Big Game Hunting: No rest for the emotionally weary as Notre Dame visits Louisville

Chicago
By Chicago 7 Min Read

Here’s a college football streak that’s hard to believe even after fact-checking the dang thing: Notre Dame’s 30 victories in a row in the regular season against ACC opponents.

Wild, isn’t it?

Have the Fighting Irish been a national-championship juggernaut and we somehow missed it?

Is the ghost of Knute Rockne summoned via secret ceremony for pep talks before games against the ACC?

What in the name of the Four Horsemen is going on here?

Important disclaimer: The streak does not include Clemson’s victory against the Irish in the 2020 ACC championship game. Remember, the Irish played the pandemic season as a temporary member of the league. They also knocked off then-No. 1-ranked Clemson earlier that same season.

Anyway, the streak — wow. And it’s on the line again in Week 6, just as it was when the Irish pulled a nutty escape out of their helmets last Saturday at Duke.

Is No. 10 Notre Dame (-6½) at No. 25 Louisville (6:30 p.m., ABC 7, 780-AM) where the streak goes kaput? It might be, and not just because the Cardinals are 5-0 under alum Jeff Brohm, a terrific coach who has found his sweet spot. There’s also the very legitimate concern that the 5-1 Irish will have trouble ratcheting their emotions all the way back up after their last two games, the first of which was an extraordinarily intense and painful loss to Ohio State.

Walking the high wire game after game would challenge any team. Not a problem with this group of players, according to coach Marcus Freeman.

‘‘They’ll be grateful,’’ he assured. ‘‘They’ll be ready.’’

If they aren’t, it’ll be on Freeman. Meanwhile, one assumes Irish quarterback Sam Hartman requires no winding up for this one. This will be Hartman’s sixth time facing Louisville, if you can believe it, and he lost to the Cardinals three times while at Wake Forest. Last year, he was picked off three times — two of them returned for touchdowns — in a nightmarish outing. He has better dudes on his side this time, of course.

Big question: Who runs it more effectively, the Irish’s Audric Estime or the Cardinals’ Jawhar Jordan? Estime is averaging 7.1 yards per carry and Jordan 7.3.

But it matters only if the Irish are able to rise emotionally to this moment. The atmosphere for a huge game at Louisville will be kicked up a notch from what they saw at Duke. This will be difficult. Irish, 24-21.

Oklahoma v Texas

Oklahoma-Texas is up there with the rivalry greats.

Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

OTHER WEEK 6 PICKS

No. 12 Oklahoma (+5½) vs. No. 3 Texas (11 a.m., ABC 7): Nothing tops the Red River rivalry game — unless it’s as one-sided as Texas’ 49-0 rout was a year ago. For the Sooners to come back from that and beat the Longhorns for the fifth time in six years would be enormously impressive. Looky here, Oklahoma is 5-0 against the spread this season. Boomer? Almost. Hook ’Em, 34-30.

No. 11 Alabama (-2) at Texas A&M (2:30 p.m., CBS 2): It has been all kinds of tense between these teams the last two seasons. In 2021, the Aggies won 41-38 on a last-second kick to end Alabama’s 19-game winning streak. In 2022, the Tide won 24-20 with Bryce Young out with an injury and Jalen Milroe making his first start under center. It’s Milroe’s offense now, but it has been a seasonlong struggle. Gig ’Em, 23-20.

Northern Illinois (-4½) at Akron (2:30 p.m., ESPN+): What could be more riveting than a clash of 1-4 MAC squads? Try to contain yourselves, people. Expect the visitors to be more composed than the Zips, who lost their QB1 last weekend to a torn ACL. Huskies, 24-16.

No. 20 Kentucky (+14½) at No. 1 Georgia (6 p.m., ESPN): The Wildcats are cooking. Ray Davis is coming off a 280-yard, three-touchdown rushing performance in a blowout of Florida. The Bulldogs — who nearly went down at Auburn in Week 5 — are 0-5 against the spread. If this were in Lexington? Upset. But in Athens? Far different story as the ’Cats, who’ve lost 13 in a row to the ’Dogs, relive the frustration of failing to finish drives at Sanford Stadium. Ruff-ruff, 31-14.

No. 2 Michigan (-18½) at Minnesota (6:30 p.m., NBC 5, Peacock): It’s time to start asking whether the Wolverines are the best team in the country. Blake Corum leads all FBS rushers with nine touchdowns. Roman Wilson leads all FBS receivers with eight touchdowns. The defense is surrendering a measly six points a game. As for the Little Brown Jug? Michigan has taken it home after 42 of the last 46 meetings. All Maize and Blue, 35-13.

My favorite favorite: Iowa (-2) vs. Purdue (2:30 p.m., Peacock): True, the Hawkeyes no longer have QB Cade McNamara, who, sadly, suffered a torn ACL last weekend. Yes, their offense now reverts to its prehistoric nature. But consider this a bet on the Hawkeyes’ defense, which still can dominate a game — and score some points — especially at home.

My favorite underdog: Maryland (+20) at No. 4 Ohio State (11 a.m., FOX 32): Maryland is 5-0 for the first time since 2001, when it won the ACC and went to the Orange Bowl under Ralph Friedgen. Any chance Mike Locksley’s much-improved Terps are that kind of good? Probably a stretch, though they’ve clobbered Virginia, Michigan State and Indiana by 28, 22 and 27. It’s a bit concerning that the Buckeyes were off last week — always an advantage — but the Taulia Tagovailoa-led passing game is relentless and keeps a backdoor cover in play.

Last week: 6-2 straight-up, 4-4 against the spread.

Season to date: 30-10 straight-up, 21-17-2 against the spread.

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