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10 Point Preview: Under Arizona sun, Sparky & Co. look for revenge against Notre Dame

The #9 Arizona State Sun Devils welcome the #10 Notre Dame Fighting Irish to Tempe Saturday. The Devils come off an ugly win against Utah, slipping by on an overtime game winning field goal. The Irish ride in on similar circumstances, after struggling past Navy last week at FedEx field.

#21 @JaelenStrong makes a grab in last year's Shamrock Series match-up
#21 @JaelenStrong makes a grab in last year's Shamrock Series match-up
Ronald Martinez

On October 2nd of last year, Arizona State traveled to Jerry's World to face a Notre Dame team, a year (and quarterback) removed from their national championship appearance. Months later, the Irish informed Arizona State of their intent to back-out on their commitment to play in Tempe. The only problem? The home and home contract had no buyout and only could be canceled by, what was referred to in the contract as, "an Act of God." Former Sun Devil AD Steve Patterson said at the time, "Last time I checked, joining the ACC wasn't an act of God."

Flash forward to today, Steve Patterson has since flown the coop to Texas and been replaced by former NFL VP of Football Operations Ray Anderson. Despite what the score of last year's game might show, these two teams talent balance has shifted from the defense to the offensive side. 9 starters on the 2013 Sun Devil defensive either graduated or left early and have since been replaced with high flying freshman and highly touted JUCO transfers. Notre Dame returned star quarterback Everett Golson, finally coming off Notre Dame internal academic suspension after (allegedly) cheating on an exam.

A match-up, that was about a couple million dollars away from never happening, has suddenly become a nationwide marquee showdown, broadcasting live at 3:30 ET for all of the United States to see. You think Notre Dame regrets trying to run now? Talk about bulletin board material...

  • In this week's installment of "Where In the World Is Taylor Kelly?", it's really hard to ignore the "Berco" chant that broke out among the Tempe faithful Saturday... especially when you're participating. In our defense, this isn't the same TK we're used to seeing. Last time he had this low of a QBR over a two game stretch, it was November 2013, when we squeezed by (u guessed it) Utah and Oregon State. It also doesn't help that his replacement took part in one of the greatest plays in school history AND beat the dreaded Cardinal, something TK has never done. From one Taylor to another; those last two games, shake it off buddy. Hang another 300+ yard game on that Notre Dame D and I promise the "Berco Boys" and I will leave you alone.
  • If Utah's running game was a dictatorship, the Irish running game is an oligarchy. Four different players take up 93% of their carries, QB Everett Golson with 78 and RBs Tarean Folston, Cam McDaniel and Greg Bryant with 101, 58, and 44 respectively. While Folston is their most effective back, at 5.3 YPC, I'm really worried about Cam "the incredibly photogenic football player" McDaniel. Star senior halfback and devilishly handsome even while being gang tackled, Mr.Steal-Your-Girl is right.
  • "Perfection is not attainable" but Notre Dame frankly does every well. The Golden Domer offense is 34th overall, 26th in passing and just outside of the top 50 in rushing. Defensively, they are 41st overall, 31st against the run (mind you this is just after just playing triple-option Navy) and 64th against the pass (their only real statistical blemish). They even do the little things right. Getting off the field on third down, they are 42nd. Converting their third downs, the Irish are 16th. This all while averaging about five penalties a game (30th in the FBS). And last but not least, they are the undisputed leader in relationship related controversies. Was that a Manti Te'o fake girlfriend or Justin Brent dating a porn star joke? The world may never know... (It was both).
  • Before this season, I said safety Damarious Randall would be the unquestioned veteran leader of this defense. Going into game nine of the season, I'm man enough to say I was wrong. Walk-on Jordan Simone has exploded onto the Tempe football scene and is the tone setter for a young Sun Devil D. The red-shirt junior safety won his starting spot (and a much deserved scholarship) after fall camp and since has racked up a team leading 73 tackles and 2 interceptions, in addition to a forced and recovered fumble. In case you haven't fallen in love yet, Jordan is a second generation Sun Devil following in the footsteps of his father Ronnie Simone, who also walked on and won himself a full ride as a wide receiver back in 1985. Slowly becoming my favorite player to watch, with his weekly hit sticks on players twice his size, the Simone-Randall tandem has led this defense to new heights, looking completely different than the unit that handled games one through four. Expect our "Rudy" to be all over the gridiron, as per usual, come Saturday.
  • Speaking of immensely successful walk-ons, Notre Dame star linebacker and leading tackler Joe Schmidt fractured/dislocated his left ankle against Navy and is out for the rest of his senior season. A former walk-on who learned under Manti Te'o and Prince Shembo, Joe Schmidt rose to be the key cog in this incarnation of the Irish defense. They will definitely miss him Saturday.
  • I may cause some infighting among the Sun Devil delegation here at Pacific Takes, but I absolutely loathe Camp Fargo. Why? Because, for the lack of a better term, it's a pissing contest. Speaking on past experience, any student can show up an hour before student assignments get handed out and STILL get similar seats. I showed up a full two hours late for PAC-12 Championship handouts and still sat on the first level. Yet, they camp out days in advance, then drunkenly brag to those still in line about long they'd been there. I'm sorry to hear you don't value your time as much as I do?
  • Getting back on track, I've never heard of a player missing a whole year of organized football and it paying dividends. Alas, that seems to be the Curious Case of Everett Golson. About to set new personal highs in passing and rushing yards in only eight games, he's already thrown ten more touchdown passes than his 2012 campaign. The undisputed focal point of the Irish offense, folks in South Bend have been pleasantly surprised with his return from NCAA academic exile. If Everett can keep his eyes on his own paper Notre Dame wins out, their star QB could command a Heisman vote or two come December.
  • As much as I dislike the "Desert Fuel" uniforms, I am happy to see the black-maroon-black combo come and go hopefully forever. They looked like the result of two drunk dudes getting a tad bit too creative on Madden. The only thing that even matched the uniforms was how ugly our play was, but I digress. Also, you can stop searching your neighborhood Super-Walmart for an all anthracite tee shirt, as @FootballASU clarified (very loudly I might add) that gold is our color of choice for Saturday.
  • Opponent Fun Fact: "If the Fighting Irish are victorious, students flock to Clarke Memorial Fountain, also known as Stonehenge, on North Quad to take a celebratory dash through the water, no matter the temperature." We had the similar tradition, except it wasn't after team victories, mostly just after students had a couple too many in their dorms. It got so bad, Cady Fountain now runs dry. Damn you Michael Crow and your commitment to education.
  • I'll admit I'm the slightest bit torn on this game. On one hand, I go to my dream school that I traveled across country to attend. On the other, I'm an Irish Catholic Massachusetts boy who grew up watching the navy and gold trample teams every Saturday. Not only that, but Brian Kelly got his start at Assumption College, about 15 minutes down the road from my childhood home. I feel like Kronk right now, with Touchdown Jesus on one shoulder and Sparky warming the other.
I know the hot button topic around Tempe is how Arizona State could make the inaugural College Football Playoff, which is so much easier said than done. Folks, I would lose my mind if this team has the opportunity to participate. That would change everything; recruiting, coaching, heck the whole balance of power in the PAC-12 would be flipped on its head. BUT, let's not get ahead of ourselves. In the slightly altered words of Darth Belichick, "We're on to Notre Dame." Let's worry about next week, a week from now and always remember, nobody likes a jinx. Stay safe this weekend guys and, as always, go Devils!