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Notre Dame’s Opponents: The rise of Michigan and Stanford

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Two of Notre Dame’s remaining opponents saw a quarterback change this weekend, one by choice and one by injury. The choice played well, albeit inefficiently, while the injury replacement showed why he was the backup quarterback in the first place.

Louisville (3-2): The Cardinals logged their first ACC win since 2017 by beating Boston College, 41-39, thanks to a field goal with 62 seconds left. Sophomore quarterback Malik Cunningham threw for 288 yards and a touchdown on 13-of-18 passing while adding 43 yards and another score on six rushing attempts. As well as the offense played with Cunningham at the reins, gaining 664 total yards, Louisville’s defense played nearly as badly, giving up 563 total yards.

That kind of defensive performance will keep the Cardinals mired in mediocrity the rest of the season, if that. Looking at their remaining seven opponents, Louisville would be favored against only one at this point in the year, at NC State on Nov. 16). This weekend, the Cardinals are 6.5-point underdogs at No. 19 Wake Forest (7:30 ET; ACCN) with a combined point total over/under of 65 as of Tuesday evening. Quick math makes that out to be a 36-29 conclusion, but given that assessment of Louisville’s defense and the Deacons’ scoring average of 35.8 points, both the Wake Forest team total over and the Deacons to win by more than a touchdown could be considered likelihoods.

New Mexico (2-3): The Lobos lost 32-21 at San Jose State, arguably impressive considering they trailed 26-0 in the second quarter. Six turnovers ruined New Mexico’s night more than anything else, as one would expect.

The Lobos now host Colorado State (8 ET on Friday; CBSSN) as 3.5-point underdogs. What stands out there is that the spread opened with the Rams favored by a full touchdown. The 65.5-point over/under suggests a 34-31 result.

Bulldogs junior quarterback Jake Fromm has hardly had to sweat the second half of games this season, with Georgia being tested by only Notre Dame thus far, but he has still racked up 1,076 passing yards with a 77.5 percent completion rate. (Photo by Silas Walker/Getty Images)

Georgia (5-0): The No. 3 Bulldogs had little trouble with Tennessee, scoring the final 33 points of a 43-14 victory. Junior quarterback Jake Fromm put together another efficient performance by throwing for 288 yards and two touchdowns on 24-of-29 passing. Frankly, Georgia will not be tested again until Nov. 2 against No. 7 Florida.

That dismissiveness includes scoffing at the 24.5-point line in the Bulldogs’ favor against South Carolina (12 ET; ESPN). A 52.5-point over/under leads to a 38-14 projection, but Georgia’s average of 42.8 points per game makes this a situation similar to the Wake Forest one above.

Virginia (4-1): The No. 20 Cavaliers moved up three spots in the AP poll while resting with their feet up after their loss to Notre Dame. They now head to Miami as 1.5-point underdogs, something of a surprise considering how the Hurricanes’ weekend went (more on that in a bit). The over/under of 45 may not hint at an entertaining final, but the closing moments of a 23-22 ending should include some drama (8ET, Friday; ESPN).

Bowling Green (1-4): The Falcons will look to rebound from their loss to the Irish against Toledo, but bookmakers simply expect another rout. As 26-point underdogs in a game with an over/under of 64.5, Bowling Green could be on the wrong side of a 45-19 scoreboard.

USC (3-2): The Trojans had an idle week, so let’s offer a refresher of their loss two weeks ago and underscore the issue they had then. USC fell 28-14 at then-No. 17 Washington, even though it was outgained by only two yards. Junior quarterback Matt Fink threw for 163 yards and one touchdown on 19-of-32 passing. Three of those 13 incompletions were actually caught … by Huskies defenders. That is how you counteract rushing for 212 yards on 33 carries, a 6.4 yards per attempt average.

Trojans freshman quarterback Kedon Slovis will be back behind center this weekend, cleared from the effects of a concussion. Nonetheless, No. 10 Notre Dame (7:30 ET; NBC) is favored by 11 points with an over/under of 57.5. A 34-23 midnight Irish triumph would certainly keep this season heading toward the Cotton Bowl.

