of course, but the chance is there for big negative plays to be made. Hopefully, this is the week that Okwara starts making them again.
Players I’m Watching This Week
- Asmar Bilal – Most of us wrote him off in the summer, and he’s proving us all wrong. Bilal needs to be disciplined in helping contain Perkins. Even with a couple of impressive games in a row, look for Virginia to attack him.
- Michael Young – He was killing it this summer before the injury. Can he come back and have the same kind of impact Cole Kmet did last weekend? If so, this offense can be scary good.
- Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah – JOK is a physical freak (who originally committed to UVA), but his aggressiveness can still be exploited at times. Like Bilal, Notre Dame needs JOK to be disciplined. We’ve already seen him get better at not just going for the big play in limited action, but we will need to see more of that this weekend. If JOK overpursues and goes for the big tackle for loss and guesses wrong, Perkins could have some big runs.
- The Entire Offensive Line – They had a rough night in Athens with penalties and mental errors. Watch for them to bounce back this weekend.
- Chase Claypool – He’s been great this year, but still doesn’t have a 100-yard game. I feel like a monster game from him is just a matter of time.
- Julian Okwara – He gets his first sack of the season tomorrow.
I have been all over the place on this one all week. Thursday Night’s thriller for my Eagles did not help ease my rollercoaster of football emotions this week either. In the pre-season, I predicted that this would be a three-point Notre Dame victory, but the more this week has gone along, the more I get the feeling that we are going to see Notre Dame respond much the way they did in 2017 where they were mauling good teams like NC State and USC. I don’t think the Irish will straight up manhandle the Cavaliers, but I do think they’ll win a little bit more comfortable than I thought they would in August.
Is this more projection versus prediction? Perhaps. But hey, that Eagles win has me pretty optimistic today.
Notre Dame 35, Virginia 17