Notre Dame Preview and Prediction
By Jersey Cat
Matchup: #3 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (8-0) at Northwestern Wildcats (5-3, 5-1 B1G)
Date: Saturday, 03 Nov 2018, 6:15 pm CDT
Line: Northwestern (+8)
Let's get it out of the way early...Notre Dame hasn't beaten
Northwestern in 24 years! You'll hear this line a fair amount,
and while true, you’ll be tired of hearing it by kickoff, the
implication being that NU has dominated the Irish over the last quarter
Truth is, Northwestern and Notre Dame have played exactly once since
the miracle of 1995 in South Bend. That was in 2014, as a 3-6 NU
team went into South Bend and beat the Irish in overtime, 43-40, thanks
to some incredible QB play by Trevor Siemian, the running of a freshman
named Justin Jackson, a blocked Irish PAT returned for two points, and
some inexplicable decision making by none other than Irish head coach
Brian Kelly on whether to go for two after a touchdown.
This time, the ‘Cats host the Irish not at Soldier Field as in the
early 90s, but at Ryan Field. Notre Dame hasn’t played in
Evanston since 1976, and the 'Cats haven’t beaten the Irish in Evanston
since 1962, when the Wildcat coach was a guy named Ara Parseghian, only
slightly better known for leading NU’s opponent this week to multiple
national championships in South Bend.
Northwestern comes in riding a four-game winning streak, bookended by
wins over Michigan State and Wisconsin as underdogs with
closer-than-they-should-have-been victories over Nebraska and Rutgers
sandwiched in between.
Last Saturday against the Badgers, NU was able to take advantage of
Wisconsin turnovers and produce points. Freshman back Isaiah
Bowser eclipsed the 100-yard mark for the second consecutive
game. Bowser for the moment looks to be the feature back the
‘Cats have been looking for since the retirement of Jeremy Larkin due
to health reasons. Clayton Thorson didn’t have a tremendous stat
line against Wisconsin, but he scored two rushing TDs and threw for
another while getting picked off three times. Most impressive
from Thorson was his 5 yard TD run where he probably ran about 15
yards, giving the ‘Cats a 14-7 lead in the second quarter.
Thorson showed some mobility thought to be lost following ACL surgery
on that play, as well as on a 27-yard scamper to convert a 3rd and 5 in
the second half. The defense continued to be impressive, forcing
turnovers and doing a solid job of stopping the Badger running game as
NU delivered a surprising 31-17 victory.
I know it’s hard to be critical after such a nice win, but here
goes…I’m sick of the uniform combinations. My kingdom for the
purple helmet with the white N! What’s the deal with this grey
and black all the time? And somebody tell the athletic department
that there’s no shame in a purple jersey with white pants or vice
versa. How does the alma mater go again?
“Hail to Under Armour,
Hail to cash,
Hail to no tra-di-tion…”
Humor the old folks once in a while with some purple and white, will ya? Is this so damn difficult?
On to the Irish, who come into Evanston ranked # 3 in the country at
8-0, following a 22-point win over Navy. The Irish have had a
clean slate thus far, but have hit a few bumps along the way.
Most significant was their game against Pitt, a home game for the
Golden Domers, where they needed a fourth quarter TD to pull out the
19-14 victory. It’s the toughest test they’ve faced to date.
Irish quarterback Ian Book has been impressive, having taken over the
starting job from Brandon Wimbush after ND’s first three
contests. He’s damn accurate, hitting on 76% of his throws.
Book’s primary target is senior wideout Miles Boykin, who has 6 TDs in
his last four games. He has a four-inch height advantage over
NU’s best cover man, Montre Hartage, so this matchup should be an
interesting one. Another one will be the how Wildcat defensive
front contains Irish back Dexter Williams, who has gone for 140+ yards
in 3 of his last 4 games.
With the speed and athleticism of Notre Dame’s defensive line, it could
be tough go for the Wildcat offense. I see them having more
success throwing the ball than running it, and Thorson will have to
spread it around. If this game is going to be an upset, though,
it’s going to be due to the play of the NU defense. Getting some
pressure on Book will be key to force him into some hurried throws or
ones that keep the big plays to a minimum.
It’s no secret that the ‘Cats tend to play better as an underdog than
they do as a favorite. Add to this that Notre Dame has a history
of playing down to opponents against whom they appear to have a
distinct advantage talent-wise. Then throw on top of that the
fact that NU’s stated goal at the outset of the season, to win the Big
Ten, will not be impacted by the outcome of this matchup, win or
lose. Are the ‘Cats playing with house money on Saturday night,
seemingly with nothing to lose? Do they come out loose and play
with an aggressive, WTF attitude? Let’s hope so.
To close, what would a game be against the Irish without a nice limerick? Apologies to the man from Nantucket...
There once was a team from South Bend,
Whose win streak was bound to soon end.
To Evanston they came,
For a big evening game,
Where a great story would surely be penned.
The match seemed unfair at first glance,
In September, NU played as though in a trance.
But as a home dog,
The 'Cats come out of their fog,
For to the B1G Champ Game they plan to advance.
Notre Dame arrived prepped for the rendezvous,
But that line did Northwestern break right through.
NU's D-line came hard after Book,
Who turned it over, his confidence shook,
And for the 'Cats, another hard-fought W.
On this night, NU proved the best team,
Coach Kelly's ears shooting out steam.
To South Bend the Irish returned,
And quickly they learned,
Their playoff hopes now but a dream.
For losers, Coach Fitz says are stats,
In the postgame ESPN chat.
But as NU had won,
"Time for good, clean, American fun."
And left with his trademark, "Go 'Cats!"
So ‘Cats fans, throw back what you got,
Whether a cold one, a dram, or a shot.
And “Cheers,” or better yet, “Slainte”
Which, everyone knows, sounds like “lawn chair”
On to Iowa goes the Northwestern juggernaut!
PICK: Don’t bring a shillelagh to a gunfight:
Northwestern 24, Notre Dame 23. Take the 'Cats and the points.
Season to date: Straight Up: 4-4; Against the Spread: 7-1.
The Lowes Line is an
e-mailed description of NU's
football game, with an invariably fearless prediction of the outcome
how NU will fare against what the other "experts" predict. Our
friend and Brother Marcus Lowes began the broadcast mailing in 1996.
The crack Lowes Line Staff (alumni Jersey Cat,
GallopingGrapes, Eric Cockerill, Joel Kanvik, Charlie Simon, and
MO'Cats) have continued the Line in memory of Marcus.
the 2018 season it has returned to HailToPurple.com,
for anyone to enjoy. Thanks to the gridiron brain trust at the Lowes