Georgia Bulldogs (1-0 SU, 1-0 ATS) vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (1-0 SU, 1-0 ATS)
College Football Week 2
Date/Time: Saturday, September 9th, 7:30 PM
Where: Notre Dame Stadium
By Mike M., NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: GEO +6.5 / ND -6.5
Over/Under Total: 53.5
Notre Dame and Georgia meet this weekend for a Saturday night showdown in South Bend in what will be the first matchup between the teams since they played against each other in the 1981 Sugar Bowl, a game won by the Bulldogs behind a 150 yard, 2-touchdown performance by running back Herschel Walker.
Nearly four decades later the strategy remains the same for Georgia as they will likely rely heavily on their rushing attack this weekend against the Irish, especially with expected starting quarterback Jacob Eason having already been ruled out for Saturdays games thanks to a knee sprain suffered in their week one win against Appalachian State. As such, you can expect a healthy dose of the Bulldog backfield duo of Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, both of which started their seasons off well with Chubb rushing for 96 yards and two touchdowns and Michel going for 87 yards and a touchdown. Their volume of their carries has seemingly gone a long way toward determining Georgias success, as the team is 15-4 when Chubb gets at least 16 carries in a game, 8-2 when Michel has over 16 touches and 4-1 when they both get at least 15.
With Eason out for Saturday the Bulldogs will look toward Jake Fromm to lead the way again after successfully having replaced Eason midway through the 1st quarter when he the original starter was injured last week. From especially expressed impressed his teammates with his on the field poise and cool collectiveness in the pocket after completing 10 of 15 passes for 143 yards and a touchdown against the Mountaineers. Fromm is no stranger to the big stage as he was ranked as one of the top five quarterback recruits in the nation going into this season, and will need to be at his best this weekend in front of a hostile South Bend crowd, especially seeing that the already lackluster offensive line blocking in front of him took another hit with expected starter Solomon Kindley questionable to play Saturday thanks to a nagging ankle injury.
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Unfortunately for Georgia the injury bug is a bit of a concern for the defensive side as well, most notably in the backfield where starters Malkom Parrish and Arron Davis are both expected to miss the Notre Dame game with Parrish still dealing with a broken foot and Davis injured last week during the App State game. While the Bulldogs defense had little issue keeping the Mountaineers in check and likely would have gotten a shutout if not for two interceptions thrown by the Bulldogs third string quarterback Brice Ramsey, the one area of concern was when they allowed Appalachian quarterback Taylor Lamb to get into open space and have the option of making a play with either a QB scramble or a pass down field, which is something they will have a definite need to pay attention to due to the dual-threat ability of new Irish quarterback Brandon Wimbush.
The sophomore signal caller Wimbush is coming off his first ever game as a starter, a 49-16 trouncing of Temple that saw him complete 17 of 30 passes for 184 yards and two touchdowns to go along with one interception as he completed passes to eight different receivers on way to a cakewalk win. Wimbush was not alone with his rushing success, as he was one of three Irish players along with running backs Josh Adams and Dexter Williams to surpass the 100-yard mark on the ground against the Owls. Adams continues to pave the way as the lead back, rushing for 161 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries on Saturday and has now put up 441 yards and 4 touchdowns in his last three games while averaging nine yards per carry.
With both teams featuring strong running games and inexperience at the quarterback position, one of the most important matchups of the game will be how the offensive lines of each stack up against strong front sevens on both sides. While Georgias line is already dealing with the aforementioned injury and already lacking experience and strength, the Notre Dame one is a near opposite with four of five returning starters and all weighing an average of over 315 pounds per player. The Irish have outgained their opponent on the ground in all five of their wins since 2015, and whether they win or lose will likely be decided by how their line plays against dominant Georgia front seven highlighted by linebackers Roquan Smith, Lorenzo Carter and Davis Bellamy along with defensive linemen Jonathan Ledbetter and Trenton Thompson.
For the past four seasons in a row, the Notre Dame run defense has finished no better than 70th in the country in yards on the ground allowed per game. They have seemed to turn things around though since bringing in former Wake Forest defensive coordinator Mike Elko after it took Brian Kelly inexcusably to long to get rid of his predecessor Brian VanGorder, who along with Kelly was a majority of the reason why the team played so poorly to start last season with a 1-3 record and dig themselves a hole they could never get out of.
While this would a major stepping stone toward Notre Dame getting back to true relevance in the college football world, I can not in good conscious take them against a team of Georgias caliber, especially considering how badly the Irish have struggled in recent history against quality opponents. They are just 2-8 in their last ten games against Power 5 conference opponents, and in the last four seasons are just 3-9 against Top 20 teams, and in ten of those twelve matchups they were ranked themselves. Another issue they have faced the last couple of years under Kelly is how they have handled success, not having won back-to-back games since 2015 and going 0-7 against the spread in their last seven games after a win. Behind the ballistic Bulldog backfield of Chubb and Michel and a possible Wally Pipp situation at quarterback with freshman star Jake Fromm looking to become the biggest From since Abe Froman the Sausage King of Chicago, I am taking the points with Georgia against Notre Dame in South Bend.
Mike M’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Georgia +6.5
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