Notre Dame and Arizona State will meet up in Arlington, Texas this weekend, with both teams looking to strengthen their resume with a key win. The Irish are one loss away from saying goodbye to any chance of a decent bowl game invitation, while Arizona State hopes to knock off another big name after taking out USC and Wisconsin.
Notre Dame quarterback Tommy Rees became the main target for critics after his poor performance in last week’s loss to Oklahoma. His inability to get the passing game going along with the three interceptions made it impossible for the Irish to pull off a win against the Sooners.
Some fans want to see the offense handed over to the more mobile Andrew Hendrix. Brian Kelly proclaimed that there's no quarterback controversy but that Hendrix needs to be ready to take on more responsibilities. According to the BleacherReport, Kelly explained Hendrix’s, “mindset has to be, look, I want to keep adding more to my plate. I want more and more. But he's got to be more effective than he was on Saturday.”
Rees remains the man in charge for now and will have to try to turn his season around on Saturday.
Arizona State has had better luck with their passing attack this season, ranking third nationally in yards per game. Quarterback Taylor Kelly has come alive and led the Sun Devil offense to an impressive season start. The offense has been performing and scoring against solid competition presenting another challenge to the Irish Defense. Notre Dame has to stay alert due to the mobility of Kelly and no-huddle offense of Arizona State.
Brian Kelly explained what his defense has to do against the Sun Devils in saying, “We can't afford to give up any big plays. They catch the ball very well. They're a team that will challenge you on the perimeter throwing the football, and you have to keep Kelly in check running the football, as well. He's very capable through their zone-read package of running the ball. Containing the quarterback, running the football, and obviously not giving up the big chunk plays. We gave up a ball that got over our head in cover three and then the 56-yard slant. Eliminating the big plays defensively is absolutely crucial to our success.”
Notre Dame could hurt the Sun Devils with the running game. George Atkinson III came alive last week for Notre Dame and the Arizona State defense has struggled to slow down runners this year. Another strong rushing attack will make things easier on Tommy Rees and open up the passing game. Notre Dame’s offense has to find a way to put points on the board to combat the high powered Arizona State offense. The Irish have no room for turnovers and have to protect the football. A win against Arizona State would provide a fresh start for the Fighting Irish but will only come with a complete team effort.