Five Questions: Stanford

The Irish look to move to 6-0 on the season as #17 Stanford heads into South Bend. After an impressive victory over Miami, Notre Dame has a bigger test ahead as the Cardinal look to win their fourth straight vs. the Irish and leave their mark on the 2012 college football world. Berk is back with his weekly Five Questions as the Irish and Cardinal get set to battle.

The next step to a perfect season has No. 17 Stanford heading to No. 7Notre Dame for yet another battle between two high-ranked academic programs. With the Irish looking to put down the Cardinal en route to their sixth victory on the season, we have five questions worth pondering prior to Saturday's big game.

QUESTION ONE

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.

QUESTION TWO

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.

QUESTION THREE

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.

QUESTION FOUR

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.

QUESTION FIVE

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.


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