Forde-Yard Dash: Big names with prove-it games, like Notre Dame and Michigan

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Forty names, games, teams and minutiae making news in college football (How To Leap Without Detection training video sold separately in Tempe):

[More Dash: Conference rankings | Appraising unbeatens | Bama whining]



After a weak week in terms of high-impact matchups, the schedule beefs up this Friday and Saturday. The Dash takes a look at five significant games, and pinpoints who needs to prove what:

Notre Dame-Georgia (21). Where: Athens. When: Saturday at 8 p.m. ET. Who has the most to prove: Notre Dame. Can the Fighting Irish show that they can beat a top-five opponent? Or at least stay on the field against one? The Irish have lost nine straight games to top five opposition, a streak that extends to 2005 — all the way back to when everyone thought first-year coach Charlie Weis was an inspired hire. Most of those nine straight losses have been no doubters, which in turn has created plenty of doubt about Notre Dame’s standing in the sport’s hierarchy. After losing 30-3 to Clemson last year in the playoff semifinals, Brian Kelly insisted his program was much farther along than it was while being trucked by Alabama in the 2012 BCS Championship Game. Saturday would be a good time to back up that statement with some proof.

If Notre Dame is really progressing like Brian Kelly says, Saturday's showdown at Georgia is a great chance to prove it. (Getty)
If Notre Dame is really progressing like Brian Kelly says, Saturday's showdown at Georgia is a great chance to prove it. (Getty)

Michigan-Wisconsin (22). Where: Madison. When: Saturday at noon. Who has the most to prove: Shea Patterson and Josh Gattis. Two games in, the Michigan offense as coordinated by Gattis and quarterbacked by Patterson is not a thing of beauty. The Wolverines are 12th in the 14-team Big Ten in yards per play (5.15) and passing yards per game (226). Patterson is 77th nationally in pass efficiency, and that doesn’t include his three lost fumbles in two games. He was banged up the first two games and probably benefitted from an open date last weekend to get healthy for this one. Patterson and new coordinator Gattis need to be on the same page facing a Wisconsin defense that hasn’t allowed a point yet this season. If they’re not, the calls to bench Patterson and play backup Dylan McCaffrey will grow louder.

Utah-USC (23). Where: Los Angeles. When: Friday at 9 p.m. Who has the most to prove: Utah as the aspiring conference bell cow. Are the Utes ready to take ownership of the Pac-12 in search of their first title in the league? We start to find out Friday. They looked good on paper coming into the season and have done little to dampen the optimism, winning three games by a combined 96-29. That includes an 18-point, season-opening victory over the same BYU team that beat the Trojans Saturday. But Utah hasn’t beaten USC in Los Angeles since joining the conference in 2011.

Air Force-Boise State (24). Where: Boise. When: Friday at 9 p.m. Who has the most to prove: Air Force. After a two-year lull, are the Falcons back as a winning program? They’re coming off an upset win at Colorado, the program’s first victory over a Power Five opponent since beating Notre Dame in 2007. (By then the world had figured out that Charlie Weis wasn’t a great hire.) The winner of this game will feel like it has a shot at a special season. Unfortunately, it’s on at the exact same time as Utah-USC.

Auburn-Texas A&M (25). Where: College Station. When: Saturday at 3:30 p.m. Who has the most to prove: The home team. Since joining the SEC in 2012, Texas A&M has never beaten Auburn at Kyle Field. With a season-ending injury to running back Jashaun Corbin, even more of the A&M offensive burden transfers to quarterback Kellen Mond. He’s been OK so far, not great, throwing an interception in each game and fumbling once. The Aggies need him to be better Saturday against an elite defensive line that will pressure him in the pocket.


The Dash has unearthed a few ongoing streaks worth noting:

Penn State (26) has now played 23 straight non-conference games in the state of Pennsylvania. Twenty of them have been home games, with two at Pittsburgh and one at Temple (where plenty of Nittany Lions fans were in attendance). The last one outside the Keystone State: a 2013 neutral-site meeting with Syracuse in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The next scheduled non-conference trip outside the state: next year at Virginia Tech. Keep that timid parochialism in mind the next time you’re tempted to criticize an SEC team for not going anywhere.

Penn State hasn't played a non-conference game outside of Pennsylvania since 2013. (AP)
Penn State hasn't played a non-conference game outside of Pennsylvania since 2013. (AP)

Oklahoma (27) has an ongoing streak of 161 passes without an interception, across two seasons and four quarterbacks. The last Oklahoma pick was thrown by Kyler Murray on Nov. 23 last year at West Virginia. Meanwhile, current Sooners QB Jalen Hurts has a personal streak of 80 straight passes at two different schools without throwing an interception.

Alabama (28) has scored at least 40 points in 12 straight August/September games, stretching from Sept. 9, 2017, to today. Last team to hold the Crimson Tide to less than 40 in the first month of the season was Florida State, in a 24-7 loss to open the ’17 season.

UAB (29) has won 13 straight home games, a streak that actually dates to 2014 thanks to the irredeemable decision to shut down the football program for the 2015 and ’16 seasons. Last team to beat UAB at Legion Field: Marshall. Next visitor: South Alabama on Saturday.

Wyoming (30) has stealthily won seven straight games — the last four of 2018 and the first three of 2019. That’s tied with Florida for the fourth-longest active streak in FBS, trailing only Clemson (18 straight), Ohio State (nine) and Appalachian State (eight). Last time Wyoming won seven in a row: 1998, on the way to an 8-3 season.

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