BYU (4-3) travels to No. 5 Notre Dame (6-0) this weekend to play a top 10 team for the second consecutive week.
Much of the talk around Provo for the 2012 football season has been focused around the emergence of a strong BYU defense that ranks third in the nation against the run and fifth in total defense.
The top five defensive ranking is certainly impressive, but when Riley Nelson and the BYU offense take the field in South Bend Saturday afternoon, there will be another formidable defense facing them that hasn’t given up a touchdown since week two.
And for those wondering if Notre Dame has shut-down cupcake opponents in that stretch of four games without surrendering a touchdown, they took down No. 10 Michigan State, No. 18 Michigan, Miami, and No. 17 Stanford.
Wins over three ranked opponents is the most for any team in the country so far this season.
The Notre Dame Fighting Irish are redefining the “Fighting Irish” name this year after years of underachieving under former coaches Tyrone Willingham (2002-2004) and Charlie Weis (2005-2009). Once a dominant team since the 1960’s and into the early 2000’s, the Irish enjoyed a long, storied history with the likes of legendary figures quarterback Joe Montana, wide receiver Tim Brown and coach Lou Holtz.
The Fighting Irish, however, have not been ranked in the final Associated Press rankings since Brady Quinn led the team in 2006, their longest stretch since the six years of not being ranked from 1981 to 1986.
In comparison, the Cougars have finished ranked in five of the last six seasons and a win against the Fighting Irish will go a long way in improving their chances of finishing this season in the final rankings. BYU finished ranked in 2008 and 2011 when it had three losses.
“We still have a lot of pride and we still know what we are capable of and we know what we have to do to get better,” BYU defensive back Preston Hadley said in a news conference after the loss to Oregon State.
The Cougars have played tough in every game this season and despite some unfortunate plays that have cost a couple of games for the Cougars, they are confident and preparing for a battle against Notre Dame.
“It’s going to be a new week, and we’re a new team,” Hadley said. “Each week the goal is to go 1–0 and we’re just going to prepare and train like crazy and get ready for (Notre Dame) and bring the fight to them.”
The last time BYU played a top 5 team was in 2010 when BYU lost 31–3 at No.4 TCU.
The last time BYU has beaten a top 5 team was in 2009 when Max Hall led a late scoring drive to beat No. 3 Oklahoma in Dallas 14–13.
Max Hall returned to BYU this year to help coach the quarterbacks. Here’s to BYU fans hoping to see if Hall is able to impart some of his magic to the team when they travel to South Bend for the 3:30 p.m. ET kickoff on NBC.