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Notre Dame Football: W.I.N. (What’s Important Now) — BYU Cougars Week

The time for cheeseburgers is over. The time for VEGAS is now!!!!

Oh man, my stomach is NOT agreeing with me after all those cheeseburgers I scarfed down during the Bye week. Really wish I didn’t have to sit on a video call right now and pretend I’m feeling fine and dandy.

I feel like it would be nice to instead just soak in a bath of Pepto Bismol or something.

Those commercials they had with that jingle were pretty great.

I’m not sure I’ve ever found a song that used the word “diarrhea” to be so catchy — except for maybe that one other one that I’d locked in the back of my memory until just now when I asked my brain to run a search on “songs about diarrhea.”

Wow whoops, I was sitting here trying to burn the last minute before it was time to dial in to the meeting and managed to get sidetracked enough by diarrhea-related music to now be a minute late. I better hop on now...

*presses “Join Call” button*

Good morning everybody, happy Monday!

How was everyone’s weekends? Larry, tough weekend for your Badgers, huh? I can’t believe they already fired their coach, that was shocking. Yeah true, it probably needed to be done. But still, wowww.

Okay, are we waiting on anyone?

Linda said she’d be on in just a second? Her other call ran over? Gotcha, okay well we can wait a second for her to hop on and then dive into it, it should be a fairly light agenda with the off week last week.

*silence as everyone awkwardly acts like they’re doing something while on mute to avoid any more small talk*

Hmm, well maybe we should go ahead and st — oh there she is! Hi Linda, how’s it going?

*Linda’s screen is still without video and on mute, and it’s unclear if she’s actually on the call*

*everyone waits in silence for a response*

Linda, if you’re talking right now you’re on mute.

Ahh there she is, hi Linda! Yep, I’m doing great — well, I think we’ve got everyone on now, let’s get going! Can you all see my screen?

Great! Okay, well it’s going to be the same basic agenda as always, so I’ll quickly flip through that...

And, per usual, I don’t think I need to run y’all through this Definition and Process slide combo — at this point, you guys are all experts here.

So, with that said, let’s jump into last week’s results!

As you’re all well aware, our Notre Dame Fighting Irish football team had the weekend off, so there isn’t much to report on there. So, we can move on to the Scorecard pretty quickly, but first I just want to give you all a quick rundown on the results of Irish opponents this past weekend, as there were some things to note that will impact upcoming games, strength of schedule, etc.

I’d say the most noteworthy opponent results came from North Carolina and from Clemson this weekend.

North Carolina, as we now know, certainly isn’t a GREAT opponent, but now that ND manhandled them, it’s nice to see them looking good in their next game and blowing out a conference opponent, even if the Virginia Tech Hokies are pretty rough right now in their first season post-Justin Fuente.

Meanwhile, Clemson continues to look like they’ll be undefeated and ranked in the Top 5 come November 5th when they visit South Bend, as the Tigers defeated #10 NC State by a final score of 30-20, doing enough to win without sweating toooo much but also showing they’re a very beatable team considering I think the Wolfpack were a touch overrated heading into the match-up.

Otherwise, Ohio State blew out Rutgers, BYU escaped a nice fight from Utah State, USC pulled away from a coach-less Arizona State for a double-digit win, a very bad BC team managed to make Louisville’s case for being the worst team in the ACC, and then Syracuse, Marshall, and UNLV all dominated cupcake-ish opponents. Meanwhile, Cal got blown out by Washington State (LOL), Stanford got blown out by Oregon, and Navy lost an exciting 13-10 game to Air Force (hoping none of you managed to watch a single second of that ugliness).

Side note: when is David Shaw going to be fired? We just saw Paul Chryst get taken down, and although Shaw probably has more leeway at a school like Stanford less focused on football, at some point a change will be needed, right? I mean, he had a great start there, but wasn’t that at least partially, if not mostly, just riding the coattails of what Jim Harbaugh built?

