TIM O'MALLEY - Managing EditorIn the battle of the Irish offense vs. the Stanford defense, I favor Stanford. In the battle of the Stanford offense vs. the Irish defense, I favor the Irish. In the battle between Notre Dame's special teams and those of Stanford, i favor the team I nearly always favor over the last three seasons (pre-dating the Kelly era): the other team.
The latter is unfortunate in a matchup of peer teams. So too is the lessening an inherent mental edge Notre Dame should have vs. a Cardinal team no player on the team has beaten -- Stanford is an underdog few are giving a chance Saturday. From national media, to the Vegas point spread (7.5, are you kidding?) to the majority of college football fans suddenly on the Irish bandwagon.
I don't love the game situation, and I know what Stanford's defense might again do to Notre Dame's front line and quarterback, but there's something special about this Irish defense. As head coach Brian Kelly noted last night, "No excuses. Go play the game."
I agree, and because of the improvement I've seen over the last three seasons, I'm going against my gut for the first time in the Kelly era:
Notre Dame 16 Stanford 15 (Full game prediction column forthcoming).
BRIAN DOHN - Recruiting ReporterNotre Dame's defense will get its stiffest test of the season against the Cardinal, which doesn't have Andrew Luck anymore but is still good and can score points. The Irish will need solid quarterback play and will get it.
Notre Dame 27 Stanford 20
DAVE BERK - Recruiting AnalystIt's time for a change in Notre Dame's series against Stanford as the Irish continue working towards establishing themselves as true BCS contenders. Brian Kelly knows his team must run the ball; however, look for Kelly to open up the passing game a little more against the Cardinal. Teamed with another strong performance by Bob Diaco's defense and the Irish will put the past couple of years behind them.
Picking the Irish 24-13 over the Cardinal.
SEATTLENDFAN - ModeratorStanford has been a far better team at home than on the road this season and a lot of that has to do with the inconsistent play of senior QB Josh Nunes. Against Washington he had a very unLucky outing, finishing 18 of 37 for 170 yards, no TD's and a pick, not at all helped out by several key drops from his wide receivers, especially Tim Montgomery, who will apparently miss the Notre Dame game this season. A QB who struggles on the road could well be in for a long night with the way the ND defense has been playing of late.
If there was ever a team on the schedule where Notre Dame could single cover the receivers and instead load the box against the run, it would be Stanford with Montgomery out and Nunes throwing, and although the same strategy last season resulted in TE Coby Fleener running loose in the secondary, none of Stanford's current TE's are quite the threat Fleener was. Stanford's Stepfan Taylor had 118 yards rushing last game but look for ND's improved rushing defense to shut him down the same way Washington did, with good run fits from their linebackers without needing frequent help from the back 4.
On offense speed has been a problem for Stanford and an uptempo attack from Golson and company such as we saw at the end of the first half against Miami would be very likely to reap big rewards. Stanford has a very good starting defense but nowhere near the depth ND has and can and has been worn down by uptempo attacks from Oregon and Arizona.
I would be shocked if Stanford can run over ND's defense as they have in the recent past so I do not expect them to score a ton, so to me the game revolves around how ready ND's offense is to run at Brian Kelly tempo, because this is not a team ND is going to run the ball without first opening up the passing game against. If ND and Golson can shift into the next gear smoothly, then:
Notre Dame 24 Stanford 10
If not, it will be a struggle similar to Purdue and Michigan, in which case:
Notre Dame 13 Stanford 10
KURZND - ModeratorGame Day returns to South Bend for the first time since 2005. Stanford has won the past three and physically dominated the Irish. Stanford comes in after losing the top NFL pick in Andrew Luck while ND comes in riding high on their defense lead by Manti Te'o.
Stanford on offense relies Stephon Taylor and is all about running at you. Their top two pass catchers are both tight ends at 6'6 Zack Ertz and 6'8 Levine Toilolo. Their top WR Ty Montgomery is out for the game. I am very curious to see how ND will match up against their TEs as they split many of them out wide like Eifert. Stanford, despite losing Jim Harbaugh two seasons ago still shows his character and toughness he instilled in them. With a solid O-Line the ND defensive line needs to pressure the first year signal caller and make him try to throw to beat ND. By shutting down Taylor it will greatly limit the Stanford offense and allow for Nunes to make for some mistakes.
