Observer Staff Predictions: ND vs. Cincinnati
The Notre Dame Fighting Irish will take on the Cincinnati Bearcats at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 2. The Observer staff takes to their sixth sense again as they lay out their predictions for the game.
Mannion McGinley – Sports Editor
Cincinnati will not be an easy test this weekend. Yes, I sound like a broken record. Yes, the Irish seem to be on the up and up and that’s great. But, no. No, I will not be relaxing any of my cautious predicting until the Irish have made it through the gauntlet that is this stretch of the schedule. Cincinnati is arguably the peak of this intense stretch.
On a more exaggerated scale than Purdue, Cincinnati has been running up the score against their opponents. They covered the spread in two of their three games but haven’t had a game yet where they’ve scored less than five touchdowns. That is all thanks to quarterback Desmond Ridder. The senior has had 748 passing yards on the season for 7 touchdowns on top of two rushing touchdowns. The Irish defense will have to be on top of him.
Despite their high scoring though, the Bearcats have given the ball up six times over their first three games this season. The Irish are going to have to keep the defensive intensity at an all-time high if they intend to see a win in this matchup. But, it could happen if they keep up the pace at which they’ve been forcing turnovers. With 11 on the season, the Irish could rack up a few more and disrupt the comfort of the Bearcats offense. The biggest push the Irish will need to make is on offense. Stopping Cincinnati half the time still puts them at two or more touchdowns. The Irish will have to be just as, if not more productive. Again, it will be a close one and the Irish have their work cut out for them, but ultimately nothing they can’t handle.
Notre Dame 38, Cincinnati 35
Jimmy Ward – Associate Sports Editor
This is the first REAL test for the Irish. The win over Wisconsin was a statement. But it wasn’t a statement that was able to span the length of a full game. The Irish have shown us what they are capable of, now it’s time for them to prove that they can hold up against an opponent that might actually be able to contend for a national championship. It will be a tight one, but I think Notre Dame will be able to hold off the Bearcats and protect their home-winning streak.
Notre Dame 32, Cincinnati 28
Nate Moller – Sports Writer
The Irish surprised me last weekend, as I had picked the Irish to lose ahead of last week’s matchup. I thought the defense looked really good, as they didn’t allow the Badgers to have any success on the ground, and they disrupted Graham Mertz throughout the game, forcing him into five turnovers. The offense looked surprisingly good too and found the ability to move the ball fairly consistently against a defense that is supposedly one of the strongest in the country. This week they will face an even tougher challenge against a disciplined Bearcats team with talent on both sides of the football.
Notre Dame 28 Cincinnati 24
Aidan Thomas – Sports Writer
My 24-17 prediction – with the Irish emerging victorious – for last weekend turned out to be a touch pessimistic. The defense was even better than I expected, particularly in and around the end zone, and the defense and special teams accounted for three touchdowns to turn a stressful contest into a pure laugher. Now, for the second straight week, the Irish enter this game as underdogs, despite boasting a 26-game home winning streak.
The majority of the undergraduate student body has never seen the Irish lose at home, and I’m not about to predict that streak ends. Desmond Ridder gave Notre Dame some bulletin board material this week when he stated that Notre Dame’s green-out atmosphere wouldn’t be loud for very long. No doubt the Bearcats have a dangerous offense, but they haven’t exactly faced lethal defenses in 2021. They’ve also turned the ball over twice per game, with the Irish defense averaging 2.8 takeaways per game. Look for that to be the difference in this one, as Notre Dame forces a couple of key turnovers to keep Cincinnati well below their scoring average, and capitalizes on it with some points of their own.
Notre Dame 30 Cincinnati 23
Emily DeFazio – Associate Sports Editor
Two things are all but guaranteed in this matchup against Cincinnati: it will be a battle, and that battle will be loud. If Ridder’s comments can affect Irish fans to the extent they have, I can only hope they have lit a fire under the Irish players as well. At Soldier Field, I saw the spark of that flame. This is the first game of the season that I can say my concerns were somewhat abated as Notre Dame eased into victory during the fourth quarter. The defense was the star of the show, and Drew Pyne’s time at quarterback was mostly productive. How they decide to factor in this third contender for quarterback will be a deciding component of the game Saturday.
Notre Dame 33, Cincinnati 28
Colin Capece – Assistant Managing Editor
The story of the Wisconsin game for Notre Dame was the emergence of the Irish defense as one of the best units in the country. They embarrassed Badgers quarterback Graham Mertz by forcing five turnovers, bringing pressure in his face all game long. When they needed stops in the fourth quarter, the Irish found another gear and played their most lights out football of the season. This defense has found its swagger and its identity under Marcus Freeman, and I expect the Irish to carry the momentum into this top ten matchup at home. Cincinnati quarterback Desmond Ridder was foolish to chirp the Irish earlier in the week, only throwing more gasoline on this flaming hot Notre Dame defense. Notre Dame will stick to its Wisconsin game plan against the turnover-prone Bearcats, and while Ridder is the best dual-threat signal caller the Irish have faced so far, everything we saw last week indicates Notre Dame will be able to keep him and Bearcats leading rusher Jerome Ford bottled up.
The Irish offense will largely hinge on Jack Coan’s injury status after he was removed in the third quarter against Wisconsin. If his ankle is close to one hundred percent, the Irish offense should be able to push the ball down the field against the Bearcats secondary. If Drew Pyne has to play more than the closer role in Saturday’s game, the Irish are going to have to rely more heavily on the run game. Pyne showed he’s more than capable of leading this Irish offense, but a top ten matchup when your opponent has had a week to digest the film on you is a challenge for any young quarterback. I expect the Irish to come out swinging in the first quarter with a couple of turnovers to give the offense a short field. The Bearcats are a proven team that won’t go away quietly though, and Ridder will bring Cincinnati back to within a score at the start of the fourth quarter. From there, the Irish defense will lock it down once again, this time in front of the greenout crowd at Notre Dame Stadium, to pick up another statement win.
Notre Dame 38 – Cincinnati 24