Notre Dame QB’s: Tommy Rees is coming off consecutive unimpressive performances with the performance against Oklahoma being the least impressive where he went 9 of 24 for 104 yards with 2 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. On the season he has completed 88 of 165 passes with a 53.3 completion percentage for 1,215 yards, 10 touchdowns, and 5 interceptions to go with 243 yards per game. Despite his performance against Oklahoma, Tommy Rees continues to remain being the starting quarterback for the Irish. Andrew Hendrix has appeared in 4 of 5 games this season and has completed 1 of 6 passes for 9 yards. He has 10 rushing yards on 5 carries this season and has mainly been put in for about 2 plays at a time before Rees comes back in. The Irish have the 57th ranked overall passing offense in the nation.
Notre Dame QB’s vs. Arizona St. Pass Defense: The Sun Devils have the 36th ranked pass defense in the nation and have been allowing 193 yards per game and for opponents to complete 58.4 percent of their passes and have allowed 5 passing touchdowns and 6 interceptions in 4 games this season. In total 772 passing yards have been allowed and the competition has been mostly great aside from Division
1-AA Sacramento St. as they have played Wisconsin, Stanford, and USC this season. However, in the last two games, they have allowed Stanford and USC to be very accurate with opposing quarterbacks completing 64.7 and 66.7 percent of their passes, respectively. They allowed nearly 300 passing yards to a USC team that is currently 100th in the nation in passing yards per game and had only passed for more than 200 yards once prior to the game at Arizona St. and that included a 54 yard performance in a home loss to Washington State. Tommy Rees will need to bounce back in a big way after the last couple of games as he remains starter, but also look for Andrew Hendrix to appear at times to change things up for the offense.
Arizona St. QB’s: Taylor Kelly has completed 105 of 171 passing attempts for 1,370 yards with a 61.4 completion percentage, 11 touchdowns, and 4 interceptions. He also is capable of running the ball as well with 124 rushing yards on 27 attempts and has a long of 40 yards. Michael Eubank has completed 4 of 5 passes for 70 yards and also has 2 rushing touchdowns as well. Arizona St. comes into this game with the 7th ranked passing offense in the nation that averages 358.8 yards per game in 4 games so far this season.
Arizona St. QB’s vs. Notre Dame Pass Defense: The Irish come in with the 67th ranked passing defense that has allowed opponents to complete 57.4 percent of their passes for 230.2 yards per game and have allowed 10 passing touchdowns and have just 3 interceptions (2 returned for touchdowns). The passing defense of the Irish has been inconsistent as dual-threat quarterbacks have posed a problem with extending plays and have basically faced quarterbacks that are capable of running the ball all season long. The Irish will need to be able to contain Taylor Kelly in the air and on the ground even and this will be quite a challenge with a top 10 passing offense coming into this game.
Edge: Arizona St.
Notre Dame RB’s: The running game is coming off its best game of the season with a 220 yard rushing performance against Oklahoma. George Atkinson III leads the Irish with 269 rushing yards on 38 attempts with a 7.1 yard average and 2 rushing touchdowns. Cam McDaniel has 177 rushing yards on 48 attempts with a 3.7 yard average and 2 touchdowns. Amir Carlisle has 170 rushing yards on 36 attempts (4.7 yard average) and Tarean Folston has 69 yards on 11 attempts with a 6.3 yard average. Folston might see more playing time with Greg Bryant injured and nearly had a rushing touchdown against Oklahoma.
Notre Dame RB’s vs. Arizona St. Rush Defense: Arizona St. has a weak link on defense as they are 93rd in the nation in run defense and are allowing 192.2 rushing yards a game and for opponents to average 5.2 yards per attempt along with 9 rushing touchdowns allowed. This is a perfect opportunity for the Irish to build upon the great running performance they had against Oklahoma. Running the ball early and often is going to be key for the Irish. While this game will likely be a high scoring one that could go back and forth, running the ball and eating up clock will be just as important if it means keeping the Arizona St. offense off the field and for the defense to rest as much as possible.
Edge: Notre Dame
Arizona St. RB’s: Arizona St. is just 85th in the nation in rushing yards per game with 146.2 yards per game and are averaging 4 yards per rush. Marion Grice is the main ball carrier for Arizona St. and has 256 rushing yards on 65 attempts for a 3.9 yard average with 8 rushing touchdowns. Grice has been just as important at catching the ball with 22 catches for 183 yards and a team-high 4 receiving touchdowns. Deantre Lewis has 124 rushing yards on 16 attempts for a team-high 8.4 yards per rush and 1 rushing touchdown. DJ Foster has 15 attempts for 82 rushing yards and averages 5.5 yards per rush for the Sun Devils. He also has been vital to the receiving game too with 22 catches for 258 yards and 1 touchdown and has the longest reception on the team for 74 yards.
