Senior Day in South Bend. A weekend preview

– Sgt Shamrock

Four years ago, this years senior class committed to a program that was coming off one of the worst seasons in Notre Dame history and was in the midst of a coaching change. Since then, Notre Dame has won at least 8 games in each of the past three seasons including a trip to the National Championship last year. After an up and down season that has been anything but ordinary, BYU comes to South Bend seeking revenge for last season’s loss, in the final home game for Notre Dame this season. While a BCS bowl game is out of the question, the Irish look to send out the senior class out with a win in their final game in Notre Dame Stadium. Saturday we say goodbye to a senior class that has been the glue that has help hold the Irish program together while at the same time has laid a foundation for future success for years to come.

Notre Dame and BYU both enter this game with a 7-3 record and both have had losses that look really bad. Notre Dame has losses to Michigan and Pitt which now look horrific for the Irish, while BYU dropped early season games to Virginia and Utah. However the BYU team that comes to Notre Dame this weekend is a lot different than the team that struggled to begin the season and it all starts with the vast improvement of their quarterback Tysom Hill. Hill, who earlier in the season looked as if he couldnt even hit the broad side of a barn with a pass, now looked to be a legit dual threat quarterback that always seems to give the Irish fits. Through ten games this season, Hill has passed for 2379 yards are 16 touchdowns while also rushing for 956 yards, averaging 5.6 yards per carry, and 8 touchdowns. While BYU is best known for its running attack, which ammased over 500 yards against Texas earlier this season, and is ranked 12th in the country averaging 265.4 yards per game,  The Cougars also bring an aerial threat to South Bend. BYU ranks in 58th ranked passing offense averaging 238.3 yards per game. The Irish defense, which is allowing 159.9 yards on the ground and 209.4 yards through the air per game, has struggled as of late and looks to have a tough challenge against a rejuvenated BYU offensive attack.

The Irish offense, while having some bright spots, has had some real trouble running the football this season. Notre Dame is only averaging 149.3 yards per game on the ground putting them in the lower half of the country, ranked 86th. With the temperatures being below freezing, and snow likely to be falling during game time, it is imperative that the Irish try to establish their running game. The BYU defense has not allowed many points this season, ranking 23rd in the FBS allowing only 21 points per game and only giving up over 20 once the entire season. However the rushing defense has not been as stout as you may think. The Cougars are giving up 155 yards per game on the ground with puts them at 55th nationally. I have said it every week but I will say it again. It is imperative that the Irish establish the run in order to set up the passing game. We have all seen what happens when the Irish abandon the running game early on. Just look back to the Pitt game. Without a steady running game to balance the offense, the Irish are going to have trouble passing the ball against a BYU defense that can pressure the quarterback and is giving up only 223.3 yards per game through the air. Tommy Rees struggled in his last game against a team that is far inferior to the the BYU team that he will face on Saturday. If the Irish abandon the running game again early, it could mean trouble.

I have been going back and forth with this game all week long. BYU gave the Irish fits last season with Tommy Rees at the helm and it was the defense which held strong and was able to pull out the victory. While the defense has had some good games against USC and Air Force, they have had their fair share of struggles this season. Injuries have also taken a toll on the defensive unit. The defense finally got some good news however, as Brian Kelly announced on Tuesday that there should not be any players held out for injury. If I had written this a couple days ago I would have predicted a victory for BYU. However the more I had to time to think about it, the more I started to think that the Irish would be able to pull out a victory. The defense is finally healthy. Its senior day and something about this group of seniors gives me hope they will earn one more victory in their final home game. Last seasons game was close and this season will be no different. However I think the defensive unit finally plays a complete game with all of its starters and the Irish pull out a very close victory.

Players to Watch

Offense- The entire running back corps is on watch this week. With the weather being cold and windy Saturday, I fully expect the Irish staff to really try to run the ball to take pressure off of Tommy Rees and the passing game. After abaondoning the running game very early on against Pitt, I would hope to see more of an effort by the Irish to take control of the line of scrimage and to pound the rock down the Cougars throat.

Defense- Ishaq Williams is back from injury this week. This is huge for the Irish defense as Williams was having a pretty good year before he got hurt. The BYU offense is going to be tough to stop, especially their running attack, but I think Williams will play a very good game and will help disrupt the BYU offense.

Prediction

Notre Dame 21 BYU 20

Other games around the country

4 Baylor at 10 Oklahoma State- This is by far the best game of the week. Both teams score a ton of points and are ranked in the top 10. Baylor has one of the best quarterbacks in the country in Bryce Petty and a defense that is better than people give them credit for. Baylor has some injuries along the offensive line but their offense is still going to be a little too much for the Cowboys in this highly anticipated shootout. Baylor 45 Oklahoma State 41

8 Missouri at 24 Ole Miss- Missouri finally gets James Franklin back from injury this week as Mizzou travels to Ole Miss in a top 25 matchup. Why Ole Miss is even ranked with three losses right now is beyond me but it wont last long. Mizzou is playing for a chance to make it to the SEC Championship game and will have no problem with Ole Miss on the road. Missouri 34 Ole Miss 20

12 Texas A&M at 22 LSU- One of the better matchups of the weekend, Johnny Field Goal and A&M travel to take on LSU. Manziel could quickly become the Heisman front runner with Jameis Winston dealing with a rape investigation. LSU is yet another over rated SEC team and the Aggies will have no issue with LSU. Texas A&M 31 LSU 17

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