He hasn’t won double-digit games in a season since 2016 and hasn’t been to a NY6 bowl or better since 2015. Stanford went 4-8 in 2019, 4-2 in the COVID-shortened season of 2020, 3-9 last year, and is now 1-3 to start 2022 with their only win being the season opener against COLGATE. What’s this man need to do, besides going 12-22 over a 3+ year span?

NCAA Football: Stanford at Oregon Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

Really quick, I figured I’d add a few more quick points on interesting results from the weekend. Undefeated and 15th-ranked Washington got absolutely boat-raced by Chip Kelly and UCLA before mounting an unsuccessful comeback to lose by 8. Mizzou legitimately could have and maybe even should have beaten #1 Georgia, but the Bulldogs scored twice down the stretch and the Tigers offense went cold to allow UGA to escape with a 4-point W.

After allowing Arkansas to get back in the game and cut the margin to 5 points, #2 Alabama stomped on the Razorbacks and Georgia Tech fans wept about losing Jahmyr Gibbs, who ran for 206 yards on the day.

Speaking of Yellow Jackets fans, they weren’t crying too much, because their coach-less squad defeated #24 Pittsburgh, allowing us all to once again laugh at Pat Narduzzi, considering that’s gotta be one of the most embarrassing losses of the year so far, by anyone. Ole Miss won a close top-15 match-up vs. Kentucky, Oklahoma State did the same against Baylor, and Jimbo Fisher and his Aggies got absolutely crushed by Mississippi State.

Speaking of getting absolutely crushed, the Oklahoma Sooners gave up 55 points to TCU en route to a 31-point loss, and Illinois blew out Wisconsin badly enough that they fired their coach within 24 hours. And Purdue purdued and took down #21 Minnesota just as they were starting to feel good about themselves.

And finally, OUR Kansas Jayhawks football team improved to 5-0 with a narrow win over Iowa State. That’s their first 5-0 start since 2009 and this is also the first time they’ve won more than 3 games in a season since that year. Let’s just hope 2022 turns out much better than 2009, as that year Kansas went on to lose every single other game they had and finished 5-7. Kansas will host College Gameday next week, newly ranked at #19, as they play host to #17 TCU.

Okay, let’s go ahead and move forward to our scorecard.

As I mentioned, there’s certainly much less of an update this week with Notre Dame not playing this past weekend, so I won’t tarry on this slide. However, I just want to point out that the coaches did what we expected during the bye week and apparently recruited their asses off (JEREMIYAH LOVE PLEASE COME HOME), and otherwise it’s clear from the Scorecard that Pat Rick had himself a nice little lazy football Saturday, which is always something I can get behind.

Speaking of Pat Rick...

That’s correct, this week I’ve chosen to recognize MYSELF as Team Member of the Week.

It’s been a busy and tumultuous first few weeks of the season, and considering there are no player performances to honor during a bye week, I figured I would do some shameless self-congratulating for how good of a weekend I managed to have without the Irish playing at all (perhaps I stumbled onto a secret to true happiness there, but I’m going to ignore it because I refuse to accept I could be happier without the constant heartache of ND football).

Okey dokey, now let’s quickly dive into the details on that wonderful Saturday I put together with only my couch, TV, refrigerator, and the Uber Eats app...

I won’t read all that off to you, and if you’re looking at all that text and thinking this:

Then I would just say the main takeaway is that it was a nice Saturday, and I’m disappointed in the Missouri Tigers, except for their kicker who gave us this gem:

Sweet, well that should cover just about everything from the Bye Week.

So now let’s turn the page and look ahead to this weekend, when our Irish will travel to Sin City to take on the #16 BYU Cougars at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas.

Here’s a quick-hitter of an overview on BYU, just to give you an idea of who these guys are that Marcus and the boys will be up against in the bright lights of the strip.

