NCAA Football: Notre Dame at North Carolina State

No. 9 Notre Dame plays host to Central Michigan on Saturday as the Fighting Irish are a win away from a 4-0 start in 2023. Notre Dame coach Marcus Freeman's second year at the helm looks drastically different from the 2022 season that got of to a disastrous beginning, emphasized by a loss to Marshall in the home opener to prompt an 0-2 start for the first time since the 2011 season.

Notre Dame is coming off a 45-24 win over NC State on the road to capture its 29th consecutive win in the regular season over an Atlantic Coast Conference opponent. There was an extended weather delay that lasted nearly two hours, but on the first play out of the delay, Notre Dame running back Audric Estime ran for an 80-yard touchdown. Notre Dame star quarterback Sam Hartman threw four touchdown passes to pace the Irish.

Central Michigan is coming off a dramatic 45-42 win over New Hampshire after a blowout loss in Week 1 to Michigan State. Chippewas kicker Tristan Mattson drilled a 47-yard field goal on the last play of the game to secure the team's first win of the season. Central Michigan QB Bert Emanuel Jr. accounted for four touchdowns in the victory, but his is not expected to play vs. Notre Dame due to an illness.

How to watch Notre Dame vs. Central Michigan live

Date: Saturday, Sept. 16 | Time: 2:30 p.m. ET
Location: Notre Dame Stadium -- South Bend, Indiana
Live stream: Peacock 

Notre Dame vs. Central Michigan: Need to know

Sam Hartman is the answer at QB: You have to go back to Brady Quinn in 2006 to find the last time Notre Dame had a quarterback of Hartman's talent. Yes, Notre Dame's all-time leader in wins at the position is Ian Book, who led the Irish to two College Football Playoff appearances, but Hartman looks to be the answer for which fans in South Bend have been searching. Hartman, a transfer from Wake Forest, is one of the most experienced players in the country, and he's thrown for 731 yards and 10 touchdowns with no interceptions this season. Notre Dame will be tested with games against Ohio State, Clemson and USC on the horizon, but it's becoming clear that if Hartman is healthy, Notre Dame has a chance to reach the College Football Playoff.

Irish know how to pound the rock: Estime, who leads FBS with 345 yards rushing on the season, is coming off his best performance of the season against NC State, when he rushed for 134 yards and two touchdowns on only 14 attempts.  As a team, Notre Dame is averaging 194 yards per game, which ranks No. 39 in the country. Jeremiyah Love and Gi'Bran Payne have also made contributions on the ground.

Notre Dame vs. Central Michigan prediction, picks

Odds via SportsLine consensus

Whenever you have such a large spread like this one, you have to take all aspects into account. Example: Will the heavily favored team remove their starters early in the second half? Even if Notre Dame does that, it has far more talent than Central Michigan in all three phases of the game. Last week, Central Michigan gave up 42 points in a near loss to FCS-New Hampshire. Notre Dame's offense led by Hartman has been lights out and shows no signs of slowing down. The defense should also get enough stops to cover. Pick: Notre Dame -34.5

Which college football picks can you make with confidence in Week 3, and which underdogs will win outright? Visit SportsLine to see which teams will win and cover the spread -- all from a proven computer model that has returned more than $2,500 in profit over the past seven-plus seasons -- and find out.