Notre Dame Football Primer: Stanford in Way of New Year’s 6 Bowl


The Irish are coming off their first one possession win in over a year. Overall it was a sloppy game against the Midshipmen this past weekend, but it was a win. Notre Dame looks to finish the season off with a win at Stanford Stadium, a place they haven’t won at since 2007. The game will take place in primetime on ABC and if the Irish win they will certainly make a New Year’s Six Bowl Game.

What you Need to Know:

  • Game Time: November 25th, 8:00 p.m. ET on ABC
  • Location: Stanford Stadium, Palo Alto, California
  • Matchup: Notre Dame is 18-12 all-time against Stanford (Last Meeting 2016; Stanford won 17 to 10)
  • Current Odds: Notre Dame -2.0

Game Day Weather:

[wunderground location=”Palo Alto, CA ” numdays=”5″ layout=”table-vertical”]

Stanford Details:

  • Conference: Pac-12
  • Head Coach: David Shaw
  • 2017 Record: 8-3
  • 2016 Record: 10-3

Stanford Storylines:

Potential Pac-12 Title Game. The Cardinal will advance to the Pac-12 Championship to play the USC Trojans if Washington beats Washington State. It would be their fourth time in the game since 2012. If the Cardinal do make it to the title game, the Irish may be able to claim wins against the best two teams in the Pac-12 (Stanford and USC).

Heisman Candidate Love headlines the Cardinal Offense. Bryce Love has rushed 195 times for 1,723 yards and 16 touchdowns. His carries average out to 8.8 yards per attempt. Stopping Love will be the key to the game against Stanford. The Irish must get the Cardinal Offense off the field and cannot lose the time of possession battle and hurt their own defense.

Uncertain Quarterback Situation. The Cardinal have been up and down at the quarterback position all season. The quarterback battle has been fairly even as Costello has a 60.7% completion percentage, and Keller Chryst has a 54.2% percentage. Last week K.J. Costello got the start and went 17 for 26 with 1 touchdown coupled with an interception. Costello’s running ability has also separated him, as he averages 5.9 yards per carry with 3 touchdowns.

Stanford reminds me of Michigan State and Navy to a certain degree. They like to run a slow methodical offense and play keep away from Notre Dame’s Offense. The Cardinal Offense is centered around the power run game, as usual. The Irish will need to have their best game in weeks to get their 10th win.

Notre Dame Storylines:

Can the Irish get 10 wins? Along with getting 10 wins, the Irish have been owned by Stanford over the last 8 meetings. During that time Stanford has won 6 of the 8 matchups. The only two Irish wins were on a goal-line stand (2012), and a 4th & long conversion (2014). In fact, Brian Kelly has never won a game at Stanford Stadium. The last Irish win against the Cardinal on the road was back in 2007. A win for the Irish and they are pretty much assured of a New Year’s 6 bowl invite.

Passing Game struggles to take flight. Again, the passing game got off to another slow start against the Midshipmen last weekend. Yes, it was a cold and rainy day, but this has been an issue all season. This is Brandon Wimbush’s first year as a starter, but do football fans really expect his accuracy to suddenly emerge against Michigan, nine months from now?  Accuracy is something that you either have or don’t have.

I believe Wimbush will get better, but it’s reasonable to wonder if he’ll ever be a 60%+ passer.   Notre Dame will not beat Stanford without Wimbush stepping up. The statistics do not lie. I love what Wimbush can do on the ground. He has 704 rushing yards to go along with 14 rushing touchdowns and has a 14/4 touchdown to interception ratio, believe it or not.  His completion percentage, however, is at 51% on the season. I don’t think the Irish will win this weekend or a major bowl game if that number isn’t at least close to 60% or above.

Team tiring down? Notre Dame has amped up the strength and conditioning efforts over the last calendar year, and I’m a big fan. But it appears that the Irish both Offensively and Defensively have begun to slow down the last several weeks. November is when the games count the most. This defense held Navy to only 17 points last week, but will be tested again this weekend. Does Notre Dame have enough stamina to outlast the Stanford Cardinal?

I think they will have just enough.

Head to Head Matchups:

Notre Dame Offense vs. Stanford Defense – Advantage Notre Dame. The Irish rushed for 163 yards against Navy, which is less than the norm. Nevertheless, their time of possession was limited to only 17 minutes. Conversely, Stanford will try to load the box and force Wimbush to pass. Only two teams have been able to do such a task (Georgia and Miami).

