When the first betting lines for this weekend’s Notre Dame – Stanford contest came out, the line was even at most sports books. A few days later, the line has moved pretty heavily in Notre Dame’s direction making the Irish a three point favorite over Stanford despite a 2-4 record heading into what should have been one of the more anticipated games of the year.
In August, this weekend’s game would have been described as a showdown, a potential playoff eliminator with both teams in the top 10 and coming off New Year’s Six bowl games. Instead, Notre Dame has had a disastrous start to the 2016 season and is headed towards sitting home this holiday season unless they turn their season around immediately. Stanford meanwhile started the season with playoff hopes, but has had their doors completely blown off by the state of Washington with back to back blowout losses at the hands of Washington and Washington State.
No one saw these two teams coming into this mid-season contest with a combined 6 losses. At most, prognosticators thought the two might come in with two losses, but instead these two programs have tripled that total. Notre Dame has lost four close games to weak opponents, while the Cardinal have been embarrassed back to back weeks 44-6 two weeks ago to now #5 Washington and then 44-16 to unranked Washington State.
Complicating matters for Stanford, the Cardinal might be without star running back Christian McCaffrey. Even when healthy, however, McCaffrey was held under 50 yards in back to back games by the Washingtons. On the season he is averaging just 5.3 yards per carry in 2016 after averaging 6.1 a carry in 2015.
Notre Dame, of course, has its own host of problems. The Irish offense couldn’t get anything going last weekend when Brian Kelly inexplicably decided to throw the ball over and over again in driving rains and winds from Hurricane Matthews washing out their first ever trip to Raleigh, North Carolina.
Last year two points separated these two teams in Palo Alto when Notre Dame scored what looked like a potential game winning touchdown with 30 seconds remaining only to allow Stanford to march down the field in seconds to kick the game winning field goal.
The last time Stanford visited Notre Dame Stadium, the Irish used some heroics of their own when Everett Golson found Ben Koyack in the back of the endzone on fourth and goal in the games final seconds to give the Irish the victory. Stanford’s 2012 trip to South Bend ended in epic style as well with Notre Dame’s dramatic goal-line stand in overtime – perhaps the high water mark for the Brian Kelly Era – propelling the Irish to victory.
If this line holds, this will be the 6th time this year Notre Dame is favored despite its 2-4 record. The only time Notre Dame was not favored this season was last weekend in Raleigh against North Carolina State.