The first set of BCS rankings were released after last week's games and Notre Dame (6-0) finds itself in a promising position at No. 5. Three wins over ranked opponents have allowed the Fighting Irish to rise, but a loss to BYU (4-3) would cause them to plummet.
Notre Dame needed a thrilling goal-line stand to escape with a victory against Stanford, once again proving the team will go as far as the defense carries it. The unit currently ranks second in the nation, giving up less than nine points per game.
The Cougars will be playing their second straight game against a Top 10 opponent. They couldn't capitalize on the opportunity last week, falling by 18 to Oregon State, and will need a much more complete performance to have any chance on Saturday.
Now that the BCS rankings are available, every game from here on out will take on an increased importance as the Irish look to make an impact on the national title race. Here's a look at all the vital information for the Week 8 clash of independents.
Where: Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Ind.
When: Saturday, Oct. 20 at 3:30 p.m. ET
Live Stream: NBCSports.com
Spread: Notre Dame -13.5 (Vegas Insider)
If the game were played on paper, Notre Dame would cover the spread. Quite simply, the Irish are more talented on both sides of the ball. But that's not the case, there are more factors in play that give an edge to BYU with the points.
Most prominently, it's trap game for the Irish. They are coming off an emotional victory over Stanford, which took a lot out of them both mentally and physically, and face one of their biggest tests of the season next week at Oklahoma.
In a situation like that, it's easy to overlook an middling opponent like BYU. Since both teams play a similar style, it will be a closer game than the line suggests. Notre Dame should win, but it won't likely be in blowout fashion.
Over/Under: 40.5 (Vegas Insider)
The immediate reaction for a matchup between two teams ranked in the top seven in scoring defense would be to take the under. The line is so low, however, picking the over is a wise choice despite the good defenses for both sides.
Oregon State, which has an almost identical scoring average to Notre Dame, was able to rack up 42 points against he Cougars last week. BYU has also scored at least 21 points in all but two games, so there's good reason to believe the game will go over.
While the game isn't going to turn into a shootout, both teams should be able to produce enough successful drives to push the point total over by the middle of the fourth quarter. Earlier if Notre Dame is able to avoid a trap-game letdown.
Key Injuries (via USA Today)
BYU: Ian Dulan (questionable, back) and Zac Stout (questionable, Achilles)
Notre Dame: Everett Golson (probable, concussion), Amir Carlisle (questionable, ankle), Chase Hounshell (questionable, shoulder) and Nick Tausch (questionable, groin)
Notre Dame is in the national title conversation thanks to the team's terrific start. Two things must happen for the Irish to reach that goal, though. They need to win out and also get some help from other teams to knock off the squads ahead of them.
A win over BYU wouldn't do much to improve its BCS standing, but it would allow them to hold steady heading into a marquee game against Oklahoma. It's a good thing any time a team isn't moving backwards at this point of the season.
The Cougars haven't done enough to get on the BCS radar. Even a major road victory probably wouldn't be enough to get them in the rankings at this point.
Keys to BYU Win
BYU must find a way to better control the pace of the game. Last week, the Cougars let Oregon State set the early tone and it came back to haunt them in the second half. They can't let that happen again on Saturday if they want to pull off the upset.
That means there's a lot of pressure on freshman running back Jamaal Williams. Along with the offensive line, he must try to lead a few time-consuming drives early to ensure the Cougars don't let Notre Dame take charge right out of the gate.
The other key to success for BYU is getting pressure on Everett Golson. Kyle Van Noy, who has already tallied 7.5 sacks, will lead the way. If the Cougars can rattle Golson and force him into a couple mistakes, they have a chance.
Keys to Notre Dame Win
As usual, it all starts with Notre Dame's defense. Manti Te'o and Co. have not only been one of the country's best units all season, but they have stepped up in key moment after key moment to put the Irish in their current BCS position.
If the defense continues to perform at an elite level, Notre Dame is a serious threat to run the table. As Alabama continues to prove on a weekly basis, being able to dominate on that side of the ball is still the best way to way at the college level.
On offense, the Irish must keep focusing on balance. They have three reliable running backs, each capable of bringing something different to the table, and an improving passing attack under Golson. That's all they need with the defense playing so well.
Notre Dame 28, BYU 17
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