Yellow Jackets look to rebound from consecutive losses against No. 4 Irish
The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets will look to snap a two-game losing streak and pick up just their third win of 2020 when they host the Notre Dame Fighting Irish on Saturday afternoon at Bobby Dodd Stadium. This will be the second road game in as many weeks for Notre Dame, which opened the season with four straight home games after a matchup at Wake Forest was postponed to December due to a COVID-19 outbreak.
Coming off a 12-7 win against Louisville on Oct. 17, the Fighting Irish rebounded in a big way last week with a 45-3 drubbing of Pittsburgh at Heinz Field. Notre Dame allowed a Pitt field goal midway through the first quarter but otherwise held the Panthers off the scoreboard while outgaining the hosts 434-162.
Georgia Tech, on the other hand, returns home after losing two games in a row — falling 48-27 at Boston College last Saturday — and has lost four of its last five games. The Yellow Jackets have surrendered 121 points in the last two weeks, and only twice this season have they kept their opponents under 30 points.
Notre Dame holds a 28-6-1 all-time advantage in a series that began nearly a century ago when the Fighting Irish kicked off the series with a 13-3 win in the series opener in Atlanta in 1922. These two teams have alternated wins in each of the last five matchups, with the Irish victorious in the most recent meeting, a 30-22 win at Notre Dame Stadium in 2015.
No. 4 Notre Dame at Georgia Tech
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 31 at 3:30 p.m. ET
Spread: Notre Dame -19
When Notre Dame Has the Ball
Quarterback Ian Book was hardly efficient against Pittsburgh. He completed just 16-of-30 passes, but he totaled 312 yards and three touchdowns, passing offensive coordinator and former ND quarterback Tommy Rees (61) with his 62nd career touchdown pass. And with a three-yard rush early in the game, Book became just the second quarterback in Notre Dame history to eclipse 8,000 career total yards, joining Brady Quinn (11,944) as the only Irish signal-callers to reach that mark.
Pittsburgh held Notre Dame to just 2.3 yards per rush on 50 carries in the game, but Notre Dame's passing attack more than made up for the decreased rushing output. Wide receiver Ben Skowronek hauled in a pair of Book's touchdowns — his first two with Notre Dame — for his only two receptions of the game. The first was a 34-yarder in the opening quarter, which at the time marked Notre Dame's longest touchdown pass of the season. That distinction held until Skowronek added a 73-yard catch-and-run to his day in the second quarter. Tight end Michael Mayer also had another solid outing with five receptions for 73 yards and Book's third touchdown.
The Yellow Jackets have had their defensive woes this season, allowing an ACC-worst — and 10th-worst in the FBS — 41.2 points per game. Georgia Tech also finds itself in the bottom-20 nationally in total defense, with opponents averaging 479.2 yards per game in 2020. However, defensive coordinator Andrew Thacker's group has been very opportunistic with 11 takeaways this season, and the Yellow Jackets' seven fumbles recovered is the third-best mark in the FBS.
When Georgia Tech Has the Ball
Quarterback Jeff Sims did what he could to keep the Yellow Jackets in the game with three total touchdowns (two passing, one rushing) against Boston College, but penalties and turnovers were simply too much for Georgia Tech to overcome. Boston College scored 21 points off three Georgia Tech turnovers — including a fumble and an interception by Sims — and the Yellow Jackets were unable to recover from a 24-0 deficit mounted in just over a quarter of play.
Georgia Tech had averaged over 195 yards per game on the ground entering last week, but gained barely half that much against Boston College with 106 yards on 33 carries. On the receiving side, Ahmarean Brown led all Yellow Jackets receivers with four catches for a team-high 75 yards and one of Sims' two touchdowns, while Peje' Harris caught Sims' other touchdown pass for his only reception of the afternoon.
The Irish defense couldn't get the shutout last week, but by holding the Panthers to three points Notre Dame marked its third game of holding its opponent to single digits on the scoreboard. Defensive coordinator Clark Lea's unit limited Pittsburgh to just 44 yards rushing and collected three sacks in the win. The Irish can lay claim to the ACC's top scoring and total defense in 2020 — sixth and ninth in the FBS, respectively — with 9.8 points and 273 total yards allowed per game.
Notre Dame enters Saturday's matchup with Georgia Tech with momentum heavily on its side in its final game before hosting Clemson at Notre Dame Stadium next weekend. The Yellow Jackets have had success creating turnovers defensively, but the Fighting Irish put together a complete team win last week and are clicking on all cylinders.
Prediction: Notre Dame 41, Georgia Tech 17
Podcast: Week 9 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.