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Irish Insights


Notre Dame vs. Arizona State: What to watch for

Notre Dame will try to avoid its first two-game losing streak since it dropped the opening two games of the 2011 season when the Irish (3-2) play No. 22 Arizona State (3-1) at 7:30 tonight.

The game is in the Dallas Cowboys' AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, as the Irish play their fifth Shamrock Series game, which is a home contest that is moved to on off-site stadium each season. It is also a return to the state where the concept started.

Notre Dame played its first Shamrock Series game in San Antonio, Texas, in 2009. The Irish defeated Washington State 40-14 and have won each off-site game in the series.

Here are some things to look for today as Notre Dame tries to improve to 5-0 in the Shamrock Series:

Big men in the middle: Two of the best interior defensive linemen in the country will be on display tonight. Louis Nix III, the Irish's 6-foot-2, 357-pound nose guard, has 19 tackles, one tackle for loss and a pass breakup. Will Sutton, the Sun Devils' 6-1, 305-pound lineman, has 13 tackles, with 2 ½ for a loss, and a sack.

Can Notre Dame find balance on offense: The Irish finally got their running game going with 220 rushing yards in last week's loss to Oklahoma. It was the first time Notre Dame ran for more than 100 yards since the season opener against Temple. But quarterback Tommy Rees was held to 104 passing yards and threw three interceptions in the loss. Rees began the season with three straight games with more than 300 passing yards, but he has only averaged 124.5 passing yards in the last two games.

Can the Irish slow down the Sun Devils' offense: Arizona State likes to score quickly. The Sun Devils have scored in three minutes or less on 22 of their 28 scoring drives, and in last week's 62-41 win over USC, Arizona scored eight times on drives that lasted three minutes or less.

Graham factor: Arizona State coach Todd Graham led Tulsa to a 28-27 upset of Notre Dame in Brian Kelly's first season with the Irish in 2010. Graham's Pittsburgh team also gave Notre Dame all it could handle in a 15-12 Irish win in 2011.

Prediction: Arizona State 31, Notre Dame 24