Notre Dame's Everett Golson is having one of the best seasons by a quarterback in the school's storied history, and Arizona State coach Todd Graham knows stopping him is a must when the teams meet Saturday night in Tempe.
The contest is one of the biggest of the weekend, matching the teams ranked ninth (Arizona State) and 10th in this week's College Football Playoff selection committee rankings.
Golson (6-foot-0, 200 pounds) has thrown for 2,311 yards and 22 touchdowns, and also has rushed for 275 yards and seven TDs. He is coming off one of the best games in his career, a 49-39 win over Navy in which he became the first player in school history to both run and pass for three touchdowns.
"He is a really good quarterback," Graham said Monday during his weekly news conference. "The way he extends plays is the main issue he presents. He is accurate throwing the football and he has a strong arm. He has got a lot of confidence as well. ... He is the key to their whole offense and he is what makes it work. We must do a great job of containing him."
That has proved tough to do. Golson is 11th nationally in total offense, at 323.2 yards per game. He has thrown for 300 yards and three touchdowns in three consecutive games.
His 22 touchdown passes already rank sixth in Notre Dame single-season history; he is on a pace to throw 36, which would be one short of the single-season record held by Brady Quinn (2006). He is averaging 288.9 passing yards per game, which puts him on a pace for 3,755 yards; that would rank second in school history behind Quinn's 3,919 in 2005.
Golson has been compared to Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson for a variety of reasons. Wilson generally is well-regarded for his leadership qualities, and Irish coach Brian Kelly talked about Golson's leadership abilities at his weekly Tuesday news conference.
"He definitely has felt like this is his offense, and it falls on his shoulders to make sure that we don't lose another football game," Kelly said. " ... I think you're just seeing a guy that's just maturing and getting better each and every week."