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Notre Dame’s Opponents: Proving moments arrive for USC, Michigan

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The week of Notre Dame’s biggest game of the year may be an odd one to specifically keep an eye on its opponents, but three of the toughest remaining Irish opponents have notable challenges this weekend, as well, and two of them do not conflict with the primetime slot at Georgia.

Louisville (2-1): The Cardinals were without starting quarterback Jawon Pass (lower-body injury), but still had little trouble with Western Kentucky in a 38-21 victory. With Malik Cunningham at the helm, they leaned more on their running game, gaining 210 yards on 51 rushing attempts, compared to only 16 throws.

Pass has not yet been cleared for this weekend, though that could change by Saturday, as Louisville visits Florida State (3:30 ET; ESPN) as 6.5-point underdogs, as of early Wednesday a.m. A combined point total over/under of 61 suggests a 34-27 conclusion. This may go against trends thus far this season, but some stake should be put into past recruiting work, and with that in mind, the Seminoles should stymie Scott Satterfield’s first chance at an ACC win.

New Mexico (1-1): The Lobos will have quarterback Tevaka Tuioti back behind center as their starter the week after a 66-14 loss at No. 7 Notre Dame, but head coach Bob Davie will not yet return to full-time coaching against in-state rival New Mexico State (4:30 ET). Tuioti and New Mexico are 4.5-point favorites in a game with a 68-point over/under. A 36-32 finale does feel a bit high-scoring.

Georgia (3-0): The No. 3 Bulldogs hardly broke a sweat in beating Arkansas State, 55-0. Gaining 268 rushing yards on 33 carries certainly gave Irish defensive coordinator Clark Lea some film to watch.

Georgia remains a two-touchdown favorite against Notre Dame (8 ET; CBS) with an over/under of 56 implying a traditional football score of 35-21.

Virginia needed quarterback Bryce Perkins to get creative on a two-point conversion to feel at all comfortable in the closing minutes of a 31-24 victory against Florida State. (Photo by Ryan M. Kelly/Getty Images)

Virginia (3-0): The No. 21 Cavaliers could not quite decide if they wanted to beat Florida State or not late Saturday. A missed PAT forced Virginia to sweat a late fourth-quarter touchdown drive to take a lead before then committing four separate 15-yard penalties on the Seminoles’ subsequent drive, only stopping Florida State as time expired inside the five-yard-line.

For the second week in a row, Cavaliers quarterback Bryce Perkins threw two interceptions, though he also went 30-of-40 for 295 passing yards and a touchdown. He will try to break that turnover-prone habit against Old Dominion (7 ET; ESPN2). Favored by 30 points, Virginia should have little trouble, even if the Monarchs score more than the nine points expected by an over/under of 47.5.

Bowling Green (1-2): The Falcons were outgained by 163 yards in a 35-7 loss to Louisiana Tech. Perhaps even more worrisome for the season, Bowling Green averaged only 2.5 yards per rush.

The struggles will likely keep coming, as the Falcons are now 10.5-point underdogs at Kent State (3:30 ET) this week with an over/under of 59. That sets up a 35-24 final score, though that latter figure feels a bit high given last week’s rushing failures.

USC (2-1): Just after the Trojans gained some momentum with that blowout of Stanford, they lost it all in overtime at BYU, falling 30-27 when freshman quarterback Kedon Slovis threw an interception on a terrible read. On a 3rd-and-6, within field goal range, Slovis tried to force a pass into tight coverage on a slant pattern. At least two Cougars defenders were already closing in on the targeted receiver when Slovis released the ball, thereby assuring the first down would not be gained, at the very least. The pick was Slovis’ third of the day. Suffice it to say, his honeymoon period ended after just a week, and with it so did the cooling on head coach Clay Helton’s seat.

If USC falls this weekend against Utah (Friday, 9 ET; FS1) as expected as 3.5-point underdogs — note: yes, the Trojans are underdogs at home against a Pac-12 South Division foe — then it should be safe to presume Helton’s fate will be genuinely hanging by a string. For that reason alone, it will be worth tuning in late Friday evening; a close 27-24 contest would be only added drama.

Michigan (2-0): The No. 11 Wolverines took the week off, which senior quarterback Shea Patterson said allowed him to get fully healthy (oblique). He will need to be at No. 13 Wisconsin (12 ET; FOX), which has yet to give up a point this season. It hardly matters who the opponents were, South Florida and Central Michigan, to hold two FBS-level foes scoreless is impressive.

Basic math predicts Michigan will score 20, but lose 24-20, thanks to a spread of 3.5 points and an over/under of 43.5. Remembering that the Wolverines managed only 14 points in regulation against Army, despite having the ball for 28:25, it becomes hard to envision this Big Ten tilt reaching the over.

Virginia Tech (2-1): The Hokies had less trouble with FCS-level Furman than a 24-17 score suggests, outgaining the Paladins 350-231. Either way, Virginia Tech will have a full week to review that film.

Duke (2-1): Blue Devils fifth-year quarterback Quentin Harris’ strong start to the season continued with four touchdowns on 24-of-27 passing for 237 yards, adding another 107 yards on 11 rushes, in a 41-18 victory at Middle Tennessee State. Duke will simply hope a week off will not slow Harris’ current roll.

Navy (2-0): Midshipmen quarterback Malcolm Perry scored all six total touchdowns — four rushing and two passing — in a 42-10 rout of East Carolina. Not much else need be said when a triple-option team cruises past an opponent, especially when it precedes an idle week.

While Eagles junior running back A.J. Dillon, left, ran for 151 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries Friday night in Boston College’s humbling loss to Kansas, junior quarterback Anthony Brown did not fare nearly as well, completing only half his passes for 195 yards. (Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Boston College (2-1): The Eagles suffered arguably the worst loss of the year in college football, no matter how early in the season it is. They lost at home, 48-24, to Kansas. After jumping out to a 17-7 lead in the first quarter, Boston College simply fell apart. There is no other explanation. The Jayhawks outgained the Eagles by 120 yards, somehow finding way after way after way to gash Steve Addazio’s defense.

If Boston College could not beat Kansas, it becomes hard to assume it will beat Rutgers (12 ET; BTN), another of the worst programs in a Power Five conference. Nonetheless, the Eagles are favored by a touchdown with a 57.5-point over/under, hinting at a 32-25 result.

Stanford (1-2): Speaking of getting gashed, that is the appropriate verb for what happened to the Cardinal’s defense at Central Florida in falling 45-27. The Golden Knights used three first-quarter touchdowns longer than 27 yards, plus a one-yard scoring run, to quickly go up 28-7 and led 38-7 at halftime. Despite the blowout, Brandon Wimbush did not play, Central Florida preferring to get more experience for freshman Dillon Gabriel.

Stanford will face another high-octane offense this weekend. No. 16 Oregon (7 ET; ESPN) should not have much trouble repeating the key parts of the Golden Knights’ performance in a game with a predicted edge of 10.5 points and a 35-24 closing scoreboard.