coleryan Posts:21705 Followers:24
On 09/29/2013 12:25 PM in NCAA Football

Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Arizona State Sun Devils: Preview and Pick

Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Arizona State Sun Devils: Preview and Pick

The college football schedule for week six, features one team that is still trying to find their identity and where they fit in the college football landscape. The Notre Dame Fighting Irish will travel to play the Arizona State Sun Devils, and after a tough loss against the Oklahoma Sooners, the Irish know that they have to play well against this Pac 12 opponent.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Arizona State Sun Devils Odds

The college football odds for this game opened up with the Sun Devils as (-6.5) point favorites. This is due to the combination of how bad the Irish played and how good the Sun Devils looked against the Trojans. The Irish also will have to do some traveling to play this game.

The Sun Devils are off a big win that ultimately got USC Coach Lane Kiffin fired. Behind Taylor Kelly and Marion Grice, the Sun Devils racked up 612 total yards against a defense that had not allowed more than 285 yards or 14 points this season. USC allowed 479 yards its previous two games combined. Now that same offense will look to beat up an Irish defense that has had problems early in the season, but is starting to improve.

Although the Irish gave up a whopping 212 yards on the ground, the Irish forced Oklahoma to spread the ball around quite a bit to maintain any rhythm. Blake Bell was held to 59 yards, and the Irish gave up only one rushing touchdown to the Sooners. They will need to have that same intensity if they want to take down the Sun Devils.

The college football betting trends for this game unveil some interesting betting angles that may just put some cash in your pocket. The Sun Devils are 6-1 straight up in the last seven games overall and they are a perfect 5-0 at home in the last five games in front of the home fans. Notre Dame is 15-3 straight up in the last 18 games overall, however they are a horrible bet of late going 0-4-1 against the spread (ATS) in the last five games. The total has gone under in 15 of the last 21 games that the Irish have played in, but the over in 5 of the last 6 games the Sun Devils have played at home.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Arizona State Sun Devils Pick

With plenty of time before kickoff we will wait for more information to come in before we select a side on this contest. Make sure to check back on the day of the game to see who we select as our winner for this big game.

coleryan Posts:21705 Followers:24
09/30/2013 02:09 PM

Notre Dame drew plenty of attention, as it always does, when preseason camp broke in August and the schedule posted inside the auditorium of the Guglielmino Athletics Complex featured "BCS Championship Game," slated for Jan. 7. The actual title game, the last of the BCS era, will actually be played Jan. 6.

It is of little significance to the Fighting Irish now, as it is clear that they will not be making a return trip this season. A second September defeat, Saturday's 35-21 home loss to Oklahoma, ensured that, while also seriously jeopardizing BCS bowl hopes.

Notre Dame has been down this road before in far uglier fashion, most recently two years ago, when their preseason goal of a BCS bowl took consecutive gut-punches during an 0-2 start. Knowing his team then needed to essentially win its final 10 contests, Brian Kelly went on to refer to the rest of the season as the playoffs.

The fourth-year Irish coach made no such declaration Sunday, though he did provide a blueprint for how he wants his players to respond to a 3-2 start.

"I would say this: They have been in the national championship game," Kelly said during his teleconference. "They have been to Florida for bowl games. What they are more interested in is playing well the next game and for the rest of the season. One bowl game or one game does not make it for these guys. They are more focused and we are more focused on being better as a football team and playing better week-to-week than the one game that we get at the end of the season."

It is a precarious situation, to be sure, managing a group coming off a national runner-up finish to push on through the reality that, no matter what it does over its final seven games, it will fall short of meeting its stated preseason goal. And the task becomes even more daunting when looking back at what the Irish could do, or couldn't do, in their first five games, while peeking ahead at who remains on-deck over these next two months. (Hello, Pac-12 trio.)

"We know it can't be a national championship, and we are disappointed that that's the case," Kelly said. "But to say, 'Hey, there's nothing to play for' -- what, for one game in Florida? What we are more interested in as a group -- and that's why we play this game -- is as a team, to play better, to be more consistent, to challenge ourselves, each and every week, to be better, and that's the group that we have here.

"That's the goal for this group. And I'm sure they probably articulated that to you guys in some fashion; that the most important thing is to get better as a group and play better football week-in and week-out. That's really what they want to be able to do."

