16 days is a long time—the length since the last time the Cougars lined up and hit someone with aggression. A team can use 16 days to get better, heal, work on problems, and come together. 16 days is also a long time for not playing football. Will the Cougars be able to strap the helmet back on and play to their absolute best?
The Irish won a hard-fought game against Navy last Saturday. The question that remains is if the Irish are just barely better than Navy, or did the Irish see Navy playing at a level they normally don't play at? We are going to guess the latter.
What to expect in this game
BYU will come out on defense and try to confuse the Irish offensive line and quarterback. The BYU defense is a 3-3-5 alignment, an unfamiliar alignment to the Irish. The Cougar defense is masterful in their blitzing and disguising of where the pressure is coming—not a good sign for an inexperienced offensive line and a freshman quarterback.
The BYU offense has struggled but they do throw the football, and have a good tight end—a sore spot for the Irish defense this year.
We expect the BYU defense to do their best to confuse the Irish offensive line and quarterback Brady Quinn with disguising where they are coming and maybe even bring another man in the passing game. The problem is the Cougars blitz often and effectively against the run. We expect BYU to blitz on most plays—a defense that could be very effective against stopping the Irish rushing attack.
On offense, we expect the Cougars to try to stretch the field early. We expect them to go after the Irish defense early and often, trying to hit a big play that will give this struggling offense a boost. We also expect them to focus on their tight end, Daniel Coats. The Cougars will likely try to stretch the Irish defense with some deep passes and then do what they do best, underneath passes in zone converting first downs. We also expect if they are effective in spreading out the Irish defense, they will then start running the football to confuse the Irish defense even more.
We expect the Irish to try to establish the run early, and we don't think that is a bad idea. With a gambling defense, a freshman quarterback, and the best Irish weapon in the backfield, we will agree that Notre Dame should try to establish the run.
We do think it's vital that the Irish keep the Cougar defense off-balance by mixing in some passes in obvious running downs. We don't expect that early but we do feel that is a good idea. Still, the Irish need this game and likely won't bother throwing with an inexperienced, freshman quarterback early if they don't have to.
The Irish defense should be effective against the Cougar offensive line. The Cougars have given up 31 sacks this season, and we feel the Irish could add to that total. The real question is if the Cougar offensive line can play physical enough to get some yards rushing, and keep the Irish defenders out of the backfield on passing downs. We don't believe they will be able to do that.
The Cougars have only scored five touchdowns all year on the ground. We expect the Irish defense to play a lot of zone coverage, keeping the Cougars in front of them, forcing BYU to drive the length of the field and pound the ball into the end zone when in the red-zone. We don't believe they can do that on a consistent basis. We expect the Irish defense to play a solid game, holding the Cougars to under 20 points.
The other key factor will be the Irish offensive line versus this strange and confusing defense. Can they give Julius Jones enough daylight to do his thing? If they can, this should be an easy win for Notre Dame. If the Irish struggle running early, we expect the Cougars to be in the game until the end.
Look for the Cougar defense to sell out against the run, and try and force Notre Dame to beat them through the air. We do think the Irish can be effective throwing the football against this defense. The real test will play-calling by the Irish offensive staff. If they are stubborn trying to run the football and aren't having success, that will play right into the hands of the Cougar game plan.
We think this game will be closer than most expect. The 16 days off will help the Cougar defense, and we also expect some surprises to confuse the Irish offense keeping the game close at halftime. Irish Eyes also feels the Irish will pull away in the fourth quarter, and get a win for the seniors in their final game at Notre Dame Stadium.
Final Score: Notre Dame 31 BYU 17