A few key things to note:

  • I wonder how they came up with the name “Cosmo” for their mascot. I kinda love it, but wonder if it was a random alliteration choice or if there’s any other meaning behind Cosmo
  • BYU was our Mormon brother in the FBS Independents group, but will be officially bailing on that to join the Big 12 next season, while a couple others (Liberty and New Mexico State, both joining Conference USA) will soon do the same. Good riddance — the Irish, Black Knights, Huskies, and Minutemen will continue to be the fearsome foursome of independence for YEARS TO COME
  • The Cougars are OFFICIALLY 2-4 against ND, but really are 2-6, with the last two Irish wins in 2012 and 2013 vacated by the NCAA. The last official game between the two was when Brady Quinn and Maurice Stovall eviscerated BYU in 2005 en route to a 49-23 win. BYU’s two wins in the series came in 2004 (20-17) and 1994 (21-14).
  • BYU seems to have trouble with sea-faring football teams, as they’ve never won against San Diego Marines or Pacific Fleet. They’re not great against military in general, too, as Fort Douglas has also historically dominated the Cougars.
  • Their alumni list is really fun and includes the inventor of the hearing aid, someone described as the “cowboy of cowboy artists,” the co-founder of 1-800-Contacts, multiple people who brought us Napoleon Dynamite (thank you!!!), some pre-teen novelists, Aaron Eckhart, the guy responsible for the story that became the classic movie Flubber, the lead singer of Imagine Dragons, Shawn Bradley, various football coaches, and Elizabeth Smart. That’s quite the lineup.

Taking the next step in our analysis of the opponent, I scoured the BYU roster for names good enough to share with you, and like the Tar Heels roster just a couple weeks back, the Cougars’ list of names DID. NOT. DISAPPOINT.

I’ll let you sit at home quietly and read each name out loud however you see fit in order to get the full effect of each, but I just want to give a major shout-out to the parents of Chaz, Bodie, Sol-Jay, Miles Davis, Talmage, Puka, Hobbs, Cash, etc. for giving those dudes such amazing monikers and bringing those of us who like that sort of thing so much joy.

Now, let’s learn a bit more about this BYU team themselves — what makes them tick and who are the names to know?

The first thing I wanted to point out before diving into some key names and stats is that the BYU Cougars certainly can’t be told they’re avoiding playing real competition with their independent schedule (an argument that’s usually wrong regardless, but definitely not for them this year).

The Cougars took on Baylor and Oregon within their first three games (toppling Baylor but getting smashed by Oregon), and then decided to schedule the Irish and Arkansas back-to-back just a couple weeks later. On top of that, they’ve got some sneaky-tough games against East Carolina and Liberty also still on the schedule, and games at Boise State and Stanford that probably were expected to be tougher opponents when originally scheduled.

Just wanted to call out that these guys weren’t afraid to set themselves up for either the most impressive CFP resume or a potential 6-6 season with how they scheduled opponents for 2022.

Now, looking at the Kalani Sitake’s team itself, this is a very good squad that does everything okay-to-good but isn’t really great at anything, except perhaps in the passing offense (basically, UNC but with a not-completely-incompetent defense). QB Jaren Hall is the star for sure, having lived up to his preseason hype so far to the tune of 1,438 yards passing (3rd in the country), a 70.2% completion rate (21st), 12 passing touchdowns (T-9th), only 1 interception thrown, and a passer rating of 162.8, which is good for 28th in the nation.

Now listen, he’s no Aaron Rodgers out there (although is not-so-subtly telling me he is???)...

...but he’s a very talented QB who can carve up the vast majority of college defenses if given the time to do so. He’s got AN ARRAY of receivers to throw to, as well, as the Cougars have 5 different guys with over 100 receiving yards to-date and 10 different players with at least 5 receptions on the season.

His top targets this season, though, have been Keanu Hill (16 receptions, 329 yards, 4 TDs), Chase Roberts (15 receptions, 223 yards, 1 TD), Kody Epps (21 receptions, 198 yards, 3 TDs), and Brayden Cosper (15 receptions, 192 yards, 1 TD). Hill has been their biggest playmaker, averaging 20.6 yards per catch, which is 19th-best in the entire country.

Those four WRs have been very productive, and we still haven’t even mentioned Puka Nacua and Gunner Romney, who were really their top two pass catchers entering the season after some great production the last couple years (Nacua had 43 catches for 805 yards and 6 TDs last year, while Romney reeled in 73 catches for 1,361 yards and 5 TDs over the 2020 and 2021 seasons). Both those guys have battled injuries early this season, with Nacua only managing 4 catches for 48 yards and Romney just 4 for 51, so we will have to see how healthy they both are.

