When: Saturday, September 9, 2017
Where: Notre Dame Stadium, Notre Dame, Indiana
Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
Online: NBC Sports Extra
The Georgia Bulldogs and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish haven’t met since the 1981 Sugar Bowl when the ‘Dawgs won 17-10. This weekend, the No. 15 Bulldogs travel to Notre Dame to face the 24th-ranked Fighting Irish. Both teams enter this weekend’s epic matchup with identical 1-0 records. Neither team was tested last week, though.
The ‘Dawgs lost starting quarterback Jacob Eason to a knee injury in last week’s win over Appalachian State. Freshman Jake Fromm took over and UGA didn’t miss a beat.
Eason is out this week and Fromm will receive his first start in a tough environment. Kirk Herbstreit of ESPN thinks the Bulldogs are in better shape this week with Fromm under center due to his mobility, per Jake Rowe of 247Sports.
I wasn’t as high on this team when Jacob Eason was quarterback and I’m not happy that he’s hurt. You never like to see anybody get hurt. But I think with his injury Jake Fromm comes in, the freshman. Very, very different ability and skill set. I think he compliments Nick Chubb and Sony Michel.
That’s certainly an interesting take and Georgia’s ability to run the football will put considerable pressure on a questionable Notre Dame defense.
Brandon Wimbush made his first career start for the Fighting Irish last week and was solid. He completed 17 of 30 passes for 184 and two touchdowns. He was picked off once. He also rushed for over 100 yards. He’ll certainly be tested this weekend against Georgia’s defense.
Can Georgia’s defense stop the run?
Georgia’s front seven wasn’t particularly dominant last week against Appalachian State. The Bulldogs allowed 136 yards on the ground and an average of over four yards per attempt. That won’t get it done against the Irish. Notre Dame rushed for over 400 yards last week, with three separate players going over 100 yards each.
Running backs Josh Adams and Dexter Williams combined for 285 yards on the ground while Wimbush chipped in with 106. Georgia must stuff the run on early downs and force Wimbush into third-and-long situations. He has yet to prove he can beat a good defense. The ‘Dawgs must make him throw the football.
If ND’s running game gets going, Georgia will have a difficult time winning this game.
The Bulldogs are clearly confident in Fromm’s ability to lead them. His teammates believe in him as does the coaching staff. Head coach Kirby Smart praised Fromm after the game for his play and unflappable demeanor. Smart, of course, never thought he’d be relying on a true freshman to start at quarterback in a Week 2 game at Notre Dame.
Kirby Smart on #UGA QB Jake Fromm: "He's got a calm demeanor.The moment's never been too big for him. He's got to use the tools around him."— Bruce Feldman (@BruceFeldmanCFB) September 6, 2017
Fromm handled himself well last week in relief. The Bulldogs were able to run the ball with Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, and Fromm only had to throw the ball 15 times. He was efficient, completing 10 of his attempts for 143 yards and a score. Most importantly, he didn’t turn the ball over.
The freshman did not run the ball last week, and like Herbstreit said, that could be a difference in this game. The coaching staff should call some designed runs to force the Irish to respect’s Fromm’s legs.
So, what happens?
This game is truly a tossup. Georgia has the edge in talent, while the Irish hold a homefield advantage. Both quarterbacks are relatively inexperienced, although Wimbush is a junior. This game truly comes down to which running game produces more.
Georgia has the edge on defense, so, while Notre Dame will be able to run the ball, its ground game won’t be nearly as effective as it was last week. Wimbush will have to make plays with his arm and Georgia will get to him, forcing a couple of turnovers.
On offense, Chubb and Michel combine for 175 yards, while Fromm is efficient once again. He will turn over the ball in this game; fortunately, Georgia’s defense will bail him out. He will also create some room to operate by using his legs, opening up some passing lanes downfield.
Prediction: Georgia 23, Notre Dame 17