By Stiofán Mac Fhilib

The winning streak continued for Notre Dame this week against NC State. Here’s our Notre Dame columnist Stiofán Mac Fhilib with his take on all things Fighting Irish.

Looking back at last week

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Notre Dame’s first true test of the season, and the first of four road games against ACC opposition this season, saw them leave a sold-out Carter-Finlay Stadium in Raleigh, NC, with a 45-24 victory. It was a strange game, even aside from the near two-hour weather interruption, that in the moment left Irish fans with mixed feelings, but which on reflection was more than satisfying. 

The home side had not given up more than 31 points in their previous 31 games, so despite starting with a pair of three-and-outs and giving up significantly more pressure on Sam Hartman than they would have liked, it was a successful afternoon for the ND offense. With the OL not at its best, the Irish had to rely on big plays. 

Audric Estimé showed off his speed with an 80-yard TD run on the first play after the weather delay. While Sam Hartman had 65-yard and 45-yard completions to Tyree and Merriweather, en route to a four TD passing day. 

The Notre Dame defense had its best outing of the season, even if it was not reflected on the scoreboard. Whilst they only registered one sack of Brennan Armstrong, a gameplan that focused more on the DL not losing contain helped to hold the QB to just 26 yards on 12 rushes. They held firm for most of the first-half when the Wolfpack repeatedly had good field position. Then when a third-quarter Hartman fumble gave NC State the ball, down seven, inside the Irish redzone, they held the home side to a missed field goal attempt.

On the subject of field goals, it would be remiss not to mention that USF transfer, Spencer Shrader, broke the school record for the Irish with a 54 yard FG for the game’s opening score. And it would have been good from 60. 

So Notre Dame’s consecutive regular season win streak against ACC opponents now stands at 29. Although, with trips to Duke, Louisville, and Clemson ahead, a sixth season in a row without such a defeat still remains challenging.

The week ahead

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Central Michigan Chippewas (Notre Dame Stadium); 2.30pm EDT; 7.30pm IST/BST

This is the third and final tune-up game for the #9 Irish before getting into the meat of their schedule.  By the middle of October ND will have played eight straight weeks and will have epic home clashes with Ohio State and USC in the rear-view mirror. But while the fans are focused on the Buckeyes coming to South Bend in a fortnight, the Chippewas will make their first ever visit to Notre Dame Stadium in the hope of taking advantage of any complacency on the part of the Irish. 

An opening 31-7 loss at Michigan State was followed by a 45-42 last second win over FCS side, New Hampshire. Texas native, Bert Emmanuel, Jr., is a 50% passer in the first two weeks, with 3 TDs, 3 INTs and 6 sacks so far. He’s also his team’s leading threat on the ground, though one 66 yard scamper aside, he’s only averaged 2.1 yards per carry. The Notre Dame defence is currently giving up an average of 10 points per game. That should be a reasonable target this Saturday. 

The Chippewas have been particularly vulnerable to the pass so far but expect ND to continue to be balanced and to try to iron out some of the flaws in the run game from last week.  The Irish also struggled at times in pass protection and C Michigan may try to exploit that. Notre Dame’s OL could certainly do with some more opportunities to develop cohesion in that regard.

Game Prediction

Notre Dame 45-10 Central Michigan

After a sluggish first quarter the Irish go through the gears in the second, enabling plenty of snaps for the second and third units in the final 20 minutes of the game.

Where to watch:

Sky Sports NFL (Channel 407 on Sky); coverage starts at 7:30pm IST/BST 

Peacock (in the USA)

Playoff Picture

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In a week that saw many of the top-25 taking on FCS opposition, the team that grabbed its opportunity with both hands and proudly marched out of Tuscaloosa informing the CFB world that yes, indeed, they ‘are back’ was the Texas Longhorns.  That win could prove a heck of an insurance policy should Steve Sarkisian’s side finish as a one-loss Big 12 champ. 

What’s harder to ascertain right now, however, is just how, well, average, the SEC might be this year.  Georgia have a favourable schedule but Tennessee and Ole Miss could prove to be the two teams to keep an eye on if some more recently successful names in the conference begin to slide. 

Week 3 is something of a calm before the storm weekend, but there are several intriguing matchups.  LSU travel to unbeaten Mississippi State where they have to win to get their season back on track.  A wounded Alabama side goes to Tampa, FL, to take on the USF Bulls in only the Crimson Tide’s fourth true out-of-conference road game under Nick Saban and, its first against non-Power 5 opposition. Finally, Washington’s trip to Michigan State is a chance for the PAC-12 to notch a quality win over a Big Ten foe.  Or practise for imminent conference play!