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Notre Dame vs Tennessee St.: Confidences & Concerns

Notre Dame will be playing their first game in America this year as they face off against Eddie George-led Tennessee State in Notre Dame Stadium this Saturday. This game is unlike any other Notre Dame has ever played in the fact that Tennessee State is not an FBS school and the Irish up until now had never played anyone who fit this description.

This game, both because of what happened last week against Navy and the drop down in athlete level being played against this week, is intriguing. Can the Irish continue to improve over their great Navy performance or will the Irish sleepwalk at home vs a lesser opponent like they did multiple times last year? Let’s explore some confidences & concerns Irish fans may have entering this ball game.

Confidence 1-Talent

Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports
Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Tennessee State hails from the non-FBS Ohio Valley Conference. As such, they simply do not have much front-line FBS talent on their roster. Notre Dame should have a size speed and strength advantage almost across the board with the exception of a couple of Tenn. St transfer defensive players.

The expectation, a rightful one of many Notre Dame fans is that if the administration is willing to break the tradition of the Irish only playing FBS opponents and drop down to play an FCS opponent, you better win and win big. Irish fans expect a blowout.

Confidence 2-Momentum

Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images
Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

Notre Dame played an excellent first game by any metric. Fan and player vibes are sky-high and many players both veteran and younger ones contributed in a big way to last week’s victory. This should hopefully lead to a fired-up Irish squad looking to impress again.

A team winning their first game is such a big deal for all involved. Week 1 losses, no matter how competitive, like last year’s Ohio State game, are still deflating. Being on the opposite end of that spectrum and brimming with confidence matters and that vibe is palpable.

Confidence 3-Notre Dame Stadium

Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images
Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images

As much fun as Irish fans and the team had in Dublin, as the infamous Dorothy Gale once stated, “there’s no place like home”. I’m certain that the team is thrilled to be able to play in front of their home crowd in the house that Rockne built for the first time this year.

Notre Dame is planning for and hoping to be able to put on a show on Saturday that hopefully includes significant time played by the 2nd and 3rd stringers. If this plan comes to fruition, it should be a great homecoming event to start the season

Concern 1-Jet Lag & Navy Hangover

Notre Dame’s Sam Hartman unsurprisingly gains national honor
Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Notre Dame had a very strenuous and atypical travel schedule to open the year traveling to and from Ireland. In addition, there is also a very unique recovery period teams face after playing Navy. Many coaches have mentioned issues with slow starts the week after facing the Midshipmen. Can the Irish avoid this issue?

One would hope that since this game features such a massive talent disparity the Irish will be able to overcome whatever “jet lag” they may have and be able to perform. I’m excited to see how Notre Dame looks in this set of circumstances.

Concern 2-Don't Marshall Yourself

Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports
Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Yes, Notre Dame is a huge home favorite. Yes, Notre Dame has a massive talent advantage. Yes, the Irish are favored by boatloads of points. Yes, the game is at home. All of these factors were also present last year for the Marshall & Stanford games. Can the Irish avoid the trap this time?

Notre Dame fans cannot wait to see if the 2023 Irish team can defend their home and dispatch lesser opponents more easily this year. They certainly should, and with Sam Hartman at the helm, I feel they will. But these 2 brutal home losses from last year still linger in the back of Irish fans’ minds.

Concern 3-Super Bowl Effect

 Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports
Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

For Notre Dame fans, the Tennessee State game is likely the least appealing on the schedule. It’s a team Notre Dame has no history with and is a non-FBS opponent. But for Tenn. St.’s team and fans, this is their opportunity to shock the world.

I feel that this emotional disparity played a part in Notre Dame’s 2 disgraceful home losses to Marshall & Stanford. It felt like both the fans and players forgot that these games are played on a field and not on paper. The results of this mental lapse were disastrous. Can the Irish avoid this pitfall this year?

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Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

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For more Irish news & notes follow John on Twitter @alwaysirishINCAlways Irish on Youtube and or your preferred audio podcast provider.

Story originally appeared on Fighting Irish Wire