Only one team has scored over 30 points against the Cardinal Defense this entire year. Notre Dame needs to establish a running game to help Wimbush. I still believe with the big offensive line, Josh Adams, Wimbush’s rushing ability, and the emergence of Stepherson, Notre Dame has the advantage.

Stanford Offense vs. Notre Dame Defense – Tie- The Stanford Offense has been up and down all year. They scored 49 against Oregon, but only 17 points last weekend against California. The Irish Defense has struggled against mobile quarterbacks in recent games. Stanford’s quarterback, K.J. Costello presents a running ability, but not to the extent of Wake Forest or Miami.

Can Mike Elko find a way to contain Bryce Love and have this defense stop the run like they did last weekend against Navy? I think this matchup is 50/50 right down the middle.

Special Teams – Tie- Special Teams should play a major factor this weekend. Notre Dame Stanford games are almost always decided by one possession or less. Justin Yoon headlines the Irish kicking game with a 10 for 14 performance this season. Stanford’s kicker, Jet Toner, is 19 of 23 for the Cardinal.

Last week Chris Finke had his first mishap on punt returns, but overall has been reliable. CJ Sanders returns have been disappointing this year. He hasn’t gotten the Irish great field position as often as he has in the past, and I would’ve expected at least one return for a touchdown this year based on the last two years.  I will say he is overdue and returned a kickoff at Stanford two years ago.

My Prediction:

The Irish have not been impressive the last three weeks. Notre Dame’s Defense stepped up last weekend, albeit against the triple option which is hard to relate to a typical offense. Notre Dame faces a major challenge both defensively and offensively this week. Brandon Wimbush cannot be rattled by the big stage, which will not be as loud or bright as the Miami game.

It’s been a long time since the Irish won in Palo Alto and I believe the Cardinal always play their best game of the year against Notre Dame. However, I think the Irish will find a way to pull this game out with Kevin Stepherson emerging at the elite receiver, as I said he would be over a year ago. I think Wimbush can find just enough rhythm in the passing game to win this one for the Irish.

My Prediction: Notre Dame 27 Stanford 24


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  1. Here’s your options:

    Beat Stanford, then go to a New Year’s Day Bowl and get throat stomped again by a well-cached team with 3 weeks to figure out the few things ND does. eg. 8 in the box, and dare Wimbush to throw to Eq St. Brown with rotating corners. (and that did not take 3 weeks…)

    or lose to Stanford, perhaps badly, and being at least one L closer to Kelly being gone and this Groundhog Day of mediocrity being over.

    Take your time.

  2. Dr. Duranko, you take everything so literally. What’s a few degrees here and there. The hard facts as you are well aware is BK never winning in PA. Streak will continue , no matter the weather.

    1. Kelly, read my lips.

      Fools predict. Bigger fools pay attention.

      As part of your therapy why don’t you repost your prediction for Navy Temple? Then juxtapose that with the actual result.

      You suffer from a paired set of maladies. An excess of bluster and a lack of accountability.

      Your problems, not mine.

  3. After their showing the last few weeks, yes, I’m concerned about this game. I’m 50-50 right now. If the Irish can play like they did through NC State, absolutely they win. This Stanford team would not be able to compete with that ND team. If they play like they did against Miami and Navy, I think they will lose. Now I don’t think Stanford will blow out ND like Miami did. They don’t have the pieces in place for that. But if it becomes a grindfest, Stanford would likely have the edge.

    ND needs to come out hitting. Run the ball first this time. Set the tone, get some first downs. Get some success on the ground first. On defense make sure to tackle. Don’t let Stanford convert 3rd and longs. Those are killers.

  4. This is subjective, but I do not fear Stanford’s physicality as I did under Harbaugh.

    Their program is not as dominant in both trenches as they were when Harbaugh was there (and he had loaded the trenches-particularly on the defensive side with Trent Murphy and his army of clones)

    The only place they have a physical edge is at Safety, where they have a lot of kids the Irish tried for and failed to get.

    Yeah, sure, Kelly has never won in Palo Alto.

    But still………

  5. This game reminds so much of Thick blooded Irish team going west to 90 degrees and getting BURNED every which way. The Cardinal will speed by us every which way. But, We still may get that New Years game after all the good work earlier in the season.

