clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Notre Dame Football: Georgia Bulldogs Preview

New, comments

Pat Rick previews Notre Dame’s biggest game of the season against the #3 Georgia Bulldogs

NCAA Football: Florida at Georgia Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Ever since the Notre Dame Fighting Irish got shellacked by the Clemson Tigers last December — and maybe even before then — this game has been circled on the calendars of Irish coaches, players, and fans.

It’s the Irish football team’s biggest chance in 2019 to prove themselves and earn national respect after once again getting blown out on the big stage to end 2018. It’s ND’s opportunity to avenge a 20-19 home loss to the Bulldogs in 2017. It’s Notre Dame’s time to defeat a heavily favored SEC power on their home turf and finally get back to what they used to do regularly under Rockne, Leahy, Parseghian, Devine, and Holtz — beat elite football teams.

That, plus a huge resume-building win for the College Football Playoff, is what’s at stake with your #7 Fighting Irish traveling down to Athens, Georgia to take on the #3 Georgia Bulldogs between the hedges.

NCAA Football: Georgia Southern at Georgia Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Georgia enters this undefeated at 3-0 and rated #2 by the SP+ ratings, having dispatched the Vanderbilt Commodores, Murray State Racers, and Arkansas State Red Wolves by a combined score of 148-23.

Notre Dame, meanwhile, brings in a 2-0 record and a #10 ranking in SP+ after beating the Louisville Cardinals 35-17 on the road to begin the season and then getting a tune-up for Georgia against the New Mexico Lobos last weekend, winning 66-14.

Tomorrow evening, kicking off on CBS in primetime (8 PM ET), these two big-time programs will clash at Sanford Stadium to determine just how good each is and to figure out which team should be in the early driver’s seat for a CFP spot, as whoever emerges from the game will easily have the best win of any team in the country.

So how do the two top-7 teams match up heading into the ESPN College Gameday game?

Let’s dive into the details and see what we can learn.

Georgia Offense vs. Notre Dame Defense

The Georgia offensive line is a massive, gargantuan, juggernaut of heft, height, and might.

The starting 5 up front for the Bulldogs includes OTs Isaiah Wilson (6’7”, 340 lbs) and Andrew Thomas (6’5”, 320 lbs), OGs Ben Cleveland (6’6”, 335 lbs) and Solomon Kindley (6’4”, 335 lbs), and C Trey Hill (6’4”, 330 lbs). That’s 1,660 pounds of likely Joe Moore Award-winning beef up front, averaging 6’5” and 332 lbs.

Add in key reserves OT Cade Mays (6’6”, 318 lbs) and OG Jamaree Salyer (6’4”, 325 lbs), and we’re talking about over a metric ton of EXTREMELY talented offensive linemen who have been absolutely plowing people over recently, extending a strong recent tradition of very good Georgia rushing attacks.

NCAA Football: Georgia Spring Game Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Before D’Andre Swift and co. were running rampant behind these behemoths, we obviously saw guys like Todd Gurley, Keith Marshall, Nick Chubb, Sony Michel, and Elijah Holyfield see similar success on the ground.

Now, ultra-fast starter D’Andre Swift leads a group of 5 Bulldogs running backs who average 8.51 yards per carry and have already scored 10 touchdowns through just three games. Hell, even with things like sacks and worse numbers of lesser backs/the QBs added in, Georgia is still averaging 7.6 yards per carry as a team overall. They’re 5th in the nation in total rushing yards and yards per attempt, and 8th in rushing yards per game, through the first three weeks of the season.

Not to continue babbling on, but it’s safe to say that the 2019 Georgia Bulldogs offense is VERY good at running the football.

Which, of course, is a slight bummer for Irish fans — Notre Dame is currently giving up 5.0 yards per carry, which is just good enough for 107th in the country. And let’s remember that that average comes from performances against Louisville and New Mexico, who certainly don’t have the size, speed, and elite talent that Georgia has at offensive line and running back.

The big issue there for Notre Dame almost certainly stems from attrition after the 2018 season. Starting DTs Jerry Tillery (a 1st round NFL Draft pick last spring) and Jonathan Bonner both graduated, as did two of the best tacklers on the team in LBs Drue Tranquill and Te’von Coney. The result, of course, has been a less-than-impressive run-stopping ability from the front seven in the first two games.

Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah is a newcomer to the starting lineup who’s already established himself as the best Irish linebacker, as he brings a lot of speed and athleticism, along with a love of laying the lumber, to the Rover position. He’s accumulated 11 tackles so far this year, which is good for 3rd on the team. However, being a first-time starter, he still makes the occasional mental mistake, which led to some nice gains on the ground courtesy of Louisville and New Mexico.

Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

More so than Owusu-Koramoah, starters Asmar Bilal (12 tackles) and Drew White (9 tackles) have struggled in their efficacy against the run. Both have solid experience playing linebacker for the Irish, but oftentimes are a step too slow in reading and reacting, causing them to miss their spots and allow for opposing ball carriers to get out into the second level. Don’t be surprised to see some other guys brought in to help at linebacker early and often as the Irish try to find a combination that’s effective. Young, unproven guys like Jack Lamb (2 tackles), Bo Bauer (6 tackles), and Shayne Simon could be needed if the starters continue to struggle.

Meanwhile, the defensive tackles attempting to fill in for Tillery and Bonner have been okay but not exactly impressive. Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa (5 tackles), Kurt Hinish (1 sack), Jayson Ademilola (6 tackles, 1 PD), and Jacob Lacey (2 tackles) are all good, serviceable players, but none of them are yet good enough to be expected to hold their own against the All-SEC offensive line Georgia will be sending at them. They will need to significantly step up their collective game if Irish fans can expect a better first line of defense against the run tomorrow evening.

If we see more of the same from the defensive tackles and linebackers outlined above, then expect to see the Georgia runners making lots of nice gains on Saturday night. Starting running back D’Andre Swift’s name couldn’t be more fitting, as the junior from Philadelphia is a blazing fast back who’s already run for 290 yards and 2 TD while averaging an otherworldly 9.4 yards per carry.

Behind Swift is a group of guys who’ve been just as productive in limited carries. Zamir White has run for 141 yards and 2 touchdowns while averaging an abysmal 7.4 yards per carry. Kenny McIntosh, the younger brother of former ND and now current Washington State back Deon McIntosh, averages 9.8 yards per carry and has run for 128 yards and a touchdown of his own. Toss in Brian Herrien and James Cook, who also are over 100 yards each (224 combined, along with 5 rushing TDs) and average 5.8 and 12.9 yards per carry, respectively, and you’ve got yourself a stable of running backs capable of breaking games wide open behind such a dominant offensive line.

With all that said, Notre Dame HAS to find a way to take away the run at least some of the time, and force the Bulldogs into a more pass-heavy attack. This is by no means a perfect solution, obviously, considering Georgia boasts one of the best QBs in the country in Jake Fromm. But compared to their rushing attack, making Georgia over-utilize the portion of their offense they typically don’t have to flex much would be very important for Clark Lea’s Irish defense.

Fromm has had a great start to the year, albeit in limited passing attempts and against the likes of Vanderbilt, Murray State, and Arkansas State. He’s thrown for 601 yards and 5 TD while completing a ridiculous 75% of his passes, is averaging 10.7 yards per attempt, has not thrown any picks, and has been sacked just once behind that talented offensive line of his.

NCAA Football: Murray State at Georgia Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Clearly, Fromm has been excellent but extremely unchallenged so far this year — both by secondaries and by any sort of pass rush. So, for the Irish to have a chance to slow down the Bulldogs offense, it will be up to their strongest, oldest, and most experienced defensive players to make enough plays to keep the Irish in it.

Putting pressure on Fromm when he drops back to pass is a MUST, and we all know Notre Dame has the talent there to make some waves. However, through the first two games, the Irish pass rush has been fine but not exactly dominant, as Julian Okwara (2 tackles, 1 sack) and Khalid Kareem (5 tackles) have been relatively quiet, considering their capabilities.

