College Football Picks: Georgia Tech & Notre Dame Meet for Top-15 Showdown

Matthew Jordan

Thursday, September 17, 2015 12:05 PM UTC

Thursday, Sep. 17, 2015 12:05 PM UTC

How odd is it that the better-ranked team is a home underdog between top FBS teams? It's the case Saturday as No. 8 Notre Dame is +2.5 College Football odds dogs vs. No. 14 Georgia Tech. 

Irish Ravaged By Injuries
There's no team in the country that college football fans have a more love/hate relationship with than Notre Dame. If you love them, you probably would like some empathy because no team has suffered bigger injuries this early in the season. If you hate the Irish, you are probably enjoying this.

In Notre Dame's Week 1 very impressive 38-3 home win over Texas, leading returning rusher and top tailback Tarean Folston was lost for the season. Then last Saturday in the Irish's first-ever game in the State/Commonwealth of Virginia, they lost starting quarterback Malik Zaire and tight end Durham Smythe to season-ending injuries.

Zaire was spectacular against the Longhorns, immediately thrusting himself into the Heisman conversation. He was 19-for-22 passing for 313 yards and three scores while rushing for 16 yards. However, in Saturday's 34-27 win at Virginia, Zaire's ankle was fractured when it was caught under a Cavaliers defender on a third-quarter run. He was 7-for-18 in the game for 115 yards with a touchdown and 87 yards rushing. Zaire was replaced by DeShone Kizer, who threw the winning 40-yard touchdown pass to Will Fuller with just 12 seconds left. Notre Dame was 0-for-10 on third down in the game, including six stops inside Virginia territory. But on a fourth-and-2 on the final drive, Kizer converted to set up the game-winning touchdown. Kizer, a sophomore from Toledo, was 8-for-12 overall for 92 yards and two touchdowns. C.J. Prosise, who  has replaced Folston as the primary back, rushed 17 times for 155 yard and a score against the Cavs.

As for Smythe, he tore the MCL in his right knee in the fourth quarter on Saturday and had surgery on Tuesday. Smythe, a redshirt sophomore, started both games this year. He caught one pass in each. Smythe's grab against Virginia was a 7-yard TD catch on the first drive of the game off a fake field-goal attempt with holder Kizer completing the pass.

This Saturday's game is only the fifth time since November 2010 that the Fighting Irish are a home dog, with them winning and covering three of the previous four. Kizer is attempting to become the fifth straight Irish QB to win his first career start.


Here Comes The Option
Georgia Tech, the defending ACC Coastal Division champion, brings its vaunted triple-option offense into South Bend, a scheme that only a few other schools run (all three service academies do). The Jackets have played a sorry schedule so far. They crushed Alcorn State 69-6 in Week 1, scoring on their first seven possessions and leading 34-0 at the end of a quarter -- which is only how long star Tech QB Justin Thomas played. The Jackets rushed for 476 yards on 52 carries in that one and attempted just five passes.

Last Saturday against Tulane, it was more of the same. The Jackets won 65-10. Thomas showed he can throw a little, going 7-for-9 for 97 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed for 71 yards and a score. Georgia Tech rushed for 439 yards in that one on 56 carries. Thus to no surprise, the team leads the nation in rushing by far at 457.5 yards per game. Georgia Tech has yet to go three-and-out on a drive, one of just four FBS schools in the nation to say that. Tech is one of seven FBS teams this season to have converted 100 percent of its red zone one possessions into touchdowns (12-for-12). Only Memphis has more red zone touchdowns (13). Again, though, consider the competition. But pretty impressive considering the Jackets have three new starters in the backfield behind Thomas.

One thing Notre Dame has going for it is the Irish play Navy and its triple-option each year.  However, the Irish have allowed more than 330 rush yards in their last two games against the Midshipmen.

This is the first  meeting between Georgia Tech and Notre Dame since the 2007 season. The movie "Rudy" was spawned from the 1975 matchup between these two in South Bend. Georgia Tech is 10-13 under Paul Johnson vs. ranked teams, including winning three of four in succession to end the 2014 season making them an intriguing college football pick. Johnson went 1-5 vs. the Irish while the coach at Navy.


Betting Analysis
I doubt Notre Dame would be a dog on the College Football odds board with Zaire, but it is what it is. Give the points and go 'over.' Tech is 9-0 ATS in its past nine games overall. The Irish are 2-6 ATS in their past eight overall. The 'over' is 8-2 in Georgia Tech's past 10 on road. The 'over' is 7-1 in Notre Dame's past eight overall.

Free College Football Picks: Georgia Tech -2.5 (-110) at Bet365

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