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Notre Dame hasn’t lost at home in years, is unbeaten, and yet comes into play as an underdog. Why? Because Vegas knows. They know the Irish have struggled to run the ball and it’s not because of lack of skill talent, the offensive line is just not up to it. Add to it that Cincinnati knows a win here puts them in line for a legitimate shot at the College Football Playoff. These programs have plenty of ties — Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly came from Cincinnati as did Irish defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman. Still, we like Cincinnati to cover the spread and money line.
Garcia’s 2021 record: (8-5)
Cincinnati has separated itself as heads and shoulders above all other non-power 5 schools and is frankly competing with and beating the vast majority of power five schools.
The Bearcats have a legitimate shot at a College Football Playoff game (but it’s only because a team like Notre Dame had the guts to schedule them) and now is time to see if the pre-season Heisman candidate can deliver.
Quarterback Desmond Ridder has completed 65.1 percent of his passes (54-of-83) for seven and two interceptions through three games. He leads the Bearcats as they come off its bye week for what is without questions the biggest game of its season, but it hasn’t been great in these scenarios under Luke Fickell.
Clearly, he’s a fantastic coach and has turned this program into power (a major reason they got the invite to the Big 12), but Cincinnati is still proving it can win big games like this. The Bearcats are 4-8 overall and 7-5 ATS vs. ranked teams in the Fickell era.
But the good news this year is so far, the offense hasn’t been a problem. Jerome Ford is a big-time back, at 5-foot-11, 220-pounds he packs a punch, but has plenty of speed to get to the edge — he’s rushed 50 times for 300 yards (six yards per carry) and six touchdowns on the season.
In the air, it is essentially picking your poison for defenses as Ridder spreads it around almost evenly to his top four wide receivers. Tyler Scott, Alec Pierce, Jadon Thompson and Michael Young Jr. all have between six and nine catches and 110-172 yards.
All of that can be true and this Notre Dame defense can still be too much. The Irish held Wisconsin to just 13 points last week and had two defensive touchdowns (not to mention a kickoff return for a score).
Ridder vs. the ND defense is likely the No. 1 storyline to watch.
The Fighting Irish are undefeated. They have three wins against power-five teams. They come into play ranked in the top ten and enter play with an eye-popping 26-game winning streak at home. That’s the good news.
The bad news is those three power five teams are a combined 4-7. In last week’s win, while they dominated on the scoreboard, the offense struggled mightily, as Notre Dame rushed 20 times for a measly 39 yards and the offense managed just 242 total yards.
It’s not like the Irish don’t have talent all over the roster. Running backs Kyren Williams and Chris Tyree (the latter of whom returned a kickoff for a touchdown last week) are averaging just 3.5 yards per carry total. That’s where there is a ton still to prove and how they will move the ball against a decent Bearcats run defense will play a big role in this game.
The passing attack on the other hand, there’s been no trouble with that. Jack Coan has been fantastic, completing 60.6 percent (77-of-127) of his passes for nine touchdowns and just two interceptions.
He has six receivers who have gone above 100 receiving yards and six who have caught at least one touchdown pass.
This will be the ultimate test for Cincinnati’s All-American defensive back Ahmad Gardner.
In close games, special teams make all the difference sometimes and that proved to be the case for the Irish last week with a kick return for a touchdown that changed the entire game.
So in this one, we’re going to watch the kicker, Jonathan Doerer. He’s 16-of-16 on extra points this season and 7-of-10 on field goals with one miss from 30-39, one from 40-49 and one from farther than 50.
For Cincinnati, can Jerome Ford break a few big runs. The Badgers backs were bottled up all week last week, but if Ridder can make the Irish fear him beating them by spreading the ball out, Ford should see some optimal numbers in the box.
|Cincinnati Bearcats vs Notre Dame Fighting Irish Information|
|Teams||No. 7 Cincinnati Bearcats at No. 9 Notre Dame Fighting Irish|
|Location||Notre Dame Stadium, South Bend, IND|
|Time||Saturday, Oct. 2, 2:30 p.m. EST|
|How to watch||NBC|
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Tony writes about baseball for WSN.com after recently graduating with his Masters from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. Prior to that, Tony was a local sports reporter for MLive Media Group, based out of Jackson, Michigan where he covered everything from high school to professional sports. He graduated from Michigan State in 2015 with a degree in journalism. During his time there he covered the Michigan State football and men’s basketball teams from 2013-15 and hosted a sports radio show on WDBM 89FM.More info on Tony Garcia
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