Notre Dame Football: Players Key to Irish Staying Undefeated Against BYU

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Notre Dame Football: Players Key to Irish Staying Undefeated Against BYU
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Now would not be the time for Notre Dame to lose.

The Fighting Irish stand at 6-0 and are No. 5 in first installment BCS poll. Most believe if they find a way to beat the Sooners in Oklahoma and the Trojans in Southern California, they will find themselves in the National Championship.

So, yeah, losing to BYU at home—a classic trap game—would not be advised. Let's take a look at which players are most important for Notre Dame heading to Norman with an undefeated record.

George Atkinson III

In the three games where Notre Dame has pulled off narrow victories (seven points or less), Atkinson III has carried the ball eight times for 25 yards and zero touchdowns.

During the Irish's most dominant games, the world-class speedster has rushed 24 times for 265 yards and three touchdowns.

Notre Dame has a three-headed monster in Atkinson, Theo Riddick and Cierre Wood, but running lanes won't be easy to come by against BYU, which is allowing just 2.1 yards per carry—second best in the nation.

Using Atkinson in creative ways to get to the outside would be a good way to open things up against the Cougars' stout defense. 

Tyler Eifert

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Should Notre Dame be unable to get its normally effective run game going, it will have to move the ball through the air, where BYU posses a solid, but not-as-good defense.

That might lead you to believe that Everett Golson should be listed here, but with Tommy Rees playing well in relief, the importance of each is diminished. What I mean by that is if Golson plays poorly, Rees will be waiting in the wings to pick up the slack. If Golson plays well, that's great. End of story. Kind of.

However, it will be important that someone is there to catch the ball from whoever is throwing it.

Enter Eifert. The big tight end is Notre Dame's most veteran and trusted receiver, and a big game would take pressure off the rest of the receiving corps. 

Notre Dame's Front 7

This isn't cheating. Don't worry.

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I'm not saying the Irish secondary, which has been one of the best in the country at taking the ball away, is going to have a break on Saturday, but Riley Nelson will make it pretty easy on that unit.

Despite having an elite receiver in Cody Hoffman, Nelson has completed 57 percent of his throws and has thrown eight interceptions to just six touchdowns. Let's be clear. The Cougars won't be able to move the ball through the air.

Where they could be dangerous, however, is on the ground. Jamaal Williams has 345 yards on the season and is averaging an impressive 5.3 yards per carry. Throw in his 130 receiving yards, and the freshman is a sneaky weapon.

As long as Notre Dame's rush defense, which is 28th in the country in yards per carry allowed, bottles up Williams, the Cougars won't be able to get anything going on the offensive end. That will be key in what should be a fairly low-scoring game. 

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