The wait is over.
After nearly a 10-year hiatus, No. 16 BYU (4-1) and Notre Dame (2-2) will meet Saturday night under the lights of Las Vegas as the Cougars and Irish battle in the Shamrock Series at Allegiant Stadium, home of the NFL’s Las Vegas Raiders.
Both teams will be wearing unique uniforms with Notre Dame wearing white with gold, while BYU will wear its black out uniforms with a new black and royal blue gradient helmet.
Date: Saturday, October 8
Time: 5:30 p.m. MT
Announcers: Jac Collinsworth (play-by-play), Jason Garrett (analyst),
Zora Stephenson (sideline)
Location: Allegiant Stadium (65,000)— Las Vegas, Nevada
No. 10 Notre Dame 42, BYU 16 (Oct. 24, 1992)
No. 3 Notre Dame 45, BYU 20 (Oct. 16, 1993)
BYU 21, No. 17 Notre Dame 14 (Oct. 15, 1994)
Notre Dame 33, BYU 14 (Nov. 15, 2003)
BYU 20, Notre Dame 17 (Sept. 4, 2004)
No. 9 Notre Dame 49, BYU 23 (Oct. 22, 2005)
No. 5 Notre Dame 17, BYU 14 (Oct. 20, 2012)
Notre Dame 23, BYU 13 (Nov. 23, 2013)
The Spread: Notre Dame -3.5
Money Line: Notre Dame -175, BYU +145
When betting lines first opened, Notre Dame was a one-point favorite. That has held grown throughout the week as the Fighting Irish are now 3.5 favorites — despite BYU being the higher ranked team coming in. The over/under has stayed relatively the same and currently stands at 51. In regards to the money line, oddsmakers are favoring Notre Dame at -175. The money line simply involves picking the winning team. With Notre Dame at -175, those picking the Fighting Irish would have to risk $175 to win $100. However, for those picking BYU, one would win $145 for his/her $100 wager.
SP+, a predictive analytics tool created by ESPN’s Bill Connelly, has Notre Dame beating BYU 28-26. Bill gives BYU a 44% chance of beating the Irish, although this is higher than what ESPN’s Football Power Index is giving the Cougars. As of right now, the FPI gives BYU just a 30.1% chance of beating Notre Dame. For an in-depth look at ESPN’s FPI predictions for BYU this year, and how accurate/bad it’s been over the years, click here.
Coming into the season, this game looked like a Top 20 showdown between both programs as The Fighting Irish were ranked No. 5 in the AP preseason poll, and BYU checking in at No. 25.
However, as it is every year in college football, there are plenty of upsets and that’s exactly what happened to Notre Dame as the Fighting Irish lost to both No. 2 Ohio State (21-10) and an embarrassing home loss to Marshall (26-21) to start the season. The team was able to bounce back as they took down Cal (24-17) and North Carolina (45-32) before last weeks bye week.
For BYU, the program is 4-1 and ranked 16th in the nation thanks to a win over then-No. 9 Baylor in the home opener. The Cougars followed it up with a disappointing loss to Oregon (41-20) but have also bounced back with two consecutive wins. BYU has done so despite missing two of their biggest stars (Gunner Romney and Puka Nacua) on offense for most of the year.
Luckily for players, coaches and fans, BYU’s injury report lightened up this week with a number of players listed as probable this week. Of those, the biggest names are Nacua and running back Miles Davis, who has turned into BYU’s featured back.
Yet, despite the good news on the injury front and a team full of experience — bringing back 18 total starters — and with a better record and rankings, the Cougars are still 3.5 point underdogs on Saturday. At the same time, BYU has thrived in the underdog role under Kalani Sitake and the team is certainly well aware of what the experts think will happen.
“I like the underdog mentality all the time,” Sitake said. “No matter what the situation is, we know we’re going against a great team. Notre Dame hasn’t played their best football yet. … But we haven’t played our best either.”
BYU will be led by dual-threat quarterback Jaren Hall, who ranks 21st nationally with 300 yards of total offense per game. The 6-foot-1, 205 pound junior has thrown for more than 250 yards in 11 of his last 12 games and has had an excellent start to the season with 12 touchdowns to just one interception.
For Notre Dane, Fighting Irish counter with Drew Pyne, who has settled in as the starter after Tyler Buchner went down with a season-ending shoulder injury. Pyne had career-bests in Notre Dame’s 45-32 win at North Carolina last month with 289 yards passing and three touchdowns.
“It’s been really good to see him (Drew) make really good decisions, and that’s the most important thing at the quarterback position, gotta make the right decisions,” Freeman said. “He’s also limiting his turnovers and he’s taking care of the football. Lastly, he’s starting to make a lot of plays, so it’s good to see him in that growth and that part of our offense and guys stepping up.”
While the Irish offense has been hit and miss so far this season, the defense has been rock solid all year. The team averages 3.25 sacks per game, 12th best in the nation. The Irish have 13 sacks in four games, with nine different players recording at least a half sack. Isaiah Foskey leads all Irish players with three sacks this season.
BYU’s strength is its pass protection, while Notre Dame’s strength is pressuring the quarterback and getting tackles for loss. It’s going to be a heavyweight fight and I can’t wait to see which side wins.
Prediction: Notre Dame 30, BYU 27
The Cougars are no strangers to Las Vegas as the team is 13-4, including a victory in Allegiant Stadium in last year’s inaugural Las Vegas Kickoff Classic. The Cougars are also 4-2 in NFL Stadiums under Kalani Sitake.
At the same time, the Cougars have never really played well against Notre Dame as the Irish lead the overall series 6-2. BYU’s two wins have been by slim margins as well.
At the end of the day, it comes down to BYU’s ability to stop the run. The Cougars run defense has been poor all season — currently ranking 93rd in the nation and giving up more than 162 yards on the ground. Notre Dame has good running game with Audric Estime and Chris Tyree having the potential to go off at any time. Considering how Utah State and Wyoming ran on BYU the last two weeks, it could be a long night for the defense if they don’t load the box and force the Irish to beat them in the air.
At the same time, BYU tends to play to the level of their competition. If the defense that showed up against Baylor shows up against Notre Dame, the Cougars should have no problem walking out with another win at Allegiant Stadium. And if the Cougar offense can get out to a quick start — they haven’t since the opening win over USF — that will go a long way in helping out the defense in what should be a fun and thrilling game in Vegas!
National Media Predictions
Ralph D. Russo (AP): BYU 27, Notre Dame 24
Stewart Mandel (The Athletic): BYU 24, Notre Dame 20
Will Backus (247 Sports): BYU 20, Notre Dame 17
Pete Fiutak (College Football News) BYU 27, Notre Dame 23
Bill Connelly (ESPN): Notre Dame 28, BYU 26
Bruce Feldman of (The Athletic): Notre Dame 27, BYU 23
Predictions (No Scores Given)
Dennis Dodd (CBS Sports): BYU > Notre Dame
Jerry Palm (CBS Sports): BYU > Notre Dame
Tom Fornelli (CBS Sports): Notre Dame > BYU
Barrett Sallee (CBS Sports): Notre Dame > BYU
Steven LAssan, Mark Ross, Ben Weinrib (Athlon Sports): Notre Dame > BYU
Bill Bender (Sporting News): Baylor 30, BYU 26