Arizona St. RB’s vs. Notre Dame Rush Defense: The Irish are 45th in the nation in run defense and are allowing 133.8 rushing yards per game and for opponents to average 4.4 yards per rush with 3 rushing touchdowns allowed. Containing the run will be important along with keeping Marion Grice out of the endzone as he has 8 of the 11 rushing touchdowns for the Sun Devils. The defense will also need to keep an eye on Taylor Kelly and not let him run the ball as that is a strength of his (he ran for 516 rushing yards last season for Arizona St.).
Notre Dame WR’s and TE’s: The receiving game has been a strength all season long for the Irish with TJ Jones leading the way with 25 catches for 346 yards with 3 touchdowns and 13.8 yards per catch. DaVaris Daniels has 21 catches for 318 yards and 4 touchdowns with the longest play of the season for the Irish at 82 yards and averages 15.1 yards a catch. Tight end Troy Niklas continues the legacy of “Tight End U” for Notre Dame and has 11 receptions but has an 18.3 yard average with 3 receiving touchdowns in his first year starting for the Irish. Chris Brown has 7 catches for 125 yards for 17.9 yards a catch. Corey Robinson has 66 receiving yards on 4 catches (16.5 yard average), William Fuller has 2 catches for 48 yards, and CJ Prosise has 3 catches for 25 yards with an 8.3 yard average.
Notre Dame WR’s vs. Arizona St. DB’s: Arizona St. gets a challenge in a Notre Dame receiving unit that has multiple receivers that are capable of catching long passes and has tremendous depth. The secondary of Arizona St. has experience despite the fact that they lost 2 starters from a team last season that allowed only 168 passing yards a game. If Tommy Rees bounces back from his poor performances over the last couple of games, it can be dangerous for the Sun Devils secondary as Notre Dame uses many players and anyone is capable of stepping up for the Irish. Notre Dame might have the best receiving unit that Arizona St. faces all season long even.
Edge: Notre Dame
Arizona St. WR’s and TE’s: In his first year playing for Arizona St., Jaelen Strong has been great for the Sun Devils with 433 receiving yards on 31 receptions for 14 yards a catch and 2 touchdowns. Tight End Chris Coyle has been impressive as well with 11 catches for 213 yards with 2 touchdowns and 19.4 yards per catch. Kevin Ozier has 5 catches for 115 yards with 1 receiving touchdown and a 23 yards per reception. Richard Smith has 8 catches for 56 yards and has a 6 yard average.
Arizona St. WR’s vs. Notre Dame DB’s: The strength in the receiving game is in the running backs as they are 2nd and 3rd overall in receiving yards for the team and the same two running backs (DJ Foster and Marion Grice) were 3rd and 4th overall in receiving yards last season as well when they combined for nearly 1,000 receiving yards and 12 receiving touchdowns on close to 80 receptions. They both equally get the ball in the air this season with both having 22 receptions each. The main wide receiver to account for will be Jaelen Strong who has more than 300 yards more than the 2nd wide receiver in terms of receiver. Accounting for the running backs in the receiving game is just as important as important as containing the receivers.
Edge: Arizona St.
Notre Dame OL: The run blocking for the Irish by the offensive line was the best all season by far in the previous game against Oklahoma when Notre Dame ran for 220 yards on 29 attempts and averaged 7.6 yards per rush. The offensive line has allowed only 4 sacks and 7 quarterback hurries, but has allowed 25 tackles for loss this season. Pass protection was an issue against Oklahoma as it had impact on forcing Tommy Rees into turnover situations.
Notre Dame OL vs. Arizona St. DL: Arizona State has done a solid job of getting into opposing backfields with 24 tackles for loss this season and have 7 sacks, but just 2 quarterback hurries. The defensive line is very experienced and only lost one player from last season and feature an absolute force in lineman Will Sutton who was a 1st Team All-American last season when he had 13 sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss. The defensive line has 3 of Arizona St.’s 7 sacks. Containing Will Sutton will be the main battle, but the defensive line returned all of their starters from last season and will give the Notre Dame offensive line a challenge.
Arizona St. OL: The Sun Devils have done a decent job in pass protection with 6 sacks allowed and only 3 quarterback hurries allowed as well. However they have allowed 18 tackles for loss and have allowed 1 safety as well on offense. Run blocking is great in rushing touchdowns with 11 rushing touchdowns to give Arizona St. a balance in scoring with an even total in rushing and passing touchdowns with 11 by each. The unit is under their 3rd different offensive line coach in three seasons which has had an impact in recent years as they allowed 38 last season (Worst since 2007 when they allowed 55 sacks) and 28 in 2011.