Both of those guys will need to be relentless and aggressive in getting to Fromm, considering the tackles they’ll be going up against in Thomas and Wilson. If those two can at the very least command the attention/perhaps occasional double teams from the Georgia offensive line, it could go a long way toward Clark Lea dialing up some nice pressure with other guys to throw Fromm off his game.

NCAA Football: New Mexico at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Backups Daelin Hayes (5 tackles, 1 sack, 1 FR) and Adetokunbo Ogundeji (7 tackles, 1 FF) have been solid through the first two games, but will similarly be needed to supply a fast, chaotic pass rush. If those four guys can get pressure off the edge, it will open things up for others being sent on blitzes, or at the very least give Fromm less time to find his favorite targets.

Fromm lost his top 5 receivers from a year ago (Riley Ridley, Mecole Hardman, Isaac Nauta, J.J. Holloman, and Terry Godwin), but he still has plenty of talent to whom he can spread the ball around in the passing game.

The headliners are a couple true freshmen who were blue-chip high school recruits just a year ago, as George Pickens (9 rec, 162 yds, 1 TD) and Dominick Blaylock (7 rec, 160 yds, 2 TD) have been as-advertised so far this year, with tons of big-play potential on display. WR Demetris Robertson, a transfer from Cal, has been an efficient and quick-twitch receiver for the Bulldogs as well, scoring twice on his 6 receptions for 44 yards.

Along with those speedy targets, Fromm also has some size he can rely on in the passing attack, as TE Eli Wolf (6 rec, 90 yds), Miami graduate transfer Lawrence Cager (5 rec, 57 yds, 1 TD), and 6’5” WR Matt Landers (3 rec, 38 yds) are all big guys the ND secondary will have to account for when Fromm drops back on Saturday evening.

Additionally, some of those vaunted Bulldogs running backs are pretty dangerous in the passing game as well, as both Swift (3 rec, 73 yds, 1 TD) and Cook (6 rec, 57 yds) have proven to be dangerous catching balls out of the backfield.

So, even though a stout run defense will absolutely be the main objective for Clark Lea and his squad, the Irish secondary will need to step in and make some plays when Fromm does sling the ball around, as that may just be their best chance to flip the field and get the Irish some momentum with a turnover or two.

Alohi Gilman (13 tackles, 1 PD, 1 FF, 1 FR) and Jalen Elliott (6 tackles, 2 PD, 1 INT) will need to continue to capitalize on opportunities in the back half of the defense, and Troy Pride Jr. (3 tackles, 1 PD) and Shaun Crawford (6 tackles, 1 PD, 1 INT) will need to cover well enough to force Fromm to take some risks with his throws and give ND a chance to snag some turnovers.

NCAA Football: New Mexico at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Furthermore, rotation guys will need to be laser-focused and make the most of their time in the game — especially Kyle Hamilton (6 tackles, 2 PD, 1 INT return for TD), who has so far flashed GOBS of potential and will need to keep contributing athleticism and playmaking when called upon.

His pick six to kick off the scoring against New Mexico was fantastic, but wouldn’t it be sweet if he could do something similar this weekend? I solemnly swear I’d flip a dang table if that happened in Athens.

NCAA Football: New Mexico at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

The Irish are 6th in the country in passing yards allowed per attempt, and 3rd in the country in QB rating allowed, but that again has to be taken with a grain of salt, considering the QBs they’ve seen to-date. Jake Fromm is streets ahead of guys like Jawon Pass and Sheriron Jones, so don’t expect it to be THAT easy for these talented, experienced ND DBs tomorrow night.

Overall, I think the Irish have some guys at defensive end and in the secondary who can cause disruptions and potentially force some turnovers. However, Georgia’s offense is #4 in SP+ rankings for a reason, and if Notre Dame can’t remotely slow down that vaunted rushing attack, it won’t matter how effective the ends are at rushing or how well-positioned the DBs are for interceptions — the Bulldogs will barely need to throw it all game.

Here’s to hoping that isn’t the case — but boy do I have a tough time seeing ND bottle up the Bulldogs tomorrow evening.

Offensive Dawg to Watch

The Georgia Offensive Line

These guys are huge and super-talented and play with an edge — if the Irish don’t hit them in the mouth and really push back, it will be a long day for ND and the Bulldogs will ROLL.

