This Saturday, the Fighting Irish roll into Tempe in a matchup of one loss teams vying for a playoff spot. The Sun Devils are looking to avenge a loss last year in Jerry-World to Notre Dame. They have improved drastically after being taken out behind the woodshed against UCLA, . Even while losing quarterback Taylor Kelly for a month, Mike Bercovici delivered at the position and in his twitter game.
Clovers are flammable #BeatTheIrish— Michael Bercovici (@MikeBerco) November 4, 2014
Jaelen Strong and DJ Foster have provided the offensive sparks for the Sun Devil offense while Damorius Randle and Jordan Simone lead the defense with 73 tackles apiece. Kelly has returned to the starting spot on offense, and despite struggling with the wind in Washington and a tough Utah defensive line, Arizona State could end up winning the Pac-12 South. First they face a Notre Dame team whose only loss comes to Florida State, but has looked vulnerable in other games, particularly last week against Navy. This is an eminently winnable game for Arizona State, despite having sports media against them. A win would prove to be another bound forward for the Pac-12 as a whole. First we break down the stats of the two teams thus far.
Tale of the Tape
The statistics look eerily similar for these two teams. They score around the same number of points per game and give up similar numbers. Notre Dame has been better against the run to this point and has forced more interceptions, while ASU causes and recovers more fumbles. Statistics clearly in favor of the Irish are the punt returns and interceptions, while ASU has an advantage in field goal percentage. Arguably, Arizona State has played a tougher schedule than Notre Dame thus far, whose most valuable win comes in a 3-point squeaker over Stanford, while the Sun Devils beat Stanford by 16 and have an impressive win against a tough Utah team to boot. Nonetheless, none of these make too big of a difference when it will come to the result of this game, so speculation on the game continues.
Fictional Ways to Beat Notre Dame
Now in list form!
- Kidnap Lisa Ann and watch Justin Brent disintegrate with tears.
- Trick Notre Dame fans and the Board of Fellows that Arizona State is made up of real devils, game gets cancelled. (Too bad this game is in November, in August you could convince quite a few people that Tempe is hell)
- Make Charlie Weis honorary coin-flipper.
- Deface the "Play Like a Champion Today" sign, watch the confusion in the aftermath when they don't know what to play like.
- Remind Notre Dame that the touchdown Jesus in Brazil is way better.
- Pretend to be Stanford, but actually have some sort of offense.
- Say that the JaelMary is the only worthwhile hailmary
- Leak scandalous Lennay Kekua photos, such as shower pics, unauthorized use of construction equipment, or her raunchy art pieces.
- Then you know, remind everyone that Lennay Kekua wasn't real, and was the single most entertaining sports story of the last five years at least.
Now for some real reasoning.
A Real Way to Beat Notre Dame
The problem Notre Dame had last week was in stopping the run game of the Naval Academy. All of the service academies run the option, and the option has bled over into the zone read game for many teams, of which Arizona State is one. Taylor Kelly is capable runner, and what Notre Dame has had problems with is playing their defensive assignments. Against Navy, they had plays where they played the quarterback well, but when the pitch was made, poor angles were taken to the ball carrier. On a touchdown run by Demond Brown, linebacker #38 takes a bad angle to try and catch the back, and Brown takes it in for an easy six.
After this, the Irish have had problems over pursuing. When Geoffrey Whiteside gets the pitch and gets blockers in front of you, numbers 5 and 22 assume he's going to the outside. Like the guy in the Last Crusade, they choose poorly and are easily blocked as Whiteside puts our tax dollars to work.
This week, Notre Dame's defense will key in on DJ Foster in the backfield more than anyone else. Last week they keyed in on the running of Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds, holding him to 18 carries for 47 yards, with 2.6 yards per carry. With keying in on one specific guy and their tendencies to over pursue on some plays, this could be the time for Taylor Kelly to have more than a modicum of success using his feet.
This is a game for Arizona State to prove that they belong in the talks for the college football playoff. There is still quite a bit of season left, and three big roadblocks stand in the way of that dream with Notre Dame, Arizona, and a potential Pac-12 title tilt with the Ducks in Santa Clara. Only time will tell, but I think that ASU can pull this one out by a score of 31-28. May Lennay Kekua rest in fake peace.