No. 4 Notre Dame at Georgia Tech: Who, what, when, where, why and by how much?


WHO? No. 4 Notre Dame (5-0, 4-0 ACC) at Georgia Tech (2-4, 2-3).

WHAT? Is there a need to frame this in any way other than, “The final tuneup before the Irish face No. 1 Clemson?” There is every reason to expect Notre Dame to easily dispatch the Yellow Jackets, and each aspect of how it does so will be amplified into terms applicable to the Tigers, rationally or not. (Spoiler: Not.)

WHEN? A 3:36 ET kickoff, an afternoon respite welcomed the week before primetime. And there we go again, framing every bit of this weekend in terms of next.

WHERE? Bobby Dodd Stadium, Atlanta. The Ramblin’ Wreck has hosted 11,000 fans in each of its first three home games, 20 percent capacity. That will be far and away the largest road crowd the Irish will play in front of this season, more than triple the number at North Carolina games, nearly five times what Wake Forest hosts and about 11,000 more than Notre Dame will see at Boston College.

ABC has the national broadcast, meaning Watch ESPN is once again the friend of anyone needing to stream the game.

WHY? Growing up, my father forbade any versions of surprise parties in our household. While he leans into his Grinch moments as strongly as Clemson will lean on privacy concerns when deflecting questions about Trevor Lawrence’s isolation timeline, and my father has been known to dismiss most frivolities as unnecessary by definition, prohibiting surprise parties was not an extension of this nature. Rather, the opposite.

A surprise party robs the honoree of the joy of anticipation, of excitement as the celebration creeps closer, of hearing that same anticipation and excitement from friends and family attending.

Facing No. 1 Clemson is the party. Working through Georgia Tech is the requisite time needed to build maximum trepidation and nerves. Yes, in college football, trepidation and nerves replace anticipation and excitement.

Despite playing four middling opponents in their six games, the Yellow Jackets have been outscored by an average of 41.2 to 22.9 this season, and that includes their two victories against Florida State and Louisville. Remove those, and the Wreck has been ruined 51.8 to 18.7 in four losses. Even if wanting to separate the 73-7 blowout at the hands of Clemson, Georgia Tech fell 44.7 to 22.7 in its three other losses.

Looking at those realities, it makes sense for the Irish to be favored by 20.5 points as of early Saturday morning with a combined point total over/under of 58.5. A 40-19 conclusion fits with that final set of averages.

But Notre Dame has more in common with Clemson than it does with Central Florida, Syracuse and Boston College. The Irish were the only ranked team to not give up a touchdown last week, and facing an offense giving up three turnovers per game, Clark Lea’s defense might score as much as it allows.

If Notre Dame does not reach the Tigers’ level of a rout, it may be directly because the orange-and-white await. The Irish have run the ball on 60.9 percent of their plays this season. Continuing to do so should be plenty to get past the Yellow Jackets, give the passing game enough chances to establish “continuity” on the other 39.1 percent of the snaps, and not put anything new on film for Clemson to prep for. Perhaps an unverifiable approach, but also one that if implemented, would shorten the afternoon.

And then, of course, the party we have all looked forward to for so long is finally on the horizon.

Notre Dame 45, Georgia Tech 6.
(5-0 straight up, 3-2 against the spread, 2-3 over/under)

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