No.6 Notre Dame rose two spots in the AP Top 25 Poll this week after winning one of their toughest games on the 2015 schedule. Seven days later, the Fighting Irish face one of their season's weakest opponents when they host unranked UMass on Saturday afternoon.
When the season began, Notre Dame was considered to be among the favorites to make the College Football Playoff. They barely escaped Virginia with a victory in Week 2, and saw their starting quarterback go down for the season. But the Fighting Irish rebounded in a big way last weekend, defeating then-No.14 Georgia Tech, 30-22.
UMass is still looking for their first win of the season. They’ve been beaten by Colorado and Temple.
The Fighting Irish have looked like a national championship contender, but they’ve done so despite having some terrible luck. Notre Dame has already suffered season-ending injuries to four of their starters, most recently safety Drue Tranquill, who tore an ACL while celebrating on Saturday.
Running back Tarean Folston was Notre Dame’s first key player to go down, tearing his ACL against Texas. He was the team’s leading rusher in 2014, but C.J. Prosise has made sure that the Fighting Irish haven’t missed a beat. He’s rushed for 451 yards on 7.6 yards per carry, leading the way against Georgia Tech with 198 yards and three touchdowns.
It remains to be seen whether or not DeShone Kizer can make up for the loss of starting quarterback Malik Zaire over an extended period of time, but he has done the job thus far. After throwing two touchdowns against Virginia to help Notre Dame avoid an upset, he completed 70 percent of his passes for 242 yards in his first start. Will Fuller was responsible for 131 of those yards, and he ranks fifth in the nation with 397 receiving yards through three games.
Winning With Defense
Georgia Tech’s triple-option gave them easily the best rushing attack in college football to start the season, but they couldn’t get much going against Notre Dame. Rushing the ball 47 times, the Yellow Jackets totaled just 216 yards, which was less than half of what they averaged in the first two games of the season.
In their season opener, Notre Dame embarrassed Texas, surrendering just three points to the Longhorns. Quarterback Tyron Swoopes was only able to complete seven of his 22 pass attempts, and Texas’ 29 rushes only went for 60 yards. The Longhorns fell short against a 3-0 California team last week, but they managed to put up 44 points on over 650 yards of total offense.
Notre Dame’s odds of winning the national championship might not be promising after losing Zaire for the year, but their defense gives them hope.
With Kizer starting his first career game last week, Notre Dame was made an underdog at home. That’s far from the case this week, as the Fighting Irish have been made 28.5-point favorites, according to vegasinsider.com.
Notre Dame is 2-1 against the spread, having only failed to cover the betting line when they were a double-digit favorite against Virginia. UMass is 1-1 against the spread, and they almost beat Temple outright in their most recent contest.
Las Vegas casinos have set the over/under at 58.5 points.
Notre Dame should jump out to an early lead and never look back. Considering they’ve suffered so many injuries, head coach Brian Kelly could play it safe and pull his starters somewhat early, allowing UMass to cover the spread.
Notre Dame over UMass, 38-13