College Football Weekly: Notre Dame is For Real

Notre Dame may finally be for real. Going over the big games of October.

Is Notre Dame Legit?

In nine of the last 10 seasons, Notre dame has been ranked in the AP Top 25 at some point throughout the season. The Irish have also started seven of the last 10 seasons, including this year, in the preseason AP Top 25 and have only finished the year ranked twice.

So it is easy for someone to be bearish on Notre Dame. But if the 2018 Notre Dame Fighting Irish were a stock, I’d be buying.

Through five weeks, Notre Dame is 5-0 and has stacked up some really nice wins in the hardest part of its schedule. In Week 1, Michigan went to South Bend and was stifled by the Notre Dame defense. The unit only allowed 307 total yards, which is the second fewest they have allowed all season. The least amount they have allowed in a game was last week against No. 7 Stanford, when they allowed just 229 total yards.

Maybe the most important thing ND has done this season was make a change at quarterback. Brandon Wimbush, the starter for the Irish in 2017, is a great runner of the football but has a well-chronicled accuracy issue. He completed just 49.5 percent of his passes in 2017. Wimbush had his completion percentage up to 55.5 through three games but head coach Brian Kelly decided they could do better.

In comes Ian Book. In his two starts, he has completed 73.1 percent of his passes, thrown for 597 yards, which is more than Wimbush had in his three starts, has had six touchdowns, zero interceptions and beat No. 7 Stanford. So far so good.

The Irish also have a very favorable schedule going forward. ND only has one ranked opponent remaining on their schedule and that is this week when they face No. 24 Virginia Tech on the road. That is the same Virginia Tech team that lost to Old Dominion 49-35. After that Notre Dame has two home games, two neutral site games and two games on the road and none of those teams are currently ranked in the Top 25.

According to Bovada, Notre Dame has the fifth best odds to not just make the playoff but to win the Championship at 15/1. All the Irish have to do is take care of the remainder of their schedule in which they should be a favorite in every game.

Every Game That Really Matters In October (As Of Now)

In college football, October signifies the real start of conference play. The meat of the conference schedule is in October for many teams. Here is a week-by-week break down of the games that have an effect on the Power Five conference championship races and the college landscape as a whole in the month of October.

OCTOBER 6

No. 7 Oklahoma vs No. 19 Texas (Neutral Site)

  • The Red River Showdown is the biggest game of Week 6. No. 19 Texas stumbled in Week 1 against Maryland at FedEx Stadium but has been rolling ever since with big wins against USC (37-14) and TCU (31-16.) Oklahoma has rolled through its schedule thus far with the exception of the weird game against Army in which the Sooners were taken to overtime. Massive game for both sides.

No. 5 LSU @ No. 20 Florida

  • LSU looks like a legit contender in the SEC this season. Led by quarterback Joe Burrow, the transfer from Ohio State, the Tigers have wins against two teams who were ranked in the top 10 when they played them, No. 8 Miami and No. 7 Auburn. Florida is sitting at 4-1 and appears to be one of the logical contenders in the SEC East with Georgia.

No. 6 Notre Dame @ No. 24 Virginia Tech

  • Although this is not technically a conference game, it carries huge stakes. Another Top 25 victory would put Notre Dame in the driver's seat to make the college football playoff. Meanwhile, Virginia Tech is 2-0 in the ACC and wants to establish itself as the team to beat in the weaker ACC Coastal division.

Florida State @ No. 17 Miami (Honorable mention)

No. 13 Kentucky @ Texas A&M (honorable mention)

OCTOBER 13

No. 16 Wisconsin @ No. 15 Michigan

  • This game is far bigger than the rankings indicate. First of all, because both teams come into the game with at least one loss, whoever loses this game is essentially eliminated from the college football playoff (no team has ever made the playoff with two losses.) The game also carries huge weight for the conference. If Wisconsin loses to Michigan, suddenly Iowa, who lost to Wisconsin in Week 4, has a chance to make the Big Ten Championship Game out of the weaker West division. In addition, if Michigan loses its first major in-conference test, there will be even more pressure on Jim Harbaugh with people insisting he can’t win the big games. The Wolverines would probably also have to win out in order to make the Big Ten Championship Game if they lost to the Badgers.

