The Irish came down to Georgia…
Published 1:48 pm Friday, September 20, 2019
Georgia fans have had this Saturday’s game marked on their calendars for years. It’s been a long time since Georgia has hosted an out-of-conference opponent of Notre Dame’s caliber.
In fact, I’d argue that you have to go all the way back to 1929, when Yale came down to Georgia, to find a matchup of similar recognition. The Dawgs won that one 15-0, by the way. This was back when Yale was winning national championships like they were participation trophies.
This game has College Football Playoff implications for only one team: Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish need to win on Saturday night if they want to have back-to-back CFP appearances. Looking ahead, there is nobody left on their schedule after Georgia that should be a challenge for a team like Notre Dame. Traditional powers like USC and Michigan look to be sad shadows of their glory days. Virginia, ranked higher than ever in recent years, will likely get stomped. Duke? Navy? Boston College? Stanford? None of these teams should beat Notre Dame.
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That’s why beating Georgia is an absolute necessity. The biggest game on its schedule—far and away the most challenging in every aspect—can’t be a loss.
Georgia, on the other hand, can lose the game and still make the CFP. Its ace in the hole is simple: a conference championship opportunity. If the Dawgs go 11-1, with their only loss to the Fighting Irish, Georgia still has an opportunity to win the SEC Championship and make the playoffs.
Now, you think Notre Dame and coach Brian Kelly don’t realize this? They know what this game means for their season, so there shouldn’t be any lack of motivation coming from their sideline. Furthermore, Georgia players had a fun time on Twitter running their mouths when Notre Dame was getting pulverized by a Clemson team that would have beaten anyone in the country 10 times out of 10 times in the Cotton Bowl last season. They inferred Notre Dame wasn’t worthy of a playoff berth, and Georgia should have been included (you can’t get in when you lose by 20-plus to LSU and lose the conference championship, guys, but that’s a whole different topic).
Notre Dame has all the locker room material and motivation they need to get their heads in the right place.
Georgia is still a bigger, faster, more physical, more nasty football team. They will run the ball until their opponent is dizzy. They will smash, bang and crush their way to the quarterback on the defensive line. They will wear you down until you want to quit. That’s how Kirby wants it. This game will be no exception.
For Notre Dame to win, it will need to match Georgia’s physicality. It will be a tall task to do that. Trick plays and funny sets will only get them so far. You have to meet the Dawgs head on and win the majority of the battles.
Quarterback Ian Book will also need to be lights out. I’m talking “The Game of His Career” good. Scrambles for, sharp passes, running for big yards and cool confidence in the face of a hungry Georgia front seven will go a long way to beating to this Bulldog team. It is possible for that to happen. I don’t think it is likely, but it is very possible.
Then there is the crowd factor. As I said earlier, Georgia fans have had this game circled on their calendars for quite some time. It’s certainly the biggest game to come to Athens in quite some time—maybe ever. ESPN College GameDay will be there. An extra 100,000 fans that don’t even have tickets to the game will be on campus for the party. New LED lights inside Sanford Stadium will be utilized in ways that will amp this rabid crowd up. Simply put, it’s going to be bananas come 8 p.m. in Athens.
Notre Dame will have to fight through it. The Fighting Irish are no strangers to traveling to other big programs and competing in hostile atmospheres. Saturday night might be one of the more challenging environments they’ll have been in recently.
When all is said and done, I think the 14-point spread from Vegas will be accurate. Dawgs will win 38-20.