After a Houdini act in Charlottesville on Saturday, Notre Dame has no margin for error heading into a crucial stretch of the season. Three of Notre Dame’s next five opponents are top-25 teams, starting with Georgia Tech on Saturday. Here’s how those teams, and the rest of Notre Dame’s schedule, fared over the weekend:
Texas (1-1): Beat Rice, 42-28
Rice was no match in Austin for the Longhorns, who changed play callers after only scoring three points against Notre Dame in Week 1. Jerrod Heard completed four of seven passes for — and this isn’t a typo — 120 yards with two touchdowns and powered a ground game that averaged 5.3 yards per carry. Whether or not Texas’ offensive improvement is due to xxx calling the plays remains to be seen, as Rice is a middling-at-best Conference USA side that was a good opponent for Texas to gain a little momentum heading into a tough game against Sonny Dykes’ Cal “Bear Raid” offense.
Georgia Tech (2-0): Beat Tulane, 65-10
Paul Johnson’s triple option racked up 439 yards on 56 carries (7.8 YPC) in a blood-letting against a weak Group of Five opponent. Justin Thomas carried 10 times for 71 yards with a touchdown to pace the Yellow Jackets, which had 13 different players carry the ball against Tulane. Georgia Tech hasn’t been challenged with Alcorn State and Tulane to open the season, but its triple option still looks as good as it was in last year’s Orange Bowl season.
Massachusetts (0-1): Lost to Colorado, 48-14
The good news about this season-defining five-game stretch for Notre Dame is they have a glorified bye between Georgia Tech and Clemson. UMass was blown out by a bad Colorado team and is one of FBS’ worst programs against which DeShone Kizer could be able to gain some momentum heading into Death Valley.
Clemson (2-0): Beat Appalachian State, 41-10
DeShaun Watson completed 19 of 26 passes for 248 yards and three touchdowns against a pesky Appalachian State side. It was a good tune-up for Dabo Swinney’s Tigers, who head to a slumping Louisville Thursday night.
Navy (1-0): Bye
We’ll get an idea of how well Notre Dame can defend the triple option this weekend against Georgia Tech, but even if Brian VanGorder’s group is successful this is an awfully tough trap game between Clemson and USC.
USC (2-0): Beat Idaho, 59-9
More than anything else, last week’s throttling of Arkansas State looks more impressive after the Red Wolves gave Mizzou a tough game in Jonesboro on Saturday. Cody Kessler completed 26 of 31 passes for 410 yards and three touchdowns in another easy win for the Trojans.
Temple (2-0): Beat Cincinnati, 34-26
Could Matt Rhule’s Owls make a run at earning the Group of Five New Year’s Six bowl bid? After sacking Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg 10 times in a Week 1 win over the Nittany Lions, Temple rolled past Cincinnati 34-26. Keep an eye on this group — if Notre Dame somehow navigates this difficult five-game stretch without a loss, it’ll have its hands full coming out of the bye week on Halloween night in Philadelphia.
Pitt (2-0): Beat Akron, 24-7
The post-James Conner era began with Qadree Ollison picking up 81 yards on 21 carries with a touchdown. If Pitt can get consistent production out of Ollison, its offense could be good enough to pull an upset here or there, but that’s a big ask to replace one of college football’s best players.
Wake Forest (1-1): Lost to Syracuse, 30-17
It turns out facing an FBS team is a little tougher than an FCS opponent. After clobbering Elon last week, Wake Forest averaged 1.4 yards per carry against the Orange, and while quarterback John Wolford threw for 373 yards he threw three picks to send the Deacons to their first loss of the season.
Boston College (2-0): Beat Howard, 76-0
A week after struggling with Maine, Boston College limited Howard to 11 total yards (11!) and led 41-0 after the first quarter. Yikes.
Stanford (1-1): Beat UCF, 31-7
Kevin Hogan threw for three touchdowns and the Cardinal defense held George O’Leary’s Knights to 30 yards on 29 rushes and four yards per pass in an easy win after last week’s turgid loss to Northwestern. UCF isn’t close to the program it was when it had Blake Bortles and Storm Johnson, so we’ll know more about David Shaw’s side when the travel to Los Angeles to face USC next weekend.