I wouldn’t say this week’s game is the biggest of the season but I think it could be the most important. Golson and the Irish offense must gain a consistent identity this week to continue their winning ways. This is the last week the offense has to solidify itself as a threat. Going into Norman next weekend is not the place to work out any offensive kinks and BYU provides the opportunity for the Irish offense to get it together against a top notch defense.
The Cougars defense is ranked 5th in total defense, 3rd against the run and 24th against the pass, statistically the best defense we have have faced all year. “Statistically” is the operative word in that last sentence. BYU has the 75th toughest schedule in the country and I think that’s a little forgiving after looking at their first 7 opponents. The first time BYU faced a solid offensive team was last weekend against Oregon State and they were manhandled in a 42-24 loss. This defense will be looking to make a point against an undefeated Notre Dame squad. Believe it or not, this is a great opportunity for the Irish offense to gain the confidence and solid identity they need going forward. Last weekend the Cougars gave up over 100yds rushing and over 300yds in the air en route to giving up 42pts against a surprising Oregon State team. The BYU defense has two major impact players in Kyle Van Noy and Brandon Ogletree, both linebackers and are anchors of this 5th ranked defense. The fact that Oregon State was able to run away in this game gives me some confidence that Notre Dame can do some damage. Brian Kelly and the offense have proven they can put up a big number, now is their chance to do it against a top ranked defense and put to rest any notion that the first half of the season was a fluke.
The Irish rushed for 150yds against Stanford’s stout front seven, proving they can run against anyone (if their 376yds on the ground 2 weeks before wasn’t enough). Notre Dame should be able to impose their will on a BYU defense that’s not nearly as physical as MSU or Stanford. With that being said, Everett Golson has got to protect the football. Golson’s 3 fumbles (all lost) against Stanford nearly lost the game (although the lost fumble in the endzone was a terrible play call) and cannot continue to happen if Notre Dame plans to contend for a BCS bowl bid. Turnovers have halted several drives and even forced Brian Kelly to turn to Tommy Reese a few times this year; if Golson could have limited turnovers, who knows where he and this offense could be going into week 8. One bright spot for Golson last weekend was that he hasn’t thrown a pick in his last 2 starts which should give Brian Kelly some confidence to open up the passing game against a defense from BYU that got picked apart last weekend. We all know the Fighting Irish have the skill players to be a terrifying offense for just about anyone, it’s simply a matter of not turning the ball over and getting into a rhythm with a young team. Every young quarterback (that makes something of himself, athletically) has that one game where they “get it”. With good play calling, rhythm and ball security, this could be Everett Golson’s “got it” game. If our young offense can limit the turnovers and have several sustained drives with good rhythm, it will provide the much needed offensive momentum going into what I think is the biggest game since the “Bush Push” in 2005
The performance of Notre Dames offense this week will play a significant role in the game planning of both teams going into the matchup with Oklahoma next weekend. If Notre Dame can put on a show offensively, Bob Stoops will be forced to spend a little more time preparing for the Irish offense and not just on the dominant front seven. If Kelly chooses to open things up, this weekend could be the offensive coming out party that fans have been waiting for and setup the rest of the season.