Predictions: Notre Dame at Arizona State


Brian Kelly will be taking his No. 10 Notre Dame Fighting Irish into Tempe to battle the No. 9 Arizona State Sun Devils this Saturday at 3:30,a contest that is more than likely a make or break for both teams’ playoff bids. Both teams come into this matchup with a 7-1 record, with the Irish losing to Florida State, and ASU losing to UCLA. The Bruins crushed Arizona State 62-27, but when you look at the stat sheet, the Sun Devils dominated all aspects of the game. They even ran almost twice as many plays as UCLA, but they also committed four turnovers and had countless turnovers on downs. ASU’s record might look a little more impressive than they actually are. A lucky last second hail mary won the game against USC, and it took Utah’s normally clutch kicker to miss two FGs in OT to beat the Utes.

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ASU is going to come at the Irish with their balanced offense that will start out running the ball as hard as they can with D.J. Foster to set up their play action. Kelly and defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder have to be prepared for this change.

The Sun Devils have struggled all season in the red zone, only converting about 55% of their trips into points.

This has set up their kicker Zane Gonzalez to have a very impressive season. Gonzalez has hit 39-of-47 FG this season accounting for 117 points and connected with 4 last week against Utah where he also hit his first game winner. So we all know this kid is heading into this weeks game with a ton of confidence and will likely put a decent amount of points on the board.

For the Irish to come out of Arizona with a victory it will be critical to convert drives into seven points instead of 3 to cancel out Gonzalez’s almost sure points and put pressure on QB Taylor Kelly. Another thing that will be essential for Notre Dame is preventing big plays by ASU; they like to take those opportunities for big plays so that they can just pass the red zone and not have to worry about their struggles to score while with in the 20-yard line.

As if Brian VanGorder didn’t have enough on his plate last week against Navy, he will be tested once again. D.J. Foster is a phenomenal running back that has already racked up 701 yards this season. Foster’s talent doesn’t end there though; he is also second in receiving yards for the ASU. Maybe with VanGorder preparing the defense for Navy’s triple option we could see this help prepare the Irish for a RB as dynamic as Foster. The offensive unit for ASU doesn’t revolve all around him though. Wide receiver Jaelen Strong will need to be focused on. At 6’4 and packed with speed, Notre Dame will not want to leave this guy in single coverage because anytime Taylor Kelly sees him in a one on one matchup he’s going to do whatever it takes in order to get the ball in his hands.

The past week against Navy, the Irish lost the leader of the defense, Joe Schmidt. True freshman Nyles Morgan with only 8 career tackles to his name will take Schmidt’s position. Look for ASU to be all over Morgan and attack his linebacker position. ASU runs an up-tempo offense, which is going to make it even more difficult for Morgan and his inexperience, but it’s also going to be that much harder to sub with the lack of depth. I’m looking for Jaylon Smith to build on this unfortunate event and become the leader on defense that Notre Dame needs him to be.

Speaking of inexperience, the ASU defense had to bring nine new players to the starting line up this season, and they didn’t have a single return from the previous years defensive line. Expect Golson to hit them with a ton of audibles and for him to use his ability not only to move around in the pocket, but to use his mobility to his advantage. Golson has also improved his decision-making which could be huge in this game because ASU likes to blitz so Golson is going to have the opportunity to make big plays. Even with four turnovers against UCLA, the one thing UCLA did differently than the rest of ASU’s opponents was taking advantage of those big plays. UCLA had five plays that went for at least 80 yards. A win over a PAC-12 team would mean that much more for the Irish to have a shot at the playoffs.

Andrew Hall: ND 31 – ASU 27

Nicholas Blazek: ND 34- ASU 31

Mike Shields: ND 55 – ASU 42

Manuel DeJesus: ND 38 -ASU 31

Chase Eyrich: ND 38 – ASU 34