Notre Dame vs. Stanford ’12: Key Matchups

Michigan Wolverines quarterback Denard Robinson (16) slips and falls as Notre Dame Fighting Irish linebacker Danny Spond (13) defends in the fourth quarter at Notre Dame Stadium. Notre Dame won 13-6. (Photo: Matt Cashore / USPRESSWIRE)

The Irish are 5-0 and find themselves ranked seventh in the AP and coaches polls after their 41-3 domination of Miami. The following matchups will be crucial for the Irish as College Gameday and the Stanford Cardinal visit South Bend.

Notre Dame Linebackers versus Stanford tight-ends

The much publicized key to the Stanford offense is their group of experienced and talented tight-ends. Stanford’s leading receiver is 6’6’’ tight-end Zach Ertz with 21 receptions for 316 yards and two touchdowns. The team’s second leading receiver is also a tight-end, in 6’8’’ senior Levine Toilolo, with 13 receptions for 278 yards and two touchdowns. The size of Stanford’s tight-ends presents matchup nightmares for opposing defenses, especially in the red-zone. The Irish possess the size at linebacker to battle the tight-ends in the run game and get off blocks, but the will need every bit of the improved pass coverage of Manti Te’o, as well as the steadiness of Dan Fox, and Danny Spond to limit the damage the tight-ends can do in the intermediate passing game.

Manti Te’o versus Stepfan Taylor

Manti Te’o is having a brilliant start to his senior season for the Irish. Te’o either leads or is tied for the team lead in tackles, interceptions, fumble recoveries, breakups, and pass deflections. However, Te’o will have to continue his quality play as he’ll find himself matched up against another talented running back in Stepfan Taylor. Taylor is Stanford’s leading rusher with 560 yards and five touchdowns, 483 yards more than the next closest player for the Cardinal. Taylor is a powerful runner and will attempt to wear down the Irish defense behind his big offensive line and tight-ends. Taylor has also chipped into the Cardinal pass game as he has tallied 82 yards receiving on 15 receptions.

Cierre Wood versus Chase Thomas

Cierre Wood announced his presence as the Irish’s number one running back in Saturday’s 41-3 victory over Miami. Wood rushed for 118 yards versus Miami and shouldered the brunt of the load with 18 carries. Woods output versus the Hurricanes was impressive, but he will face a much more stout rush defense this week versus Stanford. The Stanford defense is led by elite linebacker Chase Thomas. Thomas leads the Cardinal in tackles with 31 and is tied for the lead in tackles for loss with six. Thomas is a punishing hitter and will challenge Wood’s toughness on runs in between the tackles. It is critical for the Irish to establish Wood on outside runs early in order to make Thomas chase him in open space.

TJ Jones versus Wayne Lyons

With Stanford likely devoting their number one corner Barry Browning to the group effort that is shutting down Tyler Eifert, TJ Jones will see a lot of Wayne Lyons. The Irish must find someone to step up and replace the production of Eifert and in doing so free up space for the all-American tight-end to make plays. TJ Jones is the best option to fill that role for the Irish. Jones has the most starts this season among Irish receivers with three and is second on the team to Theo Riddick in receptions with 15. Lyons is a talented sophomore who has played in all five games for the Cardinal this season. He is a tall corner at 6’1’’ and has recorded 15 tackles this season. Jones is the Irish’s most game experienced receiver and will be relied upon to be in the right positions to make plays for the Irish with Eifert seeing extra attention.

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  1. The GAME will determine which way we go the rest of the season..
    This GAME will be the BIG FLAME that lights the rest of the way for us …GO ND BEAT the tree….

  2. I think that Kelly needs to spread this defense out. This defense has trouble playing in space. ND has the players to make match ups a nightmare in space. Standford has trouble and gives up lots of points against spread teams like Arizona and Oregon. There defense plays well when you have a traditional pro style offense like Washington and USC. I say spread them out a lot of wide receiver bubble screens. Also, two tight ends on the field so if Standford wants to go to a nickel or time you have big boy Niklaus out there pushing people around. I think the ND backs can cause a problem getting to the edge on this defense.

  3. EG will have to have his best game to date, with productive running especially.

    OL needs to be there

    Make sure CW has frequent touches

    Front 7 continue to build upon the success they are achieving and LB’s especially ready on pass coverage

    SOUND coaching decisions

    These Cardinal have had ND’s number the past couple of years. They are a good team, but, a BEATABLE team.

    Isee that tsunmai wave coming to wash out the Cardinal


  4. Two Keys.
    1. ND’s offensive line needs to step up against a good defense. They have dominated weaker defenses.
    1.a The coaches need to be patient with the running game. Let your line slug the defense for a while even if the initial gains are small. Pass when you need to but don’t abandon the run in the 1st half.

    2. Golson needs to step up and quit being nervous at home. Against Stanford, the Irish need Golson to be a dual threat. Rees may pass against the Cardinal, but without a run threat, they will successfully bring the heat just like they did against USC. Golson has to have most of the minutes and needs to be effective.

  5. THB-you were woefully in error about the Canes. I warned you but listen you did not. You are wrong again about ‘Death on Wheels.’ Toilolo is very good but he is not Eifert. The Celtic Lion is awake. Running is Stanford’s forte and you know what running gets you against the Irish…

    Go Irish! Hooah!

    1. Kudos Sad Warrior,

      It’s going to be a long day for Standford, if “death on wheels” and running the ball is all they have in their offensive armamentarium.

      Here come the Irish!

      1. JC-Thanks! Standford will be hanging tough; until they experience what the Canes garnered, exhaustion both mentally and physically. The idea is to defeat the opponent within and without. Sort of like the external/internal trenches. If I am robust and relentless I know my foe will crumble. I believe it and he will know it as well. That is where I see Coach Kelly has really tightened the ratchet.

        This will be a good game but I don’t see Standford going all ten rounds with the Irish.

        Go Irish! Hooah!

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