Site Predictions

Struggles on both sides of scrimmage bring a third week of split decisions among staff, moderators.

Tim O'Malley -- Publisher

I disagreed with something Brian Kelly said this week, that repeatedly allowing short completions (gains of under 10 yards) to the wide side didn't "lose the game" for his Irish. Rather, it was the early rash of turnovers a subsequent handful of "chunk plays" which they couldn't overcome. Specifically, two touchdowns of 26 and 54 yards.

Turns out, he was probably right.

Combined in their two defeats this season, Notre Dame's defense has allowed nine such chunk plays (5 vs. UM, 4 against OU). In its three wins? A total of two.

Perhaps this defense's best defense against a top tier offense is to keep as many gains, however maddening, in front of them as possible.

But that style of plugging leaks will prove difficult vs. the up-tempo, explosive offense of Arizona State. So too will consistently protecting statuesque quarterback Tommy Rees, who'll be exposed to an array of exotic blitzes and stunts designed to not only confuse pre-snap, but make him quickly choose post-snap.

Part of me wants to fallback on the old standby (employed last week), that when most of the nation is going one way, I should go the other. As well, it's not as if Arizona State is a program that regularly responds well to prosperity.

But Notre Dame has looked good for nary a half at a time this fall much less a full game. They'd need the latter to win over this Sun Devils offense.
ASU 34 ND 27

Anna Hickey -- Recruiting Reporter

This outcome will be all about Notre Dame. If the Irish can piece together near a complete performance, then they'll prove they're the better team on Saturday. The tools are all there. The offense obviously has to limit mistakes, but the defense has to limit yards on the perimeter and get stops on third down. More than that, Notre Dame needs to force a few turnovers of their own, and I'd like to see a dominant performance from the defense in all facets.

I see Atkinson carrying over his momentum from last Saturday and being a big factor again this week. Most of all, this one isn't decided by "x and o's" but rather a mindset from the get-go that they're walking out of Cowboys Stadium with a W.
Notre Dame 26 Arizona State 24

Brian Dohn -- Recruiting Analyst

Expect Notre Dame's defense to get tested, and expect Arizona State to put up points. How many? Well, that could depend on how much time the Irish offense spends on the field. The Sun Devils are averaging 44.3 points per game, and while that is skewed by a game against Sacramento State and the disaster that was USC last week (a 62-41 ASU win), the Sun Devils have put up at least four touchdowns against Wisconsin and Stanford.

Notre Dame is 3-2 entering an interesting game. This game should shape the season. A win, and the Irish enter the "easy" portion of its schedule at 4-2 and should show up at Stanford on Nov. 30 with a 9-2 mark and playing for a BCS berth.
Notre Dame 27 Arizona State 24

SeattleNDFan -- Moderator

A year ago going into the Shamrock Series game against Miami, Notre Dame was coming off a series of shaky wins in which the offense sputtered more often than not but the defense had shown itself to be a decided strength for the team.

All we heard on our message boards going into the matchup with Miami was that they had far too much team speed for Notre Dame, that their defense would stuff the Irish offense and that their speedy wide receivers would be running free all day on Notre Dame's young secondary. Miami was coming off two consecutive games in which they had scored 86 total points and had more than 600 yards of offense in each game.

As you will recall, that game started out looking like that would come true, but Philip Dorsett let an easy 72 yard scoring pass bounce off his hands on the opening play from scrimmage. From there it was all downhill for the Hurricanes as Notre Dame won 41-3. This was arguably one of the turning points of the season, the key being that is was best rushing performance in 13 years by the Irish, 379 yards on 52 carries, for 7.3 yards per rush.

The obvious difference with Arizona State is that while ND's offense is struggling almost as much as a year ago at this time, the defense is far inferior to what Irish fans had come to expect. As a direct result, an Arizona State team with more than a few similarities to that 2012 Miami team is a 4.5 point favorite rather than the 13 point dog Miami was last year. 

Make no mistake, Arizona State is by far the best offense ND has seen this season and there is a very real chance that they could score every time they possess the ball against our defense no matter where on the field they take possession. The key is going to be limiting their possessions and not giving them extras through turnovers. 

If Notre Dame is to win Saturday night in Jerry's World, it will need to take a page from 2012. Run the ball they way they did in Soldier Field and they have a chance. Try to win an uptempo shootout with ASU and it will likely end ugly. The best way to defend Taylor Kelly and his host of speedy targets including future NFL tailback Marion Grice for this Irish team is to keep them on the bench while the offense pounds out first downs and eats up the clock.

That will put enormous pressure on Taylor Kelly and company -- if they are getting only one or two possessions per quarter because of a ball control offense from Notre Dame, they will tighten up and they will make mistakes. ASU likes to run 90+ plays a game and snaps the ball every 19 seconds -- give them only 40 and they will likely falter.

If Notre Dame can do this, and there is no reason why not, although Arizona State's run defense has been hit or miss -- stuff the run three plays in a row and then give up a 35 yarder -- then the Irish can win this game.

Motivated three-star players like unheralded Taylor Kelly from Eagle, Idaho, will kick the 'arse of unmotivated five star players every time. The question is how motivated will ND's five star players be for this game? If coaching alone could inspire that, then the 49ers would be undefeated this season, right?