The next nine weeks will bring seven games to prove how much better this team can get, and hardly any can be considered sure things given just how rocky the Irish have looked in their last four outings.

"It's painful now," captain TJ Jones said after Saturday's game. "I wouldn't say heads are down, but heads are disappointed in the loss, and we definitely know that there's a lot more work to be done to get back to achieving, I guess, the best record we can now."

The College Football Playoff remains a year away. Notre Dame can get a head start on it this season, though whatever trophy the Irish might raise this winter will not be quite the same.

coleryan Posts:21705 Followers:24
09/30/2013 02:11 PM

Every place Todd Graham visited this summer, fans wanted to talk to the Arizona State coach about one thing: Notre Dame.

The wait finally is over.

Not long after their 62-41 win over USC, the Sun Devils (3-1, 1-1 Pac-12) turned their attention to the Fighting Irish, whom they will meet Saturday in Arlington, Texas. The game is part of Notre Dame’s Shamrock Series, which allows the school to play a home game in different parts of the country.

The Fighting Irish bring a national audience and a storied history to the matchup. Long before the BCS, they won eight consensus Associated Press national championships, more than any other school.

The contest also has special meeting for Graham, raised in nearby Mesquite, Texas.

“That’s my hometown,” he said. “I grew up a Dallas Cowboys fan. No doubt about it, it’s a big deal. Does it rank above our conference games? No, but is it a big game? You’re darn right.”

ASU is No. 22 in this week’s AP Top 25. Notre Dame (3-2) fell out of the poll after Saturday’s home loss to Oklahoma. Both schools have played tough schedules. Notre Dame has a win over Michigan State and losses to No. 11 Oklahoma and No. 19 Michigan.

The Sun Devils have a win over Wisconsin and a loss at No. 5 Stanford.

“Even though it’s hard, and you got to stay healthy, but I feel like if you play good teams, you really get better,” Graham said. “You really improve faster. That’s one of the things that’s really helped us.”

coleryan Posts:21705 Followers:24
10/01/2013 03:33 PM

I think it's safe to say that prior to the season, ASU fans had marked this four-game stretch against Wisconsin, Stanford, USC and Notre Dame as "murderer's row" -- many folks said ASU had one of the toughest gauntlets in the country through the first six weeks of the season. That prognostication has not come true, as both USC and Notre Dame have fallen short of expectations in 2013 thus far. Our very own Ben Haber broke down the schedule before the year, noting that we were only favored in one of our first five games. As of now, ASU is a 5.5 point favorite over the Fighting Irish. That says a lot about how far ASU has come, while also noting Notre Dame's downward trajectory.

This game has taken on a very different meaning for the Sun Devils. If they defeat Notre Dame and move to 4-1 on the season, a clear path towards the Pac-12 South crown can be laid out. This game represents an epic opportunity to impress recruits in Texas while defeating a historical power. And that, my friends, is all you can ask for as a Sun Devil fan.

Nick Marek: Cory brings up a great point about recruiting (also revealing a new uniform), but this game is no longer AS important as it was two months ago. Don't get me wrong, it would be a big leap in the right direction to knock off football powerhouses like Wisconsin, USC and then Notre Dame but those programs are not the same as they were two years ago.

With the game being televised on primetime television, some fans will more than likely still expect to see the Fighting Irish win. But if Arizona State improves to 4-1 on the season like Cory mentioned, this program will exceed most of our preseason predictions. I thought starting the year 3-2 would be satisfying but now seeing how poorly ND has played, the Sun Devils better start 4-1 because the bigger tests come in two weeks against Washington and then late in the season against a UCLA team that could be hovering around the top ten.

It's still an exciting game, but the Sun Devils need to win this weekend and prove that they belong in the top-25 for more than one week and that they are the real deal and can make a run at the Pac-12 title.

Kerry Crowley: In all honesty, my perception of the Notre Dame game hasn't changed since I really gave some thought to the season this summer. With the talent level the Sun Devils have, I expected them to be 3-1 heading into Dallas with an opportunity to knock off a traditional powerhouse on a national stage. That being said, I didn't think Notre Dame would be out of the top 25 by the time Arizona State played the Fighting Irish.

