College Football Pick
More eyes than usual will be on this Game and it’s not just because it’s Notre Dame against Texas. These two will meet on the Sunday before the NFL season starts, but whether this is a good Game, remains to be seen. The Longhorns were an ugly team to watch last year, but this is a new season. That said, their starting quarterback was a question one week before the Game. The Fighting Irish know their quarterback and are -3.5 point road favorites at 5 Dimes Sportsbook.
When these teams met last year, it was mostly a bloodbath with Notre Dame walking away a 38-3 winner. The Irish dominated just about every facet of the Game, as Texas had zero answers on either end.
Irish quarterback DeShone Kizer would like that to be the case again in his first opener as the starter. Kizer became starter in just the third Game last year when Malik Zaire went down with injury. Kizer was impressive to say the least, keeping the Irish afloat with 10 wins, finishing with 21 TDs and 10 INTs to go with 520 yards and 10 more TDs on the ground. While they lose their top two skill players, Notre Dame still has plenty of talent with Tarean Folston still there in the backfield and Josh Adams looking to build off a nice rookie campaign.
Receiver is a little more unknown for Kizer, and that could hurt, but Torii Hunter Jr. looks set to be the next stud Irish wide receiver. To match what they did last year, the Irish will need the ground and passing Games to work together. With some questions along the offensive line, that’s not a given, but the Longhorns had plenty of issues along the defensive front last season and they’ll have their work cut out for them in this Game.
Texas has talent, but they had multiple Games last year when no one showed up (50-7 loss at TCU, 48-45 loss to Texas Tech). To win this Game, the Longhorns will need to get something from the quarterback position, which they didn’t get anything from in last year’s loss.
Freshman Shane Buechele and Tyrone Swoopes, who saw time last year, are competing for the job and neither seems all that safe. The difference this season is that they’ll be running a new, up-tempo offense led by Sterlin Gilbert, who comes from the Art Briles tree. But jumping from an inconsistent offense that often had trouble moving the ball to a high-scoring unit doesn’t happen in one offseason. Texas will ask a lot of its starting QB, especially with questions at skill positions as well.
D’Onta Foreman and Chris Warren III are two huge running backs, but can they thrive in this offense? And the receivers need to step up big time compared to last year.
But the Irish do have questions on the defensive side, that was evident in their final two Games last year, allowing 38 points to Stanford and 44 to Ohio State. They lose multiple big-name players that are now in the NFL, so that’s the first issue, but Brian Kelly always gets top recruits.
However, Notre Dame does tend to struggle in road Games, often keeping the other team around no matter the opponent. In the opener, that could easily be the case with an unknown defense. But if Kizer gets off to a hot start, it’ll be up to the Texas offense to keep up and that’s something that wasn’t a certainty a year ago.
Our Pick – While Notre Dame certainly had the better record a year ago, it could be argued that Texas had the more impressive wins, taking down Oklahoma and Baylor.
While Notre Dame did in fact blow out Texas EARLY last seaosn, Our Scorepredictioon model, when using only data from the last 7 Games of last year, suggests the Game would have been a toss up if they played in January.
Considering Texas retuens more actual starters on both sides of the ball, we’re going to give the Longhorns the nod in what should be a great Game to kick off the 2016 season. REVENGE! Texas +3.5