Notre Dame v. Arizona State ’14 – Key Matchups

Nyles Morgan - Notre Dame LB
Notre Dame Fighting Irish linebacker Nyles Morgan (5) waits between plays against the Rice Owls at Notre Dame Stadium. Notre Dame won 48-17. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

The Irish will face another tough road test this week when they travel to Tempe to tangle with Arizona State.  The Sun Devils are slight favorites over the Irish but Notre Dame possesses all the tools to get the win and move to 8-1 on the season.  With Joe Schmidt now out for the season with an ankle injury the Irish will need a big game from freshman Nyles Morgan as the Arizona State offense is high-powered.  The Irish will also need to stay mistake free as turnovers will cost them against a team the caliber of Arizona State.  The following are the key matchups the Irish must control to come away with the win:

Cody Riggs versus Jaelen Strong:  Irish corner Cody Riggs will face yet another elite receiver in the Sun Devils Jaelen Strong.  Strong is an average size receiver at 6’3’’ but has a good balance of speed to go with his size that will require Riggs to be on his game.  Strong is the Sun Devils leading receiver with 57 receptions for 821 yards and eight touchdowns.  The Sun Devils like to spread it out on offense so Riggs won’t always have safety help meaning when he’s in one-on-one situations he’ll need to win more often than not for the Irish to be successful.

Nyles Morgan versus D.J. Foster:  Although quarterback Taylor Kelly is one of the Sun Devils best players one of the reasons he is so good is the number of weapons he has at his disposal including D.J. Foster.  Foster is the Sun Devils leading rusher with 701 yards and six touchdowns and is the team’s second leading receiver from his running back position.  Morgan will be making his first start for the Irish and will need to be prepared to contain Foster on the ground as well as catching the ball out of the backfield as Kelly will look to get the running back a lot of touches.  If Morgan can help slow down the run game it would go a long way to an Irish victory.

Will Fuller verus Kweishi Brown:  Notre Dame’s number one receiver Will Fuller will need to have a big game versus Kweishi Brown and Arizona State.  Fuller has proven to be a very dangerous receiver who combines elite speed with great vision and playmaking ability after the catch.  In what could be a high-scoring game the Irish will need a strong effort from Fuller.  Brown is a solid defensive back who leads the Sun Devils in pass breakups this season.  The junior also possesses solid size and ball skills at six feet tall so Fuller will need to be at his best to put up big numbers.

Everett Golson versus Laiu Moeakiola:  Everett Golson could find himself in a quarterback duel versus Taylor Kelly but in order to play a good enough game to lead the Irish to victory he’ll need to outplay Laiu Moeakiola.  Golson is coming off a career day versus Navy where he accounted for six touchdowns and only turned the ball over once.  The Heisman candidate will need to impact this game with his legs as he did versus Navy as the Sun Devils defense is very aggressive, which Golson can use to his advantage if he can get outside the pocket and make plays.  Moeakiola is an aggressive linebacker who is tied for the Sun Devils team-lead in tackles for loss and is second in sacks.  He will be looking to pressure Golson into turnovers as well as containing him in the pocket and limiting the Irish quarterback’s success scrambling.

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  1. so, I haven’t watched ASU play this year, but how good is their OL? will they be able to handle the Irish front 4?

    Kelly is no Winston so if the Irish can get pressure on him, I think they create a couple of turnovers and win by two touchdowns.

    Maybe the Irish will control the clock like they did vs. FSU to keep ASU’s high powered offense off the field.

  2. 86 degrees with 10% humidity really isn’t that much of an advantage.

    Dehydration or playing at a altitude of 1,300 ft would likely have more of an impact on the Irish

  3. This will be an extremely tough game. ASU had the game changed to 1:30 to
    take advantage of the Arizona heat which will be in the high 80’s. We had
    good pressure on Kelly last year and they will adjust.Go Iris

    1. It’s 1:30 Arizona time, 3:30 EST. I don’t think the time was ever changed since the beginning of the year.

      If they think heat will be an issue, they’ve apparently never been to northern Indiana in August.

  4. I agree with both of the previous comments.
    @ Jack- the line play is always critical, and especially this weekend.
    Ground yards would be great; EG creating plays on the move could be greater.
    I’ve seen Taylor Kelly throw some up for grabs under pressure ( as ChrisJ predicts we’ll see).
    Unfortunately, when he does throw it up for grabs, it’s usually to Jalen Strong,
    who comes down with many of them.
    I prefer the matchup Jaylon vs. their RB.
    With Niles’ speed, I suspect their QB will meet and get to know and feel Niles presence
    on many a pass play/zone read. This could be the coming-out-premier we all knew we’d someday see from Niles Morgan since the day he finalized his LOI. I love Joe Schmidt as the player he has become.
    No player arguably has maximized their talent and opportunity more than Joe.
    He’s our leading tackler, our D’ field general, and an impressive leader.
    But Niles just might Wally Pipp him in the desert this weekend.

    1. Good analysis and I agree Jalen Strong jump balls are scary in the redzone, but ND has a safety that can neutralize his jumping ability and that is Max Redfield. Have him play over the top and stop those jump balls. Back shoulder throws will be there all day with Strong. It will be interesting to see if ASU tries to the ball out early to negate the blitz. That is what UNC did against ND. Also, I’m not sold on ASU’s offense being electric and no one is mentioning that this is the best offense ASU has seen all year. UCLA is nowhere near as good as ND’s offense.

      1. Like your reminder about our offense. But Strong isn’t that big at 6’3″. If Riggs can keep his head on a swivel and time his jumps, fades shouldn’t be too much a problem.

        Love Schnidt and all, but he did have a weakness with blitzing. Morgan is bigger, and should be able to get up in qb’s face blitzing, causing errant throws.

        GO IRISH!!! Show CFP we belong!

  5. I look for us to blitz Kelly the way we did Winston, only we need our DBs to be more aggressive on the short slants that WILL be thrown when we blitz due to the QB being rushed to throw. Hopefully we will have a couple INTs in this game.

  6. I think the key match ups in this game are the lines. I think the ND offensive line against the ASU defensive line. I would like to see another game where ND rushes for over 150 yds. It will be interesting to see what ND is able to do and who is calling the defense. I think it will be a high scoring affair, another barn burner.

    1. Yep, if we can win in the trenches I like our chances. Regardless its going to be a tough game with the loser being out of playoff contention.

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