    1. The game is played in “Palo Alto”

      Let weather. com be your friend. the high for Sat is expected to be 69, the low 56. Unless the Irish are still working some
      Oyster/Sage stuffing out of their stomachs it is not expected to be a sweatfest.

      And, yes, predictions of weather are not as foolhardy or dimwitted as predicting scores of games. You can look it up!!

  6. It all depends on which Stanford offense shows up. At times, it has been dominating, other times sluggish to put it mildly. Since Stanford has always given ND its best effort, especially at home, I have to make the Tree a slight favorite here.

    Chip Long better have his best play calling all season and stop trying to making Wimbush someone he is not – at least not yet this season. Misdirection and QB draws/perimeter runs will utilize Wimbush’s athleticism and build his confidence. If that happens, I like the Irish’s chances in Palo Alto.

    1. With tough, competent pass blocking we not only give BW time to look over the field confidently, he also gets extra time to let something open up for a Wimbush run…not as an evasive action, or a bail out, but as a choice he makes while looking downfield.

      Obviously we want to run the ball first (and hopefully, last). But I think that good solid pass blocking when we do pass could really hurt Stanford and help ND. Sometimes these guys have put out impenetrable pockets during their careers here. Other times they have not, including at certain times this year.

      BGC ’77 ’82

  7. A little perspective re: 2017 CFB season:
    Games played vs. current CFP top-25 teams (specific ranks)…As of November 15, 2017
    Notre Dame 5 (3, 7, 11, 17, 19, and as of next week @Stanford =6.)
 Auburn 4 (2, 7, 16, 20) 
Penn State 4 (9, 17, 23, 24)
 Georgia 3 (6, 8, 16)
 Ohio State 3 (4, 10, 17)
 Oklahoma 3 (9, 12, 13)
 Alabama 2 (16, 20)
 Clemson 2 (6, 19)
Miami 1 (8)
Wisconsin 0.
    Just win. Even if its barely – like ND vs. Navy. Or Alabama vs. Miss. St. Or Stanford beating Or. St., 15-14, soon after the Beavers’ coach bailed out on them mid-season. Or holding on last week vs. five win Cal. Just win, like Oklahoma State didn’t @ home vs. Kansas State last week, or like Penn State didn’t @ Mich. St., or Auburn didn’t @ LSU, Or Washington didn’t @ AZ. St., or @ Stanford. Or Stanford who didn’t @ San Diego. Just win, because on any given gameday, the higher ranked team doesn’t always win. Some even got blown away (see: Georgia vs. Auburn, and Ohio State vs. Iowa, with Urban Legend Meyer’s team at home. Or like two of the top rated : Oklahoma didn’t @ Iowa State, or Clemson didn’t vs. Syracuse. (That’s Syracuse without any semblance of Jim Brown or Floyd Little or the Elmira Express, Ernie Davis, in their backfield). Syracuse- blown out by Wake and Louisville the last two weeks, still with only four wins. That Syracuse team.
    Winning is good enough. The Irish finally won a close game this season, mainly because the rest of their wins WEREN’T even close! From here on out- just win. What’s to gain? 11 wins versus the most top rated teams on their schedule at season’s end.
    Now that would be impressive from a team that lost eight last year.

  8. Agree completely that they need to run the ball but I am a bit skeptical after what I have seen the last 2-3 weeks. I really, really want to be on the Josh Adams bandwagon but the Nav and Miami games have me wondering.

    Am I the only one who thinks he looks a little bit gun shy? He doesn’t seem to hit the line with much power. No question that when he is in the open field he is a force but what if he doesn’t get to the open field? Can he take the pounding?

    All the more reason, it seems to me, to use a stable of running backs. Keep them fresh and keep them pounding the line.

    Fingers crossed…

    Go Irish!!!!!

  9. Georgia, USC, and Miami are full of 5 star players. I don’t think Stanford has any 5 star players although their secondary is top notch. Stanford is also missing the great defensive front 7 they had for the past 7 years. ND should be able to run the ball but like you said, Wimbush is going to have to pass the ball to keep the running game going.

  10. Go Irish! I feel like it will be one of those slug fest type games. The score will prob be in teens or lower twenties. Dont let this chance to finish strong slip away Irish! The line needs to dominate this week an Wimbush needs to get those passes to come down some.

      1. Excellent point about coaching, “Slazar.”

        So long as you aren’t here to troll, welcome.

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