Nevada Wolf Pack(1-0 SU, 0-1 ATS) vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish(0-1 SU, 0-1 ATS)
College Football Week 2
Date/Time: Saturday, September 10th, 3:30 PM
Where: Notre Dame Stadium
by Mike Mann, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: NEV +27.5/ND -27.5
Over/Under Total: 60.5
The Nevada Wolf Pack head to Indiana to take on Notre Dame for an early September Saturday showdown in South Bend. The Irish will be looking to get their season back on track after losing 50-47 in double overtime against Texas last week in Austin. Notre Dame was down by ten in the second quarter and as much as seventeen in the third quarter before DeShone Kizer put the team on his back and got them into a position to win, only to have the coaching staff repeatedly make questionable decisions that ended up being the teams’ undoing. For whatever reason head coach Brian Kelly insisted on rotating his two quarterbacks on alternative possessions, despite the fact that – 1) Kizer was playing night-and-day better then his counterpart Malik Zaire, and 2) two quarterback systems rarely if ever work and usually end up causing significantly more problems then they solve (the lone exception being Florida in 2006 when they used both Tim Tebow and Chris Leak, and that was only successful because they had a great coach in Urban Meyer and a stacked squad of skill position players, something that Notre Dame is severely lacking in for this season). To make matters worse for the Irish they will likely be without wide receiver Torii Hunter Jr. for this weekend’s game and possibly beyond after he suffered a vicious helmet-to-helmet hit in the end zone that was somehow not reviewed by game officials for targeting, which I guess isn’t that much of a surprise considering it was a hometown, Big 12 officials in charge of the booth. For a sport intent on acting like player safety is paramount, it was an unfortunate and suspect oversight by the refs.
Clear missed call or not, Notre Dame has only themselves to blame for this loss most notably defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder, who managed to outdumb head coach Kelly’s two quarterback system and take the crown as the Buffoon Brian of the night for his complete idiocy in continuous failed attempts to stop Texas quarterbacks Tyrone Swoopes and freshman Steve Buechele. It was especially frustrating with Swoopes, who everyone knew would be running the ball on nearly every play, yet VanGorder continuously looked past that glaringly obvious fact by trying to defend against him with passing defenses, which allowed the quarterback to spark his team by running 13 times for 53 yards and 3 touchdowns….while attempting just ONE pass the entire game. It was like watching the 2006 National Championship all over again, with everyone knowing Vince Young was going to run on the final play against USC but Pete Carroll and his coaching staff were too clueless to stop it. It was especially frustrating for Irish fans to read Longhorns coach Charlie Strong say in a postgame interview that when Zaire was in the game as quarterback for Notre Dame that Texas would stack their defensive up front knowing a run was on the way. If only the bewildered Brians could have had that same sort of insight.
After throwing for five touchdowns last week against the Longhorns, DeShone Kizer appears to have distanced himself enough from an ineffective Malik Zaire which should hopefully put to rest the quarterback shuffling and provide some much needed consistency to an offense in clear need of some stability. The wide receiver corps was already lacking going into the year with Hunter the only returning player at his position to finish in the top seven in receptions from a season ago, and for however long he will be out due to the concussion will leave an even larger gap at receiver. To offset that lack of depth the Irish will need their running game to improve on their opening week performance. Starter Tarean Folston looked great on the first drive after busting out a 54 yard run to set up Notre Dame for their first touchdown, but from that point on ran 17 times for only 34 yards and a measly two yards per carry average. He will get plenty of chances on the ground this weekend against a Nevada team that struggled against a subpar competition in their season opener, especially against the run.
The Wolf Pack (not be confused with the one-word Wolfpack of NC State or the NWO) barely got past FBS divisional team Cal-Poly at home last week, needing overtime before finally putting them away 30-27 in a game they were favored to win by more than three touchdowns. With ten returning starters to their offense many expected Nevada to put up big numbers to start the game against such a lowly opponent, and they appeared to be living up to those expectations after scoring two touchdowns in the first six minutes of the game to go up 14-0 early and an eventual 21-7 lead at the end of the first quarter. From that point on their point productivity ground to a halt, managing just three points over the next 45 minutes of play before scoring in overtime to escape with a win.
Despite Nevada’s struggles for the last 75% of regulation, Notre Dame cannot afford to take their offense lightly. The Wolf Pack not only have the aforementioned experience of ten starters returning (which is two more than the Irish have on their entire team), but that doesn’t even include their best player in running back James Butler, who led the team with 1,342 yards rushing and ten touchdowns in 2015 despite starting just one game and now has the added benefit of going behind the same core of offensive lineman that helped open holes for his strong season a year ago. Another beneficiary of their familiar front five was and will be senior quarterback Tyler Stewart, who last week completed 17 of 23 passed for 189 yards along with two touchdowns and zero interceptions while completing 17 of 23 passes and can look forward to going against a depleted Notre Dame secondary that struggled last week while unmistakably missing expected starter at safety Max Redfield, who was thrown off the team in late August after being arrested for misdemeanor counts of possession of marijuana and carrying a handgun without a license.
The Wolf Pack defense will need to improve after letting a raw Cal Poly team run all over them for 383 yards, as the Mustangs nearly pulled the road upset on Nevada at Mackay Stadium in Reno. This will be especially pivotal against Notre Dame, who has issue at the wide receiver spot and will likely rely heavily on their backfield tandem of Tarean Folston and Josh Adams. While The ‘Pack may be full of experience on offense, their defense isn’t close the same, with only one returning starter to their front seven and only two of their top eight back in tackles from 2015. Though head coach Brian Polian doesn’t seem too concerned, after barely squeaking by Cal Poly last week he was quoted as saying “I’m not alarmed, I’m pleased”. Odd choice of words all things considered, but in recent years logic hasn’t been a strong suit of the Polian family as his father is notorious hypocrite and whiner Bill Polian, ex-president of the Indianapolis Colts and now analyst for the network bankrupt on any NFL credibility that isn’t fantasy football related, ESPN.
If you are fan of wagering trends, odds are the Wolf Pack will be your pick on Saturday. Against the spread Nevada is 6-1 in their last seven as a road underdog, 7-2 in their last nine as a double-digit dog and 4-1 in their last five getting 20+ points. Notre Dame is a near opposite versus the line, especially when laying a lot of points as they are in this week’s game, going 4-11 in their last fifteen games when giving 14 or more points, 3-9 in their last 12 at home giving 14 or more points, 1-4 at home in their last five giving 20+ points, while also not responding well to defeat, covering just twice in their last seven games after a loss. The only past performance I care about for Saturday is last week, and while both teams struggled I expect Notre Dame to enter the game with a giant chip on their shoulder after losing to Texas and take advantage of their run game advantage against Nevada and come away with a resounding win in South Bend.
Mike M's Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Notre Dame -27.5
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