I said before the season that to be considered a legitimate Pac-12 South contender, the Sun Devils had to run the four-game gauntlet they're finishing up this week with a 3-1 record. It's not a conference game, but Arizona State needs to beat Notre Dame to have a real chance at challenging UCLA. A 4-1 record through the first five games of the season would make a statement that this program is headed in the right direction under Todd Graham.

Cory and Nick touched on the importance of recruiting as well. In Graham's Monday press conference, he said that Texas is the third priority behind Arizona and California in recruiting and winning at AT&T Stadium against a team that made it to the National Championship last season says a lot about the caliber of the Sun Devils. I have always thought of this game as a must-win, and I now believe that more than ever before.

Cody Ulm: Looking at this game back in June/July, I figured this would be Arizona State's best chance to make a national statement. I always assumed the Sun Devils didn't stand a chance against Stanford and while I predicted them to lose to Notre Dame, I thought they'd at least give them a solid run for their money. Now, with Notre Dame on steep decline, Saturday's objective has transformed from making some national noise to simply taking care of business against a lesser opponent.

That said, Arizona State still has the opportunity to become the first team in the history of college football to beat USC and Notre Dame in back-to-back weeks. So while this ultimately isn't the most important of games considering ASU's aspirations (Pac-12 Championship, Rose Bowl), that's still a stat worth fighting for.

For me, one major change that has to be factored in is Notre Dame's mentality. Not to get too much into intangibles but Arizona State is now set to face a team that is the definition of desperate. Of course, it remains to be seen if that makes any difference. The Sun Devils will be feeling good in their new digs and looking to make a statement in a huge recruiting market on national television.

coleryan Posts:21705 Followers:24
10/02/2013 01:56 PM

Chris Young is valuable to Arizona State no matter where he plays.

The senior linebacker leads the Sun Devils in tackles with 29 and is ninth in the Pac-12 (7.2 per game) while playing the weak-side (Will) position that Brandon Magee occupied last season. Still, No. 22 ASU is No. 92 nationally in rushing defense, its most glaring weakness going into Saturday’s game against Notre Dame and the second third of the season.

So Young is moving back to Spur, a linebacker/safety hybrid position where he played last season. The intention is to improve perimeter rush defense without sacrificing on the interior, where opponents have had difficulty running. Steffon Martin remains at strong-side (Sam) linebacker with Salamo Fiso now playing Will.

“I was very comfortable (at Spur) and everything came back,” Young said after practice Tuesday. “I felt like the lineup for linebackers was great. We’ll definitely be all right with that lineup.”

ASU coach Todd Graham is making run defense a priority against the Irish, who are averaging a modest 135.4 yards rushing but have a dangerous breakaway threat in George Atkinson.

“We’re obviously working different personnel groupings because of the matchups we have this week,” Graham said. “Chris has played really solid. We’ve got to get Salamo going. He is so talented and he just made a lot of mental errors early (vs. USC). We can’t have those things.”

Graham said Anthony Jones, who started the first four games at Spur, will continue to get significant time with Grandville Taylor and Carlos Mendoza also in the linebacker mix.

“Penetration on any running offense is the kryptonite,” Young said. “Obviously setting the edge is going to discourage them running outside then pushing it inside to our defense where we’re very strong. That’s going to be a great emphasis for Saturday.”

Graham said Atkinson reminds him of Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon, who ran for 193 yards against ASU including an 80-yard fly sweep for a touchdown on the opening play of the second half.

“He’s a big back (6-1, 220) with great speed,” Young said. “When we get the opportunity to tackle him, we have to take it and tackle tough.”

All business

H-back Chris Coyle said winning on the road at 80,000-seat AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, will require discipline from every traveling player, something that wasn’t the case at No. 5 Stanford, where ASU trailed 29-0 at half and lost 42-28 on Sept. 21.

AT&T Stadium is home to the Dallas Cowboys and was site of the 2011 Super Bowl.

“We’ve got to have everybody buying in, nobody distracting anybody,” Coyle said. “Coach has made it completely clear that nobody is allowed to be messing around this trip. This is 100 percent business. We’ve got to go in there focused. Last time it was a big-time game, first road game, people were a little bit on their heels. We’re never going to let that happen again.”

