Ball State at Notre Dame
Time: 2:30 PM CT
Spread: ND -34.5
FBS Independent Notre Dame began its season 1-0 with a 24-17 victory over then-No. 17 Michigan. The Fighting Irish now host lowly Ball State in Week 2, with the Fighting Irish 34.5-point favorites at home this week. The betting total is set at 61.5 points according to NCAA Football oddsmakers at bookmaker 5dimes.
Notre Dame QB Brandon Wimbush threw 12 of 22 for 170 yards with a TD and an interception, while the backfield got most of its work, not strangely, from Wimbush who also led the team in rushing from the QB position with 59 yards on a team-high 19 attempts. Tony Jones Jr. rushed for 45 yards on nine carries, while Jafar Armstrong saw 15 attempts for just 35 yards. The Irish managed just 2.8 yards per carry on its 47 attempts
But Michigan is perhaps the best defense (and perhaps is a cushion word; it is the best defense) and particularly strong at stopping the run. Despite running against a team perfectly suited to stop it, Notre Dame prevailed, and that is a big part of why it is now ranked No. 8 after entering week 1 as the No. 12 ranked FBS Team.
Notre Dame finished 10-3 last season and it defeated LSU 21-17 in the Citrus Bowl, which was a nice cap to a very strong season. Wimbush closed the spring strongly, and he accounted for 30 TDs a year ago, with 16 coming via the pass and another 14 via his rushing ability.
The OL should be Notre Dame’s biggest improvement, as it returns three starters but only one at his previous position (center, Sam Mustipher) as the guys are moving around a little to try a remake of one of last year’s weak spots. Alex Bars moves from RG to LG, while Tommy Kraemer moves from RT to RG, and Liam Eichenberg will be the LT.
The group has some major adjustments to make, but it could potentially be far better than last season, and that will be a major boost to Wimbrush and his entire offensive unit, of course. The skill positions are not 100 percent settled, but Dexter Williams and Tony Jones Jr are both great options.
Williams did not play in Week 1. Alize Mack should be a major producer at tight end, though if he is unable to go it will be Cole Kmet and Brock Wright behind him and both of them are talented options at TE as well.
Ball State won Week 1 by a score of 42-6 over Central Connecticut. QB Riley Neal threw 23 of 30 for 259 yards with two TDs, and RB James Gilbert rushed for 100 yards on 14 carries with a TD. The Cardinals had 336 yards of total passing offense and another 316 on the ground. It averaged 9.3 yards per reception and 6.6 yards-per-carry–though measuring it against a team like Central Connecticut is a bit of an unfair metric.
Last year, Ball State averaged just 17.9 points per game and it was good neither rushing nor passing. It ranked No. 73 in the nation in rushing yardage and No. 104 in passing yardage, while having the No. 110 ranked offense overall with just 335.2 yards per game. The Cardinals, of course, were just 2-10 and it failed to win a single game in the MAC (not the toughest conference) with a 0-8 record.
A lot of it was due to massive injuries spreading through the team, but the offense has to be a lot better because Ball State rarely puts out much of a defense and relies on big scoring to carry it. Defensively, the Cardinals were even worse than its paltry offense, surrendering 40.7 points per game and having one of the worst defenses among all FBS schools (No. 120).