However, either way, Hall will have plenty of good options, esepcially considering TEs Isaac Rex (9 catches for 125 yards and a TD) and Dallin Holker (9 catches for 86 yards and a TD) and RBs Lopini Katoa (7 catches, 56 yards) and Christopher Brooks (7 catches, 46 yards) can chip in as receivers as well.

The BYU running game is much less impressive, but certainly not poor, as the Cougars rushing attack features Brooks (294 yards, 6.0 YPC, 4 TDs) and Miles Davis (167 yards, 7.0 YPC), and can even include a few other guys (Puka Nacua has 4 carries for 90 yards this year, including a 75-yard TD just 11 seconds into the South Florida game).

Overall, the BYU offense is ranked 35th in SP+ and does some things very well (22nd in the country in Yards Per Play at 6.75, 27th in passing offense at 293 YPG, T-10th in first downs, 2nd in turnovers lost with just 1 so far this year), but they also struggle or are quite mediocre in certain areas — they’re just 51st in scoring at 34.4 PPG and 49th in total offense at 445 YPG, and their rushing offense (78th), 3rd down conversion percentage (53rd), sacks allowed (42nd), and tackles for loss allowed (64th) leave plenty to be desired.

Defensively, the Cougars have a solid group under defensive coordinator Ilaisia Tuiaki, but aren’t exactly Clemson or Ohio State out there in terms of potentially being able to shut the Irish offense down on Saturday.

The Cougars are 41st in total defense (allowing 338 YPG) and 79th in scoring (giving up 26.4 PPG), and are especially rough in defending the run, ranked 91st in total rushing defense (allowing 162.6 YPG) and YPC allowed (giving up just a smidge under 4 yards per rushing attempt). They’re not great at getting off the field on 3rd downs, either, ranked 58th in the country there as they allow opponents to convert about 36% of the time. They’re 115th in the nation in total first downs allowed, giving up 104 through 5 games.

NCAA Football: Brigham Young at Baylor Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Still, they do a good job of bending but not breaking most of the time, sitting 32nd in yards per play allowed and using a solid pass defense (23rd in total passing defense, 29th in yards per pass attempt allowed, 57th in pass efficiency defense) to limit the damage. Don’t let their #32 national rank in turnover margin fool you, though — that’s driven almost entirely by their offense’s clean bill of health to-date, as the defense is tied for 83rd in turnovers gained (just 5 so far this year...although that still puts ND to shame). They don’t cause too much havoc in the backfield, either, as the Cougars sit 83rd in sacks (1.8 per game) and 91st in tackles for loss (less than 5 per game).

The two main playmakers to know are LBs Ben Bywater and Max Tooley. Tooley has 29 tackles, 1 sack, 1 PD, and 2 INTs that he returned for TDs this year, and Bywater leads the team in tackles with 37 while also racking up 2 picks, a sack, and a PD in the first five games. They’re joined by Payton Wilgar (25 tackles) and Keenan Pili (21 tackles) in the linebacker unit.

NCAA Football: Utah State at Brigham Young Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

That secondary that’s done a solid job so far this year is led by guys like Ammon Hannemann (20 tackles), Micah Harper (18 tackles, 1 PD, 1 FF), and Jakob Robinson (18 tackles, 2 PD). Gabe Jeudy-Lally (15 tackles, 1 PD) and Kaleb Hayes (11 tackles, 3 PD) round that crew out.

On the defensive line, we mentioned that BYU hasn’t done a ton in terms of making opposing QBs’ lives difficult (and when they did, it was largely the linebackers), but names to know up front include John Nelson (13 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 PD), Lorenzo Fauatea (11 tackles, 1 sack, 1 PD), and Caden Haws (16 tackles, 1 sack).

