Notre Dame is used to big stages but this might be one of the biggest ones under head coach Brian Kelly’s reign.
The Irish have been unfairly painted as coming up small in big games because of their struggles in the College Football Playoffs. Kelly has the third best record against top 25 teams among current coaches.
Records last 3 years vs. final AP Top 25:
— Chris Low (@ClowESPN) July 13, 2019
So when you a game against one of the SEC’s biggest and brightest, you have to take advantage. Notre Dame’s trip to the University of Georgia (8 pm, CBS) might be one of the most important under Kelly. There’s no better way to wipe the stain off last season’s playoff loss to Clemson than with a good performance in Athens. Make no mistake, despite this being a different season, different team Notre Dame critics are waiting to see Notre Dame come up short again. It feeds into their “Notre Dame is overrated” mantra.
At his press conference, Kelly expressed nothing but respect for Georgia. “Kirby Smart and the Georgia program are synonymous with winning and being successful, and we’re quite aware of that.” This isn’t Louisville or New Mexico. Jake Fromm introduced himself to the nation when, as a freshman, he went to South Bend and led UGA to a 20-19 win.
The Irish offense exploded last Saturday but there is still room for improvement. In the running game, the Irish haven’t been efficient on third and shorts. The offensive line hasn’t been able to push back defensive lines in those situations.
Quarterback, Ian Book will need to be able to stretch UGA’s defense with his arm. If he doesn’t, the Irish running game will get bottled up. If there’s one thing the Irish can’t become on offense it’s one-dimensional. That could lead to a blowout which is the last thing Notre Dame’s football program needs right now.
On defense, it will need to take away the Bulldogs’ running back, D’Andre Swift.
Swift is a threat in both the running game and the passing game. The Irish will need to improve on missed tackles that have been an issue in the first two games of the season.
If Swift gets started, it opens the entire field for Fromm and his dangerous receivers. Albeit, you can say it’s against lighter competition but Georgia’s top three pass catchers 15 yards+ per catch. The Irish secondary will be in for a challenge.
Despite Georgia being favored by 14.5 points, the Irish could keep this close going into the fourth quarter. Don’t expect a blowout here.
If the Irish want to win, they will need, at least, 150 yards rushing as a team and the defense will need to force, at least, two turnovers.