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Thursday, October 18, 2012
Notre Dame prediction: Week 8 vs. BYU

By Matt Fortuna

The battle of independent powers takes place Saturday in South Bend. Who emerges victorious?

When BYU has the ball: Quarterback Riley Nelson looks to be fully recovered after missing two games earlier this season with a back injury. He threw for 305 yards to go with one touchdown and three picks last week in a loss to Oregon State, and he connected with the 6-foot-4 Cody Hoffman 10 times for 102 yards. Keep an eye on that duo when the Cougars are on offense, but the question, as always, will be whether Notre Dame's pass rush can disrupt the rhythm. Or, in the case of this week's game, how much it can: BYU has started seven interior offensive linemen so far.

When Notre Dame has the ball: Quarterback Everett Golson (concussion) was cleared to return to practice Wednesday, and he will try to put the turnover bug behind him and build off his strong second half against Stanford. Like last week, he is facing a very strong defense that is looking for a bounce-back performance. The Cougars boast the No. 7 scoring defense in the country, led by linebacker Kyle Van Noy, who has 7.5 sacks through seven games. The Cougars have 22 sacks, and they will look to pressure Golson into mistakes one week after he fumbled it away three times.

Intangible: It's a trap! Or is it? Notre Dame just beat then-No. 17 Stanford. It travels to No. 9 Oklahoma next week. The Cougars come to town in between the two games, with the No. 5 Irish looking to avoid the fates of Florida State, West Virginia and the likes and not lose to an underdog. Fall break was this week too, so the players did not have to worry about classwork, though whether that means they're as locked in throughout the day as usual is for a professional psychologist to determine.

Prediction: Notre Dame 24, BYU 6. Call me a flip-flopper. I circled this one as a loss (one of four I predicted back in the summer, for those keeping track), but I just don't see it happening with the way the Irish have been playing so far.