In today’s FOX Sports Insider with Martin Rogers: Notre Dame vs. Wisconsin is a game that matters in all kinds of ways that a contest between two high-profile programs should ... we take a look at the best NFL bets ahead of Week 3 ... and we are treated to a must-see tweet featuring a high school football player.
There is a lot on the line as college football invades Soldier Field this weekend. All you need to do is take your pick as to what tickles your fancy.
There is history of the most storied kind, with Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly just one win away from claiming his school’s all-time win record, a mark that would push him past Irish icon Knute Rockne to 106.
There is the opportunity for Wisconsin to either save their hopes of remaining in contention for the College Football Playoff or likely see that dream disintegrate into nothing before the end of September.
There is the chance to see whether perhaps the most imperfect “perfect” record in the sport holds up, with Notre Dame having somehow managed to cling to 3-0 despite looking desperately shaky in sneaking past Florida State, Toledo and Purdue.
The two teams haven’t met for 57 years and it’s a red-hot ticket, averaging $400 on the secondary market with prime seats going for up to $1300.
Matt Leinart sees all the storylines and likes each one of them. For him, however, it will be all about one thing on Saturday.
“The atmosphere,” Leinart said. He missed it, more than he thought he would.
“I think over time we took for granted how much the fan culture and experience means to college football,” Leinart, a Heisman Trophy winner and national champion during his time at USC, told me via telephone. “With the pandemic and how things changed, it makes you realize even more just how special it is. It matters in every sport. In college football it is everything.”
Leinart has reveled in being part of FOX’s Big Noon Kickoff show around the country so far this season, seeing fans and students once again able to fully enjoy the college football experience, with all the noise, color and passion that it brings.
Notre Dame and Wisconsin will bring the intensity and fun to Chicago. Expect a sea of green lining the streets around Soldier Field and for House of Pain’s traditional Jump Around to get the Wisconsin faithful hopping between quarters.
“It is going to be tough and tenacious between two programs that play physical smashmouth football, with big linemen and an old school feel,” Leinart added.
Former Notre Dame QB Brady Quinn told Colin Cowherd on FS1’s “The Herd” that Kelly had built his brand on an outstanding offensive line.
“He's been there long enough to where he's found out the identity of what they can recruit to and how they can play to that,” Quinn said. “You'd be hard-pressed to find an offensive lineman, a tight end that doesn't want to go to Notre Dame.”
Notre Dame finds itself in an interesting spot. The Irish have made the playoff in two of the last three seasons and have overwhelmingly bounced back from the lowest point of Kelly’s tenure, a 4-8 record in 2016 that included a swath of narrow defeats.
But Notre Dame hasn’t won a national title in 33 years, the longest drought in program history, and Kelly is aware that for all his wins, that’s how he’s going to be judged.
“Everything’s about winning a national championship, and I knew that coming in,” Kelly said.
As for Wisconsin, an opening game defeat to Penn State was a setback, but not one that necessarily spells doom. A victory on Saturday could set the Badgers up for a big October that includes games against Michigan and Iowa.
“We are excited to get back to playing, coming off a bye week,” Wisconsin head coach Paul Chryst told reporters. “I’m excited for our kids to be involved in games that are meaningful. There is more around this game both for our fans and nationally. And I think that’s why kids come here to be part of that.”
It is a game that matters in all kinds of ways that a contest between two high-profile programs should, but it matters for how it’s going to feel and sound too. That’s what college football has always had, and that’s what it has missed.
Here’s what others have said ...
Brian Kelly, Notre Dame Head Coach: “I’m going to be judged on championships, because that’s how you get a statue here.”
Paul Chryst, Wisconsin Head Coach (On Jack Coan playing his former team): “I think it's certainly a storyline and yet, I think it's important that it's Wisconsin versus Notre Dame. I think that, obviously, we have respect for Jack and appreciate who he is as a person and as a player here, teammate. But it's Wisconsin versus Notre Dame.”
RJ Young, FOX Sports (on Jack Coan): “While there’s tradition, history and the prospect of waving around a Notre Dame degree like a golden ticket in front of Wonka’s factory, the reason he chose Notre Dame is the same reason Notre Dame chose him.”
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Conner Davis is a senior offensive tackle at Poplarville High School in Mississippi. But while Davis is responsible for protecting his quarterback on the field, it looks like he has a pretty incredible sense of humor off the field. Check out this tweet, which shows Davis’ picture hanging on the fence of Poplarville High School’s football field. It looks like he is featured alongside other Poplarville teammates, but there is something that certainly makes this photo stand out … pancakes and syrup. Yes, that’s right, Davis is posing for his photo while pouring syrup over a stack of pancakes. This is outstanding and it makes it even better that Davis is an offensive lineman. Yum!
Friday Night SmackDown (FOX, 8 p.m. ET) King Nakamura is set to battle Apollo Crew in an Intercontinental Title rematch.
Notre Dame at Wisconsin (Saturday, FOX, 12 p.m. ET) Jack Coan and the No. 12-ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish take on Graham Mertz and the No. 18-ranked Wisconsin Badgers.
Texas A&M vs. Arkansas (Saturday, CBS, 3:30 p.m. ET) Isaiah Spiller and the No. 7-ranked Texas A&M Aggies go up against KJ Jefferson and the No. 16-ranked Arkansas Razorbacks in an early-season SEC showdown.
New Orleans Saints at New England Patriots (Sunday, FOX, 1 p.m. ET) Jameis Winston leads the New Orleans Saints against Mac Jones and the New England Patriots.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Los Angeles Rams (Sunday, FOX, 4:25 p.m. ET) Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers travel to Los Angeles to take on Matthew Stafford and the Rams.
Odds provided by FOX Bet Notre Dame at Wisconsin: Notre Dame +6.5
From FOX Sports Betting Analyst Jason McIntyre:
Get ready for a Jack Coan revenge game!
The most exciting game of the weekend is the one in which I lean to the underdog. I'm not sure why so many people are on the Badgers in this spot.
Indeed the bye week is helpful, but Wisconsin didn't look sharp against Penn State in the home opener (three turnovers, 1-4 in the red zone), and so what if they beat Eastern Michigan? The Badgers don't have a touchdown pass through two games.
On the other hand, the Irish have been through the gauntlet, and it's not going to get any easier. Notre Dame started their season against Florida State (which was expected to be a solid team), then faced an upset-minded Toledo, followed by a pesky Purdue team. Now comes a trip to Soldier Field, and then next week, they face a massive test against undefeated Cincinnati. After that, it's Virginia Tech and USC.
This game features two inept offenses colliding, and I trust the QB facing a team he spent four years alongside.
I anticipate a low-scoring matchup, with the total going down through the key number of 47.
Look for Notre Dame money to show up on game day, as sharp bettors gravitate toward Brian Kelly, the underdog (16-9, 64 percent) in the regular season.
“It's definitely going to be weird.” — Notre Dame QB Jack Coan on facing his former team