No.8 Notre Dame and No.14 Georgia Tech face off on Saturday in South Bend in one of the biggest college football games of the weekend. The outcome should have major implications on both teams’ attempts to make the College Football Playoff.
The injury to Malik Zaire has been the big story entering the contest. Notre Dame’s starting quarterback had been pegged as a potential Heisman Trophy candidate, and he got off to a terrific start to this year with a nearly perfect performance against Texas in the season opener. But he fractured his ankle the following game, and the Fighting Irish must turn to a quarterback who had never attempted a career pass before replacing Zaire a week ago.
DeShone Kizer did what Notre Dame needed of him in relief of Zaire, tossing two touchdown passes, including the game winner against Virginia. But he faces a different set of challenges against the Yellow Jackets, who have allowed just 283 passing yards in two games.
"We are not going to make any excuses for where we are," Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly told reporters. "There's no reason why we can't win with DeShone Kizer. Anybody that we lose, we believe that we've got guys that can step up.
Kizer does have one of the nation’s best wide receivers at his disposal. Will Fuller has 12 catches for 266 yards, catching two touchdown passes in each of Notre Dame’s wins.
The spotlight will be on Kizer in his first career start, but Georgia Tech quarterback Justin Thomas will be as important as anyone who takes the field in South Bend. Thomas runs the Yellow Jackets’ triple-option offense, which has easily given them the best rushing attack in college football.
Thomas has 13 attempts for 73 yards, but four other players on Georgia Tech have rushed for more yards. Marcus Marshall leads the way with 221 yards on 14 carries, and the team as a whole leads the country with 915 total yards on the ground. Paul Johnson's squad has almost 100 more rushing yards than the nation’s No.2 rushing offense, and their 8.5 yards per carry is also the best in the sport. The Yellow Jackets have run for 15 touchdowns, and no other team has more than 10 rushing touchdowns.
Georgia Tech goes on the road after facing heavy underdogs Alcorn State and Tulane. Even though they’ll be playing in a hostile environment, the Yellow Jackets are favored on the road.
Start Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: NBC
Online Stream: NBC Sports Live Extra