A decisive win Saturday provided a good look at how Notre Dame will function under offensive coordinator Chip Long and defensive coordinator Mike Elko. Of course, there are still plenty of on-field questions to ponder. How long will the right tackle competition last? (Awhile, yet.) Would Irish coach Brian Kelly trust junior kicker Justin Yoon in a game-deciding situation? (Most likely.) Does junior quarterback Brandon Wimbush know how to slide? (Yes, it is just a matter of him maturing to utilizing that knowledge.)
Those are wonderings for Saturday evening, though. The below are questions which should be answered before kickoff Saturday at 7:30 p.m. ET.
Will graduate student tight end Durham Smythe be cleared to play?
Smythe took a hit to the head in the victory over Temple and thus entered the concussion protocol. As of Sunday, Kelly was encouraged by Smythe’s progress, but he had not yet been cleared. Inevitably, Kelly will offer an update Tuesday afternoon and, if necessary, Thursday evening.
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Smythe may not have been much of a statistical factor against the Owls (two catches for 34 yards), but that does not mean his presence is not a boon to the Notre Dame offense. Georgia’s defensive front-seven is its strength. Amid those questions at right tackle, having Smythe available to aid in blocking can stabilize that position and mitigate some of the Bulldogs attack.
Without him, the Irish would turn to senior Nic Weishar and junior tight end Alizé Mack. Both are more effective when downfield as receiving options. Smythe is, by far, Notre Dame’s best blocking tight end. Especially this early in the season, that safety net may be needed.
Already answered: Who will start at quarterback for Georgia?
That will be freshman Jake Fromm. Sophomore Jacob Eason suffered a sprained knee ligament early in the Bulldogs’ 31-10 victory over Appalachian State on Saturday, and Georgia coach Kirby Smart confirmed Monday that Eason will be out for at least a week, likely longer.
In steps Fromm. Saturday he completed 10-of-15 passes for 143 yards and a touchdown. Considering Eason went down when the game was still scoreless, it could be argued Georgia did not miss a beat with the newcomer behind center. Having enrolled early, Fromm has had eight full months to learn the Bulldogs playbook.
He is still a freshman, though, making what will not only be his first career start but a start in primetime in front of a filled Notre Dame Stadium.
Will the Irish appeal for eligibility Alohi Gilman be settled?
Notice the question is not if the sophomore safety and Navy transfer will be ruled eligible. It is simply will there be a decision at all. Notre Dame has appealed the NCAA ruling against Gilman’s immediate eligibility, and Kelly said he expects the committee to reply quickly. That could be this week. Perhaps it is next week. Until then, expect this question to consistently appear here.
Obviously, if Gilman is ruled eligible, he could be defending passes from Fromm right away. If nothing else, the Irish would like the matter resolved so they can move forward accordingly.
Will Kevin Stepherson be part of the Notre Dame game plan?
The sophomore receiver dressed for action Saturday, but was largely stationary during pregame warm-ups and never appeared to consider himself close to playing time. Every indication from Kelly has been Stepherson is not.
Until Stepherson does see the field, though, this question will also continue to be asked. Kelly has been diligent in remaining vague about Stepherson’s status, and there is no reason to expect that to change much. Odds are, this wondering lasts at least another week, if not most of September.
What will the final ticket price be?
Reports earlier this summer put the secondary-market price of a ticket to Saturday’s matchup at $1,534, by far the most expensive of the season. For context, face value ranged from $95 to $300.
A quick Monday perusal of the secondary market shows a pair of tickets would currently cost a total near $1,100, including online fees. While that is quite a drop from the summer’s high, some of that premium may have simply been for the peace of mind of knowing one has a ticket.
The market outside Notre Dame Stadium could be just as volatile, though it certainly will not have the same top-end mark.
Can North Carolina rebound or is an 0-2 start inevitable?
The Tar Heels opened with a disappointing home loss to Cal, 35-30. Life is going to get only more difficult this week when No. 16 Louisville and Heisman-winning quarterback Lamar Jackson arrive for a noon ET kick (ESPN). The hosts are currently eight-point underdogs.
Western Michigan gave USC quite a bit to handle. Will Michigan State be up for the task?
The Spartans opened as favorites by a full touchdown for the 3:30 p.m. ET tilt. Depending on your region, you may be able to see it on the Big Ten Network.
The Broncos played USC tough, and will presumably do the same for their in-state foe. If Michigan State can handle Western Michigan without too much trouble, it may be time to start taking the Spartans seriously again.
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