Notre Dame vs. Arizona State Preview & Predictions


The Notre Dame Fighting Irish had the chance to put their season back on track against #14 Oklahoma, but Tommy Rees threw two interceptions in the first three minutes, and the Irish never recovered.

#22 Arizona State is fresh off a 62-41 torching of USC so brutal that the Trojans fired coach Lane Kiffin before they even made it back to campus (Kiffin was reportedly removed from the team bus and canned in the LAX parking lot). The Sun Devils are averaging an obscene 358.8 passing yards per game, and quarterback Taylor Kelly is just as good (if not better) than Oklahoma QB Blake Bell, who tormented the Irish secondary last week.

The keys to this game are simple: avoid turnovers, and prevent the Sun Devils from establishing a rhythm on offense. Notre Dame never had a chance against Oklahoma thanks to the three interceptions Rees threw, and if they want to make this competitive, Rees will need to make better decisions.

Notre Dame's vaunted defensive line is also going to need to step it up. Louis Nix, Stephon Tuitt and Sheldon Day are all excellent players who got plenty of preseason hype, but so far this season they've failed to live up to expectations. They'll be the key to stopping Taylor Kelly and ASU's dynamic passing attack, but if Kelly has all day to find his receivers downfield Notre Dame is in for a long evening.

Another Irish player who needs to get his season back on track is wide receiver DaVaris Daniels. Daniels is without a doubt Notre Dame's most dangerous playmaker with the ball in his hands, but over the last two games he has four catches for 19 yards. Some of that comes down to Tommy Rees' inability to get him the ball, but it's also Brian Kelly's responsibility to find ways to get Daniels involved in the offense. No matter how it happens, the Irish will need Daniels to play like he did against Purdue (167 yards on eight catches, two touchdowns), rather than how he did against Michigan State and Oklahoma.

With Daniels struggling, you might expect Notre Dame's #2 receiver TJ Jones to have picked up some of the slack. Jones has struggled as well, with just six catches for 57 yards over the last two games.

The one positive to come out of the Oklahoma game was George Atkinson III's performance. Atkinson was given over ten carries for the first time all year, and he responded with 148 yards on 14 carries, including one spectacular 80-yard touchdown run. The Sun Devils have an unimpressive run defense, and if Notre Dame can establish their ground game early, it will create opportunities to exploit elsewhere. If Atkinson can build on last week's performance, the Irish have a fighting chance.


Tommy Rees picks it up: This shouldn't be hard - if Rees lays another stink bomb, Brian Kelly will have no choice but to bench him in favor of Andrew Hendrix. That should be enough to light a fire under Rees, who knows that any more missteps could cost his team dearly when Bowl invites start coming out. Rees will play better, throwing three touchdowns and one interception on Saturday.

Troy Nicklas gets rolling: Nicklas will have the opportunity to exploit Arizona State's soft underneath coverage, and the freshman has already shown the ability to make plays against teams like ASU that allow gaps over the middle. If the Sun Devils focus their attention on TJ Jones and DaVaris Daniels, there will be opportunities for Nicklas. We think he'll take advantage, racking up 90 yards on 5 catches while scoring a touchdown.

The Irish keep things close - for a while: The Sun Devils are riding high after their big win over USC, and the Fighting Irish will be playing like their season depends on it. Expect Notre Dame to hang with ASU until halftime, but like last week, the Sun Devils will race ahead thanks to a few big plays in the third quarter.

The Sun Devils escape South Bend with a win: They won't score 62 points, but Arizona State's offense is playing at a much higher level than Notre Dame's right now. The Irish defense has underwhelmed so far, and while they'll put up a fight this time, it won't be enough when the dust settles. Arizona State wins this one, 41-27.


More Notre Dame Football News:

Against Sun Devil defense, run game is key (NBC Sports, Inside the Irish)

Elite 2015 TE checks out Notre Dame (Yardbarker Network)

Back to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish Newsfeed