The Tennessee State University Tigers are coming off a 4-7 season. They are coached by former Ohio State and NFL star running back Eddie George who is now in his 3rd season at the helm.
Located in Nashville, Tennessee State is a Historically Black University (HBCU) that plays in the Ohio Valley Conference at the FCS level. This game marks the first time ND has played a school outside the FBS.
The Tigers return 11 starters from a year ago, five on offense, 6 on defense.
At quarterback they will rely on Senior Dralen Ellis who transferred in from Austin Peay two seasons ago. Ellis threw for 1806 yards and 8 TDS against 6 interceptions in 2022.
Overall, the Tigers, have utilized the transfer portal extensively and have rebuilt their offensive line by replacing both guards and both tackles. That was a unit that last year gave up a whopping 37 sacks, the worst mark in the Ohio Valley Conference. Their leading rusher, from a year ago was Jalen Rouse who had 648 yards and 2 TDs. He returns in an offense that averaged just 18.3 points per game. The Tigers top returning pass catcher is sophomore Karate Brenson who had 25 catches good for 329 yards and 1 TD for an offense that only managed 10 total TD passes in 2022.
On the defensive side of the ball Tennessee State has shown some strength. Their pass defense, with returning starters was tops in their conference. They boast a couple of pass rushing defensive ends in conference first team selection Terrell Allen and Jaylen Bella, a transfer from Mississippi Valley State. Also look for solid play out of two brothers, linebacker James Green who is back after missing last season due to injury and safety Josh Green who led the Tigers a year ago with 3 interceptions.
The Tennessee State administration has expressed high hopes of transitioning their program to the FBS level and they believe that Eddie George, a former Heisman Trophy winner is the man to get that done. Playing a program like Notre Dame provides the Tigers with important national exposure and with a nothing to lose opportunity to take a step forward as a program with a good performance Saturday.
The transfer portal introduces an element of the unknown in analyzing this matchup as the Tigers have undergone a significant roster changes since last season. In fact they have 34 players in 2023 who at some point played college football elsewhere. That said, the disparity in talent level between the Tigers and the Irish is profound.
The Fighting Irish Preview Pick: ND 48 Tennessee State 7