8:00 PM EST, CBS – Line: Georgia -14.5, Over/Under: 58
A weekend loaded with Top-25 matchups concludes with it’s biggest, as the No. 3 Georgia Bulldogs play host to the No. 7 Notre Dame Fighting Irish, from Sanford Stadium in Athens, Georgia. The scheduling gods have granted Notre Dame (2-0) a real boon heading into this meeting with Georgia, granting them a week off for what is looking like the most important fixture on their schedule. Any potential victory over an SEC opponent, particularly a powerhouse such as the Bulldogs, will no doubt go a long way towards making an impression on the CFP Selection Committee, as Brian Kelly tries to steer his troops back to the Playoff for a second consecutive season. After getting off to a slow start in their 35-17 victory over Louisville in the season Opener, the Fighting Irish looked far more polished in their second outing of the year, a 66-14 thumping of New Mexico, who were without former Notre Dame Head Coach, Bob Davie (1997-2001). Polished may not even begin to describe it, for Kelly’s charges erupted for thirty-one points in the Second Quarter, with Senior Quarterback, Ian Book (61.7%, 553 YDS, 11.8 Y/R, 6 TD, 0 INT) accounting for Four Touchdowns, three passing and one rushing, leading the charge. On the day, Book completed 15-of-24 Passes for 360 Yards and Five Touchdowns, while rushing for another Forty-Six Yards and a score on Nine Carries. Ten different players caught a pass, including Chase Claypool (9 REC, 190 YDS, 21.1 Y/R, 1 TD) hauling in Four Passes for Ninety-Six Yards and a Touchdown, Javon McKinley (3 REC, 96 YDS, 32.0 Y/R, 1 TD) reeling in Two Receptions for Eighty-Five Yards, both of which were scores, and Braden Lenzy (2 REC, 74 YDS, 37.0 Y/R, 1 TD), who added another Two Catches for Seventy-Four Yards and a Touchdown. Credit to the Receiving Corps for making the most of Book’s throws; three of his scoring strikes traveled fifty or more yards, with two of them coming off of short Shovel Passes to open Receivers, who in turn made the most of some excellent blocking to open up space downfield. Defensively, the hosts did relinquish 212 Rushing Yards and a pair of Touchdowns on Forty-Two Attempts (including 54-136 in the First Half), but routinely halted the Lobos’ drives, with Four Turnovers, three of which were Interceptions, each coming within the First Half. Freshman Defensive Back, Kyle Hamilton (6 TKL, 1 INT, 1 TD, 2 PD) opened up his team’s account, returning their first Interception Thirty-Four Yards for a score early in the First Quarter. There is no doubt that Kelly & Co. will be searching for payback in this particular excursion into Athens, for when they met two years ago at South Bend, the hosts came up short by the narrowest of margins in a 19-20 defeat, which coincidentally marked the last time that they fell at home. On that day, the hosts struggled mightily to move the football, accumulating a scant 265 Total Yards of Offense, relying up Four Field Goals to take the lead, before the visitors struck back late with a kick of their own, sealing the outcome of the affair in the process. This is the start of a crucial stretch for the Irish, who following tonight’s meeting with the Bulldogs, will welcome No. 21 Virginia before facing off against USC and No. 11 Michigan in successive weeks, the latter of those annual matchups being in Ann Arbor.
Meanwhile, tonight’s affair presents the first true challenge of the season for Georgia (3-0, 0-0 in SEC), who in the early stages is one of three denizens of the Southeast Conference to occupy a place in the Top-Five of the AP Poll. Indeed, the Bulldogs must be chomping at the bit for an opportunity against the Fighting Irish, whom in many ways launched not only the career of Jake Fromm (75.0%, 601 YDS, 10.7 Y/A, 5 TD, 0 INT), but Georgia’s ascension to the National Championship Game two years ago. Back on September 9th, 2017, a young Fromm was making his first start following an injury to Jacob Eason (who has since transferred), as Kirby Smart’s charges arrived at South Bend sitting at No. 15 in the Rankings, looking to make a statement against No. 24 Notre Dame. And make a statement they did, as Fromm & Co. grinded their way to a narrow 20-19 victory, in which the visiting side controlled the flow of action, churning out 185 Rushing Yards on Forty-Two Carries, overcoming a Dozen Penalties for a loss of 127 Yards in the process. The young Quarterback handled himself better than expected in a hostile atmosphere, completing 16-of-29 Passes for just 141 Yards, a Touchdown and an Interception, putting together an excellent drive inside the final five minutes of play setting up a 30-Yard Field Goal to steal the victory courtesy of Rodrigo Blankenship. With that triumph serving as his first as Starter, Fromm has gone to put together a 26-5 record (.838), including a perfect 14-0 mark at Sanford Stadium. Since that fateful meeting in South bend, the Junior Signal-Caller has improved with each passing season, improving his accuracy (Plus-7.6%), Yards per Attempt (Plus-1.7), and decision-making (Zero Interceptions). Thus far, Georgia has been met with very little resistance, rolling over the likes of Vanderbilt (30-6), Murray State (63-17), and most recently Arkansas State (55-0) with relative ease. Offensively, they’ve averaged 49.3 Points (9th Overall) per Game on a ridiculously balanced 566.0 Total Yards, including 278.7 Yards through the air, and another 287.3 on the ground. As has been the case for years, this school features a host of capable rushers in a deep Backfield, featuring five different Tailbacks with at least 100 Rushing Yards logging at least 5.8 Yards per Attempt. Though he’s waited quite a while, Junior Rusher, D’Andre Swift (31 CAR, 292 YDS, 9.4 Y/C, 2 TD) sits atop a loaded depth chart, averaging 97.3 Yards per Game on an explosive 9.4 Yards per Carry. In last weekend’s drubbing of Arkansas State, the Bulldogs amassed 268 Rushing Yards and Four Touchdowns on Thirty-Three Carries, with Swift accounting for Seventy-Six Yards, while Kenny McIntosh (13 CAR, 128 YDS, 9.8 Y/C, 1 TD) added Sixty-Seven Yards and a score on Four Carries, and James Cook (8 CAR, 103 YDS, 12.9 Y/C, 2 TD) chipped in with Fifty-One Yards on Three Attempts. Swift, who has proven in the past to possess plenty of potential in the passing game, hauled in a pair of Receptions for Sixty-Four Yards and a Touchdown. Defensively, Smart’s troops dominated, allowing just 220 Total Yards, forcing the Red Wolves to go Three-&-Out on four occasions in the First Half, and permitted them to cross midfield only once on the day. Indeed, this meeting with Notre Dame, which would only be the third between the historic programs, and the first to be contested in Athens, should provide an accurate assessment for both, with the victor likely to scale the rungs of the rankings as a result. Of course, the Bulldogs have met great fortune when in combat with the Irish; in addition to their classic two years ago, Georgia’s lone National Championship came at the expense of Notre Dame back in the 1981 Sugar Bowl.