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No. 16 BYU vs Notre Dame: Time, TV, Preview & Prediction from Las Vegas

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 24 Notre Dame at North Carolina

CHAPEL HILL, NC - SEPTEMBER 24: Notre Dame Fighting Irish tight end Michael Mayer (87) celebrates a first down catch during a football game between the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the North Carolina Tar Heels on September 24, 2022, at Kenan Memorial Stadium in Chapel Hill, NC. (Photo by Charles Brock/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

LAS VEGAS — What happens in Vegas tonight will not stay in Vegas. Both Notre Dame (2-2) and No. 16 BYU (4-1) need a win this evening, perhaps an obvious statement but one that is intended to illustrate the swing-nature feeling of this tilt. The Irish could secure a three-game winning streak with their next two looking like blowouts, while the Cougars could make a strong case for a New Year’s Six bowl appearance in their final season of independence.

None of those thoughts are confined to the Strip.

TIME: 7:30 ET, otherwise known as 4:30 local time. Not to tell on anyone in Las Vegas, but it has already been established what happens here does not stay here, and that time change has cost a few East Coasters this weekend.

This scribe sat next to a Boston resident at dinner last night who figured, “I can eat when I land, it’ll be only 8 p.m.,” completely overlooking the reality that it would be 11 p.m. on his body clock, and his five-hour flight would not give him a chance to actually eat. Worry not, he got a nice plate of an enchilada and taco combination.

Then walking home from dinner, this scribe came across a couple friends who readily admitted, “If this was anywhere else, I’d be at home in bed.” It was 11 p.m. PT. These folks do not usually see 2 a.m. ET. It showed.

In other words, time zones are real.

TV: NBC will broadcast the 11th Shamrock Series tilt, while Peacock will also carry the game live if preferring to stream it. Notre Dame has never lost in the Shamrock Series, bouncing between Fenway Stadium, Yankee Stadium, Soldier Field and now Allegiant Stadium.

It could be pointed out it will be 91 degrees and sunny in Las Vegas at kickoff, but that is probably why the second-most expensive stadium in the world ($1.9 billion, behind only SoFi Stadium outside of Los Angeles at $5.5 billion) includes a dome.

When you turn on the game and see a team in white playing a team in black, do not change the channel. The Irish have always worn alternate uniforms in the Shamrock Series, and of course their reveal this year was well-received as a viral parody of “The Hangover.”

While some fans take umbrage that Notre Dame goes away from its traditional blue-and-gold outfits, the people actually wearing the uniforms have always relished them.

“As a player, I never had a chance to wear any other jersey than our normal home and away, but it’s something that players nowadays, our guys love it,” Irish head coach Marcus Freeman said on Monday. “They love to wear something new, something different. …

“I don’t think it truly affects the way they play, but if they look good and they feel good, I’m all for it.”

Then again, perhaps every word of that was a lie, considering at the start of that answer, borderline fashion icon Freeman had the audacity to suggest he does not know what “drip” is. His 6-year-old and 8-year-old had been bragging on their own drips at their flag football games during the Notre Dame idle weekend, to Freeman’s claimed confusion.

“I said, ‘What is drip, man?’” he said with an impressively straight face. “I don’t know, it’s a belief. In the Freeman kids, they feel like if they have drip or if they look better, they play better.”

PREVIEW: This is the third straight Shamrock Series against a ranked opponent, following No. 12 Syracuse at Yankee Stadium in 2018 and No. 18 Wisconsin at Soldier Field in 2021. Therein lies the true charm of these games.

Notre Dame has been somewhat lucky in these teams having such success, given the games are scheduled far in advance, but there is some matter of making your own fortune here. The Irish have not played six true road games since 2003. That is intentional, in two ways.

For one thing, playing seven home games or playing six while hosting a seventh at a neutral site helps Notre Dame’s bottom line. For another, there is an obvious competitive advantage in avoiding a sixth road game. Since the Shamrock Series began in 2009 (beating Washington State 40-14 in the Alamodome in San Antonio), the Irish have played as many as five true road games only five times in 14 years, counting this season. (These trends are helped by never playing at Annapolis when Navy hosts Notre Dame every other season, something that should change at least once someday, please.)

But counter to the competitive advantage, these neutral-site games better the Irish schedule in that the seventh team Notre Dame would get to play in South Bend would inevitably be a mid-major, simply due to the scheduling incongruity created by a seven/five home/road split. Instead of that, the Irish play teams like Arizona State, Maryland and Purdue. In the right years, those teams can be stout opponents. There is a degree of luck to which years they land on Notre Dame’s schedule, but they spend more time competitive than most MAC teams do.

“I’m sure there’s going to be a lot of BYU fans there, too,” Freeman said. “Enjoy the experience. That’s to me what makes Notre Dame unique. It’s a distinction that we have a home game in Las Vegas against a great opponent.”

Finding those great opponents has been a challenge for the Cougars since they joined the independent ranks in 2011. Of the 147 games since then, 52 have been against Power Five foes. No, BYU is not a Power Five program, but that has long been its goal. Going 24-28 against those Power Five opponents may be the perfect, layered on-field demonstration of that unachieved goal. Well, unachieved until next season.

PREDICTION: As the Vegas nightlife begins to wind down, Notre Dame remains a four-point favorite with a combined point total Over/Under available between 50.5 and 51.5, so for these purposes, call it 51.0. Quick math suggests a 27-24 Irish victory.

But perhaps not so fast.

First of all, Notre Dame has not scored 27 points against anyone this season except for North Carolina’s faltering defense.

Secondly, the Irish have made it a habit to give up quality possessions in both halves, setting a higher floor for opponents’ scoring output than Freeman would like.

“Defensively, we have to — there’s a series or two a half we’re letting teams go down and score,” he said. “It could be a big play. North Carolina, that first series of the game, it was quarterback scrambles.

“We have to get those little things fixed.”

Deep in there is actually a compliment to defensive coordinator Al Golden, that he makes in-game adjustments to slow whatever worked on those scoring drives, something Golden espoused as soon as he was hired, citing the absolute need for such quick coaching in the NFL.

But to the point, Freeman would rather not need to make those in-game adjustments or need to overcome outright lapses. If only that want were all that it took.

BYU will find its points. Its average of 34.4 has not been inflated against any FCS-level competition, and with two Power Five teams mixed in, there is enough legitimacy to that rate. Quarterback Jaren Hall rarely makes mistakes — 12 touchdowns compared to just one interception — while averaging 8.4 yards per pass attempt. Such should be expected from someone who was in the recruiting class of 2016. For context, Notre Dame signed Ian Book as its quarterback in that class, as in, someone who played five collegiate seasons and is now in his second year knocking around the NFL.

At the risk of being both overly blunt and far too obvious, the Irish do not have a quarterback with that experience. Junior Drew Pyne has quickly grown into his role as the starter, but he has not needed to lead Notre Dame late in a game with the pressure on. Until that is seen, it cannot be assumed in any quarterback.

With two teams otherwise evenly matched, the one with the far more experienced passer should be given some benefit of the doubt.

BYU 27, Notre Dame 24
(Spread: 2-2; Over/Under: 1-3; Straight-up: 3-1)

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