#3 Georgia Bulldogs vs #7 Notre Dame Fighting Irish Game Preview, Prediction

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There’s a narrative right now that the southeast corner of the United States plays superior college football to the rest of the nation. That narrative exists, because well, the recent results say that it’s absolutely correct. Clemson and Alabama currently have a duopoly, and then you have the #3 Georgia Bulldogs right below the two juggernauts, still unable to break through to the highest rung. Is this the year they finally do?

For fans of the #7 Notre Dame Fighting Irish, it’s been Georgia on my mind since essentially late first quarter of the New Mexico blowout. Last week, both ND and Georgia had what were essentially glorified pregame walk-throughs for what is the first banner headliner game of the college football season.  

Let’s take the midnight train to Georgia and go between the hedges to preview a de facto College Football Playoff elimination game. 

Kickoff: 8pm EST, Saturday Sept 21, Sanford Stadium

TV: CBS

Spread: Georgia Bulldogs -14

Series and Program History: Notre Dame has 899 all-time wins, tied for the 5th most in FBS history. UGA is 11th with 822. They have one AP national title, compared to ND’s 8, but the Bulldogs lead the head to head  2-0. Also, it has been nearly four decades since ND achieved a true road win at a top 5 SEC team.

That came against one of Bear Bryant’s last Alabama teams in 1980.

jerry tillery

#3 Georgia Bulldogs Preview

UGA plays in the nation’s 11th (the world’s 17th) largest stadium, and it’s a venue that’s considered one of the loudest and intimidating in all of football. The Bulldogs have won all three of their games (a mediocre at best Vanderbilt team, a FCS team in Murray State and a low-major side Arkansas State) with extreme ease.

The 55-0 shutout of Arkansas State last week saw their season point differential climb to 144-23. It also saw 279 yards passing and three touchdowns from quarterback Jake Fromm, who is a lot better than what Notre Dame fans saw when he came to South Bend in 2017.

He’s so talented that his presence forced two other blue chip Georgia signal callers to transfer elsewhere: Justin Fields to Ohio State and Jacob Eason back home to Washington. It’s just like Trevor Lawrence at Clemson, whose dominance led to Hunter Johnson leaving for Northwester and Kelly Bryant to head to Mizzou. QB isn’t the only backfield position

Four different Georgia Bulldogs ran for touchdowns last week as they averaged 8.1 yards per carry.

“They have probably five running backs that can touch the field and do great things with the ball in their hands,” Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said at his weekly press conference today.

“..an outstanding offensive line, they have four, five starters back there. Andrew Thomas is probably a first round draft pick.”

D’Andre Swift is the team’s leading rusher, while Zamir White and Brian Herrien will see a lot of carries too.

There had been some question marks entering this season at the receiver position, but it’s been answered and then some. George Pickens and Dominic Blaylock, Mookie’s kid, lead the way. (Side note: Pearl Jam wanted to name their debut album “Mookie Blaylock,” because they loved the former NBA point guard’s name so much.

Instead they called it “Ten,” after his jersey number.

georgia-bulldogs-2-15-nfl-mock-draft

Defensively, the Georgia Bulldogs are rock solid all around as well. Head Coach Kirby Smart always takes great pride in this side of the ball.

“This one is talented, but it is really deep as well,” said Kelly.

“The depth that they have. Especially on the defensive line, that they can run, you know, six, seven that we counted I think last night, eight guys that are interchangeable within their three and four down structure. You know, all of them productive players, and that’s not even counting Rochester I mean, the guy that’s been out. He’s a great player too.”

On Saturday, we looked at four things Notre Dame must improve upon from the New Mexico blowout in order to upset the Georgia Bulldogs. 

#7 Notre Dame Fighting Irish Preview:

The Lobos took away the Fighting Irish inside run game, so the Irish destroyed them through the air. With RB1 Jafar Armstrong out for a few weeks, the Irish rushing attack is depleted, but they will have to overcompensate in order to play some ball control in Athens.

Flipping over to the other side of the ball, UNM was able to run the ball serviceably to decent in South Bend, but they were also extremely committed to it. As for the win in Louisville, ND’s rush defense left a lot to be desired there.

Maybe the best route to an Irish victory lay in the air attack; striking early and often. QB Ian Book now has his top tight end back from injury, as Cole Kmet has been cleared to play.

Book needs to make sure everyone gets involved, including Kmet, Chris Finke, Javon McKinley, Chase Claypool and more. In order to do that, they’ll have to start fast. It didn’t happen at Louisville, and while they didn’t start slow at all last week, when you’re playing at Georgia you have to smash them in the mouth immediately out of the gates. 

The Irish also need to improve a lot on third down conversion. “We’re certainly jot a finished product by any means. We’ll keep working at it,” said Kelly. 

The last meeting between these two sides was in week two of 2017, with the Georgia Bulldogs winning 20-19 at Notre Dame Stadium.

Notre Dame DE Daelin Hayes was asked what the team might have learned from the last UGA meeting that they’ll be able to take into this one. 

“Just understanding the physicality of that game,” Hayes said. “I was smaller then, it was my first year playing.”

“It’s a physical game and we’re going to have to come with great technique, and great execution.”

Prediction: Georgia Bulldogs 27, Notre Dame 19

Happy Earth, Wind & Fire day: “Do you remember, the 21st night of September?”

Notre Dame fans certainly will if they somehow pull off this huge upset, but I don’t see it happening. Also, this won’t be the Cotton Bowl semifinal against Clemson either. ND will keep it close into the third, with the Georgia Bulldogs eventually winning comfortably, but not bombastically.

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net, which is partnered with News Now. Banks, the author of “No,  I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry,” regularly appears on WGN CLTV and co-hosts the “Let’s Get Weird, Sports” podcast on SB Nation

You can follow Banks, a former writer for NBC Chicago.com and Chicago Tribune.com on Twitter here and his cat on Instagram at this link.

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