Game location: Allegiant Stadium (Las Vegas, NV)
Game time/channel: 4:30pm PT/7:30pm ET (NBC & Peacock)
Spread: -3.5 (Notre Dame)
Head coach: Marcus Freeman
Brian Kelly left the program after 11 seasons with the Irish. He will be tough to replace, having won 92 games and gotten the Irish to a BCS National Title game, two College Football Playoffs semifinals, and two other New Year’s Six bowls. Freeman has a tough task ahead of him. The players clearly like him and play hard for their former defensive coordinator. Things got off to a rocky start in 2022 but Freeman seems like a calming presence and looks to build momentum for a strong finish.
2022 Season Thus Far
As mentioned, it was a nightmare start for the Irish. They had an enormous opportunity against Ohio State in Columbus but looked lifeless on offense, falling 21-10. They were still licking their wounds when Marshall came into South Bend with an upset on their minds. They delivered one of the more embarrassing losses in recent memory to the Irish, at one time leading 26-15 until less than 20 seconds left in the game. The Irish got a last-second touchdown but still lost, 26-21, starting the season 0-2.
Since then, Freeman has been able to steady the ship with two wins over Cal and North Carolina. Since Drew Pyne took over for the injured starting quarterback Tyler Buchner, the offense has shown a bit more life.
2022 Team Rankings
Scoring offense: 97
Total offense: 94
Passing yards: 97
Rushing yards: 65
Scoring defense: 62
Total defense: 53
Pass yards allowed: 53
Rush yards allowed: 69
Other notable stat- Teams have scored at least a field goal in every red zone possession vs. Notre Dame
Biggest Strength- Pass rush
Notre Dame ranks 12th in the country with 13 sacks so far this season. Isaiah Foskey leads the team with three. They sacked North Carolina three times last week. BYU’s offensive line will need to step up and protect Jaren Hall, as this pass rush will look to harass him all game.
Biggest Weakness- Passing offense
Some of the struggles have been remedied since quarterback Drew Pyne found his groove after entering mid-season. However, they still rank 97th in passing yards per game. They have not proven that they can threaten down field. They seem to play it safe with Pyne and just hope that the run game and defense can carry them.
Best Player- Michael Mayer, TE
The preseason CBS Second Team All-American is generating some serious NFL buzz. At 6-foot-4, 251 pounds, he possesses the ideal size and athleticism to be an elite tight end at the next level. Last season, he set Notre Dame’s single-season record for receiving yards and touchdowns by a tight end. He will be an absolute load for BYU to handle. He already has two games of at least 80 receiving yards this season, despite the uncertainty and inconsistency at quarterback.
How BYU Can Win
BYU enters as an underdog despite being the lone ranked team in this matchup. The Cougars have shown some warts in two straight wins over Wyoming and Utah State. The Irish are likely salivating at BYU’s weakness in their rush defense. Notre Dame would love nothing more than to impose their will with the run game and control the clock. BYU cannot allow that to happen. They must solidify their run defense and get off the field. They cannot let Notre Dame sustain drive after drive. Jaren Hall will make plays, as he always does. But he needs help. He needs his running game to complement his NFL skillset behind center. His offensive line has disappointed and failed to live up to expectations. That needs to end on Saturday. More needs to step up on both sides of the ball outside of Jaren Hall if they are to leave Vegas with a win.