Notre Dame will face its toughest test of the season Saturday when the Stanford Cardinal travel to Notre Dame Stadium. The Irish are coming off a lackluster performance in a victory over Syracuse where they turned the ball over five times while Stanford survived a road test versus Washington. The Cardinal promise to make it a physical game when they face the Irish as the PAC 12 squad feels they have an advantage in the trenches. Stanford has allowed only 26 points and two offensive touchdowns all season so the Irish will need to reverse that trend and put up points to emerge victorious. The following are the key matchups the Irish must control to beat Stanford:
Cody Riggs versus Ty Montgomery: Notre Dame’s number one corner Cody Riggs will need his best effort to shut down Stanford’s threat on the outside Ty Montgomery. Riggs has filled in admirably for the suspended KeiVarae Russell. Riggs has held up on an island often and leads the Irish in pass breakups. Montgomery has a team-high 26 receptions for 275 yards and three touchdowns and is also used on reverses in the run game. The Irish will also have to contain Montgomery in the return game as he is one of the best in the country at bringing back kicks.
Jaylon Smith versus Kevin Hogan: Jaylon Smith has performed week in and week out and will need an excellent game against Kevin Hogan and Stanford. Hogan will hand the ball off often but can run himself, especially on third down when he frequently keeps the ball on zone reads. Smith will need to stay disciplined to keep Hogan’s impact to a minimum. Smith can also pressure Hogan in the pass game and force him to make bad decisions, which will be magnified if the Irish can get Stanford in third and long.
Irish running backs versus Blake Martinez: The Irish need to establish their ability to run the ball and if they can do it this week it would go a long way to getting the victory. The trio of Cam McDaniel, Greg Bryant and Tarean Folston will see a lot of inside linebacker Blake Martinez. Martinez has a team-high 31 tackles for the Cardinal and is a classic physical inside linebacker. If the stable of Irish backs can impose their will on Martinez and the Stanford defense it would go a long way to controlling time of possession and an Irish victory.
Everett Golson versus Peter Kalambayi: Irish quarterback Everett Golson will need to protect the ball better this week versus Peter Kalambayi and the Cardinal. Kalambayi is a very dangerous pass rusher from his outside linebacker spot and has a nose for the football. If Golson is protected and can avoid Kalambayi he should be comfortable in the pocket and if he can break contain provided by the sophomore linebacker he could have a big day running the ball as well. Golson will need to take a measured approach versus the Cardinal defense however, as they can make him pay for carelessness.