Notre Dame is 6-0 for the first time in a decade following its 20-13 victory in an instant classic versus Stanford. The Irish rank fifth in the initial BCS standings and face another stiff challenge this week as BYU Cougars come to South Bend. Don’t be fooled by the Cougars 4-3 record as they will present challenges for the Irish. The following are this week’s key matchups as the Irish face the Cougars:
Jamaal Williams versus Manti Te’o and the Irish linebackers
BYU true freshman Jamaal Williams represents yet another talented running back the Irish defense must shutdown. Williams has 345 yards and five touchdowns this season, both team highs, on 5.3 yards per carry. Williams has carried the ball at least 15 times in each of the last three games after a high of only eight carries previously, and has responded recording 262 yards in those games. Manti Te’o and the Irish defense have yet to allow a rushing touchdown this season, and have shutdown elite talents such as Denard Robinson, Le’Veon Bell, and Stepfan Taylor in the process. Irish opponents are averaging only 3.5 yards per carry this season, and the defense must remain stout this week to stop Williams.
Cody Hoffman versus Bennett Jackson
Junior Cody Hoofman is a big receiver at 6’4’’ 215 pounds, who’s having a big who’s having a big season. The California native has recorded 41 catches for 534 yards and two touchdowns. Hoffman has 18 more receptions than any other
member of the BYU team, so it is clear he is the number one target of Cougars quarterback Riley Nelson. Charged with shutting down Hoffman will be Bennett Jackson. The first year starter at corner leads the Irish in interceptions with four, is fourth on the team in tackles with 27, and also has recorded a fumble recovery. Jackson has been a standout for the Irish this season and will need to continue his strong form this week.
Kyle Van Noy versus the Irish offensive line
The Irish offensive line will have their hands full with the beast that is Kyle Van Noy. Van Noy is putting up monster statistics from his linebacker spot this season, tallying 26 tackles, 11.5 of which are for a loss, 7.5 sacks, three forced fumbles, eight quarterback hurries, and five pass breakups. Van Noy is all over the field for the Cougars and the Irish offensive line must stop him from pressuring the quarterback and wreaking havoc in the backfield. After some mid-season struggles the Irish offensive line is rebounding after a dominant performance versus Miami and a solid performance versus Stanford in which they were able to run the ball with success late in the game. The Irish have had trouble with elite pass-rushers this season and that must change versus Van Noy if the
offense is to have any rhythm.
Brandon Ogletree versus The Irish running backs
Senior Brandon Ogletree will be relied upon to slow down the Irish’s three-headed monster at running back. Ogletree has recorded 57 tackles and four pass breakups thus far this season. Ogletree has 19 more tackles than the nearest player on the BYU defense and is going to need to play his best versus the Irish. The combination of Wood, Riddick, and Atkinson have rushed for 877 of the Irish’s 1087 rushing yards this season. The Irish running backs will be facing a BYU defense that is allowing only 2.2 yards per rush this season, so they all must play their best to move the football. The dimensions of every down backs Riddick and Wood along with the game breaking ability of Atkinson will present the Cougars defense with something they have yet to see. If the Irish keep up their recent form running the football they can have success versus a strong BYU defense.