Arizona St. OL vs. Notre Dame DL: The defensive line of Notre Dame gives Arizona St. a challenge in the trenches with a pair of top players in Louis Nix III and Stephon Tuitt, Tuitt was a bright spot on defense last week. Notre Dame has only 4 sacks on defense, but has 18 quarterback hurries and 20 tackles for loss at least. While Notre Dame’s defensive line hasn’t been as productive as last season, improvement has been shown and the unit has had a lot of depth issues and not having Sheldon Day the previous 2 games because of injury really hurt the team since he has been rather impressive in his career at Notre Dame and was an impact player last season as a true freshman.
Edge: Notre Dame
Notre Dame DL: Louis Nix III leads all defensive lineman in tackles with 19 overall with 1 tackle for loss and 1 pass breakup. He also is a force in the interior for the Irish and has been attracting double teams every game this season. Stephon Tuitt has 15 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, 1 interception for a touchdown, and 5 quarterback hurries. Sheldon Day was a game-time decision that forced him out for a 2nd straight game due to injury, but will be back against Arizona St. Day has 7 tackles and 1 tackle for loss while Kona Schwenke has 5 tackles and 1 quarterback hurry.
Notre Dame DL vs. Arizona St. OL: The Irish face an offensive line that prevented quarterback pressure with only 3 quarterback hurries and has allowed 6 sacks through 4 games, but 18 tackles for loss. The Irish will need to get into the backfield and try to pressure Taylor Kelly and contain the running game and not let the running backs catch the ball either. Having Sheldon Day back will be a tremendous benefit to the Irish as they have had depth issues this season due to season-ending injuries in the offseason.
Edge: Notre Dame
Arizona St. DL: The Sun Devils returned all of their starters, but none more important than 2012 1st Team All-American Will Sutton. Sutton has 13 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, 1 sack, and 1 fumble recovery. Davon Coleman has 18 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, and 1 sack. Jaxon Hood has 7 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, and 2 pass breakups. Gannon Conway has 7 tackles as well with 2 tackles for loss and 1 sack.
Arizona St. DL vs. Notre Dame OL: The defensive line is one of the strengths of the Sun Devils and Will Sutton will be a major player for the Irish to stop. The Irish can’t afford to let Arizona St. get into the backfield to disrupt the running game and need to keep Tommy Rees protected as well. This will once again be a major battle in the trenches this season for the Irish.
Notre Dame LB’s: Despite just starting the last 2 games for the Irish after taking over for Dan Fox, Jarrett Grace leads the Irish in tackles with 37 and has 1 tackle for loss and 1 pass breakup. Grace has been a real surprise for the Irish this season and has done well in coverage. Carlo Calabrese has 36 tackles, 1 fumble recovery, and a team high 4 tackles for loss while Dan Fox has 29 tackles and 3 tackles for loss. Jaylon Smith has done a solid job in his first year at Notre Dame and looks to a be another 4 year starter with 18 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, and 1 pass breakup. Prince Shembo brings pressure to opposing quarterbacks with 8 quarterback hurries and 13 tackles. Ishaq Williams has 11 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, and 1 sack.
Notre Dame LB’s vs. Arizona St.: The main players they have to account for in particular will be running backs Mario Grice and DJ Foster who are both threats at catching the ball along with tight end Chis Coyle. In addition, they will need to get pressure on Taylor Kelly and not let him take off and run. Containing the four of them will be key and if the Irish are successful, it will have a tremendous impact on the game.
Arizona St. LB’s: Chris Young leads the team in tackles with 29 and has 1.5 tackles for loss. Carl Bradford has 16 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, 1 pass breakups, and 2 quarterback hurries. Steffon Martin has 15 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, and 1 pass breakup. Salamo Fiso has 10 tackles and 2.5 tackles for loss while Anthony Jones has 9 tackles and 1 interception.
Arizona St. LB’s vs. Notre Dame: The Irish running game are coming off their best game of the season so far and give the linebackers something to account for. Troy Niklas at tight end will provide a coverage nightmare with his size and his ability to run after catch. The linebacker unit returned most of their top players from last season and gives the Irish an interesting matchup.
Notre Dame DB’s: The Defensive backfield hasn’t been as strong as it was the previous season as the Irish have allowed more than 200 yards in 4 of 5 games this season. Bennett Jackson has 31 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 1 interception (went for a touchdown), 1 pass breakup, and 1 quarterback hurry. KeiVarae Russell has 17 tackles and 4 pass breakups. The safety area has primarily used 3 different players and not a single one has started all 5 games so far this season. Matthias Farley has 24 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, 1 interception, and 2 pass breakups, Elijah Shumate has 17 tackles and 1 tackle for loss, and Austin Collinsworth has 10 tackles and 2 quarterback hurries.
