A huge battle between Top Ten teams will take place this evening as the 7th ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish travel to Sanford Stadium in Athens, Georgia to rumble with the 3rd ranked Georgia Bulldogs. This is probably an elimination game from the NCAA playoffs for the loser. These teams last met back in 2017 and Georgia won that game on the road by a score of 20-19.
The Irish are off a 66-14 win over New Mexico at home to move to 2-0 on the year, while the Bulldogs are now at 3-0 after destroying Arkansas State at home by a score of 55-0 last week.
Irish Will Look To Keep Playoff Hopes Alive
I know that this is just the 3rd game of the year for the Fighting Irish, but it will also be one of their most important. Notre Dame made it into the playoffs last year with an undefeated record, but a one-loss Notre Dame team will probably not make it over a one-loss SEC team or a one-loss Big 10 team. That makes this a probable elimination game for the Irish and the oddsmakers are not giving them much of a shot as ND is two-TD dogs in this contest. The last time these teams met was back in 2017 and the Irish came up a bit short in a 20-19 loss. Notre Dame finished that year at 10-3. This will be their toughest road game of the season, but they also have games at Michigan and Stanford down the line. I feel it will be tough for Notre Dame to make the playoffs this year and that is coming from one of the biggest Irish fans around.
Okay, enough of that chit chat. The Irish are off to a 2-0 start and after struggling in parts of their opening win over Louisville, they were able to put together a complete game as they beat New Mexico at home by a 66-14 score. That was against a low-level Mountain West team and not a high-level SEC team as the Irish will be facing in this one. Ian Book had some un against the Lobos as he threw for 360 yards with five TDs and no INTs in the contest. It will be tougher for him to come close to those numbers as the Bulldogs have one of the best defenses in the SEC. Georgia is 35th in pass defense, while the Irish are 19th in passing offense. Book will have to have a strong game as the Dawgs are 5th in the nation against the run, allowing just 60.7 ypg so far.
"It felt like I just got, like, all the Infinity Stones."
— Notre Dame Football (@NDFootball) September 16, 2019
The Irish have one of the better secondaries in the nation, at least according to Phil Steele they, and that has shown up in their rankings. The Irish come in ranked 12th in the nation against the pass (142.5 ypg), but they are 121st against the run (235 ypg) and that could be a problem here, as they are facing Georgia’s 8th ranked rushing offense. New Mexico switched from the Triple Option offense to a spread offense and they were still able to rumble for 212 yards on the Irish last week. If Notre Dame can’t stop the run here then their strong secondary will be severely tested by Jake Fromm.
Irish head coach Brian Kelly understands that this is a big challenge.
“They’re very good and (Georgia head coach) Kirby (Smart) is very smart. What he does really well is he matches up. His personnel is a matchup defense,” Kelly said. “He’s going to put guys in position that match up against our guys and they’re not very complicated defensively, but he does a really good job with his personnel. He’s going to match up his personnel against our guys and we’re going to have to see where we may need to support some of our players along the way. We’re going to have to make some protection checks. We’re gonna have to do some things along the way, but it’s not a very sophisticated defensive structure. It’s about personnel. He’s going to put his Jimmy’s and Joe’s against our guys and he’s going to put them in a position where they can succeed.”
Georgia Has Made It Look Easy So Far
The Georgia Bulldogs are off to a 3-0 start and ranked 3rd in the nation. Their offense ranks 7th in the nation in yards gained at 566 ypg, while ranking 10th in yards allowed at 243 ypg and 3rd in points allowed at 7.7 ppg. Now, we do have to note that the Bulldogs have done their damage against the worst team in the SEC (Vanderbilt), an FCS foe and Arkansas State, which is from the Sun Belt Conference. That is not a strong lineup of teams they have faced but make no mistake about it, this is a very strong Georgia team and it shows by how much they are favored by. This is a tough game for the Dawgs, but they still have roadies against Florida and Auburn down the line. Still, the Dawgs do not face Alabama in the regular season and if it came down to a one-loss Nore Dam team or a one-loss Georgia team, it would be the Dawgs going to the playoffs, unless Georgia’s one loss was was to the Irish.
Georgia checks in off a 55-0 win over Arkansas State last week as the Dawgs showed that they were not looking ahead to this game. Georgia has now outscored their three opponents 148-23. Yikes. The Dawgs rolled up 656 yards of total offense, including 388 yards through the air. Jake Fromm hit 17 of his 22 pass attempts for 279 yards with three TDs and no INTs, but that was against a Sun Belt team and not against the 7th ranked team in the nation with one of the best secondaries in the land. Fromm’s task will be tougher, but he does have a good ground game, which could help open up throwing lanes down the field. The Dawgs rumbled for 268 yards against the Red Wolves and at 8.1 yards per pop. The Irish could have a problem as they have not been able to stop the run this year so far. D’Andre Swift leads the team in rushing with 292 yards while posting two TDs.
— Georgia Football (@GeorgiaFootball) September 18, 2019
The Irish have looked good on offense so far, but they have not faced a defense like this yet. The Bulldogs have a truly rough and tough SEC defense and they will be looking to shut down Ian Book and company. The Dawgs have allowed just 23 points in the early going and on just 243 ypg of total offense, including just 60.7 ypg rushing. Still, Georgia the toughest team that the Dawgs have played has been Vanderbilt, which is the worst team in the SEC. The Irish can run or throw the ball and will be the best offense that the Dawgs have faced so far. Can Georgia shut down the Irish offense? Read on to find out.
Notre Dame is:
- 5-1-1 ATS vs. a team with a winning record
- 7-3-1 ATS in their last 11 games following a straight-up win of more than 20 points
- 2-6 ATS in their last 8 games after accumulating more than 280 yards passing in their previous game