What do the Fighting Irish have left in the tank for the Yellow Jackets after last week's thrilling win over the Cavaliers?
The Yellow Jackets overwhelmed Alcorn State and Tulane, putting each game away before halftime. Meanwhile, Notre Dame played two Power 5 programs and needed a late score to survive Virginia.
Georgia Tech and Notre Dame both have a rich history and have squared off 34 times since 1922. The Irish hold a 27-6-1 advantage, though the Yellow Jackets' last trip to South Bend was a success, winning 33-3 in the 2007 season opener.
Georgia Tech at Notre Dame
Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. ET (Saturday)
TV Channel: NBC
Spread: Notre Dame -2.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Defending Justin Thomas
The Georgia Tech quarterback is difficult to stop because he does so many things well. As the trigger man in the Paul Johnson offense, first and foremost he has to make proper decisions. The junior from Prattville, Ala., ran for over 1,000 yards last fall, which is not surprising out of the triple option system. What is a surprise is that he threw for over 1,700 yards with an 18-to-6 touchdown to interception ratio.
Virginia did not have much success with traditional running plays against Notre Dame but they did burn the Irish on the outside with the jet sweep. Thomas and his backs will threaten the edge and the Irish must find a way to contain the outside run while not forgetting about fullback Patrick Skov inside and Thomas throwing the ball. Brian Van Gorder’s defense was hardly spectacular against the Cavaliers and will face a significant challenge from the Yellow Jackets' signal-caller.
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2. DeShone Kizer’s first start
It was a storybook ending for the sophomore from Toledo. This week, Kizer has to assume the role of starter and realize that the Georgia Tech defense is preparing specifically for him. Kizer has a live arm and certainly showed some accuracy on the game-winning touchdown pass. It did appear that his first look was usually to wide receiver Will Fuller, which isn’t a bad thought. But the ND coaches undoubtedly would like to see Kizer spread it around to others a little more. As a relative unknown, Kizer is a wild card factor in this game.
3. Down and distance
One of the great things about the Georgia Tech offense is that they always feel they can pick up positive yardage. The Yellow Jackets can become maddening for opponents because they consistently put themselves in third and short yardage situations. They are also very good in those spots, ranking No. 1 in third down conversions in 2014. Also, because of their success at getting yards when they need to, you can never assume that Georgia Tech will punt even if you stop them on third down.
What Notre Dame must do is create some negative plays that would take the Jackets out of their comfort zone. When Notre Dame has the ball, Georgia Tech would love to force Kizer into obvious passing situations. Stopping C.J. Prosise will be a top priority for Georgia Tech defensive coordinator Ted Roof.
Notre Dame has been bludgeoned by injuries but no one will care once the ball is kicked off on Saturday. Quarterback DeShone Kizer has to make plays and with tight end Durham Smythe now lost for the season with a knee injury, Tyler Luatua and freshman Alize Jones will have to do their part.
For Georgia Tech, they are in a hostile environment for the first time this year and will be facing their first real opponent. Notre Dame sees the option every year when they play Navy and faced Paul Johnson when he was the coach at Annapolis. The results have been mixed. The Irish are the bigger team but their defenders must be able to fight off the cut blocks. The Irish will struggle to contain Thomas and the Tech offense. But the Georgia Tech defense will also have a hard time with Fuller, Prosise, and Notre Dame’s big offensive line. The Irish survive another close one.
Prediction: Notre Dame 31, Georgia Tech 28
— Written by Jon Kinne, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a college football fanatic. Kinne has been writing about recruiting for the Irish Sports Daily for 10 years. Follow him on Twitter @JonRKinne.