Michigan (4-1): The No. 16 Wolverines slogged past then-No. 14 Iowa, 10-3. Michigan took a 10-0 lead in the first quarter, and neither team scored in the second half. As mundane as the scoring or lack thereof was, the Wolverines gained all of 267 total yards while giving up just 261. The Hawkeyes took 30 rushing attempts for one single yard while turning over the ball four times. Admittedly, such paint-drying-esque football was a theme this weekend across the country. To pull from an email exchange with a superior …

Him: “Does that count as a win? Or just 3 hours of everyone’s life they’d rather have back?”
Me: “Could pretty much be said of the entire sport this weekend.”

Not that Michigan’s heartbeat will accelerate this weekend heading to Illinois (12 ET; ABC) as 21.5-point favorites. While a 49.5-point over/under indicates the Wolverines should win 35-14, it is not utterly absurd to think they will score more than that, considering they hung 52 on Rutgers and the Illini are not all that much better than the Scarlet Knights.

It remains to be seen if Virginia Tech will stick with sophomore quarterback Hendon Hooker after benching senior Ryan Willis last week, but if the reason for the change was Willis’ carelessness with the ball, then Hooker did nothing to warrant a switch back. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Virginia Tech (3-2): Remember that passing reference to Miami’s weekend? The Hokies won at Hard Rock Stadium, 42-35. Virginia Tech led 28-0 before the Hurricanes stormed (no apologies) back to tie the game at 35, at which point the Hokies scored the winning touchdown with 63 seconds left.

Remember that mention of a quarterback change by choice? Virginia Tech head coach Justin Fuente benched senior Ryan Willis in favor of sophomore Hendon Hooker, who threw for 184 yards on 10-of-20 passing, tossing three touchdown passes while adding one more on the ground with 16 carries for 76 yards. Not an efficient performance, perhaps, but Hooker did avoid the mistakes that cost Willis his starting job.

“There had been too many mistakes and too many turnovers,” Hokies offensive coordinator Brad Cornelsen said. “Ryan has certainly still made plays and is capable of playing good games and taking care of the ball and doing those things. We just felt like Hendon deserved a shot. We just felt we needed a change.”

Willis had thrown five interceptions through four games, also losing a fumble.

Hendon can now boost his stats against FCS-level Rhode Island (4 ET; ACCN).

Duke (3-2): The Blue Devils had the week off and should now ready for a win against Georgia Tech (12:30 ET; ACCN). As 17.5-point favorites against a team focusing on the process and not the results, winning 33-15, as expected with a 48.5-point over/under, should not be too much a hassle for David Cutcliffe & Co.

Navy (3-1): The Midshipmen pulled off an upset of Air Force, 34-25, though the final score was embellished by an 8-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown with no time left. While each team had three turnovers, Navy somehow held a triple-option outfit to 108 rushing yards on 45 attempts, a 2.4 yards per carry average.

That skill will not be applicable at Tulsa (7:30 ET; ESPNU), where the Midshipmen are currently one-point favorites in a contest with a 52-point over/under, forecasting an intriguing 26-25 finish.

Boston College (3-3): In some respects, the Eagles coming so close to winning at Louisville was a surprise, since their starting quarterback attempted only seven passes. Junior Anthony Brown went 6-of-7 for 193 yards and a touchdown before going down with an apparent knee injury, one not caused by contact.

In his stead, sophomore Dennis Grosel threw for 111 yards, three touchdowns and one interception on 9-of-24 passing.

Perhaps because Boston College is off this week, scouring the internet Tuesday evening could not turn up a diagnosis on Brown’s knee.

Stanford (3-3): Just when college football fans get ready to write off the Cardinal for 2019, David Shaw’s group goes ahead and beats No. 15 Washington, 23-13. It is not that Stanford beat Washington that hints maybe its season could be righted; it is how the Cardinal did it. Stanford outgained the Huskies by 186 yards, leaning on a ground game of 43 rushing attempts for 189 yards, a 4.4 yards per carry average. Its defense gave up 88 yards on 22 carries. Stanford had the ball for 39:01. To put it simply, the Cardinal dominated Washington in an old-fashioned way, an effective one at that.

Shaw now has a week off to figure out if that approach will work moving forward. Stanford certainly has several winnable games on its schedule, namely vs. UCLA, at Colorado and vs. Cal, not that hosting Arizona should be a worst-case scenario, either.