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Cold Weather Brings (Yellow) Jackets to South Bend

Saturday’s 28-3 routing of Virginia marked the ninth win for the Fighting Irish in a rather boring contest.  With the Cavaliers’ starting quarterback, Brennan Armstrong, ruled out due to the nagging rib injury, Virginia’s highly potent offense looked pedestrian at best.  For the second week in a row, Notre Dame’s defense did not give up a touchdown and the offense, without putting up any crazy numbers, did more than enough to take care of business.  This Notre Dame team seems to be finding its groove, getting better each week while still getting significant reps to the younger playmakers; something that bodes well for the future of the Irish.

Although the Cavaliers’ time of possession was greater than that of the Irish, Notre Dame’s drives were significantly more efficient.  The rotation of Coan and Buchner was on display again, Coan completing 15 of his 20 passing attempts for 132 yards in the air and three touchdowns, while Buchner tacked on another three completions for 42 yards with another 10 yards coming on the ground.  Kyren Williams continues to be an absolute blast to watch, putting up 70 yards on his 14 carries; and as mentioned with the Irish getting reps to the underclassmen, freshman running back Logan Diggs added nine carries for 64 yards – and an impressive “Dukes of Hazzard-esque” hurdle slide right over a Virginia defender.  Michael Mayer, Kevin Austin Jr., and Braden Lenzy all tacked on receiving touchdown as well. 

Defensively, Bo Bauer led the Irish with nine total tackles, while the Irish put up seven sacks, two interceptions, and one fumble recovery as a unit.  Notre Dame’s defensive line continues to wreak havoc in the opponent’s backfield, setting the foundation for this defensive success.  Although the 28-3 outcome is nothing to be disappointed about as a Notre Dame fan, this game felt like it very easily could have been a 42-3 outcome.  Should the Irish have put up more “style points” for the College Football Playoff Committee?  That’s a question that I will leave for you to debate, but either way, the Irish were able to improve to 9-1 on the year and come out of Charlottesville without any other significant injuries along the way.

 For the fifth season in a row, the Irish will be going for 10+ wins, an accomplishment that should not be overlooked.  Brian Kelly has set this program up for success and the only thing standing in the way of accomplishing this tenth win is the 3-7 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.  The Irish are coming into Saturday’s matchup as just over a two-touchdown favorite, with the Yellow Jackets giving up right around 30 points per game.  Georgia Tech will be searching for their first win since an early October matchup against Duke, a contest in which the Yellow Jackets won 31-27. 

Georgia Tech is usually led by sophomore quarterback Jeff Sims who is not afraid to pick up yardage with both his arm and his legs.  Sims has tallied up just shy of 1500 yards through the air this year and is the Yellow Jackets’ second leading rusher with another 372 yards on the ground.  To go along with Sims, another freshman running back, Jahmyr Gibbs, is not only the Jackets’ leading rusher – with 687 yards on the ground – but also their leading receiver with 469 yards through the air.  Gibbs is a dynamic playmaker that is responsible for a lot of production on the offensive side of the ball for Georgia Tech, leading the nation in all-purpose yards.  With that being said, Sims’ recent struggles will most likely mean that redshirt freshman quarterback Jordan Yates will either get the start or significant minutes against the Irish.  The Yellow Jackets’ offensive line has been shaky, and I expect the continually improving Irish defense to rack up another impressive performance this weekend.   

What would constitute success this weekend for the Irish?  In addition to the tenth win of the season, I would love to see Tyler Buchner get more playing time.  With Georgia Tech and Stanford remaining on Notre Dame’s schedule for this regular season, it’s time to give Buchner multiple drives, allow him to get in a rhythm, and continue to develop rapport with the “ones”, getting a jump start for next season.  I expect this game to go similarly to that of this past week, the Irish are the more talented team and need to go out and take care of business (without suffering any other major injuries, fingers crossed).  As long as the Irish play to their potential, there is no reason that this game should be close.  I’m predicting a 38-10 Notre Dame victory to wrap up the regular season at home and send the Irish seniors out with one more W in Notre Dame Stadium.  Go Irish.  Beat Yellow Jackets.

A Look at Notre Dame’s Opponents:

Florida State: 4-6 overall, beat Miami (FL) 31-28

Toledo: 6-5 overall, beat Ohio 35-23

Purdue: 6-4 overall, lost to Ohio State 59-31

Wisconsin: 7-3 overall, beat Northwestern 35-7

Cincinnati: 10-0 overall, beat South Florida 45-28

Virginia Tech: 5-5 overall, beat Duke 48-17

USC: 4-5 overall, coming off bye week 

North Carolina: 5-5 overall, lost to Pittsburgh 30-23 (OT)

Navy: 2-7 overall, coming off bye week

Virginia: 6-4 overall, lost to Notre Dame 28-3

Georgia Tech: 3-7 overall, lost to Boston College 41-30

Stanford: 3-7 overall, lost to Oregon State 35-14