The big question is if Utah can recover from their 40 point beat down last week against TCU. Utah is a 5.5 point favorite over Notre Dame and if Utah wins (as I think they should) they will walk away with a big chunk of change. Notre Dame was suppose to have a potent attack with Brian Kelly in town. He was to use is spread offense that he used at Central Michigan and Cincinnati with great success. This will be Utah's first road non-conference out of the state of Utah since they lost to Florida in 1977 38-29.
The Irish are not a very good team this year and are playing with a true freshman quarterback Tommy Rees who took over for Dayne Crist who is now out for the season. Rees came in during the Tulsa game and did throw four touchdown passes in a failed comeback attempt. Notre Dame is in a must win situation if they want to make it to a bowl game as they must win two of three game against Utah, Army and USC; good luck with that Domers.
TCU was able to expose Utah's secondary last week and that is something that Notre Dame might be able to take advantage of that with Michael Floyd, who is the Irish's best receiving threat. However the Irish offensive line better be up to the challenge in stopping Utah's pass rush in hopes to give the freshman Rees time to throw the ball. The Irish are middle of the pack in the nation in sacks allowed at 1.78 per game, where Utah is 20th in the nation and is getting to the quarterback 2.56 times per game. Those numbers include the zero sacks when the Utes played TCU. I expect Utah to want to come out swinging in this game and get to the quarterback at least two times while confusing the true freshman quarterback.
Notre Dame has been able to show signs of having a good offense, but the defense has had issues over the past few years and if Utah is able to get back to their pre-TCU game then Notre Dame will be in trouble. The Irish have been in a lot of shoot outs, that basically end with who has the ball last wins. The Irish defense do have one of the best linebackers in the country in Manti Te'o, the sophomore leads the team in tackles and will be counted upon to slow down the Utah rushing game. Beyond that, the Irish do not have any super star playmakers on the defensive side of the ball.
I expect Utah to win, but the real question will be how will they react in the first quarter. Will they come out like they have prior to facing TCU, or will there be some hesitation and a let down for getting their tail kicked in at home? Following the Utah program more by being in the area it would be safe to assume that Kyle Whittingham will have the team fired up. By playing a national name (regardless of how bad they are this year) like Notre Dame, should still pump up the Ute players.
There is one promising stat that might encourage Notre Dame fans, it is that first time opponents to South Bend are 11-55-1.