The Notre Dame Fighting Irish host the Louisville Cardinals on Saturday afternoon, with the former in search of their fourth straight win to begin the 2020 season while the latter looks to rebound from three consecutive losses after an opening win.
This will mark Notre Dame's fourth home contest in as many games, with the Irish's trip to Wake Forest rescheduled for December due to COVID-19. Head coach Brian Kelly's squad hasn't minded the extra time inside Notre Dame Stadium, winning their first three games of 2020 by an average of 27.3 points per game. Last week against Florida State, Notre Dame used a 35-point first half to seize the momentum en route to a 42-26 win.
That was nearly the same margin by which Louisville fell at Georgia Tech on Saturday night. The Cardinals took a 21-14 lead into halftime, but the Yellow Jackets outscored the visitors 32-6 in the second half — including the final 20 points of the game, all in the fourth quarter — to secure the victory and send Louisville to 0-3 in ACC play.
The Cardinals and Fighting Irish have only met twice, with each winning on the other's home field. Louisville squeaked out a 31-28 win at Notre Dame in 2014, while the Irish returned the favor last year with a 35-17 win to open the 2019 season.
Louisville at Notre Dame
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 17 at 2:30 p.m. ET
Spread: Notre Dame -16.5
When Louisville Has the Ball
Quarterback Micale Cunningham is a do-it-all threat for Louisville, accounting for all four of the Cardinals' touchdowns on Saturday night. He completed 19 of 33 passes for 229 yards and a pair of touchdowns while rushing 14 times for 50 yards and another two scores. His four-touchdown effort matched a similar performance against WKU on Sept. 12 when he threw for three scores and ran in another.
Running back Javian Hawkins was held out of the end zone against Georgia Tech, but that didn't stop him from eclipsing 150 rushing yards for the second time in three weeks, as he tallied 155 yards on 26 carries. His 468 total rushing yards lead the ACC and rank him third in the FBS. On the receiving side, Marshon Ford and Tutu Atwell each hauled in a touchdown pass from Cunningham against the Yellow Jackets, with Atwell grabbing his fourth such score of the season, which has him tied atop the ACC leaderboard.
Notre Dame allowed 26 points to Florida State after giving up exactly half that in the first two weeks combined (all to Duke in Week 1). The Irish enter this game with the nation's eighth-ranked scoring defense (13.0 ppg) and are top 20 in total defense (323.3 ypg) as well. Coordinator Clark Lea's unit also notched nine tackles for a loss including four sacks, two by Adetokunbo Ogundeji and one each by Bo Bauer and Ovie Oghuofo.
When Notre Dame Has the Ball
Quarterback Ian Book didn't have an eye-popping game against the Seminoles, going 16-for-25 passing for 201 yards and a pair of touchdowns, with an additional score and 58 yards on nine carries. The passing yardage was right in line with Book's 2020 season average of 202.5 yards per game, but more importantly, Book neither turned the ball over nor took a sack in the game.
Running back Kyren Williams' day didn’t start off on a great note, as he fumbled on the Irish's second offensive play of the game, but he more than made up for it with 185 yards on 19 carries and two touchdowns. He's seventh in the nation and third it the ACC with 119.7 rushing yards per game. Chris Tyree (103 yards, TD) eclipsed the century mark in just his third game for the Irish, while Javon McKinley (five receptions, 107 yards) was Book's top target through the air.
Louisville failed to record a sack against Georgia Tech last week and notched only two tackles for a loss all night. The Cardinals have allowed 34.3 points per game thus far, the fourth-worst mark in the ACC and among the bottom 15 in the FBS. Louisville has mustered three takeaways in four games — two fumble recoveries and an interception — after averaging nearly 1.4 per contest in 2019.
Notre Dame didn't have its cleanest game against Florida State last week, but its offense still showed that it is capable of scoring points in a hurry. Louisville's defense struggled to contain Georgia Tech and allowed more than 40 points for the second time in three games, a troubling sign going into a game against a top-5 team.
Prediction: Notre Dame 45, Louisville 23
Podcast: Week 7 Preview and Predictions
— Written by Juan Jose Rodriguez, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a 2019 graduate of the University of Notre Dame. Rodriguez was an intern for Athlon during summer 2017 and worked for a variety of media outlets on campus, including as the Editor-in-Chief of Scholastic Magazine. Follow him on Twitter @JuanJoseRG02.