NCAA Football: SEC Championship-Alabama vs Georgia Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Defensive Irish to Watch

The Notre Dame Defensive Line

The defensive tackles HAVE to hold the line in the middle, and the talented senior defensive ends MUST get pressure on Jake Fromm and make him uncomfortable in the pocket. If those two things don’t happen, D’Andre Swift will run for 150 yards and Jake Fromm will pick apart the Irish defense on the rare occasion he DOES drop back to pass. It’s time for Mike Elston’s crew to step up and be heroes, folks.

NCAA Football: Notre Dame at Louisville Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Halftime Funtime

Best Names in the Game

  1. Notre Dame RB C’Borius Flemister
  2. Notre Dame LS Axel Raarup
  3. Notre Dame S Litchfield Ajavon
  4. Georgia DB Latavious Brini
  5. Georgia OL Daniel Gothard
  6. Georgia LB Azeez Ojulari
  7. Notre Dame TE Tommy Tremble
  8. Georgia WR Makiya Tongue
  9. Notre Dame DL Hunter Spears
  10. Georgia DB Ameer Speed
  11. Georgia RB D’Andre Swift
  12. Georgia DL Tramel Walthour
  13. Notre Dame LB Ovie Oghoufo
  14. Georgia DB Tyler Beaver
  15. Notre Dame DE Nana Osafo-Mensah
  16. Georgia OL Chase Harof
  17. Notre Dame CB Temitope Agoro
  18. Georgia LB Nakobe Dean
  19. Notre Dame DE Adetokunbo Ogundeji
  20. Georgia QB D’Wan Mathis
  21. Georgia DB Divaad Wilson
  22. Georgia LB Trezmen Marshall
  23. Notre Dame RB Jafar Armstrong
  24. Georgia DL Zion Logue
  25. Georgia QB Nathan Priestley
  26. Georgia OL Solomon Kindley
  27. Georgia LS Payne Walker
  28. Georgia PK Rodrigo Blankenship
  29. Georgia DL Netori Johnson

Jake From State Fromm - The Most Disappointing Good Twitter Name of All-Time

Let me start this little section by just saying that I really like Jake Fromm’s Twitter name. The dude took what is a fairly boring name otherwise and related it to possibly the greatest commercial of all-time, the Jake From State Farm ad.

The response “Uhhhhh...khakis” followed by “She sounds hideous” is fantastic, and the husband’s deadpan response of “Well, she’s a guy, so...” is just perfect.

So, believe me when I say that I like where Jake’s head was at on this one.

With all that said — HOW DID HE MAKE HIS NAME “JakeFromStateFromm” and not “JakeFrommStateFarm” or even “JakeFrommStateFromm”?!?!?

I voiced this opinion last year on Twitter as I watched Georgia lose to the Texas Longhorns in the Sugar Bowl, and based on the overwhelming engagement I got from the tweet — I have never come close to one of my tweets being liked/retweeted this much in my life — most of you agree with me.

So, as we head into this game, I’d like to personally challenge Jake to dig deep, do the right thing, and change his punny Twitter name to be much more punderful by replacing “From” with “Fromm,” as God so clearly intended.

If he does, I promise to root for him for the rest of the year, as he otherwise seems like a solid, goofy kid and is a fantastic QB to boot.

#MakeJakeFrommChangeHisTwitterNameFromJakeFromStateFrommToJakeFrommStateFarm

SPURRIER!!!!!!! YOU THINK VISORS ARE COOL?!?!!!!!!

I just wanted to quickly take the time to re-share this classic video related to Georgia football, and point out the things I love about it.

