On hot dogs, Notre Dame’s injuries and not looking ahead to No. 6 Ohio State

Notre Dame v NC State

Marcus Freeman can try to put the hot dog back into the concession stand, but the legend has already become history, the myth traveled around the world before the truth could reach a press conference.

Understandably, the Irish head coach may have felt some regret about not thoroughly praising the Notre Dame operations staff and nutritionists after the Irish walloped North Carolina State 45-24 on Saturday. The story of Notre Dame needing some brats and hot dogs from the stadium concessions stand was simply too enjoyable to not propagate. It led the broadcast’s coverage coming out of the nearly two-hour delay, then dramatized by junior running back Audric Estimé’s 80-yard touchdown jaunt on the next snap.

“The Hollywood story that Audric had a hot dog and went out and ran a [80-]yard touchdown, that sounds a lot better, but the reality is we did have a good plan for that postponement,” Freeman said Monday. “I wanted to make sure that I gave credit to our support staff for the planning they did for that moment.”

Both things can be true. Estimé could have enjoyed “a very good, tasty hot dog,” and the Irish support staff may have laid out contingency plans for the entire day. Occam’s razor suggests both things were realities. First of all, anyone burning 4,000-plus calories a day will have a hard time walking past a stray hot dog.

Beyond that, of course Notre Dame had extra sets of clothing on hand in the bowels of Carter-Finley Stadium, obviously there were reasonable foods around the locker room, certainly the Irish had to adjust their flight plan on the fly (pun not intended but also not avoided).

According to Freeman, those plans began first thing in the morning on Saturday. Again, logically.

After he ran for 134 yards and two touchdowns, Estimé was asked about quarterback Sam Hartman’s showing, throwing for 286 yards and four touchdowns. Hartman had lost twice at North Carolina State in his Wake Forest years, struggling against Wolfpack defensive coordinator Tony Gibson.

That was pointed out to Estimé, to which he responded …

“Now he does (have success in Raleigh),” he said. “1-0 in this stadium in gold helmets.”

Maybe when Wake Forest visits South Bend in mid-November, Estimé will notice the Demon Deacons also wear gold helmets.

Fifth-year linebacker JD Bertrand will most likely be sidelined this weekend due to a concussion suffered Saturday. When Freeman gives one more update this week on Thursday, he may not offer that definitively, but concussion protocols tend to take close to two weeks to clear.

For example, Freeman expects Penn State transfer running back Devyn Ford back in the lineup this week after his concussion against Tennessee State.

Senior defensive tackle Gabriel Rubio’s recovery from a knee surgery will take at least one more week. And sophomore tight end Eli Raridon’s timeline to return from an ACL he tore 11 months ago remains vague.

“I doubt he’ll be back this week, not 100 percent sure, but I doubt it,” Freeman said. “When you come off your second ACL (injury), it can be physical and mental, and that is something that until he physically feels 100 percent and mentally feels he is ready to go, you can’t push that guy to get on the field. So we’re working with him to physically make sure he’s feeling like he’s 100 percent, and then mentally you feel capable that you won’t go out and reinjure yourself.”

Five days before No. 9 Notre Dame hosts Central Michigan (exclusively on Peacock at 2:30 ET), Freeman mentioned No. 6 Ohio State by name. Freeman was attempting, successfully at that, to preempt any questions about the Buckeyes before the Irish even face the Chippewas.

“Someone is going to ask about Ohio State coming up,” Freeman said. “It doesn’t take long to put on the film and understand, we have a challenge (against Central Michigan).”

Sure, great, that’s nice.

Notre Dame is a five-touchdown favorite this weekend. A team hasn’t lost outright as a 34-pont favorite since 2017 when UNLV lost to FCS-level Howard as a 45-point favorite, the single-biggest upset in college football history. A Power Five team has not lost outright as a 34-point favorite since 2007, when 36.5-point underdog Syracuse lost to Louisville and 38.5-point underdog Stanford memorably beat USC in what was, at that point, the biggest upset in college football history.

Some Irish calm makes sense this weekend.

Lookahead lines suggest Notre Dame will be a 7.5-point underdog against Ohio State next week, but expect that number to be closer to a field goal when genuine lines open on Sunday, unless Central Michigan makes some history.

The Buckeyes are 28-point favorites against Western Kentucky (4 ET on FOX).

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