Jeff Baumhower (Co-Publisher/Recruiting Analyst): Notre Dame desperately needed the bye week, and maybe could have used it at the beginning of October. While it was a time to heal the bodies, I believe the week off did more to heal the physique of the team, and refresh them mentally. Utah will be licking their wounds after the drubbing they took from TCU on their home field.
The question this weekend will be, which team is more mentally tough. Is it the Irish after a week off, or the Utes looking to bounce back after a tough loss? I wish I were confident that the answer would be the team wearing the blue and gold, but for the third straight year, the Irish drop their final game of the season at Notre Dame Stadium. Utah 31 Notre Dame 20
Dave Berk (IrishEyes Staff/Scout.com): 8-1 Utah will enter Saturday's game coming off an embarrassing loss to TCU. Notre Dame enters looking for a much-needed win to place them one game away from bowl eligibility. The Irish need a win Saturday and while I am sure many will pick against them, I get the feeling Tommy Rees can keep the Irish close enough to pull off a victory and get the Irish back on track.
Irish win 28-27
SeattleND (Moderator): Does Notre Dame have the athletes and the coaching to beat Utah? Absolutely. Will they actually do that? Hard to say, but if there was ever a game in the past six seasons where the Notre Dame players should play like they have a chip on their shoulders, this should be it. Our defense held Tulsa, the #8 offense in the nation, to one touchdown and two field goals two weeks ago, and if they can perform even close to that with a Utah team coming off a demoralizing blowout loss at home to TCU, then I really like ND's chances.
We need to be able to run the ball effectively to keep the Utah defense honest and give Tommy Rees a chance. The good news is that the Utah defense is far better than Army's or USC's, so if we can move the ball on them, the end of the season might not be as soon as it looked at the end of the Tulsa game.
Notre Dame 27 Utah 24
Weisass (Moderator): The Irish will be back this weekend after a much needed bye week. Will they return to glory or is this yet another lost season? Utah was hammered last weekend by a very good TCU team and I'm worried that they will take their revenge on us. We all know we are beat up but the real question will be has this team given up? Kelly needs to right the ship and get this team on the winning path. Is our problem injuries? We lost when we were at full strength. Is it talent? That is subject as a lot of our players aren't playing up to their recruiting levels. Is it coaching? We all know what Kelly did at Cincy but you have to remember. THIS AIN'T CINCY.
Combine all of that and you have the 2010 Notre Dame Irish (I purposely left out Fighting because I have yet to see it). This is a new system for these players so I'm willing to give this coaching staff a pass on this season. Not the players. Am I happy? Hell no, why would I be? Do we deserve better? Heck yes we do!
I have faith in Kelly, it's his job on the line not mine. I haven't given up on Kelly and you shouldn't either but you know, I know and he better know things better change and they better change fast because as we have all learned, Notre Dame is not a place that takes losing lightly. Talk is cheap. Let your results do your talking.
Utah 28 ND 21
BNolan (Moderator): Utah was embarrassed last week. This week they return the favor. Diaco giving up points and a freshman quarterback (with a weakened supporting cast) failing to score them adds up to another... ND faceplant.
Utah 37, ND 13
Morrissey79 (Moderator): Coming off the bye week, we will really see Kelly and the staff's perseverance with their backs against the wall. If the team has indeed bought in behind the scenes, then the bye week is a perfect time to right the ship and move towards next season.
ND 31 Utah 24
KurzND (Moderator): It hasn't been a good past few weeks for ND fans. As of right now I am not seeing a lot of hope for beating Utah. The way the team has been playing with losses to Tulsa and Navy as well as off the field issues. With Utah coming off an absolute pounding from TCU, they could be coming to South Bend very angry. However if ND is to win they MUST run on Utah's D as well as protect the ball. Will ND rise up and upset someone? Maybe but not this week.
Utah 27 Notre Dame 17
GaviND (Moderator): Exit Dayne Crist, Armando Allen, Kyle Rudolph and Theo Riddick, enter Tommy Rees, Cierre Wood, Tyler Eifert and TJ Jones. The experience and (in most cases) reliability of a once potent offense has been replaced by tons of upside but an undeniable lack of experience. Aside from the one critical mistake he made in his first significant opportunity to lead the offense, Rees submitted a formidable effort against a less than formidable Tulsa secondary. Rees clearly illustrated that he knew where his bread was buttered hitting Michael Floyd on career best 11 receptions.
Regrettably, Rees will not be facing the Tulsa pass defense this weekend.Utah is presently ranked 16th in the nation in pass defense and, regardless of what you think of the slate of teams they have played, they have athletes in their back four that will make winning this game through the air a daunting task. The numbers, admittedly, are skewed because most of the teams they have played feature run heavy attacks but this is a talented quartet, especially freshman safety Brian Blechen who has excellent instincts.
In order for the Irish to prevail, the defense will have to do their job and make some stops but ultimately, the outcome of this one falls on the right shoulder of Tommy Rees. If the freshman can move through his progressions, spread the ball around and continue to move the offense quickly, the Irish have a chance. If Michael Floyd has another 11 reception performance, it probably means Rees is not going through his progressions and it will be another long day on the scoreboard...something I fear is likely. Utah 41 ND 24