Three Storylines That Could Determine Winner Of BYU/Notre Dame Game

Oct 6, 2022, 8:46 PM

BYU/Notre Dame, Jaren Hall, Drew Pyne...

BYU/Notre Dame is one of the top matchups in college football for week 6 with QB play from ND's Drew Pyne and BYU's Jaren Hall. (Photos courtesy of Getty Images)

(Photos courtesy of Getty Images)

PROVO, Utah – The BYU/Notre Dame game is one of the top matchups on the week six college football slate. On the surface, this game seems like a neutral site contest, but it’s a home game for Notre Dame.

A long time ago, BYU was supposed to get the Irish in Provo, but that never materialized. The Irish had no interest in playing in Provo again. That’s understandable. So instead, BYU Athletic Director Tom Holmoe got to pick the location of this Shamrock Series matchup. So it will be in Las Vegas, a five-hour drive from BYU’s campus in Provo.

But this stage will be all about Notre Dame. In March, Allegiant Stadium began promoting the game on its website and billboards in Vegas. So you would have never known that BYU was playing in this game. Some home game, right?

Regardless, BYU, who enters the game ranked No. 16 in the week six AP Top 25 poll, knows they are an underdog and embracing the role. It’s a far different spot than they’ve experienced the past two weeks, where they were the hunted team against Wyoming and Utah State.

Maybe that can help BYU in one of the three storylines to watch against 2-2 Notre Dame.

#1 Can BYU start fast?

Over the past three weeks, BYU has started slow, especially on the defensive side of the ball. But all phases of BYU’s team have gotten off to slow starts.

Against teams like Wyoming and Utah State, BYU’s talent eventually overwhelmed those squads. But the slow start buried BYU against an athletic Oregon squad in Eugene, and they could never recover.

Notre Dame isn’t as athletic as Oregon, but they are more than capable of pouncing on BYU early on the ground.

The Irish definitely feel that way.

“They’re a good team, they’ve got a lot of good players, but I feel like their players don’t match to players that we have,” said Notre Dame running back Audric Estime on BYU. “So, if we just play our football, I feel like we should handle business.”

#2 Getting off the field

BYU is currently 57th nationally in third-down defense. In addition, they are 75th in fourth-down defense. Those are below-average numbers, and against a Notre Dame ground attack that feels confident they will be able to run on BYU, it’s critical for BYU’s defense to get stops.

Kalani Sitake summed it up best during his Monday press conference when discussing BYU’s defense against Utah State, “I think in the first half, we had over 50 snaps on defense. That’s the defense’s fault; get off the stinking field, you know, and make plays, especially on third downs.”

If BYU’s offense is given enough opportunities to have the ball, they will capitalize. But how many chances will they get to have the ball? That’s a burning storyline going into Saturday night.

#3 BYU/Notre Dame QB battle

BYU has the decisive edge at quarterback between the two teams in this matchup. Fifth-year junior Jaren Hall is in his second full season as BYU’s starting QB. He’s put together impressive performances and has completed 70% of his passes.

NFL scouts are drooling at his ability to protect the football, and they love his upside.

On the other sideline for Notre Dame, the Irish boast Drew Pyne at QB. Pyne stepped in for the injured Tyler Buchner and has performed better than many expected coming off the bench.

He’s completed 69% of his attempts and led the Irish to a dominating road win over a North Carolina team with a poor defense.

In a toss-up game like this, the most critical position will play a massive role in deciding the outcome. The good news for BYU is that they have the decisive edge at this spot.

No. 16 BYU vs. Notre Dame

Location: Allegiant Stadium (Las Vegas, Nevada)

Kickoff: 5:30 p.m. (MT)

TV: KSL 5 TV (Pregame coverage from Las Vegas begins at 5 p.m.)

Radio: KSL NewsRadio (102.7 FM, 1160 AM – Extended pregame in Vegas begins at noon)

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12–3 p.m.) on KSL Newsradio. Follow him on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.

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Three Storylines That Could Determine Winner Of BYU/Notre Dame Game