On offense for ND, this will be a very tough defense for ND to run on. However Arizona was able to light them up by spreading them out. Golson must continue to improve and play better football each and every week. His legs will come in handy. If Golson can scramble a bit and buy some time ND will be able to score enough on Stanford to win. Their defense as well has some major injuries in the secondary. I think ND's O-Line will continue to show improvements and allow ND to run on even good defenses like Stanford's.
In the end, ND is just to fast on defense and gets enough on offense to win.
Notre Dame 24 Stanford 17
MORRISSEY79 - ModeratorThe Notre Dame football program is riding high after starting 5-0 for the first time since 2002, and only for the 11th time in school history.
After a 41-3 beat down, in which the Irish literally ran it down the Hurricanes throats, people are quite excited for this weekends showdown against Stanford. ESPN Game Day will be on campus, Mike & Mike in the morning will be on campus Friday, there is a lot of buzz about a program that was just recently deemed "irrelevant".
Stanford has had ND's number the last 3 years, being physical and dominating the LOS. This year, I think that changes - first off, while David Shaw may be a good coach, he is not Jim Harbaugh. Second off, this Notre Dame team is different - they have confidence, they are getting better each and every week, and the team leadership is so strong, led by guys like Tyler Eifert, Zack Martin, Kapron Lewis Moore, Manti Te'o, and Zeke Motta. It's been very impressive to watch this team mature and grow.
I look for ND to try and continue to run the ball, allowing Golson a chance to get active with his feet and open up the field with his ability on the QB reads as well as scrambling away from pressure.
The key will be ND's O-Line, specifically Braxton Cave and Mike Golic. I also think Troy Niklas will be vital as he will be used as an in-line blocker plenty to help establish the running game.
On defense, I think we match up quite well with Stanford's strength. They have one very good running back in S. Taylor, but Stanford hasn't seen a front 7 like ND's (USC close, but not the same). The key will be to limit the TEs, so Zeke Motta, Manti Te'o, and Dan Fox/Carlo Calabrese will need to be on their games.
I see this being a battle, but ND prevails in the end, 27-14.
GAVIND - ModeratorOne week later, Cierre Wood may have been right. After getting punched in the mouth one too many times, Miami flat out quit.
Hopefully, he's not expecting a similar response this weekend from Stanford.
While Jim Harbaugh is no longer coaching the Tree, his footprints remain. Sitting at 4-1 as they travel to South Bend for this weekend's tilt with the Irish, head coach David Shaw's team represents the toughest physical tasks Notre Dame has and likely will face this season.
This game, like many, will be decided in the trenches. Can Notre Dame's vaunted front seven continue to dominate the line and force the mistake prone -- especially in the road -- Josh Nunes into some mistakes?
Can Notre Dame's offensive line, on the heels of their best group effort since the season opener in Ireland, continue to make the going easy or their stable of running backs?
Stanford's program has taken an undeniable -- and inevitable -- step back this season after the departure of Andrew Luck, however what they lack in skill and experience, they make up for in toughness and discipline.
In order to win this game, the Irish are going to have to be prepared to battle for 60 minutes and truly take the fight to the Cardinal. After three years of getting beaten-up badly by Stanford, it would appear that, finally, Luck will be back with the Irish.
ND 27 Stanford 21
BNOLAN - ModeratorTough one to call for me. I'm concerned, as we all should be. It's at home, which should be a good thing. It is GameDay which should be a good thing. But neither is necessarily - we are getting better as a home team, and shouldn't let the GameDay attention be an added burden, but more an inspiration. In theory, anyway.
Stanford is good. Tough. Aggressive.
ND is pretty good, pretty tough, pretty aggressive. Enough of each?
They will go after Golson. They will go after our young DB's. Hopefully we go after them harder.
I'm tempted to pick a Stanford win. I'll pick a tough, narrow ND win, at least that way I'll be in a better mood for the next 48 hours...
Here's hoping for: ND 17 Stanford 13