The Video:

Things I Love About It:

  • Him growling “YEEEEEAH” just to acknowledge her introduction of him to the camera
  • “This is the DAWWWWWWWGS” *huge flex*
  • The way he says “GOOOOO GEEEOOOOR-GIIIIIIAAAAAAA”
  • Oh my God, Taylor, you can’t just ask why he’s white
  • Love the way he outlines the body painting process for all of us DIY-ers at home (white base coat, then we’re gonna “red” it, and then we get a black going)
  • “And that’s the DAWWWWWGSSS, THE REDDDD AND THE BLAAAAACK YEEEEAH”
  • Her somehow, with a straight face, replying to the above quote with “The white helps it stick better?” and then him assuring her that “IT REALLY SHIIINES...WHEN THE WHITE, IS ON THE BASE”
  • “AND IT POPPPPSSSSS”
  • “THEY’RE GONNA RIP SPURRIER’S...THEY’RE GONNA RIP SPURRIER’S...GUUHHHHHHH”
  • *stares into the camera’s soul* “His visor is gonna come straight off.”
  • The follow-up question of “straight off — all the way off?” to make sure we know to what degree Spurrier’s visor is coming off... *chef’s kiss*
  • The conviction with which he responds “I’m tellin’ you, THE VISOR’S COMIN’ OFF!”
  • When she asks what the visor is, for people who don’t know, his response is “SPURRIERRRRRR! YOU THINK VISORS ARE COOL??? YOU’RE GONNA FIND SOMETHIN’ NEW WHEN YOU COME INTO SANFORD STADIUM...IN TWO THOUSAND AND NIIIIIIINE!” Well said, and a fantastic explanation of what a visor is
  • She thanks him for the interview and he turns into the LinkedIn version of himself to say in a normal voice “You’re welcome, you’re welcome. Go Dawgs.”
NCAA Football: Louisiana State at South Carolina Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Notre Dame Offense vs. Georgia Defense

Whereas the Georgia offense vs. the Notre Dame defense appears to be a potential mismatch considering their strengths and weaknesses, the Notre Dame offense and Georgia defense looks to be a much more even match-up.

The Bulldogs are #7 in the country in Defensive SP+ and the Irish are currently rated 7th in offensive SP+. ND is missing some weapons and appears to be a work in progress on the offensive line, while the Bulldogs look talented but have a number of key contributors with limited experience out there.

Overall, this match-up will likely come down to the performance of ND QB Ian Book, who hasn’t been bad in his first two games of the season, but he also certainly hasn’t seemed to be any better than he was in 2018. Last season, Book dazzled most of the time but also struggled against teams that could deliver pressure up the middle and drive him from the pocket, like the Pittsburgh Panthers, USC Trojans, and of course that Clemson Tigers defense that battered him all day in the Cotton Bowl.

NCAA Football: College Football Playoff Semifinal-Cotton Bowl-Notre Dame vs Clemson Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Still, Book is Notre Dame’s best option at the position, and a fairly reliable one at that, having thrown for 553 yards and 6 TDs while not throwing any interceptions so far this season. He’s completed nearly 62% of his passes and is averaging 11.8 yards per attempt, while also managing to run for 127 yards and 2 TDs while averaging 5.5 yards per carry.

Book may still struggle to hang in the pocket and go through his progressions and throw the deep ball, but the short-to-medium game is still where he thrives, and he has plenty of targets to toss it to as he does so. His number one target is 6’4” senior WR Chase Claypool, who already has 190 yards and 1 TD on his 9 receptions in 2019. Claypool has been compared to Michael Floyd a lot of late, and the comparisons are pretty fair, considering the way Claypool can run at his size, and considering how reliable his hands and leaping ability have been for Book. Look for him to be the toughest guy for Georgia’s DBs to cover, as they don’t seem to have anyone who can lock down such a big, fast, experienced, and smart wideout.

Besides Claypool, guys like Chris Finke (3 rec, 59 yds, 1 TD) and Lawrence Keys III (4 rec, 35 yds) will need to quickly and instinctively find uncovered spaces in the Bulldogs defense on passing downs, utilizing their quickness to get open for Book to deliver a quick strike and give them the chance to use their speed and shiftiness to elude tacklers and pick up yards after the catch. Those two as the other starting wideouts HAVE to contribute more, especially because Georgia will likely be keying on Claypool and could leave them single covered most of the game, oftentimes by guys who won’t be able to keep up with them in space.

