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No. 7 Notre Dame vs. New Mexico: Who, what, when, where, why and by how much

After a win in Louisville, the Fighting Irish are back in South Bend for their home opener against New Mexico on Saturday, September 14 (2:30 p.m. ET, NBC).

WHO? No. 7 Notre Dame (1-0) vs.New Mexico (1-0).

WHAT? Aside from the obvious, perhaps the item most on the line today is the Irish winning streak at Notre Dame Stadium, currently at 11 games and the third-longest in program history. If Notre Dame can win all seven home games this season, it will come within one of the second-longest streak, held by Lou Holtz’s peak teams from 1987-90. This space expects as much, per its preseason predictions.

When Kelly first arrived, the Irish went 6-5 in their first 11 games. Immediately after that, though, Notre Dame reeled off its best home-stretch under Kelly before this one, going 10-1, eventually reaching 15 wins within 16 games from 2011 to 2014. To match that, the Irish would need to win their next three at home. Note: Notre Dame’s next home game is against currently-No. 25 Virginia on Sept. 28.

“The home-field advantage is real with our fans,” Kelly said Monday. “It has gotten better and better in my time here. Just the support that we have, our students are great, they’re engaged, they’re a part of it. Certainly, the video graphics and the jumbotron, just all of those things add to the gameday experience that we’re feeling.”

WHEN? 2:30 p.m. ET, with kickoff coming 12 minutes later.

WHERE? Notre Dame Stadium, South Bend, Ind.

NBC will have the national broadcast, with the game streaming online here.

As always, NBC Sports Gold is available to international fans.

WHY? Former Irish head coach and current Lobos head coach Bob Davie’s absence this weekend, following doctors’ orders, is all the more unfortunate because he played a role in making this game happen. Davie served as an assistant at Power Five schools before he joined Holtz’s staff in South Bend: at Pittsburgh, Arizona and Texas A&M. He has slowly worked his way through something of a homecoming tour while at New Mexico, losing 49-27 at Pitt in 2013, losing to Arizona 45-37 in the New Mexico Bowl in 2015, and falling 55-14 at Texas A&M in 2017. This was to be his final return to old stomping grounds.

Plus, this put $1.1 million into the University of New Mexico’s pockets.

BY HOW MUCH? Notre Dame is favored by 34.5 points, as of late Friday evening. The instinct is to immediately assume the Irish will certainly not win by that much, as they supposedly rarely blow out opponents. Then again, in the last 10 games in which Notre Dame was favored by at least three touchdowns, it covered that spread in four of them, including going 0-3 at such last season (Ball State, Vanderbilt, Pittsburgh). In other words, everyone knows the Irish did not rout the expected opponents a year ago, but over a larger sample size, they do so with an about average frequency.

Getting out to an early lead against the Lobos would allow Notre Dame’s backups to play, a needed aspect, and likely enough motivation to press the gas pedal offensively. That could allow senior quarterback Ian Book to open it up. In that regard, a 21-of-30 afternoon for 300 yards would be preferable for the Irish to a 24-of-30 showing with 220 yards. Some deep shots are necessary for Notre Dame, simply to know they are possible, especially with No. 3 Georgia looming.

On the other side of the ball, there is a reason guarantee games rarely end in shutouts, Irish or otherwise. A single mental lapse can allow a score, simple as that. With a linebacker rotation filled with questions and a secondary devoid of reliable backups, Notre Dame’s second-string will likely give up at least one score, preventing the Irish from recording their first shutout since blanking Michigan, 31-0, in 2015.

With those factors in mind, plus some skepticism about Book actually completing deep passes and using the combined point total over/under of 63 as a guide ...

Notre Dame 42, New Mexico 17.
(1-0 in pick; 0-1 against the spread, 1-0 point total.)

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