It's a trap? Irish looking to avoid letdown vs. BYU

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It's a trap? Irish looking to avoid letdown vs. BYU

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- "Trap" games are all too real a phenomenon in college football. West Virginia fell into one last week, with its powerful offense being stymied by an underrated Texas Tech defense. That's just one example, though. There are sure to be plenty more in the next month and a half.
Notre Dame doesn't want to be one of them.
But with a showdown in Oklahoma that carries serious BCS implications looming next weekend, if the Irish start looking ahead that could be the case.
"Why does that happen? Well, you forget how you got here," coach Brian Kelly said. They are trap games if you forget how to go to work ask do those things. We've already talked about it with our team, and we'll make sure that we do everything to prepare the right way."
BYU has the profile of a classic "trap" team, one that's only 4-3 but has had plenty of defensive success this year. That changed last week, as Oregon State hung 42 in Provo. But by Football Outsiders' defensive S&P rankings (explained here), BYU still has a top-10 defense fueled by a run defense that's only allowing 67.9 yards on the ground per game.
Given that Notre Dame's rushing attack has been the strong suit of its offense this year, that could play right into BYU's hands. If Cierre Wood, Theo Riddick and George Atkinson III are neutralized, it'll put the pressure on whoever's starting at quarterback, be it Tommy Rees, Everett Golson or even Andrew Hendrix. Kelly will announce the starter before Saturday's game, but whoever it is may need to power Notre Dame's offense.
The mantra this week in South Bend was all about BYU, and how the players will focus on Oklahoma next week. Senior captain Manti Te'o is leading that charge, and feels the experience Notre Dame possesses will keep the team's focus on this weekend.
"I think it's only a trap game if you're dealing with a young team, a team that is not focused on one singular goal, and that's to take that day by day, week by week," Te'o said. "So our team has done a great job of just focusing on the next opponent. We don't have Oklahoma this week. We don't have Stanford, we already played Stanford. Right now it's BYU, and that's all we're focused on.
"Until Sunday comes, you know, we'll stop focusing on BYU. Until then, it's all BYU."
A win over BYU would likely secure a BCS berth for Notre Dame, unless an unexpected slip-up happens against the likes of Pittsburgh, Boston College or Wake Forest -- three teams the Irish should easily beat. Even if Notre Dame loses at Oklahoma and USC, they'd have 10 wins. And it's unlikely a BCS bowl would pass at the opportunity to take Notre Dame, an option those committees haven't had in six years.
That's a big picture view, and it's one the team isn't taking.
"We don't have a list of goals that says, hey, we want to go to the Sugar Bowl, we want to go to the Fiesta Bowl, we want to win the National Championship. We don't have any of those goals," Kelly explained. "They are not written down. You won't see them anywhere. They are not in our locker room.
"All you'll really hear us talk about are the goals as it relates to playing the game, and if you hit these goals, you've got a great chance to win and then how do you get there and so that's how we deal with it on a daytoday basis."

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Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks host Lightning tonight on CSN

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks host Lightning tonight on CSN

Watch as the Blackhawks take on the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live. Then stick around after the final buzzer to watch Blackhawks Postgame Live for highlights and analysis.

Click here to watch the game or download the NBC Sports App, your home for live streaming coverage of the Blackhawks.

Five Things to Watch:

1. Grab the first goal.

The Blackhawks have scored the game's first goal in seven of the last eight games, and of those seven, they've won six of them. Meanwhile, the Lightning have scored the first goal only 17 times in 48 games this season, and are 12-5-1 in those games. They're 9-17-4 when they allow the first goal, so getting out to a lead first will be important against a struggling Lightning team looking for signs of life.

2. Will the floodgates open for Jonathan Toews?

After a four-point game in a 4-2 win over Vancouver, the Blackhawks captain matched his point total over his previous nine games. He's up to 26 points on the season, which is now fifth among Chicago forwards. When Toews has offensive droughts, they usually last longer than they should. But when he gets hot, he gets extremely hot. Perhaps we'll see the floodgates open offensively.

3. A chance for the team lead in scoring.

With an empty-net goal on Sunday, Marian Hossa tied Artem Anisimov for the team-lead with 18 goals. Artemi Panarin is right behind with 17, and Patrick Kane isn't far either at 15. The Blackhawks had four 20-goal scorers last season, and haven't had more than that since the 2013-14 season. They're definitely on pace to hit four, but could they surprass that? Richard Panik, who scored another goal Sunday as well, is fifth with 11 goals while Ryan Hartman has 10. Toews is at eight, but a flurry after a drought could make things interesting.

4. The triplets reunited?

In an effort to jumpstart a struggling offense, Lightning coach Jon Cooper reunited the triplets line of Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov and Ondrej Palat that was so successful during their 2015 playoff run in their latest game, a 5-3 loss to Arizona. It's unclear whether they will begin tonight's game on the same line, but if not, it's worth watching throughout the game whether they do. The Blackhawks have been coming at opponents in waves lately, so Cooper could look to separate the three to distribute the scoring.

5. Take advantage on special teams.

The Lightning have racked up the fifth-most penalty minutes in the league, and own a bottom-10 penalty kill unit at 80.1 percent. The Blackhawks are the second-least penalized team, and have converted on 17.9 percent of their power plays, which sits at 16th. But they haven't scored one on the man advantage in five straight games, going 0-for-9 during that span. Here's a chance to change that.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

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