College football forecast: Bulldogs to get fight from Irish

Matt Youmans  
VSiN senior editor

September 21, 2019 04:34 AM
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Two years ago as a freshman, Jake Fromm made his first career start as the Georgia quarterback and guided the underdog Bulldogs to a 20-19 win at Notre Dame.
© USA Today Sports Images

Jake Fromm has come a long way in two years, and this is the time to remember where he started.

As a freshman, Fromm made his first career start as the Georgia quarterback and guided the underdog Bulldogs to a 20-19 win at Notre Dame.

It’s often said that every time the Irish step up to challenge elite teams — Clemson, Alabama and other Southeastern Conference powers — they get embarrassed and outclassed. Brian Kelly is a good coach, but he’s not a heavyweight contender, right? Obviously, that narrow loss to Georgia was not a walk of shame for Notre Dame, which is 23-3 since losing to a Bulldogs team that went on to the national championship game.

The negative perception of Notre Dame’s ability to compete on the highest level comes from its blowout loss to Alabama in the 2013 title game and a 30-3 loss to Clemson in last season’s playoffs. Those beatings put black eyes on Kelly, but it’s easy for some to forget the Irish dropped a 24-22 decision at Clemson in 2015 and beat Louisiana State in a bowl game two years ago. The lines between fact and fiction often get blurred.

Fromm and the Bulldogs are big home favorites over the Irish on Saturday night. Over the summer, the line opened at 11½. The South Point was the first Las Vegas sportsbook to go to 15 on Friday night. Georgia has rolled to victories over Vanderbilt, Murray State and Arkansas State by a combined score of 148-23, so the betting public is all over the SEC favorite while disrespecting the ‘dog.

Fromm has completed 75 percent of his passes, and D’Andre Swift leads a talented stable of runners for the Bulldogs, who could wear down the Irish defense. But Kelly will counter with Ian Book, a veteran quarterback with big-game experience, and an offense capable of controlling the ball and keeping this within the inflated spread.

My numbers project the Bulldogs by 10 (37-27), so I’ll take the 15 points.

Six more plays for Saturday (Home team in CAPS):

315-Charlotte (plus-42) over CLEMSON: Trevor Lawrence is off to a relatively slow start and the Tigers have scored more than 41 points only once in three games. Clemson could be a bored team that’s coasting against a weak schedule. The 49ers are averaging 47.3 points, also against a soft schedule, but this is a good offensive team with the ability to score and sneak in the back door if that’s needed.

343-Michigan (plus-3½) over WISCONSIN: The Wolverines have shown shortcomings on both sides of the ball, which is part of the reason this line has flipped so far. In July, the Westgate SuperBook opened Michigan as a 7½-point favorite in Madison. The other reason is a ratings upgrade for the Badgers, who pounded South Florida and Central Michigan by a combined 110-0. Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson will need to step it up to prevent coach Jim Harbaugh from dropping yet another big game. I have some doubts about the Wolverines and have waffled on this game, but the 11-point line adjustment is too much to pass up.

351-Colorado (plus-8) over ARIZONA STATE: This is a tricky spot for the Sun Devils off their upset win at Michigan State, and it’s also a big number to lay against a better offense. The Buffaloes have a veteran quarterback in Steven Montez and arguably the best player on the field in wide receiver Laviska Shenault. Arizona State is averaging just 19.7 points behind freshman QB Jayden Daniels.

368-TEXAS A&M (-3½) over Auburn: Bo Nix, the Tigers’ freshman quarterback, struggled for most of a neutral-field opener against Oregon and is connecting on only 52.4 percent of his passes. Nix’s first road start could be a rude awakening. The A&M defense held up well against Lawrence in a 24-10 loss at Clemson two weeks ago. It’s payback time for the Aggies, who were stunned 28-24 at Auburn last year after allowing 14 points in the final 5½ minutes.

376-TEXAS (-7) over Oklahoma State: Longhorns quarterback Sam Ehlinger passed for 401 yards, rushed for 60 and accounted for five touchdowns in a shootout against LSU. Ehlinger should shred the untested Cowboys, who faced a weak nonconference schedule.

(I played Texas at -5½ this week and do not like recommending this play at the current number, but it’s one of my strongest plays. Another option is a six-point teaser that pairs Texas with Washington, a 6½-point favorite at BYU.)

400-SAN DIEGO STATE (plus-4) over Utah State: The Aggies were expected to be potent on offense and that has held true through two games, a shootout loss at Wake Forest and a 62-7 victory over Stony Brook. Led by quarterback Jordan Love and running back Jaylen Warren, Utah State totaled 717 yards last week against a weak FCS-level defense. San Diego State, while nothing spectacular on the offensive side of the ball, does attack with one of the Mountain West’s best defenses. Rocky Long’s defense blanked Weber State before allowing 14 points to UCLA and 10 to New Mexico State. All three Aztecs games have stayed under the total. Long is typically a better bet as a ‘dog, covering four of his past five in that role.

Last week: 7-1 against the spread

Season: 11-12

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