Heading into the bye week, Notre Dame took a few extra days to prepare for Utah, the highest-ranked team on a Notre Dame schedule since the Irish faced Pete Carroll’s 2008 USC Trojans, who were also ranked fifth in the country when they destroyed the Irish 38-3.
But Kyle Whittingham’s Utes got exposed in their match-up with the third-rated TCU Horned Frogs, getting absolutely destroyed 47-7, with TCU sprinting to a 20-0 lead after one quarter and a 40-0 fourth quarter lead, shocking the home crowd and the college football world with the surgical destruction of a Utah team that always seems to fare well in the big games. Maybe the best thing to happen to the Utes Saturday afternoon was the embarrassing lack of television coverage, with a lot of the country unable to even find the game on television.
It’s not hard to do the simple math. Notre Dame needs a win over either Utah or USC, along with a victory over Army in Yankee Stadium, to qualify for a bowl game. Thanks to TCU’s resounding win over Utah, Irish fans have to be feeling at least a little bit better about their chances than they did just 48 hours ago.
This week, we’ll try to figure out who this Utah team is. Are they the squad that had fought its way into a top five ranking or is it the squad that beat up on an absolute cream-puff schedule and finally ran into a team it couldn’t bowl over?
As we pointed out earlier, the Irish certainly won’t be walking into Saturday’s game with all hands on deck, and freshman quarterback Tommy Rees will be facing a much better defense than the one he faced against Tulsa. Still, this is the kind of game that Notre Dame brought Brian Kelly in to win. After watching Utah on Saturday, the Irish have to at least feel better about their chances.
Onward to Utah…