Arizona State vs. Notre Dame: Keys to a Fighting Irish Upset Win

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistOctober 5, 2013

Jan 7, 2013; Miami, FL, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish defensive lineman Louis Nix III (9) reacts during the second half of the 2013 BCS Championship game against the Alabama Crimson Tide at Sun Life Stadium.   Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The 2013 edition of the Shamrock Series features a Notre Dame team in a tailspin at 3-2 searching for answers and a 3-1 No. 22 Arizona State team posting ridiculous numbers as it looks to get back into contention.

Notre Dame most recently got walloped by Oklahoma 35-21 thanks to its defense that is underachieving in every sense of the word.

Arizona State comes to Arlington after dismantling USC 62-41 on the heels of its passing offense that puts up almost 360 yards per game on its own.

For Notre Dame to pull off the shocking upset, the perfect blend of factors must merge into one performance. Here they are.


Dominate on the Ground

Sep 28, 2013; South Bend, IN, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish running back George Atkinson III (4) celebrates after scoring a touchdown in the third quarter against the Oklahoma Sooners at Notre Dame Stadium. Oklahoma won 35-21. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cash
Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Notre Dame has been mediocre rushing the ball this year, ranking just No. 93 overall with just 134 yards per game.

Starters George Atkinson III and Cam McDaniel have combined for just 446 yards and four touchdowns in five games, giving quarterback Tommy Rees little in the way of help.

Fortunately for Notre Dame, defending the run is an issue for the Sun Devils. Arizona State has already given up a ridiculous 817 yards on the ground this year and surrendered close to 300 last week to USC alone.

Notre Dame is by no means an effective running team, but it needs to be against the Sun Devils to achieve the next point.


Keep the Ball Out of Taylor Kelly's Hands

Apr 20, 2013; Notre Dame, IN, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish nose tackle Louis Nix (1) gestures before a two-point conversion attempt in the fourth quarter of the Blue-Gold Game at Notre Dame Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Arizona State quarterback Taylor Kelly is playing out of his mind. In just four games, Kelly has thrown for 1,370 yards and 11 touchdowns to just four interceptions. 

The craziest part? Kelly has gone for over 300 yards in all four games. 

There is not much a defense can do to stop Kelly, and that is especially the case for a sluggish Notre Dame unit that is playing horrific ball outside of elite nose tackle Louis Nix.

Notre Dame has allowed a ludicrous 110 first downs and has sacked opposing quarterbacks just four times. Kelly will have little issue picking apart the Fighting Irish's defense, so the only way for Notre Dame to limit Kelly is to keep the ball out of his hands through lengthy offensive drives.


Protect Tommy Rees

Sep 7, 2013; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish quarterback Tommy Rees (11) throws a pass during the second quarter against the Michigan Wolverines at Michigan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports
Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

When we say protect Tommy Rees, we mean protect him by throwing him on the bench. Since head coach Brian Kelly seems adverse to that idea, we'll have to come up with something else.

Rees has struggled all year long but was especially bad last week as two of his first three passes in the span of 16 seconds were interceptions. One was returned for a touchdown, the other set up another score.

On the year, Rees is completing just 53 percent of his passes and has thrown for just over 1,200 yards, 10 touchdowns and five interceptions. In the past two games, Rees has completed just 39.7 percent of his attempts.

The problem here is Notre Dame may fall behind Arizona State's explosive offense early and be forced to rely on Rees to throw the team back into the game. As fans saw against Oklahoma, that can turn out to be disastrous.



Follow B/R's Chris Roling on Twitter for more news and analysis @Chris_Roling


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