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Notre Dame’s Opponents: Two ACC matchups highlight a weekend devoid of drama

SEC Championship - Alabama v Georgia

ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 01: D’Andre Swift #7 of the Georgia Bulldogs carries the ball in the first half against the Alabama Crimson Tide during the 2018 SEC Championship Game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on December 1, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

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In a year when Notre Dame’s opponents are expected to be decidedly mediocre, it should be an unusually good weekend. The long view suggests six Irish foes should finish with winning records, five with losing records and Boston College barely reaching bowl eligibility. Any weekend in which nine of them are expected to win is viewed as an anomaly.

Louisville: vs. No. 7 Notre Dame at 8 ET on Monday on ESPN.Two months ago this line opened with the Irish favored by 20.5. As of early this a.m., that was down to 18.5 with a combined point total over/under of 55. That hints at a final score of 37-18. Notre Dame would be somewhat disappointed by both parts of that score, aside from getting the win in general. Scoring only 37 would be more concerning — giving up 17 or 18 could easily include a garbage-time touchdown — as it would not bode well for an offense expected to exceed the past few seasons of scoring totals.

The Cardinals season win total over/under is 3.5, and this game is hardly a factor in it, written off as a loss for Louisville in those considerations.

New Mexico: vs. FCS-level Sam Houston State at 6 ET.The Lobos desperately need to win this if they are to break their season win total over/under of 4.5. There are arguably four other winnable games on the New Mexico schedule, with two of those opponents slightly above the Lobos in most power rankings and the other two just behind them. To crack that 4.5, New Mexico has to win this weekend and in all four of those or pull off an unlikely upset at some point.

Georgia: at Vanderbilt at 7:30 ET on SEC Network.This line has gone the opposite direction of the Irish-Cardinals line, sliding to 22 points in the Bulldogs favor after opening at 20. With a point total of 58, a 40-18 blowout seems reasonable, but only if No. 3 Georgia eases up. The Commodores defense has not improved from last season when it gave up 26.6 points per game, and they can no longer rely on established game-manager quarterback Kyle Shurmur. An inexperienced passer against a Kirby Smart defense should not find many points, while the Bulldogs will have no problem racking them up.

As for long-term concerns, Georgia can hardly afford to slip up at any point with a win total over/under of 10.5, but this should not be a threat to those thoughts.

Virginia: at Pittsburgh at 7:30 ET on ACC Network.The Cavaliers remain a slight favorite — opening at 3, now at 2.5 points — in a road game against a defending Power Five conference champion, which goes to show both how much of a mess the ACC Coastal should be and how expectations have risen, albeit only by a bit, for Virginia in Bronco Mendenhall’s fourth year there. A 45.5-point total will make for a low-scoring affair, something akin to 24-21.

The mess of the Coastal tempers all of its win total over/unders, including the Cavaliers’, currently at 7.5. Without diving too far into this, realize that Virginia faces William & Mary, and three others viewed as in the bottom-third of the country (Old Dominion, Louisville, Liberty). Two others, North Carolina and Georgia Tech, are in the bottom half. That makes for six wins. To top 7.5, only two more are needed, and they will be available, including against the Panthers.

Bowling Green: vs. FCS-level Morgan State on Thursday at 7 ET on ESPN3.Favored by 24, this will be one of few, very few, wins for the Falcons. Their win total over/under sits at 3. Not much else needs to be said. Frankly, if it was not going to be a down year in the MAC, that number might be at 2 or 2.5.

USC: vs. Fresno State at 10:30 ET on ESPN.This line has held steady at 13.5, which is somewhat surprising given the downswing the Trojans’ season ended on and its not-exactly-inspiring subsequent offseason. But when one school recruits like USC and the other like a Mountain West upstart, two-touchdown spreads should be expected. A 33-19 score would, much like if Notre Dame manages only 37 at Louisville, portends poorly for the Trojans offense in the long run.

Not all that much is actually expected from USC, with a win total of 7. As much as there are plenty of possible victories ahead on the schedule, losing to Fresno State would create such a maelstrom around head coach Clay Helton, it might be the only thing needed to condemn the Trojans to another losing season.

Penn State v Michigan

ANN ARBOR, MI - NOVEMBER 03: Michigan Wolverines head football Coach Jim Harbaugh watches the pregame warms up prior to the start of the game against the Penn State Nittany Lions at Michigan Stadium on November 3, 2018 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Michigan defeated Penn State 42-7. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)

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Michigan: vs. Middle Tennessee State at 7:30 ET on BTN.This line has moved from an opening number of 31.5 up to 34.5, making it the biggest spread among these games. A 44-9 blowout feels appropriate, and clearly, this should be a quick win as the No. 7 Wolverines chase 9.5 wins.

Virginia Tech: at Boston College at 4 ET on ACCN.The most notable shift of this conversation, the Hokies are now favored by 5.5, whereas they were originally only by 2.5 points. A point total over/under of 58.5 forecasts a 32-26 conclusion, which feels more high-scoring than one might expect from these two teams, but realize Virginia Tech returns a consistent quarterback and a strong receiving corps, while the Eagles score when they are healthy; they just have not been healthy much the last couple seasons.

Much like their in-state rival, the Hokies should have clear sailing to six wins (Old Dominion, Furman, Duke, Rhode Island, North Carolina, Georgia Tech). Of those other half dozen, this is one of four in which Virginia Tech should be favored, though obviously things can shift, and that edge against Virginia will be minimal, if at all. Breaking eight wins is likely, but squandering this chance would make that a long-term sweat.

Duke: vs. No. 2 Alabama at 3:30 ET on ABC in Atlanta.In what will be a relative down year for the Blue Devils, this is a rough time to have an opener in which they are 33.5-point underdogs. Don’t worry, it should not be that bad. The Tide is notorious for not winning by margins that large when expected to, even if the expectation is 45-12.

As for Duke’s win total over/under of 5.5, the under has been preferred, but this game was never a factor in that calculus.

Navy: vs. FCS-level Holy Cross at 3:30 ET on CBSSN.Mark this as a win for the Midshipmen, one needed to reach bowl eligibility. In an odd scheduling twist, Navy has only three games by the end of September, taking off next weekend before hosting East Carolina, and then getting another week off before a Thursday matchup at Memphis.

Syracuse v Boston College

CHESTNUT HILL, MA - NOVEMBER 24: Quarterback Anthony Brown #13 of the Boston College Eagles warms up before the game against the Syracuse Orange at Alumni Stadium on November 24, 2018 in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts. (Photo by Omar Rawlings/Getty Images)

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Boston College: vs. Virginia Tech at 4 ET on ACCN.If healthy throughout the year, the Eagles have a chance at bowl eligibility, which would include hitting the over on a 5.5 win total over/under, and they do not need to beat the Hokies to have that realistic chance.

Stanford: vs. Northwestern at 4 ET on Fox.This line has held steady at 6.5 points in favor of the Cardinal. A 27-20 final would put No. 25 Stanford on its way to the over of a win total set at 6.5. Even though there are only two games on its roster clearly defined as should-wins (at Oregon State, at Colorado), there are seven others that lean the Cardinal direction. One of those games is this contest against the Wildcats. A winning record in that subset is a must if Stanford is to get to just seven wins (2 + 4 + one “upset”), making this game a key one in those long-term pursuits.