Both teams conclude their 12-game regular season Saturday; Stanford enters No. 6 in the BCS at 10-1 while the Irish are 8-3, ranked #22 in the latest BCS standings. Below is a closer look at the teams, and at the history of the Notre Dame/Stanford series…by the numbers.
0 – Wins by Notre Dame over Stanford when the Irish entered the game as the underdog (1997, 1999, 2001, 2009, and 2010). The Cardinal was favored by 1, 5, 8, 10, and 4 points, respectively. Stanford enters Saturday's contest favored by 6.5 points over the Irish.
1 – Winning streak by Stanford over Notre Dame in series history. The Cardinal have won the last two meetings (45-38 and 37-14) after never taking two in a row from the Irish during a series that has been nearly continuous since 1988 (the lone break a two-season hiatus in 1995-96). The teams first met in 1924, again in 1942, then back-to-back meetings in 1963-64. Stanford won only the '63 matchup but won three of six between 1990 and 1997.
2 – Interceptions thrown by All-America QB Andrew Luck last season vs. Notre Dame, a 37-14 Stanford win. Luck has fired just one touchdown pass in two outings vs. the Irish (completing 34 of 53 throws) but guided the Cardinal to consecutive victories nonetheless.
3 – Meetings between the programs in which Stanford was ranked and Notre Dame was not. Under head coach Tyrone Willingham, the 19th ranked Cardinal hammered unranked Notre Dame 33-15 in 1997, then won a squeaker as the nation's 13th-ranked team in 2001, 17-13. Willingham finished 3-2 vs. the Irish.
No. 16 Stanford pounded unranked Notre Dame last season, 37-14.
4 – Touchdowns scored by Stanford fullback Tommy Vardell in a 36-31 upset of No. 1 and 17-point favorite Notre Dame in October 1990. The loss broke Notre Dame's 19-game home field winning streak; the Irish hadn't lost in the House that Rockne built since the season finale of 1986 (vs. eventual national champion, Penn State). The program's longest home winning streak since is a mere 10 straight, set during the Bob Davie era (October 1997- September 1999).
5 – National ranking of the Stanford rush defense entering Saturday's contest. The Cardinal have allowed just 93 yards per game through 11 outings. Stanford has, however, yielded 13 rushing scores while the Irish defense has surrendered just eight – only four FBS teams have allowed fewer rushing touchdowns than have the Irish.
6 – Consecutive scoring strikes by Stanford vs. No. 7 Notre Dame in October 1992, a 33-16 Cardinal upset in South Bend. Entering the contest as 12.5-point underdogs, the 19th ranked visitors fell behind 16-0 in the game's opening 20 minutes, but erupted for 33 straight points (touchdown, touchdown, touchdown, field goal, touchdown, field goal).
Said then Cardinal coach Bill Walsh of the victory, Stanford's second straight massive upset in South Bend (1990 noted above): "The last time, there was an excuse when Stanford beat Notre Dame here. This year, there is no excuse. We beat Notre Dame, pure and simple."
Notre Dame rebounded to win its next 17 games including wins over five top 10 foes. Stanford finished with 10 wins including a 24-3 humbling of Penn State in the Blockbuster Bowl.
7 – Consecutive wins by Notre Dame over Stanford from 2002 through 2008. The average margin of victory in the contests was a whopping 17 points, despite four matchups played to within an 8-point margin.
8 – Touchdowns scored by the 2003 Irish – led by former Stanford head coach Tyrone Willingham – in a 57-7 embarrassment of the Cardinal on Thanksgiving Saturday, 2003. A previously moribund Irish offense erupted for four rushing touchdowns (three by Ryan Grant), a pair of passing touchdowns and were augmented by a pair of fumble recovery touchdowns as well as a safety en route to the 50-point margin.
9 – Yards: marking the longest gain by a Stanford running back in 40 rushing attempts last September in South Bend. (Andrew Luck gained 11 yards on one of his four carries – tying the game's longest rush for either team). Stanford ran 44 times for 166 yards on the afternoon, a solid effort by the Irish front seven. It however paled in comparison to the Cardinal rush defense that bullied the Irish during a 23-rush, 44-yard fiasco.
10 – Combined touchdowns scored by the Irish and Cardinal offenses in Stanford's 45-38 Thanksgiving Saturday victory in 2009. The game was Charlie Weis' last as Irish head coach and vaulted Cardinal tailback Toby Gerhart into the thick of the Heisman race. The bruising ball-carrier finished with 205 rushing yards, three rushing scores, and a touchdown pass inside the Irish 10-yard line. Gerhart finished just 28 votes behind Heisman winner, Mark Ingram, the closest vote in the Trophy's history.
11 – Wins by a ranked Irish team over Stanford in 13 such matchups. Only the No. 1 ranked Irish of 1990 and the No. 7 ranked squad of 1992 dropped defeats to the Cardinal when entering the contest in the polls.
12 – …a possibility: With a win over Stanford and in its forthcoming bowl game, the 2011 Irish would become just the 12th team to win 10 or more games in a season in program history (11 contests became a possibility for the Irish in 1969 – the first that included the team's presence in a bowl game).
Bonus Stat: 17 – Consecutive regular season wins by Brian Kelly in November/December. Kelly has not lost a regular season November/December contest since November 17, 2007. His teams (Cincinnati and Notre Dame) have prevailed in 19 of their last 20 Nov/Dec. battles and in 20 of the last 22 late-season contests including bowl games. Including his final season at Central Michigan (2006), Kelly-coached teams have won 25 of 28 games played after Halloween.