Notre Dame DB’s vs. Arizona St. WR’s: The main wide receiver target for Arizona St. is Jaelen Strong, after him the next receiver in terms of years is 5th in receiving in Kevin Ozier. The Irish will mainly need to focus on Strong and the defensive backs will need to be at their best at tacking when it comes to the running backs and catching the ball. Tight End Chris Coyle will also be accounted for in coverage as he has comparable stats to Troy Niklas and is a target in the passing game.
Edge: Arizona St.
Arizona St. DB’s: Osahon Irabor has 20 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, 1 sack, and 1 interception for the Sun Devils this season. Alden Darby has been one of the best defensive backs for Arizona St. this season with a team-leading 2 interceptions with 1 going for a touchdown. He also has 19 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, 3 pass breakups, 1 forced fumble and 1 fumble recovery. Robert Nelson has 17 tackles, 1 interception, 1 pass breakup, and 1 blocked kick. Laiu Moeakiola has 17 tackles and 1 pass breakup.
Arizona St. DB’s vs. Notre Dame WR’s: The deep receiving unit that Notre Dame is one of the best receiving units that Arizona St. will face all season. DaVaris Daniels, TJ Jones, and Chris Brown will be the main targets that Arizona St. has to account for in coverage. However, with emerging freshman making plays for the Irish as well, it gives Arizona St. quite a bit to cover and if Tommy Rees bounces back, it will be quite dangerous for them.
Edge: Notre Dame
Notre Dame Kicking Game: Kyle Brindza is 5 of 7 with a long of 44 yards. He missed attempts from 44 and 37 yards this season, and had no attempts against Oklahoma. He also is the primary punter and averages 40.6 yards per punt on 19 punts with a long of 55. 2 punts were touchbacks, 8 were fair caught, 2 inside the 20, 3 punts have been for 50 or more yards, with 1 blocked. Alex Wulfeck has made a few attempts with 3 punts for 124 yards (41.3 yard average) with a long of 49, 1 was a touchback, the others were both fair caught and inside the 20. Kyle Brindza handles kickoffs with a 64 yard average on 26 kickoffs, 13 have gone for touchbacks.
Arizona St. Kicking Game: Zane Gonzalez has made 6 of 9 field goals this season with a long of 40, 2 of his 3 misses were for 49 and 45 yards. Multiple players have punted the ball for the Sun Devils this season with Dominick Vizzare having a 39.2 yard average on 6 punts with a long of 45, 2 fair caught, and 2 inside the 20. Matt Haack has a 38.8 yard average on 4 punts with a long of 50 yards and 1 punt was inside the 20 and another punt was blocked. Alex Garoutte has a 38 yard average on 3 punts with a long of 46 yards and 1 inside the 20. Alex Garoutte handles kickoff duties with a 64.1 yard average on 32 kickoffs and has 20 touchbacks.
Stronger Unit: Notre Dame
Notre Dame Return Game: George Atkinson III has 12 kickoff returns for 331 yards with a 27.6 yard average and a long of 50 yards. TJ Jones has returned 6 punts for 44 yards and has a long of 18 and an average of 7.3 yards per return.
Arizona St. Return Game: Marion Grice is the primary kickoff returner with 9 kickoffs returned for 206 yards and has an average of 22.9 yards per return and a long of 36 yards. Richard Smith has 3 returns for 56 yards (18.7 yard average) and a long of 24 yards. Robert Nelson has returned 8 punts for 42 yards with a 5.2 yard average and a long of 14 yards.
Stronger Unit: Even
Everything Else: Arizona St. is the first of three Pac-12 opponents that the Irish face this season and is the only neutral site game of the regular season for the Irish after 2 neutral site games last season. Arizona St. gives the Irish a challenge in another quarterback that is capable of running the ball and does an excellent job of getting the ball to the running backs in the passing game. The Irish are coming of their most impressive rushing performance in a loss to Oklahoma, and considering that run defense is a major weakness of Arizona St., running the ball early will be important. Running the ball and controlling the clock with sustained drives on offense will be important to keep Arizona St.’s offense off the field. Tommy Rees bouncing back from the last two games will be important in the passing game, and it is also possible to see more of Andrew Hendrix at quarterback as well. If the run game continues to be a success on offense for the
Irish, it should not be abandoned suddenly if the Irish are down in points. If things click on offense and the defense takes care of the Sun Devils offense, it will be big for the Irish.
Prediction: Notre Dame 35, Arizona St. 31