Though the game will be played at FedEx Field in Landover, MD, Notre Dame will be the home team Saturday night – technically a neutral site contest.
Below is a closer look at the Irish and Terrapins, including a few Irish players threatening program records.
0 – Difference between the number of pass attempts Dayne Crist threw in approximately 7.5 games last season and Tommy Rees has in nearly 8.5 games, this season. Both threw 294 in their respective time as starters under Brian Kelly with Rees prepared to add to his total Saturday in Landover.
1 – Repeat game day captain this season for Brian Kelly's Irish. Senior cornerback Robert Blanton served alongside team captain Harrison Smith for both the Wake Forest game last week and the season opener vs. South Florida, when he was also joined by classmate Trevor Robinson. Since, Zack Martin (Michigan) Ethan Johnson (Michigan State), Taylor Dever (Pittsburgh), Tyler Eifert (Purdue), Jonas Gray (Air Force), Manti Te'o/Cierre Wood (USC), and Chris Salvi (Navy) have assumed the role.
No underclassmen (sophomore or freshman) has been named game captain this season.
2 – Rushing touchdowns needed by the Irish to surpass Charlie Weis' 2005 team total of 21 – easily the highest single-season number at the program over the previous six seasons. With four more rushing scores, Kelly's second squad will pass the 2000 BCS-bowl qualifiers for the highest total since the turn of the century. That team scored 24 rushing touchdowns in 11 regular season games, adding an unofficial score in the bowl defeat.
Including bowl games, the 1998 (12 games), 1999 (12 games, no bowl), and 2000 Irish (12 games) each produced 25 rushing scores, the most in the post-Lou Holtz era for Notre Dame.
3 – Players in program history that have scored more touchdowns than has Michael Floyd (35). Only record-holder Allen Pinkett (53), career rushing leader Autry Denson (47), and Louis (Red) Salmon, who scored 36 from 1900-1903 have bettered Floyd's TD production.
Floyd tied late-70s star and former career rushing leader Vagas Ferguson with his 35th score last week, breaking a tie with late 80s fullback and short-yardage force of nature Anthony Johnson. The rest of the Top 10 includes Marc Edwards (32 from 1993-96), Stan Cofall (30 from 1914-16), Golden Tate (30 from 2007-09), Neil Worden (29 from 1951-53) and Julius Jones, who also netted 29 scores from 1999-01, and upon his return in '03.
4 – Wins by Brian Kelly at Notre Dame when the game was decided by 7 points or less. Kelly defeated Wake Forest 24-17 last week, improving his record to 4-5 overall in such situations. The Irish have defeated Pittsburgh (twice), USC, and Wake Forest over Kelly's now 22-game tenure, losing to Michigan (twice), Michigan State, Tulsa, and South Florida in close contests. Notre Dame is 2-2 this season in games decided by seven points or fewer.
5 – Catches needed for Tyler Eifert to move into second place on the program's single-season receptions list for tight ends. Eifert has 43 receptions in nine games this season, trailing the tandem of John Carlson (2006) and Anthony Fasano (2005) who recorded 47 apiece. The record is held by three-time All-America Ken MacAfee, who secured 54 passes in 11 games during the championship season of 1977. (Bowl statistics did not count prior to the 2002 season – a reality that likewise affects the touchdown totals listed in Point #3 above.)
6 – Opponents the Irish have held to at least nine points below their season scoring average. South Florida (averages 32, scored 23); Michigan State (26 vs. 13); Pittsburgh (26 vs. 12); Purdue (25 vs. 10); Navy (31 vs. 14); and Wake Forest (28 vs. 17) each were stymied by Bob Diaco's Irish defense. Only Michigan (averages 32, scored 35), Air Force (34 vs. 33), and USC (33 vs. 31) played up to their usual offensive standards this season against the Irish.
7 – Points surrendered this season by the Irish offense vs. opposing teams (in this case, USC) through nine 3rd Quarters in nine games. The number is relevant in that its one more point than the Irish defense has allowed over the same period. Pittsburgh scored a touchdown and failed on its subsequent two-point conversion attempt in Game Four for the only six offensive points vs. ND's defense.
8 – Teams that have forced more turnovers than has Maryland to date this season. The Terrapins have forced 23 turnovers, including 13 fumbles. Notre Dame has 11 fumbles lost through nine games this season. Despite Tommy Rees' streak of 135 passes without an interception, the Irish have also thrown 11 picks this year (10 by Rees).
9 – Passes defended by 5th-year senior safety Harrison Smith through nine games this season. The one-year program record is held by career leader Clarence Ellis, who recorded 13 of his 32 career passes defended in 1969. Only 11 Irish players have broken up 10 passes in a season, most recently junior cornerback Raeshon McNeil in 2008 (11).
Smith has 27 career pass breakups, tied with Luther Bradley (1973-77) for second behind Ellis on the career list.
10 – Freshmen among the team's 23 eligible that have played this season through nine games and that will likely play for Brian Kelly's second Irish squad. In all, 19 newcomers have seen field action for the first time in 2011. True freshmen include George Atkinson III, Josh Atkinson, Kyle Brindza, Chase Hounshell, Ben Koyack, Aaron Lynch, Cam McDaniel, Troy Niklas, Stephon Tuitt, and Ishaq Williams.
Redshirt-freshmen (sophomores by grade) to grace the field for the first time were Bruce Heggie, Andrew Hendrix, Christian Lombard, Luke Massa, Kendall Moore, Tate Nichols, Louis Nix III, Justin Utupo, and Alex Welch. Each of the freshmen listed could return for a 5th-season in 2015 (graduation year of 2014) should he suffer an injury prior. The redshirt-freshmen above will all depart by the end of 2015 barring the rare 6th-year of eligibility granted for two medical redshirts.
Also seeing the field for the first time this season during the Kelly regime was senior defensive lineman Brandon Newman (vs. Navy) and senior wide receiver Deion Walker (vs. Purdue and Air Force). Newman played for Charlie Weis vs. Washington State in 2009; Walker vs. Nevada, Purdue, Washington, USC, and Washington State that same season. Neither appeared in 2010.
11 – Tackles-for-loss recorded by junior Manti Te'o so far this season. The number ranks fifth among middle linebackers nationwide. Wisconsin's Chris Borland leads the MLB pack with 14. Te'o finished 2010 with 9.5 TFL (second on the team to Darius Fleming's 11) after recording 5.5 as a true freshman (9 starts) in 2009.
Te'o ranks third among the nation's middle linebackers with 4.5 sacks.