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.