Keys to the game
The worst thing that can happen from a loss is that it snowballs into another loss. Notre Dame has had back-to-back losses five times during Brian Kelly's four years as head coach. The challenge for the Irish is to find something they do well — offensively and/or defensively — and do it. Through five games, that hasn't happened.
Thought Blake Bell was bad? Get ready for Taylor Kelly. Not only is he throwing for 343 yards a game, but he is running for 31. Kelly is the triggerman for a Sun Devils offense that has generated 505 yards of total offense a game and put up 62 points on a Southern Cal defense that, really, is pretty talented.
While Kelly is the guy who makes Arizona State go, the talent around him is pretty good. Running back Marion Grice is averaging 64 rushing yards and 46 receiving yards. Grice will be a test for Notre Dame linebackers to pick up out of the backfield. At 6-foot-3 and 205 pounds, Jaelen Strong is a big-time receiver. Through four games he has caught 31 passes for 433 yards and two touchdowns.
Notre Dame running back George Atkinson had an impressive showing in the loss to Oklahoma. Beyond his 148 yards on 14 carries, he demonstrated the capability to run hard, break tackles and get the tough yards. This week, he will get his opportunity to prove that effort wasn't a fluke. Running hard is as much mental as it is physical.
After practicing against Louis Nix on a regular basis, the Notre Dame offensive line should have a pretty good idea about the skill set Arizona State defensive tackle Will Sutton (6-foot-1, 305 pounds) will bring to battle. Big, strong and quick, Sutton has 13 tackles, a sack and 2.5 tackles for loss. The Sun Devil defense gives up 193 yards passing and 192 rushing.