The Notre Dame Fighting Irish currently have a 9-1 record and now stand just one win away from their fifth consecutive double-digit victory campaign. They’re back home against a Georgia Tech team they should beat, thanks to a running game that’s streaking toward the end of the regular season and a defense that hasn’t allowed a touchdown in either of the last two games.
As a hefty underdog, the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets face a massive obstacle to try and improve on their current 3-7 record. Tech head coach Geoff Collins is in his third season with the Yellow Jackets but has a 9-23 mark during his tenure. The chief problem has been a porous defense that’s allowed nearly 38 points per game in their last six contests.
Below are some of the major matchups to follow on Saturday:
QB Jack Coan vs. Georgia Tech Defense
Coan completed 75 percent of his 20 pass attempts against Virginia while only throwing for 132 yards. He still ended up with three touchdowns passes and had the luxury of the prolific running attack. He could have a field day in this contest though the Notre Dame coaches may again choose to take advantage of the resurgent ground game.
The easiest explanation as to why Georgia Tech has been giving up so many points over the past six games is that their opponents are averaging 544 yards of total offense during that stretch. One of this unit’s flaws is in the inability to make the big play. That’s especially evident from their pass defense that’s managed a total of just three interceptions on 289 opposing pass attempts.
Notre Dame Defense vs. QB Jordan Yates/Jeff Sims
Despite missing three starters, Notre Dame defenders got the job done against Virginia, due in part to a strong pass rush that picked up seven sacks. In their last two contests, the Irish have given up their fewest yards of the season and have been especially dominant against the run, allowing just 2.9 yards per carry.
Yates would be making his fifth start of the season in his game, though the status of Jeff Sims’ health could elevate him back to the starting role. Sims is more of a running threat and has been the more productive signal-caller, but was injured in the season opener and has had trouble staying healthy since that time.
WR Kevin Austin vs. CB Tre Swilling
Austin has become the chief wide receiving target of Coan by virtue of the Avery Davis injury. He’s scored in each of the last three contests and has at least three catches per game during Notre Dame’s five-game winning streak. Has the capability to go deep, as he showed late in the first half against Navy.
Swilling is the son of former NFL star Pat Swilling and has the size to handle himself in the secondary. He’s tied for the team lead in pass deflections this season with four and can deliver hard hits. Tech’s lack of a pass rush could make things more difficult for Swilling and the rest of their secondary if the Irish choose to put the ball in the air.
LB Drew White/J.D. Bertrand vs. RB Jahmir Gibbs
White missed the Virginia game with a bout of the flu but should be ready to go against Georgia Tech. He was already dealing with injuries but is enough of a competitor to keep the Notre Dame defense thriving. Bertrand has delivered better numbers this year and has been a workhorse all season. Between the two, they should be able to help keep Gibbs in check.
Gibbs leads the Yellow Jackets with 687 rushing yards and is also a receiving threat with 34 catches on the year. He’s in his second season at Tech and has the speed to break off a long run. White and Bertrand will look to contain Gibbs’ slashing style of running that could make it hard to bring him down.
RB Kyren Williams vs. LB Quez Jackson
Williams’s first five games saw him rush for 289 yards and three touchdowns. In his last five contests, he’s more than doubled that with 583 yards and seven scores. He showed off some impressive moves against Virginia and picked up a pair of key first downs early in the game. Against another weak defense, he has the potential for a huge afternoon.
Jackson is Tech’s leading tackler and should go over the triple-digit mark in that category against the Irish. He’s got 96 tackles on the year, including six stops behind the line. His hard-hitting style has forced one fumble and he’s recovered a pair of opposing miscues. An experienced player who’s put up better numbers every season with the Yellow Jackets.