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No. 13 Notre Dame vs Tennessee State: TV, Time, Preview and Prediction

Aer Lingus College Football Classic - Notre Dame v Navy

DUBLIN, IRELAND - AUGUST 26: Deion Colzie #0 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish celebrates a touchdown during the Aer Lingus College Football Classic game between Notre Dame and Navy at Aviva Stadium on August 26, 2023 in Dublin, Ireland. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

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For the first time in 135 years of Notre Dame football, the No. 13 Irish (1-0) will face a historically Black university today, hosting Tennessee State.

“The opportunity for these institution to play a football game that has never been done before I think is tremendous,” Notre Dame head coach Marcus Freeman said Thursday. “It’s a tremendous step in both of our institutions, but it’s great for college football to have an FCS (team) come to Notre Dame Stadium and play a game, and the first HBCU to ever play here.”

Focus on the HBCU aspect, not the FCS designation, because only one of those is truly a first. The Irish have played FCS teams before, it just came prior tothe NCAA splitting Division I football into two categories. Most recently, Notre Dame played Penn in 1955, winning 46-14. The quick reaction to that may be, “Whatever, that was nearly 70 years ago,” but in college football terms, that game is within the modern era.

Furthermore, the Irish have played plenty of paltry opponents in recent years. It is an inevitability in college football in the 21st century, an effect of expanding schedules and the monetary benefit to hosting home games creating lopsided schedules, not to mention the growing distances between the proverbial haves and have-nots in the sport.

Bowling Green and New Mexico in 2019 would have both been a bit worried facing Tennessee State on the football field, UMass in 2015 resembled a distinct valley in the competition level in South Bend on a Saturday, and when Lou Holtz capped his Notre Dame career with a 62-0 win against Rutgers in 1996, that was amidst a 26-game stretch against FBS teams in which the Scarlet Knights won exactly one game.

The Tigers being in both a literal and figurative different league than the Irish is not something new. Tennessee State being an HBCU is.

TIME: 3:30 ET, when it should be a delightful, partly cloudy afternoon in the mid-80s in South Bend, Ind. Winds out of the southwest may warm the fans a bit more, but they will not be strong enough to noticeably impact the game.

And Notre Dame should not plan on needing South Florida transfer kicker Spencer Shrader for any field goal attempts, anyway, given the offensive mismatch against Tennessee State. But to pull from last week’s “40 Predictions for Notre Dame’s 2023,” expect the NBC broadcast to spend a moment specifically on Shrader.

South Florida transfer kicker Spencer Shrader played in South Bend in that 2020 season, sending the opening kickoff regretfully short of the end zone. In a 52-0 blowout, that was Sharder’s only kick that day. Perhaps that will be the easy opportunity to mention his previous appearance, praising a touchback in comparison to that shorter kick three years ago.

TV: NBC will broadcast the first Irish genuine home game of the season, a bit more at ease than in Ireland despite the “The Irish Are Home” marketing campaign plastered all over Dublin last weekend.

Paul Burmeister will handle the play-by-play while Jason Garrett offers analysis in the booth.

Peacock will also carry the game live if preferring to stream it.

PREVIEW: Tennessee State head coach Eddie George — yes, the Heisman-winning Ohio State running back who went onto a Hall of Fame career with the Tennessee Titans — dabbled in a Norman Dale impression this summer when discussing this game with HBCU Gameday.

“Certainly understanding the dimensions of the football field are the same as the Hale Stadium at home,” George said. “When you step out there, you’re going to play football regardless of the uniform they’re wearing, regardless of the stands that dress it up. …

“We’re going to compete in it until we’re not. It’s that simple, like any other game.”

The Tigers upsetting the Irish this afternoon would be literally the biggest upset in NCAA football history, a mark currently held by Howard’s 43-40 upset of UNLV in 2017 when the Bison were 45-point underdogs. A shock today would genuinely be akin to the Milan Miracle or perhaps Leicester City winning the Premiere League. It would bear no resemblance to Notre Dame losing to Marshall last season, a bad memory for Freeman’s home debut but a forgotten result in the broader college football recollection.

Any Tennessee State production this afternoon will begin with quarterback Dreylin Ellis, once upon a time an Austin Peay transfer. His best chance at effectiveness will come on quick passes, screens and releases into the flat, to try to counter the Irish edge in the trenches. Any shot at a big play will risk a defensive lineman — be it senior end Jordan Botelho, senior tackle Rylie Mills or sophomore end Joshua Burnham — getting to Ellis before he sets his feet looking for a slow-devloping route.

PREDICTION: As of sunrise Saturday morning, there is not yet a widely-available point spread available on this game. That should arrive in the next few hours, but based on one sharp book in Las Vegas, the spread will be something just south of seven touchdowns with a combined point total Over/Under about three points higher than that spread.

Tennessee State will not care, obviously.

“People expect us to just go in there and lay over and be a cakewalk,” Tigers senior offensive lineman Romello Tarver said. “It won’t be that. …

“It will be a competitive game.”

With all due respect to Tarver and Tennessee State, “competitive” may be in the eye of the beholder. George seems to have a better handle on that, though he certainly will not take such a tone in the pregame locker room.

“For me, personally, I’m going to play somebody anytime, anywhere,” the former Broadway actor said. “It’s going to be a great learning experience.

“When I pop that tape on of Notre Dame, that’s what we need to be like in some form or fashion.”

That form or fashion just will not be this afternoon.

The Irish and quarterback Sam Hartman should be able to name their score today, but Freeman will exercise some restraint out of respect for his childhood hero George and the HBCU as a whole. The only lingering question may be if the Tigers can break one big play to get into the end zone. Given the almost guaranteed Notre Dame pass rush, consider that unlikely.

Notre Dame 52, Tennessee State 0
(Straight-up: 1-0; Against the spread: 1-0; Over/Under: 0-1)

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