Fighting Irish Face Tall Order in Waking Up the Echoes at Georgia

College Football Week 4 Game of the Week Odds: Notre Dame at Georgia Odds

For all of Notre Dame’s storied prominence in the 150-year history of college football – and there is plenty – the other truth is the Fighting Irish have not won a national title since Lou Holtz stalked the sidelines in 1988. 

Current coach Brian Kelly has made Notre Dame a national player once more, getting the Irish to the BCS Championship game in 2013 and the College Football Playoff semifinals last year. The problem is they are bumping against a ceiling that shows no sign of giving any time soon. Six years ago, Notre Dame was clearly not equipped as a program for an Alabama juggernaut and manhandled 42-14 in a game every bit as one-sided as the final score shows. 

January was more of the same as eventual CFP champion Clemson laid a 30-3 beatdown on the Irish in the Cotton Bowl, leaving a sour taste on an otherwise impressive 12-1 season. The Tigers more than doubled the yardage of Notre Dame and scored the game’s final 27 points as freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence shredded the Irish defense and outplayed counterpark Ian Book.  

That brings us to Saturday, when the seventh-ranked Irish will play at No. 3 Georgia in Athens. According to the Sports Book at Fan Duel, Notre Dame is a 14.5-point underdog, which speaks to both the perceived and real power of Georgia in the SEC as Alabama’s primary challenge for conference and national supremacy as well as the Irish being “a” national player but not “the” national player. 

Georgia Bulldogs Odds as They Host Notre Dame

This game is the back end of a home-and-home series between the schools, which began Georgia pulling out a 20-19 win at South Bend in 2017, a game which sent both programs on an upward trajectory despite having only one winner. 

The Bulldogs (-640have remained a fixture in the Top 10 rankings, reaching the CFP title game in 2017 and losing to Alabama. Georgia then advanced to the SEC title game last season and lost to – again – Alabama. Notre Dame (+460has won 23 of 26 games since being beaten by Georgia, with all three defeats coming to ranked opponents – including a pair of Top 10 foes in lopsided fashion. 

Therefore, this is the game that both teams need as their springboard to a potential landing spot in the CFP semifinals. The gap between Clemson and Alabama and the rest of the national title contenders appears to be smaller than years past, and this contest could serve as a de facto elimination game despite its late September schedule date 

Two years later, both quarterbacks – Book and Georgia counterpart Jake Fromm – are now upperclassmen and leaders of their respective teams with dynamic offenses. 

Quarterbacks Lead the Way in a Battle of Top-10 Teams

Fromm made his first collegiate start against the Irish two years ago and is now a darkhorse Heisman contender. He has thrown for 601 yards and five touchdowns without an interception in leading Georgia to a 3-0 start but also has a cadre of running backs led by D’Andre Swift, who has 290 yards and a pair of touchdowns while averaging a gaudy 9.4 yards per carry. 

Book is also off to a strong start but has more offensive responsibilities than Fromm as a dual-threat quarterback. The senior has thrown for 553 yards and six TDs on just 47 pass attempts while adding another 127 yards and two scores on the ground. Book is also coming off his best collegiate passing game, totaling 360 yards and five touchdowns in Notre Dame’s 66-14 thumping of New Mexico last weekend. 

Both teams have yet to be tested defensively, though the Bulldogs have yielded only one offensive touchdown and 23 points overall in their three games while allowing 182 rushing yards total. Notre Dame has amassed more than double that on the ground in its two wins, which makes this a matchup Book has to find a way to win to give the Irish a shot at victory. 

While it is not as readily recalled as Notre Dame’s last championship season, one has to go eight years further back to find the last time Georgia was declared national champion back in 1980 when a freshman bulldozer of a running back named Herschel Walker was plowing through defenses.  

There is a sense of generational desperation heading into this game for both teams as they chase both Alabama and Clemson as well as the ghosts of their past. The winner gets a leg up in the race to vanquish those demons, while the loser adds another set of them to conquer at a different time.