SOUTH BEND – With one of the best teams in on the schedule for next week, the main appeal for Notre Dame’s first home game of 2019 was going to be the opposing coach.
Bob Davie, who coached the Irish from 1997-2001, was going to be on the sidelines for New Mexico on Saturday as the Lobos. But a serious medical issue that came up after his team’s opening week win over Sam Houston State last Saturday will keep him off the sidelines.
“Certainly we will miss him here, but certainly he has bigger things, and that is his health,” said Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly of Davie. “Again, we’re pulling for him, and hoping for a speedy recovery. It seems like he’s moving in that direction, and we hope for him to be back on the sidelines quickly.”
So with that storyline out, many Irish fans might be looking forward to Saturday since it’s the first game at Notre Dame Stadium. But their minds may be looking ahead to the seventh-ranked Irish’s match-up with No. 3 Georgia next week in Athens.
If the Irish hope to play in the College Football Playoff again, the contest against the Bulldogs is pretty much a must-win. So could this be one of those “Overlook Saturdays” for the Irish with a major match-up ahead?
Kelly denies that will be the case.
“We play to our standards, we talk about day to day, and that’s how we’ve done it here at Notre Dame,” said Kelly when asked about a possible letdown against New Mexico. “So we have so many big games on our schedule, if that’s the way we operated here we wouldn’t be able to win games.
“So it is just business as usual for us. The most important day for us will be how we handle ourselves today and our preparation. We just stay one day at a time.”
NORTHWESTERN: It’s Hunter’s Job Now
EVANSTON – When both quarterbacks were slated to get playing time, it seemed as if the Northwestern quarterback competition might continue for a couple of weeks.
But unfortunately for the Wildcats, that won’t be the case, since one of the candidates suffered a season-ending injury.
TJ Green injured his foot against Stanford, which leaves Hunter Johnson as the No. 1 quarterback as Northwestern hosts UNLV in their home opener on Saturday.
Garnering much attention after his transfer from Clemson in 2018, Johnson competed with Green for the spot in training camp and was splitting time at the position till the injury.
It wasn’t the best of efforts for Johnson, who went 6-of-17 passing with 55 yard and two interceptions. He also lost the ball on a sack late in the fourth quarter, which led to Stanford’s insurance touchdown in a 17-7 Wildcats loss.
Yet getting the job and improving was second on the mind of Johnson, who felt worse for what had happened to Green.
“I hate it for TJ,” said Johnson. “I went and saw him last week. He’s a tough kid, really tough kid. He’s been handling it about as well as you could. So I just hate it for him.
“I know this team is going to play for him this year.”
ILLINOIS: The joy of three?
CHAMPAIGN – It’s not been an easy decade for Illinois football, so sometimes the simplest of goals are major ones.
That would include going undefeated in the regular season and starting a campaign 3-0 – and the Illini have the chance to do so this Saturday against Eastern Michigan.
This comes after they got their second win of the season in a sloppy yet successful victory over UConn on the road. They fell behind 13-0 before rallying for the win, struggling with turnovers and inconsistency that nearly led to a bad loss.
Still, a goal exists for Lovie Smith’s team that was set before the season began. Should they be able to beat Eastern Michigan at Memorial Stadium, it would be the Illini’s first 3-0 start since the 2011 season.
“We need to make some improvements in some areas, all three areas, and to finish up the nonconference schedule 3-0 is where we want to be,” said Smith.
Once again running back Reggie Corbin is questionable for the contest as he continues to deal with a hip pointer suffered in the season-opening win over Akron.
NIU: Another week, another major opponent
DEKALB – It’s the middle of a tough stretch for Northern Illinois, who now travels to face a Big Ten opponent this week.
The Huskies visit Nebraska on Saturday, doing so after putting up a good fight in a 35-17 loss to now No. 11 Utah last week on the road. Thomas Hammock’s squad does so after the Huskers lost a big lead in a loss to rival Colorado last Saturday.
NIU knows something about winning in Lincoln, having beaten Nebraska 21-17 in 2017 in one of their biggest non-conference wins in franchise history.