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Notre Dame’s Opponents: Michigan escapes its doldrums as ACC’s struggles deepen

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Despite losing at Washington, USC’s idle week will be calmer than many expected in the preseason — Trojans head coach Clay Helton is still in his post. Meanwhile, only one remaining Notre Dame foe sits in the polls, and No. 19 Michigan could fall out this weekend if it comes up short against a top-15 challenge.

Louisville (2-2): The Cardinals fell behind 21-0 in the first quarter at Florida State before clawing back to take a 24-21 lead in the first minute of the fourth quarter, only to see that chance at a conference road win fritter away. Banged up, sophomore quarterback Malik Cunningham went 16-of-27 for 286 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. Neither he nor junior quarterback Jawon Pass (foot) is genuinely healthy at this point.

That may become an issue against Boston College this weekend (12:30 ET; ACCN), though Louisville is favored by 6.5, a number that required triple-checking out of disbelief. A combined point total over/under of 60.5 suggests a 34-27 result.

New Mexico (2-2): The Lobos welcomed Bob Davie back to the sideline with a … 17-10 loss at Liberty. The defeat was not even that close, considering New Mexico needed a last-minute touchdown to get within one possession and was outgained by 104 total yards. Mainly, the Lobos were torched through the air, giving up 306 passing yards to the Flames. (Pun accidental but retained.)

New Mexico now heads to San Jose State (10 ET; Friday; CBSSN) as a 6.5-point underdog. The over/under of 64.5 could make for an entertaining beginning to the weekend, with math indicating a 35-29 final.

Georgia (4-0): The No. 3 Bulldogs come off an idle week with a trip to Tennessee (7 ET; ESPN). In some respects, it should be just as relaxing as last weekend was, being 25-point favorites. On the road against a conference opponent, that is a hefty number, a reflection of each side involved. The 52.5-point over/under, and the subsequent 39-14 projection, implies a part of the country still sees the Volunteers as less threatening than their in-state rivals at Vanderbilt, which lost to Georgia 30-6 a few weeks ago and already has a three-game winning streak against Tennessee.

Virginia (4-1): The now-No. 23 Cavaliers come off their 35-20 loss at No. 10 Notre Dame with time to lick their wounds. If nothing else, senior quarterback Bryce Perkins can probably use the week for a few extra ice baths.

Bowling Green (1-3): The Falcons had the week off to begin readying for the now-No. 9 Irish (3:30 ET; NBC). Only one FBS vs. FBS game has featured a bigger underdog this season than Bowling Green, a 45.5-point ‘dog, as of early Wednesday a.m. When Alabama hosted New Mexico State on Sept. 7, the Tide was favored by 55, winning merely 62-10.

If Notre Dame is to be the first team to cover such a figure this fall, something to the tune of 53-7 could be in the cards, thanks to the over/under of 60.5.

Trojans junior quarterback Matt Fink’s honeymoon was short-lived. Throwing three interceptions at a conference opponent will do that to a third-string passer. (Photo by Christopher Mast/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

USC (3-2): Let’s give up trying to figure out the Trojans. While they lost 28-14 at No. 17 Washington, they played the Huskies even. USC outgained Washington by two yards and would have been in the mix if not for the Huskies recovering a first-quarter fumble in the end zone and then later breaking loose for an 89-yard touchdown run.

Even with quarterback Matt Fink going 19-of-32 for 163 yards and only one touchdown compared to three interceptions, the Trojans showed up in Seattle.

With a week to relax before heading to South Bend, USC may get freshman quarterback Kedon Slovis back from a concussion.

Michigan (3-1): Either the Wolverines finally found their groove or they were simply the beneficiaries of facing Rutgers, easing to a 52-0 victory largely on the back of senior quarterback Shea Patterson (pictured above). He accounted for four total touchdowns in the rout.

Facing No. 14 Iowa (12 ET; Fox) will reveal which of those possibilities is a reality. Despite No. 19 Michigan’s offensive struggles thus far this season, the carnage against the Scarlet Knights notwithstanding, it is a 3.5-point favorite against the Hawkeyes. The over/under of 47 hints at a typical Big Ten affair, something akin to 25-22.

Virginia Tech (2-2): The Hokies’ miseries escalated quickly Friday night in a 45-10 stomping from Duke. They were outgained by 163 total yards, lost two fumbles and turned 43 rushes into just 139 yards, a 3.2 yards per carry average.

A week of questions around Justin Fuente and his program will culminate at Miami (3:30 ET; ESPN), where things could go from bad to worse for Virginia Tech, made to be 13.5-point underdogs. The Hokies have not been seen so poorly by bookmakers in conference regular-season competition since a 2001 visit from Miami. Virginia Tech lost by only two points then, thanks to some vintage Beamer Ball resulting in a punt block return for a touchdown. (The two-point conversion attempt fell short.)

A similar fluke may be necessary to do better than the 30-17 conclusion forecast by a 47-point over/under.

Blue Devils fifth-year quarterback Quentin Harris’ offensive explosion Friday night threw Virginia Tech’s season into further disarray. (Photo by Brian Bishop/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Duke (3-1): The Blue Devils did in the Hokies with such aplomb largely thanks to fifth-year quarterback Quentin Harris. He threw for 163 yards and two touchdowns on 20-of-27 passing while rushing for 100 yards and another score on 17 carries. As much trouble as Perkins gave the Irish in Saturday’s first half, Harris may present another such difficulty in early November.

Until then, Duke hosts Pittsburgh (8 ET; ACCN) as four-point favorites with an over/under of 48.5. A 26-22 contest could certainly test Panthers head coach Pat Narduzzi’s math skills.

Navy (2-1): The Midshipmen gave up efficient passing performance to Memphis to fall 35-23 on Thursday, allowing 196 yards and three scores on just 14-of-18 passing. Such is hard to overcome for a triple-option outfit, even when outgaining the opposition by 72 total yards.

Navy will not have that problem this week, facing Air Force (3:30 ET; CBSSN) in one of the season’s annual triple-option showcases. The Falcons are expected to prevail by a bit more than a field goal. A 24-20 ending will enthrall only those who despise aerial displays.

Boston College (3-2): The Eagles fell short against Wake Forest, 27-24, despite getting solid performances from both junior running back AJ Dillon (23 rushes for 159 yards) and junior quarterback Anthony Brown (21-of-29 for 265 yards and two touchdowns). They simply could not stop Deacons quarterback Jamie Newman when they needed to.

Under no circumstances will Cunningham or Pass present the same struggles at Louisville.

Stanford (2-3): Beating Oregon State with a last-second field goal after blowing a 21-0 late third-quarter lead is hardly anything to be proud of. The Cardinal should simply be grateful Jet Toner is as reliable as he is.

Stanford will not have the same margin of error against now-No. 15 Washington (10:30 ET; ESPN). Predicted to lose by 16.5, the Cardinal would need to find an utter explosion of scoring, having averaged 15 points per game thus far this season, to keep pace in a game with an over/under of 52. Oddly enough, that math equals Stanford outdoing its average by three points.