The Notre Dame Fighting Irish stay on the road for a Halloween matchup against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets and are building off their most impressive performance of the season. A 45-3 rout of the Pitt Panthers was essentially over at halftime, with the official death blow coming during a 17-point third quarter.
After upsetting Florida State in their opener, the Yellow Jackets have dropped four of their last five games, including last Saturday’s loss at Boston College. As heavy underdogs, Georgia Tech could be dangerous, with the Irish looking ahead to their Nov. 7 matchup against Clemson.
Below are some of the key matchups to watch:
QB Ian Book vs. Georgia Tech Defense
Book is coming off his biggest game of the season, one where he threw for 312 yards and three touchdowns. He had little trouble finding receivers against Pitt and is continuing to find open spaces when he starts running. He may have another big day ahead since Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence shredded the Tech defense for 404 yards and five touchdowns on October 17.
The Yellow Jacket defense has sustained back-to-back beatings, with their last two opponents combining to score 121 points. One of the problems is the lack of a pass rush, which figures to allow Book the time to find open receivers. Stopping the run has also been a significant issue, with three different teams rushing for over 240 yards in a game.
Notre Dame Defense vs. QB Jeff Sims
When Notre Dame got back on the field earlier this month against Florida State, their rustiness resulted in them giving up 405 yards. Since then, Irish defenders have shut down their two opponents, giving up 10 points over eight quarters and allowing a combined 395 yards. While the opponent’s quality might be in question, the need for Notre Dame to get back on track when it comes to defense was evident.
Sims is a true freshman who’s going through his growing pains after a chaotic offseason due to the ongoing pandemic. While still a work in progress, he has been able to be a productive player, throwing for 1,196 yards and eight touchdowns. He’s also shown off his mobility, rushing for 275 yards and four scores, though his newcomer status can be seen in his 10 interceptions on the year. His pass attempts have dipped in recent games, but he may be forced to go to the air if the Irish jump to a quick lead.
DT Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa vs. G Ryan Johnson
Tagovailoa-Amosa’s Notre Dame 2020 season has been somewhat injury-plagued, with no significant numbers to show off. Yet in the three games he’s played, three of his eight tackles have been stops behind the line, including a sack. He’s shown that he can quickly diagnose plays, helping snuff out opponents’ strategic moves.
Johnson has given the Georgia Tech line effective play resulting in four games of 20 points or more. He’s an athletic player who’s seen action at five different positions during his collegiate career. At 6-foot-6 and 325 pounds, he’s a handful who will be a challenge for Tagovailoa-Amosa.
MLB Drew White vs. RB Jahmyr Gibbs
White’s been overshadowed by the play of Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, but still delivers consistently solid performances. He’s been the leader of a defense that’s mostly stopped opposing running games, with teams averaging just 3.2 yards per carry. His steadiness doesn’t get a great deal of mention by the media but is integral to the Irish’s success on that side of the ball.
Gibbs is another true freshman who’s had his moments this season, though his most recent outing was his worst after being limited to nine yards on eight carries. However, he’s collected 15 pass receptions and is also used as a kick returner. He and Sims are Georgia Tech’s leading rushers, with Gibbs a game-breaker whose 98-yard kick return last Saturday was wiped out by penalty.
RB Kyren Williams vs. LB Quez Jackson
Williams is averaging over 100 yards-per-game this season for Notre Dame, scoring five touchdowns and grabbing 10 receptions. He was one of the few players who struggled in the Pitt rout, but he’s certainly capable of ripping off a big run. That includes both with the Irish ground game or as an option for Book in the air.
Jackson leads Georgia Tech in tackles with 46 on the season, having brought down nine ballcarriers in four of the Yellow Jackets’ six contests. Breaking those numbers down a little furthers, he’s made 3.5 stops behind the line and collected one sack. While the Tech defense as a whole has been brutal, Jackson is someone who consistently grabs attention with his play.