Notre Dame QB’s: Tommy Rees has completed 54.4 percent of his passes this season for a total of 2,504 passing yards with 24 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He has completed two passes for 80 or more yards now this season with an 80 yard completion to TJ Jones and an 82 yard completion to DaVaris Daniels, with both going for touchdowns. Andrew Hendrix has appeared in 7 games this season with 2 passes complete out of 14 attempts for 56 yards and also has 26 rushing yards and 1 rushing touchdown.
Notre Dame QB’s vs. BYU Pass Defense: The Cougars are ranked 46th in the nation in pass defense and are allowing 222.3 passing yards per game in 10 games this season, they are allowing opponents to complete 55.5 percent of their passes and have allowed 16 passing touchdowns, and have 10 interceptions. BYU has kept quite a few opponents under 200 passing yards this season, but allowed 435 passing yards to Houston and 313 to Texas for season high totals in passing yards allowed. If Tommy Rees takes care of the football and spreads the ball around well, that will make a difference, considering that BYU has allowed quite a few passing touchdowns, this could mean that Tommy Rees could move up a little higher on the all-time records for passing touchdowns at Notre Dame.
BYU QB’s: Taysom Hill started two games last season for BYU before a season ending injury midway through the 2012 season. As for this season, he has started all ten games and has completed 52.4 percent of his passes this season with 2,379 passing yards and 16 passing touchdowns. However, he has thrown for 12 interceptions this season, and he is tied with 4 other players for 6th most in the nation in interceptions thrown. Hill’s strength lies in running the ball with 956 rushing yards on 165 attempts for an average of 5.8 yards per rush with 8 rushing touchdowns. His backup, Ammon Olson, has only appeared in 4 games with 1 pass completed on 3 attempts for 4 yards.
BYU QB’s vs. Notre Dame Pass Defense: The Irish are 25th in pass defense with 209.4 passing yards allowed per game and opposing teams have been accurate with 60.6 percent of passes completed this season. The Irish have allowed 16 passing touchdowns and have 6 interceptions (3 returned for touchdowns) as well. The Irish need to force Hill into turnover situations and keep him contained on the ground as his best strength is running the ball. The Irish have faced many dual-threat quarterbacks this season and Hill is one of the best when it comes to running the ball this season.
Notre Dame RB’s: George Atkinson III leads the Irish in rushing yards with 512 rushing yards on 83 attempts with 3 rushing touchdowns and a 6.2 average per rush. Cam McDaniel has 491 rushing yards on 107 attempts with a 4.6 yard average and 3 rushing touchdowns. Tarean Folston has had increasing playing time lately with 44 attempts for 269 rushing yards with 1 rushing touchdown and 6.1 yards per rush. Amir Carlisle has 199 rushing yards on 45 attempts and averages 4.4 yards per rush.
Notre Dame RB’s vs. BYU Rush Defense: BYU is ranked 57th in the nation in run defense with 155 yards allowed per game and are allowing opponents to average 3.9 yards per rush and have allowed just 6 rushing touchdowns this season. They have allowed 200 or more rushing yards in 3 games this season with it happening in 2 of the last 3 games. The Irish have shown improvement lately in running the ball, and it would be wise to commit more to the run game to balance things out. Running the ball will be one of the most important things to do on offense for the Irish.
BYU RB’s: Jamaal Williams has 940 rushing yards on 172 attempts for the Cougars to give them two players with 900 or more rushing yards. He averages 5.5 yards per rush and has 6 rushing touchdowns, and in terms of receiving he has 14 catches for 100 receiving yards for 7.1 yards per catch. Paul Lasike has 234 rushing yards on 53 attempts to average 4.4 yards per rush with 1 rushing touchdown, while Algernon Brown has 224 rushing yards on 47 attempts with an average of 4.8 yards per rush and 2 rushing touchdowns. Adam Hine has 212 rushing yards on 34 attempts with 1 rushing touchdown and a 6.2 yard average, and three players have long running plays of 60 or more yards this season. Even though BYU has only played 4 road games to 6 home games, the rushing yard performances are weaker with 1881 rushing yards, 6.0 yards per rush and 18 rushing touchdowns at home in comparison to 774 rushing yards, 3.6 yards per rush, and just 3 rushing touchdowns in away games.
BYU RB’s vs. Notre Dame Rush Defense: The Irish have the 63rd ranked run defense that is allowing 159.6 yards per game, opponents to average 4 yards a carry, and 11 rushing touchdowns. BYU has been strong with the running game being 12th in the nation for them, while the Irish have faced higher ranked rush offenses, BYU might be the most talented of the opposing rush offenses that the Irish face this season. While stopping quarterback Taysom Hill and Jamaal Williams is important, they have other players capable of running the ball as well.
