Some would argue that the Arizona State Sun Devils are about to play their highest-profile game since the 1997 Rose Bowl.
ASU will travel to Arlington, TX to take on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at AT&T Stadium in the fifth annual Shamrock Series game. The game will be televised nationally on NBC.
One prominent college football expert thinks this is not only a game that Arizona State could win, but one they should win.
“I think it’s really important for ASU to win this game because Notre Dame is not as good as I thought they would be,” SI’s Stewart Mandel told Burns and Gambo Tuesday on Arizona Sports 620.
Mandel went on to diagnose exactly what he thinks the Irish are missing from the 2012 team that played Alabama for the BCS National Championship.
“That defense misses Manti Te’o a great deal because the front line is virtually the same and they’re just not that suffocating defense that they were last year,” Mandel said.
Notre Dame ranked seventh in the nation in total defense last season, allowing just 305.4 yards per game, but has struggled in that same category this season, ranking 46th and allowing 364 yards per contest. The Irish held nine of 13 opponents to 14 points or less last season; this season, three of five opponents have scored 24 or more.
But Notre Dame is missing parts on offense as well. Everett Golson, last year’s starter at quarterback, is not on the roster, having been suspended for the season for academic reasons. His replacement, senior Tommy Rees, has struggled.
“Because they had Tommy Rees as an experienced guy, I didn’t think there would be that big of a drop-off at the position,” Mandel said. “But Tommy Rees continues to make the same mistakes he has at other times in his career. He’s not a high-completion quarterback.”
Rees threw three first-half interceptions — one of which was returned for a touchdown — in Notre Dame’s 35-21 loss to Oklahoma last week. The quarterback has thrown five picks on the season.
“(Notre Dame) has got NFL guys on their defensive line and their offensive line, for that matter, but I’m not seeing it out on the field,” Mandel stated. “And what I’ve seen from ASU is an extremely explosive offense and a quarterback who certainly knows what he’s doing.
“This is a game they should win.”