Notre Dame comes off its bye week at 7-3 without hopes of playing in a BCS game but still with an opportunity to put together a solid season. The Irish will attempt to send their seniors off right with a victory over fellow independent the BYU Cougars. BYU comes into the game at 7-3 as well with a potent rushing offense that the Irish will need to be at full force to stop. The following are the key matchups the Irish must win to get their eighth victory of the season:
Prince Shembo versus Taysom Hill
Prince Shembo will need to put forth an excellent effort on senior day to control dual-threat quarterback Taysom Hill. Shembo has had a decent season but will need another Arizona State like effort to disrupt Hill in the pass game and most importantly contain the Cougars leading rusher from making big plays on the ground. Hill has 956 rushing yards and eight rushing touchdowns to go along with his 2379 passing yards and 16 passing touchdowns. Hill is what makes the Cougars offense go so it is a must that Shembo contain him.
Carlo Calabrese versus Jamaal Williams
Irish leading tackler Carlo Calabrese will face another stiff test this week in running back Jamaal Williams. Calabrese has been a catalyst for the Irish rush defense all season with his physicality and will need to continue that this week. Williams is a balanced back with 940 yards rushing and six touchdowns on the season. Williams is going to get his touches but if Calabrese can contain him it could force BYU to pass the ball which is not a strength for the Cougars.
The Irish running backs versus Uani Unga
The stable of Irish running backs will need a big game versus a very stout and extremely physical Cougars defense. Atkinson III, Folston, and McDaniel will all need to experience success running both between and outside the tackles for the Irish to move the ball successfully. The leader of the BYU defense is linebacker Uani Unga. Unga has a team high 106 tackles, 50 more than any other BYU player as well as two forced fumbles. Unga is a senior leader and will be more than up for the challenge of containing the Irish running backs if they do not play their best.
Tommy Rees verus Kyle Van Noy
Irish quarterback Tommy Rees can’t afford to play a bad game against a predatory BYU defense. Rees has been prone to turnovers in key situations and lacks the ability to escape the pass rush which doesn’t bode well against Kyle Van Noy. Simply put Van Noy is a playmaker. The outside linebacker has 56 tackles, 15 for loss, four sacks, two interceptions, seven pass breakups and two fumble recoveries. Van Noy fills up the stat sheet and will have a huge day if Rees does not take care of the football.