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(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Brigham Young Cougars running back Jamaal Williams (21) celebrates a touchdown as BYU hosts Idaho State, college football at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo, Saturday November 16, 2013.
Analysis: BYU-Notre Dame position preview
First Published Nov 21 2013 11:38 pm • Last Updated Nov 22 2013 11:08 am

This game’s been circled on BYU’s schedule for a long time, one last chance to prove the Cougars are legitimate contenders. The Cougars travel to South Bend for a rematch from last season, taking on Notre Dame and chasing a marquee win to cap off a successful 2013. Notre Dame is a far different team than last year’s national championship squad, but the Irish are still formidable, especially at home. Before last week’s loss to Pittsburgh, Notre Dame was on a four game winning streak and had lost only to Michigan and Oklahoma. Will Taysom Hill and the Cougars be able to finish what they started last season before falling to the Irish 17-14? Or will Notre Dame take care of business at home? Here’s a position-by-position look at this week’s matchup and which team will have the edge heading into Saturday’s game:

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Quarterback

Taysom Hill had a rough game last week and looked like he regressed a bit after throwing three interceptions against a low level team in Idaho State. Hill also threw for his lowest yardage total, 153 yards, since week four against Middle Tennessee. Still, Hill has grown into his own as the season has gone on and is capable of turning in a big performance against Notre Dame with his dual threat ability. After a gritty showing of 19 of 41 completed passes for 207 yards, two touchowns and an interception against Wisconsin on the road, Hill has shown he can compete against marquee teams away from Provo and he should be more than capable of leading the Cougars against the Irish.

Senior Tommy Rees has never been fully embraced at Notre Dame and has lost and regained his job several times in his tenure with the Irish. However, he’s the man this weekend against BYU and has a chance to solidify a positive legacy with a good outing against the Cougars. Rees has struggled the last two weeks against Navy and Pittsburgh, tossing four touchdowns and four interceptions, but was great the two previous games, throwing seven touchdowns and zero interceptions against USC and Air Force. Overall, Rees has 2,504 yards, 24 touchdowns and 10 interceptions this season.

Edge: Even


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Running back

Jamaal Williams rolled last week and looked like he did at the beginning of the season: a tremendous compliment for Hill and a bruising back that excels rushing between the tackles. He averaged over 10 yards per carry against Idaho State, gashing the opposing team for 131 yards and three touchdowns. Hill had 62 rushing yards of his own and Adam Hine announced himself as an option to spell Williams with 141 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries. The Cougars will have their work cut out for them against a stout Notre Dame defensive line and will need Williams to have a good game to win this one.

Notre Dame’s rushing attack is split between the duo of George Atkinson III and Cam McDaniel. Atkinson led the Irish last week against Pitt with 57 yards on six carries, while McDaniel had only 22 yards on nine carries of his own. Atkinson has 512 yards rushing this season with three touchdowns, while McDaniel has 518 yards rushing and three touchdowns. However, neither averages more than 51 yards rushing per game and the Irish will rely on Rees as the top option to beat BYU with the running game as a complimentary option.

Edge: BYU

Pass Catchers

BYU’s wide receivers turned in an underwhelming performance against lowly Idaho State, catching only 12 passes for 157 yards. Skyler Ridley led the team with four receptions for 86 yards and a touchdown while Cody Hoffman disappointed with only two catches for 27 yards. Luckily for the Cougars, Hoffman showed he can perform under the bright lights after he caught seven passes for 113 yards and two touchdowns against Wisconsin. BYU will need a similar performance from him this weekend along with a solid showing from Ridley, Mathews or Apo to beat the Irish.

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