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No. 4 Notre Dame vs. Louisville: Who, what, when, where, why and by how much?

Notre Dame

Braden Lenzy

Notre Dame Athletics

WHO? No. 4 Notre Dame (3-0, 2-0 ACC) vs. Louisville (1-3, 0-3).The opening quarter of the Irish schedule has left something to be desired in terms of competition, and the Cardinals fit that mold, at least on paper. Duke, South Florida and Florida State are lost causes; none of them will turn their seasons around from their combined 3-10 starts. Louisville yet may.

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly echoed a common sentiment this week, that the Cardinals could just as easily be 3-1, falling by three at Pittsburgh and three lost fumbles undoing their chances at Georgia Tech.

“It’s a much better football team than that,” Kelly said Monday. “This past week (at Georgia Tech), they were the better football team, but they put the ball on the ground. … Really good scheme, really well-coached, dynamic playmakers, an offensive line that is really good technically at what they do.”

WHAT? A chance for the Irish to take sole ownership of the longest active winning streak in the country, currently tied with Air Force at nine games. It may seem a trivial feat, but it speaks to the unpredictability of this entire sport and the too-often underrated difficulty of winning the games on your schedule.

WHEN? A 2:41 ET kickoff will bring nearly 20 miles per hour winds, turning mid-50s and low-60s temperatures into brisker conditions, but that’s mid-October near a Great Lake.

WHERE? Notre Dame Stadium, South Bend, Ind., the final game of an unexpected four-game homestand for the Irish to open this chaotic season. They have had the luxury, albeit one somewhat botched, of not having to fly, of not having to bus to and from an airport, of not having to further tempt the inevitability of coronavirus.

“We’ve already been talking about what the road looks like for us in terms of procedures and protocols,” Kelly said, just about the same time news of the increasing trouble throughout the SEC broke bit by bit, much of which coaches have traced to travel problems.

NBC will have the broadcast, while the game will stream online and via the NBC Sports app.

WHY? Because this season has not imploded, yet. Though about 16 percent of games have been postponed or canceled, though the SEC’s latest troubles underscore the thin margin of error to squeeze in this slate, though Notre Dame itself is only just getting its entire roster back in the fold, it has not completely fallen apart.

Other worries do, of course, persist, such as the University reporting 31 new positive coronavirus tests on Wednesday, the most in a single day since Aug. 24, when Notre Dame was still in its first week of a two-week campus shutdown that included only remote classes and near total-quarantine of the student body.

As of early Saturday morning, PointsBet made Notre Dame a 16.5-point favorite with a combined point total over/under of 62, suggesting a 39-23 result.

Kelly would wonder if such expected totals are giving too much credit to defenses in turmoil, though he obviously does not view that possibility through this specific lens. Losing spring practice, a calm summer and structured preseason practices hampers defensive development more than it does offensive.

“The ability to work on the fundamentals of defense, taking that away and not having that base, and then scrambling to get into camp and having to spend a lot of time on scheme over technique has not been the friend of defense,” Kelly said Thursday. “It has definitely helped offenses.

“Offenses are structured much more around the scheme than they are amongst the technique.”

Both the Irish and the Cardinals have demonstrated that, the former scoring 3.17 points per possession, the latter giving up 2.74 points per drive, No. 59 of 72 teams to have played at least two games. Notre Dame averages 12 possessions per game with one forced turnover per game. Louisville, meanwhile, has been giving up nearly three turnovers per game.

Following that logic, the Irish could reasonably expect 14 possessions this afternoon. Multiply that by their usual production, and they score 44 points; by the Cardinals’ usual allowance and 38 points. Whichever end of that spectrum proves more accurate, Notre Dame’s offense will have the advantage, as all offenses seem to in 2020. To a lesser extent, Louisville’s best playmakers — receiver Tutu Atwell and running back Javin Hawkins chief among them — should, as well, wind permitting.

Notre Dame 41, Louisville 17.
(3-0 straight up, 2-1 against the spread, 1-2 over/under)

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INSIDE THE IRISH READING:Unexpected veterans key Notre Dame’s adaptabilityDefensive flux continues with LB Paul Moala out for the yearNotre Dame’s Opponents: Clemson is ‘good,’ the rest of the ACC confusingAnd In That Corner … No. 4 Notre Dame returns to ‘normalcy’ against LouisvilleCrawford’s and Hamilton’s differences create an Irish strength at safetyNotre Dame with zero players in isolation or quarantine for the first time in five weeksThings To Learn: Notre Dame seeks offensive, defensive consistency on conflicting timelines30 Years of ND on NBC: Darius Walker’s 2004 debut powers upset of No. 8 Michigan

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