Javon McKinley, a senior receiver who many (including myself) wrote off before the season as a likely non-contributor, has had a fantastic start to his season (3 rec, 96 yds, 2 TD), and also appears to be able to offer a lesson or two in YAC:

Tommy Tremble, a Georgia native and the son of a former All-SEC DB at Georgia, will be called upon to use his size and speed as a flex TE to stretch the field and make some plays down the seam. His 4 catches, 78 yards, and 1 TD so far indicate he definitely has something to contribute as a match-up nightmare for linebackers and DBs alike.

Starting TE Cole Kmet makes his return from a broken collarbone in this one as well, and although he could be a little rusty, his size and ability to make plays downfield will be huge for Chip Long in continuing to unlock more of his playbook against a defense that will likely necessitate some big plays from the tight end position. Look for Book to target Kmet early and as often as he can as a big, reliable, playmaking security blanket.

NCAA Football: Notre Dame Spring Game Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Lastly, there’s sophomore WR Braden Lenzy, who finally got to put his track star speed on display last Saturday against New Mexico when he hauled in a 52-yard catch and also ran for a 14-yard touchdown, eerily resembling a young Golden Tate with his fly route and instinctive running capabilities.

It’s hard to say if he’ll get much time in such a big game tomorrow, but you HAVE to think Chip Long is itching to get Lenzy out there in one or two situations where he can just try to beat his man deep and run down a ball Book throws as far as he can. It’s worked before with fast, inexperienced receivers in big road games, folks:

The Georgia secondary is no joke, despite the talent they had to replace after guys like Deandre Baker departed for the NFL. J.R. Reed (11 tackles, 1 FR) and Richard LeCounte (10 tackles) man the safety positions as two veteran guys with athleticism who certainly don’t shy away from hitting, and corner Eric Stokes already has 3 passes defended on the year. Add in Mark Webb, who plays the STAR position for the Bulldogs (hybrid safety/linebacker role — essentially their version of the Rover) and leads the team in tackles with 16 (along with 1 PD and 1 FF), and the secondary has some punch to it. Other guys like Tyson Campbell (7 tackles, 3 PD) and D.J. Daniel (3 tackles) are no slouches either.

NCAA Football: Murray State at Georgia Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Overall, I expect this group to fare pretty well against the Irish — they only allow 5.2 yards per attempt through the air, which is 16th-best nationally, and they’re 17th in the country in QB rating allowed. However, I also believe the ND WRs are good enough at getting open in short/medium length routes that they will see some success through the air tomorrow evening. The question will, of course, be whether that success will be enough to keep up with Georgia’s running game and Jake Fromm’s passing attack.

Ian Book has been sacked 4 times this season already, so another interesting thing to note will be how well this Irish offensive line — certainly talented but definitely not dominant — is able to protect Ian Book and give him time to make reads and connect on some solid throws for first downs.

The Bulldogs will certainly be bringing some heat, as guys like DL Tyler Clark (10 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 6 QBH), LB Azeez Ojulari (9 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 6 QBH), and LB Quay Walker (9 tackles, 1 sack, 2 QBH) will be aggressively hunting Book down in the backfield. Add in former ND commit Robert Beal Jr. (7 tackles, 1 QBH), DL Malik Herring, and LB Nolan Smith, and there are plenty of Dawgs who have the ability to take Book out of his game and potentially pick up some momentum-shifting sacks out there. Georgia is tied for 9th in America with 12 team sacks in 2019, FYI.

NCAA Football: Murray State at Georgia Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Of course, the Irish will hope to get some production out of their rushing attack as well, but it will be tough sledding against a Georgia defense that allows just 2.1 yards per carry (10th in the nation) and 60.7 rushing yards per game (5th). Those guys listed above were joined in shutting down Vanderbilt’s, Murray State’s, and Arkansas State’s running games by key guys like LB Monty Rice (15 tackles), DL Devonte Wyatt (9 tackles, 1 FR), LB Tae Crowder (8 tackles), DT Michael Barnett (6 tackles), and DL Jordan Davis (5 tackles).

Thus, RB Tony Jones Jr. will have his work cut out for him tomorrow night. The junior is now the lone starter after Jafar Armstrong went out for up to 2 months with an abdominal/groin injury he suffered against Louisville, and has been solid so far with 127 yards rushing on 6 yards per carry with a touchdown. However, he will definitely need some help against such a strong run defense — especially because sophomore Jahmir Smith, who scored 2 TD in the opener against Louisville, is doubtful for tomorrow night with a toe injury.