Notre Dame WR’s and TE’s: The receiving unit remains a major strength on offense for the Irish. TJ Jones remains on pace to becoming a 1,000 yard receiver, and leads the Irish with 891 receiving yards on 54 receptions with 8 touchdowns and averages 16.5 yards per catch. In addition to that he has 4 attempts for 48 rushing yards for a 12.0 yard average and 1 rushing touchdown. DaVaris Daniels has 35 catches for 534 receiving yards for an average for 15.6 yards a catch and 5 receiving touchdowns. Tight end always remains a consistent strength for Notre Dame as Troy Niklas has 25 catches for 390 receiving yards with a 15.6 yard average and 5 touchdowns, while Ben Koyack has 9 receptions for 158 receiving yards for 3 receiving touchdowns and 17.6 yards per catch. Chris Brown has 10 catches for 155 receiving yards with 1 touchdown and 15.5 yards per catch. William Fuller has 6 receptions for 160 yards for an impressive 26.7 yards per catch with 1 receiving
touchdown, while Corey Robinson has 5 catches for 101 receiving yards with 1 receiving touchdown and 20.2 yards per catch.
Notre Dame WR’s vs. BYU DB’s: BYU has been decent against the pass but the Irish have one of the best receiving units and is a deep one at that. The tight ends are also quite important in the passing game. Numerous players have receptions that are 40 yards or greater, which means a long passing play is always a possibility as BYU’s longest passing play allowed is for 76 yards. If Tommy Rees spreads the ball around and makes plays in the passing game, then look for a strong game out of the receiving unit.
Edge: Notre Dame
BYU WR’s and TE’s: Cody Hoffman’s numbers are down from the 2012 season, where he had 100 catches for 1,248 yards and 11 touchdowns. This season he has 38 receptions for 664 receiving yards with 5 receiving touchdowns and 17.5 yards per catch. Skyler Ridley has 26 catches for 333 yards with 2 receiving touchdowns and 12.8 yards per catch, while Mitch Mathews has 23 receptions for 397 receiving yards on 17.3 yards per catch and 4 touchdowns. JD Falslev has 23 catches for 241 receiving yards with 1 touchdown and 10.5 yards per catch. Ross Apo has 14 receptions for 204 receiving yards with 14.6 yards per catch and 3 receiving touchdowns.
BYU WR’s vs. Notre Dame DB’s: The Irish face a unit that focuses most its receptions onto five players that have 124 of the teams 177 receptions (if running back Jamaal Williams is factored in, then 138 of the teams 177 receptions), 1,839 of the 2383 receiving yards (77 percent), and 15 of the 16 receiving touchdowns. Stopping those five players is the most important, but even with down numbers, Cody Hoffman needs to be focused on most. The secondary hasn’t been as strong this season compared to last, but they are capable of shutting this unit down.
Notre Dame OL: The Irish had Chris Watt back from injury against Pittsburgh in the last game, but haven’t been at full strength with Christian Lombard still out for the season, but Steve Elmer has had valuable amounts of playing time lately and has played extensively all season. In terms of run blocking they help give the Irish an average of 148.9 rushing yards per game with an average of 4.6 yards per rush. Pass blocking has been a tremendous strength with just 7 sacks allowed. They also have allowed 16 quarterback hurries and 41 tackles for loss.
Notre Dame OL vs. BYU DL: BYU has been it’s best in getting into opposing backfields with 64 tackles for loss. They have 20 sacks and 23 quarterback hurries. However, BYU lost all three of their starters from last season and gives them a bit of a weakness up front. The Irish will need to keep Tommy Rees protected and have strong run and pass blocking. While he is a linebacker, the most notable player to account for is Kyle Van Noy, who has 15 tackles for loss, 4 sacks and 13 quarterback hurries. This would be the second game in a row the Irish face a talented player in the front seven. This is one of most important matchups of the game and this battle in the trenches could go a long way in determining the result of this game.
Edge: Notre Dame
BYU OL: The Cougars have been strong in the run blocking with 265.4 rushing yards per game and a 5.1 yard average per rush. However they have had difficulty in keeping opponents out of the backfield and have allowed 62 tackles for loss. They also have allowed 29 sacks and 24 quarterback hurries this season as well.
BYU OL vs. Notre Dame DL: The Irish have had many injuries at the defensive line. They have been solid in getting into opposing backfields with 53 tackles for loss. They also have 14 sacks and 34 quarterback hurries. The Irish will have all of their starters playing, but the depth in the unit is a weak spot and the Irish must stay healthy and injury-free as any more injuries at this point would be really bad. The Irish should be able to get into the backfield and make plays and also need to able to get sacks in as well.
