The players have seemed relaxed at interview sessions and focused on their game with the Cougars on Saturday afternoon. But lets be real: this week in no way, shape or form resembles last week's. The hype and anticipation is gone. This is where head coach Charlie Weis will earn his money. His job is to refocus the team and he's been using the ploy of a "new season" to achieve this objective. Weis was successful already once this year in getting his team ready to go after a loss. That week saw way more distractions than this one because of the match up of former coach Tyrone Willingham against his former players. Weis has talked about one of the greatest strengths of the New England Patriots is their ability to focus after a loss. Expect nothing less from this top-notch coaching staff. It might take Notre Dame a series or two to get into motion but expect this team to be in high gear for the majority of the game.
Will BYU's 3-3-5 defense cause the Notre Dame offense any problems?
The Irish offense has been slowed down once this year and that was against Michigan. Will BYU join this short list? Don't count on it. The exotic 3-3-5 defense is not a normal defense that most college teams run. Weis made the comment that the players being on fall break this week was beneficial in preparing for the unusual schemes of BYU. The defense has the ability to causes a lot of problems but it also leaves them vulnerable to the big play. Brady Quinn has carved up opposing defenses in 2005. The junior is completing 63 percent of his passes and has 14 touchdowns to four interceptions. If the Cougars blitz, and they will blitz, Quinn should have a lot of options to exploit. Can Jeff Samardzija keep his touchdown streak of six alive? Bank on it, and bank on the Notre Dame offense putting up a lot of points on the scoreboard.
What will BYU do on offense?
Cougar quarterback John Beck is averaging over 300 yards passing per game. The Notre Dame secondary is allowing over 300 yards through the air. This looks like an obvious target for BYU to exploit. But last week, the Cougars played ball control and ran the ball 52 times, keeping the Colorado State offense off the field in their 24-14 win. Will they play ball control or try to air it out and win a shootout? BYU running back Curtis Brown is averaging 84 yards per game rushing and has eight career 100-yard performances. Wide receiver Todd Watkins is a big target at 6-3 and already has five touchdown grabs on the year. The options are there. But the Cougars are only averaging 115 yards a contest on the ground. Can they be successful in playing keep away from Notre Dame?
This game would be a slam-dunk any other weekend. But Notre Dame is coming off a crushing loss to top-ranked USC and there is a question of where the players' minds will be this Saturday against BYU. Weis and his staff are too good of coaches to let this happen. The approach of a "new season" beginning against the Cougars is an interesting way to forget what happened against the Trojans. The talent level favors Notre Dame. The coaching favors Notre Dame. The game is in South Bend. The Irish will roll. Notre Dame 49 BYU 24.