Keep the pedal down
Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said earlier in the week that the only way the battle with BYU becomes a "trap" game is if the Irish allow it to happen. If they let up, veer away from the focus that has gotten them to 6-0, then, a problem could occur. Kelly has devoted this week, a time without classes because of fall break, to maintaining the routine and recognizing the situation.
The full Nelson
BYU quarterback Riley Nelson has thrown six interceptions and just one touchdown pass in the last two games (a 6-3 win over Utah State and 42-24 loss to Oregon State). Sound familiar Irish fans? Turnover problems plagued Notre Dame last season and led to a good deal of frustration. The Cougars are ranked 97th nationally in turnover margin, while the Irish are 10th. Notre Dame knows how badly mistakes can ruin a season, and just how difficult it is to stop the bleeding.
Watch the perimeter
A marked man on the BYU defense will be outside linebacker Kyle Van Noy. The 6-foot-3, 235-pounder has 7.5 sacks and 11.5 tackles for lost yardage. He will be a prime target for Notre Dame's offensive line, as well as tight ends Troy Niklas and Tyler Eifert. Last week, Stanford's Ben Gardner and Trent Murphy caused their own havoc in the Notre Dame backfield.
Last week, Notre Dame's defense had two large Stanford tight ends that caused matchup problems. This week, BYU will bring in some oversized receivers to test the young but maturing Irish secondary. Cody Hoffman (6-4, 215) has 41 receptions for 534 yards and two TDs. Ross Apo (6-3, 207; 13, 94, 1) and tight end Kaneakua Friel (6-5, 250; 23, 266, 4) will create plenty of concerns.
Dominate the ground
BYU saunters into South Bend with the third-best rushing defense in the country, yielding 67.9 yards a game. However, the Cougars have yet to see an arsenal as stacked as the one Notre Dame will unveil. While Cierre Wood and Theo Riddick have been effective, George Atkinson — averaging 9.1 yards on 32 carries — will be the running back to watch. Kelly said it's time to get the sophomore more touches — whether it's a handoff or a pass. He's a big-play waiting to happen.
Copyright 2017, Deseret News Publishing Company