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OFD Game Day Countdown: Notre Dame vs. BYU

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Previewing BYU's second straight trip to Notre Dame Stadium in a clash of independents.

Mike McGinnis

BYU (PK) at Notre Dame

Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Indiana

Kickoff: 3:30 PM ET

Television: NBC

Series: 5-2-0 Notre Dame

Here is the One Foot Down preview of this weekend's game against Brigham Young University.

5 Factoids

  • 868

That's the number of offensive plays run by BYU this year through 10 games, the 4th most in the country. The Cougars did run a fairly quick offense last year (21st in total plays) but new offensive coordinator Robert Anae has come over from Arizona and emphasized a much quicker attack.

  • 12

On the back of emerging dual-threat quarterback Taysom Hill the Cougars rank 12th nationally in rushing yards per game at 265.5. Even with 3 fewer games played BYU has already out-rushed their 2012 yardage by 664 yards.

  • 3

BYU had one of the best run defenses in the country last year giving up just 2.74 yards per rush and surrendering only 5 touchdowns all season. In 2012, the Irish were the only team to run for more than 119 yards on the Cougars finishing last year's game in South Bend with 270 yards---23.8 percent of BYU's season total. This season, while the BYU run defense is still good---they're not quite as dominant and have given up 200+ yards rushing in 3 separate games.

  • 52.4%

This game might feature a lot of incompletions, you are warned now. Tommy Rees currently sits 95th overall among qualifying quarterbacks with a 54.4% completion percentage while BYU's Taysom Hill is tied for last in the country with a 52.4% completion percentage.

  • 35.96%

Although part of BYU's offense has been productive this season one thing they've struggled with is converting on third down. Their 35.96% conversion rate is 95th nationally. The Irish haven't been great either but sit at 59th nationally at 40.91%.

4 Players to Watch

  • RB Jamaal Williams

The sophomore from Fontana, California made 8 starts for BYU last season and ended up leading the team in rushing yardage. This season he's upped his productivity by nearly a full yard per carry. Through 22 career games (he missed the Middle Tennessee State game this year with a concussion) coming into this weekend Williams has 1,715 yards and 19 total touchdowns.

  • WR Cody Hoffman

Hoffman is a senior and became BYU's all-time leader in receptions this season in their game against Houston. The 6'4" 210 pound athlete has led the Cougars in receiving each of the past four years and comes into this Saturday's game with 38 catches, 664 yards, and 5 touchdowns. For his career he's totaled 241 receptions, 3,382 yards, and 33 touchdowns.

  • QB Taysom Hill

The sophomore from Idaho saw some action last year, even starting two games, but injured his knee and was out for the remaining 7 games of 2012. This fall Taysom Hill has become the focal point of the Cougar offense throwing the ball 336 times and carrying the ball another 165 times. He comes into this weekend with 3,335 total yards of offense and 24 touchdowns.

  • LB Kyle Van Noy

The senior garnered some All-American votes last season and passed up the opportunity to enter the NFL Draft for another year in Provo. Van Noy doesn't make a ton of tackles but when he does he makes them count. Out of his 211 career tackles a full 59 (27.9%) are tackles for loss. He also comes into this weekend with 25 sacks and 7 interceptions in his career.

3 Concerns

  • Containing the BYU Running Game

In terms of both rushing yards per game and total rushing yards the Cougars are 12th nationally. They famously ran for 550 yards on 72 carries with 4 touchdowns against Texas this season but have been held to 539 yards at 4.02 per carry and 4 touchdowns against their other 3 major conference opponents.

At any rate, BYU has a dual-threat quarterback and that's always going to cause problems for the Irish defense.

  • Turnovers

Notre Dame has thrown 10 interceptions this year and lost 3 fumbles. That is tied for the 29th most turnovers in the country which is solid.

8 of those 13 turnovers came in Notre Dame's 3 losses.

  • Poor Weather

As of this writing there is a 40% chance of snow with 20 mph winds for South Bend on Saturday. I really don't know if bad weather or a sloppy field favors either team but in the event that really nasty wet conditions descend on Notre Dame Stadium I'd rather have the team with a mobile quarterback.

2 Sides of the Line

If you can believe it the Cougars have started 11 different players on the offensive line this season! I won't name all of the players except the ones who are expected to be in the starting lineup this Saturday.

Redshirt junior Michael Yeck (6-8, 292) saw some action as a backup last season, started 3 games at right tackle this season, and should be at left tackle where he's also made 7 starts in 2013. On the other edge is JUCO transfer De'Ondre Wesley (6-7, 300) who has made 6 start this year at right tackle including each of the last five games.

On the interior redshirt junior Solomone Kafu (6-2, 315) made 8 starts last season and has started all but 1 game at left guard this season. At center it's been JUCO transfer Edward Fusi (6-0, 317) making the last 5 starts while redshirt freshman Kyle Johnson (6-4, 295) has made 5 starts at right guard including the last three of 2013.

BYU's defensive line has been much more steady as the same 3 players have started every game this season. On the left edge sophomore Bronson Kaufusi (6-7, 282) has made 29 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, and 2 sacks. On the other edge is redshirt sophomore Remington Peck (6-4, 251) with 30 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, and 3 sacks. On the inside at nose guard is fifth-year senior Eathyn Manumaleuna (6-2, 305) with 44 tackles and 6 tackles for loss.

JUCO transfer Marques Johnson (6-2, 308) plays quite a bit at nose guard while redshirt sophomore Logan Taele (6-2, 251) and sophomore Michael Doman (6-4, 240) see some time at defensive end as well.

1 Prediction

This is going to be a very tough game for the Irish and as the line suggests it is essentially a coin flip. If there is an edge for Notre Dame home field on Senior Day could be the biggest factor. I also think the performance last year against BYU was quietly one of the best of the season for Notre Dame which gives me some optimism.

Football Outsiders Advanced Stats for Week 12

F/+ 28 21
FEI 24 14
FEI Off. 13 52
FEI Def. 32 6
S&P 41 17
S&P Off. 24 49
S&P Def. 59 10

Wait, a 3-point come-from-behind victory against the Cougars was one of the best performances of an undefeated regular season? In a way, yes.

For one, the Irish managed 6.5 yards per play while throwing just 17 passes the entire game. That's the fewest passes attempted in the Kelly era and the offense didn't go completely in the gutter. They stayed consistent with pounding the ball and dominated BYU on the ground like no one else in 2012 was able to do. If not for a couple missed field goals and one really bad interception in their own territory Notre Dame could have easily cruised to a somewhat comfortable victory last season.

Unfortunately, it's not last year.

BYU's offense really struggled last year against Notre Dame (243 total yards) but we know the Irish defense isn't the same and for as spotty as Taysom Hill has been as a passer he's injected major life into their running attack. Therefore, I expect the Cougars to find a lot more success moving the ball and putting points on the board.

I'll be fascinated by the matchup between Notre Dame's offense and BYU's defense. Despite giving up 50% more points than last year (21 vs. 14) and nearly double the yardage on the ground (155.0 vs. 86.92) the advanced stats still love the BYU defense.

I definitely don't think Notre Dame can pound the ball for nearly 300 yards like they did last year (this team really misses Theo Riddick and Cierre Wood who played phenomenally) but a measure of balance on offense could be quite productive.

In a coin flip game let's say Notre Dame's offense does enough and Hill's erratic passing in a tough spot on the road costs BYU on a game-winning drive late in the fourth quarter.

Notre Dame 27

BYU 23