Five To Watch: Stanford staff writer and Stanford historian Mark DeVaughn stops by to offer Irish fans a handful of players to watch in Saturday's contest vs. the Cardinal.

Quarterback Kevin Hogan

How does a quarterback with a 19-4 career record as a starter, two Rose Bowls and a Pac-12 title game MVP have so much left to prove? Because Stanford relies on him now more than ever. The combination of the Cardinal’s uncertain run game and its supremely talented receiving corps makes him the focal point of the offense. He doesn’t have to carry the entire burden, but he must make enough plays and avoid costly errors.

Tight End Austin Hooper

The tight end position disappeared from the Cardinal game plan a year ago. This season, the redshirt freshman’s emergence (15 catches) adds a much-needed threat to the passing game. I don’t see Stanford succeeding in the red zone against this revamped Irish defense unless Hooper – or fellow tight ends Eric Cotton and Greg Taboada – take attention away from Ty Montgomery and Devon Cajuste.

Peter Kalambayi

His college career is all of four games old, but the redshirt freshman is already Stanford’s most highlight-worthy defender. The 6-3, 245-pound linebacker sacked Cody Kessler of USC for a loss of ten yards. He followed it up against Washington with a three-sack effort, Stanford-first since Shayne Skov in the 2011 Orange Bowl.

(Insert running back name here)

Can either Barry J. Sanders, Remound Wright or Kelsey Young make a difference against Notre Dame? Toby Gerhart, Stepfan Taylor and Tyler Gaffney emerged so quickly from a committee of running backs, they forced Stanford’s hand in choosing a top option for the ground game. That has yet to happen at this season’s quarter pole.  A running back needs a rhythm. Stanford requires a No. 1 running back.

(Insert defensive back name here)

Aren’t we decisive? In all seriousness, one home run pass play may wind up deciding what should be a low-scoring affair. Cornerbacks Alex Carter and Wayne Lyons kept USC’s dangerous wideouts mostly at bay (one completion longer than 15 yards). They kept Washington in check (98 passing yards). Can they do the same against Everett Golson’s improvisational skills? Top Stories