To gain more knowledge on what to expect this Saturday when BYU visits Notre Dame, we did a question-and-answer with Jon (burger23) of the Notre Dame site One Foot Down. Get learn't!
1. Explain the quarterback situation for the casual Notre Dame follower. What are Everett Golson's strengths and weaknesses? And given his semi-concussion, what changes about the offense if Tommy Rees needs to play?
Everett Golson is athletic and has a strong arm, but he's just a redshirt freshman and he makes redshirt freshman mistakes. He'll occasionally make a great throw or pick up 20 yards on a busted play, but he's also slow on his reads and scrambles out of the pocket too early. He has a lot of potential; he just hasn't put it all together yet.
Rees is almost the opposite of Golson. He's the quintessential "underdog" - he's small, unathletic, and has a weak arm. What he brings to the table is a lot of experience. He knows the offense from top to bottom and can make the right call at the line. Kelly won't call any zone read or option plays with Rees in, but the offense doesn't change dramatically with him in.
2. Notre Dame has played a lot of close, ugly games, and it seems sometimes the offense struggles like BYU's does (though not to the same extent). What is the key in that -- when the Irish offense is clicking, what is the difference?
The Irish offense is at its best when they can run the ball. Golson had his best games against Navy (293 yards rushing) and Miami (376 yards rushing). The pressure was off of Golson and the running game opened up the passing game. With Golson just six games into his college career, he's just not capable of carrying the offense on his shoulders yet. He's still a playmaker and can move the ball when he has to - see the second half of the Stanford game, minus the fumble - but he's definitely at his best when he can just hand the ball off to the stable of running backs at his disposal. Considering BYU has one of the best rushing defenses in the country, this will probably be another ugly game offensively.
3. We all know about Manti Te'o. (Believe me, WE KNOW. AND WE STILL CRY.) Who else on the Notre Dame defense is making the big plays to make it the sixth-best defense in the country (according to S&P+)?
Ask any Irish fan that question and you'll hear two names: defensive end Stephon Tuitt and nose guard Louis Nix. Tuitt is a former five-star recruit and an athletic freak. He's 6'6, weighs over 300 pounds, and can run like a gazelle. He's currently tied for 12th in the country with 6.5 sacks. Nix is the "war daddy" that makes Bob Diaco's 3-4 defense go. It's almost impossible to block him one-on-one and he frees up the ends and linebackers to make plays. As a nose guard, he doesn't put up a lot of stats, but his ability to clog the hole on running plays and collapse the pocket on passes is critical to the success this defense has had through six games.
4. The two teams last played in 2003-05, but since then, BYU has of course gone independent. What is a Notre Dame fan's disposition toward BYU, in your estimation?
I can't honestly say BYU is on the radar of Notre Dame fans. I would say there certainly is respect for a fellow religious institution that doesn't compromise its values for success in football, though. And the fact that BYU chose to go independent in football at a time when teams where jumping from one conference to the next made Notre Dame fans feel validated about their school's decision to remain independent. In fact, ND fans as a whole were thrilled that BYU went independent because it meant there was a quality team out there that ND could schedule in November - typically the hardest month to find a decent team to play. So I would say the general disposition is one of respect for BYU's religious affiliation and solidarity in its football independence.
5. Tell us how you see the game going, and give us a prediction.
I suspect this game will be every bit as ugly as the Notre Dame/Stanford game. Both teams feature really good defenses and not so good offenses. Oregon State's 42 point outburst makes me feel a little more confident the Irish will be able to move the ball, but I just don't think ND is capable of putting up over 300 yards in the air like the Beavers did. Lucky for the Irish, I don't know how BYU is going to move the ball. This could be a trap game with Oklahoma next week and/or a letdown game after the Stanford win last week, but this defense hasn't given up a touchdown since the second game of the season and I know they don't plan on giving one up now. I'm sure they'll come out ready to play. If the offense can string together a few drives and maybe get into the endzone once or twice, that should be enough to win the game outside of any turnover shenanigans.
I'll say the Irish win 20-6. If these teams combine for more than 700 yards of offense, I'll be shocked.
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