Washington Huskies (2-2) vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (3-1), Notre Dame Stadium, South Bend, Indiana, Saturday, Oct. 3rd, 3:30 PM Eastern, NBC
By Z-Man of Predictem.com
Point Spread: Washington Huskies +13/Notre Dame Fighting Irish -13
Notre Dame’s Fighting Irish, having just finished the Big 10 portion of their schedule, begin the PAC-10 part of their slate when they host the unpredictable Washington Huskies Saturday afternoon in South Bend.
Most sportsbooks opened Notre Dame as home chalk of 13 1/2-14 points. But as of Tuesday afternoon that number had been bet down to 13 almost universally. And with some questions surrounding the health and status of some people on both sides, and with a chance of some inclement weather hitting the South Bend area this weekend, most books have held off on posting a total on this game.
Washington, with 18 starters back this year, including 10 on defense, opened this season by hanging tough with LSU as 18-point home underdogs, losing 31-23 but covering the line. The Huskies actually outgained the Tigers 478-321 and held a 37-23 time-of-possession advantage. But they also gave up a touchdown on an INT return and two scores on medium-long pass plays. That game went over its total of 52 when Washington scored a meaningless TD on the last play of the game.
U-Dub then broke a 15-game losing streak with a 42-23 win over Idaho. But the Huskies got outgained by the Vandals and coughed up the cover as 20-point home chalk when they gave up a meaningless score in the final 15 seconds. That game also went over its total of 53.
Washington then pulled one of the upsets of the year so far this season when it beat USC two weeks ago 16-13 as 20-point home dogs, despite getting outrushed 250-56. The Huskies then followed that up with a stinker, allowing a game-opening kickoff return for a touchdown on their way to a 3414 loss at Stanford last Saturday night. Washington got outrushed 321-99, and could not cover the spread as 9 1/2-point dogs on the road.
Notre Dame, which returned 15 starters this year, including nine on offense, opened this season with a 35-0 shutout of Nevada, easily covering the spread as 14 1/2-point home chalk. The Irish then visited the Big House, where they lost to the Wolverines in the waning seconds 38-34 as three-point road faves. Notre Dame then turned the table on Michigan State, scoring the game-winner on a 33-yard Jimmy Clausen TD pass with five minutes to go for a 33-30 win over the Spartans. But they couldn’t cover as 10 1/2-point home favorites. And last week, after blowing a 10-point halftime lead, the Irish rallied to score with less than 30 seconds left to beat Purdue in West Lafayette 24-21. But again, Notre Dame could not cover the spread, this time as 6 1/2-point road chalk.
Last year the Irish defense gave up an average of 330 yards of offense per game. In their three-game stretch through the Big 10, they allowed 430 yards to Michigan, 459 yards to Michigan State and 363 yards to the Boilermakers. Then again, the Notre Dame offense averaged 437 yards.
Washington QB Jake Locker, who missed the last eight games of last season because of a thumb injury, has completed 58% of his pass attempts this season for a 7.4 YPA average, with six TDs and three picks. His counterpart Saturday, Notre Dame’s Clausen, has completed 66% of his throws this year for a healthy 9.6 YPA, with 10 scores and just one INT. But he has been bothered the last couple weeks by turf toe.
These two teams met last October out in Seattle, where Notre Dame dominated the Locker-less Huskies, winning 33-7. The Irish ran for 252 yards, and Washington’s offense didn’t even cross midfield until halfway through the fourth quarter, as Notre Dame covered the pointspread as 8 1/2-point favorites on the road. The game also stayed well under its total of 55.
The Sagarin PREDICTOR ratings at USAToday.com ranks the Irish 25th at 80.3, Washington 57th at 73.1. Sagarin’s current college football home-field advantage rating sits at 2.9.
Zman’s Pick: I like Notre Dame to cover the number here.