A Notre Dame-themed chance at $10,000? That’s the open bar of prediction contests

If the best eight characters in the English language are open bar, then free bet is not far behind them. By the literal definition, a free bet is any free chance to make money, particularly when discussing sports possibilities.

Sports possibilities like, how many yards will No. 9 Notre Dame (4-0) throw for against No. 7 Cincinnati’s aggressive defense today? How many yards will the Irish rush for? (Spoilers: A few; not many.)

In an effort to help you make $10,000, let’s look into some of those thoughts. No, this is not a service for the corporate overlords by touting the NBC Sports Predictor and its Notre Dame contest. This is an attempt to make you readers some money. Doing a favor for a branch of NBC is simply a pleasant byproduct.

The contest is free, 100 percent free, no credit card even required, and you could come out with five figures of joy. Maybe that is unlikely — okay, not maybe; very much so — but let’s reiterate that four-letter f-word one more time: FREE.

I can say that with certainty because I signed up and played it before any level of corporate bureaucracy had a chance to let me know I am not eligible because of my current employment status. Sitting with a friend at a local brewery, we fired through the seven questions of Irish Pick’Em. It took 45 seconds, and suddenly I had a chance to win $10,000 and give my boss a headache. That beer nearly paid for itself a few times over.

Irish Pick’Em can be found in the “Special Contest” tab of the NBC Sports Predictor app, along with the Sunday Night Football, Premier League versions and a handful of other offerings.

All free. This endeavor is not going to pass “open bar” for the best eight characters in the English language, but it may mount more of a challenge than anticipated.

Alright, go download the NBC Sports Predictor App, sign up and then … fret over exactly how many passing yards Notre Dame will throw for against the Bearcats, an agonizing question when you do not even know who will start at quarterback for the Irish after Jack Coan injured his left leg during last week’s 41-13 walloping of then-No. 18 Wisconsin.

Let’s quickly give you two data points to ponder: Cincinnati has given up just 160.7 passing yards per game this season. Notre Dame has thrown for 286.3 per game. Life is not so simple as to just average those numbers, but you could do worse than flipping a coin between “204-232 passing yards” and “233-261 passing yards.”

As for how many rushing yards will the Irish gain, remember one thing: Sacks count against rushing yards. How many Notre Dame first downs? Anything above 20 would be ambitious. The Irish do not average even 20 first downs per game, despite some moments of offensive efficiency against lesser defenses in September.

How many catches will Notre Dame have? NBC does you no favors here, with ranges as narrow as 17-18, 19-20, 21-22 and 23-24. This answer may determine the game, so if you are confident the Irish pull off this upset, then pick a higher spot, simply enough. Notre Dame senior receiver gave some reason to believe in a higher number this week.

“[Cincinnati is] a high-powered offense, so we have to be aware of that,” Lenzy said Tuesday. “We have to be able to put a lot of points up, so we need to be ahead of the chains, watch those third-and-longs.”

That mentality could lead to the Irish relying on shorter, easier completions to maintain drives.

Those shorter completions will not come on every pass, though, and at some point, Notre Dame will go deep. How long will the longest Irish play be? Well, ignore the fewer than 30 yards option. Notre Dame has scored a touchdown of at least 36 yards in each game this year. Its longest plays in its first four games have been 41 yards, 55 yards, 62 yards and 36 yards. The Irish offense lives and dies by the big play.

There will be big plays tomorrow (2:30 ET; NBC), but there will be few points. As of Friday afternoon, PointsBet sets a combined point total Over/Under of 50.5 with the Bearcats still favored by two points. That raw math suggests a 26-24 result.

Take that expectation and adjust it to fit yours.

That final score is the trickiest part of the Irish Pick’Em contest, but if there was no difficulty to it, there would not be $10,000 up for grabs.

The hope here has been to point you in the right direction on all seven questions. Lower your hopes for Notre Dame’s offense — if it surprises, you’ll be delighted during the game, and if (when) it doesn’t, you’ll have a chance here. Lower your hopes further for the Irish rushing game.

Realize NBC sets you up for failure with the first downs and receptions options. Psychologically, you want to pick a number in the middle of those offered, so skewing those options higher camouflages the strong chance the Irish maintain their averages of about 19-20 first downs and 20-23 receptions.

And then pick your score. There is a game theory thought here that mostly Notre Dame fans will play this game, and thus they will mostly pick an Irish victory, so going counter to that trend sets you up for a better chance at a payday, but there is also value to just being right.

If any of you win, tip your bartenders. There is no fine print in the Terms of Service that outlaws that, no matter what corporate lawyers might suggest.

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