The Annual Slugfest

The eighth prediction in our summer series projects Notre Dame’s lowest scoring matchup for 2015.

As with our previously published highest scoring game prediction, the definition of the season’s lowest scoring contest isn’t necessarily measured by its cumulative final score, but instead determined by the lowest point total for the winning team.

In other words, a 17-14 victory by the Irish over Boston College would be “lower scoring” than a 30-0 win over Wake Forest.

Thus, in 2014, Notre Dame’s lowest-scoring affair by our measure was its rain-soaked 17-14 victory over Stanford in South Bend, not the like-totaled 31-0 bundling of Michigan.

And history is expected to repeat this fall.

There appears, at least on paper, myriad choices for the season’s lowest scoring slugfest:

Texas (Sept. 5) – Quarterback issues for the visitors vs. a relative rookie under center for the hosts. That reality combined with a pair of athletic defenses sure-to-be fired up and at full strength exiting training camp suggests a contest that will be played close to the vest as the season kicks off.

While I expect a winning score in the mid- to high-20s, a head-knocker wouldn’t be a total surprise, especially as both offenses fight to get their respective sea legs, early.   

Virginia (Sept. 12) – It’s a sandwich game situation for Notre Dame: post-Texas, pre-Georgia Tech, and a true road game to boot, not to mention the first road start of Malik Zaire’s Irish career.

Would a less-than-appealing 20-10 Notre Dame win be a major surprise under these conditions?

USC (Oct. 17) – How can a team appear as a candidate for both the highest and lowest scoring contest? Consider the following as a potential low-scoring slugfest:

Notre Dame’s total offensive touchdowns scored vs. USC in five seasons under Brian Kelly (three Irish victories): 2, 1, 1, 2, 2.

As for USC? 1, 3, 1, 1, and, ahem, 7.

Despite that ugly final number, a pattern has been established when these long-time foes face off.

Temple (Oct. 31) – The Owls can play some defense – they ranked No. 4 nationally last fall and were tied for first with just 24 touchdowns allowed – and Temple could catch the Irish offense slightly off their game in this post-bye week matchup. It’s expected Notre Dame will handle Temple’s offense for the duration as well.

The Lincoln Financial Field scoreboard could be in for light work on Halloween.

Pittsburgh (Nov. 7) – There’s the potential for inclement weather in mid-November at a location that doesn’t favor kickers in the first place – and bad kicking equates to empty possessions regardless of yards accrued.

Rookie Panthers head coach Pat Narduzzi will be champing at the bit to get at old foe Brian Kelly after the latter succeeded Narduzzi and the Mark Dantonio regime at Cincinnati, then four times knocked heads while the pair was at Michigan State.

Narduzzi’s Spartans defenses surrendered just 220, 300, and 322 yards to Kelly’s offenses over the program’s last three meetings. 

Boston College (Nov. 21) – I came very, very close to pulling the trigger on this as the lowest-scoring Irish contest for 2015, both because of the inherent chip on one team’s shoulder when the two are matched, and due to the likelihood of a poor-weather evening in Boston.  

Instead, I’ll stick with the obvious…

In five games against Stanford, Brian Kelly’s Irish squads have produced the following touchdown totals with the game still in doubt: 0, 1, 2, 2, and 2.

And in games played against Kelly’s Irish with quarterback Andrew Luck in the Indianapolis rather than under center for the Cardinal (2012-2014), Stanford has produced 0, 3, and 2 touchdowns, respectively.

On paper, and logically, there is no other choice: Notre Dame at Stanford, November 28 in Palo Alto: your lowest-scoring game for the Irish in 2015.

And one in which a playoff berth could be on the line for one or both teams.

Prediction #7 – Light ‘Em Up

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Prediction #5 – Sophomore Sacker

Prediction #4 – Close and Late

Prediction #3 – When September Ends

Prediction #2 – Where There’s a Will

Prediction #1 – The Playmaker Top Stories