That means the depth behind Jones Jr. will be true freshman Kyren Williams (26 yards 6.5 ypc), sophomore C’Bo Flemister (3 yards and 1 TD on 0.3 ypc!!!!), and former-QB-and-RB-and-DB-and-now-a-RB-again Avery Davis, who did flash some speed and playmaking ability on a 59-yard touchdown against New Mexico.

NCAA Football: New Mexico at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Nevertheless, that trio of backups is EXTREMELY unproven and unreliable, so there’s a solid chance you see Chip Long and Brian Kelly — whether out of necessity or out of their love for slinging it around — lean on Book and the passing game in order to move down the field, even if it means treating quick screens as essentially running plays (yikes) to pick up a few yards when needed.

All in all, I think Notre Dame has enough playmakers at WR to make some things happen on this side of the ball — especially since this Georgia defense, though talented, is a bit on the young side and might not have seen an offense like ND’s yet, considering their weak schedule to-date.

With that said, ND’s offense hasn’t seen a defense with this much talent since Clemson, and we all know what happened there. Ian Book and the Irish offensive line will need to bring their A-games, and the ND receivers and Tony Jones Jr. will need to successfully capitalize on every opportunity they get in order to make enough plays to keep up with Georgia’s offense.

Defensive Dawg to Watch

LB Azeez Ojulari

He’s an extremely athletic freshman linebacker who flies all over the field, and could be instrumental in both sniffing out/shutting down Tony Jones Jr. in the run game while also helping blitz up the middle and truly ruffle Ian Book’s feathers on passing downs. Look for Azeez to be making plays all evening.

NCAA Football: Georgia at Vanderbilt Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Offensive Irish to Watch

QB Ian Book

Whether you like it or not, this offense will go as far as Ian Book is able to take it on Saturday night — especially with the injuries at running back and the offensive line’s lack of reliability in the run game. Book HAS to run the offense efficiently, get through all his progressions, and deliver balls on-target to his receivers to keep the chains moving and keep the ball out of Jake Fromm’s hands. If Book can do all that and maybe connect on a few more vertical passes at key moments, this game might just get interesting.

NCAA Football: New Mexico at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Special Teams???

It’s early in the season and so I’m not sure how much weight SP+ ratings for special teams carry, but the Georgia Bulldogs are rated #3 in the country in Special Teams by SP+, while Notre Dame is currently 9th (WHAT????).

For the Irish, that’s a testament to no big plays allowed, a nice return or two by guys like Lawrence Keys III, and general competence shown by young kickers Jonathan Doerer (PK) and Jay Bramblett (punter).

New Mexico v Notre Dame Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images

On the Georgia side, the same can roughly be said to explain their high rating, but the key difference is senior kicker Rodrigo Blankenship, one of the most beloved and exciting kickers to come through NCAA football in a while.

The bespectacled Blankenship is a personal favorite of mine and many others across the country, as he has a cannon for a leg that he first showed on a national stage in the 2018 national title game, and then he’s carried over into last year and this year.

NCAA Football: SEC Championship-Alabama vs Georgia Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

In 2019 so far, he’s 19-for-19 on extra points while hitting all 5 of his field goal attempts, including one from 50 yards and another from 40-49 yards.

Furthermore, the man, the myth, the legend Rodrigo Blankenship has been known to give interviews while wearing his helmet — he is a hero and we should could ourselves thankful that we get to see him kick against our favorite team tomorrow evening.

Alright, Let’s Predict the Result of This One

Notre Dame 24, Georgia 37

I don’t think Notre Dame will get completely embarrassed tomorrow night, but I also don’t believe they have enough to win this one. Georgia’s advantage in the trenches — especially in running the ball on offense — will be too great for the Irish to overcome, and despite Ian Book and the offense playing fairly well, it will not be enough to stop the Bulldogs from winning by a couple scores in a hard-fought game that clearly shows both teams are very good, but the Bulldogs are elite.