Notre Dame closes out the 2019 regular-season on Saturday night with a trip to Palo Alto – a place they haven’t won in a decade. The Irish take on a Stanford team whose season careened out of control and bottomed out with the Cardinal being eliminated from bowl eligibility last weekend. Notre Dame looks to add to Stanford’s misery while hopefully getting a monkey off their backs and reaching ten wins for the third season in a row. Will the Irish get it done?
What Worries Me This Week
The weather. We all saw just how bad of a gameplan Brian Kelly and Chip Long put together in the rain in Ann Arbor last month. It was dreadful. That isn’t a new thing for Brian Kelly coached teams at Notre Dame, either. Kelly has had more than his fair share of disappointments in bad weather games. Some light rain is in the forecast for tomorrow, so obviously I’m worried about the weather this week.
Now, it is just light rain, so it shouldn’t be totally detrimental to the Notre Dame passing game. In fact, sometimes, light rain can help the passing attack. Until I see Notre Dame handle poor weather conditions, though, it is something that will worry me.
Notre Dame’s interior defensive line. The only reason this one is here is because of the injuries that Notre Dame has started to sustain. Jayson Ademilola missed last week with an injury and then against Boston College, starter Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa left the game with an injury of his own. Lord Myron is supposed to be fine for this week, but depth on the inside could be stretched again if he reaggravates his injury tomorrow.
When Tagovailoa-Amosa left the game last week, freshman Hunter Spears ended up seeing some time as did sophomore Jamion Franklin. True freshman Jacob Lacey had perhaps the best game of his young career last week after seeing an uptick in playing time as well. They have the bodies to fill out the depth chart, but they could be very light on experience if MTA can’t play the whole game.
Notre Dame’s rushing attack. Notre Dame has not had much success running the ball with its running backs since early October when USC visited Notre Dame Stadium. They couldn’t do anything at all against Michigan, and since then, Ian Book has led Notre Dame in rushing each week. While that’s not necessarily a terrible thing since many of those runs have been designed runs (vs. scrambles), it’s also not ideal.
In a game that will feature some rain, having a strong running game is essential. Can Notre Dame get Tony Jones Jr, Jafar Armstrong, Jahmir Smith, or C’Bo Flemister going this week? Maybe, but I’m not convinced they will.
What Doesn’t Worry Me This Week
Notre Dame’s losing streak. A lot has been made of the fact that Notre Dame hasn’t won at Stanford since 2007 and that Brian Kelly has never won there. The thing is, no Notre Dame player has actually played in more than one game at Stanford, so it’s not as though the players themselves have experienced a lot of losing here. They are 0-1. That’s not terrible.
At this point, the streak is more in the heads of Notre Dame fans than it is the players who will be tasked with ending the streak tomorrow. I’m sure they’ve all heard about it over and over at this point, but it shouldn’t have an impact on the outcome tomorrow.
Stanford’s offense. Stanford will be without starting quarterback KJ Costello tomorrow, and even if they were to have them, this isn’t your older brother’s Stanford offense. The Cardinal are no longer a plodding, ball-control offense. They are throwing the ball more than they have in the past and are much more one-dimensional than we are used to seeing. This plays right into the strength of the Notre Dame defense – a unit that has had a resurgence following the collapse in Ann Arbor.
It would not surprise me if Stanford came out and scored early, but I don’t expect them to be able to sustain drives or put up a whole lot of points on Clark Lea‘s unit.
Notre Dame’s passing attack. With Paulson Adebo out with an injury this weekend, Stanford doesn’t have anyone who can cover Chase Claypool, and they certainly don’t have anyone who can keep up with Braden Lenzy. As long as there isn’t a downpour during the game, Notre Dame will have some very exploitable matchups in the passing game.
Ian Book had one of his better performances of 2018 at home against Stanford a year ago, and he should be able to continue his hot streak this weekend – again, assuming the weather conditions allow Notre Dame to throw the football.
Players I’m Watching This Week
- Isaiah Foskey – Brian Kelly hinted that he would either play a lot this weekend or in the bowl game since he can play in one more game and retain his redshirt. If it’s this weekend, he could play a lot in the sub-packages.
- Tony Jones Jr – He has not looked healthy since the USC game. Will he look better tomorrow? Hopefully because Notre Dame needs to find some sort of a running game.
- Braden Lenzy – Notre Dame is finding creative ways to utilize his speed. Stanford doesn’t have anyone who can keep up with him, so look for Notre Dame to try and get the ball in his hands in space again this week. Will Fuller had himself a day at Stanford in 2015, and Kevin Stepherson had some big plays in 2017. Lenzy could be the next Notre Dame speedster to have a big day in Palo Alto.
- Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa – Can he make it through the game coming off an injury?
- Shaun Crawford – In what could be his last regular-season game, it would be nice to see Crawford get his hands on turnover to help end the streak.
I would feel so much better about this game if it were sunny and 60 instead of rainy and 50 in Palo Alto tomorrow. I’d go so far as to say I would predict a Notre Dame blowout if it were going to be sunny out. Stanford is reeling, and even though they will play inspired football against Notre Dame because this IS their bowl game, they are injured and ripe for a blowout. The rain clouds that, though, since we haven’t seen this team play particularly well in the rain in a while.
I still think Notre Dame wins this one, but won’t cover the 16+ point spread. It will look like the Irish are on the verge of breaking the game open all game, but Stanford will just kind of hang around all game long.
Notre Dame 31, Stanford 17