#8 Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs Vanderbilt Commodores Game Preview, Prediction

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The #8 Notre Dame Fighting Irish host the Vanderbilt Commodores on Saturday looking to sail on through to a stretch of the schedule that will become significantly tougher. They beat MAC foe Ball State 24-16 last week but it wasn’t easy, easy like Sunday morning. Now they go up against the Commodores’ brick house of a defensive line, led by Dare and Dayo Odeyingbo.

And with that, we’ve officially hit saturation point in references to Lionel Ritchie’s old R&B group when discussing the Vanderbilt Commodores.

TV: NBC 2:30 EST

SPREAD: Notre Dame Fighting Irish -14.5

ke-shawn-vaughn

Vanderbilt Commodores Preview:

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish are the most popular team in Chicagoland, and the Illinois Fighting Illini are, by some metrics, second. Thus, if you follow the college football teams that are the most popular in the second city, then you are probably quite familiar with Vandy’s leading ground gainer this season- Ke’Shawn Vaughn.

He is a potentially inspiring redemption story as his transfer away from Illinois still leaves unanswered questions. Vaughn began his Illini career in 2015 by winning the team’s offensive newcomer of the year award.

Then, as the transition from Bill Cubit to Lovie Smith began, he was poised to continue the legacy of the Illini running backs who wore #5 (Rashard Mendenhall, Mikel LeShoure).

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He even said at 2016 Media Day (where Smith declared Vaughn his “bell cow” for the upcoming season) that he chose #5 due to the Illini legacy at the position.

Vaughn started the season prolifically, with two big games against Murray State and North Carolina. Then in week three versus Western Michigan he had an awful game, as did the rest of the entire offensive unit. What’s so odd though is how he found himself benched right away. Ke’Shawn wasn’t just benched either, he fell way down the depth chart, almost overnight.

It was very odd how Smith and his offensive staff gave up on their so-called bell cow so rapidly and quite easily, without any real explanation given. To be honest though, I’m not sure anyone even really asked them for the proper explanation.

mendenhall

It was a tough year in Champaign that featured very few explosion plays or chunk plays, but the few times that offensive highlights were made, it was Vaughn making a majority of them. Yes, even in spite of his diminished playing time.

Still, the then sophomore tailback fell way out of favor with the staff (for whatever reason) and thus his transferring out made perfect sense.

A revolving door at tailback (and at quarterback too for that matter) has been one of the many major problems the program has/has had during the Smith era.

After sitting out last season per transfer rules, Vaughn, now back home in Nashville, currently leads the Commodores in all major rushing categories this season. He had a really nice 46 yard touchdown run last week.

lovie smith

He is not the dominant feature back for the ‘Dores though, as he’s one of four ball carriers to have double figure rushing attempts through the first two games.

Vandy comes into this one 2-0, having outscored their first two opponents, Middle Tennessee State and Nevada, 76-10. However, they aren’t expected to really do anything this season, as several outlets picked them to finish last in the SEC East.

Vanderbilt has a good quarterback though in Kyle Shurmur, who broke the school record for TD passes last season with 26. And yes, his dad is Pat Shurmur, the New York Giants Head Coach.

vandy cheerleaders

Vanderbilt Head Coach Derek Mason, now in his fifth season, has not led the program to a winning season.

#8 Notre Dame Fighting Irish Preview:

Quarterback Brandon Wimbush, who had only six interceptions last year, has four already. Yes, he threw for a career high 297 yards last week, including seven completions of 20+ yards, but he also threw a career high three interceptions. 

If you’re not sold on Wimbush as a passer yet, well, last week certainly didn’t convince you. 

brandon wimbush

Of course, he can be a mediocre, inconsistent passer and still be a great quarterback. This team is built just like last year’s unit- the biggest strength of the team is the offensive line, so just get behind them and establish the power running game. Wimbush is a great runner, who will be a part of that potentially fearsome rushing attack, despite his rushing statistics being poor due to four sacks last week.

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish are off to their fourth 2-0 start in the last nine years, and the big boys up front, led by Sam Mustipher and Alex Bars, are a reason why. 

Of course, they can play a whole lot better than they have thus far.

joe moore award notre dame football

Without a doubt, the defense has been the better of the two units early on. Defensive end Khalid Kareem took home Walter Camp Defensive Player of the Week in week one.

Linebacker Te’von Coney, who played every single snap in the win over Michigan, reached double-digits in tackles in each of the first two games. He had 14 Saturday, including three for a loss and one sack.

Going back to Wimbush, he knows he has to be much better if the Irish are going to contend for a college football playoff slot this season.

“Three picks, I’d probably give myself a D-plus,” Wimbush said after the narrow win over Ball State. “You can’t throw three interceptions and win games that are going to be vital to the team’s success.

“We have to clean it up on all parts. Confidence-wise, I’m not going to lack confidence. But I have to be better.”

Wimbush wasn’t the only one taking ownership of the less than impressive performance last week, Notre Dame Coach Brian Kelly did as well.

“As a thrower, he was pretty good,” Kelly said. “Decision making need to get better. But we have to coach him through those things, as well.

“Brandon Wimbush wasn’t the reason we were ineffective offensively. I don’t think I prepared them the way I should. We didn’t protect him at the highest level. There are a lot of things.”

brandon wimbush notre dame fighting irish

Prediction: Notre Dame Fighting Irish 34, Vanderbilt Commodores 17

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net and TheBank.News, which is partnered with News Now. Banks, a former writer for NBC Chicago.com and Chicago Tribune.com, is currently a regular contributor to SB Nation, WGN CLTV and Chicago Now.

Follow him on Twitter, Instagram, Sound Cloud and YouTube. The content of his cat’s Instagram account is unquestionably superior to any and all of his.

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