Many people have made a big deal about the millions of dollars riding on the line as the Irish get set to take on Stanford Saturday, but I don't believe one cent will matter when these two teams strap on the helmets. Pride will matter, and I don't think Stanford will just lay down for the Irish. Notre Dame will likely have to earn their victory on Saturday, but I don't believe the Cardinal has much of a chance in this game.
The good news for Irish fans is that Notre Dame is clearly the better team at this point.
The Irish clearly have the better offense, and it also appears they have the better defense as well.
Notre Dame shouldn't have too much problem moving the ball and scoring points on the Cardinal. Ranked No. 96 in total defense, Stanford has surrendered points in bunches against the better teams they've played, including 51 to USC and 44 to Oregon. Stanford's defense is allowing almost 30 points per game and 270 passing yards per game, so scoring shouldn't be a problem.
Stanford's offense also has struggled this year—albeit against a pretty difficult schedule.
The Cardinal average just a shade over 100 yards per game rushing and only 314 total yards per game on offense—or good enough to be ranked No. 98 in the country in total offense.
They've also struggled scoring points in games averaging just a shade under 24 points per game. They've scored less than 25 points in seven of their 10 games this season, including just three points against rival Cal last week.
Stanford also might enter this game without their starting quarterback, Trent Edwards, as Edwards left the game last week with an injury against Cal. Edwards is expected to start, but how effective he will be will certainly be a question mark heading into the game.
Compounding matters for Stanford is a suspect offensive line that has surrendered 35 sacks on the season.
Notre Dame's offense should be able to both run and pass fairly well against Stanford. Cal rushed for 226 yards last week including two touchdowns on the ground, and they did it with a backup quarterback in the game.
Plenty of teams have gouged the Cardinal through the air. Oregon bombed Stanford for 463 yards and three scores, Arizona State hung 402 and another three scores, and USC threw for 345 yards and four scores earlier this season. Brady Quinn and the Irish receivers could have a big day.
The Irish shouldn't have too much trouble in Palo Alto on Saturday as long as they take care of the football.
Mike Frank Prediction:
Notre Dame: 38 Stanford: 17