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Notre Dame’s Opponents: Results, upcoming spreads & some predictions

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Not counting Notre Dame’s 49-16 win over Temple, the Irish opponents went 7-3 over the weekend with Stanford taking a bye after its return from Down Under. This coming week, two pairs of those foes face each other, highlighted by Stanford heading to USC for a primetime matchup Saturday night.

Temple: The Owls will have a good chance to return to winning when they host Football Championship Series-level Villanova at 3:30 p.m. ET on ESPN3. Given it is a game against an FCS opponent, any line will not come until later in the week, if at all. Presumably, this should be Temple coach Geoff Collins’ first win.

Georgia: The Bulldogs opened with a 31-10 win over Appalachian State, though it was a pyrrhic victory with the loss of sophomore quarterback Jacob Eason for at least a few weeks. In his place, freshman Jake Fromm (No. 11, above) will lead Georgia into Notre Dame Stadium as a 6.5-point underdog in a game with an over/under total of 54.4. Quick math points to a projected final score of 31-24. Reminder: Kickoff will be shortly after 7:30 p.m. ET on NBC.

Eagles freshman quarterback Anthony Brown got his career off to a strong start with a fourth-quarter game-winning drive to top Northern Illinois. (Getty Images)

Boston College: The Eagles squeezed by Northern Illinois 23-20 behind freshman quarterback Anthony Brown, who went 26-of-42 for 191 yards passing with two touchdowns and one interception. Despite it being his first start, Brown showed enough calm to lead Boston College to the game-winning field goal late in the fourth quarter.

This week he will get to make his home debut, hosting Wake Forest at 1 p.m. ET on the ACC Network. The Eagles are favored by two with an over/under total of 43, implying a final score of 23-20 again. Frankly, all aspects of that previous sentence feel about right.

Michigan State: It took a bit for the Spartans to get going, but once they did, they cruised to a 35-10 victory over Bowling Green. Mark up the sluggish start simply to it being the season’s first weekend. If it was more than that, then suddenly this may be the wrong weekend to host Western Michigan. (3:30 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network.) The Broncos may be underdogs by a touchdown, but after their showing against USC, that margin seems generous. The over/under total of 52 implies a final score of 30-23.

Miami (OH): The RedHawks regular season winning streak ended at six games after a 31-26 loss at Marshall. They have a great chance at getting back to winning this week, hosting FCS-level Austin Peay at 3:30 p.m. ET on ESPN3.

North Carolina: The Tar Heels were favored by 11 points this past weekend, instead falling 35-30 to Cal. This week will be no easier. In fact, it will be harder. Louisville visits for a noon ET kickoff on ESPN. The line opened favoring the Cardinals by eight points, but it quickly moved up to 10.5. Using that latter figure and an over/under total of 63.5, math lands with a projected final score of 37-26.

After giving up 35 points to the Bears, including three scores of 20 yards or more, it is hard to foresee North Carolina slowing Heisman-winning quarterback Lamar Jackson, not that Louisville’s defense is known to be stellar, either. It did just give up 28 points to Purdue. Is this hinting at a high-scoring affair? It would seem that way.

USC: It took a while, but the Trojans eventually distanced themselves from Western Michigan, prevailing 49-31. That could be a positive reflection of the Broncos more than it is a concern for USC. This weekend will certainly provide a better Trojans litmus test with Stanford visiting for an 8:30 p.m. ET kickoff on Fox. Favored by 6.5, USC will likely struggle to reach its high total of this past weekend. The over/under of 55.5 projects a 31-24 final.

NC State will have its hands full trying to contain Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson this weekend. (Getty Images)

North Carolina State: The preseason’s trendy title contender fell flat in week one, losing to South Carolina 35-28. The Wolfpack could not have started the day and the season off worse, allowing the Gamecocks to return the opening kickoff for a touchdown.

The loss could derail the entire North Carolina St. season, or it could intensify the focus on a suddenly wide-open ACC. Hosting Marshall will offer a chance to develop that tunnel vision. The Wolfpack will enter favored by 24 with an over/under of 55.5, making for a theoretical final score of 40-16. (6 p.m. ET, ACC Network.)

