Light It Up

The seventh prediction in our summer series projects the highest scoring game of the season for Brian Kelly’s Irish.

If you’re new to our annual prediction series it’s important to explain what is meant by the term “highest scoring” game, because it’s not necessarily measured by the contest’s cumulative final score.

Rather, a more accurate indicator of a game’s pace and tenor is to use the highest point total for the losing team to define the highest scoring game in a given season.

In other words, a 31-29 victory by the Irish over Clemson is considered “higher scoring” than a 49-12 win over Massachusetts.

(Last season our unique measure proved moot as Notre Dame’s wild 50-43 win over North Carolina was the season’s highest scoring, both in terms of total points and the highest output from the losing squad.)

What will be the highest scoring Notre Dame game of 2015? Before discussing our final choice, let’s take a look at three logical runner-ups:

Three matchups were considered as possibilities for our highest scoring contest, each ultimately falling in the runner-up category. Not coincidentally, each of the three runner-ups will be played concurrently in October:

Clemson (Oct. 3) – A potentially dominant dual-threat triggerman in DeShaun Watson is joined by speed to burn, both on the perimeter and in the backfield. Additionally, nine starters need to be replaced from the nation’s top-ranked defense of 2015.

But both team’s defenses should be refreshed – Notre Dame has Massachusetts while the Tigers will enjoy a bye, preceding – coupled with a second stanza that’s likely to be played closer to the vest suggests that while six combined touchdowns appears a likely minimum, a wide-open, 60-minute affair might not materialize. 

Navy (Oct. 10) – Look no further than the last two meetings between the Midshipmen and option-QB extraordinaire Keenan Reynolds in which a combined 72 and 88 points were scored, respectively – a pair of Irish wins in which Navy posted 34 and 39 in defeat.

Navy won’t stop Notre Dame and the Irish have yet to prove they can stop the Mid’s when a competent quarterback is under center. In fact, this matchup is the best bet for the season’s highest cumulative point total.

But the Irish have a better chance to hold down the Academy than it does a more athletic triple-option team discussed in the section below.

USC (Oct. 17) – You mean other than the seven touchdowns they posted on the Irish last November – and it could have been 10 without blinking? You need another reason to include the Trojans on this short list?

Consider it an aberration. The annual matchup of rivals will have a far different tone this fall, though the vanquished should manage a point total in the mid- to upper 20s by the final gun.

Take one part triple-option, add equal parts perimeter athletes and accomplished returning triggerman, then sprinkle in a visiting defense that often has its hands full when pitted against top-notch competition and you’ve found the likeliest foe to participate with the Irish this season’s highest scoring affair, Georgia Tech on September 19.

Though the Yellow Jackets defense should be improved after a tough go in 2014, it’s relevant to note point totals allowed against the toughest foes the Rambling Wreck faced last fall: 31, 48, and 37 in defeat; 38, 28, and 34 in victory.

And the North Avenue Trade School (that’s for you, Bulldogs fans) can put up points aplenty: 38, 38, 42, 27, 28, 25, 43, 56, 35, 56, 28, 30, 35, and 49 last season.

Aside from ill-timed turnovers, nothing stopped Georgia Tech in 2014.

Tech’s top defensive efforts came late last fall, first in mid-November at the expense of a solid NC State offense (a 56-23 win) and later a 30-24 overtime win over Georgia to conclude the regular season.

The Yellow Jackets likewise bludgeoned Clemson to the tune of 28-6 though the Tigers were without their superstar under center, DeShaun Watson.

The unit is highlighted by potential All-ACC performers at each level of its defense, with Adam Gotsis in the trenches, P.J. Davis at linebacker, and Jamal Golden patrolling the back end.

Moreover, it’s illogical to wager an early-season contest as the season’s lowest scoring affair as both defenses involved will likely be near or at full strength.

Notre Dame’s recent issues defending the triple option are in play, but so too is its point-scoring prowess in South Bend: 48, 31, 17 (vs. the nation’s No. 2 defense in Stanford in a rain storm), 50, 40, and 28 points last season.

The Irish added road/neutral totals in excess of 30 on four occasions with a high-water mark of 49 and a low of 27 (at Tallahassee) before bottoming out with a no-show in Los Angeles.

When fully engaged, Brian Kelly’s Irish will score.

Add it up and you can expect the Rambling Wreck and the Irish to battle to the wire over four quarters in South Bend, with the losing team lighting up the score board with at least 30 points – and thus, our prediction for the season’s highest-scoring game of 2015.

Note: Next in the series, projecting the lowest scoring contest for 2015.

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Prediction #4 – Close and Late

Prediction #3 – When September Ends

Prediction #2 – Where There’s a Will

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