Tim O'Malley – Managing EditorA full game preview is forthcoming:
Whether you give Brian Kelly and his staff an A, B, or C grade for their efforts through 24 games, its Game 25 that will leave a lasting impression. Stanford is the best team Notre Dame has faced this season, and the second best team over the entire lot of the Kelly era (behind the Harbaugh-driven 2010 version of the Cardinal).
I have two thoughts: Notre Dame in a close one, with the game played in the mid-20s, or Stanford pulling away late because of a crucial Irish era and one too many short field encountered by Bob Diaco's defense. I fear it'll be the latter…
Stanford 33 Notre Dame 24
Brian Dohn – Recruiting ReporterThis will be Notre Dame's biggest challenge since the loss to USC, and it is a huge challenge. Stanford is physical and multi-dimensional offensively. Cardinal quarterback Andrew Luck is the best pure passer in the nation and has plenty of skills players to help his cause. The Irish should be able to hang with Stanford for a while, but the Cardinal will prevail with a strong fourth quarter.
Stanford 27 Notre Dame 17
Dave Berk – Recruiting AnalystNotre Dame enters its battle with Stanford with nothing to lose. Look for Brian Kelly to throw several new wrinkles into the offensive attack knowing he'll be without running back Jonas Gray.
Many of the Irish making the trip remember last year's 37-14 embarrassment. It is now payback time and Brian Kelly is due to get his big win of this season. In the past, Kelly has always done well on the west coast and for these reasons I'm going with the upset and picking Notre Dame to win 28-24.
Christian Zavisca – Staff WriterThere was a short completion to a tight end in Saturday's game against Boston College, a pedestrian route in which Notre Dame's defending linebacker looked completely lost in coverage, that made be think about the next game.
Moments like that make you really wonder about Notre Dame's ability to defend Andrew Luck and the Stanford Cardinal on the road.
And Notre Dame's struggles offensively last week make you wonder about their ability to outscore the Cardinal in a shootout.
One way or another, this week's game will crowd out memories of every contest since USC. What we'll remember is how the Irish perform on the road, against a top 10 team, in the final regular season game of 2011.
Stanford is beatable. USC, and finally Oregon, showed that. Can Notre Dame make a statement?
Can Notre Dame pound Stanford in the running game without Jonas Gray?
Can Tommy Rees find holes in the defense?
Can the special teams hold up?
Most importantly, can Notre Dame contain Luck?
I think the Irish will come close, but ultimately fall short. I'd love to be proven wrong.
Stanford 31 Notre Dame 30
BNolan (Moderator)On the heels of yet another underwhelming (yes, I know ND won) performance and ugly win over a bad team... which ND team shows up this Saturday?
Stanford is very talented, and more balanced in their talent than ND. Not invincible by any means, but only a flawless ND performance, and probably even some luck (pun intended), will be necessary to win against the Tree. If it is another turnover/penalty fest, it will simply get ugly. Possibly very ugly.
Having lost Jonas will certainly hurt, as it makes an already simple to defend offense even more so. If Kelly tries to run and gets stonewalled, and then goes into his default 'throw-throw-throw' mode, it will just up the likelihood of interceptions as the Stanford D will choke the line and short throwing lanes.
If ND can run enough to keep Stanford at least a little unsettled up close, and Rees doesn't give up any gifts, and the line blocks, and the receivers don't drop balls, and the D contains (big job) Luck and what will likely be an all out assault on our outside LB's and DB's, and...we don't make dumb mental mistakes and costly penalties...
But still: ND 17 Stanford 37
SeattleNDFan (Moderator)Stanford comes into a situation where their only chance to leap back into BCS championship contention was to meet and beat a highly ranked Notre Dame team. Unfortunately, the team which will roll into Palo Alto Saturday night will instead be arguably three plays away from having the ranking Stanford needs us to have to help them out, so in an odd way Notre Dame has already played spoiler to the Cardinal's chances.
Stanford's strength is up front on their lines with two bona fide NFL draft picks in their offensive line in right guard David DeCastro and left tackle Jonathan Martin and on defense with all three down linemen in Stanford's 3-4 defense of all-Pac 12 caliber despite two new starters compared to veteran DE Matt Masifilo. However, Notre Dame has the offensive line to match up with this crew and Stanford's linebackers have been without their best player, Shane Skov, since early in the season (knee).