Wake Forest: Coming off a 51-7 win over FCS-level Presbyterian, the Demon Deacons head to Boston College looking to start conference competition on the right side of the scoreboard.

Miami (FL): The Hurricanes also faced an FCS-level opener, topping Bethune-Cookman 41-13. This week, Miami heads to Jonesboro, Ark., to visit Arkansas State as the back-half of a home-and-home series agreed upon five years ago. It is odd, to say the least. The Hurricanes are favored by 14.5 with an over/under total of 55.5, leading to a logical 35-21 conclusion. (3:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU.)

Navy quarterback Zach Abey (No. 9, left) established program firsts in the season opener. (Getty Images)

Navy: Contrary to public perception, the Midshipmen just reload. Junior quarterback Zach Abey threw for 110 yards and rushed for 235 more to lead Navy past Florida Atlantic to the tune of 42-19, despite three lightning delays. Abey became the first Midshipmen in history to achieve that particular 100-200 combo.

This week, Abey will have a chance to bevy those stats further in an AAC-contest against Tulane. Navy is favored by 13.5 with an over/under of 48.5. A 31-17 final would be a strong start for the Midshipmen as they chase the American Athletic Conference title.

Stanford: As mentioned twice earlier, the Cardinal head to USC this weekend in one of multiple marquee matchups Saturday night. If you have two TVs, this probably deserves the priority on your non-NBC screen.

Questions for the Week: Smythe, Georgia’s QB & ticket prices

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A decisive win Saturday provided a good look at how Notre Dame will function under offensive coordinator Chip Long and defensive coordinator Mike Elko. Of course, there are still plenty of on-field questions to ponder. How long will the right tackle competition last? (Awhile, yet.) Would Irish coach Brian Kelly trust junior kicker Justin Yoon in a game-deciding situation? (Most likely.) Does junior quarterback Brandon Wimbush know how to slide? (Yes, it is just a matter of him maturing to utilizing that knowledge.)

Those are wonderings for Saturday evening, though. The below are questions which should be answered before kickoff Saturday at 7:30 p.m. ET.

Will graduate student tight end Durham Smythe be cleared to play?
Smythe took a hit to the head in the victory over Temple and thus entered the concussion protocol. As of Sunday, Kelly was encouraged by Smythe’s progress, but he had not yet been cleared. Inevitably, Kelly will offer an update Tuesday afternoon and, if necessary, Thursday evening.

RELATED READING: Sunday Notre Dame Notebook: Defensive rotation, RT duo and overall health

Smythe may not have been much of a statistical factor against the Owls (two catches for 34 yards), but that does not mean his presence is not a boon to the Notre Dame offense. Georgia’s defensive front-seven is its strength. Amid those questions at right tackle, having Smythe available to aid in blocking can stabilize that position and mitigate some of the Bulldogs attack.

Without him, the Irish would turn to senior Nic Weishar and junior tight end Alizé Mack. Both are more effective when downfield as receiving options. Smythe is, by far, Notre Dame’s best blocking tight end. Especially this early in the season, that safety net may be needed.

Georgia freshman quarterback Jake Gromm filled in admirably for injured starter Jacob Eason during the Bulldogs‘ 31-10 victory over Appalachian State this weekend. Fromm will start against Notre Dame. (Getty Images)

Already answered: Who will start at quarterback for Georgia?
That will be freshman Jake Fromm. Sophomore Jacob Eason suffered a sprained knee ligament early in the Bulldogs’ 31-10 victory over Appalachian State on Saturday, and Georgia coach Kirby Smart confirmed Monday that Eason will be out for at least a week, likely longer.

In steps Fromm. Saturday he completed 10-of-15 passes for 143 yards and a touchdown. Considering Eason went down when the game was still scoreless, it could be argued Georgia did not miss a beat with the newcomer behind center. Having enrolled early, Fromm has had eight full months to learn the Bulldogs playbook.

He is still a freshman, though, making what will not only be his first career start but a start in primetime in front of a filled Notre Dame Stadium.

