Notre Dame is playing their best football at the best time. As we head into the regular-season finale, the Irish are an ascending team with their playoff hopes firmly alive, sitting at #6 in the current rankings. While some things still need to break Notre Dame’s way, a return to the playoffs looks very possible. Standing in their way is rival Stanford, who limps into this game, a shell of their recent former self and looking more and more like the doormat we all had grown accustomed to before Jim Harbaugh. Will the Irish be able to take advantage of another bad opponent and deliver a message to the committee?
What Worries Me This Week
Another Oregon performance from Stanford
The only thing that concerns me this week is Stanford channeling whatever they found against Oregon to upset the Ducks earlier this season again tonight. Otherwise, there isn’t much the Cardinal does that is worrisome. While Notre Dame is trending up, Stanford is trending down. Very, very down. Since upsetting Oregon, they’ve lost six straight games and have only scored 45 points in their last four games.
Stanford’s formerly stout defense has been a sieve the last month, giving up 52 points to Utah and then 41 last week to a very meh Cal team. Their vaunted rushing offense? Vanished Their leading rushing on the season, Nathaniel Peat has just 401 yards heading into tonight. You read that right. 401 yards.
This is by far the worst Stanford team that Brian Kelly has faced during this time at Notre Dame yet Stanford still somehow managed to beat Oregon this season. So, there is some talent on the Stanford roster.
What Doesn’t Worry Me This Week
Stanford’s lack of a pass rush
Stanford doesn’t blitz a whole lot, and when they do, they aren’t overly effective. Stephen Herron leads Stanford in sacks this season. He has 3.0 on the season. Rylie Mills had three sacks against Virginia for Notre Dame. The one way for Stanford to slow down the Irish offense is to pressure Jack Coan, and they have not shown the ability to do that to an opponent all season long. As a team, Stanford has 14.0 sacks on the season. Notre Dame has 37.0
If Stanford gives Coan time to pass tonight, the Irish offense should match up and down the field just like we saw a week ago against Georgia Tech.
Stanford’s running game
It wasn’t long ago that Stanford had a great running game procuring backs like Christian McCaffrey and Bryce Love. This Stanford team is not like that at all. I already mentioned how their leading rushing has just 401 yards on the season. Stanford would need to limit Notre Dame’s possessions and play some ball control offense to beat Notte Dame. They aren’t built to do that. They are a much more pass-happy offense than we’re used to seeing. Even with the injuries to the back end of the Irish defense, that shouldn’t concern Notre Dame fans this week.
Players to Watch This Week
Chris Tyree – We saw a little more of him last week, and this feels like the perfect time for the Tyree breakout game we’ve been waiting for all year after seeing him break off long run after long run in 2020.
Isaiah Foskey – He had his breakout game at the Farm in 2019 and should have another big night tonight unless Stanford doubles him every play as Virginia did.
Jordan Botelho – Jack Kiser should be available to play today, but we still might see more of Botelho at linebacker tonight.
Kyren Williams – This could be his final regular-season game in an Irish uniform. He needs just 72 yards to top 1000 yards on the season. He’ll have that by half-time.
Lorenzo Styles – It looked like Styles might be a focal point of the offense in the second half of the season, but it’s been a relatively quiet few weeks for the freshman. Maybe that changes tonight.
Jack Coan – Coan thrives when he has time to pass the ball, and Stanford rarely blitzes. That could make for a great night at the office for Coan in his final regular-season game with the Irish.
Ramon Henderson – After a breakout against Virginia, he had a quiet afternoon while the Irish shut down Georgia Tech. Playing in his home state, I think we’ll see more of him this week.
Stanford is a bad football team. We’ve covered this by this point. The only worry this week is if the Cardinal catches lightning in a bottle for a second time this season and takes down another top-10 team as they did Oregon. Well, lighting doesn’t strike twice. Notre Dame is playing great football right now, and they are just starting to peak. Last week was the most complete performance we’ve seen from Notre Dame all year long, and I expect them to build on it and look better this week. The Irish defense continues its streak of not allowing a touchdown and makes it a perfect November. Will another rout of a lousy team be enough to win over the playoff committee? Who knows. An 11 win season during a transition year should have every Notre Dame fan happy, though.
Notre Dame 45-9