Tim O'Malley -- PublisherA short-handed Irish team travels west to take on a Stanford squad that, with the exception of outstanding defensive end and registered Notre Dame disliker Ben Gardner, enters the regular season finale in good health.
I saw this as a loss in the pre-season and haven't changed my pick for game week, but it was nonetheless encouraging to see Irish redshirt-freshman defensive lineman Jarron Jones become a football player last week vs. Brigham Young. It's likewise a positive sign for the future that Notre Dame's offensive line has used -- with great success -- eight offensive linemen this fall. Only the tackle tandem of Ronnie Stanley and Zack Martin have managed to start each week.
But neither of those developments is a good sign for Saturday.
Down Louis Nix. Down his backup Kona Schwenke. Sheldon Day a tweak away from his fourth ankle injury in 10 weeks. Down a healthy Ishaq Williams. Without starting center Nick Martin and his backup Matt Hegarty aided to his right by extreme inexperience. It doesn't add up to an Irish advantage up front, on either side of scrimmage, and that's where Stanford excels. Where Notre Dame needs to excel to win against the best.
Look for Notre Dame to carry its defensive energy and renewed emphasis on up-tempo, aggressive offensive football into Saturday's contest. The Irish squad that took the field and beat up Brigham Young last week was one I thought we'd see all season. I'd be happy if they present again in Palo Alto, even if it's not enough.
With admirable effort, but with a nod to the fact that they physically can't hold up vs. the powerful Cardinal fronts, this one will go Stanford's way after intermission:
Stanford 27 Notre Dame 16
Anna Hickey -- Recruiting ReporterNotre Dame is coming off one of its most complete and impressive games of the season against BYU. The defense looked the most active I've seen all season, and sans a few under thrown balls from Tommy, the offense was rolling as well. The Irish enter Saturday's game with not a lot to lose, and I think they'll come out playing fast and smart from the get-go.
Stanford's slipped somewhat in the second half of the season, dropping two in recent weeks. Notre Dame's due for a big win. If Folston and Atkinson can exploit the edges and McDaniel can rush for at least 70 -- Notre Dame wins. Irish 20 Stanford 13
Morrissey79 -- ModeratorAfter last week's win over BYU, I'm a little rejuvenated about the future prospects of ND - so is the life of a ND fan these days I guess, but I saw a lot of positives. ND stuck with the running game, even in the 3rd and 4th quarter when BYU was stacking the box. ND's defense played with aggression and passion I hadn't seen at times this year. And we got huge contributions from kids that are young, specifically T. Folston, C. Robinson, S. Elmer, R. Stanley, S. Day, J. Jones, J. Smith, K. Russell, & E. Hardy.
BYU is a quality football team that is well coached - that was a darn good win even though it was ugly.
Now Stanford is going to be a whole different ball game - for me, the key is will Brian Kelly stick with a similar game plan to BYU, where we commit to the run even when it's not working at times? Or will he get pass-happy when things don't go right? If he gets pass-happy, with Rees' tendency to turn it over and Stanford's phenomenal defense, the game could get out of hand quickly.
ND will have to force Hogan to beat them, and ND will have to grind out possessions on offense similar to last year. ND ran it 44 times last year to 28 passes; Stanford ran it 40 times to 25 passes. Somehow ND turned it over 3 times and won - this year, with 3 turnovers ND will be facing a 21 point loss.
I want to see the Irish win, I think they actually can keep the game close and pull out a late victory, but I'm predicting ND loses a tough battle late in the game in Palo Alto.
Stanford 27 Notre Dame 17
BNolan -- ModeratorAfter the Pitt debacle, the BYU game provided a little tonic for my increasing indigestion with this regime. But... between the considerable injuries, an immobile quarterback, and game planning and scheming that just doesn't inspire confidence for me, I think the tough-playing Trees will rough up the Irish. Turnovers are always a killer, and even more so in this match-up. ND will have to use a running game to keep in balance and not put a pass happy offense in gear, which will simply equal turnovers.