Will the Irish appeal for eligibility Alohi Gilman be settled?
Notice the question is not if the sophomore safety and Navy transfer will be ruled eligible. It is simply will there be a decision at all. Notre Dame has appealed the NCAA ruling against Gilman’s immediate eligibility, and Kelly said he expects the committee to reply quickly. That could be this week. Perhaps it is next week. Until then, expect this question to consistently appear here.

Obviously, if Gilman is ruled eligible, he could be defending passes from Fromm right away. If nothing else, the Irish would like the matter resolved so they can move forward accordingly.

Will Kevin Stepherson be part of the Notre Dame game plan?
The sophomore receiver dressed for action Saturday, but was largely stationary during pregame warm-ups and never appeared to consider himself close to playing time. Every indication from Kelly has been Stepherson is not.

Until Stepherson does see the field, though, this question will also continue to be asked. Kelly has been diligent in remaining vague about Stepherson’s status, and there is no reason to expect that to change much. Odds are, this wondering lasts at least another week, if not most of September.

What will the final ticket price be?
Reports earlier this summer put the secondary-market price of a ticket to Saturday’s matchup at $1,534, by far the most expensive of the season. For context, face value ranged from $95 to $300.

A quick Monday perusal of the secondary market shows a pair of tickets would currently cost a total near $1,100, including online fees. While that is quite a drop from the summer’s high, some of that premium may have simply been for the peace of mind of knowing one has a ticket.

The market outside Notre Dame Stadium could be just as volatile, though it certainly will not have the same top-end mark.

Tar Heels quarterback Chazz Surratt threw for 161 yards and rushed for 66 more, but his efforts were not enough in North Carolina‘s opener. (Getty Images)

Can North Carolina rebound or is an 0-2 start inevitable?
The Tar Heels opened with a disappointing home loss to Cal, 35-30. Life is going to get only more difficult this week when No. 16 Louisville and Heisman-winning quarterback Lamar Jackson arrive for a noon ET kick (ESPN). The hosts are currently eight-point underdogs.

Western Michigan gave USC quite a bit to handle. Will Michigan State be up for the task?
The Spartans opened as favorites by a full touchdown for the 3:30 p.m. ET tilt. Depending on your region, you may be able to see it on the Big Ten Network.

The Broncos played USC tough, and will presumably do the same for their in-state foe. If Michigan State can handle Western Michigan without too much trouble, it may be time to start taking the Spartans seriously again.

Monday Morning Leftovers: Notre Dame amid NFL roster cuts; Good for USC & more

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You made it. Football happened. It was as glorious as you remembered, wasn’t it? I hope the wings were properly-marinated, as well.

— While college football was providing a level of drama which was greatly enjoyed but will likely be surpassed in a week, the NFL was working through a much more personal version of dramatics. The “final” round of roster cuts came this weekend, bringing each NFL team to the 53-man depth chart it will carry into the season.

Among former Irish players trying to make their first roster, defensive lineman Isaac Rochell made his way onto the Los Angeles Chargers, though his spot remains tenuous. The quotation marks a paragraph prior around final are because these rosters are obviously constantly in flux. In Los Angeles, defensive end Tenny Palepoi will return from suspension (violation of league policy on performance enhancing substances) one week into the season. When he is added to the roster, it could be at Rochell’s expense.

Drafted in the seventh round, Rochell is joined by undrafted linebacker James Onwualu on the Chargers’ roster. Undrafted cornerback Cole Luke found a spot with the Carolina Panthers.

Defensive-turned-offensive tackle Jarron Jones, also undrafted, did not make the cut with the New York Giants. Rather than spend time with their practice squad, as expected, in hopes he can bring his blocking skills to an NFL-level, Giants beat writer Dan Duggan reports Jones has signed with the Seattle Seahawks practice squad.

— Perhaps the USC vs. Western Michigan game was well beyond dramatic with three minutes remaining and the Trojans up 17. It was then, though, that the weekend’s most memorable moment occurred.

You have undoubtedly seen this by now, but reminding of it cannot hurt. After an interception returned for a touchdown USC walk-on long snapper Jake Olson fired a perfect snap for the converted extra point. Why in the world would that be memorable? Olson is blind.

Just for making that happen, perhaps Notre Dame fans should allow USC is not entirely bad.

