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Irish Look to Avoid Letdown Vs Lowly Ball State

A week after earning a huge statement victory over Michigan in the season opener, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish look to avoid an emotional letdown when they welcome the Ball State Cardinals into South Bend. Notre Dame scored two touchdowns in the opening eight minutes of Saturday night’s contest vs the Wolverines, built a 21-3 lead by the middle of the second quarter and then held on for a 24-17 triumph. Meanwhile, Ball State is coming off a 42-6 whipping of Central Connecticut State last Thursday and will have the advantage of two extra days to prepare for the Irish. Notre Dame is a 33.5-point favorite.

SHARK BITES
  • Notre Dame is 6-0 SU in its last 6 home games.
  • Notre Dame is 2-9 ATS in its last 11 games in Week 2.
  • Ball State is 19-11 ATS in its last 30 games as a road underdog.

Ball State vs Notre Dame Game Center

IRISH DEFENSE COMING UP BIG AT HOME

Ever since losing three straight home games early in 2016, Notre Dame has once again made South Bend a tough place for opponents to visit. The Irish have won eight of their last 10 games on their home field, with those two losses coming by a combined margin of four points (including a 20-19 loss last year to eventual national finalist Georgia). Over their last six home games, the Irish have outscored the opposition by an average of 19.33 points per contest.

Defense has keyed Notre Dame’s recent success at home, where the Irish have held eight of their last nine opponents to 20 points or less. On Saturday, in Notre Dame’s first game under new defensive coordinator Clark Lea, Michigan didn’t score an offensive touchdown until late in the fourth quarter and mustered only 58 yards on the ground.

BALL STATE PLAYERS EXCITED TO VISIT NOTRE DAME

Ball State has never faced Notre Dame, but that doesn’t mean that the Cardinals aren’t extremely familiar with the Irish program. Nearly 50 players on Ball State’s roster are from the state of Indiana, and South Bend is only a 2.5-hour drive from the Cardinals’ campus in Muncie. “As a kid, I watched Notre Dame football, so for me it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Ball State running back James Gilbert told the Muncie Star Press.

Unfortunately for the Cardinals, the road has not been a friendly place of late. Ball State has lost eight consecutive games on the highway, including 55-3, 31-3, 56-14 and 63-17 decisions in their last four. However, those four losses were part of a nine-game losing skid that the Cardinals snapped with last week’s win over Central Connecticut State, when Ball State set a new program high with 652 yards of offense and came within 12 seconds of its first shutout since 2008. That game also marked the return of Gilbert and quarterback Riley Neal (23 of 30 for 259 yards), both of whom missed the final nine games last year due to injury.

IRISH QUARTERBACK ANSWERS CRITICS

After getting pulled during last year’s Citrus Bowl and then seeing two key members of his offensive line get picked in the NFL draft, Brandon Wimbush faced plenty of questions about his ability to move the offense this year as Notre Dame’s starting quarterback. But Wimbush answered those critics with a solid performance in the opener against a tough Michigan defense, leading the Irish to three first-half touchdowns and making big plays on third down with his legs and his arm.

“I think I made a statement,” Wimbush told reporters after completing 12 of 22 passes for 170 yards and a touchdown while adding 59 yards on 19 rushing attempts. Irish head coach Brian Kelly may opt to keep Wimbush in this game longer than usual in order to boost the senior’s confidence even more, especially with another easy game against Vanderbilt on deck next week. It could also firmly establish Wimbush as the Irish’s No. 1 quarterback after the team entered the season amid media speculation that junior Ian Book may end up winning the job.