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