Nevada at Notre Dame
Saturday, September 10th, 12:30pm
Line (Atlantis): Notre Dame -28.5; O/U 61.0
All-Time: Notre Dame leads the series 1-0
Well, that was one way to start the season. After a long offseason, it was great to finally be back at Mackay. Firstly, I have to commend Nevada AD Doug Knuth and his team on the renovations. My season tickets are in a chair-backed portion of the stadium and it felt so nice to have an actual defined seat without being smothered by another person. The new video board and sound system were even better than I was expecting. It was great being able to see replays and hear what the PA was saying, novel concept I know.
The Cal Poly game was an interesting one, to say the least. The Pack got up big early and seemingly fell asleep for the last 3 quarters of the game. I'm just thankful that Nevada pulled out the win, however ugly it may have been. There were four FCS wins against the FBS last week and certainly could be more this weekend.
I'm hoping that new offensive coordinator Tim Cramsey kept it very vanilla last Friday night so Notre Dame didn't have a lot to go off of in preparation of Saturday's game. Nevada's offense is definitely stuck with the same theme as Polian's first three seasons, which is run first and often. James Butler had a great night, with the highlight 50-yard TD run on the first drive and the game winner in OT. I don't know this to be a fact, but Butler looks like he's gained a good 10-15 pounds of muscle. I'm intrigued to see if Cramsey will run any two back sets with Butler and a mix of Akeel Lynch and Jaxson Kincaide.
I didn't think Tyler Stewart looked as good as his numbers might suggest and I've often thought he doesn't see the field all that well. On the first possession, he missed Wyatt Demps, who was open by about 15 yards, streaking down the sideline.
Speaking of the offense, I'm going on record as saying that the Pack won't reach it's full potential as an offense unless they work to get Gipson involved. He had only one target all night, which is exactly what happened way too often last season. Good things happen when he gets the ball.
The defense had a very up-and-down debut. Alex Bertrando was a monster on the field all night and I thought the safety play was good, as expected. Outside of Bertrando, the rest of the front seven looked very young but I'm interested to see how they fare against a more traditional offense this week.
Which brings us to Notre Dame. Their game with Texas on Sunday night was the clear Game of the Week. I think if Fighting Irish head coach Brian Kelly would've stuck with DeShone Kizer the entire game, the Domers win that game going away. That's not a knock on Malik Zaire either, but Kizer impressed me last year in Zaire's absence and even more so against Texas.
Notre Dame's defense didn't look great against the Longhorns and I think a significant portion of that is because Texas was running a new Sterlin Gilbert offense, which is similar to what he learned working under Art Briles at Baylor. The other portion is when you lose stars like Jaylon Smith, Sheldon Day, Joe Schmidt and Matthias Farley from a really good defense the year before, it's going to take time to find your feet. Add on the dismissal of senior safety Max Redfield, two weeks before the season, and you're replacing a ton of experience.
Offensively, Notre Dame is very diverse. Kizer can run very well but has no issues standing in the pocket and firing down field. They have a good stable of running backs led by Tarean Folston and Josh Adams. Their biggest weakness on offense might just be their receiver corps. Torii Hunter Jr. is in the concussion protocol and I'd be very surprised if he played on Saturday. The fantastcially named sophomore Equanimeous St. Brown should get the bulk of the catches with Durham Smythe right behind him.
I'll be at the game Saturday and I'm excited to experience all that Notre Dame has to offer. I just hope it's a better and closer outcome than the 2009 debacle.
Fremont's Bet (0-0): Put a unit on the Over of 61.0 and I don't think you'll be disappointed. Notre Dame scored in bunches on a better defense than Nevada and I also think Nevada will be able to put up some scoring drives in Polian's return to South Bend.