ND should be able to move the ball both on the ground and through the air as long as the QB can make the reads quickly -- last year there were open receivers all over the field against the Cardinal secondary, which were for some reason simply not thrown to. Stanford's depth is not its strength, so if ever there was a game to break out the up-tempo offense and wear down the Cardinal defense, this is it.
The best defense against Andrew Luck and his bevy of tight ends is to keep them on the bench with ND's offense eating up clock. Once Stanford does have the ball, they will run the ball to set up play action to their tight ends and to WR Griff Whalen, who is Stanford's answer to Roby Toma in more than one sense, including the implication that they have no true deep threat at WR with Chris Owusu out with concussion symptoms. Because their tight ends play right into ND's weakness covering the middle zones, expect Stanford to score and to move the ball consistently converting third downs after their running game gets them into third and short time and again.
The key to this game is whether ND can score on Stanford, because Stanford will score on ND. If so, this will be a close game within a touchdown at the midpoint of the fourth quarter. If on the other hand ND's offense runs a series of three and outs as they did last year against this team, it will be a runaway for the Trees. ND's injuries don't help the cause, but Stanford has just as many to just as many key players, and believe it or not, ND has the superior depth this season.
Notre Dame 27 Stanford 24
Morrissey79 (Moderator)I've been miserable at predicting the Irish this season. Going on the road, in a national televised game, for the #1 draft pick's final home game and chance to win the Heisman spells disaster. Especially when you consider ND could be missing a starting WR, Center, and 2 DEs.
However, I think the Irish will hang here, and will bend on D but not break and hold Stanford to 3 field goals.
But a crucial turnover by the Irish offense will prevent the upset.
Stanford 30 Notre Dame 21
GaviND (Moderator)This weekend's game with Stanford is, for the 2011 Notre Dame football team, the measuring stick by which their growth this season will and should be judged by – and a challenging game it will be.
Tommy Rees remains the X-factor for the 2011 Irish and what the offense can expect from him this weekend remains a mystery, however if he continues the process of playing very well every other week, the Irish have a shot.
In my opinion, this game will be determined by the Notre Dame linebackers corp. If they are able to drop back into coverage and defend the pass – something they have struggled with all year – the Irish have a shot this weekend; however my fear that more struggles are on the horizon and Luck and company will have a field day through the air.
I think the Irish keep it competitive -- something that's essential this weekend -- but Stanford ultimately has a little too much Luck on their side.
Stanford 38 ND 31
KurzND (Moderator)Last year Stanford whipped ND in all phases of the game. Stanford is again a dangerous team. However both Stanford and ND are coming into the game with several big time players out: Skov (LB) and Owusu (WR) for the Cardinal, while ND is missing several seniors and can now unfortunately add Jonas Gray to the list.
Stanford has a big, talented offensive line but the Irish should be able to get some pressure on Luck. To do that, ND needs strong games from the not-quite 100 percent Ethan Johnson and freshman Aaron Lynch. Yet Stanford's strength on offense is ND's greatest weakness on defense with Luck possessing an Army of TEs.
ND's O-Line needs to have a big-time game to help Theo Riddick and GA3 run physically so Cierre Wood doesn't have to carry the whole load. As for our boy Tommy Rees, he needs to hit his open receivers when they are there. Stanford will not be able to consistently cover Floyd, Toma, and Eifert every down. The key is for the Irish to keep Luck off his timing and run the ball well.
The Irish have the depth advantage in this game and if the Irish run well, they can pull out the upset.
Notre Dame 24 Stanford 21
ndirish225 – Guest SelectorI would like our chances a lot more if we had a healthy D-line to go head-to-head with Stanford's superb front, if Jonas Gray was healthy, and if I didn't feel like Andrew Luck will be able to pick apart the middle of the field if he has time.
Unfortunately, I think Stanford wins this game 80% of the time. For ND to take this one, we're going to need a mistake-free game from Rees, a big play on defense (let's get Gary Gray that pick-6 he's been looking for), and a momentum swing on special teams (Atkinson has already brought one back against the two best teams we've played…why not do it again?)
In the end, this weekend will be part of that 20% (I'm the guest picker – I can't choose against the Irish!) and my 9-3 preseason prediction will come to fruition.
Notre Dame 27 Stanford 24