Irish Try To Avoid Letdown While Hosting Toledo

Having survived a difficult challenge in its season opener, Notre Dame will try to avoid a letdown Saturday when it kicks off its home slate versus Toledo.

The Fighting Irish (#8 in AP/#7 USA Today) are coming off a 41-38 overtime victory at Florida State on Sunday, with Jack Coan throwing for 366 yards and four touchdowns in his Notre Dame debut. Kyle Hamilton had two interceptions as the Irish were opportunistic, converting three Seminoles turnovers into touchdowns.

All four Division I teams in Indiana are in action Saturday. Purdue travels east to face Connecticut, while Ball State has the toughest challenge of the quartet as it makes the trek to Happy Valley to face #11/#13 Penn State.

Indiana, which dropped out of both polls following a season-opening loss to Iowa, looks to regroup at home versus Idaho. Since the Vandals are an FCS school, no sportsbooks are taking action on what is expected to be a lopsided Hoosiers victory.

Can the Irish get their ground game going?

Though Notre Dame left Tallahassee with a victory, its ground game never got going, as it was held to 65 yards on 35 carries. Featured back Kyren Williams — who rushed for 1,125 yards in 2020 — struggled to get traction, as he finished with 42 yards on 18 rushes and failed to gain more than seven yards on any carry.

Toledo prepped for this game by routing FCS foe Norfolk State 49-10 last Saturday. The Rockets’ special teams sparked the victory, blocking a pair of punts that were run back for touchdowns. Freshman Maxen Hook raced 25 yards with the first blocked punt for a score and then blocked a punt that Jacquez Stuart brought to the house.

Still, oddsmakers are fairly convinced this will not be the week Toledo beats a ranked opponent for the first time since upending then-No. 24 Temple in the 2015 Boca Raton Bowl. The Irish have been installed as double-digit favorites, with 17 points the most common spread across Indiana sportsbooks.

Only FanDuel has veered off that number, offering Notre Dame and 16.5 points with a -112/-108 split. For those who think the Irish can cover that 17-point spread, DraftKings has the best play at -105, and nearly every other book has the standard -110 in both directions.

There is more variance in the moneyline offerings, with WynnBET providing the best, albeit paltry, return at -850. PointsBet (-851), DraftKings and Caesars (-900), and theScore (-925) are the only others offering better than -1000 on the moneyline.

The over/under can be grabbed at either 55 or 55.5 points, with only DraftKings and BetMGM offering the lower number. DraftKings is offering -110 on both sides, while BetMGM counters with a -120/+100 split. FanDuel has a -104/-118 split at 55.5 points, while the Kambi platform — powering BetRivers, Barstool Sportsbook, and Unibet — has a -113/-108 play.

Boilermakers heavy favorites to tame UConn

After a 30-21 victory over Oregon State last weekend, Purdue is seeking its second consecutive 2-0 start and first regular-season, non-conference road win since defeating Missouri 35-3 in 2017. Jack Plummer threw for 313 yards and hooked up with Payne Durham on a pair of fourth-quarter touchdown passes, as the Boilermakers seized control of the game with a defensive stop midway through the final period leading 16-14.

Connecticut, which is playing as an independent following its move to the Big East from the American Athletic Conference for basketball last season, dropped to 0-2 following a 38-28 home loss to FCS opponent Holy Cross last Saturday. It does not figure to get any easier for the Huskies in this game, as defensive coordinator Lou Spanos was named interim head coach Monday following Randy Edsall’s decision to step down.

Purdue is nearly a five-touchdown road favorite for this game, with almost every sportsbook offering the Boilers as 34- or 34.5-point favorites to try and entice bettors. FanDuel and the Kambi platform are the lone books deviating from the standard -110 play, with FanDuel offering a -108/-112 split at 34.5 points and Kambi a near-opposite at -112/-109. BetMGM, Caesars, and theScore are the books opting for the 34-point spread.

DraftKings is the only book veering from 57.5 points, ticking higher to 58 with a -105/-115 split. FanDuel has a -112/-108 split for its over/under of 57.5 points and is the only book offering a moneyline for this matchup — with the Boilermakers -10000.

Ball State faces daunting challenge at Penn State

The Cardinals take a huge step up in opponent caliber with this weekend’s clash versus the Nittany Lions. Ball State, which has won eight straight games after starting 2020 with a 38-31 loss at Miami of Ohio, opened this season with a 31-21 victory over FCS rival Western Illinois last weekend.

Drew Plitt’s 48-yard touchdown pass to Justin Hall midway through the third quarter snapped a 14-all tie, and Plitt completed 17 of 28 passes for 188 yards and a pair of scores. Hall was on the receiving end of most of those throws, as he finished with eight catches for 137 yards and both touchdowns.

Though Ball State did close last season with back-to-back wins over ranked teams, including a 34-13 romp past then-No. 19 San Jose State in the Arizona Bowl to finish the year ranked 23rd in the AP Top 25, it is also just 5-25 all-time versus ranked teams. Additionally, the Cardinals are 3-29-1 against Big Ten opponents, and all three wins have come at Indiana’s expense.

Oddsmakers have made Ball State underdogs by more than three touchdowns, ranging from +22 at WynnBET (-115/-105) and Kambi (-110) to +23 at DraftKings (-120/+100). The best moneyline offering for a Cardinals upset can be found at FanDuel, which is offering +1120, while Caesars and theScore are close behind at +1000.

The over/under can be had at either 57.5 or 58 points. BetMGM has -110 in both directions on the lower number compared to Kambi (-114/-107) and FanDuel (-115/-105). All sportsbooks offering 58 points have the play at -110 on both sides.