Tim O'Malley -- PublisherSince the Irish lost to Pittsburgh I've been single-minded in my projection for Saturday's game: one way or another, Notre Dame is going to win. My pre-season prediction series included losses to Michigan, Stanford, and either Pittsburgh or BYU...but not both.
At the week's outset I believed the Irish would play their best ball of the season, at least for the first 30-40 minutes of Saturday's game. Unfortunately, that "best" wouldn't be enough to distance from Brigham Young by much more than 10-13 points. As has been their m.o. throughout the bulk of the Kelly era, the game would draw to close for comfort and the Irish would have to hold on for a harrowing escape and win.
Thursday's news that Louis Nix is lost for the season changes the technical aspect of my prediction not explained above: I thought the Irish front wall would dominate early and often. Rarely together in good health this fall, Nix, Stephon Tuitt, Sheldon Day, and Prince Shembo would simply be better than an erratic Cougars offensive front.
Athletes such as Jaylon Smith and Elijah Shumate would mitigate the damage done by Cougars QB Taysom Hill in space, and aside from the requisite secondary mistake that would cost the defense a cheap touchdown, Notre Dame would play assignment-correct, inspired football on Senior Day.
Without Nix, there's a gaping hole in the middle of the Irish defense and in my prediction. Can Jarron Jones, not yet 100 percent after an ankle sprain suffered on November 9, do battle with a legitimate collegiate running game? Can Kona Schwenke give the defensive front anything of value just 10 days removed from a cast on his badly injured ankle? Can Tyler Stockton hold the point for 6-8 plays? Am I seriously discussing Jones and Stockton in a game preview?
Can the Irish front seven plug it's leaks against the nation's No. 12 ranked rushing attack without their anchor Nix over center?
I think emotion, the use of every available body, and All-America level play by the likes of Smith, Tuitt, and Shembo will be enough to slow though not stop the Cougars attack.
Call it a hunch (because logic is admittedly absent), but Tommy Rees, the running game, and plenty of punts will prevail offensively in the most well-coached game of the 2013 season for the Irish. Plus they can't finish 0-3.
Notre Dame 23 BYU 20
Anna Hickey -- Recruiting ReporterBYU possesses the tools to beat Notre Dame in Notre Dame Stadium. An offense that features a dual threat quarterback, which Notre Dame has struggled all year to defend. A defense capable of stopping the run and the pass, especially on the edges. BYU is favored in this game, and they'll know what they're getting into atmosphere-wise, having played at Notre Dame last year.
BYU is better than they were last year, and vice versa is true for Notre Dame, but don't underestimate the importance of Notre Dame being healthy. The Pitt lost stung for obvious reasons, and I don't see the Irish losing a second straight in November, especially at home. If Notre Dame can win up front on both sides of the ball, the Irish win.
Notre Dame's bye week is just what the doc ordered, Irish 28 BYU 26
SeattleNDFan -- ModeratorTaysom Hill and BYU's successes and failures this season have boiled down to turnovers. As an uber-athletic, raw-as-a-passer, dual threat QB in the mold of former Washington and current Titans QB Jake Locker, Hill has been up and down and when he's down he throws bad interceptions, and then BYU loses. Key to making Hill throw interceptions is making him throw when Notre Dame wants him to, not when he wants to, and that means shutting down BYU's big backs and their downhill running game, something ND's front seven are probably better suited to do than keep up with a bunch of speedy scat-back types that can get the edges on them consistently.
If the big bruising running game and the dual threat QB with only one big time receiving threat sound familiar, BYU has another thing in common with Stanford in that both lost to Utah this season, and in both games neither Hill nor Kevin Hogan was at his best. If ND can take a page from Utah's book (or Virginia's), they have the right personnel and enough talent to handle BYU.
But if it's a repeat of the Michigan and Oklahoma games and the offense is required to bail out the team by scoring a bunch, it's going to be an ugly afternoon in snowy South Bend. I'm going with the seniors not allowing that to happen, and since controlling BYU's running game is the key to making that happen, Stephon Tuitt and his mates will be right in there with every chance to take over the game much like they did in the second half against SC. Notre Dame 24 BYU 17
Morrissey79 -- ModeratorThis year's graduating class on ND"s football team has the rare opportunity to finish off their careers with a victory at home every season, something that hasn't happened in quite some time (that's pretty sad by the way).
This year's graduating class is the first to go to 4 straight bowl games in a decade plus.
This year's graduating class is the first to win at least 8 games in a decade plus.
Those are some sobering stats - something that shows just how bad the program has been over the last 15-plus years since Lou Holtz's departure.
