It’s often said that every time Notre Dame takes on elite teams — Clemson, Alabama and other SEC powers — the Fighting Irish get embarrassed. Brian Kelly is a good coach, but he’s not a heavyweight contender, right?
Two years ago as a freshman, quarterback Jake Fromm made his first career start and led Georgia to a 20-19 win at Notre Dame. Obviously, that was not an embarrassment for the Irish, who are 23-3 since losing to that Bulldogs team, which went on to the national championship game.
The negative perception of Notre Dame’s ability to compete on the highest level comes from its blowout loss to Alabama in the 2013 title game and a 30-3 loss to Clemson in last season’s playoffs. Those beatings put black eyes on Kelly, but it’s easy for some to forget the Irish lost just 24-22 at Clemson in 2015 and beat LSU in a bowl game two years ago. The lines between fact and fiction often get blurred.
Fromm and the Bulldogs are 14½-point home favorites over the Irish Saturday night. Over the summer, the line opened at 11½. Georgia has rolled to victories over Vanderbilt, Murray State and Arkansas State by a combined score of 148-23, so the betting public is showing no respect to Notre Dame.
Fromm has completed 75 percent of his passes, and D’Andre Swift leads a talented stable of runners for the Bulldogs, who could wear down the Irish defense. But Kelly will counter with Ian Book, a quarterback with big-game experience, and an offense capable of controlling the ball and keeping this within the inflated spread. My numbers project the Bulldogs to win by 10.
The pick: Notre Dame, +14¹/₂.
TEXAS A&M (-4) over Auburn: Bo Nix, the Tigers’ freshman quarterback, struggled for most of a neutral-field opener against Oregon and is connecting on only 52.4 percent of his passes. Nix’s first road start will be a rude awakening. The A&M defense held up well against Trevor Lawrence in a 24-10 loss at Clemson two weeks ago. It’s payback time for the Aggies, who fell 28-24 at Auburn last year after allowing 14 points in the final 5½ minutes.
TEXAS (-6) over Oklahoma State: Longhorns quarterback Sam Ehlinger passed for 401 yards, rushed for 60 and accounted for five touchdowns in a shootout against LSU. Ehlinger should shred the untested Cowboys, who faced a weak non-conference schedule.
Last week: 3-0.