Edge: Notre Dame
Notre Dame DL: The defensive line of Notre Dame has been hit harder with injuries than any other position on the entire team. A highly controversial call led to Stephon Tuitt being ejected early on in the loss against Pittsburgh. Even with Tuitt finally back, the Irish will still not have all three starters again with Louis Nix having surgery this week and getting shut down for the season. Tuitt has 35 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, 5 sacks, 1 interception (returned for a touchdown) 1 pass breakup, 10 quarterback hurries, and 1 forced fumble. Sheldon Day has 20 tackles and 5 tackles for loss, and while is status is unknown after missing the game against Pittsburgh, Kona Schwenke has 19 tackles and 1 quarterback hurry. Many backups have been hurt lately with Issac Rochell and Jarron Jones being the latest players to get hurt. Fortunately, the Irish appear ready to go here with no one expected to be out for BYU.
Notre Dame DL vs. BYU OL: Before the loss of Nix the Irish had a favorable matchup against a BYU team that has been having considerable trouble in keeping opponents out of the backfield with 62 allowed and have allowed quite a number in sacks with 29 allowed. The Irish should still be able to get into the backfield and make plays against a BYU offensive line that has struggled in protection this season, but this matchup got much more even with the loss of Nix.
BYU DL: Going into this season, the defensive line was hit hardest with all three starters gone after the previous season, which included a first round draft pick. Eathyn Manumaleuna has 44 tackles, 6 tackles for loss, 1 pass breakup, 1 quarterback hurry and 1 blocked kick for the Cougars this season. Remington Peck has 30 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, 3 sacks, 1 pass breakup, and 2 fumble recoveries. Bronson Kaufusi has 27 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, 1 interception (returned for touchdown), while Marques Johnson has 17 tackles.
BYU DL vs. Notre Dame OL: The Irish have been strong in pass protection this season and also face a BYU defensive line that has new starters this season. However, BYU has done a good job in getting into opposing backfields this season. Keeping Tommy Rees protected and having strong run blocking will be important all game long and will help in clock management late in the game as well.
Edge: Notre Dame
Notre Dame LB’s: While not as bad as the defensive line, the linebacker unit has seen a fair share of injuries as well with the midseason injury that ended Jarrett Grace’s season against Arizona St. Despite the fact that he only played in the first half of the season before the injury, Grace still currently remains 5th on the team in total tackles. Carlo Calabrese leads the team in tackles with 69 overall with 5.5 tackles for loss, 0.5 sacks, 1 pass breakup, and 1 fumble recovery. Dan Fox has 66 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, 1 interception (returned for a touchdown), 2 pass breakups, 1 quarterback hurry, and 1 forced fumble. Jaylon Smith continues to have an impressive season as a true freshman and is 4th on the team in total tackles, and potentially could finish the season in the top three for the team in that area. Smith also has 6.5 tackles for loss, 1 interception, 2 pass breakups, 1 fumble recovery, and 1 forced fumble. Prince Shembo has been strong
in pressuring opposing quarterbacks lately and has 37 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, 4 sacks, 15 quarterback hurries, and 1 forced fumble.
Notre Dame LB’s vs. BYU: Prince Shembo will be counted on to pressure BYU quarterback Taysom Hill. With the injury issues up front on the defensive line, the linebackers will need to support the defensive line in containing the running game of BYU and make plays in coverage. Jaylon Smith continues to make plays for the Irish and could have a big impact on this game.
BYU LB’s: The linebackers are one of the best units on the entire BYU team. Uani Unga has 106 tackles, 6 tackles for loss, 3 pass breakups, 1 quarterback hurry, 1 fumble recovery, and 2 forced fumbles. Kyle Van Noy has been impressive in getting into the backfields of opposing teams with 56 tackles, 15 tackles for loss, 4 sacks, 2 interceptions (1 returned for touchdown), 7 pass breakups, 13 quarterback hurries, 2 fumble recoveries, and has scored on 1 safety. Alani Fua has 54 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, 3 sacks, 2 interceptions (1 returned for touchdown), 9 pass breakups, and 2 quarterback hurries. Austin Jorgensen has 46 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, 1 quarterback hurry, and 1 forced fumble, while Tyler Beck has 30 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, and 1 forced fumble. Spencer Hadley is likely out with injury and his valuable experience as a senior player will be missed.
