Notre Dame plays its final home game of the 2021 season tomorrow by hosting the 3-7 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. With a high of 45 degrees tomorrow afternoon, all the makings are there for the Irish to coast to an easy win against a bad opponent from a warm-weather area. Still, this year, there have been other times that everything was lined up for a blowout, only for the outcome to be much closer than it should have.
What Worries Me This Week
Jeff Sims having the one game where he finally puts it all together
We are still not 100% sure who will be the quarterback for Georgia Tech this weekend. Still, if it is Jeff Sims, the one way Georgia Tech can make this game interesting and annoying for Notre Dame fans is if Sims finally has his “put it all together” game. Sims has a lot of raw talent, but he has not been very good this year. Some thought he’d build on his impressive freshman season and have a breakout year, but that hasn’t happened.
We’ve seen this story before, though, haven’t we? Super athletic, talented quarterback comes into South Bend struggling but somehow manages to have the game of their life. I don’t think that will happen, but this game could get annoying in a hurry if it did.
Gibbs is Georgia Tech’s best offensive player and has the ability to have an afternoon if the Irish don’t tackle well. He leads Georgia Tech in rushing yards, receiving yards, and receptions this year. I have faith in Marcus Freeman having a plan for him, but if there’s an offensive player on Georgia Tech who has the ability to have a big game without it being a surprise, it’s Gibbs.
Please, no more. With two games left in the regular season, Notre Dame simply needs to get to the finish line with two more wins and no more significant injuries. Of course, that could mean some less aggressive play against a weak team than some fans would like, but at some positions, we’ve already reached the breaking point.
What Doesn’t Worry Me This Week
Emotions of Senior Day
This might have been a worry in the past, but Notre Dame has done a good job of not letting emotions on Senior Day lead to close calls. The Irish did start slow last year against Syracuse but ultimately won 45-21. In 2019, the Irish dispatched Boston College 40-7. In 2018, Florida State froze their way to a 42-13 beatdown. That’s 40 points or more on three straight senior days for the Irish.
The only compounding matter this year on Senior Day is whether or not it is – or isn’t – the final home game for so many seniors because of the free COVID year of eligibility.
Notre Dame’s ability to score points
Georgia Tech has a bad defense even though Geoff Collins came to Atlanta with a reputation as a defensive-minded coach. The Yellow Jacket defense still isn’t there, though. They gave up 41 points to Boston College last week, 48 to UVA a few weeks ago, and 52 to Pitt earlier this season. The Panthers had 42 points at half-time in that game.
Will this be the game Notre Dame finally puts all the pieces together on offense and has a truly dominant performance? I don’t think so. I just don’t think we’ll see one of those this year, even with two bad defenses to end the season. I still see Notre Dame scoring a lot of points and drives only ending because of Irish miscues versus Georgia Tech stopping the Irish much.
Brian Kelly channeling Lou Holtz to build up Georgia Tech
Brian Kelly channeled his inner Lou Holtz earlier this week when talking up Georgia Tech. Holtz was famous for making even winless opponents sound like the ’85 Bears each week. Kelly did that on Monday when he tried saying that this 3-7 Yellow Jacket team was actually a lot better than their record. They really aren’t. They are a 3-7 football team for a reason.
This is a team that Notre Dame should handle with relative ease this weekend.
Players to Watch This Week
- Bo Bauer – He’s developed into Notre Dame’s best cover linebacker this season – one of the biggest surprises on defense. He will be needed to contain Gibbs this week.
- Kyren Williams – Cherish every single Kyren Williams carry/reception/return this week, but it’s probably his last in Notre Dame Stadium unless he pulls a Travis Etienne and surprises everyone by coming back.
- Braden Lenzy – In what could be his final home game, can we please dial up another deep shot for him like we saw in abundance at the beginning of the year?
- Lorenzo Styles – Remember when he was becoming a focal point of the offense just a few weeks ago? Let’s get back that.
- The Ademilola Twins – It could be their final home game – though Jayson has one year left and Justin has two. If it is, hopefully they go out with a bang.
- Jack Coan – Coan hasn’t been the second coming of Joe Burrow as a transfer QB, but he’s been solid. In a perfect world, Notre Dame gets a big lead and lets Buchner get a ton of snaps, but the staff might also leave in Coan longer than necessary since it’s his last home game.
- Ramon Henderson & Houston Griffith – Henderson had a monster game last week, but it’ll be interesting to see how reps are split this week since in all likelihood, this is Houston Griffith’s last game in Notre Dame Stadium.
- Chris Tyree – We’ve barely seen him since the Virginia Tech game and the turf toe injury. It’d be nice to get a glimspe of the dynamic running back we saw last year before the season’s over.
- Isaiah Foskey – He’s been quite the last two weeks. It feels like a big Foskey game could be coming – especially with Georgia Tech’s offense.
While Georgia Tech isn’t very good, we haven’t seen the Irish just blow the doors off of anyone this year. The Wisconsin game was close until the pick-6 palooza in the fourth quarter. The Irish had just 17 points entering the fourth quarter against Navy. Last week was the closest to a true rout, with the Irish building a 21-0 half-time lead, but the 28-3 final felt closer than the game was. I’d love for Notre Dame to come out and put up a 50 burger on Senior Day, but I think we might still see them settle for some field goals and/or stall a drive because of some sort of miscue. Still, I suspect we’ll have a relatively stress-free Senior Day.
Notre Dame 41, Georgia Tech 13