Many experts believed that Notre Dame might be the most talented team Brian Kelly has had. If the season opener is an indication, they might be right. The Irish are -11.5 for Saturday's game.
Irish Embarrassed Texas
Maybe Texas just isn't any good. But there's plenty of talent on that squad as well. That's why it was so stunning to see Notre Dame just demolish Coach Charlie Strong's team 38-3 last Saturday in South Bend. Make the first regular-season start of his career, Irish quarterback Malik Zaire was terrific, going 19 of 22 for 313 yards and three touchdowns. That 86.6 percent completion rate was the second-best in school history: Steve Beuerlein completed 10 of 11 passes against Colorado in 1984, a 90.9 percent completion rate. Now you can perhaps see why last year's starter during the regular season, Everett Golson, transferred out of Notre Dame. It was only the fifth time that a Notre Dame QB had a 300-yard passing game in the season opener. The others were Terry Hanratty 303 vs. Purdue in 1966, Jarious Jackson 302 vs. Michigan in 1999, Jimmy Clausen 315 vs. Nevada in 2009, and Tommy Rees 346 vs. Temple in 2013.
Will Fuller caught seven of those Zaire passes for 142 yards and two touchdowns. It was his fourth career multi-TD game and fifth 100-yard game. C.J. Prosise led the ground attack with 20 carries for 98 yards while Josh Adams had two rushing scores.
Defensively, Notre Dame held Texas, which does have some quarterback problems, to only 163 total yards. It was the first time since beating Army on November 20, 2010, that the Irish have held an opponent under 200 yards of total offense. The points allowed were the Irish's fewest since Sept. 5, 2009, a shutout of Nevada. And you just aren't going to beat the Irish if they don't turn the ball over. They didn't vs. the Horns and are 17-0 under Kelly when not doing so.
However, the news isn't all great. Last year's leading rusher, Tarean Folston, will miss the rest of the season with an ACL injury suffered early vs. Texas. He had 889 yards on the ground and six scores in 2014. That's why Prosise, a redshirt junior who is from Virginia, and Adams, a freshman, got so much work. The Irish will rely on those two and Dexter Williams, another freshman. Notre Dame lost another tailback, Greg Bryant, before the season for academic reasons.
This will be the Irish's first game ever in the state of Virginia, which is surprising. Notre Dame jumped from No. 11 to No. 9 in the new Associated Press poll.
Wahoos Outclassed In L.A.
Virginia coach Mike London is on one of the hottest seats in the nation and it didn't get any cooler following a 34-16 loss at No. 13 UCLA last weekend. Obviously there's no shame in losing to such a good Bruins team, but the Wahoos allowed UCLA true freshman quarterback Josh Rosen to torch them. He was 28-for-35 for 351 yards and three touchdowns with no turnovers. Rosen wasn't a threat to run as UCLA did not call a designed quarterback run; Zaire certainly will be. The Cavs also didn't get much pressure on Rosen when he did throw with only one sack.
“Bringing pressure is huge,” said junior linebacker Zach Bradshaw. The inability to do so against UCLA, he said, “created a lot of problems.” Indeed, UCLA had eight plays that gained 20 or more yards.
Matt Johns finished 21-for-35 for UVA for 238 yards, a TD and a pick. Taquan Mizzell had eight catches for 100 yards and a score while leading the team with 16 carries for 45 yards. That was his first career start. Junior Ryan Doull, projected to start at left guard for Virginia this season, did not make the trip for the UCLA game due to an undisclosed injury but could return Saturday.
This is only the second meeting between Notre Dame and Virginia. In the other one, the Irish defeated the Cavaliers 36-14 in the season-opening 1989 Kickoff Classic at the Meadowlands in East Rutherford, N.J.
Virginia is 4-1 under London in home openers. Last year the Wahoos played No. 7 UCLA very tough before falling 28-20. The year before that UVA upset BYU 19-16.
NCAAF Free Picks
This line offered on the college football betting board feels at least 2.5 points too low, at least purely on talent. Give the points and go 'under' the total with your college football picks. The 'under' is 7-1 in UVA's past eight overall. It is 4-1 in Notre Dame's past five after allowing less than 20 points in its previous game.
College Football Pick: Notre Dame & Under