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Nevada Wolf Pack vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish Preview and Prediction

Brian Kelly

Brian Kelly

Notre Dame entered the season opener against Texas with many questions. Following the 50-47 double overtime loss, several questions remain and a few more developed.

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The Irish will look for answers as they return home to play a Nevada team coached by former Irish assistant Brian Polian. The Wolf Pack survived a scare by Cal Poly in week one, winning 30-27 in overtime.

This is Nevada’s second trip to South Bend. In the 2009 season opener, the Irish smoked the Colin Kaepernick-led Wolf Pack 35-0.

Nevada at Notre Dame

Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 10 at 3:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: NBC

Spread: Notre Dame -28

Three Things to Watch

1. Kizer is the Man

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DeShone Kizer will start the game on Saturday and there will be no set rotation. While this does not mean that Malik Zaire will not play, it does indicate that Kizer will handle the bulk of the meaningful snaps. Kizer was clearly the better of the two options on Sunday night (responsible for six total touchdowns) and he will now take all the first-team reps in practice and get more game snaps. The Notre Dame offensive line should be able to keep Kizer clean and big passing numbers should be the result.

Related: Five Thoughts on Notre Dame After Week One

2. Defending the Up-Tempo Offense

Personnel-wise, Nevada is nowhere near Texas and the Wolf Pack did only score 30 points in an overtime win against an FCS program last Saturday. But the Irish will get another chance at defending a fast-paced offense on Saturday. New Nevada offensive coordinator Tom Cramsey got his start as an assistant at his alma mater — the University of New Hampshire — and learned under Kelly, who as a Wildcats assistant at the time. Cramsey has patterned his offense after the one devised by his mentor, which means he wants his unit to move at a rapid pace.

3. Notre Dame Run Defense

Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of the Texas loss was how well the Longhorns ran the football. With questions in the secondary and with the pass rush, the Irish could have serious problems if they can’t defend the run. Nevada running back James Butler rushed for 1,342 yards and 10 touchdowns last year and started 2016 with a 123-yard effort against Cal Poly. He will be a player the Notre Dame defense will focus on.

Final Analysis

Coming off of a game against Texas, Nevada seems to be the perfect opponent for the Irish. They are a team that will test a weakness — defending the hurry-up offense — but doesn’t have the horses to challenge Notre Dame. The Wolf Pack defensive front seven is inexperienced and had trouble controlling Cal Poly's option attack, as the Mustangs rushed for 383 yards. Notre Dame’s big offensive line will create different challenges. While Nevada has some weapons on offense, there aren't nearly enough to keep this close. Again, Nevada was taken to overtime by Cal Poly. Notre Dame is not Cal Poly.

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Prediction: Notre Dame 52, Nevada 20

— 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.