Utah Utes (8-1 SU, 6-2-1 ATS) vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (4-5 SU, 2-5-2 ATS), 2:30 p.m. EST, College Football Week 11, Saturday, November 13, 2010, Notre Dame Stadium, Notre Dame, Indiana
By Scotty L of Predictem.com
Betting Odds: Utes -5.5/ND +5.5
Over/Under Total: 53.5
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On Saturday afternoon, the Utes of Utah travel to Indiana to take on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Neither team has much wind in their sails at the moment. Notre Dame is floundering at 4-5 looking to find their way, while Utah looks to recover from a demoralizing defeat on Saturday. It’s one of those crossroads games where any number of outcomes seems possible.
Mere days ago, Utah was sitting pretty with a number-5 ranking and an 8-0 record. They had an identity as a good team with the potential for greatness. While a national championship game probably seemed out of the question, a special year was very possible. Juxtapose that sentiment with their current feeling and it’s quite a tumble. Losing 47-7 to TCU (at home no less!) was as deflating as it gets. They were taken out of the game quickly and only managed a 4th quarter touchdown after the game had been well-decided.
Where does Utah go from here? It could go one of two ways. A flatness could manifest in light of the crestfallen feeling radiating throughout the locker room or they could become good and irritated. The big bowl games are probably out of reach, but if Utah wins out, they will have managed a heck of a season. Last season, they rebounded from another TCU beating by covering against San Diego State the next week. Then again, Notre Dame is no San Diego State-even in their current compromised state.
The Fighting Irish have dropped 2 straight and lost starting quarterback Dayne Crist for the rest of the season. They have had 2 weeks off and return Saturday with quarterback Tommy Rees, who had 334 yards and 4 touchdowns in relief of Crist against Tulsa. He did throw 3 picks and they lost the game, but maybe the new look will give the Irish a much needed boost. Notre Dame is normally dangerous or at least more lively even in their down years, but this squad has been downright flat at times.
The Notre Dame running game is a point of concern. Crist led the team in rushing touchdowns, which is not a good sign. Now leading rusher Armando Allen is out. This team needs some new blood to step up, but maybe that’s a good thing. Crist and Allen were capable, but it started to become problematic whether they were going to become the faces of a Notre Dame resurgence. From adversity comes opportunity and perhaps Rees and a few guys can step up and right the ship.
Utah’s loss to TCU is the kind of setback that can cast a glow of doubt on the validity of their 8-0 record going into that game. Fair enough, but Utah did beat decent teams in Pittsburgh and Air Force. They put up 68 points to an Iowa State team that Nebraska edged by a single point last week. Utah has put up 50+ points in 4 games. Nevertheless, the impression that they built up a big record and ranking by beating softies is not an entirely unjustified one.
Improving Utes QB Jordan Wynn has a 65% completion percentage with 14 touchdowns. Running backs Eddie Wide (107-523-9) and Matt Asiata (110-515-6) make for a nice 1-2 punch. Receivers Jerome Brooks (40-466-4) and DeVonte Christopher (32-572-5) are having good campaigns. Their defense, despite last week’s flogging, is still ranked in the top-15 in yards against and points allowed. If they can shake off last week’s loss, this is still a pretty good team.
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We have the first ever meeting and a difficult matchup to size up between these two teams. At first glance, you have an 8-1 team facing a 4-5 team and only laying 5.5 points. Obviously, the feeling is that even a banged-up and sub-.500 Notre Dame team is in good stead with a Mountain West standout. Notre Dame was competitive with Michigan State, a team that might be better than Utah, and even beat fellow victim Pittsburgh by a few more points.
Scotty L’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Notre Dame has some advantages going into this game. They are at home. They had 2 weeks to prepare. After not getting much of anywhere with Crist, the newness of Rees at QB could give them a little spark, a sense of a new beginning. Utah, conversely, is stewing in the negativity a bit and might not quite be at their best on Sunday. I look for a little more pep from the Fighting Irish, on their way to a cover or perhaps an outright win. Take the Notre Dame Fighting Irish plus 5.5 points.