Notre Dame and Vanderbilt will be meeting on the gridiron for the first time since 1996. The Fighting Irish are coming off a disappointing week 2 performance against the Ball State Cardinals and will look to improve against an SEC opponent this week. After Vanderbilt’s Head Coach said he is not worried about playing in South Bend, it will be entertaining to see the Irish response.
Essential Game Info:
- Game Time: September 15th, at 2:30 p.m. ET on NBC
- Location: Notre Dame Stadium, South Bend, Indiana
- Matchup: Notre Dame leads the all-time series 2-0
- Current Odds: Notre Dame -14.5
- Weekend Events: The Football Pep Rally will take place Friday at 6:00 p.m. at the Hesburgh Library Quad. For more information on the events this weekend visit http://gameday.nd.edu/events/calendar/2018-vanderbilt/
South Bend Weather Forecast
The current forecast for GameDay shows a 10 % chance of rain with a high of 83 degrees and a low of 64. Below is a look at the next 5 days leading up to the game (this will automatically update to be the most recent 5 days throughout the week).
- Conference: SEC (East Division)
- Head Coach: Derek Mason
- 2018 Record: 2-0
- 2017 Record: 5-7
Head Coach Derek Mason is not worried about South Bend. On SEC Media Day, Derek Mason was asked about his team traveling to South Bend. He said, “Yeah we play in the SEC, I don’t worry about going to South Bend.” Listening to Coach Mason talk more on Notre Dame, he has the upmost respect for the Irish.
However, I do believe that the players, coaches, and fans of the Irish can use this as motivation. Does the SEC have quality teams and tough venues? Yes. But to say that Notre Dame Stadium and the football team are like SEC East competition should be bulletin board material for the Fighting Irish. It couldn’t hurt for Notre Dame to play a piece of Coach Mason’s comments on the jumbotron Saturday to get the crowd fired up.
Key Players for the Commodores. Vanderbilt is led by quarterback Kyle Shurmur who has passed for 428 yards, a 67.3% completion percentage and 4 touchdowns on the season. He is not a dual threat; on the season he only has 5 carries for a total of 6 yards. Perhaps most importantly Shurmur has a quarterback rating of 167.7 with 0 interceptions.
Vanderbilt surpassingly has four running backs with over 12 attempts and at least 1 touchdown. Ke’Shawn Vaughn is the starting running back with 20 carries and 130 yards, but that is just a few carries ahead of the other running backs. Assume the Commodores will use a variety of running backs this weekend.
Kalija Lipscomb #1 Receiver. Lipscomb has 14 receptions for 145 yards, and 3 touchdowns. Jared Pinkney is second-leading receiver with 7 receptions for 130 yards, and 0 touchdowns. The rest of the supporting cast only has 3 catches or less on the year.
Notre Dame Storylines:
Offensive Line Play. Last week against a MAC team, the Irish only averaged 2.9 yards per carry. That is nothing like the Irish were accustomed to last fall. The offensive line also gave up 4 sacks to the Ball State Cardinals, which was completely unexpected. To win this week and have any shot at the playoffs, these numbers must improve.
Passing Game. Yes, with the offensive line statistics mentioned above it is no surprise that the passing game looked bad as well. Brandon Wimbush was under more pressure than he should have been, and the running game did not help. But all the blame is not on the offensive line by any means.
Half of the problem was the passing attack led by Brandon Wimbush. He went 17-31, for 297 yards, but threw 3 interceptions. Moving forward interceptions will not win football games. His completion percentage on the season is 54.7%, which is up 5.2% from last season. To become an elite quarterback this number needs to get closer to 60% and Wimbush needs to run a lot more than he did last week.
Get the Vanderbilt Offense off the field. Last weekend the Notre Dame Defense only gave up 1 touchdown and 3 field goals against a very good performance by Ball State QB Riley Neil. Yes, the Notre Dame Defense was held most of the game (something that I could even see from the stands), but that is still no excuse to be on the field for almost 100 plays.
Look for the Irish Defense to get more sacks this weekend against Vanderbilt and play with more intensity. Notre Dame must wreak havoc on the quarterback and not let their opponent dominate time of possession. Without Jalen Elliott’s two interceptions, who knows if Notre Dame beats Ball State.
Head to Head Matchups:
Notre Dame Offense vs. Vanderbilt Defense. The Vanderbilt Defense has only given up 8.5 points per game this season. Although those 2 games were against Middle Tennessee and Nevada, it’s still impressive. Notre Dame’s Offense did not look imposing at all last weekend. The Fighting Irish Offense is only averaging 24 points per game and looked leisurely against Ball State.
I have this matchup as a tie because Notre Dame’s Offense played vastly underwhelming last week.
Vanderbilt Offense vs. Notre Dame Defense. Vanderbilt looks to have a solid offense through the first 2 weeks, even though the competition hasn’t been great. The Notre Dame Defense will be the best unit on the field this weekend. There will be more sacks, and pressure on the quarterback this Saturday. The key is for Notre Dame’s Defense to get off the field.
Advantage Notre Dame
Once again, the Notre Dame Special Teams play was far from ideal against Ball State. There was a missed field goal, kickoff out of bounds, and a punt that was almost muffed by a Notre Dame player running to block.
Also, the punting game has not been up to par. Last week, there were no punts downed inside the 20 and only an average of 36 yards per punt. If the Irish have higher expectations, they cannot afford to keep giving an extra 10 yards to start every drive.
After an extremely underwhelming performance last week, I believe that the Irish will show signs of improvement against Vanderbilt. But by how much, I don’t know. The offensive line and quarterback play was just dreadful last week.
The Irish were coming off a huge win against Michigan, Ball State got away with a lot of holding, and Wimbush rarely took off running like he normally would, but there was still no excuse to win by only 8 points.
Vanderbilt will give Notre Dame their best shot, like most teams do. I wouldn’t be surprised if this game was close until the very end. Notre Dame has a top 10 defense in the country, and it will be hard for the Commodores to score points. The Notre Dame Offense will make some improvements from last week and find a way to score 31. The Defense will help tremendously as the Offense attempts to get things figured out.
Prediction: Notre Dame 31 Vanderbilt 17