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Matchups: Notre Dame vs. Washington State

Michael Bryan | Friday, October 30, 2009

NOTRE DAME PASSING

Jimmy Clausen and Golden Tate have been two of the best players in the nation regardless of position, and should lead the Notre Dame passing game to a huge day. Robby Parris appears to be out for the game so it will be interesting to see if another young receiver will take advantage of the opportunity.

The Irish also should have great protection against the pass rush, as the Cougars have just seven sacks all year. This should be a great recovery game for a pass blocking unit that struggled at times against USC and Boston College. With time to throw and weaknesses in the secondary, Clausen should have a field day.

Washington State’s pass defense is abysmal, allowing an average of 284 yards per game. The Cougars do have eight interceptions, but have been picked apart by quarterbacks far less talented than Clausen.

This should be a huge mismatch for the Irish, hopefully leading to some Dayne Crist throws in the second half.

Edge: Notre Dame

NOTRE DAME RUSHING

Despite nagging injuries Armando Allen ran the ball very well against Boston College and should be in for another big games in San Antonio. Robert Hughes also should be fine after taking a big hit to the head on a goal-line carry last weekend.

When healthy the running attack has been one of the biggest improvements of this Notre Dame team. The Cougars have given up 215 yards rushing per game, so there should be open running lanes for Allen and Hughes to run through. The Wildcat could be an effective changup but may not be necessary if the Irish offense is rolling.

Washington State’s top tacklers are all in their secondary, a familiar problem for the Irish. Even worse, the Cougars will have to be wary of play-action with weapons like Tate and Rudolph, and will not be able to help in run support.

The Cougars will have to choose to key on the run or pass, and the pass seems more like with Clausen under center. If that’s the case, it could be a career day for Allen and Hughes.

Edge: Notre Dame

NOTRE DAME SPECIAL TEAMS

As a freshman Nick Tausch has been everything most recent Irish kickers have not been — accurate and consistent. For the first time in the Weis era there is a dependable leg around to put three points on the board.

Ben Turk struggled against Boston College and Eric Maust should get some punts against the Cougars.

Theo Riddick and Barry Gallup continue to do a solid job returning kickoffs, and Golden Tate had a nice punt return against the Eagles.

Edge: Notre Dame

NOTRE DAME COACHING

Charlie Weis has the luxury of being able to lean heavily on the running or passing game against a porous Washington State defense. It will be interesting to see if Weis looks to establish the run early or spreads out the Cougars and puts up points quickly.

Jon Tenuta should be dialing up his usual set of blitzes against a Washington State offense that has struggled all season to put up points. Expect a few takeaways for the Irish.

Edge: Notre Dame

WASHINGTON STATE PASSING

True freshman Jeff Tuel will get the start at quarterback for Washington State over Marshall Lobbestael, who struggled early in the season. The Cougars have put up decent pass numbers, but much of that can be attributed to throwing the ball often while playing from behind. The two have combined to throw ten interceptions, and have not received much help from their offensive line. Washington State is dead last in the nation in sacks allowed per game, giving up 35 through seven games.

The Irish secondary is vulnerable though, giving up 380 yards through the air to Matt Barkley and USC and letting Boston College convert many long third downs. Communication errors have hurt this unit and Notre Dame has been unable to stop opponents on obvious passing downs.

The Irish defensive line has improved but has struggled getting pressure on passing downs without bringing extra blitzers. The secondary needs to tighten up its coverage against the Cougars.

Edge: Even

WASHINGTON STATE RUSHING

The Notre Dame defensive line has dramatically improved against the run over the last several games, effectively limiting strong rushing offenses in Boston College and USC. Younger players like Kapron Lewis-Moore, Manti Te’o, and Ethan Johnson appear much more comfortable against the run and getting into the right position.

On the other side, the Washington State rushing offense has been virtually nonexistent, averging just 72 yards per game. Redshirt sophomore Logwone Mitz will get the start in San Antonio, but Dwight Tardy should also play several series. The Cougars have not run the ball often since they’ve been trailing almost every game, but have only averaged 2.2 yards per carry when they have.

Darius Fleming and the linebacking corps have improved their tackling in recent games and relieved some of the pressure on the secondary to assist in run support.

Edge: Notre Dame

WASHINGTON STATE SPECIAL TEAMS

Nico Grasu has been an solid kicker for the Cougars, converting six of ten field goal attempts this season.

Punter Reid Forrest may be the best player on his team, averaging 43.8 yards per punt including 14 inside the opponents’ 20-yard-line. Forrest has been busy as the Cougars struggle moving the ball.

Jeffrey Solomon and the Washington State return game have been very average, and have not had any returns over 38 yards despite returning 36 kicks.

Edge: Notre Dame

WASHINGTON STATE COACHING

Paul Wulff and the Washington State staff have struggled mightily during his first two seasons, but at this point it’s hard to tell how much of that is the coaching versus the personnel. The Cougars have a number of upperclassmen starting and lack experience at most positions. The offensive gameplans have been limited by trailing every game and defensively the Cougars are giving up nearly 500 yards per game. Overall this is a struggling program trying to get back to respectability.

Edge: Notre Dame