ASU vs. Notre Dame: Texas-Sized Showdown Looms

Too often in sports, a healthy dose of hyperbole is needed to attract attention to contests that do not decide a national title or award a bowl crown.

Not this Saturday at AT&T Stadium.

The long-anticipated “Shamrock Series” match-up between Arizona State and Notre Dame, to be played in the luxurious setting of “Jerry’s World” in the Dallas suburb of Arlington, has taken on a life of its own for fans across the country.

Aside from the followers of both schools, college football watchers of all sorts will be eying this Texas-sized showdown, which pits the Eastern establishment Fighting Irish against the upstart Sun Devils from out West.

Some compelling stories loom in this game:

Notre Dame vs. the National Rankings:

While last weekend’s loss to the Oklahoma didn’t eliminate Notre Dame from BCS contention, head coach Brian Kelly and his squad are now faced with racking up seven consecutive victories in order to earn an invitation to a BCS bowl game. This is a tall order for the Fighting Irish, who have struggled with consistency on both offense and defense in the early stages of the 2013 season.

Sun Devil Defense vs. Irish Rushing:

Arizona State hasn’t exactly gained a reputation for stout rushing defense in the last year or two. They are currently giving up 193.00 yards per game, which ranks 93rd in the country.

To help plug the holes, ASU coach Todd Graham and his staff have moved senior linebacker Chris Young back to Spur, a linebacker/safety hybrid position where he played last season. Their goal is to improve perimeter rush defense without sacrificing on the interior, where opponents have had difficulty finding running lanes.

Irish Defense vs. Sun Devil Passing:

Notre Dames is ranked 58th nationally in pass efficiency defense and faces a major challenge from ASU quarterback Taylor Kelly and his arsenal of passing targets, including Jaelen Strong, Chris Coyle and D.J. Foster.

The Michigan Wolverines posted 41 points against Notre Dame in the second game of the season and Oklahoma’s offense accounted for 28 of the 35 points the Irish gave up last week. The Sooners amassed 450 total yards and 25 first downs, and quarterback Blake Bell completed 23 of 31 passes.

ASU Psyche vs. The Big Stage:

ASU Tight End Chris Coyle characterized the perils facing the Sun Devils in their latest “statement” game under the bright lights. In an article published on azcentral.com, he said, “We’ve got to have everybody buying in, nobody distracting anybody. Coach has made it completely clear that nobody is allowed to be messing around this trip. This is 100 percent business. We’ve got to go in there focused. Last time it was a big-time game, first road game, people were a little bit on their heels. We’re never going to let that happen again.”

Saints vs. Sinners:

Nobody is handing out halos or casting fire and brimstone at this point, but the contrasts in style between Notre Dame and Arizona State couldn’t be greater. The staid Irish from South Bend will take the field in saintly white attire, while the swashbuckling Sun Devils of Tempe will don sinister all-back uniforms topped off by flaming headgear.

For ASU and Notre Dame, judgment awaits.

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Tags: Arizona State Sun Devils Brian Kelly Football Notre Dame Todd Graham

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