Arguably the game of the year takes place Saturday night. After Georgia beat Notre Dame in South Bend in 2017 everyone has been looking forward to the rematch. Despite the top 10 matchup and Notre Dame coming off a playoff berth last season, everyone is counting them out.
History Sides With The Doubters
Notre Dame fans long for the days of Lou Holtz and 1988. While Kelly has been the best coach since Holtz, he hasn’t reached the level of success the legendary coach had. When looking at 2019, the last two decades have been unkind to Notre Dame and trying to return to glory.
Brian Kelly has been a damn good coach at Notre Dame but he has split the fan base. Despite going to a national championship and the playoff, he has yet to win a NY6 bowl and seems to fall flat when the lights are brightest. This isn’t a must win game for either team because of being do early in the year. But a win will surely be a key point on the resume come playoff time.
More Than SEC Bias
SEC Fans below the Mason-Dixon line won’t admit there is an SEC bias, but it’s clear. Ask your average Paul Finebaum caller and they’ll rank bottom feeders like Vandy and Tennessee in the top 25. However, Georgia is getting a lot of love and they fully deserve it.
Kirby Smart has been building a juggernaut down in Athens that could play with anyone in the country. Alabama has been the thorn in their side but they are loaded with four and five star players. Jake Fromm is one of the best quarterbacks in the country and the CFB world was introduced two years ago in South Bend. Fromm is the name everyone knows but going down the roster and the question turns into when will Georgia win a title, not if.
While Notre Dame is disrespected and called pretenders, they sit with a 24-4 record over the last few seasons. They have serious talent and arguably one of the best defensive end groups and defensive back groups in the entire country. But that isn’t where the issue is for Notre Dame.
The Doubt Is Warranted
Notre Dame is ranked number seven and there is plenty to love about them. But one thing that you can’t ignore is that run defense.
Notre Dame has the 120th rush defense. Georgia has DeAndre Swift and one of the best offensive lines in the country.
The ground game will be a problem for the fighting Irish. Giving up almost five yards a carry on the year shows how much they miss the veterans from last year that manned the middle of the defense. But that isn’t even my biggest concern when breaking down Notre Dame-Georgia.
The Uncertainty Of Book
Ian Book has looked like a quarterback that could win a championship. Book has also looked like an average three star player. My fear since the playoff game is that Book is Jake Browning. Has the ability to run but not a gifted run, lack of a deep ball and really just a game manager. Clemson was the only top 30 defense he faced last season and I’m not sure he ever got off the bus.
2019 shows an impressive stat line but there have been some red flags raised early on in the season. Missing reads, feeling phantom pressure in the pocket and just making stupid mistakes. Jurkovec isn’t the answer, this isn’t the point of calling Book out. But he needs to be the veteran QB that we thought Notre Dame was getting this year. Instead there are concerns that another QB is falling victim to the second year regression. Book doesn’t need to be perfect Saturday night, he just needs to keep Notre Dame in the game and be able to move the offense. Missing fourth down throws and starting slow may work against Louisville, but Georgia would be 14 points in the first quarter. Book has gotten better every week this season and needs to show Clemson was a fluke. If Book disappears again, we know where the season will end come December.
Georgia is a two touchdown favorite and sitting in the top five. Notre Dame has to go into a hostile environment with a young team and a QB I’m not totally confident in. Georgia will likely be able to run the ball on a weaker front seven for Notre Dame.
You’ll likely be able to see how this game is going to go seven minutes into the first quarter. A three and out for Notre Dame while Georgia marches down the field on their first possession and the route will be on. Notre Dame needs to find a way to slow down the rushing attack and find a way to move the ball on offense. I think it’ll be closer than most of the projections going around the internet. But Georgia is deep, talented and at home. Book will struggle and the defense will get worn down up front. Georgia will score late to make the game look worse, but it also won’t ever feel that close.
Georgia 31 – Notre Dame 17
Started Saturday Tailgate in 2018. I have covered college football since 2017, wrote for Saturday Tailgate and Fansided. Covering all things Big 12 from recruiting to opinions on the best conference in college football.