Matt Cashore /

Beyond the Numbers: Stanford vs. Notre Dame

Stanford has proven to be Notre Dame’s toughest rival of the Brian Kelly era, winning four of six contests played to date.

September 25, 2010 marked the first meeting between a Brian Kelly-coached Notre Dame squad and Stanford featured two teams at the opposite end of the college football’s food chain:

  • Stanford, eventual 12-1 and Orange Bowl Champions
  • Notre Dame, eventual 8-5 winners of the Sun Bowl

The end result, a 37-14 Cardinal blowout in South Bend, reflected their respective lots in life.

Stanford has beaten Notre Dame in three of five matchups since, though all but one was, according to the Vegas line, a matchup of peer teams. (The 2013 Cardinal were favored by 16 over an injured Irish squad but won by just 7.)

Below is a look at the programs’ continuous rivalry since current Cardinal head coach David Shaw took over the reins for program architect Jim Harbaugh who departed for the NFL after the 2010 season.

A look at combined third- and fourth-down conversions by each offense reveals that the team faring better in this regard prevailed in each matchup thereafter:

2011 (28-14): Stanford 8 for 15; Notre Dame 5 for 15.
2012 (20-13 OT): Notre Dame 7 for 17; Stanford 6 for 17 (with the final two failures famously occurring a the shadow of the Irish goal in overtime.)
2013 (27-20): Stanford 8 for 13; Notre Dame 5 for 12
2014 (17-10): Notre Dame 7 for 20; Stanford 5 for 17
2015 (38-36): Stanford 8 for 12; Notre Dame 4 of 10

The game favorite is 4-1 straight up in Shaw/Kelly matchups but just 1-4 vs. the spread.

2011: Stanford covered the 7-point spread, winning 28-14
2012: Notre Dame won 20-13 in overtime but did not cover the 7.5-point spread in South Bend.
2013: Favored by a whopping 16 points vs. 8-3 Notre Dame, Stanford hung on for a 27-20 victory one week prior to winning the PAC-12 Championship Game over UCLA.
2014: Underdogs of 2.5 points at home, Notre Dame took down the Cardinal on an Everett Golson to Ben Koyack fourth-down touchdown in the waning seconds (below)
2015: Stanford won 38-36, failing to cover the 4-point spread

Prior to last year’s shootout in Palo Alto, the Irish and Cardinal defenses generally rose to the occasion when pitted against each others’ offense.

Last year’s 74 points scored included a 72-yard Will Fuller touchdown and a 93-yard kickoff return score by C.J. Sanders.   

2011: (59.5) 28-14 Under
2012: (42) 20-13 OT Under
2013: (49.5) 27-20 Under
2014: (46) 17-14 Under
2015 (57) 38-36 Over

The winning team has won the turnover battle just twice (2011 and 2015), including an Irish victory in 2012 despite a fumble in the Cardinal end zone by Golson that served as Stanford’s only touchdown on the afternoon.

2011: Notre Dame 3 (2 INT) Stanford 2 (one INT/one fumble) in a Cardinal win
2012: Notre Dame 3 (all fumbles) Stanford 2 (both interceptions) in an Irish victory
2013: Both teams threw two picks in a Cardinal win
2014: Notre Dame won despite two interceptions while Stanford committed just one turnover in South Bend.
2015: DeShone Kizer’s late first-half fumble in scoring position (the Cardinal 23-yard line) proved costly in a two-point Irish defeat.

Long the barometer for an Irish victory or defeat against peer foes, the opposite finally proved true last Thanksgiving Saturday on The Farm.

2011: Stanford 196 Notre Dame 57 (28-14 Cardinal)
2012: Notre Dame 150 Stanford 147 (20-13 ND)
2013: Stanford 261 Notre Dame 64 (27-20 Cardinal)
2014: Notre Dame 129 Stanford 47 (17-14 ND)
2015: Notre Dame 299 Stanford 153 (38-36 Cardinal)

A bit of a telltale for the series as well:

  • Since 2011, Stanford has scored 12 touchdowns in 18 trips inside the Irish 20-yard line including pay dirt finishes in 10 of the last 12 forays dating back through the 2013 matchup in Palo Alto (a 27-20 Stanford victory)
  • In that same span, Notre Dame notched just 8 touchdowns in 19 red zone visits against the Cardinal, peaking with a 2-for-3 effort in 2011, a 28-14 Cardinal win (Andrew Luck’s Senior Day on The Farm). Top Stories