Staff Picks: Notre Dame vs, Stanford

Irish Illustrated’s staff gives its predictions for Saturday afternoon’s rivalry matchup at Stanford

With Tim Prister’s weekly game preview still to come, the rest of the Irish Illustrated staff offers a few thoughts on Saturday’s head-knocker with Stanford in Palo Alto.

Pete Sampson
Notre Dame’s season has been built on overcoming injuries. But going into Stanford without KeiVarae Russell and C.J. Prosise feels like too big of an ask for a team already playing backups and backups of backups at other positions. Expect Notre Dame to play well. Really well. Just look for Stanford to be one score better in a wildly entertaining game. If the Irish defense was better against the run it would be easier to pick Notre Dame to pull this upset.

But Brian VanGorder’s side has struggled against top backs and Christian McCaffrey is second nationally in rushing. He’s the difference. Notre Dame’s regular season ends in disappointment, although it’s a big picture success.

Stanford 34 Notre Dame 27
2015 Prediction Record: 11-0

Tim O’Malley
One (or two) too many injuries. Far too many mental mistakes. Way too many long touchdown drives allowed. That’s the story of Notre Dame’s defense through 11 games this fall, but not included and rarely referenced are the good spots. Sheldon Day and Isaac Rochell have been excellent all season. Romeo Okwara has come on. Jaylon Smith is an impact playmaker. And Elijah Shumate is a fine safety when asked to attack and roam the box.

Each will be up to the task Saturday in Palo Alto, as will Notre Dame’s offense, a group that will be forced to throw a bit more than it wants but, unlike previous seasons, still realizes where its bread is buttered. Look for Will Fuller to star, DeShone Kizer to play well, Josh Adams to suffice, and an offensive line to play well for four quarters – matching the efforts of the defense’s still-undervalued front seven.

As for the Irish secondary? Where do you think these 31 points allowed are coming from?

Notre Dame 34 Stanford 31
2015 Prediction Record: 9-2

Jack Freeman
In an injury filled season there comes a tipping point at which “next man in” may not be enough. I’m concerned that point is the loss of KeiVarae Russell. His place is being taken by a three-man rotation of unproven players that are shall we say vulnerable to the Stanford game plan. I’m haunted by visions of Christian McCaffrey running free down the sideline for multiple touchdowns on Saturday. Can team #127 finish the mission, burn the boats and keep their eye discipline against an archrival on Saturday?

Stanford 27 Notre Dame 24
2015 Prediction Record: 9-2

Anna Hickey
Notre Dame is going to move the ball on Saturday night. Expect Notre Dame to get production out of both screen passes and vertical routes when Will Fuller’s involved. But moving the ball isn’t the same as lighting up the scoreboard. Stanford’s defense is stout in the red zone, an area where Notre Dame will have deliver its best performance of the season in terms of play-calling and execution. On defense, the biggest concern is defending Christian McCaffrey behind a physical and experienced offensive line. McCaffrey will have a day, which will give way for more big plays in the air. Even with KeiVarae Russell in the lineup, the secondary has been Notre Dame’s biggest question mark since August. It finally costs them on the last Saturday in November. 

Stanford 33 Notre Dame 27
2015 Prediction Record: 10-1

Jake Brown
Palo Alto, where playoff dreams can certainly come to an end. I've finally reached the point where I think Notre Dame's excess of injuries will be too much to overcome. No KeiVarae Russell forces an inexperienced cornerback onto the field against a quarterback capable of exploiting that weakness. Plus, the Notre Dame defense has shown a propensity to allow too much (see Boston College). Jaylon Smith can absolutely do the job against Christian McCaffrey. But can the whole unit hold up against Stanford? There's enough doubt to have me leaning toward the home team.

Stanford 27 Notre Dame 23
2015 Prediction Record: 11-0

Steve Hare
The success of Notre Dame’s season hinges on a win at Stanford Stadium – a place the Irish haven’t enjoyed much success in recent years. A win and Notre Dame likely earns a spot in the College Football Playoffs. A loss and the Irish settle for a disappointing bowl game. The Irish played their worst game of the season in Boston and are due for a bounce back game.
Stanford’s strength is stopping the run. That’s something the Irish won’t have to worry about considering the injuries at the position. Instead, DeShone Kizer and his wide receivers are going to have to take advantage of Stanford’s 74th rated pass defense. With so much riding on Saturday night’s contest look for the Irish to play focused and come out on the winning side despite the odds.

Notre Dame 31 Stanford 21
2015 Prediction Record: 10-1 Top Stories