There’s no denying the Irish were sleeping this past weekend. And it nearly cost them.
While beating Ball State by eight points doesn’t look good on the resume, Notre Dame fans can hope that Brian Kelly will have the team fully awake for Saturday. Unlike the Cardinals, the Commodores have experience pulling off major upsets on the road — only two years ago, Derek Mason and Co. went to Georgia and pulled off a stunner in Athens, Ga.
Ultimately, I think it may be close, but this is still Notre Dame’s game to lose. The Irish can and should bounce back against a team that may have a good quarterback and a lot of upperclassmen, but still not enough pieces to handle Notre Dame’s depth.
FINAL: Notre Dame 21, Vanderbilt 10
Elizabeth Greason — Assistant Managing Editor
Is week three too early in the season to be saying I really don’t know what to expect from the Irish this weekend? Over the course of the past two weeks, Notre Dame has essentially shown us two completely different football teams, and depending on which one makes an appearance this Saturday, there could be two very different outcomes to the game.
However, Brian Kelly is convinced he has the recipe for success this week: “intentional preparation,” which I think is code for “do not underestimate your opponent.” The Irish won’t make that mistake again and will be well prepared for the Commodores. That being said, Vanderbilt will give Notre Dame a run for its money, especially with its strong offense. However, if Brandon Wimbush can continue his passing success and find his groove on the run again and the Irish O-line can handle itself better than it did last week, Notre Dame should be able to return to more of its week-one self.
FINAL: Notre Dame 31, Vanderbilt 24
Joe Everett — Sports Editor
Over its first two home games, Notre Dame football has given fans a big, exciting win over rival Michigan under the lights, quickly followed up by a dreary performance in week two against Ball State. In its third-straight home game, which Notre Dame team will we see?
I think we’ll see a performance somewhere in the middle. Not dominant, but the Irish will take care of business. Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason mentioned in July that he “[doesn’t] worry about going to South Bend,” and I think that motivates the Irish to play well against another SEC foe. While Commodore quarterback Kyle Shurmer is legit and is surrounded by weapons on offense, I think the Notre Dame defense will again make enough plays when it needs to do so. Wimbush makes fewer mistakes, and the Irish as a whole have a bounce-back performance.
FINAL: Notre Dame 34, Vanderbilt 20
Charlotte Edmonds — Associate Sports Editor
Third time’s the charm, right? Last week I lowballed my prediction (although apparently not enough), but this week I’m back on the bandwagon, convinced Brandon Wimbush and company have learned from last week’s disaster. That said, I still have my doubts about this team’s ability to finish off a game.
As the Irish complete their three-game home start against the Commodores, a team that’s had success running the ball, the defense can’t be caught sleeping like they were against Ball State. Wimbush’s poor decision making certainly contributed to the too-close-for-comfort outcome, but there’s no denying the ease with which the Cardinals moved the ball downfield.
With playoff goals always looming in the distance, this is the chance for the Irish to make a statement against a team that will soon dive into the trenches of SEC play.
Last week is in the past. Vanderbilt is a new game, but the Irish can’t take this second chance for granted.
FINAL: Notre Dame 28, Vanderbilt 10
Connor Mulvena — Associate Sports Editor
I’m lost at this point. With the Irish, we’ve seen so much go right where it could have gone wrong (Michigan), and so much go wrong when it should have gone right (Ball State).
On paper, it’s clear this matchup goes to the Irish. But I simply don’t know if we’ll see a top-10 Notre Dame team contending for a playoff spot, or a confused, unorganized effort on par with St. Joseph’s JV team (no offense, go Indians!). My optimistic side tells me last week’s performance was an anomaly, and even more, a humbling experience for a team that was written into the playoff by virtually every ESPN writer after week one. But my other side tells me week one was the anomaly, that the bright lights of prime time gave the Irish a fire which an afternoon contest against Vanderbilt simply won’t offer.
But it’s been a good week with the Jets claiming a week-one victory, so I’m going optimistic. The Irish will come out with some bounce after a rough week two.