WHO? No. 9 Notre Dame (6-1) vs. No. 14 North Carolina State (6-1), two of about 16 remaining genuine College Football Playoff contenders. The Irish removed a name from that list last week.
WHAT? Continuing the stretch of “playoff” games on Notre Dame’s schedule, a win is absolutely necessary to keep that pipedream alive. This contest will likely come down to the strength-against-strength matchup of the Irish offensive line and running game against the Wolfpack’s defensive front seven led by senior end Bradley Chubb.
WHEN? 3:41 p.m. ET, though an Air Force F-16 flyover is expected beforehand, so if in attendance, don’t wait until the last minute to get inside.
WHERE? Notre Dame Stadium, South Bend, Ind., and broadcast on NBC.
The game will also be available through the NBC Sports app or online at: http://stream.nbcsports.com/notre-dame/notre-dame-north-carolina-state
Those abroad should take a look at NBC Sports Gold for the evening, and for anyone hoping to see the Notre Dame band’s halftime show: http://stream.nbcsports.com/notre-dame/notre-dame-halftime-show
A postgame show will also be available online: http://stream.nbcsports.com/notre-dame/?pid=37523
WEATHER? There are rumors of snow, but it would not likely accumulate. The more pertinent fact is Saturday in South Bend will be in the low-40s and precipitation is possible. If this were mid-November in the home finale against Navy, such might be expected, but it is still October, and this qualifies as cold on a comfort spectrum.
WHY? Entering the season, few would have expected this contest to have national implications, but it very much does. Both North Carolina State and Notre Dame have viable means of reaching the College Football Playoff, provided they win out after losing in the season’s first and second weeks, respectively. A loss would not stop the Wolfpack from chasing the ACC title, especially not with No. 7 Clemson awaiting in a week.
BY HOW MUCH? The Irish are favored by a touchdown with a combined point/total over under of 57.5, though that latter figure began the week a bit higher. Those current odds would indicate an unusual final score of Notre Dame 32, North Carolina State 25.
This space has been quietly warning of the difficulties of this matchup since August. It became an underpinning theme this week. Some excerpts, in chronological order:
Aug. 18 — Let’s also add North Carolina State exceeding 7.5 wins to the previous list of over bets.
Aug. 22 — Make no mistake about it: When the Irish host North Carolina State on Oct. 28, they will not be entering a trap game. The Wolfpack will be anything but average this season.
Sept. 19 — It may be a bit bold to predict the Wolfpack to win outright [at Florida State], but a cover and an under would go hand-in-hand.
Sept. 26 — North Carolina State notched its biggest win of the year, a 27-21 victory at Florida State. The Wolfpack benefited from 11 Seminoles penalties and a turnover, but overall North Carolina State just played a solid game.
Oct. 3 — As four-point underdogs, expect North Carolina State to come out on the high side of a 34-31 projected final [against Louisville].
Oct. 10 — The Wolfpack has definitively arrived, topping Louisville 39-25 on Thursday to add a second victory over the ACC’s top teams.
Monday — This seems an applicable time to remind folks, North Carolina State had the week off.
Tuesday — For the second consecutive week, Notre Dame will face a viable passing threat. North Carolina State senior quarterback Ryan Finley, however, has had a consistent and mistake-free season, especially if compared to USC junior Sam Darnold. Finley has yet to throw an interception and has been held to fewer than 200 yards only once, when he threw for 198 at Pittsburgh two weeks ago.
Wednesday — Notre Dame will have a difficult time running against North Carolina State. The Wolfpack gives up a mere 3.04 yards per carry, No. 14 in the country. For context, Georgia ranks No. 7 in allowing 2.82 yards per rush and Michigan State comes in at No. 8 at 2.89 yards.
Thursday — North Carolina State may be, particularly in the eyes of this scribe, the toughest opponent remaining on Notre Dame’s schedule.
Friday — “They’re one of the top teams in the country,” Irish coach Brian Kelly said. “They can play with anybody.”
All this was whole-heartedly intended to lay the groundwork for this prediction. The Wolfpack is a season-opening moment’s focus away from being undefeated. If South Carolina had not returned the first kick of its season for a touchdown, North Carolina State would enter this weekend no more than three-point underdogs. At that point, picking the upset would be much trendier than it is. It shouldn’t be trendy. It should hardly be considered an upset.
North Carolina State 28, Notre Dame 24. (6-1 record on the season.)
THIS WEEK’S INSIDE THE IRSH READING:
— Monday’s Leftovers: Notre Dame lands safety commitment and Adams lands in more Heisman talk
— Notre Dame’s Opponents: BC & Mich. St. rise while Miami continues its streak of well-timed luck
— Notre Dame doesn’t ‘have anything else to play for’ but a Playoff bid
— Questions for the Week (Some, Notre Dame already answered)
— And In That Corner … The No. 14 North Carolina State Wolfpack and a vaunted run defense
— Things To Learn: Notre Dame will need the year’s best rushing performance vs. NC State
— Notre Dame’s injury returns will aid needed punt return coverage
— Friday at 4: If/when Notre Dame loses, shed the disappointment
INSIDE THE IRISH COVERAGE FROM THE USC GAME:
— Notre Dame makes quick, easy work of USC
— Things We Learned: Maybe, just maybe …
— Sunday Notre Dame Notebook; Results create belief & an injury update
THIS WEEK’S OUTSIDE READING:
— Jack Swarbrick reflects on his commitment to Brian Kelly over the offseason
— Notre Dame left guard Quenton Nelson lands in the conversation of most NFL-ready, non-QB draft prospects
— Irish linebacker Te’von Coney has returned from a public mistake to become a valuable on-field contributor
— Defensive coordinator Mike Elko has made all the difference for Notre Dame this season. How?
— Do bye weeks lead to wins? ($)
— A Notre Dame alumnus pledged a $100 million gift to the University to be used in any way the school sees fit
— Former Notre Dame basketball guard Pat Connaughton has shown he is ready for an increased role with the Portland Blazers this season
— Only one starting quarterback has yet to throw an interception this season
— DeShone Kizer’s late night out doesn’t sit well with Browns
— The Athletic’s Heisman straw poll has a familiar name debut this week ($)