The Notre Dame Fighting Irish will try to shake off a disappointing performance against Pitt from two weeks ago on Saturday. BYU brings its fast paced offense to South Bend this weekend.
Both teams sit at 7-3, and BYU has been a surprisingly tough team this season. They’ve had just a one close win, a one point victory over Houston, and their losses have been by a combined 20 points.
The Cougars offense has run the fourth most plays in the country this season. They move at a pace similar to Oregon or Indiana. Last week, they defeated Idaho State 59-13, and put up 49 of those points before the half. BYU has been averaging nearly 34 points per game and ranks 13th nationally in total offense.
The Irish defense is going to have its work cut out for them. This week it was announced that DT Louis Nix is done for the year after surgery to repair a torn meniscus. Nix is an NFL caliber defender and a key player in stopping the run. Losing him when preparing to face the 12th ranked rushing attack doesn’t bode well for the Irish.
BYU has a balanced attack on offense, but the running game accounts for more yardage on the ground and represents 62-percent of the plays called. Quarterback Taysom Hill is a duel threat and leads the team in rushing, albeit by 16 yards. He’s a solid passer, but completes just 52-percent of his passes, has 16 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He’s had just two multi-interception games this season.
The Irish seem to lack an identity recently, or more accurately are not playing to the strengths of the team. Coach Brian Kelly seems to believe that he has a future NFL QB in Tommy Rees, and is insistent on having him fling the ball across the field.
The reality is that Rees is at best a game manager, and that isn’t really a bad thing. He should never attempt more than 20 passes in a game. Notre Dame has a very good rushing attack that needs to be the focus of the offense. Rees should be relegated to play action and long third down attempts.
This game will likely come down to what kind of offense Kelly decides to run. Will he unleash the run game or keep leaning on Rees? Notre Dame needs to run the ball roughly 60-percent of the time right now. The defense is falling apart and playing ball control against a fast paced offense is the best way to win this game.
There is also the chance that Good Tommy will show up this week and pass all over a spotty BYU secondary. The Cougars have a tendency to give up plays underneath, and hold opponents to just 5.5 yards per attempt.
This is also a game where passing might be hampered by the weather. There is a chance of snow and a 21 MPH wind that will likely make passing, and kicking, very difficult. We might see both coaches go for it on fourth down more than you’d expect.
This game is basically a 50/50. Its going to be a tough outing for either team to win. The slight edge would be with the Irish since they are at home. BYU is 2-2 on the road, Notre Dame is 5-1 at home.
The Irish win they change up the pace on offense and play defense at a level we haven’t seen for weeks. BYU wins if they dominate the ground and can bottle up Notre Dame’s rushing attack.
Notre Dame wins a close one at home, 30-27.
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