Wash St at ND Preview
South Bend, IN - A victory in another nerve-racking finish has Notre Dame back in the rankings after a one-week hiatus, but the No. 25 Fighting Irish certainly don't expect to need a fourth-quarter comeback to win this week.
Coach Charlie Weis' team will try to inch closer to a possible BCS bowl bid when it faces lowly Washington State on Saturday night at the Alamodome in San Antonio.
Oddsmakers from online sports book SBGGLOBAL.com have made Notre Dame -28 point spread favorites (View College Football odds) for Saturday’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 51% of bets for this game have been placed on Notre Dame -28 (View College Football bet percentages).
Notre Dame's last six games were decided by a touchdown or less, having earned its fourth win in that stretch by beating Boston College 20-16 at home last Saturday.
The Irish (5-2) needed Jimmy Clausen's go-ahead 36-yard touchdown pass to Golden Tate with 8:12 to go, then a pair of interceptions in the closing minutes to seal the victory.
Their previous three victories - over Michigan State, Purdue and Washington - were all decided by late go-ahead touchdowns, but Notre Dame came up short on a late goal-to-go situation in a 34-27 loss to Southern California on Oct. 17.
"Coach Weis says he's getting old and tired of it, but I'm getting old and tired of it, too," Clausen said. "We are going to keep trying as much as we can to do during the week to get better, get prepared better and go out and not have these close games any more."
They'd certainly be disappointed with anything but a lopsided win over Washington State, which is 3-17 since the beginning of last season. The Cougars' porous defense has allowed an average of 41.5 points in that stretch.
Weis said he's not worried about his team looking past the Cougars, pointing primarily to the fact this will be Notre Dame's first matchup in a series of home games played outside South Bend. The team also plans to host games in Florida and New York in upcoming seasons.
"If 60,000 people are there and 55,000 are rooting for Notre Dame, I think that will be a huge home-field advantage for them," Washington State coach Paul Wulff said. "I'm assuming that is what it is going to be."
Weis also cited as motivation the team's many Texas natives, as well as the impending urgency regarding Notre Dame's status nationally. With victories in their final five games, the Irish could still earn a berth to a BCS bowl.
"We're at the stage of the year now where if we want to do something special this year, we really need to get better all across the board," Weis said.
Washington State gave up three first-quarter touchdown passes to California's Kevin Riley in last Saturday's 49-17 loss, meaning Clausen should have plenty of opportunities this week.
The junior is one of 13 players nationally with more than 2,000 passing yards, and he has thrown 16 touchdown passes - including eight to Tate - compared to two interceptions.
The bigger concern for the Irish is a defense that has allowed more than 400 yards per game. BC had 349, but Notre Dame forced five turnovers and held its opponent under 20 points for the first time since a season-opening 35-0 win over Nevada.
The emerging presence of freshman linebacker Manti Te'o has helped, as the Hawaiian has averaged a team-best nine tackles since his first start three games ago.
"I think at the beginning of the year we had a whole bunch of problems," Weis said. "... Slowly but surely we're starting to solve some of these problems."
Washington State (1-6) may help with Notre Dame's defensive issues. With an average of 72.6 rushing yards, the Cougars' ground game ranks 116th out of 120 Bowl Subdivision teams.
The last two weeks, Washington State has combined for one rushing yard, although freshman quarterback Jeff Tuel had his best statistical game of the season against Cal, going 28 for 42 for 354 yards and two touchdowns without an interception.
The Cougars continued to have problems with protection, however, as Tuel was sacked five times. They gave up 12 sacks in a 27-14 home loss to Arizona State on Oct. 10.
The Irish, who are 14-0 all-time on Halloween, beat Washington State 29-26 in overtime at Notre Dame Stadium in the teams' only previous meeting Sept. 6, 2003.
Posted: 10/27/09 8:25PM ET