If they come to play, execute in the running game, and limit ASU's possessions.
Notre Dame 24 Arizona State 20  

BNolan -- Moderator

My disappointment in Kelly/Martin/Diaco is no secret.  In year four a program (even hamstrung by a substandard QB) should not look so disjointed and poorly prepared.  Saturday will further exacerbate this as the defense will get shredded and the offense won't be able to keep up, even on the seemingly slim chance that they don't commit turnovers.

Just not a favorable schematic matchup.  Sorry, folks.  
ASU 42 ND 23

Morrissey79 -- Moderator

Notre Dame continued its struggles last week on both sides of the ball, showing flashes of production but overall way too many mistakes, both in performance/execution and scheme.  

This week, it doesn't get any easier with ND playing a very potent offense led by a coach who has played Brian Kelly very well the last two times he's played him.  

I'm going to be short - ND seemed to find itself in the running game last week and ASU is susceptible to the running game. I think ND does a good job of controlling the clock, keeping Rees in safe situations, keeping the ASU offense/ND defense off the field.  Taylor Kelly also has a history of throwing it to the opposition when he's not playing at Sun Devil Stadium, and I see him doing that again this weekend.  

And ND can't start the season 0-6 against the spread, can they ND wins 31-27

Amruther24 -- Moderator

The Shamrock Series games have been good to Notre Dame since the inception of the excuse to put the team in wacky uniforms. The closest margin of victory in those games was a pair of 24-point wins against both Army (2010) and Maryland (2011). Of course, none of the teams that Notre Dame played prior in the series has the seeming firepower and talent that Arizona State possesses. 

ASU comes into the game off of a drubbing of USC. They have a mobile QB in Taylor Kelly, a nice running back in Marion Grice, some weapons on the perimeter, and a defense designed to make explosive plays in the opponents backfield.

They also have a pretty good coach that Brian Kelly and Notre Dame know all to well. Taylor Kelly's ability to run is the kryptonite of Bob Diaco's defensive units since he arrived at Notre Dame. The common denominator in Notre Dame's two losses this season is that the QB (or QBs in the case of OU) led their respective teams in rushing. Kelly seems to be the best of the QBs Notre Dame has faced this season.

Notre Dame's offense continues to struggle with it's identity. They finally broke out in the running game last week, only to throw 100 straight passes with 8 minutes left in the game and down two scores. It is nothing new to say that relying on the passing game with Tommy Rees at the helm is asking too much of him and too much of the offense.

Thankfully, ASU's defense is surrendering 192.3 rushing yards per game. In other words, Notre Dame needs to run early and often and try to shorten the game to keep their own defense off the field.

I get the sense from the boards and other discussions this week that most Notre Dame and even ASU fans aren't quite sure what to make of their respective teams. Much of the discussion and predictions have come with qualifications. Well, here's my qualifier, if Notre Dame throws less than 30 passes they win. Though I have no prior evidence to suggest this will happen, I think it will. Notre Dame 31 ASU 28

GaviND -- Moderator

The first two weeks of the Notre Dame football season saw me making picks based on the 2012 season, what was coming back and the growth I expected from some ready to be prime time players.

The next two weeks, I made my picks knowing that Purdue and MSU were not very good football teams, and that the defense couldn't possibly be as bad as they displayed in either of the first two games.

Last week, I again went with my heart, rationalizing that, at some point, things were going to click and this team would regain the traits that drove them to a national championship game appearance no more than ten months ago.

No more.

Arizona State is a talented football team and what's worse is they possess an explosive offense that can put points on the board in a hurry. At quarterback, Taylor Kelly is the quarterback I expected Everett Golson to be this season: not a true runner, but athletic and agile and while he'd prefer to beat you through the air, he will pick up 10-12 yards if you give it to him.

The Arizona State defense leaves a plenty to be desired, but they are an aggressive bunch. If Notre Dame gets behind early, they could make life miserable for Tommy Rees and company. The best bet for the Irish is for them to pound the ball on the ground against an undersized defensive line and use both misdirection and screens to neutralize ASU's attack.

I love the Irish and while I concede that they can turn it around at any moment, there is a reason that the Sun Devils are favored by almost a touchdown. ASU 45 ND  31

KurzND -- Moderator

ND badly needs a win. ASU provides a ranked opponent in a big game atmosphere in prime time. The Shamrock Series games up to now have all been blow outs, but Arizona State provides the toughest opponent for one of these match ups.

Oklahoma won the first three minutes of the game and that doomed the Irish. ND cannot let the same happen versus ASU. The key to the game is the same as it was against Oklahoma. Run the ball. ASU is not very good against the run. ND needs to pound the ball up the middle and control the clock. ND runs 35+ times the chances of a win are extremely high. 35+ passes and the chances of a win are zero.

If the offense can run the ball and control the clock that will protect the defense from getting winded. Oklahoma ran 70+ plays last week and ASU is capable of running even more. Nix and the DLine need to be fresh because ASU loves to run the ball. ND needs to tackle well or else guys like DJ Foster and Marion Grice will run wild.

The biggest keys overall, 1. run the ball and 2. run the ball.

ND 33 Arizona State 27 if the Irish run. Top Stories