No. 20 Michigan State @ No. 11 Penn State

  • The Spartans will be searching for their first big win of the season in an extremely tough environment at Penn State. PSU will be coming off their bye week and playing their first game since a tough loss at home to No. 3 Ohio State. This game is crucial for both teams if they want to have a real chance to compete in the extremely tough Big Ten East.

No. 2 Georgia @ No. 5 LSU

  • This will maybe be the game of the year at the time it’s played. The game carries huge implications for both teams. With the exception of South Carolina, who was ranked No. 24 when Georgia crushed them, this will be the first major test for the Bulldogs. Georgia competed in the national championship game last season against Alabama and if they want to get back there this is one they should take care of business in. In addition, it is looking like there are going to be more teams in the running this year for the college football playoff (specifically Notre Dame) so a one-loss SEC team may not make the competition. For LSU, assuming they beat Florida the week before, this is an opportunity for Ed Orgeron to prove that he belongs at a program the size of LSU. Orgeron was 9-4 last year in his first full season at the helm.

No. 10 Washington @ No. 18 Oregon

  • This game will be huge for the Pac-12 North division. Oregon had Stanford on the ropes in Week 4 but ended up losing 38-31 in overtime. The Ducks have quarterback Justin Herbert, who is looking like he is going to be a top choice in the NFL Draft next spring. If things fall in the right direction for Oregon they could compete for the division. Washington on the other hand is the favorite to win the division and the conference. Their game against Stanford falls in November but in all likelihood that game will decide the division.

No. 21 Colorado @ USC

  • This game is between the winner of the Pac-12 South for each of the last two years, Colorado in 2016 and USC in 2017. Unless Arizona State makes a surprising push, these will be the two teams competing for the division. Colorado is currently 4-0 and this game is a chance for Colorado to prove they are for real after going 5-7 in 2017.

OCTOBER 20

No. 15 Michigan @ No. 20 Michigan State

  • Even if both Michigan and Michigan State lose their games the week before, this game still carries huge stakes. U-M needs to beat their rivals, especially MSU, to curve the narrative that Harbaugh can’t beat their biggest opponents. In seasons when MSU is not competing for championships, the success of the season is often decided by how they did against Michigan. If the two teams beat Wisconsin and Penn State respectively, the game speaks for itself.

No. 21 Colorado @ No. 10 Washington

  • A possible preview of the Pac-12 championship game. Both teams will be coming off big games against division-opponents the week before.

No. 2 Georgia vs No. 20 Florida (Neutral site)

  • Georgia will be coming off a massive game against LSU where the emotions will be extremely high. This game is always massive in the SEC East race and with the emergence of Kentucky into the SEC East discussion, both teams will have little room for error, especially Georgia, who has serious aspirations to return to the national championship game.

No. 23 NC State @ No. 4 Clemson

  • Somehow this is the only ranked opponent on Clemson’s schedule this year. The Tigers have drawn an extremely weak slate of games for 2018 and this will likely be one of their last tests. Barring a screw up, Clemson has a very clear path to the College Football Playoff. NC State is allowing just 15.2 points per game, which is 13th in the nation. The Wolfpack are 4-0 as it stands.

No. 7 Oklahoma @ TCU (Honorable Mention)

  • A few weeks ago this may have been the game of the year in the Big 12 but with TCU now sitting at 3-2 and being unranked, this game just doesn’t carry the same weight. Still, it is another possible slip up spot for the Sooners.

OCTOBER 27

Iowa @ No. 11 Penn State

  • Although Iowa is currently unranked and lost to Wisconsin, they have a real chance of making the Big Ten Championship Game because of how easy the West division is. This is yet another tough game for Penn State who gets OSU, MSU, U-M, Wisconsin and Iowa on their schedule.

No. 19 Texas @ No. 25 Oklahoma State (Honorable Mention)

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