Lost in the moment is the praise deserved by Western Michigan and, specifically, Broncos coach Tim Lester. Trojans coach Clay Helton called Lester on Thursday wanting to find a way to get Olson his moment. Lester agreed if the situation presented itself, he would tell his kick block unit to relent on the attempt, but only if the game was already at an agreed upon level of lopsided.

In exchange, USC would not rush Western Michigan’s first point after attempt. That is especially bold, ceding a point at the game’s outset.

— That touchdown, courtesy of Trojans safety Marvel Tell, made the score 49-31. Somewhere I recently read someone predict USC would exceed a projected tally of 43 points this weekend. That same person also mused Georgia should have been favored by more than two touchdowns against Appalachian State and the Boston College vs. Northern Illinois game would not provide the fireworks necessary to reach a combined total of 51 points.

Georgia beat Appalachian State by 21, and that latter game notched only 43 points.

— Injuries are part of football, but it is still always preferable not to see star quarterbacks on national title contenders lost for the year on the opening weekend. Florida State’s Deondre Francis reportedly injured a season-ending patellar tendon injury, leaving the Seminoles to turn to freshman James Blackman.

Deondre Francis (Getty Images)

Blackman, or classmate Bailey Hockman, will have only one game to get ready for some of the ACC’s best. Florida State hosts Louisiana-Monroe this weekend before Miami arrives Sept. 16 followed a week later by redemption-seeking North Carolina State.

Fortunately for the Seminoles, the three-game home stand should provide the freshmen some level of comfort.

— Allow me to be the buzzkill. Excuse me while I ruin the fun. I am here to end the party.

UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen’s fake spike-touchdown to complete a historic comeback over Texas A&M last night was unnecessary, superfluous, pointless and inconsequential. I am not referring to the touchdown itself. It delivered the Bruins a win. I am referring to the fake spike.

Josh Rosen celebrates the winning touchdown Sunday night. (Getty Images)

The clock was not ticking. The previous play, a fourth-and-six from the 20-yard line, ended with UCLA running back Soso Jamabo out of bounds, having converted the first down off a pass into the flat. When Rosen faked the spike, the A&M defenders should have ignored it.

Any Aggies falling for it is more a reflection on their game awareness and coaching than it is on Rosen’s savviness.

For that matter, was it even a catch?

— For Irish fans, Friday night in Boca Raton was a reminder of a Saturday six years ago. The Florida Atlantic debut of Lane Kiffin was elongated by three lightning delays, finally ending at 1:47 a.m. Per the Sun-Sentinel’s Matt DeFranks, there was never a conversation about halting the game prior to completion, even though Navy seemed to have the result well in hand.

On some level, that makes sense. It was a Friday night, there were no classes to get to. Kiffin and the Owls should want to play to win, that is the entire premise of the sport. It is Florida, quick rain storms are the norm.

But it was an hour past midnight with the game clock stopped. One has to wonder at what point those conversations would have begun.

— I have my one and only fantasy football draft tomorrow night. I am woefully behind on research, but I know this much: I will not be drafting any former Irish players with the possible exception of Cincinnati Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert.

It is a two-quarterback fantasy league, something I have long advocated for, but now that only puts me even further behind in preparations.

— As of this typing, no sign yet of a Notre Dame vs. Georgia spread. Possible season-ending injuries to star quarterbacks on national title contenders will often delay such projections, and such is the case with Bulldogs starter Jacob Eason. With that in mind, this is a unique chance to guess the line. Let’s go with Notre Dame by 4.5 points.

UPDATE: With the news freshman quarterback Jack Fromm will start for Georgia, the line has opened with the Irish as 6.5-point favorites this weekend.

— Top-25 polls will come out tomorrow, delayed this week by the elongated weekend. (Thanks Labor Day. That is also why this post is up a few hours later than usual. Why rush on a holiday?) There will not be a separate post tomorrow to inform anyone of the inevitable: Notre Dame will be in the top 25.

Take the initial AP poll, for example. The Irish were No. 28, if counting through the Others Receiving Votes. Nos. 22 and 23 West Virginia and Texas, respectively, both lost. No. 19 South Florida struggled, again, this time against Stony Brook.

