The No. 4 Notre Dame Fighting Irish are a perfect 8-0 to start the season, and though their matchup against the Northwestern Wildcats isn’t the toughest game remaining on their schedule (a penultimate game vs. No. 19 Syracuse looms), it is a big one. The Irish will travel to face the Wildcats on Saturday, beginning at 7:15 p.m. ET on ESPN (live streaming via WatchESPN).
Notre Dame is coming off a 44-22 victory over Navy, and have beaten three ranked teams this season. Northwestern is unranked, but they currently ride a four-game winning streak, including wins over then-No. 20 Michigan State and then-No. 20 Wisconsin in their most recent outing.
Below is all you need to know going into Saturday’s action.
As of the latest S&P+ rankings, Notre Dame sits at sixth in the nation with 17.1 points, up a spot from a week ago. Northwestern, on the other hand, has 1.4 points, 64th in the nation, up five spots from a week ago. This suggests that Notre Dame would have a 15.7-point advantage on a neutral field.
It’s not a neutral field, as it will be played at Northwestern’s stadium, but that alone isn’t enough to cover that kind of difference, and Notre Dame is naturally favored anyway. They’ll take Saturday’s game, even given Northwestern’s high level of play currently.
- Time: 7:15 p.m. ET
- Location: Ryan Field, Evanston, Ill.
- TV: ESPN
- Streaming: WatchESPN
- Odds: Northwestern opened as seven-point underdogs, though the line shifted further in Notre Dame’s favor throughout the week.
The Irish are 8-0, but it has been almost a different season on offense since Ian Book took the starting quarterback job from Brandon Wimbush. The Irish rank No. 40 in passing offense, 13 spots behind Northwestern, but that number is misleading and skewed by Wimbush’s ineptitude — in Book’s five starts he has averaged 296 yards through the air. The biggest beneficiary of Book’s success is senior wide receiver Miles Boykin. Boykin is averaging 82 yards per game since Book won the starting job, and all six of his touchdowns this season have come in that span.
Boykin, a Chicagoland native, will likely line up across from Northwestern senior cornerback Montre Hartage. Hartage has just one interception this season but is NU’s top corner and has played strong as of late, especially against Wisconsin when he shut down the Badgers’ passing attack with four passes defended. The two seniors may go at it all night, with Book likely looking for his favorite target, Hartage will be called upon to stymie Notre Dame’s aerial attack.