BYU LB’s vs. Notre Dame: With the top three tacklers for the Cougars being in the linebacker unit, stopping them is going to present a challenge. Keeping Kyle Van Noy out of the backfield is extremely important and preventing Uani Unga from making tackles is just as important. Preventing pass breakups will be as well with Kyle Van Noy and Alani Fua being talented at it. They have a strong pair of tight ends to account for in coverage and the running game has shown improvement as well.
Notre Dame DB’s: Bennett Jackson has 54 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 1 interception (returned for a touchdown), 2 pass breakups, and 1 forced fumble. KeiVarae Russell has 40 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, 5 pass breakups, and 1 fumble recovery. Matthias Farley has 38 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, 2 interceptions 2 pass breakups. Austin Collinsworth has 25 tackles and 2 quarterback hurries, while Elijah Shumate has 22 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, and 1 pass breakup.
Notre Dame DB’s vs. BYU WR’s: The Cougars focus a majority of their receptions to five players, but the most notable of those five is Cody Hoffman who has more than 250 receiving yards than the next player (664 to 397) and has the lead in receptions and touchdowns in the receiving category. This will be a challenge for the Irish secondary.
BYU DB’s: Robertson Daniel has 53 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, 1 sack, 7 pass breakups, and 2 forced fumbles. Daniel Sorensen has 50 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, 2 interceptions, 11 pass breakups, and 1 blocked kick. Craig Bills has 47 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, 1 interception, 6 pass breakups, 2 fumble recoveries, and 1 forced fumble. Skye Povey has 38 tackles, 1 interception, and 4 pass breakups, while Blake Morgan has 33 tackles, 1 pass breakup, and 2 fumble recoveries. Chris Badger, who had been part of the Irish before transferring to BYU has appeared in 7 games with zero starts and has 6 tackles and 0.5 tackles for loss.
BYU DB’s vs. Notre Dame WR’s: The secondary of BYU has a big challenge in the Irish receiving unit that features a variety of players who have caught long passes and are capable of making plays. It is a deep unit that also has a pair of tight ends that can make plays as well in the receiving game. Should Tommy Rees get the ball to his receivers and spread the ball around, it could mean many big plays.
Edge: Notre Dame
Notre Dame Kicking Game: Kyle Brindza is 10 of 15 on field goals for a percentage of 66.7 and has a long of 53 yards and 1 blocked. Brindza averages 41.6 yards per punt on 36 punts with a long of 56 yards, 3 touchbacks, 11 fair caught, 5 inside the 20, 7 of 50 or more yards, 1 blocked. Alex Wulfeck averages 33.7 yards per punt with a long of 49 with 1 touchback, 3 fair caught, and 6 inside the 20. In terms of kickoffs, Brindza averages 64.0 yards on 56 kickoffs with 31 touchbacks.
BYU Kicking Game: Justin Sorensen is 16 of 19 on field goals for a percentage of 84.2, his long is just 41 yards, however. Scott Arellano averages 41.7 yards per punt on 65 punts with a long of 73. He has 8 touchbacks, 14 fair caught, 24 inside the 20, 10 punts of 50 or more yards, but has had 3 punts blocked. Justin Sorensen averages 64.0 yards per kickoff on 67 kickoffs with 34 touchbacks and 1 out of bounds.
Stronger Unit: Even
Notre Dame Return Game: George Atkinson III has returned 24 kickoffs for 624 yards with a 26 yard average and a long of 50 yards. Cam McDaniel has returned 6 kickoffs for 94 yards with a long of 22 yards and a 15.7 yard average. TJ Jones has returned 11 punts for 95 yards with an 8.6 yard average and a long of 27.
BYU Return Game: Adan Hine has returned 20 kickoffs for 590 yards with a 29.5 yard average and a long of 90 yards. Paul Lasike has 9 returns for 191 yards with a 21.2 yard average with a long of 33 yards. JD Falslev has returned 23 punts for 239 yards for an average of 10.4 yards per return with 1 punt return touchdown and a long of 71 yards.
Stronger Unit: BYU
Everything Else: The Irish are coming off a bye and are rested with more players on the defensive line being able to play after injuries. BYU presents a challenge with the strong running game on offense and a linebacker unit on defense that makes plays, and a strong return game that also can make plays as well. The Irish will need to commit more to the running game and avoid three and outs on offense. Being able to string together longer drives will help as well in keeping BYU’s offense off the field as well. The Irish need to be able to keep the defense rested as much as possible as BYU averages 86.8 plays per game in comparison to the Irish running 64.6. The Irish should be able to rebound after a close loss at Pittsburgh and gain more momentum going into the regular season finale at Stanford.
Prediction: Notre Dame 24, BYU 14