Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports
Contain the BYU Running Game
Notre Dame hasn't faced a more formidable duo running the ball than quarterback Taysom Hill and running back Jamaal Williams. Both will likely go over the 1,000-yard mark on Saturday afternoon, an impressive feat for a rushing attack that's the 12th best in college football.
Hill missed last season's game after a knee injury ended his season early, but he has returned with a vengeance this season. In addition to running for 259 yards in BYU's win over Texas, Hill ranks second nationally with 44 runs of 10-plus yards.
Williams is no slouch either, running for 182 yards against Texas, while averaging 5.5 yards per carry. A season after setting freshman records at BYU with 755 yards and 12 touchdowns, Williams is coming off of an FBS Independents Offensive Player of the Week performance, rushing 13 times for 131 yards and three touchdowns, including a 70-yard score that was the Cougars' longest run since 2006.
If the Irish are going to beat BYU, they're going to need to slow down the Cougars' ground game. In BYU's three losses, they've been held to an average of 178 yards a game, 88 yards beneath their average.
Win the Turnover Battle
Taysom Hill is a dangerous offensive weapon, but he's been turnover prone, as his 12 interceptions indicate. No statistic means more to the Irish than turnover margin, especially during this year's up and down season.
In the Irish's three losses, they've turned the football over eight times and only forced one takeaway. In their seven wins, they've forced seven turnovers and only given it away five times.
In Seven Wins: +2 Turnover Margin
In Three Losses: -7 Turnover Margin
Brian Kelly has yet to lose a game at Notre Dame when his team doesn't commit a turnover, going 13-0 in his four seasons. With Hill prone to mistakes, the Irish defense will need to make sure they capitalize on a few of them.
For a defense that's 118th in the country in forcing turnovers, that's no easy task.
Run the Ball Effectively
The light still hasn't gone on for the Irish ground game. A week after freshman Tarean Folston ran through Navy to clinch a victory, Notre Dame all but abandoned running the ball, carrying it just six times in the second half against Pitt for a total of 10 yards.
But a look at last year's game plan against the Cougars, a rare Tommy Rees start, could be a clue as to how the Irish plan to attack, especially with a chance of snow in the forecast. In the Irish's 17-14 victory, Rees only threw the ball three times in the second half, and the Irish ran the ball right at BYU's defense, rushing for 270 yards on 43 carries.
BYU's offense averages an astounding 89 plays a game, moving at tempo for most of the game, as its lowly time of possession (ranked 108th in the country) numbers indicate. If the Irish want to protect a defense that's still healing, they'd be wise to finally establish their ground game.