No. 26 TCU beat up on Jackson State. No. 27 Utah enjoyed a casual evening against North Dakota. The Irish victory over Temple is far more impressive than either of those.

Sunday Notre Dame Notebook: Defensive rotation, RT duo and overall health

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It is not a statistic that shows up in a box score or deep within any performance-based analytics, but it is a positive indicator for Notre Dame moving forward, nonetheless. Two dozen Irish defenders played at least 10 snaps in the 49-16 victory over Temple on Saturday, per coach Brian Kelly.

Kelly also said during his Sunday teleconference that he fully intends to continue with that large rotation. The list of 24 includes at least eight defensive backs, five linebackers and nine defensive linemen, with both freshmen defensive tackles Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa and Kurt Hinish among that last grouping.

Next week, another body will be available to aid the defensive line interior. Junior tackle Micah Dew-Treadway did not dress for the season opener due to a knee sprain, per Kelly.

“We just felt it was best that we didn’t put him out there unless he was 100 percent,” Kelly said. “We expect to have him back this week.”

Graduate student tight end Durham Smythe is not yet cleared for action against Georgia after entering the concussion protocol Saturday, but Kelly was optimistic about Smythe’s week ahead since he is not suffering from concussion symptoms today.

On the right tackle rotation
Kelly and his coaching staff split the snaps at right tackle between sophomore Tommy Kraemer and freshman Robert Hainsey. That partnership will continue, at least for now. (more…)

What We Learned: Notre Dame is Long’s offense, freshmen impact and more

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NOTRE DAME, Ind. — We learned Notre Dame Stadium now holds 77,622 people. We learned Irish coach Brian Kelly still prefers to receive the opening kickoff. We learned Saturdays in September are best spent in the sun watching football.

Wait, we already knew that one.

What else did we learn?

This is Chip Long’s offense.
Notre Dame had three rushers gain more than 100 yards and four take at least half a dozen carries, with junior quarterback Brandon Wimbush included in both categories. Long relying on the running game could be read as playing to one’s strengths, but it is also in-line with his career elsewhere to date.

Of those rushers, sophomore Tony Jones was the initial backup to junior Josh Adams. Jones took his six rushes for only 19 yards, but he was never taken down in the backfield and did score on a seven-yard touchdown. In his first collegiate action, that qualifies as acceptable.

Junior Dexter Williams excelled when he began to see runs behind Adams. Finishing with 124 yards on only six carries — even if removing his long of 66 yards, Williams averaged 11.6 yards per carry — Williams insured he will have plenty of chances moving forward.

Equally as telling that this is Long’s show, the Irish had the ball for only 26:11 in a game they entirely dominated. Long simply saw no reason to attack Temple slowly when doing so quickly would create more opportunities to continue, well, attacking. All indications are he called the plays throughout, including Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly’s comments after the 49-16 victory Saturday.

“My conversation with [Long] is pretty constant during the drive,” Kelly said. “I don’t want it to be over-chatter. He’s got to get in the flow and he’s got to be calling the game.

“I’m just keeping him on track relative to fourth down calls, whether we’re in this particular area of the field. He’s got a fourth down in his pocket, so call accordingly on second and third down.”

Notre Dame has more tight ends than realized.
Okay, not literally. A reading of the roster and the ability to count up one hand’s worth of fingers tells anyone the Irish have five tight ends. Yet, the four most-discussed contributed little-to-nothing Saturday.

Graduate student senior Durham Smythe entered the concussion protocol Saturday, and it is conceivable that keeps him out for a week. (That is not to say it will. Updates should come in due time.) Much-hyped junior Alizé Mack managed only two catches for 17 yards. Freshmen Brock Wright and Cole Kmet were offensive non-factors.

Nonetheless, a tight end still impacted Notre Dame’s offense definitively. Senior Nic Weishar pulled in three passes for 20 yards and a touchdown catch in very tight quarters.

“He’s had the best year that anybody can have in terms of his physical commitment to the position itself,” Kelly said. “He does not have the DNA of Alizé and [Weishar] will tell you that, he looks like a dad compared to those four stallions.

(more…)