CFB: Notre Dame Fighting Irish Week 7 Preview

By Stiofán Mac Fhilib

Notre Dame’s CFB playoff hopes were dashed as they crashed to Louisville last weekend. Where do the Irish go from here? Stiofán Mac Fhilib brings us his weekly view.

Looking back at last week

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They say it’s unlucky to be superstitious. But, Notre Dame fans could be forgiven for wondering just how many mirrors Sam Hartman has broken in Louisville’s Cardinal Stadium’s visitors’ locker room. Or how many ladders he has walked under.

A year ago, he lost three fumbles and threw three picks in the third quarter alone en route to a heavy defeat for Wake Forest. Last Saturday evening, he entered the same stadium in a Notre Dame uniform and promptly threw his first pick of the season on the opening drive. Two further picks late in the fourth quarter only compounded a frustrating night for the Irish as they watched their remaining playoff hopes disappear into the Kentucky night sky. 

In truth, however, Notre Dame’s ineptitude was down to a lot more than just its quarterback. An offense that started the season scoring at least 40 points in four straight games struggled to reach half that for the third consecutive outing. Victorious – at the third attempt in three years – Louisville’s QB Jack Plummer yet again failed to throw for 200 yards against ND, but he didn’t need to. 

The Irish running backs managed only 57 yards on the ground, but the Cardinals gained 197. Jawhar Johnson led the way with 143 yards on 21 carries.  His 45-yard TD scamper in the third quarter broke the back of a Notre Dame team playing its seventh game in as many weeks. That’s after starting Fall camp a week early and opening the season in Dublin. They looked and played like a mentally exhausted group, with numerous execution mistakes compounding some questionable playcalling.

But all that said, the home team still had to take advantage and did so in style in the second half. Jeff Brohm, in his first year as Head Coach of his alma mater, had his team more than ready for the big occasion and on the night, the better-prepared and better-coached team won. 

The defeat leaves Marcus Freeman and his Irish team with a lot of questions to answer and not a lot of time to do so; certainly none to mope and feel sorry for themselves. They could use a bye week right now, especially as it is mid-terms week at Notre Dame, and the players have extra exam pressure in the ‘student’ part of their ‘student-athlete’ experience. 

But instead, it’s rivalry week. Again, there will be a visit from the College GameDay crew and the Trojans of the University of Southern California.

The week ahead

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vs #10 USC Trojans (Notre Dame Stadium); 7.30pm EDT; 12.30am IST/BST

For the fourth time in as many weeks, #21 Notre Dame has a Saturday evening, prime-time game against an unbeaten opponent. The Greatest Inter-sectional Rivalry in college football sees the Irish host the only FBS program to be named after a major brand of condoms. Our good friends at USC. 

Much to the bemusement of many of the ND faithful, the Irish are slight favourites with the oddsmakers in the desert.  Given that the Trojans have the current Heisman Trophy winner at the most important position on the field, that is all you need to know about how little Vegas thinks of the USC defense.

They’ve given up 41 points in each of their last two games and allowed over 500 yards. Including almost 200 on the ground on average. For a Notre Dame offense looking to regain its mojo, the timing is ideal. 

For the ND defense, on the other hand, the thought of facing an offense that has averaged over 47 points per game against Power 5 opposition is not an appealing one right now. Stopping Caleb Williams is a challenge at the best of times, and one that the Irish were not up to in the Coliseum last November. But ND’s inability to stop the run ultimately proved decisive on that particular night. USC is averaging 6.0 yards per carry so far this season. How well the Irish can fare against it on Saturday may again decide the game.

Game Prediction

Notre Dame 41-42 USC

In many ways, a big rivalry game ought to be the perfect antidote to a rough week on and off the field. Adrenaline and a raucous home crowd at night should certainly help ND lift their game, but until I finally see an Irish defense contain Williams and co., I fear a narrow defeat may be the most likely outcome.

Where to watch:

Sky Sports NFL (Channel 407 on Sky); coverage starts at 12:30am IST/BST 

NBC (in the USA)

Playoff Picture

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Sadly, it’s playoff shmlayoff for Notre Dame fans in 2023 as a second regular season defeat effectively ends direct Irish interest in the post-season tournament. And six unbeaten ranked teams tasted their first loss last weekend. Texas were the most notable casualties, with Washington State, Kentucky, Missouri and Fresno State also going down. But Miami’s downfall was easily the most bizarre. 

Many of the top teams face unranked conference opposition this weekend, but the top ten battle in Seattle between the Ducks and Huskies will be the first step in sorting out the very top of the Pac 12. Meanwhile, in the ACC, Miami’s trip to Chapel Hill and the unbeaten Tar Heels will help establish the team most likely to face FSU in that conference’s title game in December.





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