Notre Dame (1-0 SU, 1-0 ATS) vs. Virginia (0-1 SU, 0-0-1 ATS)
College Football Week 2
Date/Time: Saturday, September 12th, 3:30 PM EST
Where: Scott Stadium
by Mike M., NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: ND-12 / UVA+12
Over/Under Total: 47
Notre Dame travels to Virginia to take on the Cavaliers in the first matchup of the teams since the 1989 Kickoff Classic when the Irish opened the season as defending National Champions and won going away 36-13 thanks in large part to the offensive trio of Tony Rice, Ricky Watters and Rocket Ismael. The Irish were an 18.5 point favorite in the game sixteen years ago and are giving 12 points in the 2015 version, a line that quickly moved up from 10 when it originally opened.
Optimism for a return to title glory is running rampant among the ND faithful, as the team opened the season with a 38-3 home victory in an absolute dismantling of Texas that the Irish dominated in every facet. They held the Longhorns to only 163 yards of total offense, the lowest output of any FBS team in week one of the college football season. Offensively the Irish were led by quarterback Malik Zaire, the first left handed signal caller in team history, who was given plenty of time in the pocket by his offensive line to systematically pick apart the Texas defense, throwing for 313 yards and three touchdowns while completing 19 of 22 passes for a 86.4 completion percentage, the second highest rate ever for a Notre Dame quarterback. This marks the second straight game of such proficiency for Zaire, as he ended last season by winning Music City Bowl MVP in a victory against LSU that saw him complete 12 of 15 passes(80%) and a touchdown. Its becoming more and more evident that scouting prognosticators were correct when they ranked Zaire as the third highest rated duel-threat quarterback coming out of high school, and his ability to carefully manage each possession while committing zero turnovers was a welcome relief from last years second half turnover fest by departed quarterback Everett Golson.
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The win did come with a loss for Notre Dame as starting running back Tarean Foster tore his ACL in the first quarter and will be gone for the season. The team was already short at the position with the dismissal of second-stringer Greg Bryant due to academic issues, but thankfully two other backs stepped up and rather than shy away from the run after the early injury to Foster the team instead ran it 52 times, the most ever attempts in a game under Brian Kelly as head coach. True freshman Josh Adams, who the team was originally going to redshirt, was called upon and delivered immediately, rushing for two touchdowns and 49 yards on only five carries. His backfield mate C.J. Proise, who played high school football in Virginia and was originally recruited to play safety and just recently converted to running back from playing the slot wide receiver position, got the lion share of the carries, rushing for 98 yards on 20 attempts and appears to be the teams answer as the next man up as starter at running back.
Establishing a power running game was a key for Virginia this year after the teams rushing attack ranked a miserable 97th in the country last year and with an experienced offensive line hope was high that they would be able to make that happen in 2015. Unfortunately for Cavalier fans, both their offensive and defensive lines played poorly in week one as their team lost a cross-country battle in Los Angeles against UCLA 34-16. There was little success on the ground as the team was held under 100 rushing yards for the game and their defensive line was just as porous, as they allowed freshman phenom Josh Rosen to start his college career off with a bang as he threw all over them for 351 yards and three touchdowns while completing 28 of his 35 passing attempts.
While the Cavaliers did score a late touchdown to give their bettors a push on the 18 points spread, it was the only real highlight of the day for the team. Three times in the first half they managed to cross midfield, but they managed only field goals on each of the possessions. If you take away the final touchdown drive of the game when UCLA was playing waste the clock prevent defense, Virginia had 23 plays on offensive on the Bruins side of the field and only amassed 81 yards, an average of just 3.5 yards per play.
There is some hope for Virginia this week against Notre Dame. The game is on their home field where they have been surprisingly tough of late, going 6-1 against the spread in their last seven games at Charlottesville. Their opponent has had near opposite success away from the friendly confines of their home in South Bend, as Notre Dame has only won three roads games over the past two seasons and has gone just 2-6 against the line in their last eight away from home. The team will also be playing with a sense of urgency, as head coach Mike London is certainly feeling the heat after such a poor showing in their season opener, dropping his recent record to 11-28 since the end of 2012. A double-digit loss at home would make the seat even hotter for London and would more than likely be the beginning of the end of his career as UVA.
While I expect Virginia to give Notre Dame a stronger test then Texas did a week ago, it is difficult not to side with the road favorite Irish in this one. They have the offensive fire power to put up the necessary points and if the line blocks anywhere close to as well as they did last week they should be able to provide Malik Zaire enough time in the pocket to continue his precision passing and effectively exploit the defensive issues for the Cavaliers. In their first of six games against ACC opponents in 2015, Notre Dame wins and covers playing their first game in the state of Virginia in team history.
Mikes Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Notre Dame -12. Make ND an 8 point underdog (or Virginia a +32 underdog) by placing either into a massive 20 point college football teaser only offered at 5Dimes!