Coyle had five catches for 87 yards in a 62-41 win over USC after saying last Friday that “pretty much any team we play, our offense is probably going to be the most difficult offense they face.”

Wide receiver Jaelen Strong had 103 yards receiving and running back D.J. Foster 80 vs. USC in addition to ASU’s 261 yards rushing.

“If we’re spreading it out like we did, it loosens up the defense and opens up so many more options even in the run game,” Coyle said. “Jaelen is outside. They don’t know if he’s going to run a fade and the safety has got to help outside. That leaves us one less guy inside we have to block.”

coleryan Posts:21705 Followers:24
10/03/2013 01:32 PM

Arizona State can make college football history Saturday as the first team to beat USC and Notre Dame in consecutive weeks. To do so requires learning from the past and waking up unpleasant echoes of the Sun Devils’ brief history against the Irish.

Notre Dame won 28-9 in 1998 in Tempe and 48-17 in South Bend, Ind., in ’99, games in which the Irish scored a combined 41 points off 10 ASU turnovers.

“We shouldn’t have lost either time,” said Scott Peters, an ASU starting offensive lineman for four years beginning in 1998. “Everyone puts a lot of stock into Notre Dame because of their history. We put too much stock into it. You almost psych yourself out because you’re dealing with a team that always gets TV exposure on a national level.”

That was especially true 15 years ago when NBC national coverage of Irish home games, which began in 1991, still was a novelty and substantive advantage in a much different TV landscape than today. Now virtually every major-college game can be found on some network or video platform, although Notre Dame still stands alone in commanding a separate deal with an over-the-air (non-cable) network.

Adam Archuleta remembers rushing home to watch Notre Dame games when he was growing up in Chandler.

“That was my team,” he said. “I loved Notre Dame. The chance to go there and play was just a great experience, given what Notre Dame meant to me.”

Archuleta was an ASU starting linebacker from 1998-2000. He had a team-high 12 tackles against the Irish in 1999.

“That game didn’t go as planned for us, to say the least,” Archuleta said. “For me personally, it was a real breakthrough game in my career. It was the first game where the light bulb went on and I became the player I ended up being the rest of my career.

“I remember Coach (Bruce) Snyder saying, ‘You really played your ass off, that’s the kind of way we need you to play every week.’ ”

Archuleta doesn’t remember being in awe of the Irish, but Peters believes ASU made a mistake by traveling early to Notre Dame and touring the College Football Hall of Fame, then located in South Bend.

“That was a nice thing Coach Snyder tried to do, but we got our minds away from business and lured into the Notre Dame hype,” Peters said. “Even though I thought the hype was a joke. We had a really talented team, but our focus wasn’t on the game.”

The nine-year Snyder coaching era peaked in 1996 and 1997 when ASU was a combined 20-4 and came within seconds of clinching its first national title at the 1997 Rose Bowl. Thirteen players off those teams were NFL draft picks, too much of a talent drain for the Sun Devils to sustain their success.

ASU was 2-2 when it faced USC and Notre Dame back to back in 1998, dropping both en route to a 5-6 season. There was a power outage at halftime due to a blown transformer that hot October afternoon at Sun Devil Stadium, knocking the game off ABC for most of the third quarter.

“I heard a pop, then you had to wait a few minutes to figure out what happened,” said Tom Sadler, then ASU assistant athletic director and stadium manager. “We played the rest of the game without PA, play clock, game clock, scoreboard. It was surreal. We were holding up white boards on the sideline for the game clock.”

Like Archuleta in 1999, running back J.R. Redmond takes solace from the 1998 game because of his individual play, 94 yards rushing and 184 all-purpose yards.

“The thing I remember most for me was the amount of physicality I played with,” Redmond said. “My whole thing with Notre Dame was, ‘This is a big-time college program.’ There was this illusion they were so much better than us. When you got out on the field with these guys and you realize they’re no better than you, then the green light comes on.

“All I wanted to do was try and knock somebody out of their helmet all day long. You can see there are plays where it takes five of them to bring me down.”

