Three keys: Notre Dame-BYU

Three keys: Notre Dame-BYU

November 22, 2013, 4:30 pm
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1. Stay healthy. Injuries have put Notre Dame in some dicey depth situations, but none more so than at nose guard. With Louis Nix out for the season and Kona Schwenke coming off a high ankle sprain, it's critical for Notre Dame to not lose another nose guard. Schwenke is expected to play, but against a BYU offense that averages about 86 plays a game he'll have to be rotated in and out with Tyler Stockton and Jarron Jones. If Schwenke were to go down with an injury, or is seriously limited in his return, it'd put a massive burden on Sheldon Day, Stephon Tuitt and an Irish defense that'll already have its hands full trying to stop BYU quarterback Taysom Hill.

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2. Sustain drives. One way to mitigate the issues presented by a thin defensive depth chart and an up-tempo offense is to put together some long, clock-chewing drives. That's easier said than done, though, given how good BYU's defense has been this year (F/+ ranks the Cougars' defense No. 8 http://www.footballoutsiders.com/stats/fplus). While BYU may only average about 28 minutes of possession per game, it's the pace that affects opposing defenses -- and perhaps the best way to slow that down is by giving the defense some time to rest.

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3. Take advantage of turnovers. Only three teams have forced fewer turnovers than Notre Dame's 10 this year. Coach Brian Kelly chalked that up to a lack of opportunism, game planning against taking defensive chances and absence of Manti Te'o. But if Notre Dame has trouble moving the ball against BYU -- the Tommy Rees -- quarterbacked Irish only scored 17 points vs. BYU last year -- capitalizing off a turnover or two could be key for Notre Dame to eke out a narrow victory.

Prediction: BYU 27, Notre Dame 17