Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
SOUTH BEND, Ind. — In its illustrious history, Notre Dame has won 11 national championships. But it's been 24 years since its most recent title.
The Fighting Irish faithful are beginning to believe that a 12th national title could be on the horizon. Notre Dame is unbeaten and ranked No. 5 in the nation.
Irish fans are reveling in this resurgence.
"I think it's great to be 6-0 and to have that excitement on campus," said linebacker Manti Te'o. "But as we've talked as a team, we haven't done anything yet. Like I said, we're 6-0, we're not 12-0 yet. The next step is to be 7-0 and then 8-0 and so on and so forth. So we haven't done anything yet. We're going to continue to get better and work hard every day to make sure that when Saturdays comes that we're prepared."
Next week, the Irish visit No. 10 Oklahoma.
But first, Notre Dame hosts BYU Saturday. Could the Cougars derail the Irish's national championship hopes? Is BYU a trap game?
"No. I think it's a trap game each week if you think that you can take a breather, you know what I mean," said Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly. "My point is this: I think they are all trap games, every single one of them, if you take a breather. But if you just stay on the course, continue to do what you're doing, we'll be fine."
"I think it's only a trap game if you're dealing with a young team — a team that is not focused on one singular goal, and that's to take that day by day, week by week," said Te'o. "So our team has done a great job of just focusing on the next opponent. We don't have Oklahoma this week. We don't have Stanford. We already played Stanford. Right now it's BYU, and that's all we're focused on. Until Sunday comes, we'll stop focusing on BYU. Until then, it's all BYU."
Asked if he thinks Notre Dame could be looking past the Cougars, BYU linebacker Spencer Hadley said, "If they are, it's a mistake. We intend on going in there and playing the best game we can If we execute and play our game, we can play with anybody."
GETTING DEFENSIVE: BYU is ranked No. 5 nationally in total defense and No. 7 in scoring defense. Notre Dame is No. 2 and No. 11 in those categories.
Are there similarities between the two stingy defenses?
"Not schematically. Not really. They're built differently than us," said BYU quarterback Riley Nelson. "They're more of a 4-3 team and we're 3-4. They play pretty basic. We have a lot of bells and whistles, running guys all over the place, bringing pressure from different places. They kind of play straight up and say, 'Alright, mano-a-mano, you try to beat us.' So not a lot."
Cougar linebacker Brandon Ogletree said he does see some similarities.
"I think we take a similar approach. We're physical and we all run to the ball. We both hit pretty hard. I've watched a few of their games on TV and I was impressed with them."
ANOTHER SELLOUT: Saturday marks the 229th consecutive sellout at Notre Dame Stadium. Since 1966, every home game for the Irish has been a sellout except one — a 1973 Thanksgiving Day game against Air Force. Notre Dame has played in front of sellouts in 277 of its last 278 home games. The Irish have played in front of sellout crowds in 249 of its previous 291 games overall.
FACING TE'O: BYU true freshman running back Jamaal Williams respects Te'o, the Irish's star linebacker.
"He's an excellent player. He's really good. I can't wait to play against him and see what he has," Williams said. "Hopefully my fullback can get to him first, before he gets to me."
EXTRA POINTS: BYU senior deep snapper Reed Hornung is a distant relative of former Notre Dame great Paul Hornung The Fighting Irish lead the all-time series with the Cougars, 4-2 Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert has caught 15 passes this season. Ten of those have resulted in either a first down or a touchdown Through six games, 39.1 percent of all drives against the Irish defense have resulted in three-and-out possessions.
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