No. 7 Cincinnati travels to No. 9 Notre Dame in a top-10 showdown with huge College Football Playoff implications on Saturday.
Kickoff is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. ET at Notre Dame Stadium, and the game will be televised on NBC.
Cincinnati (3-0) had a bye week to prepare and is a small favorite on the road. Luke Fickell kept the Bearcats on the CFP fringe last season. This is the biggest game on Cincinnati’s schedule and a chance for quarterback Desmond Ridder to deliver a signature victory.
This also might turn out to be the biggest game for Notre Dame (4-0). Coach Brian Kelly cleared up the quarterback drama this week by announcing Jack Coan will start if healthy. The Irish’s defense and special teams stepped up in last week’s victory against Wisconsin. They will need a similar effort against the Bearcats.
This will feel like an elimination game of sorts, perhaps for both sides. That’s what makes it special. With that in mind, here is what bettors should know for Saturday’s game.
Cincinnati vs. Notre Dame
- Spread: Cincinnati -1.5
- Over/under: 50.5
- Moneyline: Cincinnati -120, Notre Dame -104
Three trends to know
— The Bearcats are 8-0 S/U and 4-4 ATS as an away favorite under Fickell.
— Cincinnati had a bye week to prepare for the Irish, but we brought up this stat last week. Notre Dame is now 23-6 S/U with a rest disadvantage under Brian Kelly. That includs last week’s win against the Badgers.
— Notre Dame is 5-2 S/U and 5-2 ATS as a home underdog under Kelly. The last time the Irish were a home underdog was last year’s 47-40 overtime victory against Clemson on Nov. 7, 2020.
Three things to watch
— Desmond Ridder taking shots. Ridder averages 9.0 yards per attempt and 14.9 yards per completion, and he’s established a connection with Tyler Scott, who averages 24.6 yards per catch. Notre Dame has nine interceptions in four games. That’s part of an opportunistic defense under defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman, who came from Cincinnati. Safety Kyle Hamilton leads Notre Dame with three interceptions and will have to be accounted for at all times.
— Who starts at QB? Kelly has another quarterback controversy of sorts. Coan suffered a leg injury last week against Wisconsin and likely will get the start. Coan has nine TD passes this season and receiver Kevin Austin and tight end Michael Mayer have been his favorite targets. Cincinnati has two outstanding cornerbacks in SN preseason All-American Ahmad Gardner and Coby Bryant. How much will Coan test those cornerbacks early? How much will Tyler Buchner and Drew Pyne play?
— Jerome Ford. This is the showcase game for Ford, an Alabama transfer who averages 6.0 yards per carry for his career. He’s been efficient for the Bearcats this season with six TDs, but Indiana limited him to 20 carries for 66 yards. The Irish are allowing 3.9 yards per carry. Ford has to be better than that to keep the Bearcats on schedule.
Stat that matters
Notre Dame is allowing five sacks per game, which ranks No. 129 in the nation. That’s contributed to issues in the running game, where the Irish have averaged just 2.3 yards per carry and struggled to get Kyren Williams on track. Cincinnati defensive coordinator Mike Tressel likely will turn up the pressure as a result. Buchner is the Notre Dame quarterback that offers the most threat in the running game, so keep an eye on how much he plays in the first half and what wrinkles come from those plays. It might jump-start the running game. Buchner has been dealing with a strained hamstring since the Purdue game and didn’t play vs. Wisconsin.
Cincinnati vs. Notre Dame prediction
This should be a fun game. Cincinnati proved last year it can play with a playoff contender at the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, and they have an experienced quarterback in Ritter who shouldn’t get rattled by this stage. The Irish have fundamental offensive line issues, but that fourth quarter against Wisconsin last week showed how they can take advantage of mistakes. It will be close into the fourth quarter again, but Notre Dame finds a way to make the big plays at the right time.
Final score: Notre Dame 27, Cincinnati 24
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