Despite the maddening times with this team, there is a lot to be thankful for and a lot of kid's who played their tails off and were crucial parts of one of the better season's we've had since '93. I'll forever be grateful for last year, even with the National Championship debacle, and for that I will always remember these players.
Somehow they will fight a very good and well coached BYU team and squeak out a win at home. It will be ugly, and at times we may even have to have some luck, but I think these guys will go out on a high note. ND 21 BYU 17
KurzND -- ModeratorThe final home game of the season follows some terrible news for one of ND's favorite seniors. So far under Kelly, he hasn't let any seniors leave ND stadium on a losing note.
With the final home game of his career, Tommy Rees won't disappoint. The offense will be a balanced attack but as always, look for Tommy to find T.J. Jones in tough spots.
The defense should play with an extra sense of purpose Saturday as Nix's season is over and Jaylon Smith wears #13 in honor of senior Danny Spond. BYU isn't a great passing team but they can run the ball. With the bye week behind them, it looks like the DL will be ready to go.
As I mentioned earlier, Kelly hasn't sent the seniors away with a loss and I don't see any reason why he will Saturday.
Notre Dame 24 BYU 13
GaviND -- ModeratorThe 2013 calendar year has not been a kind one to the Notre Dame football. From Lennay Kukua and being on the receiving end of a thrashing in the national title game to the exit of starting quarterback Everett Golson and yesterday's announcement that nose guard Louis Nix was done for the season, not many things have gone right for the Irish. This Saturday, however, provides the Irish seniors with one final opportunity to walk out of the tunnel and make a lasting memory.
Standing in the way of this moral victory, though, is a physically imposing BYU squad that, standing at 7-3, represents one of the best offenses and scoring defenses the Irish have faced this year. Averaging over 250 yards per game, the BYU ground game stands to give a depleted Irish defense fits. Nix's absence won't help that cause.
Defensively, the Cougars are well balanced; good but not particularly great in any one facet of the game. For the Irish to be successful, they need to get a great push from their offensive line and let their athletes make some plays.
BYU is healthier and because of that deeper, but two things working in Notre Dame's favor is that the Irish possess far more weapons/athletes/speed and that regardless of opponent this year, they have been in every game well into the fourth quarter. I expect nothing less this weekend and at the end of the day, the team that has taken better care of the football will emerge victorious.
And I expect that Tommy Rees has saved his best for last!
ND 31 BYU 28
Amruther24 -- ModeratorTwo games. That's all that stands between these ND seniors regaining some of the old 2012 magic or ending the season with the same amount of losses as their first two in the Kelly era. The PITT debacle, and I think we can definitively call it that, has left Irish fans (and Vegas) questioning the leadership and ability of a coaching staff and players who are 11 months separated from having played in a national title game. The game two weeks ago represented a microcosm of all the ills that have plagued Brian Kelly's program outside of one great season. Untimely turnovers, poor coverage and tackling, and inconsistency in all phases of the game.
Had the team had to play in the week immediately following PITT, I wouldn't have a lot of confidence in them. There are plenty of excuses as to why they've been inconsistent, not the least of which have been devastating injuries in the front 7. Given some time to recuperate both mentally and physically and with nothing to lose, I expect the Irish to do something they rarely seem to do which is to play loose and with a chip on their shoulders.
There's no doubt that BYU is capable of creating big plays on offense, an unexpected bugaboo of this season's ND defense, so Irish fans should prepare themselves for some big gains. As I noted a couple of weeks ago, the Irish offense had been on a recent positive trajectory towards being an efficient scoring machine. I'll amend that to note that they have become very efficient when they don't turn the ball over. They need to shorten the game to help their defense, but I'm not confident that they will. If Rees can protect the ball, I think the offense can move on BYU's defense.
This final score is tough to predict, because it's unclear how the staff will decide to attack BYU. They should attempt to shorten the game, but they'll likely throw the ball all over the yard. I'll assume the latter and say, ND 27 BYU 24
BNolan -- ModeratorLike most, I was extremely disappointed in how the Pitt game transpired, from the top down. Very discouraging after four years with this regime. With that said, BYU is plenty pesky enough to have the same impact on a poorly prepared Notre Dame squad.
The multitude of injuries is of course disconcerting and to blame for reduced levels of performance, but the 'next man in' mantra only works if well coached and implemented.
Will it be Saturday? The Irish need a win, as they need to finish the season on a much more positive note than what the deflated Pitt game imparted, and a win against Stanford is in my opinion close to impossible. So...I want to predict a narrow victory over BYU, but think with even one turnover and/or lackluster game preparation... (run the ball, BK!). With trepidation, I'll say: ND 23 BYU 20