The ND defense is just too depleted, and Diaco's typically soft style plays right into Stanford's hands. I hope to see the team play fundamentally sound and show some grit, play tough and play close. With mistakes, they will get walloped. If they pull out a win, I will be very surprisingly thrilled. Reality: Stanford 34 ND 20
KurzND -- ModeratorND faces their final test of the season ranked #25 vs #8 Stanford and the surprising thing is, the game doesn't have that much of an impact on anything. Another win by ND doesn't move them up to a better bowl and Stanford win or lose is still destined to play for the Pac-12 title and the Rose Bowl. Even with nothing on the line, the Irish are fighting for the chance at a 10 win season and Stanford has revenge on their minds.
ND must execute on offense with out turnovers. Turnovers in the redzone will equal a loss. ND won't have many chances versus a great Stanford defense so they must get points when they can. Hopefully Kelly and Martin become stubborn and run enough to keep Stanford honest so they don't 7 or 8. Rees needs to be at his best versus the most physical team they will play this year. If ND doesn't turn over the ball, they have a shot to keep it close and then when the 4th quarter hits, who knows what can happen.
The defense will need to play out of their mind. The first key is that Stanford has one of the nations best OLs and they run the ball. ND needs to match that intensity. Jarron Jones played very well last week against BYU, but Stanford is a whole different animal. He will need to play even better considering Kona may only be able to give a few drives. ND's big players in Tuitt, Smith, and Day need to make plays and create turnovers.
ND can make it close by playing smart and matching Stanford in their intensity. However, they need to prove it to me. Stanford 28 Notre Dame 16
SeattleNDFan -- ModeratorStanford is the better team and is playing at home, but that doesn't necessarily mean they will win this game. As Tim has pointed out this week, Stanford actually has nothing to play for and considerable incentive to avoid injury going into the Pac 12 championship game next weekend for a spot in the Rose Bowl.
If the Irish lose in Palo Alto Sunday night, I think it will be because of players like Shane Skov, Trent Murphy, Andrus Peat and superstar defensive coordinator Derek Mason. These are all guys I would take on the Irish in a heartbeat over current starters, and not because the Irish don't have great talent at those position, it's because those guys are just elite.
I do NOT think it will be because of players like Tyler Gaffney and Ty Montgomery, who are fine players but whose strengths of power and precision are relatively good matchups for Notre Dame, better than speedy, shifty teams like Arizona State, whom the Irish stepped up and handled earlier this year.
And I will be shocked if it is because of Kevin Hogan, who is no Andrew Luck especially under pressure, any Stanford tight end, none of whom compare favorably to Coby Fleener or Zach Ertz, or head coach David Shaw, who is absolutely no Jim Harbaugh.
If ND can deal with Skov and Murphy, which is no small task, they will be able to move the ball, and if they can move the ball, they can keep this close. If Jarron Jones plays anything like he did against BYU, ND even has a shot at containing the Stanford run game, and if they can do that, Hogan has been prone to some pretty awful decisions under duress. I think he does, and they do. Notre Dame 24 Stanford 21
GaviND -- ModeratorThanks to last weekend's inspired performance against a rough and tumble BYU team, Stanford no longer seems like an un-winnable game to many.
Sadly for ND fans, it's seems many of them need to be reminded that BYU is not Stanford.
Unless Stanford decides to lay low and get some of their key players some valuable rest and healing time before the PAC-12 championship game, the reality is that they are the better and healthier team. They are going to line-up their guys and punch harder and more frequently until the injury riddled ND front seven is gassed and wilts in the fourth quarter.
Notre Dame CAN win this game though. If they attack and decide to punch first, they may well be able to run the ball a little. My biggest fear -- and what I think will ultimately happen -- is that the Irish will struggle to run the ball early (something Brian Kelly likely anticipates) and then Kelly will decide his best chance is to throw the ball 40 times (seen it too many times to think differently).
And that's a recipe for disaster. I pray that I'm wrong, but... Stanford 31 ND 13