Can the Cardinal defeat both USC and Notre Dame for a fourth straight season?
That's right, if Stanford hands the Irish their first loss of the season it will mark the fourth straight season the Cardinal have knocked off USC and the Irish in the same year. The Cardinal defeated the Trojans 21-14 last month at home and last year's victory over both programs made them the only team in college football history to defeat both in three straight seasons.
Can the Irish offensive line protect the quarterback against the Cardinal?
Stanford enters the game with 16 sacks led by Ben Gardner's three on the season. The Cardinal have done a good job of getting to the quarterback but only have a total of seven (official) quarterback hurries. The Irish have given up eight sacks and ten quarterback hurries, with five of the sacks occurring in a Week Two win over Purdue.
Can the Irish defense get pressure on quarterback Josh Nunes?
The Cardinals have only given up five sacks on the season to go with six quarterback hurries. The Irish have produced a consistent pass rush, posting 14 sacks on the season with 21 quarterback hurries. If Stephon Tuitt brings his A-game the Irish could force Nunes to make mistakes.
Will Brian Kelly look to air it out or pound the ground game against Stanford?
The Cardinal has given up 1,497 yards in the air while only giving up 386 net yards on the ground. The Irish have leaned more on their running attack up to this point and bring an average of 187 rushing yards per game to the field. But Kelly could look into his play book and dial up more of a passing attack.
Can the Irish defense continue shutting down opponents in the red-zone?
The Irish have been great when teams reach the red-zone having only given up scores 58% (7-12) of the time. When you break it down even to just red-zone touchdowns, the Irish have held teams to 17% (2-12) on the season. The Cardinal enters the game scoring 89% (17-19) of the time they reach the red-zone and converting 58% (11-19) into touchdowns.
The final question might be the most relevant to Saturday's outcome.