Peters, Archuleta and Redmond all went on to the NFL, where Peters said player psyche is “a lot more durable” than in college. The really good college teams know how to stay composed. You can’t cash in your chips when you’re down by a touchdown, or even three.”

Whether ASU can be that team — against Notre Dame at palatial AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas — will be telling.

“The only advice I could give them is just to be fundamentally sound,” Redmond said. “They seem to have a great coach with a good staff who is able to put them in positions to make plays.”

coleryan Posts:21705 Followers:24
10/04/2013 01:20 PM

While its offense is on a roll behind red-hot quarterback Taylor Kelly, No. 22 Arizona State feels its run defense must improve to become a serious threat for the Pac-12 title.

Notre Dame could provide a difficult test following a breakout rushing effort but would surely like to see the passing game get back on track.

Having returned to the Top 25 this week, the Sun Devils look to keep putting up big numbers while dealing the Irish a fourth straight loss to a ranked opponent Saturday at AT&T Stadium in Dallas.

Kelly has been picking apart opposing defenses as one of three FBS quarterbacks (Sean Mannion of Oregon State, Keith Wenning of Ball State) to eclipse the 300-yard mark in each of their starts.

He completed 23 of 34 passes for 351 yards with three touchdowns and one interception in last Saturday's 62-41 victory over Southern California. That sent Arizona State (3-1) into the AP poll for the second time in three weeks.

Kelly, who also ran four times for 79 yards, ranks third in the FBS with 342.5 passing yards per game.

"I think he is still learning and I think he is still getting better," coach Todd Graham said. "There were some things we did last week that we want to focus on. One of the big things was his ability to hurt people with his legs."

The Sun Devils, 11th in the FBS in scoring (44.3 ppg) and 15th in total offense (505.0 ypg), racked up 612 yards against a USC defense that had not allowed more than 285 yards or 14 points. They've scored 90 over their last six quarters, going back to a 42-28 loss at No. 5 Stanford when they trailed 29-0 at the half.

Arizona State will try to continue its quick-striking ways as it plays in the 2013 Shamrock Series with a chance to become the first team in NCAA history to beat USC and Notre Dame in back-to-back weeks.

"Obviously we are going there to play and it is a big deal for us," Graham said. "Our guys will be very motivated to play in this game. It is a national game. It is a game that is very important."

The Sun Devils, however, have yielded 718 rushing yards over the past three weeks - sixth-most in the country. Now they'll face a Notre Dame running game that has been rejuvenated behind junior George Atkinson.

"This is the number one thing that we have to do to win a championship," Graham said of his run defense. "This has got to get better and I think it can. That is our number one focus."

After running for 121 yards and one touchdown in his first four games, Atkinson finished with 148 yards and a score as Notre Dame (3-2) ran for a season-high 220 yards in a 35-21 loss to then-No. 14 Oklahoma last Saturday.

"He shouldn't be tackled by his ankles, and he showed that and I hope he brings that game with him each and every week because it was sure fun to watch George Atkinson run," coach Brian Kelly said. "That's the way he should run each and every week."

Atkinson could be a major part of this week's game plan given Arizona State's struggles against the run and Irish quarterback Tommy Rees' troubles following a strong start to the season.

Last week, Rees completed 9 of 24 passes for 104 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions, including one that was returned for a touchdown. Since throwing for more than 300 yards in his first three games, the senior has connected on 39.7 percent of his attempts for 246 yards in his last two.

"We were talking about how well we were throwing the football and how poorly we were running it. Now we're talking about how well we're running the ball and how poorly we're throwing the ball," Kelly said. "We have to find our balance there offensively."

Kelly's defense also hasn't performed well after keying last season's run to the BCS title game. Notre Dame is among the worst in the nation with 110 first downs allowed and has only four sacks.

While they once had designs on playing for the national championship again, the Irish have fallen out of the Top 25 and now try to avoid back-to-back regular season losses for the first time since the start of the 2011 season. They're 0-3 versus Top 25 teams - including last year's BCS title game - since beating the eighth-ranked Sooners last October.

"I've got a football team we're trying to work with and develop," Kelly said. "You guys can have your own comments and decide what happens and put us in any bowl you want."

Notre Dame has won both all-time meetings, 28-9 in 1998 and 48-17 in 1999.