October 19, 2012
BYU vs Notre Dame Pre-Game Analysis and Predictions
After going score for score with a top 10 Oregon State team through three and a half quarters, BYU now finds themselves facing #5 Notre Dame led by one of the nation's top defenses. Fans are prepared to watch a low scoring defensive battle as two of the best front 7's in the country will be taking the field in South Bend.
In preparation for this game I watched the Stanford vs Notre Dame game from last week because of the similarity in BYU and Stanford's strong front 7's. But Notre Dame established the run against Stanford, and Stanford established the run against Notre Dame. It is incredible how good those two offensive lines are at run blocking, and that they were both able to open holes against elite run stopping teams. If the Cougar offensive line was capable of doing likewise then this offense would be so much more difficult for opponents to stop. I was in awe all game by the beauty of the run blocking on display.
The point is that Notre Dame is going to be able to run the ball on BYU in between the tackles. Notre Dame rushed for 376 yards against Miami with two of their runningbacks rushing for more than 100 yards in that game. Their three RBs combined for 132 yards rushing and a 4.9 yard per carry average against Stanford and 129 yards and a 4.8 yard per carry average against Michigan State. This is the same Michigan State team that held Boise State's Harper to 8 yards on 15 carries, who ran for 112 yards against the Cougars. BYU can only hope that they don't decide to run the ball more. Well, that isn't BYU's only hope.
Everett Golson is very skilled and athletic, but he struggles with finding the open receiver and his offensive line struggles with pass protection. Stanford was in his face all game long, and his low completion percentage is more because of how many balls he had to throw away than inaccuracy as a passer. Even when he had plenty of time to throw the ball he really had a hard time finding a target to throw to, and he would buy time in the pocket until he finally had to throw it away. When he decides to throw the ball though he is accurate, especially on the run, and he can get some zip on the ball. He also has an All American candidate at TE in Tyler Eifert (#80) who they like to split out wide and throw jump balls to. He can elevate, he catches everything that he touches and he is a match up nightmare with how fast he is. Luckily for BYU Golson wasn't able to get very many reps in practice in preparation for this defense because of his late passing of the concussion protocol. He's going to struggle against this defense, and he is very prone to fumbling the ball when he takes a hit. Although he has only thrown three interceptions on the year (Riley can testify how quickly three interceptions can pile up), when he was under pressure he frequently would half throw the ball away, half throw it up hoping his receiver would make a play on it. He would throw it away, but not out of bounds, and sometimes there would be a little bit of hang-time on his ball. I wouldn't be surprised if that bit him in the butt this game and one of his throw aways became an interception for BYU.
We can't talk about BYU and turnovers without talking about the one and only Riley Nelson. This Notre Dame defense forces turnovers. They have forced 15 turnovers thus far this year through 6 games. Too bad Riley didn't actually "learn" his lesson last week about making poor decisions with the ball in the blue-zone, because Notre Dame is going to take the ball away from him all game long. Well, not in the blue-zone, BYU isn't going to be spending very much time in the blue-zone this week. BYU won't be able to run the ball on Notre Dame. Not at all. They won't come close to their 81 yards rushing that they accomplished against Oregon State. We all know about the force of nature that is Manti Te'o, but they also have an All American candidate at DE in Stephon Tuitt (#7) who will be in BYU's backfield all game long. He is a tackle for a loss waiting to happen, Te'o gets all of the attention but Tuitt made more big plays than Te'o did against Stanford. Notre Dame's secondary is also good, evidenced by the fact that of the 15 turnovers that Notre Dame has forced this year 10 of those have been interceptions. I'm sure Hoffman will get his, and Riley will probably actually throw for a decent number of yards, but if the over-under on the amount of Riley turnovers is 3.5 this game, I'm betting my car on over.
Unfortunately BYU's defense isn't as capable of forcing turnovers, although they should still be able to get one or two out of Golson. Notre Dame's offensive line will get a push up front and they will be able to establish the run, this coupled with Golson's ability to make a big play every once in a while will be too many points for BYU's offense to match. Riley's turnovers will be killer and will be too much for BYU to overcome despite his otherwise effective outing racking up some yards with his arm and feet. Bronco's scheme will be effective against this offense and this Cougar defense will be back to their elite level, but it just won't be enough. 17-10 Notre Dame
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