In the old days, the quarterback at Notre Dame was a household name. Nowadays, he’s just a guy trying to stay out of Brian Kelly’s doghouse and get the Fighting Irish to a lackluster bowl game.
After a 4-8 season, Kelly is in the coaching doghouse, too. But he can poke his head out and buy some job security by beating Georgia on Saturday.
It’s too soon to say the Irish, who opened the season with a 49-16 victory over Temple, are back. The Owls, with a new coach and quarterback, are obviously down. The Bulldogs are in a different league, that being the Southeastern Conference, and they bring a fast, physical defense and running attack sure to give Notre Dame a true test.
In his first start for the Irish, Brandon Wimbush showed he will be a running threat (12 carries, 106 yards) and solid passer (17 of 30, 184 yards, two touchdowns). He’s not close to being a household name or resembling DeShone Kizer yet, and Kizer struggled last season in Kelly’s offense. Kizer will start his first NFL game Sunday for the Cleveland Browns.
Georgia is also breaking in a new quarterback. Jacob Eason, the veteran who started last week against Appalachian State, is expected to miss the rest of this month with a sprained left knee. Jake Fromm played well in relief, completing 10 of 15 passes for 143 yards and one touchdown. Fromm is a freshman but he should be able to handle the pressure, because he’ll get plenty of help.
The Bulldogs will rely more on their stud running backs, Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, to carry the mail. Chubb and Michel combined for 31 carries and 183 yards a week ago.
Kelly has been a money-burning home favorite lately, going 3-5 against the spread in his past eight in South Bend, including bad losses to Michigan State, Duke, Stanford and Virginia Tech last year. This is a big game for Kelly, but he flopped in plenty of other big games.
In June, South Point sports book director Chris Andrews opened Georgia as a 1-point favorite in this matchup. Eason’s injury, plus an impressive first outing by the Irish, triggered a major adjustment. The line opened at 6½ this week before dropping as low as 4.
Chubb, Michel and the better defense should give the Bulldogs a good shot to win as 5½-point road underdogs. With some luck, Notre Dame will win by a field goal.
Other plays: Fresno State (plus-44) over ALABAMA; TEXAS (-25) over San Jose State; MISSOURI (-3) over South Carolina; Auburn (plus-5½) over CLEMSON; Oklahoma (plus-7½) over OHIO STATE; Stanford (plus-6) over USC; ARIZONA STATE (-3) over San Diego State; ARIZONA (plus-1) over Houston; Boise State (plus-10) over WASHINGTON STATE.