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Notre Dame Notes: Irish Look to Tame Cougars

Audric Estime

Audric Estime

Michael Caterina / USA TODAY NETWORK

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After limping to a 2-2 start, the Irish had a Week 5 bye following their 45-32 win over North Carolina.

The last time we saw our heroes, quarterback Drew Pyne was enjoying the best game of his career. The sophomore signal-caller slung the ball around all day vs. the Tar Hells, throwing for 289 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions while rushing six times for 20 additional yards.

Pyne’s three scores came from 10, 29 and 30 yards out, as tight end Michael Mayer led the team in receiving (7-88-1), adding to his strong start to the season.

Defensively, the Irish are still searching for answers after allowing Drake Maye 301 yards and five touchdowns, but a win is a win -- or so I’m told.

Notre Dame returns home to South Bend for this weekend’s matchup against No. 16 BYU. This marks the Irish’s second game on the season against ranked competition after they fell to No. 2 Ohio State in the season opener.

Can Pyne lead the Irish to their first win over a ranked opponent and a 3-2 record? Let’s have a look at the matchup.

Notre Dame

As previously mentioned, the Irish were 45-32 winners in their Week 4 matchup against the Tar Heels. Pyne saw the best performance of his young career, but the team also appeared to have figured some things out at running back -- least for one week.

Leading the Irish on rushing for the day was running back Audric Estime. The 5-foot-11, 227-pound bruiser rushed for 17-134-2 on the afternoon, finding the end zone twice on one-yard runs. Estime averaged an impressive 7.9 yards per carry on the afternoon, forcing six missed tackles per PFF while averaging 3.71 YCO/ATT. Fellow running back Chris Tyree added 15 carries for 80 yards and a one-yard score, but Estime was the clear lead back on the day.

Audric Estime 2022 rushing stats

Audric Estime 2022 rushing stats

Through four games, he leads the Irish in rushing with 54-263-4 and now gets a matchup against a BYU team that ranks 115th in defensive success rate against the run (49.7%). The Irish are rushing at a 55.8% clip and have a 49.7% success rate on the ground. This could turn into a simple strength vs. weakness for Notre Dame’s offense as their preferred method of moving the ball could be their best chance at success.

As the team’s leading receiver, tight end Michael Mayer (22-233-3) should still get his looks, but BYU has been solid on the season against the pass. A positive game script should allow Notre Dame to keep the ball on the ground throughout this one, but they’ll have to limit an explosive BYU passing attack.

BYU

For BYU, their strength vs. weakness approach will come in the form of Jaren Hall vs. a Notre Dame defense that ranks 101st in explosiveness against the pass. For those curious, explosiveness is defined by CollegeFootballData.com as, “the average EPA (expected points added) on plays which were marked as successful.” It’s worth noting that Notre Dame ranks 13th in defensive success rate against the pass (33.3%), but teams have been able to connect on big plays against the Irish.

Big plays are what BYU will be in search of this weekend, and Hall will look to deliver. The Cougars quarterback has thrown for 1,438-12-1. His 69.6 completion percentage ranks 16th in the nation per PFF, while his 8.4 yards per attempt is good for 42nd.

Jaren Hall 2022 Stats

Jaren Hall 2022 Stats

Stacked up against a loaded 2023 quarterback class, NFL Mock Draft Database has Hall as the sixth-ranked quarterback of the class, but he could be nearing top-four territory with Florida’s Anthony Richardson and Miami’s Tyler VanDyke both currently ranked ahead of him.

BYU’s offensive line is the No. 2 pass-blocking unit in the nation per PFF grades (89.8) while their overall passing attack has a top-30 grade.

Leading the Cougars in receiving is Keanu Hill, who has been one of the more explosive receivers in the nation thus far. With a line of 16-329-4, Hill is averaging 20.6 YPR and has caught four-of-eight deep targets for 159 yards and two scores. The Cougars love to spread the ball around, with four different receivers seeing 20+ targets on the year and five receivers boasting 100+ yards. Brayden Cosper (15-192-1) leads the team in slot rate (59.6%), but BYU has been aggressive in targeting their opponents on the outside. Here’s a look at Hall’s passing depth courtesy of PFF.

Jarren Hall 2022 Passing Depth

Jarren Hall 2022 Passing Depth

Pro Football Focus

Running back Chris Brooks (49-294-4) will lead BYU’s ground game, but is averaging a team-high 9.8 carries per game. Make no mistake about it, BYU loves to air it out. Throwing at a 55.1% clip, Notre Dame will have to put the clamps on the Cougars if they hope to get them out of rhythm and slow their attack.

Irish Pick ‘Em Predictor Picks

Notre Dame Points Scored

Heading into Saturday, this game has an over/under of 51, with the Irish getting a projected point total of 27.25. Prior to their Week 4 matchup against the Tar Heels, Notre Dame’s season-high in points was 24, which came in Week 3 against Cal. Notre Dame gets the benefit of playing this one at home, but I’m unwilling to give them too much credit after a 42-point performance against a UNC team that’s allowing 33.6 points per game. I’ll temper expectations in a game that I think has a chance to hit the under.

Notre Dame Points Scored: 24

Notre Dame Passing Yards

As previously mentioned, BYU has been stout against the pass. In addition to allowing a 38.1% success rate through the air, the Cougars have held opponents to under 200 yards passing in four of their five games. Perhaps even more impressive is that they’ve managed to hold opponents under 200 yards despite their opponents facing negative game scripts. Drew Pyne was solid in Week 4 against the Tar Heels but gets a different test this weekend against the Cougars. Between Notre Dame’s desire to run the ball and BYU’s ability to limit the pass, the Irish could have a low-volume day through the air.

Notre Dame Pass Yards: <200

The Game

Notre Dame vs. BYU Week 6 2022

Notre Dame vs. BYU Week 6 2022

The Irish and Cougars have faced off six times in their programs’ history, with the Irish holding a 4-2 record in the matchup. Notre Dame has won each of its last three matchups (2005, 2012, 2013) against BYU, but the Cougars have a chance to pull off the road upset and end a mini-losing streak this weekend. Since head coach Kalani Sitake took over as the Cougars’ head coach in 2015, BYU is 48-44-3 ATS. As underdogs, Sitake and the Cougars are 19-12-1 ATS over that span and are 13-5-0 as road dogs. With a top-flight quarterback and a knack for sticking it to the home team, I like BYU to cover in this one, and may even ride them on the money line at +145.

PICK: BYU +3.5

2022 Record: 13-17-1