NCAA Football: Wyoming at Brigham Young Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

A few other key things to know about this BYU team:

  • They’ve not been great at controlling the ball, ranked 86th in Time of Possession (not surprising for a team whose offense is heavily passing-dominated)
  • They’re pretty undisciplined/prone to making mental mistakes — they’ve committed 41 penalties through the first five games (127th in the country), which puts them at 8.2 per game (117th in the country)
  • Their special teams, for what it’s worth, are ranked 110th in SP+ — so, perhaps Jon Sot and Brandon Joseph and Chris Tyree can find some nice advantages on Saturday to help flip the field or swing momentum via punts/kickoffs
  • Their coach, Kalani Sitake, seems like a huge, high-energy, fun coach and I would not hate playing for him if I were a football player. He takes some great photos, too.

One other completely unrelated side note: as I did some basic stats-research for BYU’s receivers, I noted that UTSA has THREE receivers in the top 15 in receiving yards and they are tied with Tennessee at #1 in the country in passing offense. Love to see OUR Roadrunners slinging it around at such an unbelievable rate — I need to make sure and find another one of their games to watch before the season is over, as that sounds like a good time for sure.

Okay, let’s wrap this up by talking about What’s Important Now for the Irish as they enter the back two-thirds of the season with this nice match-up in Vegas.

I’ll let you all read this at your leisure offline, but just wanted to call out each of the 6 points really quick, as I think this is a critical weekend for Project W.I.N. and the 2022 Irish football season and I want to make sure we all understand what needs to be done.

First, it’s crucial that Tommy Rees and Harry Hiestand and their players bring their A-game on the ground once again this week. The team has begun to establish that as their identity and it’s definitely a great way to get the ball into the hands of guys like Chris Tyree and Audric Estime. An added bonus of controlling the clock and keeping the ball out of Jaren Hall’s hands ain’t bad neither.

NCAA Football: Notre Dame at North Carolina Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Secondly, Tommy needs to continue the recent trend of getting the ball to his best players. He definitely found something in that regard against North Carolina, with Michael Mayer, Lorenzo Styles Jr., and all three running backs getting plenty of touches and devastating that hapless Tar Heel defense. BYU’s defense won’t be THAT bad, but the opportunities should still be there if Rees puts those guys in a position to get touches in space.

Third and fourth, defensively this week is going to be all about the front seven and being opportunistic. Hall hasn’t been sacked too much and thus hasn’t been forced into more than 1 turnover, so it’s time for Isaiah Foskey and the rest of the defensive line to BRING THE HEAT and make his life miserable.

Syndication: Notre Dame Insider Michael Caterina / USA TODAY NETWORK

That plus shutting down the BYU running game and forcing Hall to carry everything on his shoulders will hopefully lead him to take some risks, make some rough decisions under duress, etc., and thus it’s critical that Al Golden’s group — especially the secondary — takes advantage of those opportunities and finally forces multiple turnovers, including some interceptions. That would go a VERY long way toward winning this game and maybe even winning it comfortably, which would be a really nice statement.

Fifth, the Irish need to play smart and execute cleanly, as we know BYU likes to commit penalties and make mental mistakes. Let them do that and take advantage of it by not giving it right back, and it could actually potentially make a difference in what could very well be a close game.

Sixth and finally, it’s time for Marcus Freeman to officially LET THE DAWGS OUT.

After that offseason with the great The Hangover promotional video and then the rocky start to the season, Freeman’s team has a chance to get above .500 by beating the #16 team in the country in Las Vegas. ND is the more talented team and is starting to put it together, so it would be a nice statement to go out there and just dominate a good opponent for 60 straight minutes. Plus, let me reiterate my favorite dumb thing to gradually say louder and louder throughout an ND game:







Let’s go paste these suckers and start October the way we expected September to go.

Welp, that’s all for this week, folks. Does anyone have any questions or comments?

Great, well per usual, I will send out the link to this deck immediately after we hang up here, and I hope you all have a lovely week as we make preparations to go to Vegas and hit the jackpot in terms of starting October off right.

Thanks everyone!

*clicks “End Call” button*

Oof, okay time to go guzzle some more Pepto and lie down for the rest of the week.