NOTRE DAME — Over the past four years, the Shamrock Series has become synonymous with unique, flashy and sometimes controversial Notre Dame alternate uniforms.
It has also has also been synonymous big wins for the home team. Since its inception in 2009, Notre Dame has won every Shamrock Series game by at least 24 points.
No. 22 Arizona State (3-1) looks to challenge that standard, bringing a potent, fast-paced offense that posted 62 points and 612 total yards on USC a week earlier. Meanwhile, Notre Dame (3-2) is looking to bounce back from a turnover-laden loss to Oklahoma and keep its BCS bowl game hopes alive.
What can the Irish expect from the Sun Devils?
Arizona st. OFFENSE
Arizona State’s high-scoring offense is helmed by second-year starter Taylor Kelly, who could very well be the best quarterback Notre Dame faces this year. Kelly finished the 2012 season in the top 10 in passing efficiency and is putting up 359 passing yards a game this year (good for seventh in the country).
Kelly isn’t a dual-threat in that he’s just as capable of throwing for 50 yards as he is for scrambling 50 yards, but Kelly is just athletic enough to sneak out a big gain here and there.
Kelly has developed a potent target in receiver Jaelen Strong, who has grabbed 31 passes for two touchdowns and an average of 108.2 receiving yards per game.
Running back Marion Grice presents the hybrid match-up that has plagued the Irish all year, and he will attack the Irish defense where it’s been most vulnerable: sideline to sideline. Grice had 256 rushing yards and 183 receiving yards for 12 touchdowns in September.
The Sun Devils score quickly and often. Against USC, Arizona State scored three touchdowns on scoring drives under 90 seconds long in the third quarter alone.
Arizona state DEFENSE
Where Notre Dame has Stephon Tuitt and Louis Nix, the Sun Devils have Will Sutton.
Like Tuitt and Nix, Sutton’s numbers don’t tell the full story. As a future high-round NFL draft pick, Sutton has drawn double-team coverage from opposing offensive lines, and he’s only managed 13 tackles and one sack on the year.
ASU’s biggest weakness may lie in its rush defense, which gave up an average of 240 ground yards against Wisconsin, Stanford and USC. Expect a big day from running back George Atkinson III, whose game might finally be clicking for the Irish.
If Tommy Rees continues to struggle, and if the offensive line can keep Sutton and the defense at bay, Atkinson and the stable of running backs behind him may be the key for an Irish victory.
For as many points as Arizona State scores, it’s also giving up 37.3 points per game against FBS opponents. Scoring on the Sun Devils shouldn’t be the issue, but outscoring them will be.
It’s been said before, but Notre Dame is built for boxing matches against Big Ten opponents, not shootouts against high-powered offenses in the Pac-12 and Big 12. The defense is still reeling from a production drop-off from last year, and Rees doesn’t have the talent or tools to keep pace.
At this point in the year Notre Dame is having so far, an opponent like Arizona State couldn’t have come at a worse time.
Arizona State’s weapons will be too much for the Irish to handle, and Notre Dame will roll into the bye week 3-3.
Arizona State 38, Notre Dame 35