We see it all the time in college football: One team is sailing towards accomplishing its season goals, while the other team really has nothing to play for. We call these trap games for the contender, as the accomplished team often overlooks the underdog and gets bit when it least expects it.
Will the Irish be the next victim?
It’s highly unlikely.
Notre Dame will experience its first trap game of the season this weekend, as a 4-3 BYU club will travel to South Bend to take on the No. 5 Irish.
When looking at the performance of these two teams, it is pretty clear that the home team should walk away with the victory. The problem is that Oklahoma is waiting for the Irish next week, which could be a distraction for some of the Notre Dame players this weekend.
Head coach Brian Kelly is well aware of the trap and is trying his best to avoid it, according to Matt Fortuna of ESPN:
It's college football each and every week. Look to the North Carolina State/Florida State game; go to West Virginia vs. Texas Tech. Why does that happen? Well, you forget how you got here. They are trap games if you forget how to go to work and do those things. We've already talked about it with our team, and we'll make sure that we do everything to prepare the right way.
Notre Dame has accomplished its 6-0 record by great defense. The unit is ranked 11th in the country, has forced 15 turnovers and has only allowed three plays of over 30 yards, which is one of the best in the country. The Irish needed a goal-line stand last week to beat Stanford and needed every one of those six turnovers to knock off Michigan.
The defense makes its presence felt each and every week and has established itself as one of the better units in the country.
On the other hand, BYU is a very similar ballclub, as the Cougars defense is actually ranked fifth in the nation. The team has allowed less than two touchdowns per contest and has racked up 22 sacks in the first seven games. Despite having a poor performance last week against Oregon State, BYU will look to prove itself against Notre Dame this weekend, according to Brian Hamilton of the Chicago Tribune:
I'm anxious to have our defense perform as they did the first six weeks, not as they performed last week. BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall said Monday. That's my main focus right now, to get them to perform like I know they're capable of.
On the offensive side of the ball, the two teams nearly mirror each other, as both squads struggle to put points on the board. Quarterback Everett Golson is expected to play, despite suffering a concussion last week, and BYU has quarterback issues of its own with Riley Nelson, who can't seem to complete passes consistently or stay healthy.
Who will win the game?
While this game may appear as a trap game, it also seems like the two teams are very similar on both sides of the ball. One team has just had a little more luck when it comes to finishing football games.
Besides getting blown out last week to Oregon State, BYU could easily have one loss on the season. If the Cougars didn't miss two field goals in the game against Utah and coach Mendenhall decided to take the game against Boise State into overtime rather than attempt the two-point conversion, this could still be a ranked team—one with possible BCS bowl dreams as well.
Notre Dame has finally cut back on the turnovers and figured out how to close games, while BYU is still trying to figure things out in that department.
"My point is this: I think they are all trap games, every single one of them, if you take a breather. But if you just stay on the course, continue to do what you're doing, we'll be fine." Kelly told ESPN.
If the Irish were to lose this game, it wouldn't be because they got caught looking ahead. It would likely be that BYU is identical to Notre Dame and is still looking for that key victory to turn its season around.