Notre Dame kicks off its 2021 home schedule against the Toledo Rockets. Notre Dame will look to continue its long home win streak and improve to 2-0 on the season while the Rockets will look to earn a monumental upset victory.
BRYAN DRISKELL, PUBLISHER
Prediction: Notre Dame 45, Toledo 24
Toledo is going to give Notre Dame a bit of a test, at it should with its offense. The Rockets have a talented and high-scoring offensive squad that should present many of the problems that Florida State did against the Irish. That means we'll get a chance to see defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman show off his ability to make adjustments and prepare his team to get back on track despite a short week.
Offensively the Notre Dame offense should dominate Toledo, and it wouldn't shock me if the Irish go past 45 points. If I had more confidence in Notre Dame's ability to run the ball against the undersized Rocket defensive line I'd probably go with a more convincing Irish score. Notre Dame must continue being aggressive offensively in hopes of putting this game away early, and I think for the most part Notre Dame will do that. Toledo will have some bright spots early and punch in a late score, but Notre Dame controls the action for much of the game.
VINCE DEDARIO, FOOTBALL ANALYST
Prediction: Notre Dame 49, Toledo 17
After a shaky week one game for various reasons on both sides of the ball, week two against Toledo offers Notre Dame a chance to "get right." The offensive line absolutely needs to take a step in the right direction. They need to play with a chip on their shoulder and I think they will. They will not be a finished product by any means but steps will be taken. Meanwhile the passing game will continue to flourish and Jack Coan will start turning some heads.
Defensively is where some major steps need to be taken. The tale of two halves from a week ago needs to be a tale of a full game this week. I have too much faith in Marcus Freeman to think he will allow his unit to perform in the same manner two weeks in a row. I just do not see it. Look for the Irish to come out hot defensively and dictate the tempo early. I might be underestimating both offenses with this pick but regardless I think ND wins big.
GRANT DELVECCHIO, STAFF WRITER
Prediction: Notre Dame 45, Toledo 21
Make no mistake about it, this is an important game for Notre Dame. The Irish have a lot of questions to answer on both sides of the ball, but especially defensively in the home opener against the Rockets. To make matters worse, the team just found out they’ll be down another middle linebacker for the season in Shayne Simon and will also be without Blake Fisher for the foreseeable future, the freshman standout and week one starter at left tackle. Considering the offensive line and linebacker play wasn’t stellar against the Seminoles, Notre Dame’s depth will be tested.
Again, don’t be surprised if Toledo keeps it close with Notre Dame at the start, the Rockets return the large majority of the 2020 team that finished 4-2 and was one of the best teams in the MAC. Notre Dame struggled defending the run last week and the Rockets have a talented offensive line and experienced backs in Bryant Koback and Micah Kelly, who both averaged over 5.7 yards per carry in week one. With that being said, I expect another monster performance from Jack Coan and the Irish defense to look a lot more polished than it did against Florida State. Notre Dame should win comfortably late.
ANDREW McDONOUGH, IB CONTRIBUTOR
Prediction: Notre Dame 37, Toledo 30
I have gone back and forth on this score prediction all week, and though Notre Dame will ultimately win the game, I think this will be a lot closer than most Notre Dame fans expect. Brian Kelly said that Toledo is the best MAC team that ND has played under his watch, and he is absolutely right. The Rockets return 21 of 22 starters from last year’s team, and though they played a MAC-only schedule in 2020, they were 6 points away from an undefeated season and ranked in the top quarter of the MAC in almost every offensive and defensive statistical category. If Notre Dame comes out and plays its game, the Irish will win convincingly, but my concern is that coming off a hard-fought win, playing on a short week, and dealing with multiple injuries to players at key positions (and a transfer), the Irish come out flat and have to “out-talent” Toledo to win, much like ND did against Ball State in 2018 following the emotional win over Michigan in the season opener.
For me, the most concerning part of the ND’s performance against Florida State game was that Florida State wanted it more. While plenty went wrong in the offensive line technique and defensive scheme against FSU, at the end of the day, the Seminoles were playing with their hair on fire while for much of the game, ND seemed like it was playing and coaching just to get out of Tallahassee with a win. Championship teams do not allow opponents with inferior talent to hang around and instead come out and physically dominate inferior opponents from the first snap. I guarantee that coach Jason Candle will have the Rockets ready to play – the Irish better be ready to match their intensity.
Winning cures everything, and a blowout win would go a long way toward easing the concerns that have cropped up around the defensive scheme, offensive line play, and wide receiving corps this week. Here’s hoping that happens, but until I see it on the field with this team, I am unfortunately skeptical.
SHAUN DAVIS, ESPN CHICAGO
Prediction: Notre Dame 49, Toledo 24
The Florida State game left Fighting Irish fans with a mixed bag of emotions. There’s a lot to be excited about on both sides of the ball, and a lot to work to do as well. Toledo poses similar issues to Florida State, with two quarterbacks possibly seeing action and one of those being a threat with his legs. The Rockets defense has playmakers on each level and will probably load up to stop Kyren Williams and Chris Tyree just like Florida State. Jack Coan proved he could win a game without the support of the run game, and he may be called on for an encore in the home debut. A full Notre Dame stadium should energize Notre Dame and eliminate the chances of them coming out flat. Expect plenty of Michael Mayer early and the flood gates should open in the third quarter
JP SCOTT, IB CONTRIBUTOR
Prediction: Notre Dame 47, Toledo 10
Toledo moved the ball well on the ground in their win over Norfolk State last week. Notre Dame needs to focus on stopping the run, so this will be a nice test. Offensively, look for the Irish to try to establish dominance in the trenches of their own and pound the ball by committee. This should be over sometime in the third quarter.
RYAN ROBERTS, RISENDRAFT
Prediction: Notre Dame 52, Toledo 17
Toledo is a better football team than a lot of people will give them credit for, led by talented runner Bryant Koback. That being said, Notre Dame has something to prove after their first week showing against Florida State. Expect the Irish to dominate this one early and often, letting a score or two make the game look a lot more "competitive" late.
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