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BYU Vs. Notre Dame: Game Day Preview Plus Score Prediction

Oct 8, 2022, 12:45 AM
BYU vs Notre Dame, Marcus Freeman, Kalani Sitake...
BYU vs Notre Dame features coaches Marcus Freeman (left) and BYU's Kalani Sitake. (Photos courtesy of Getty Images)
(Photos courtesy of Getty Images)

LAS VEGAS – It’s time for BYU vs Notre Dame at Allegiant Stadium. A game that BYU has been waiting for almost a decade.

The two faith-based programs will be squaring off for the ninth all-time meeting. They haven’t faced one another since a Notre Dame win in 2013 in South Bend on Senior Night.

Notre Dame leads the all-time series 6-2. BYU’s victories against the Irish took place in 1994 and 2004.

Initially, the Irish were supposed to play in Provo. But they had no interest in fulfilling that arrangement once they lined up a scheduling agreement with the ACC in 2014. So instead of BYU taking a paycheck from the Irish, they are playing a game in Vegas.

It’s not a neutral site contest. Saturday night in Las Vegas is a Notre Dame home game minus the venue. Notre Dame’s traditions have flown in from South Bend to Sin City. Plus, the Irish have had the famous “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign turned green in Notre Dame’s honor.

Saturday’s game is the first time Notre Dame has ever played a game in the state of Nevada. For BYU, Las Vegas is like a second home. The tilt against the Irish will be BYU’s 14th game all-time in Vegas.

No. 16 BYU vs. Notre Dame

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

TV: KSL 5 TV (Pregame show from Las Vegans at 5 p.m.)

Radio: KSL NewsRadio (102.7 FM, 1160 AM – Extended Pregame from Allegiant Stadium begins at Noon)

Now it’s time for the 3-2-1 game preview for today’s matchup between BYU and Notre Dame.

Three Game Day Thoughts

1. An opportunity to add to BYU’s greatest wins list

The 2022 edition of Notre Dame isn’t anything special. They lost to Marshall, after all. But, as starting BYU cornerback would tell you, “it’s Notre Dame.”

Walk the concourse at LaVell Edwards Stadium, and you’ll see banners of Jamal Willis running against the Irish in BYU’s upset win in 1994. There’s also a picture of former BYU QB Matt Berry coming off the bench to knock off Notre Dame in 2004.

A win over the Irish would be a big deal for BYU regardless of what Notre Dame becomes this season.

That’s why BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe still wanted this game, despite losing out on a home game. Playing Notre Dame gives you a huge television audience and a chance to expand your brand.

Getting a win? Even better.

2. It’s time to give another kicker a shot

When asked about the starting kicker spot this week against Notre Dame, BYU assistant head coach and Special Teams Coordinator Ed Lamb didn’t answer. Instead, citing, he wanted to keep that close to himself.

That’s fair.

But does the silence indicate that BYU is leaning in another direction? BYU kicker Jake Oldroyd has struggled as of late, missing five of his last six attempts. Backup specialist Justen Smith has experience in Allegiant Stadium. Last year, he filled in for an injured Oldroyd against Arizona and made a 40-yard field goal.

It’s a big stage that awaits any kicker, but it’s time to see what Smith can do if BYU is forced to turn to the field goal unit.

3. Rare visit to Vegas where BYU fans don’t take over

I picked up my Shamrock Series media credential on Friday at the Bellagio, the hub of all Notre Dame’s activities this weekend. There were a lot of Notre Dame fans.

I peeked into the pop-up Notre Dame bookstore shop to see the Shamrock Series gear they were selling, and they had a line wrapped around the entire store and out the door.

Usually, when BYU comes to Las Vegas, they are the team that overtakes everything. Not this time. BYU will have its fair share of fans, especially if they can get out of the I-15 construction in Mesquite, but this will be a game that’s all about Notre Dame.

If BYU pulls off the upset over the Irish, it will make for many shocked Notre Dame fans who made the trip out to Las Vegas.

Two BYU vs Notre Dame Questions

1. Puka Nacua: Is he in or out?

The weekly Puka Nacua question. In these big games, you need to have your star players.

BYU’s best receiver was at practice on Tuesday and Wednesday. He suffered a high ankle sprain in the season opener against USF. Then, in week four against Wyoming, he sustained another undisclosed injury in his return.

The good news for BYU is that their receivers have been outstanding this season. From Kody Epps, Keanu Hill, and the return of Gunner Romney last week. Whenever someone is out, another player is ready to step up.

But the fact that Nacua practiced is promising for Saturday night in his hometown of Las Vegas.

2. Is Jaren Hall ready to move up the all-time rankings of BYU quarterbacks?

Jaren Hall is him. The star quarterback for BYU has been great this year. In addition, his ball security has garnered rave reviews from NFL scouts, as BYU’s offense hasn’t had a turnover in four games.

Then you add that Hall already has big-time wins under his belt against Utah, USC, Baylor, and others. A win over Notre Dame could put Hall among the elite quarterbacks in BYU history if he isn’t there already.

Last week against Utah State, Hall took the hardest hit he has dealt with this year. After he got up from the hit, he rotated his arm. It first concerned BYU offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick and changed the way he play called the offense for his star quarterback.

Roderick’s trust in Hall will likely be on display in a big game like this. Hall has more autonomy in this BYU offense than any other quarterback Roderick has coached since he joined the staff. So if Jaren sees an opportunity to scramble and make a big play with his feet, don’t be surprised to see him take off and make something special happen.

For some reason, the nation has slept on Hall throughout his career. So maybe a win against the Irish could be the long overdue springboard for the college landscape to put some respect on his name.

One score prediction for BYU vs Notre Dame

I could see Notre Dame winning this game by a touchdown. BYU pulling out some late-game heroics also wouldn’t surprise me. It should be an entertaining ball game.

Turnovers are an interesting storyline here. Notre Dame only has one takeaway this season and is currently minus four in turnover margin.

BYU is plus four because of the ball security from Jaren Hall and the offense, but the defense does have two pick-sixes, courtesy of linebacker Max Tooley.

Can BYU’s defense rise to the occasion and force Notre Dame QB Drew Pyne into turnovers? If they do, BYU is winning this game.

The ultimate concern is stopping Notre Dame on the ground. Notre Dame’s rushing attack is average, 65th nationally, but BYU’s defense gave up 200 yards on the ground in the first half to a poor Utah State team a week ago.

If BYU can’t get off the field, it keeps the unique playmaking ability of Jaren Hall away from touching the ball.

Notre Dame builds an early lead, and BYU makes a comeback but falls short.

Notre Dame 33, BYU 28

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for KSLsports.com 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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